Issue No. 1 | February 18, 2022
Friends, Americans, Countrymen:
Is no activity or pastime safe from the irritating exhortation that we do it mindfully? Must even mowing the lawn become an assignment to “notice the sensations of our body”? We just want to crack a tall boy and heed the eternal dictum “sun’s out guns out.”
Besides, self-styled mindfulness experts have made all sort of poorly-supported claims about meditation’s benefits, while ignoring the many cases in which it has caused severe and lasting psychological damage. Read “How My Mindfulness Practice Led Me to Meltdown” for some harrowing accounts.
Fortunately, Christianity has already provided us with a rich, “peer-reviewed” practice for handling all the problems that flesh is heir to: prayer. To reveal our deepest longings, anxieties, and flaws to a living, personal God is a way of humbling the self without destroying it, of preserving our individual uniqueness while recognizing how contingent it is, of seeking forgiveness without endless, public self-flagellation.
And you can give it a try without going to church or even believing in God. In fact, it’s often prayer that leads to belief. Just do it a few minutes a day and see what happens. If you don‘t know where to start, Romano Guardini’s “The Art of Praying” or Pete Greig’s “How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People” might be useful. Read some ready-made prayers (a decent list is here) or freestyle your own: “thank you,” “I’m sorry” or “help” are good places to start.
Selecting a birthday or holiday gift for your wife or girlfriend can be a challenge. We recommend a quality wool blanket. Less daunting than figuring out jewelry or clothing, and more practical as well. Yet not without a certain intimacy: It says “I’d like to keep you warm.” Nanne Kennedy makes wool goods from sheep she raises on Meadowcroft Farm in Washington, Maine. Her website offers beautiful yet sturdy blankets and sweaters for purchase, as well as much information about sheep breeding.
It’s simple advice, but it bears repeating: read old books. Not only is the tactile experience of ink on paper refreshing for bleary eyes and cramped fingers, it’s a fine way to resist what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” i.e. “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”
We recommend going to a local used bookstore or two (see what searching “used bookstores near me” turns up) and letting fate take over. It’s how we stumbled upon E.B. Sledge’s riveting and brutally honest account of his time fighting some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, “With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa.” In the sad event that you no longer have such essential outposts of civilization in your area, you can always browse online. Try downtown LA’s own The Last Bookstore.
Despite the best attempts of Big Tech busybodies to police and tame the online world, the Internet remains a place where you can find unique and strange voices. And The Man Next to You is an old, anonymous Tumblr blog documenting “the tragic backstory of everyone killed in [the excellent 1992 Steven Seagal action movie] Under Siege.” Here, the usual action movie cannon fodder reflect on their deaths in monologues that are both funny and moving. In an age where the time-honored practice of memento mori has been reduced to the insipid “bucket list,” it’s nice to find much-needed wisdom in such a surprising form.
Twenty years after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, it’s clear just how woefully unprepared our leaders were. Many “ordinary” people, however, found it within themselves to act with stunning courage and determination. The story of Rick Rescorla offers an especially poignant lesson for these times, involving as it does the triumph of individual know-how, experience, and common sense over bureaucratic “expertise.”
Even before he became head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley, Rescorla had repeatedly warned of the World Trade Center’s vulnerability to attack. When American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower, the Port Authority ordered Rescorla to keep everyone at their desks. His response, given his somewhat more intimate view of the unfolding crisis, was appropriately blunt: “Piss off.” The evacuation plan he’d insisted all employees rehearse through countless surprise drills went smoothly. His defiance saved some 2,700 lives.
Having led his charges at Morgan Stanley to safety, Rescorla went back into the building in search of more people to help. He was last seen on the 10th floor. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Rescorla never liked to call attention to his wartime record. “The real heroes are dead,” he would say. When the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., Rescorla joined their ranks.