Friday, June 15, 2012

The False Promise of Green Energy

I just started reading this book for a couple reasons. First, I've been somewhat interested in global warming and energy policy lately. Second, one of the authors (Andrew Morriss) is an Orthodox Christian and AOI linked to one of his lectures. I can already tell how this will go. Namely, he's a very smart fellow, smarter than me. He has a lot of great facts and I agree with a lot of his arguments. There are four authors, sure, and I don't think he's even the main one, but he makes a lot of these arguments in his own speeches. The "green energy" proponents have been overstating the economic benefits of "green energy", sure. Where we differ is in interpreting some of these facts. The introduction quite rightly points out that switching to green energy, especially if done soon, will require an increase in cost of energy and/or a decrease in energy consumption, leading to a decrease in quality of life for Americans and perhaps the rest of the world. He is quite right in pointing out that a lot of green energy proponents are either incapable of realizing this or gloss it over. He views a decrease in quality of life as a bad thing to be avoided (oversimplifying), I see it as a regrettable necessity. Well, that's the introduction. I really do look forward to reading it and am not embarrassed in the least to find large portions of it very valuable even if I disagree with the ideology of the authors.

EDIT: Anyway, this delightful article is the basis of much of my rejection of his position:

Large negative externalities involved and the markets are very short-sighted. Sure, current government interventions can have plenty of holes poked in them. Green energy sources are inadequate and expensive right now. This makes it more important to invest in them, not less. Otherwise, we'll stay with profitable cheap coal until it's too late. "Politically, the Energy Trap is a killer. In my lifetime, I have not witnessed in our political system the adult behavior that would be needed to buckle down for a long-term goal involving short-term sacrifice. Or at least any brief bouts of such maturity have not been politically rewarded. I’m not blaming the politicians. We all scream for ice cream. Politicians simply cater to our demands. We tend to vote for the candidate who promises a bigger, better tomorrow—even if such a path is untenable." If you believe in the Energy Trap, which I do, you end up dismissing a lot of economic and political arguments with a hand-wave.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Congratulations, you're a brand new convert.

A guide for people who just converted to Orthodoxy last week.

I wrote advice for converts once. I thought perhaps I needed to note a couple things for somebody who's barely dry. You know, a lot of people don't need this, but some do. The convert article, you can read that any time in your first five years. But there are a couple things you need to know right away. Before we go into numbered lists, you need to know why you converted and what you hope to get out of the Church. You converted to save your soul or to follow Christ. The Catholics ask this in the baptism: "Quid petis ab Ecclesia Dei?" What do you ask from the Church of God? "Fidem." Faith. "Fides quid tibi praestat?" What does faith offer you? "Vitam aeternam." Eternal life. So that's what we're all about. Remember that dialogue.

  1. Those things they say about new converts - they really do apply to you. I know you're special, but, please, read that sentence again.
  2. You really are different today from what you were yesterday, but you still don't know much more today. Your opinions about churchy things are not suddenly more valuable now. They weren't valuable before you were Orthodox, in case you need a frame of reference. You're Orthodox now, and just as Orthodox as anybody else in the world. Very significant, but, in another sense, it doesn't mean much at all. I think you should be Orthodox for at least a year before you have any opinions or express any opinions.
  3. There are now fasts and prayer rules and small traditions and what-have-you and you have no idea about any of it unless your priest went over it in catechism, but they often leave out the practical details. No, you did not learn anything from that book. Get your priest and some random ethnic relatively pious person to give a little advice. Do not get a convert unless they have been Orthodox for nearly a decade and are not crazy. I suppose your godparent would be good if you chose wisely. The priest can tell you important things like, "Do not eat or drink before communion," and to pray stuff in the evening and morning while the layman can tell you which Holy Week and Nativity and whatever services people actually go to. Royal Hours: never important. Holy Thursday: important. Things like that. By the way, in case nobody mentioned it, don't eat or drink before communion. Like, at all on Sunday morning. If your priest didn't tell you about preparing for communion, do that much and ask him what to do before next week. Don't do what some book tells you, that would be three canons and an akathist in addition to the canon of preparation. Don't do that unless your priest tells you to.
  4. Almost everybody else is lax in some way about the fasting rules - they're ideals. In any case, you should be easing into them. If you didn't know about the fasting rules (did you marry into this or something?): surprise, there's fasting.
  5. Your parish is probably 95% of what you experience about Orthodoxy. In some ways, it really is a microcosm of Orthodoxy. In other ways, it's not. You're now Orthodox, so you may start venturing out a little more immediately, but keep that in mind until you can tell the difference. It takes a lot longer than you think to get a handle on what's particular to your situation and what is the experience of Orthodoxy elsewhere. You'll probably never know what it's like to be Orthodox in Greece, for instance (hat tip to the Greek reader). For that matter, a lot of cradle Orthodox are only members of a couple different parishes, maybe in the same diocese, in their entire life, and maybe have only been to less than a dozen parishes on a Sunday morning. Now that I think of it, I don't know whether I've been to more than a dozen different parishes for Sunday morning services. I probably have, but I'd have to strain my memory. And I'm in a veritable hub of Orthodoxy! You might have, like, only a couple churches in a day's drive.

