Culture of Death Watch
Icon in Tallinn: The 2007 Trialogos Festival
by Lawrence J. Dickson
A city wall is an excellent thing. I have never seen one that did not succeed in protecting at least some beauty, and lifting the hearts of the people who shelter behind it. The Tallinn historian Ott Sandrak gestured at their towering wall, as he led us about Old Town on Tuesday evening of the Trialogos Festival. It was never taken, even by artillery, he said, and this Hanseatic city of Reval prospered behind it while others were devastated by war. The wall is huge (visibly 30 feet high and very thick) and made of tenacious limestone. Behind it a magnificent cobblestoned Old Town, properly shabby and peeling with centuries of use, permits more than beauty. It permits mind.
The alarm buzzes in our hotel room to announce a jet-lagged Tallinn morning. Soon we rush out onto the cobblestones, and find Pikk Street (everything is done on foot here). Long and slightly curved, it leads us past shop, dwelling and embassy to a large tavern labeled (in English) “Hell Hunt, the First Estonian Pub.” Just beyond that, at Pikk 41, the metal doors of a cellar have been opened, and a Trialogos poster hangs upon one of them. Candles lead us down rough steps, and we find a tiny monastery altar, before which two huge psalm books are mounted upon stands made of tree branches tied together with rope. There Lauds are sung each morning by two monks at 7:00 A.M., and we join in the antiphonal responses.
The effect is extraordinary. Surely this is one of the four pillars of the universe of which R. A. Lafferty writes: obscure work which upholds the entire world. Inside the wall is Old Town, and inside Old Town is Pikk 41, where the monks sing, but not for centuries — only recently. It is like a shower which washes off, not the day’s dirt, but the post-Christian day’s ugliness and yammer and frenzy. And then we go and face it again. Tallinn is not some Lothlorien, immune from the ravages of time.
A mighty lord of the Resistance
My wife Jeanne and I returned by bus to Tallinn after Culture Wars’ excursion to St. Petersburg. The next day, before we left, we had to thank our hosts for everything they had done for us, including helping with laundry. So we made our way to the wonderful creaky-floored house of Taivo Niitvaagi (“more than two hundred years older than our country!” according to fellow attendee James Gay). There Taivo stood, short, dressed all in black, with short white hair and a round cross medallion around his neck. He was smiling and bowing, as if we were doing him the favor. It flashed me back instantly to a similar scene 27 years ago.
The tall young Afghan epidemiologist, Faizullah Kakar, invited us to dinner and treated us just the same way after we published his article on his country’s doomed (as it seemed then) struggle against the Soviet invader. I still carry the impeller blade he gave me from a rocket the Soviets shot at him. This wild courtesy of heroes, giving what they deserve, seems to permeate their whole nations. Shy and polite is how I would characterize the Estonians and the Afghans I have met.
The monuments of beauty and Christendom which abound in Tallinn are mostly younger than my children, and they did not just happen. Taivo and friends, following Jesus’ injunction to be as wise as serpents (as well as harmless as doves), clearly took advantage of the fluid state of things after the Soviet fall to seize control of whole city blocks of the Old Town. (The Soviets had helped by treating the whole place as a junk site.) So now there are big Catholic schools, artists’ colonies like Katariina Gild, music, poetry, hospitality, churches, and old monastic grounds used for conferences to overturn secularization. Taivo, a lay oblate, also leads Lauds at Pikk 41 along with Monk Seraphim, who is well known in these pages.
Some of the names of the entities set up by these people, listed in the Trialogos program, are: Latin Quarter Society, NGO Michael Association, St. Michael Guild, THEATRUM, (foundation) Board of St. Michael, (cultural center) HEREDITAS, St. Catherine Gallery, Ukrainian Cultural Centre, School of Monastic Arts LABORA, and Collegium Educationis Revaliae. That is nothing like a complete list. Estonia is a tiny country of only a million and a half people, who have taken off at a gallop, all since the chilly grip of the Soviets fell away around 1990.
