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5. Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji   –   This is a live action adaptation of one of the best anime series I have ever seen.  The anime series is set in the nineteen-nineties during the time of the great Recession in Japan, a time in which many young men found it difficult to gain traction in Japanese society.  The story arcs revolve around a young man in a tight financial situation who attempts to eliminate his debt by gambling, sometimes against overwhelming odds.  The anime series has a very retro feel to it, and the soundtrack is pure late eighties, early nineties Japanese punk; Blue Hearts, Cigarette Man, Street Beats, etc.  The movie moves the context into a dark, day-after-tomorrow, pre-apocalyptic Japan, pulls three or four of the more adrenaline-fueled story arcs from the anime series, then pumps up the volume.

It works.  There are emotions that the human face can register that no cartoon can render, and Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji  makes you feel every one of them.  In the end, the bad girl wins all the money, but Kaiji is allowed to keep his own soul, and the movie leaves you feeling that it was a risk well-taken.

And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

“We do not content ourselves with a pluralist marketplace of gods.  Polyarchy and utter, brawling anarchy are one and the same.  Division is strife, and hastens to dissolution…One is the might of my Trinity, One the knowledge, One the glory, One the power. so again, the Unity cannot dissolve, being greatly honored in the one harmony of Divinity.”

St. Gregory of Nazianzus

The organic body sang together; dialects of the world sprang in Byzantium; back they rang to sing in Byzantium; the streets repeat the sound of the Throne

I’m sorry that this post has languished for as long as it has.  At one point I wanted to make the ever-so-obvious point that the problem of the One and the Many has its reflection in the political sphere, and that an over-emphasis on the One leads to Tyranny, such as that which would obtain were the Islamic Universal Caliphate ever to be instantiated, and that an over-emphasis on the Many leads inevitably to Anarchy.

Over against this I wanted to deposit the idea of the Chalcedonian Commonwealth, of which the most consistent example were the Christian Empires of New Rome and Moscow, with their deeply ingrained idea of synergy, the working together of the Church and the State according to the Chalcedonian formula, although that synergy was honored far more in the breach than in the ideal in Byzantine and Russian societies.  Nevertheless, I believe that something akin to a Christendom, a commonwealth of Orthodox Christian nations, would most closely incarnate the life of the Trinity in the political sphere.

It appears from a reading of history that this state of affairs was beginning to coalesce in the West at the beginning of the fated eleventh century.  The Western Empire, as it was thought of at that time, had moved from Carolingian hands into the Saxon Ottonian dynasty, who with the help of a series of sympathetic popes culimnating in Sylvester II, was moving towards just this sort of Byzantine model of symphony.  The untimely death of the half-Greek Otto III lead to the severing of the two powers, and the development of the monarchial Papacy and the reaction of the development of the secular power as autonomous, and operating in an autonomous sphere.

Orthodoxy requires a fall-of-the-West story.  At one time I considered this a defect in the Orthodox narrative.  Papal Catholicism, after all, does not appear to require a fall-of-the-East story to complete its narrative, but its narrative does not have, to me, the compelling nature of the Orthodox narrative.  The post-schism history of the Christian West makes better sense in the context of a gradual Dying-Of The-Light, a thousand-year  summer twilight in which the memory of the Kingdom of God is replaced by the Kingdom of Man, first in its ecclesiastical, then it its secular, and finally in its radical form.

Empire is the exterior of Church.  Church is the interior of Empire.

For the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.

Treebeard – from The Two Towers; presciently used as an introduction to the Extended Edition DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring

I am sorry I have been so remiss in working on this blog this year. The things I want to say I struggle to find among kindred minds the vocabulary to express. With the infosphere so full of disheartening political and economic news, the signal-to-noise ratio remains appallingly low. Nobody within earshot of me seems to be saying anything useful or encouraging except for the Orthodox, some of the better Catholics, Wendell Berry, the Scylding, and, surprisingly, some granola-crunching New Agers.

Oh yes, Tim Enloe is doing some important work digesting primary sources which can act as signposts especially to those whose interest is in the development of what can only be called the Mind of the West.

