I have several talents. As a boy, it was Irish dancing and when I was 10 years old I won the World Championship for the Under 11's. Having mastered Irish dancing, I had wanted to take up ballet but my father decided that I was already too much of a "pansy" for it to be safe for me to go down that road. When I was asked to leave the Irish dancing academy (you see, I was a pariah even then) I devoted myself wholly to Tolkien, at which I have always considered myself, next to Christopher, the world's leading authority. But there has always been another talent, slightly less gratifying, namely my talent for attracting publick ridicule. This has been with me since my earliest days; from my first trip to the post box at the end of the road with an A4 brown envelope (I spent approximately ten minutes trying to fit the thing in the hole, eventually going home with it and asking my mother what to do; she took it, folded it, and then told me that she despaired of my woeful lack of "common sense") to walking into a pub in Farningham with my mother some years ago and a table of young men erupting with laughter at my appearance. To-day an otherwise very patient woman sighed and had to stamp a set of documents I was carrying for me because I couldn't work out how to do so or where to stamp, then pointed out that it was "perfectly simple" to fill out an envelope, that I had put cellotape over the wrong side of the envelope (to be fair, I was by this point sweating with stress and there was a slight tear at the top right-hand side which I mistook for a fold), then when I went back down to the other office to retrieve the cellotape I managed to cellotape over the address, which I had in any case written on the wrong side. It was a good day.
Then I came home and read this! Perhaps I ought to have said that when I read the works of Joseph Pearce, while I found his style banal, I agreed with the general thrust of his arguments because I was still then a Roman Catholick. Some time ago I began to re-read many of the old books in my library in order to reappraise their value in the light of my views now. I never bothered with Pearce for the reason I have just given, but that's clearly funny!
You know, these days there are only three liturgical services in the Roman Rite to which I would go gladly. They are the ceremonies of Palm Sunday, the ceremonies of the Paschal Vigil on the morning of Holy Saturday, and Pontifical Mattins and Lauds of the Resurrection (the latter simply because it no longer exists and not out of especial preference). I find the rest of the Roman Rite rather grotesque, to be frank, and so irretrievably riddled with popery as to be not worth one's trouble. Still, I suppose it is fitting to compare the "achievements" of Pius XII to the lands about Mordor:
"Before them dark in the dawn the great mountains reached up to roofs of smoke and cloud. Out from their feet were flung huge buttresses and broken hills that were now at the nearest scarce a dozen miles away. Frodo looked round in horror. Dreadful as the Dead Marshes had been, and the arid moors of the Noman-lands, more loathsome far was the country that the crawling day now slowly unveiled to his shrinking eyes. Even to the Mere of Dead Faces some haggard phantom of green spring would come; but here neither spring nor summer would ever come again. Here nothing lived, not even the leprous growths that feed on rottenness. The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light. "They had come to the desolation that lay before Mordor: the lasting monument to the dark labour of its slaves that should endure when all their purposes were made void; a land defiled, diseased beyond all healing - unless the Great Sea should enter in and wash it with oblivion. 'I feel sick,' said Sam. Frodo did not speak." (The Lord of the Rings, Book IV, Chapter II).
C.S Lewis, upon reading this passage, remarked that no one could have conceived of this landscape had he not seen the battlefields of the Western Front. When first I made this comparison, however, I still loved and revered the Roman Rite. Now I would say that Pius XII changed the situation, not the landscape. If we're conditioned to believe that the Tridentine innovations in Holy Week (brought in, I suppose, to drag the antient ceremonies of this solemn and serious time down to the level of the rest of the Roman Rite), for example, are essentially beautiful and necessary when in fact they are ruthless grotesqueries forced upon us by the tyranny of bad theology, then really we were already in the graceless wilderness to begin with. A rose by any other name, but in reverse, if you like. On Spy Wednesday of 1956 Tolkien bemoaned the senseless violence wrought against Palm Sunday (I have deduced that since nobody had yet experienced Good Friday (in my opinion the worst of the lot)), and I share his frustration. I really do. But I think now that defence of the Roman Rite, in whatever form, is tantamount to defence of the Papacy since the two are so inextricably linked over centuries of misery. I suppose what I am trying to say is that there is a fundamental cognitive dissonance between accepting the Filioque and all subsequent liturgical and doctrinal developments in the West and objecting to Urban VIII's hymns or the Pius X breviary or Palm Sunday in red, whatever you like.