But death stalks their country. Their birth rate stands at the ruinous non-reproductive level typical of Europe, East and West. Varro Vooglaid, our English-fluent guide, is doing what needs doing everywhere, starting a pro-life movement. He said that the Estonian abortion rate is 11,000 a year, one of the highest (per capita) in the world. (To translate Estonian numbers to approximate U.S. equivalents, multiply by 1,000 and divide by 4. This would therefore correspond to almost 3,000,000 abortions a year in the U.S., far worse than the actual U.S. rate.)
Thus there is an urgency about their Festival, conferring with Christians from Russia, Ireland, Poland, Finland, Australia, the U.S., with this year’s topic being “In Search of Europe’s Cultural Identity.” Tenacity seems part of Estonian national character, whether resisting sieges or rejecting Russian pipelines, and the festival leaders have resisted intense Left/Right pressure and kept this conference on a third way. They are correct. There is no hope in Left or Right. Neither Left nor Right offers human beings any reason to rejoice. It is find a third way, or cease to exist.
The presentations — science and politics
Though all classed as “Science” in the Festival program, the presentations of morning and afternoon Monday through Friday (September 24 through 28), fell roughly into three classes: science (in the modern sense), politics (with history), and Logos (including culture, philosophy, and theology). These are in increasing order, both in emphasis and success. They all group themselves around what appeared to me to be the central presentation of the entire Festival, the talk on icon and glamour by Russian composer Vladimir Martynov. The artistic performances of the evening also connect to Martynov’s theme.
I will follow the same order in discussing them, and I will include some digressions (my own presentation, as it were) that illuminate the route to the success of the project. After all, it is urgent that it should succeed. It is a lovely country, and nobody who has been there could fail to wish them happiness.
Science was presented by Research Fellow Oskari Juurikkala (Finland), economist, and Dr. Robert Sungenis (USA), geocentrist. (Prof. Jerzy Przystawa (Poland), quantum theoretician, did not present a science topic.) Young MSc Juurikkala’s presentation struggled laudably to restore Europe’s birthrates by removing welfare-state disincentives. He proposed a kind of game of chicken, where falling government pensions would stimulate childbirth and extended families. E. Michael Jones criticized him for historical omissions and narrowness of scope. The beating down of workers’ wages, and the economic fear induced by unfunded liabilities, surely exert much pressure on people to pull the anti-natal trigger.
The prize for most controversial presentation went to Robert Sungenis for his exposition of the case for geocentrism. I have expressed my objections to Sungenis’s geocentrism in letters to Culture Wars, but the Estonians in the audience were introduced to them through simultaneous translation and a computer graphic of the sun, bouncing up and down in the outline of a slinky to explain the seasons. Worse, the presentation of dueling popes in 1616, 1835, and 1992 could not help but bring the very idea of religious truth (so carefully established by Father Harrison) into disrepute, in spite of the fact that the quotes demonstrated the action of the Holy Spirit (the early condemnation was so narrowly posed as not to intersect Newtonian science).
Jerzy Przystawa walked out in disgust, but I felt I had to try to fight it. So did many others, especially Estonians, to such a degree that it pushed the other presentations out of the question periods. And we learned a sobering lesson: even the wall of mathematics, in defense of scientific truth, has been breached. As Thrasymachus said, “truth is the opinion of the powerful,” in this case whoever controls the computer graphics. Scientific modeling is hard to explain clearly and therefore can at best achieve parity with the man at the podium, which means no certainty can be found, no conclusion can be reached, so why not go with the flow and focus on funding? (For me it was deja vu! I was recently told to invent science to generate a curve that would satisfy the “chi square test” in a psychology paper. When I refused, I was removed from the project.)
As far as controversy goes, this was not the scenario planned by the conference’s opponents. When Mikhail Lotman realized that he could not control the flow of discourse during the 2006 conference (in spite of repeatedly interrupting speakers and interjecting fallacious and disruptive comments) he resigned from the Trialogos board. During the spring and summer of 2007 he collaborated with the president of the University of Tallinn in doing whatever was within their power to disrupt the 2007 conference by circulating letters to key conference organizers and their backers in Tallinn. Their attack took on predictable form. After claiming that Mike Jones’s talk on Margaret Mead had damaged the students who heard him lecture at the university, the president and Professor Lotman resurrected the claims of the Jewish forum in Prague, accusing both Jones and John Rao of being anti-Semites and neonazis.
