20110729 Monasteries, Survival, & Gardening

Shownotes.  Click to ListenA bit late getting this podcast published.  I blame the computer malfunctions that led to a loss of Friday’s work!

Happy (belated) St. Vladimir/Volodymyr Day.  This is a wonderful reminder that things can change, that benighted nations can find enlightenment, and that Christ really does work in a fallen world. 

Local News

  • We had our festival, a UOL sponsored pig-pickin’, and Heritage Days Church School Camp in the space of a month: time to take the summer off!  Each of them went great, by the way.
  • Still waiting to meet our youngest little girl (tentatively named “Claire Evangeline”, which is English (from the French) for Photina the Evangelist.  Nick didn’t know that when he suggested the name.  The kid’s got a gift.
  • I got to take a few days spiritual retreat at St. Tikhon Monastery.  Man, that was awesome, way overdue, and something I look forward to more of.
  • Homilies?  I’ve been doing a series trying to encourage deeper participation in the Divine Liturgy. Check it out!
Crunchy Consumer News:

  • From the Sartyr’s Trident: a word from another of our sponsors (WARNING: SATIRE ALERT).  It’s an oldie (The MP stopped importing cigarettes almost 15 tears ago) – but I can’t really say it’s a goodie!  (music in background; “Let my prayer arise…”). From Anaxios Industries comes a new product designed to bring you closer to God:  Rim Tretii Cigarettes!  Why smoke cigarettes that do nothing but fill your lungs with tar?  Turn every smoke break into a Moleban of Thanksgiving.  In addition to satisfying that nicotine craving, Rim Tretii cigarettes are designed to “Let your prayer arise!”.  Now available in traditional, frankincense, and gardenia aromas.  Remember, nothing brings you into the bosom of your maker better than Third Rome Cigarettes.
    • Shoes.  Vibram KSO five fingers, Sockwa Black Amphibians (and Dojos), and SoftStar Black Ramblers.  I like them all better than regular shoes (which I almost NEVER wear anymore).  The Vibrams are good for regular everyday wear, but you will need to wash them every week or two.  It takes a couple of days to train your toes, but after that they are (almost) as quick to put on as lace shoes.  The downside is that you can’t wear them to work or church.  They are pretty durable, but the mesh on the top has started to rip a bit.  The Sockwas are like the Vibrams, but your toes get to live together.  This led me to like them even more.  I wore them everyday for a year.  After that, my big toes poked through and I had to toss them.  I think that if I had only worn them with socks, they would have lasted another year.  They don’t attract attention like the Vibrams, so you can wear them to some dress casual type stuff.  One of the monks at St. Tikhon’s saw me wearing the Sockwas.  That led him to show me his Softstars.  They are the best dress casual minimalist shoes I had ever seen.  It was at St. Tikhon’s that my toes started poking through the Sockwas, so I got authorization from Pani to order a pair.  I LOVE THEM.  They are comfortable, rugged, and look really good with a cassock.  I can’t speak to their durability, yet, but so far, so good.  
    • Rainbarrels and Lazy man “bag gardening”.
    • French press and hand grinder.
    • Here’s the Next Thing I’ll Add to the Perkins Homestead (unless Pani Matka has her way):  chickens.  We have friends that live out in the country.  They have a few hens that keep them well supplied with eggs.  I think that is SO cool.  We live in a rectory in the city.  A chicken coop is WAY out of the question (the accent alone makes some people here think the Clampets have moved in): they smell bad and attract unwanted attention.  The solution?  The chicken tractor.  These things are awesome.  As far as I can tell, there is no real downside.  I’m on a budget, so it may take me a while to build one (and even longer to convince Pani Tina that it’s worth doing), but I think it’s a no-brainer for the crunchy crowd.  Why?  Eggs are awesome.  The tractor allows the hens to eat the bugs and weeds in a small part of your yard or garden, fertilize and aerate the soil there, then move on to a different spot before the fertilizer starts accumulating and smelling bad.  Not all cities allow people to keep chickens, but Woonsocket does (it does not allow other domestic livestock such as goats and cows).  Are you as excited by this as I am?
Transhumanist Cthuhlu Knight
  • Movies and Television:  I just got back from seeing Captain America.  It combines many Orthoanalytika themes (transhumanism, good vs. evil, even a bit of Lovecraft!).  I’ve also been enjoying the Spielberg series, “Falling Skies”.  It is roughly similar in feel to other favorites like Jericho, Survivors, Walking Dead, and Firefly. Alas, of those, only Walking Dead is the only one that seems destined to make it through a second full season.

