Thursday, May 17, 2012

Works that might be good to read repeatedly.

Besides, of course, the Gospels, the Psalms, and a synaxarion. Don't choose all of them, of course, choose a few and know them. Reading all of them will make you crazy or something. The point here is to stick to the basics rather than reading 100 different books, so offering 100 different books would be counterproductive.
  • Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps not this edition, I'm sure there's a nicely typeset one somewhere. Could probably be split over a week or two.
  • St Augustine's Confessions. A bit long for this purpose, sure. But you would greatly profit each time you read it.
  • Orthodox Funeral Service. Nice and short, possible to read over in full every day.
  • The Rule of St Benedict. Not terribly different from Eastern monastic rules in substance, as it borrowed from them. There's a tradition of reading from it every day, so why not? It isn't too advanced.
  • The Rainbow Series Catechism. Everybody could use more readings from the catechism. Very basic stuff. I'm not going to pretend Fr. Tom is on the same level as St Augustine, but going over the basics is very good.
  • The Forgotten Medicine: The Mystery of Repentance by Fr Seraphim Aleksiev is a very good book on preparing for confession. Nice and short. It is perhaps a bit too small to use continuously for this purpose, but it is very good and you could use it every time you prepare for confession (break it up over a couple days). This might end up being the most valuable book in the list, as it will help you make a good confession.
  • The Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander. Very good, very practical, might be a bit much for some people. A modern classic. Not sure how much we can trust it, though, given that the Finns are on the New Paschalion.
  • EDITED TO ADD: Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony. A very good book. I cannot believe I forgot to put this on because it is one of my favorites.
I considered a few other additions, like St John Cassian's Collationes, but that gets rather advanced (or obscure) at points and it is rather long. Reading a little bit every day for several years in a row over dinner, as the name suggests, would certainly be salutary, it's just too much for the purpose of this list.

Anyway, the point of this list is to provide some of the "basics" so you're not trying to make a meal out of popcorn and getting burnt out on web-logs, radio shows, and poorly-written convert books pushed out by Conciliar Press. These should perhaps only be invested in after reading the daily scripture readings and the synaxarion is not enough for you (possible exception: the confession book, as it is quite practical, and reading over the funeral service should be okay since it is an actual service of the church and you should be familiar with it (don't want the first time you hear it to be when you're dead)).

I'm sure people who know better than me and who have decent, valid opinions about your spiritual life might have different, better suggestions for what you should read. There is much more to the spiritual life, of course, than reading a couple prayers in the morning and at night, reading the day's scripture readings (you can have them e-mailed to you - you have no excuse), and reading a bit from a book you've read several times before, but this is a much more sane place to start from. Your real activity is what goes on in between, that is where the hard asceticism, real Orthodoxy (rather, Christianity) begins. Humility, love, all that nonsense. You'd learn more from reading Tozer than you would from the chattering of web-logs, and I don't recommend Tozer because he's a Protestant. I don't recommend chattering, either. HTH. HAND. Let me know of any other very good books that might serve this purpose, because opinions may vary and I'm at the point where I can probably afford to read at least one more good book in my lifetime. Or, heck, good books that don't serve this purpose (if you're doing that, though, make sure it's something I probably haven't read).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Conservative vs Liberalist on the Environment

I mentioned before the need for immediate and comprehensive action on energy policy and the environment. It is typically taken for granted that the liberalists (and, by extension, the Democrat Party) are better at this than the conservatives and the GOP. I suppose they are, in some ways, but they are extremely similar and neither side is willing to make changes in the status quo. Effectively, when it comes down to the policies either side would actually enact, they both fall far short of the mark.

Yes, only one side of the American political spectrum is vigorously downplaying environmental and energy concerns (the GOP). Both sides are in bed with Big Oil and the rest of the fossil fuel industry and neither side is willing to tell anybody to wear a sweater in the winter instead of cranking up the heat. Anything less than continued high consumption of energy, continued consumption and growth, is seen as unamerican defeatism. Neither side is willing to cooperate internationally to aggressively reduce American emissions even as Americans consume 25% of the world's energy, approximately 5 times as much per capita as the world's average and twice as much per capita as European countries. Economic progress, falsely so-called, is seen as a justification for this refusal on both sides.

I mean, how much can you trust a politician who includes "clean coal" as an emissions reduction strategy (Obama does)? The most either side does is throw small bones. Biofuels? This cannot be an answer: not abundant enough. Tax credits for wind and solar: great, but this is a small bone. Etc etc. Again, in contrast to an explicit "do nothing" policy of certain administrations, Obama's energy policy is... better. But in comparison to the policies reality would seem to demand, it is woefully inadequate. Well, anyway, whatevs.

I bring this up because, according to the Œcumenist Patriarch, we Orthodox Christians ought to care about the environment. So I'm going to occasionally gripe about how we are all doomed.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Catholic agitators arrested just down the street from my office

Protestors at Prudential Plaza. This could be the beginning of an interesting week.

Energy use

So this is a graph of per capita energy use in several countries. Fairly consistent over the last 40(!) years and the US is fairly consistenly twice the height of the other countries. I'm having trouble getting good per capita breakdowns of US energy consumption, but I can find it for the UK (who consume about half as much energy as the US) here: Sustainability Without the Hot Air.

85% of the energy in the US (90% in the UK) is from fossil fuels. I think perhaps the US figures need to be taken with a grain of salt because I don't know of any compelling reason the US numbers would be twice that of those other countries (though roughly on par with Canadians - not shown on graph). A good guess might be energy-intensive industries plus more travel plus more HVAC. Here is an estimate of how an affluent UKian spends their energy: Energy Expenditures. I have seen a couple actual charts at times for the US and UK - I can't find them now - which have about the same breakdown - but empirical rather than estimated. If you want something that's not per capita, the entire system can be seen here:

And then there's a broad discussion of US energy use on the wikipedia page: Energy in the United States. Residential use and transportation are the two things we can directly change. The lion's share of residential energy consumption is HVAC.

I bring this up because it's important. We need to significantly curtail energy consumption and aggressively invest in "green" energy. Fossil fuels, which provide 85% of our current energy, are a finite dwindling resource with a significant environmental cost and abundant replacements are far on the horizon - almost too far. Merely replacing current capacity will be difficult, much less keeping up with population growth and growing energy demands (both in the US and in developing countries). Meanwhile, climate change is real and will be catastrophic: there may not be enough time to wean ourselves off fossil fuels in time to prevent severe economic and environmental catastrophes.