The genesis of these claims is worth pondering as a lesson in the mission creep that flows from character assassination and thought control. This story began when Mike Jones gave a talk in Prague in September 2004 on the topic, “Is the Gospel of John Anti-Semitic?” The Jewish forum of Prague responded weeks later with the claim that “Jones claimed that Jews were the children of Satan” and that there were neonazis in the audience. The “children of Satan” claim had some basis in reality; but to be accurate the quote should have read, “Jones cited the Gospel of St. John, in which Jesus tells the Jews ‘Your father is Satan.’” The claim that some members of the audience looked like neo-Nazis had no basis in reality. Two years later, Cardinal Vlk accepted the false report of the Jewish forum and added his own embellishments. Now John Rao was included in the cabal with E. Michael Jones even though he had never written on the topic of the Jews and was in fact scheduled to speak on the papal condemnation of Americanism. Cardinal Vlk also added for good measure that Jones and Rao were “anti-American,” a charge which Lotman declined to include in his attack on the Trialogos conference, probably because the only thing more absurd than a Czech bishop calling Americans un-American would be an Estonian professor leveling the same charge. By the time the same charges got resurrected in Tallinn in the summer of 2007, both Rao and Jones, and not the people in the audience at Jones’s speech in 2004, were the neo-Nazis. It was a striking example of mission creep, as applied to character assassination. In September 2006 Jones complained to Bishop Phillippe Jourdan, ordinary of the diocese of Tallinn, that Cardinal Vlk had damaged his reputation by publishing a false report. During the same meeting Bishop Jourdan told Jones to write to Cardinal Vlk and assured him that a talk on the Gospel of St. John could not be construed as anti-Semitism.
Bishop Jourdan had spoken at the 2006 conference and was scheduled to speak again in 2007, but he withdrew a month before the beginning of the conference. Lotman, who had been claiming all along that the conference speakers could not be considered Catholic, (As some indication of his grasp of Catholic doctrine, during the 2006 conference, Lotman claimed that the Catholic Church had never opposed suicide.) was quick to claim that the bishop’s action had vindicated his position, but this again was more disinformation. The bishop had read John Rao’s article “The Worst Papacy in History” on the internet and feared that it would cause conference participants to question the Church and join the local branch of the Society of St. Pius X, which had set up a literature table at the conference.
Given the forces arrayed against a conference already weakened by the withdrawal of economic support which its opponents orchestrated, it was a minor miracle that anyone came, but the crowds increased as the week went on, largely because the favorable word of mouth overcame the slanders of the conference foes. The appearance of a number of Estonian politicians at the conference probably helped overcome the disinformation campaign as well. The political presenters were Marko Mihkelson (Estonia), legislator, Mrs. Laine Janes (Estonia), Minister of Culture, Prof. Jeffrey Langan (USA), historian, and Prof. Przystawa. Mihkelson focused on the competition with Russia (Russians form a strong minority within Estonia), while Mrs. Janes, speaking of feminine and masculine foundations, lauded the Christian command to love one another. That the two political figures, presenting earliest on Monday and Tuesday respectively, spoke in generalities was less important than the encouragement they gave by their presence. One hopes the Festival was a benefit to them, because they will now be struggling against the guilt-by-association attacks that, according to Varro, have already begun.
Langan led us through the intellectual response to the French Revolution, with critiques of John Adams and Immanuel Kant, and an appreciation of Pope Pius VI. Przystawa showed us constitutional government as developed by Poland and Lithuania, hundreds of years before the USA, and the trajectory of struggle and, now, discouragement that followed its fall. Both did what historians do best: showed us significant facts that altered our commonly held views.
John Adams’ long-running dispute with Jefferson over the French Revolution led to moral exhaustion. Kant was, surprisingly, intellectually complicit in the Revolution’s crimes. And Pius VI’s resistance led straight to the scenario surrounding the very important Regensburg address of Pope Benedict XVI. Langan’s “play within a play” (horrible totalitarianism or terrorism, within sweet indifference) pointed to the reality described by Przystawa.
