Saturday, July 30, 2016


     Sometimes, when I’m feeling creatively dry, I return to my past writings and spend some time studying them. I try to do so as if they weren’t emissions of mine. It’s difficult but not impossible to do so, and it can sometimes refresh the sense that matters most to a writer: the sense of why I’m doing this.

     I’ve made some interesting discoveries by doing that. In particular, I’ve been reminded – forcibly at times – about what it was that got me started writing for a general audience.

     I shan’t tell you what that was (and is) straight off. Permit me to meander around it for a few hundred words. With luck you’ll get a better feel for the wherefores that way.

     In a piece that appeared at Eternity Road in 2010, I had some fun with the idea of a “silly syllogism:”

     It occurred to your Curmudgeon this morning that many of one's decisions, however great or small, are likely to be founded on theorems that, let us say, could stand closer examination. For those Gentle Readers who cut all their tenth-grade geometry classes: a theorem is a statement of implication, which states that a specific premise implies a specific conclusion. For example: "If Smith is a man, then Smith is mortal." (Alternately, "All men are mortal.") Thus, we have the famous demonstrator:
Theorem: All men are mortal.
Premise: Socrates is a man.
Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

A three-part inference such as the above is called a syllogism. Whether any particular syllogism ends with a trustworthy conclusion depends on the soundness of its theorem. So if the theorem is wrong, the conclusion is likely to be wrong as well:

Theorem: All mortals are men.
Premise: Rufus the Newfus is mortal.
Conclusion: Therefore, Rufus the Newfus is a man.

But there is a special class of "theorems," distinct from all others, in which truth is inherent. These are so obviously correct that they require no proof. They're called tautologies.

A tautology takes the form: If X is true, then X is true.

Well, uh, yes. Indisputable! But how useful is it?

Your Curmudgeon had a demonstration of two such just this morning, in conversation with the C.S.O. She was speaking of her need to go to the gym after work, to which your Curmudgeon replied, "If ya gotta go, ya gotta go."

Theorem: If ya gotta go, ya gotta go.
Premise: The C.S.O. gotta go.
Conclusion: Therefore, the C.S.O. gotta go.

"But," your Curmudgeon continued, "why not come home first and sit for a bit?" The C.S.O. replied, "Once you're home, you're home."

Theorem: Once you're home, you're home.
Premise: The C.S.O. has come home.
Conclusion: Therefore, the C.S.O. is home.

Your Curmudgeon admits to having been temporarily blinded by the brilliance of these insights. But on later reflection, he recalled an even more striking syllogism from a few years back. On that occasion, he asked the C.S.O. whether she wanted to go on some errand immediately, or wait until after lunch. The C.S.O. replied, "Let's go, so we can come back."

Theorem: If we go, we can come back.
Premise: Let's go.
Conclusion: Therefore, we can come back.

The variation in form from that of a "classical" tautology is purely incidental.

Such silly syllogisms are at the base of a great part of human decision-making. Watch for them in your life. And always remember:

A tautology is a tautology.

     Now, I’m not advocating the displacement of conventional reasoning by a scheme built entirely on tautologies. We wouldn’t get much done that way. But occasionally a tautology (or a close relative) will “wander by” that expresses a truth one needs to emphasize to oneself. Here’s one:

You are what you are.

     This isn’t a perfect, “classical” tautology. It’s true, but it doesn’t cover the whole of the matter. Yes, you are what you are – i.e., your organic nature – but you are also who you are: those traits and capabilities you’ve added to your God-given organic nature via individuation.

     However – and this is the crux of the thing – there are limits to individuation:

What you are constrains who you can become.

     Note: Constrains is not synonymous with determines. I had a fictional character put it thus:

     Father Ray rose from his armchair and ran his hands down his trim, muscular frame. “I am a combination of two things: what God has given me, and what I’ve done to develop it. The first of these is immutable. God decreed it. His will in the matter cannot be countervailed. The second is merely the consequence of my decision to make the most of that gift—to develop my body in a direction natural to it with proper exercise and dietary discipline. As that does not in any way cross-cut God’s gift, or whatever element of his plan resides in me, my use of his gift is entirely acceptable.”

     [From “One Small Detail”]

     To try to individuate in a way that contradicts one’s nature is a bad, bad idea. There’s nothing but suffering at the end of such a journey. In other words: Don’t jump off a cliff hoping that you’ll learn how to fly before you hit the ground.