I can only hope my problem isn’t selective hearing on my part; what the Reformed refer to as “judicial hardening”.

One of the reasons I had for reading Owen Barfield was the hope that he would have:cleared a path for me through the intellectual thicket in which I currently find myself The Western world in general, and the United States of America in particular, appears to be approaching an impasse to which no easy solution presents itself. There is a dislocation on the horizon that will be certainly uncomfortable, probably grueling, and possibly violent. If the current “common sense” consensus prevails, we in the USA and aligned countries will find ourselves on an unsustainable trajectory where we are competing with the rest of the world for a dwindling amount of resources. By the current “common sense” consensus, I mean the pragmatic, objectivizing, particularizing, quantifying, and now digitizing impulse that produced both the Scientific and the Commercial revolutions, and led to us organizing ourselves into, and relating to each other primarily through the mediation of, corporations that act as vast Turing devices acting only for the quantification and increase of Capital, now expressed primarily as a series of 1s and 0s on a digital medium somewhere.
Recently , I read an interesting online essay by Jim Davis, Globalization, Romanticism, and Owen Barfield. Even though Mr. Davis’ presuppositions and concerns are not my own, I heartily recommend the essay. Summarizing Mr. Davis is a little difficult, not entirely because of the subtlety of his arguments, but also because of the surprising eclecticism of his sources. He draws not only from the Usual Suspects in Barfield studies; Eliot, Auden, Steiner, the German Naturphilosophen, but also Karl Marx and William Blake.

The connection with Karl Marx struck me as being interesting. Marx was, after all, a Romantic at heart, and the Romantic concept of the Eternal Return was deeply embedded into his narrative. However, it was the mention of William Blake that most ignited my imagination. Blake was present at the birth of a particular sort of Imperial consciousness, that of the regnant Whig classes in Great Britain. There appears to have been a kind of energy which was liberated by the disposal of the Catholic, medieval-minded James Stuart, which energy manifested itself in both the Scientific and Commercial revolutions of the 18th Century, and the establishment of the Whig Empire.

That Empire, with a very few modifications, is the very same Urizenic regime currently in power, which, in Blake’s poetic vision, was a metaphor what was occuring as a result of the Commercial and Industrial Revolutions; the dilution of risk through the use of joint stock corporations, the commoditization of labor in the “dark Satanic mills”. Artisianry, whereby a particular suit of clothes was made for afairwind1 particular man, was sacrificed for the mass production of abstract “clothes” for abstract “men”.

It is not to lament the “world that once was”, but rather to show how a particular consciousness engenders a particular state of affairs in the so-called “material world”, that world which is characterized by the words “politics” and “economics”. In this sense, essence precedes existence; the Interior is anterior to the Exterior, nothing emerges in the technosphere which did not previously exist in the imagination, but a particularly focused kind of imagination.

The Church is not the interior of the Empire, the Empire is the material expression of the Church. Man was created to live and move and have his being in this Empire/Church which was intended to mediate the life [energies?] of the Blessed Trinity to the whole of Creation.

Charles Williams saw, no, felt this acutely, and called it the “Web of Exchange”, “Co-inherence”, or simply “the City”, and hinted that it was intended to encompass the entirety of Creation. Indeed, we see that one of the gravest problems that we are facing is an ecological crisis, whereby the Web of Empire, that portion of the Web of Exchange which organizes the energies of men, is returning material to the Web of Physical Nature, that portion of the Web of Exchange whose interchanges and sacrifices we describe as chemical reactions, in a condition unusable by it. What men call “the economy” has its inputs from this other, more elementary Web, and its impact upon this Web is considerable, but the terms of Exchange have not hitherto been charitable.

The changes we desperately need at this juncture will have to come from a change in Church. There are a lot of conflicting voices out there, and most of them are clamoring for a preservation of the status quo, with which voices I certainly sympathize, because it is comfortable for me.

But I don’t know whether that will be a option for us very much longer. As our Lord put it

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

It’ s always like that;  we’re comfortable, and we begin to feel  constriction and the pressure, until suddenly light and cold burst in on us, and we are thrust into a larger world.