Church News:

  • From the Sartyr’s Trident – a public service message from Fr. Vasili!  I know many of you are leaving your homes during this Summer season to go about your many sinful pleasures.  It will shorten the length of your confessions and the pain of your penance if you visit a good Orthodox Church while you are away.  But not every Orthodox Church is a good one.  Some may actual hurt your cause with the Almighty Judge!  In order to help you find the right place, I suggest that you ask the parish you plan to attend to send you their answers to the following test:  How Orthodox is Your Priest? (from Saint James Kids – thanks Fr. James!). 
  • Well, the Assembly of Bishops met again and seems to be heading in the right direction.
  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Church held a “Jubilee Council Meeting” earlier this month.  The good news is that it reaffirmed its autonomy and a desire for the healing of all local schisms.  The bad news is that we don’t seem any closer to that goal than we were ten years ago.  
  • The Russian Orthodox Church is actively discussing the issue of the language to be used in liturgical worship.  The Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Volodymyr of Kyiv and All Ukraine said this; “In the church environment the issue of translation of the worship in modern language is actively discussed. In the Ukrainian Orthodox Church the church communities , if desired and with the blessing of the ruling bishop have a right to perform worship services in Ukrainian, Romanian, Georgian, Greek and other national languages. But in this regard one should steer the golden mean. We have to take care of the preservation and study of the Church Slavonic, but do not forget that it is not a man for the language but the language for men. The believers must understand the meaning of chants and rituals.”  As you can tell, the UOC(MP) continues to try to be conciliatory in its approach to difficult issues.  I find it hard to believe that a rational person could defend the use of Church Slavonic (or Latin) in services, but I know serious Orthodox Christians who do – so perhaps this is something that should be approached in a conciliar fashion (note that this is what typically happens in Ukraine and America – it is not what happens in Russia).
  • Every other bit of Church news that has made the radar is too depressing.  The issue of homosexuality seems to be getting a lot of play (check out OCA Truth and OCA News if you have the patience).  While it’s not something I’m willing to get worked up about, here’s what’s been going on around here.  In Rhode Island, the initiative to allow legal same-sex marriages failed to pass muster, but the one to legalize civil unions passed.  Social libertarians will find out just how hard this will make it on Christian parents and communities who find same-sex sex unacceptable and want their children to grow up believing the same.  That doesn’t mean that the civil union law isn’t a reasonable compromise, only that Christians must be even more vigilant to raise their children to believe in the unchanging truth of Christian teachings (i.e. Christian love and interdependence are always healthy regardless of gender, but that sex is an appropriate and salvific expression of that love and interdependence only under certain conditions).  Those of you who live in the South may not appreciate just how hard this is going to be.  Many of those everywhere else have already accommodated their faith to it.  Then again, I don’t see how this is any different AT ALL from all the sex that takes place everywhere outside of marriage – and you can see how the whole country has bought into that.  Come to think of, it the legalization of same-sex marriage is insignificant when compared to the death of chastity everywhere, even within Orthodox marriages.  So pardon me if I don’t get upset or excited about the issue of same-sex marriage or civil unions.  The government has very few duties, one of them is the enforcement of contracts.  Now it is allowed to do that between people of the same sex.  If Christians want the signatories to these contracts to stay chaste, then we might want to start by setting an example ourselves – are we even teaching our children to “wait until marriage” and equipping them to do so?  I think this herd was let out of the barn a loooong time ago, and it had very little to do with any gay agenda.  It had to do with our surrender of chastity as a virtue, chastity, and celibacy as the default moral position for human sexual expression.   