     Quite a long time ago, I wrote an essay that’s become something of an Internet staple. It proceeded from my perception of what a man is, and the role he must fill to be true to his manhood. I sincerely believed it when I first wrote it, and I stand by it today.

     Many years later, I wrote the following:

     Just as the manly virtues define the essence of respectable manhood, there are feminine virtues that define the essence of respectable womanhood:
  • Nurturance of a man;
  • Management of a household;
  • The skills demanded of a mother.

     A woman who lacks those virtues isn’t merely a marginal creature, unlikely to contribute constructively to her society; she’s a disruptive and destructive force. A fair number of such women infest our society today. Worse, they’ve wangled special legal privileges that no one deserves nor should be allowed. In consequence, young men are being taught to fear: especially, to fear women. Young women are being taught to resent: especially, to resent men.

     Again, I stand by what I wrote.

     This is not to say that a woman must not become a wage-earner, a monetary contributor to her household; that would be foolish in this day and age. Rather, a woman’s pursuit of an income should not cause her to disparage the feminine virtues or stint their development and employment, for those virtues are prior and superior to her wage-earning possibilities. Indeed, I’d advise a woman blessed with a husband who provides amply for her and her children to consider eschewing wage labor in favor of “traditional” womanly pursuits.

     This heartening piece at The Federalist elaborates on the reasons for my contentions.

     It’s a matter worthy of considerable attention that masculinism – a return to the manly virtues and what a man needs to practice them – is rising sharply, while feminism, especially militant, misandrist feminism of the sort Stacy McCain often lambastes, is fighting a rearguard action to hold onto its place in Americans’ minds. Metrosexuality is retreating, as are the gender-war attitudes purveyed by the Anita Sarkeesians. In effect, what we humans are is reasserting itself against perverse notions about who we are or could be.

     Of course, there’s no such thing as a unanimous movement among human beings. Men aren’t that biddable; even the soggiest, most easily led milksop will assert an individual preference or two, especially if he doesn’t think he can measure up. Similarly, there will always be women who are utterly averse to traditional femininity, and will fight to their last breath against “being assigned to a role.” Yet those who adopt the traditional masculine and feminine paradigms appear to be prevailing – winning. On the whole they’re happier with themselves, their fellows, and their lots in life. That seems to be the case even among individuals who fought the traditional roles for decades, only to “surrender” to them later on in life.

     Perhaps time will paint a shaded picture. Perhaps among men there are some who must depart from traditional masculinity as the price of survival. Perhaps among women there are some who must forgo traditional femininity for similar reasons. It wouldn’t surprise me. But neither would it surprise me to learn that traditional masculinity and femininity have tremendous value, both to those that accept them and to their societies. Traditions and conventions arise not from the arbitrary decisions of individuals, but for reasons of utility. That utility is well expressed in the history of the United States of America.


Malatrope said...

There is a certain tautology that may be the most profound out there. It answers all the Sturm und Drang surrounding the question of why we seem to be the only intelligent life "out there". Questions like, "How is it possible, given the incredible unlikely happenstance that chemicals can unite to develop a thinking organism capable of self-examination? The probabilities are too small!"

To which I reply, "Balderdash!" (or something stronger).

We exist because we exist.

There is no way to determine how many times life "has found a way", but there is unmistakable proof that it has done so at least once. We cannot say for certain exactly why we exist, but it is Undeniably True that we do.

To all who would demand that we are a) created by some Entity, and/or b) this happened only a few thousand years ago, and c) evolution is obviously impossible because it is too statistically improbable, we could only get here by a one-in-a-googol-year accident, I say: "We exist because we exist. We are the once-in-the-lifetime-of-the-universe event. None of your arguments about probability as a form of proof are germane. Here we are. Our existence does not enlighten your contentions. Look further."

God works in mysterious ways, and his time scale is not the same as ours. Evolution and happenstance are as much tools as anything you might buy at Home Depot. The key to why we can exist lies in the exact relationships among all the fundamental physical constants, and the nature of the forces between and among things we can only barely detect. Look there for the work of God. All else comes – well, it comes naturally.

Anonymous said...

Let's look at this from a political military logistics mindset. If men allow women to own (control) the house which men buy, does that advantage or disadvantage the men? Does allowing Hillary to control the CONUS territory advantage men?

Men are doing a complete wishful delusional belief system here. Men are just wishing women would behave in some way which typically they do not.