Besides, by going to church you risk having a conversation with someone.
Art: Ted Nasmith. I couldn't find anything else. Ithilien is too pretty and would not illustrate the point.
"When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; and when they had bound him, they led him away and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, what is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself." Matthew 27:1-6.
Turning back the clock on this world by deleting social networking accounts, avoiding television and not renewing one's mobile phone contract is a good way of culling unwanted people from your life. It also eliminates conversation. When people ask, "are you on Facebook?" You say, "no..." They then ask if you saw the latest on...whatever is latest in the news, and you say, "I don't watch television." Then they ask what your plans are for the weekend, and you say, "nothing." You can't really proceed from there and your annoying questioner has no choice but to walk away. This is because most people have an active Facebook account; if you have no part in that then that closes off one avenue of useless talk. Everybody spends their evenings by letting the television wash all over them; if you don't watch television, you have nothing to talk about. Finally, if you're perfectly frank about keeping your activities to the absolute minimum this too will eliminate any possibility of forming a connexion with your ungodly questioner. People will then see you as a terrible bore and want nothing whatever to do with you. Then the work is done! Solitude is the elixir of life.
Towards the end of the First Age the remnant of the Sindar and the Gnomes were constrained to fly to the Isle of Balar to seek refuge from the soldiery of Morgoth. Would that there were an island to which I could fly! We are a small island already but I sometimes wish that God would shew forth his power and destroy it for an example to the eyes of posterity.
"As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a Dream."
I had quite forgotten that it was Palm Sunday to-day. This morning I awoke at just after seven o'clock with the sensation that I had drunk too much gin the night before, so I went back to sleep again and got up after ten. I trust you all had your palms blessed and received them from the hand of the celebrant and didn't rather pick them up at the back of the church? I actually find it odd that we use dried palm branches in England at all. Why not make use of local foliage instead? I shan't repeat any anathemas for the malefit of those of you who did not bother celebrating Christ's going into Jerusalem in violet. Who am I to judge? I sat at home this morning. As I think that celebrating Palm Sunday in violet is as much an act of hypocrisy under the aegis of Summorum Pontificum as wearing bright red dalmatics and tunicles, what would be the point? It is a nice day for a procession, though.
I am not "clever." I narrated this incident to my mother and she rolled her eyes. Adam, as you might expect, is an atheist. He is four years younger than me (with younger people I am always careful to state this quite clearly) and we had a discussion over lunch about the existence of the Soul relative to "brute beasts that have no understanding." We chose this subject because he had studied Zoology at St Andrew's. His contention was that the Soul does not exist or, if it does, that it is a unifying principle that pervades over all organic matter. Mine was that my problem with the idea of the evolution of Man is that the Soul, understood as a rational, calculating and empathic principle (the "breath of God" in us), is essentially what distinguishes us from the beasts of the field (even dogs) and that, consequently, there had to have been a first man, namely Adam. I don't think that, as a Christian, you can really set a very high store by evolution by natural selection given that it is implausible from both sides. A Darwinian cannot contend that the last "mulier erecta" gave birth to the first "homo sapiens;" evolution simply doesn't work like that; likewise, a Christian cannot say that the last homo erectus did not have a Soul whereas the first homo sapiens did, if we understand the presence of a Soul is the principle that separates Men from beasts. In terms of beasts, I am in two minds. My late dog Lucy, for example, seemed to be very wise and understanding. At times, I felt as Sam did about Bill in The Lord of the Rings; I expected her to speak with words. She never did. But I do not believe that that negated her understanding or her capacity to love. All my conservative instincts dictate that there was a gulf that separated us. As I watched her sleep or wade through a shallow river my mind would go back the Days of Creation and forth to the End and I wondered whether we would ever meet again and perhaps be on "equal terms." I believe that we shall. After all, it cannot be denied that dogs have been ennobled by their ancestral attachment to Men.