  • Here’s another really good reason to stay healthy (from Secondhand Smoke).  Whether it’s rationed by the market or by a bureaucracy (or even some mix of the two), with the economy in the skids you really can’t depend on anyone to nurse you back to health.  What do you think is the most Christian way to ration health care in both the short and long term?  If it is done by a bureaucracy, then the choices it makes are not likely to be moral – but isn’t the same true of leaving it up to the market?  The advantages of market rationing is that it is self-correcting and decentralized.  The former means that it provides better care in the long term, the latter that it protects us from tyranny and allows for a greater diversity of offerings (to include ones based completely and unapologetically on Orthodox morality).
  • The half full glass’ water is about to disappear (ibid).  Testing newborns for genetic indicators of health problems seems like a no-brainer: it would allow parents to ensure the child is brought up in a way that takes such things into account.  Not so quickly, says Smith.  If current cultural and economic trends continue (i.e. scarcer health care resources and utilitarian algorithms), then these would become like the gammas of Brave New World: destined for second-class status.

Science and Religion:

  • Some scientists and media outlets are continuing to push the alleged materialist origins of religion and supernatural beliefs (e.g. this from the LA Times).  But they do so without any new evidence: people can be fooled into believing that there is something numinous around (e.g. Persinger’s helmet), anthropologists can imagine ways in which religious belief made a culture more “fit” and thus more likely to outlast its competitors, and neuroscientists have ever sharpening views of what happens to the brain during mystical experiences.  But none of these pass muster.  If so, the use of pornography would be proof that there was no such thing as real sex; the fact that we have mouths that are useful for eating would be used as proof that there was no such thing as food; and videos of vocal cords vibrating as an operatic performer belts out a solo means there is no such thing as an audience.  It’s silly.  But the fact that so many people are willing to live their lives within such a materialist world continues to amaze me.  
  • Here’s some more bad science (courtesy of epiphenom): this study found that infant mortality is higher among mainline Protestant and Pentecostal cultures in the USA.  Notice that the effects are small and it uses ecological (i.e. community) data.  While the author controls for wealth and education, this, too, is ecological.  It is certainly true that a certain kind of culture affects health outcomes, but without a plausible mechanism and more convincing statistics, this is just more bad science about religion.
  • Speaking of scientists connecting non-sequitorial dots, in this article (also courtesy of epiphenom), the following bit of logic is used to undermine the credibility of Christianity; “I think the most interesting things about schisms is that they existed at all – there are so many of them. And many of these communities believed the one thing that apostolic tradition should have rendered impossible; that Jesus wasn’t a historical man. What the schisms demonstrate is that Christianity was not a single message, flowing from a single source that became tainted as it grew. Instead it was a non-centralized body of ideas and literature, which developed independently, and perhaps only later was rebranded or assimilated under the title of a new lord called Jesus. It is impossible to tell which stories or features associated with the story were developed earlier, or later, than the birth of Christianity, because all of the relevant pieces were already developing on their own before his appearance.”   Do you see the problem in the logic?  I can agree that there were many similar versions of Christianity (some of which even predate the Incarnation), but spin it in such a way that it actually supports the truth of Orthodoxy.  Such things are only convincing to those who want to be convinced.  Which is why it is best to evangelize with our love, hard work, and compassion – and then with words.  [BTW, it’s a fun article if you take it for what it is: a silly bit of atheist comparative religion, comparing Harry Potter to Christ.]