Poland’s constitutional republic was destroyed by egoism: the “Liberum Veto.” A brilliant resistance against tyranny (the inner play) is now dissolving in the “sweet lies” of political correctness after Communism’s fall. The most dogged resisters, poets and unionists, got no credit. Solidarity’s leadership was revised by fraud.
But it is hard to believe favor would have made much difference. The story, in Poland and everywhere, reminds me of Aesop’s fable of the sun and the wind. They tried to make the man remove his coat. The storm wind failed; the man clutched his coat tighter. In the sun, coats are now being cast aside left and right. And misery, loneliness, despair, and death follow. The Logocentric part of the conference needed to try to point a way where politics fails.
Logocentric speakers included Dr. Mart Laar (Estonia), former prime minister; Fathers Tadeusz Guz (Poland), university dean, Ivo Ounpuu (Estonia), theologian, and Brian Harrison (Australia), apologist; Dr. E. Michael Jones (USA), Culture Wars editor/publisher, and Prof. John Rao (USA), historian.
Laar laid a foundation for European identity when he surprisingly focused on Christianity, the basis of which, he said, has been “thrown out mercilessly” from the Draft Constitution, using Moslems as an excuse. He admitted how reluctantly Estonians of the late Middle Ages converted to Christianity when they’d rather “burn churches and grab maidens” (but they must have been beautiful maidens!). Christianity is now our identity, without which we would still be “in the caves.” We cannot “shut up” out of tolerance. “At some point every civilization has to defend itself, otherwise this beautiful colorful puzzle of the world cannot show all its colors any more.”
Father Guz focused on Jesus, who is Logos, but was swiftly swept into conflict with modern thought. Dostoyevski, however, makes us sensitive to the authority of Jesus. Real creativity is in the heart of Logos as love. But modern, German-based thought is founded on the self-contradiction of Luther. When I asked whether this left any way out, he burst out passionately that “every man and every woman are chosen by the Creator for eternal life.” This got a round of applause.
Father Ounpuu, apparently one of only three Estonian priests, said “God created man according to his own face.” He detailed natural law and the denials of it by moderns. Like Przystawa, he gave a gloomy prognosis; he could not offer hope to our newlyweds, but bade us wait for Arab or Chinese converts.
Father Harrison, by contrast, recalled to us the story of Saints Cyril and Methodius, a giant feat of creation of an alphabet, a sacred language, and a culture from scratch. (They just did it. Can’t we just reach out and recover computer-addled moderns?) Then he introduced us to the marriage of logic and religion by describing his own journey to Logos. Both Protestantism and Orthodoxy presented insuperable logical problems with knowable revelation, the one the self-contradiction of Sola Scriptura and the other a specious criterion for Ecumenical Council validity. And so he turned to Catholicism.
Mike Jones returned, as did several presenters, to the Pope’s Regensburg address. He roughly identified Logos (Jesus Christ and Greek philosophy) with Catholicism, alogos (divine voluntarism, conflating good and evil) with Islam, and anti-Logos (subversion) with Judaism. There are problems with this identification, as Afghan heroism and Dr. Laura demonstrate. The worst, perhaps, is that it gives the impression that if only Jews and Muslims can be defeated, everything will be fine. (What about the powers who hire the Jews?)
To be sure, Jones is deeply concerned with the salvation of individual Jews. Since Amos is out of touch, and Jeremiah isn’t responding to his pager, every synagogue and yeshiva could hardly do better than to make Jones required reading, with no evasions allowed. Of course the Jews are too timid to react this way, and are trying to shut him up. Thus, the Estonians get a superb opportunity to show their tenacity by continuing to invite Mike Jones.
Jones made cultural observations that led into Martynov’s synthesis. The iPod is cutting yourself off from other human beings, while folk music is good: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly” (Chesterton). In later presentations, Jones critiqued Wagnerian and modern music, and one strand of post-modern architecture, as driven by self-justifying adultery and other transgressions. He marshaled quotes that were surprisingly straightforward in their cry for Logos. If the masters are thus open despite themselves, how much more so their students? This is opportunity.