There was a young South African woman in the class. Africaans is her first language. She described herself as "Christian," though she was clearly of the wishy-washy apostate type; someone who had embraced the world, someone who if given the choice between fire and denying Christ would choose the latter. Her lack of taste was seen most clearly in her love of Starbucks. Conversations with her always lead to awkward silences (on her part). She once asked: "what are your thoughts on the Oscar Pistorius trial?" So I said: "I couldn't really care less." I thought better of breaking the awkward silence by articulating my opinion of the so-called "paralympics," (my post on the subject was hardly popular). Same-sex marriage was another hot topic. She complained that people were so judgemental and that her gay brother had been teased at school and that "it doesn't matter who you fall in love with" (that is verbatim). At this, I had to make my disposition known because in the presence of other faiths I cannot tell you how much it angers me when Christians deliberately misrepresent the Faith, so I said: "That is not what the Christian faith teaches," and proceeded to clarify the Christian teaching on Marriage for the benefit of the others. Nobody said anything. The girl did eventually say that she was glad she had met me, and even tried to hug me. To my explanation that hugging a person whom you've just met is an intolerable intrusion she simply said, "oh." Nice people...is there any lower form of life?
One of the core values of this new job is "Diversity." I expect you all know that I am by no means enthusiastic about diversity, multiculturalism and such rot. For one thing, I don't recognise anybody's "right" to hold erroneous religious beliefs. Something is either true or false and you can't say that there is any practical or ethical reason for believing falsehood aside from the traditions of your fathers. If you believe something which is a palpable lie then you're stupid and, from my perspective, your "right" even to breathe is diminished. My father has often said that I am very intolerant. I don't deny it. I wonder what the future holds for people like me in this diverse, multicultural, pluralistic world? Am I a relic of times past? The answer is, of course, nobody cares! They, the real people, are out there; I am in here, in my room, wrapped in a filthy dressing gown. Therefore I don't really think that the ideals of "diversity" extend towards people like me.
On the subject of being clever, I asked my mother what she thought and she said: "well, you're clever in some respects but in others you're very stupid." It's hard not to agree with that, eh!
My Gmail account appears to have been compromised in some way. I logged into my account this evening to reply to some messages and was suddenly in receipt of a number of "failed send" messages. I then received an e-mail from a contact, saying that the content might be a virus. I checked my outbox and reported 84 messages spam as they were not sent by me. I read some of them and they seemed to be about Harry Potter.
If anybody is in receipt of any spam/suspicious e-mails from my Gmail account, I apologise unreservedly. I have changed the password to the account as a precaution but I fear this might have something to do with the fact that we don't, currently, have anti-virus software. In all honesty, we can't afford it at the moment.
I don't know what else to suggest other than that it might be worthwhile deleting any messages you receive from my Gmail account unread within the next few days until I get a response from Google.
There is really nothing else for it, people. I have embraced Puritanism. Not, I hasten to add, the kind of theological Puritanism espoused and propagated by Cromwell or Baxter (I am not a Calvinist and drink to excess far too often), but my own brand of "nothing." A new Dark Age is upon us and if we would distinguish between good and evil then it behoves us to become impervious to all influence of any kind, if we can find the mastery. The safest place in the world is the place where nothing else can come in.
Therefore, by the authority of Almighty God, I exhort you to dismantle any and all unnecessary trappings of the modern world in your homes! Stop watching television, stop reading newspapers, delete your social networking accounts, stop using your mobile phones except in extreme cases of emergency (and even then, try and find an excuse not to use them), curtail the amount of time you spend on the Internet, make yourselves completely oblivious to everything and everyone around you; then wrap yourselves in a dressing gown and lie down on your bed and just wait.
My name is Patrick, I am twenty-six years old and I have Asperger Syndrome. I bought your book, "Asperger Syndrome: The Complete [sic] Guide" in 2008 upon my diagnosis at the Maudsley Hospital. I enjoyed your book chiefly for your clarity of style and the many case studies investigated which helped illuminate such concepts as theory of mind. However, I have often found much of the literature surrounding Asperger Syndrome to be out of my own experience. While I share some of the characteristics of most autistic people I cannot really say that I have much sympathy for them. I am not a mathematician, for example, nor do I have any savant capabilities. You might say that my "special interests" are the literary works of J.R.R Tolkien, for which my expertise is, while not "internationally" recognised in the sense of successfully-published books (I have no capacity for success), is at least appreciated overseas by a minority of religious people. For example, a regular American reader of my weblog said in a comment in 2012:
But, your differentiator, as it were, that which one can't find readily elsewhere, to say nothing of being even halfway well done, is your ability to bring Tolkein to life historically, linguistically, culturally, religiously, etc.