  • A federal judge in Louisiana ruled that a law defending the funeral industry’s monopoly on casket sales was unconstitutional (from CATO).  Funeral directors are among the entrepreneurs that priests work with the most.  I have a love/hate relationship with their industry.  On the one hand, they really are allies in helping people work through the grieving process.  On the other, they have gradually taken on responsibility for more and more of the things that religious communities used to do and should still be doing.  Take for example the presence of chapels in funeral homes –  as if there weren’t a zillion churches within walking distance!  But it really isn’t their fault.  We should be more involved in caring for the dead just as we should be more involved in caring for the dying.  Another knock on the industry is that their oligopoly and the culture we have allowed them to create and sustain makes getting buried expensive – to the extent that even Orthodox Christians voice a strong preference for cremation.  Having inexpensive caskets, prayerfully built by Christian crafters, is a good way to start challenging this new and sinful culture.  But it will take intentional effort on our part to really fix this.
  • What would Jesus cut (CATO)?  I love the fact that the deficit is being discussed in moral terms, but it is too bad that there is so little balance between the (forgive my stereotyping) paternal and maternal moral codes.  I think CATO is right in arguing that it was an unbalanced concern for the disadvantaged that got us into this mess (and kudos to them for also pointing out the need for serious defense cuts and a humbler foreign policy).  
  • But, just in case you missed the point last week, the fact that CATO is right on calling a spade a spade doesn’t mean that Christians – even those living under broke and heterodox regimes – should be comfortable with libertarianism.  What used to be called “liberal democracy” (but would not be called libertarian capitalism”) may well be the best possible sustainable system in which Christians would be allowed to pursue perfection, but there are moral trade-offs that must be made in protecting it.  This means making tough choices and refusing to use the government to correct very real problems.  Such decisions may well be necessary, but they are still sinful (at least according to the Orthodox view of sin, which sees it as a cosmic event that has direct and indirect spiritual and physical effects).  Which brings us to the second reason Orthodox Christians cannot be completely comfortable with libertarianism: there is no such thing as a private sin.  Libertarianism draws the line on government regulation on those actions that harm or bring risk to no one but the actors themselves.  While this may be the most effective way to do things, it is fundamentally flawed.  The classic modern example is sodomy: the act affects no one but those involved.  But if sodomy is spiritually unhealthy, if it is a perversion of the universal order (which is to say, if sodomy is sinful), then it harms everyone in society.  The libertarian may take a pass on using the government to protect society from such damages, but the Christian libertarian must not allow such a compromise to affect his understanding of sin or his willingness to confront the issue in other ways.  Have no doubt: God will use all of His power to punish those who damage creation when it is remade in perfection and glory.  Until then, we get by as best we can and offer continual repentance for our affronts.  Personally, I think that a libertarian national government that allows for local variation in the enforcement of moral norms may be something worth trying out.  Even if that means allowing the government to enforce contracts in other communities that we find despicable (e.g. sharia).  
  • A final word on the debt ceiling debacle: many of us have seen what the collapse of a great country looks like.  In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed.  Why?  There are many hypotheses and only one data point, but the most convincing answer is that it collapsed because it was not set up to be self-correcting.  Neither the economic nor the political system were able to adjust to systemic problems.  Everything had to be managed by politicians and bureaucrats.  They did not get the information they needed to make the right decisions, there were far too many decisions that had to be made, and the incentives were set up all wrong for things to be run efficiently.  Sure, with the defense build-up and Cold War in general, we helped affect the timing of the collapse, but the whole thing was destined to fail from the start.  Our system was different: the combination of republican-democratic political institutions with vertical and horizontal checks and balances and  lightly-regulated capitalist market is decentralized and inherently self-correcting.  Or rather, it is until it isn’t.  Once property rights are undermined, once companies are not allowed to fail, once the market is tweaked so much as to create perverse and risky incentives (e.g. guaranteeing housing loans to everyone, etc.), once debt becomes the foundation of investment and wealth, and so one… it is no longer self-regulating.  Most of the people of the Soviet Union survived its collapse.  Somehow, they got by and continue to do so.  I hope everyone here comes to their senses and supports the hard decisions that need to be made, but in the meantime, you might want to make sure that you can weather a generation or two of really difficult times.  The USA is not an empire, so I don’t expect it to break apart like the USSR did; but you can expect institutional food to get really expensive, taxes – to include taxes on property – to go through the roof, and a lot of work to consist of things done on the gray and black market.  Again, think less Road Warrior or Zombieland and more everyday life in the developing world.

The Survival Podcast.  Thanks to Subdeacon Joshua, I now have a new podcast in my top ten:  “The Survival Podcast”, hosted by Ukrainian-American, Jack Spirko.  The theme of the show is “Helping You Live The Life You Want, If Times Get Tough, Or Even If They Don’t”.  Most of his shows feature interviews with experts on crunchy things like different types of gardening, green energy, home livestock, and home safety.  He also has shows during which he responds to listener questions.  These are really good, too.  As far as I can tell, he is a classic cruchy-con.  Here is a summary of the guiding principles of his show:

  1. Everything You Do Should Improve Your Position in Life Even If Nothing Goes Wrong
  2. Debt is financial cancer! Minimize it, pay it off early and stay away from credit cards.
  3. Growing your own food is for everyone not just people that want “organic” fruit and vegetables.
  4. “Tax is theft, the best way to combat it is to understand every legal deduction you can take or create” [This means saving money legally while providing a check on the size/scope of the government].
  5. Food stored is an exceptional investment.  Store what you eat, eat what you store. 
  6. Plan for disaster in the following order of priority – Personal-Localized-Regional-State-National-Global.  The zombies may come, but you are far more likely to lose your job.
  7. The lesson is that the best way to promote “green energy” is via economics (i.e. high mileage cars make sense, but solar panels less so… at least for now).  Alternative and off-grid energy systems still make sense because they support self-sufficiency and allow us to be better stewards of the environment.
  8. Owning land is true wealth. 
  9. In addition to food, water and other common survival stores use common sense methods of hedging against “disaster” (e.g. cash emergency funds, good insurance and secondary income streams)
  10. Be intentional in how you live. 

Volya Moment:  Gardening.
Every year, I try to make the garden here a little bit bigger.  This year, I kept the tomatoes, oregano, basil, and mint, and added beets, cucumbers, and beans.  I’ve done a better job weeding and added rainwater and organic fertilizer (don’t ask, but Pawlo would be proud), but came upon a new challenge: a groundhog!  It lives under the rectory porch.  The garden is next to the porch.  A few weeks ago, it ate the leaves off my beets and cucumbers.  They grew back, but then a couple days ago he did it again and also ate the flowers off the sunflowers in the kids’ Heritage Garden.  I’m starting to wonder how groundhog stew tastes (and he is a big un’!).  BTW, if you aren’t gardening – even in a window box – why not?  So far, the cost of the produce we eat isn’t any better than that offered at the local farmer’s market, so that’s not really the point.  So what is the point?  From a practical standpoint, it could grow to be a substantial part of our diet, especially during the growing seasons.  Given that food prices are really going to go up, this is pretty useful.  But even better, there are spiritual things that happen when we garden (Vigen Guroian agrees):

  1. It teaches us how nature responds to us as God’s little creators, allowing us to see who we were made to be (and sometimes to better appreciate how big the fall was from Eden!).  
  2. It teaches us the importance of commitment and weeding.  An untended garden grows weeds; the harvest of weeds is thorns and thistles.
  3. Metaphorically, it makes us appreciate how much effort it takes to garden our hearts.  The fruit of an untended heart is hatred, jealousy, addiction, sloth, selfishness, etc.    
  4. God tells us that He is the ultimate gardener, and that in the days to come, He will pluck and burn all the weeds.  If you have grown those weeds in your heart, then you will feel that fire.  
So if you aren’t gardening – get going!  It’s not too late in the season – I just started a bag garden with beans, broccoli, and radishes.  It took like five minutes to set up and is prepping that area for more serious efforts next year.


  1. yay for crunchiness and chickens! and, the name for baby girl Perkins is perfect! 🙂

  2. “As you can tell, the UOC(MP) continues to try to be conciliatory in its approach to difficult issues.”
    Really? Then why does it remain under the MP? How is that conciliatory when Ukraine gained independnce in 1991? The Ukrainian orthodox Church was historically under the EP.

  3. Um, perhaps we disagree on the meaning of “conciliatory”. In my world, it means trying to find a peaceful resolution/balance/compromise between multiple positions, and this is exactly what the UOC-MP often tries to do. And it does so in very difficult circumstances (as when it tries to bring bring the Gospel to everyone living in Ukraine while being led by a Patriarch that is pushing the historically problematic and often offensive “Russian World” concept!). The UOC-MP is conciliatory because it tries to reconcile the tension between the Russophile and Ukrainophile parts of Ukraine within the loving bosom of Christ. If it gave up on one group of sinners or the other, then it would no longer be conciliatory (and it would have given up on serving and evangelizing all of Ukraine).

    And thank you for the history lesson on the UOC and the EP. I think we both agree that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is mature enough to be autocephalous; arguing about EP vs. MP is a bit of a red herring.

    I do, however, think that we may disagree on the need for Christian charity, even towards the MP and the autonomous UOC that is under it.

    I look forward to future comments – don't be a stranger!

    Your servant in Christ,

    Fr Anthony