John Rao, the Festival’s king of satire, slapped us all upside the head to put Logos where we live. He contrasted Sophist success orientation with Socratic love of Logos. According to one friend of his, the opposition has power, prestige, and wealth, while we Catholics have... notebooks, hauled from conference to conference. (This got my attention as I scribbled away on page 43 of my notebook.) On the other hand, the Sophists’ success is a downward spiral, dumbed down endlessly with no means of getting out.
Greek (and Chinese) seeds of Logos were validated by the Incarnation. The huge counter-move waited till the late Middle Ages (he ought to read Regine Pernoud on legal foundations of this), and then used black legends and shortsighted rhetoric to restore Success to its throne. Disillusioned by apathy, Catholic thinkers bent this way to vitalism; a counter-move toward Catholic identity (Syllabus of Errors) now appears to have been swamped by Sarumanism (“deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose...”). How much money do you make? Rao finished with a “conversation” in which all considerations of principle are dismissed as a nuisance, and whoever raises them as a pro-Soviet, al-Qaeda subversive. Now go to work and be exhausted!
Rao’s last talk, pointedly titled “American Pluralism: Smiling as Christian Europe Dies,” lampooned the USA as the “big drink that tastes good ... as long as they don’t say abortion is murder.” Then the Church has no future, and Europe has no future (salt has no savor). But he couldn’t end without hints of hope: “Thank you to Tallinn for the best days of my life [and] immense numbers of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life.” No, that is not irrelevant.
By the end of the week, it was clear that Lotman had failed in his attempt to stop the conference. Not only had the crowds increased as the week went on, Trialogos, by going ahead as planned, had created a record of what they actually did say, as opposed to Lotman’s account of what they were going to say, which could be handed (either in video or print form) to the curious, who could then make up their own minds on the matter. Discourse in the service of the truth now has a beachhead in Europe at the intersection of three cultures, and from Estonia it can expand into Protestant Scandanavia, Orthodox Russia, and Catholic Europe. The sine qua non of success here was solidarity. If any of the organizers had cracked under pressure and caved in to the demands of those who wanted to wreck the conference there would have been no coherent explanation of the roots of European identity, no record of what actually got said to counter the lies of the slanderers, and no future for discourse. At the final dinner, a visibly relieved Varro Vooglaid rose to thank the participants. In response Mike Jones rose and invoked The Lord of the Rings, claiming that the only thing that hobbits had was each other, but as long as they remained true to each other, there was hope. That was followed by a toast to Father Robert, the American hermit living in Norway who is Trialogos’ spiritual advisor.
Beauty is of God alone. All the powers that are currently beating the stuffings out of us cannot make beauty, nor do they even pretend to, not with all their billions. When I had to leave Tallinn and come back here to computer ad flash box world, I could have howled with mental pain.
According to Vladimir Martynov (Russia), composer, a thoughtful act may be a channel whereby visual events change people “secretly.” Verbality loses power over people’s minds, where greater power is visuality. The latter takes two forms. Glamour is absolute surface, gloss, no sense, absence of any depth (magazines, TV), and it’s crawled into all parts of life. It’s image without primal pre-image, referring to nothing. Elements of hairstyle and clothes outweigh the person. This contrasts to Icon, which ascends.
The Western church lost its grip on Icon when it rejected the teachings of St. Gregory Palamas on uncreated light in the 14th century. Frescoes and mosaics of Constantinople are the swan song of iconography, from which Renaissance Italians began to diverge. (Both Mike Jones and I thought this was gilding the lily of 8th century decisions against iconoclasm. To me, uncreated light sounds like the Holy Spirit by any other name, while Mike wondered where it left 8th-13th century iconography. But either way, Martynov’s insight brilliantly illuminates the modern state of things.)
We suffer a division between Church and Culture, where speaking of God is indecent. The Eastern Church tends to retreat from culture altogether, while the Western tends to surrender to the glamour sphere. Exceptions: Music only (Avro Paert, Taverner and others), not visual art. We need culture that makes people want to come to the temple; we need miraculous opportunity of contacts and particular meetings to begin to interact for this. “I have a debt of gratitude to Estonia and to this Festival because I think this Festival is such an event.”
