The Long View 2008-12-14: The Kairos and Governor Blagojevich

I know these are mug shots, but the crazy eyes on Ira Einhorn should have been a clue.

Ira Einhorn

The Kairos and Governor Blagojevich

Readers of this space who regularly attend divine services may have noticed that the sullen, resentful people who crouch in the back pews as they cling to their guns have lately become more numerous; and moreover, now they are not only clinging to their guns, but they are also grasping tear-stained 401K statements and reports from their brokers. Sabbath slackers who have not seen these things for themselves, however, can learn all they need to know from this piece in today’s New York Times about the uptick in church attendance:

Like evangelical churches around the country, the three churches [visited by the Times] have enjoyed steady growth over the last decade. But since September, pastors nationwide say they have seen such a burst of new interest that they find themselves contending with powerful conflicting emotions — deep empathy and quiet excitement — as they re-encounter an old piece of religious lore:

Bad times are good for evangelical churches.

Actually, as I mentioned last week, there has also been an increase in attendance at the Latin Mass I usually go to. I can think of only one fellow attendee who has lost his job, and he would probably be attending anyway. And here’s a bit of counter-indication for the Times thesis: The Rapture Ready index, not a bad measure of kairotic anxiety, now stands at a three-year low.

* * *

Speaking of my Latin Mass, the parish changed its mind and decided to have a Latin Christmas Eve service after all. This was less because of popular demand than because of successful badgering of the long-suffering pastor; but still, a sign of the times. Badgering does not always work.

* * *

Speaking of kairotic anxiety, readers who feel, for whatever reason, that history has lately run off the tracks, or at least taken the wrong exit from the New Jersey Turnpike, may take comfort in this passage from William Irwin Thompson’s metahistorical reportage, At the Edge of History (1971). Thompson was attending a proto-New Age seminar at Esalen in Big Sur, California, in the summer of 1967. He had an afternoon free, so he took a hike in the hills to the Hermitage of New Camaldoli:

Above the fog the sun was shining hotly, so I slowed my pace, but after a few turns of the road, I caught a glimpse of the gate of the monastery hanging down from the top of the mountain. I rested for a moment to prepare myself for the last little bit of my climb and looked up at the gate, which seemed to hang down almost within an arm's reach. But when I started again and rounded the corner of the switchback, I discovered that the gate wasn't just ahead and that there were still at least a dozen switchbacks left. And then I laughed out loud as my whole agon with Ira fell into the form of the landscape. Ira had looked at LSD and the kids and proclaimed the New Planetary Civilization of Consciousness in 1967; he had forgotten that there are turns in the road of history, and at the moments when we are at a turning point, we are permitted to look out across all the curves of the road to see the end hanging down almost within our grasp; but when we come to the top of the first incline, we find that the road cuts back and we can only see what is straight in front of us, and that doesn't even seem to be going in the right direction. Standing there, I knew it was for that moment that I had turned away from Boston and Europe to come to California. Ira's millennium and my apocalypse both fell into place.

I realize I may have quoted this passage more than once before. (As Emerson used to say: “Do I repeat myself? Very well, I repeat myself; I am large, I contain platitudes.” Or maybe Thoreau said that.) In any case, the passage is interesting in light of later events for two reasons. One is that Thompson’s notion that universal enlightenment seems possible at certain flex-points of history also looks very much like the premise of John Crowley’s Aegypt (a.k.a. The Solitudes) series of metaphysical novels. The other is that 10 years after the seminar the Ira mentioned by Thompson killed his girl friend and hid the body in a trunk.

* * *

Finally, regarding the adventures of Governor Bagojevich of Illinois, I do not doubt that the affair will afford many hours of innocent amusement for months to come. I follow it on the legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy. There you will find the occasional caution that the most outrageous things the governor is accused of are not self-evidently illegal.

Trading a senate seat for campaign contributions, or for a cushy job for one’s spouse, is clearly illegal. An agreement by two parties to make certain personnel appointments may not be. Frankly, that’s the kind of question you don’t want answered. A clear rule one way could put public office up for auction; a clear rule the other way would make politics illegal. Since the 1970s, American government has been deformed by the attempt to turn politics into law. History suggests this could have unfortunate consequences.

Copyright © 2008 by John J. Reilly

Why post old articles?

Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

An archive of John's site