    The point is, your experience right now is extremely parochial, it will most likely remain parochial, and most everyone's experience is parochial. The only guy who gets around to a lot of parishes is the bishop, and he's not having a typical experience, I tell you what.

  6. So if you do go to another parish soon and take communion, remember to say your baptismal name loudly and clearly when you approach. The priest may do things slightly differently from your priest, so maybe sneak a peek to see what other people are doing - whether you wipe your lips on your own afterward or kiss the chalice or not do either (in which case somebody else wipes your lips and you do not kiss the chalice), but whatever happens, make sure the communion cloth is under your chin and you open your mouth wide. Do not venerate the icon immediately after communion. Do not cross yourself when at the chalice.
  7. I'm serious about the fasting thing. Ease into it. Don't worry about it.
  8. Your priest is not a magic voodoo shaman. Or a guru. I guess you could accuse him of being the priest of a mystery cult, it's inaccurate, but it's not too far off base. But he's not a guru. In fact, you probably have a mediocre priest. You're probably mediocre, too, so it works out nicely. He knows a lot more than you, though, and even if you know something he doesn't from reading one of your convert books, that's because it's stuff that probably doesn't matter, so it's not on the syllabus of the seminary. Or you might have a good priest. Or an exceptional priest. Count your blessings. Some day you may have a mediocre priest. Don't let it faze you. There is one good thing: no matter what, he's a priest. So he can absolve your sins and give you the body and blood of Christ. Anything beyond that is a bonus.
  9. Don't go gung-ho on the Orthodox stuff. By that, I mean stuff. Attend church all you want. All you can. That's not stuff. Maybe you can do all the prostrations you want - if you don't increase the number of prostrations per day very much each week. I haven't heard of anybody going overboard on prostrations before, I guess. But I have heard of people buying too many Orthodox books, listening to too much Orthodox radio, buying too many Orthodox icons, reading too much Orthodox web-log chatter. Sometimes you do hear about people getting burnt out on too much church-going, but they're usually also involved in like the choir too or whatever, not just attending. So... don't go all gung-ho now that you're Orthodox. See the first point: all that stuff they say about new converts is about you, too. So watch out for burnout. Slow and steady is the name of the game. This isn't about "Orthodox stuff", it's about saving your soul and following Jesus Christ. Who do you say that He is? What do you ask of the Church of God?
  10. Speaking of gung-ho, don't get gung-ho from the get-go about defending or defining the faith. I see a lot of people who aren't dry behind the ears who get into that immediately. Don't do it. You'll look back and be embarrassed. Or, worse, you'll look back and not be embarrassed.
  11. Especially for those who are brand new: now that you're Orthodox, turn off AFR for a bit if you've been listening to it. Go a few weeks without the noise. If you're reading Orthodox material, maybe stop that for a few weeks, too. Taking in all that noise is distracting.
I hope some of that helps. All that stuff is a distraction from the one thing needful sometimes, so I'm trying to get it out of the way for you.



It's a natural cycle.

It's all just a natural cycle of warming and cooling. Every few million years, a sentient species digs up all the accumulated carbon deposits, lights fire to them, and warms up the planet again, rebooting the cycle. Humans have nothing to do with it, it's destiny.

EDIT: And, as Spengler says about just this sort of thing, "It's not the end of the world, it's the end of you." Of course, addressing the problem is "the end of you" as well, if you think of the high-consumption American lifestyle as defining yourself.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Piles of skulls

On some non-religious message board or other, people were talking about versions of the Bible, a rather surprisingly respectful conversation for a secular message board, really, and somebody posted a link to Why I Am King James Only. Now, there's a lot of silliness to nit-pick, and I wouldn't do that. It could all be waved off with a simple, "Anglocentric, therefore irrelevant to Christianity as a whole." What piques my interest is this bit:
The King James Bible is totally free of any Roman Catholic intrusion. The Vaticanus was found in the Vatican Library in 1481 and the Sinaiticus was found in a garbage can in St. Catherine’s Monastery in 1844. St. Catherine’s is the monastery where they have skulls piled high in a room and even have a skeleton of a dead monk hanging on a door. Would God really consign His word to such an evil, macabre place?
Well, let's ignore that St Catherine's is Orthodox and not Catholic, since the author likely doesn't care about the distinction. The author here is precisely wrong. His version of Christianity is false because they don't have piles of skulls lying around. I would even go so far as to state that piles of skulls are a conditio sine qua non of true religion. Surprisingly, this does not eliminate very many religions, only the newer ones, like this particular brand of crytpo-Gnostic Baptist. We need other criteria, of course, otherwise, "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

That said, these two services are important and you should be familiar with the texts: Office at the Parting of the Soul from the Body and [Oh dear, I was going to link to the Office for the Burial of the Dead, but seems to have taken it down?].