Yes indeed. Martynov put words to what we were immersed in, every morning at Lauds and every evening. Saturday (September 22) and Sunday, the Latvija choir and Estonian Hortus Musicus; Monday and Tuesday, the Russian Sirin singers; also theater, and poetry of many nations, and Irish piping, and yes, visual arts, much of which I missed on Saturday (September 29). And Katherine Guild? Perhaps this slipped beneath Martynov’s radar screen as too humble, calling itself artisanship?
Taivo Niitvaagi, friend of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, went to Ireland around 1988 and met poets and pipers. Is this miraculous opportunity? There was a visual icon almost too big to see, Old Town itself. Walls next to cobblestoned streets, all those arches, leading in and down to intricacy filled with voices and deep silence. Old Town is an icon of the human mind. Cling tight to the memory, all you festivalgoers, as you are submerged once again in the shriek of computerized imagery.
St. Petersburg and back
The man or woman, “image of God” in Genesis, is not image in Martynov’s negative sense, but — given sanctifying grace — truly icon. A Mexican grandmother shares her joy in this by hanging up paper ribbons to celebrate her grandchild’s baptism. Despite the brawling cars and ads, there is icon in Tijuana when women passing in the street admire one another’s babies. I did not see this in Tallinn.
The Culture Wars group entered Russia, the country of Vladimir Martynov, to the sounds of Mike Jones’ mandolin. We went through the dispirited countryside to monument-heavy St. Petersburg, where they seemed rather anxious for our approval. Heaven knows our approval hardly tilts the scale! But their humility does them credit; I wish the U.S. could match it.
The Russians, bless their hearts, appear to be getting over the depressing solemnity of empire. The beautiful Peterhof gardens are open to xylophone bands, small children, and girls who plait fallen leaves into autumn crowns. In the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, resting place of czars, the chapel of St. Catherine the Martyr houses the bones not only of the last czar and his family but of the servants who were murdered with them. As we venerated the icon in the Church of Our Lady of Kazan, we turned around and there came a wedding, sung in the ancient liturgy of SS Cyril and Methodius: “Gospodi pomilui,” I heard, “Lord have mercy.” When I asked Mike Jones what he thought the future of Russia was, he said: “That wedding.”
We visited the Museum of Dostoyevski and rejoiced in a great artist who loved his family. After learning from Mike Jones how Rousseau dumped his children to die at an orphanage, like puppies at the pound, and from Robert Sungenis how Einstein carried on mother and daughter adulteries, we hear from Dostoyevski that “the greatest happiness of the world is children.” They even had notes that his kids shoved under his door when he was asleep after working nights. I think his blessings, as well as his descendants, still inhabit St. Petersburg, alive with children chattering in cheerful Russian.
The prize for cluelessness, however, went to the Leningrad Museum, which had dusty displays of the successes of Communism in the ‘20s and ‘30s but no sense that they somehow led up to the catastrophe of 1941. This is not to say that the 900 day siege of Leningrad is not part of that museum. The section dedicated to the siege of Leningrad is the most moving exhibit in the entire museum. The woman who acts as a guard for the first room hands Jeff Langan an English language script, and, following the narrative he reads to us, we move deeper and deeper into the horror of those days. The rooms get literally and progressively darker as we move finally into a recreation of what an apartment in St. Petersburg looked like at the time. Mike Jones, who has been trying to converse with the guards in the Russian he has learned from his grandchildren, asks the woman to turn on the lights, but that is precisely the point. We are meant to experience the absence of light in that cold apartment. During the siege, the windows were covered to keep what little light there was inside and away from German artillery spotters. The same blankets served to keep the bitter cold out. This cold was the Russians biggest ally in the war because it froze German machinery and stalled the German offensive in the trenches just outside the town. Goebbels’ cry, “Wollt Ihr den totalen Krieg?” was no match for the Russian winter. When the siege of Leningrad started, the Russians had enough food for a month. The siege lasted for almost three years, during some of the most bitterly cold winters on record. How the Russians survived this is anyone’s guess, but the record is there in the museum, and you get to piece the story together from things like the weapons that got left behind, the orders from the German high command to exterminate everyone in the city once the city was captured, and a square meter of soil and the amount of shrapnel in it--springs, propellers, shards of metal--which gives some indication of the amount of ordinance both sides used to kill each other. Then there are the pictures of people pulling sleds over the snow covered streets. The big bundles on the sleds are corpses. There are also dioramas, including one of Nevsky Prospect in front of the Merchant’s Yard, the city’s big department store. Walking up and down Nevsky Prospect as often as we had, noticing the crowds of people, the bistros and the shops was no preparation for how Nevsky Prospect looked then, at the height of the siege. The shops had been reduced to windowless hulks; in the middle of the street a huge bomb crater has become, upon closer inspection, an improvised well into which people are lowering buckets, which they will then take on their sleds back to their darkened apartments.
If the organizers of this museum had a better grasp of history, they might have called their museum the Failure of the Enlightenment Museum, because in Berlin and St. Petersburg, and in their founders Frederick the Great and Peter the Great, the Enlightenment had its great flowering in central and eastern Europe. The culmination of that flowering happened during the 1940s. In 1941 Berlin marched on Leningrad and did its best to destroy Russia’s monument to the Enlightenment. In 1945, having withstood the siege, Leningrad marched on Berlin and returned the favor, wreaking even more destruction on Germany than Germany had wrought on Russia. That is how history works, and it is not pretty. The fact that time can heal wounds like this is evident in the sparkling golden domes and fountains of Peterhof, which was a bombed-out hulk just like the Merchant’s Yard in 1945. The fact that people don’t learn from their mistakes is evident enough in Berlin now that it has become the capital of the neo-Enlightenment known as the European union and the home of ugly Jewish architecture and the Dionysian festival known as the Love Parade.
Returning afterward to Tallinn, we saw a tableau at one Estonian bus station. A sad-faced young woman, with lines running down from the corners of her mouth, was met by a man coming off the bus. He embraced her for a while, then she drew back and walked away, head down. He stood looking after her.
We had no way of knowing what went on in those people’s minds, but it flashed me back to a scene of my youth, in a nearby European country, and there I knew very well why the girl was sad. Modern women have been locked away from the news that they are not alone. The image of God is crushed. This is why I pleaded with Varro that they should not abandon the University, even if they have been barred from there. Can they leave their young people, the future of their country, to be poisoned?
The fighting American, John Rao, said his fierce wife was the only non-family visitor of a female anti-abortion protestor, imprisoned in New York for two years without trial. Every nightmare was real: lesbian guards, strip-searches by men, even a fellow prisoner giving birth on the floor, aided only by the visitor. Violence undergirds the sweet indifference of Jeff Langan’s outer play.
But in this secret war against our children, whose effectiveness depends on the pretense that there is peace, we have strange allies. John admitted the Greens had supported his anti-abortion-clinic moves in Italy, on account of pollution by medical waste, and Varro said they are sympathetic on the issue of contraception. According to Colin Mason (PRI Review, Sep-Oct 2007), “These drugs and devices work by secreting massive doses — up to four hundred times the natural level — of female hormones into a woman’s bloodstream.” Just hammering the poor little hormone system of a woman who is trying to be agreeable, never knowing the man may wish her happiness. My nephew Steve Cook, a soldier in Iraq, calls for chivalry on his MySpace.
We need to learn what the Jews do best: support each other, not push the struggling Logos-lover away from the lifeboat with our oars. Oskari Juurikkala, possibly due to his youth, was on the right track. Remember the sponsors of Trialogos, on the back cover of the program; they must have our support as they come under attack. Our aim must be to save everything, even the little businesses and the countryside, because each door is an icon of love.
On our final night, we ate dinner at Kuldse Notsu Koorts, the Estonian restaurant in the basement of Tallinn’s St. Petersbourg Hotel (a Festival sponsor). I scratched my head at the first dessert on their list, Tuuliku Kama, mysteriously described as grain and pea flour in clabbered milk. But what is the point of going to a local ethnic restaurant in a foreign country and not trying their food? Actually it was very tasty. When we told the waitress that, her face lit up with a smile, and she happily announced that it was always her favorite when she was little.
This article appeared in the December 2007 issue of Culture Wars.
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• South Bend, IN 46617 • Tel: (574) 289-9786 • Fax: (574) 289-1461