This was a response to an article about certain elements of the Battle of Hastings in the Pelennor. Another "special interest" would be ancestral forms of the Roman Rite and liturgical reforms between the 16th and 20th centuries relative to these and the modern Roman Rite. I hasten to add that I am by no means an expert in this latter since most of the stuff exists in manuscript form in far-sundered places like the British Library and the colleges of Oxbridge, for which appointment is required, so I tend to rely mostly on secondary sources like the publications of the Henry Bradshaw Society, the Alcuin Club, etc. My lack of understanding (or empathy if you like) of most autistic people and their peculiar interests lies in what is essentially the monotony and fruitlessness of many of these pursuits. To what purpose, for example, is the setting to memory or recitation of camera serial numbers? I think Dr Baron Cohen alludes to that in one of his studies. Or the fictitious case study in your book about the boy who joined the byrding festivities of a young girl; the boy with the battery obsession. You may say that batteries and camera serial numbers, devoid of a general interest in electronics or photography, represent comfortable routines designed to obviate feelings of distress in autistic people who are doomed to live in a world largely cut off from routine. In which case, to what extent are they forms of escapism? Many people assume that autistic people despise fiction because it is not "true." On the contrary, if literature (good literature, mind you) is to serve any purpose it is the enshrinement of certain truths that otherwise find no meaningful expression in waking life, and to this end I love Tolkien, in whose works I have found my escape as much as others find in counting ad infinitum every conceivable prime number. But to what extent is the pursuit of knowledge a part of these routines and special interests? (As a curious aside, I too attended a birthday party at the behest of a girl called Laura when I was very little. Apparently, I spent the afternoon flushing the toilet of the upstairs bathroom. Laura's parents later asked my mother if I had had any "stomach bug," to which she said no and that I was just obsessed with toilets. Needless to say, subsequent birthday invitations were never extended my way).
I have also read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I hated it. Like a lot of other literature about autistic people the protagonist just apes a lot of stereotypes to the extent that the book is written in an atrociously matter-of-fact, immature style and presents a boy with no characteristics of his own. I could identify with neither the boy nor the circumstances of the story. Similarly, I have taken part in psychological studies at the Maudsley Hospital in which I have had to watch videos of simulated scenarios acted badly (probably by the students compiling the study themselves!) and then asked a set of questions designed to gauge my understanding of facial expressions, intentions and emotions, and all those other things. Most of these are so poorly presented in the videos that they are indistinguishable from the other emotions and so this impacts upon the study in a serious way. Your intention (I assume it's an intention of clinical persons in the study of autism) to establish a uniform criteria of understanding any of these things is doomed if the instruments with which they are measured are riddled with artificiality. For one thing they're embarrassing to watch. I suppose what I am getting at here is the ethics of labelling. An A4 piece of paper with fifty ticked boxes does not encapsulate a person anymore than their wage slip. And I expect the same could be said for Christopher Boon. Can you really paint a picture of an autistic person using general characteristics and not make him seem a grotesque caricature or a monster? The more I think about my diagnosis, the more I think it a ligament. Susanna Kaysen said that when was informed by her clinicians that she had a "character disorder." Would it therefore be gracious of us to accept these images of ourselves postulated to us by clinicians?
My feelings of separatism and, to a certain extent, hauteur stem from my sheer lack of enthusiasm for most documented cases of autistic people. I find myself constantly at variance with other people. I am homosexual (a moot subject) but cannot stand the LGBT community because we have only the fact of our sexual abnormality in common. Otherwise, I find homosexuals generally very ostentatious, immoral people. Similarly, with autistic people we just share a few common traits. I certainly don't think that the society of autistic people is a thing to be sought because of that. Do you think I have much time for Tolkien fans? No, of course not! The vast majority of them are bloody hippies with inferior understanding. Similarly with "liturgical" people; most people who have an interest in the Roman Rite are Roman Catholicks, who represent a religion which I reject. In addition, most of them take a relativistic and cavalier disposition to the practice of liturgy (largely because of their faith). Do you think that I have much in common with them? I certainly don't. You might say that I am in a kind of self-imposed exile away from the very few people with whom I have anything remotely in common.
I should like to know your thoughts on this matter and whether a sense of triumphalism in respect of this world is a common autistic trait. I understand that we've never actually met but an educated guess bethought of your profound experience of autistic people would be greatly appreciated. I cannot even pass for a "normal" person in the real world and so my cutting myself off from the society of gays, autistic people, Tolkien fans and "liturgical" people might seem strange to some. Does it seem strange to you?
(I think what I'm complaining about, chiefly, is that I haven't read my own biography written by someone who worships me).