Optimism has been in short supply around here recently. There are no end of things to worry yourself sick about; Peak Oil, water depletion, Global Warming, the emergence of new and exotic diseases and resistant forms of old ones. The list goes on and on. We don’t know what the carrying capacity is of this Earth, and the idea of finding out, as we have in the past, by trial and error, doesn’t appeal to me.

For the majority of my adult life, I believed that the Rapture would be God’s provision against all of this. If you’ve been living under a rock since the 1970s, “the Rapture” refers to a belief that is all but universal among Evangelical Christians that the world will continue to get worse and worse until Jesus decides that he’s had enough and takes the really real good Christians to Heaven while He cleans the clock of the snuff-dippers, gamblers, whore-mongers, cynics, smart-assed news reporters, haughty secular humanists and anyone else who never Accepted Jesus Christ as their Personal Savior.

For obvious reasons, this idea that Jesus will give us a brand new shiny Earth to play with after we have used up the old one has a strong appeal to Americans. However, I don’t know where people are getting the idea that Jesus is going to come and rescue them so they can drive their minivans right on up to the Pearly Gates. Everything I see in the Bible seems to indicate He’s gonna be hot under the collar. Nevertheless, my disavowal of the Rapture when I left Evangelicalism for Orthodoxy was considered one of the principal signs of my apostasy. I was glad to leave the Rapture behind me; I always considered it an irresponsible doctrine, but I hadn’t factored in the comfort value. It’s getting pretty dark down here, and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to continue without an evacuation plan.

When I think about the situation in which we find ourselves these days, I visualize a large mass of people moving down a corridor where the walls are slowly converging. At first there is plenty of room and the mass of people are moving freely, but as the corridor becomes narrower and narrower, the people collide with each other more frequently. They experience each other as “being in the way”, as obstructions. The stronger gravitate towards the middle and the weaker are pushed to the sides. Eventually, there is room for only a few to pass through, and the conflict has become constant and endemic. No one seems to notice that the bodies are starting to pile up and have become in themselves an obstacle to further progress.

I am reminded of the voice of the Scriptures: A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So it is with our lives; we are floating along peacefully, the centers of our own little universes, when suddenly we are thrust against our wills into a narrow, constricting place. There is pain, then light, then cold. We don’t like it, and we open our tiny mouths and complain.

In order to survive the next two hundred years, we are going to need Jesus. It is not that we need to follow Jesus’ teachings more closely, or that we have to convince everybody that they need to believe some kind of ideology centered on Jesus. What we need is Jesus Himself – His divine/human personality with the divinity that He shares with His Father and the humanity which He shares with us through his Mother. Now, what puzzles me is that the pagans and the New Agers seem to be grasping something like this in their insensible way, but official Christendom seems pretty clueless. This is where Rapture fantasies come from, this confusion about Jesus’ agenda.

I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night with panic attacks if Yeshua Ben Miryam was, say, the Secretary-General of the United Nations with full executive powers. I could sleep peacefully knowing a grownup was in charge. But Jesus left. And to make matters worse, He left on purpose. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you..

It is expedient, He says. And just when we needed Him so badly. But what did He leave behind? “A Book, a Doctrine”, say the classic Protestants, although they are scarce on the ground these days. “If we have continuity with this Doctrine, we are fulfilling the agenda of Jesus” “A Church”, say the Roman Catholics. “If we are members of this community, and in obedience to its leaders, we are fulfilling the agenda of Jesus.” But He said He would send the Comforter, the Spirit. But there are so many spirits abroad these days….

Now, Owen Barfield didn’t accept baptism in the Church of England until later in life, and he didn’t “come to Jesus”, as did many of us, because he felt ashamed of his whoring, drunkenness, or violent temper. According to something I read on a stray afternoon in a University labrary about a year or so ago, and I will dig up the reference if anybody needs it, Barfield decided to become a Christian because he noticed that certain elements entered the common life of humanity after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. These elements, furthermore, were qualitatively different from the psychical composition of humanity prior to the career of Christ and could not be explained as either a recombination or a development of earlier components. They were the evidence of a new kind of consciousness, a new kind of man. There were to be no more blood-gods, no more Great Mothers.

To be continued…


The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams