Yukio Mishima and the Suicide of Artists

If there really is just one philosophical problem of consequence, suicide is an admission that one has failed to solve it. For an artist or philosopher, this failure has special significance. To commit suicide is to repudiate the whole world, of which one’s work is surely a part. It is quite a different matter from St. Thomas Aquinas’s “so much straw,” or the seaside pebbles of Isaac Newton. I am concerned not with a genius’s frustration at being unable fully to express the truths he understood, but with a flight from the world out of despair. Ambiguous cases of a prolonged life in misery, or slow self destruction, do not necessarily count. The suicide of an artist must be a willful action with death as its only foreseeable outcome (and, of course, an artist’s not committing suicide is no guarantee that his work has any special value).…

The New Anti-Christ

Depictions of anti-Christ abound in Christian fiction. The most famous in recent times is the “Left Behind” series, where a sinister dictator ushers in a world government through the United Nations. There is also Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World, a particular favorite of Pope Francis. But their progenitor is to be found in “A Short Story of Anti-Christ” by the Russian mystic Vladimir Soloviev: a short, simple work whose echoes resound through Christian writing of the twentieth century.

Vladimir Soloviev (1853–1900)

Soloviev gave us the figure of a superman, gifted and talented far beyond all other men, able to unite them by spellbinding oratory and a compelling new vision of the good. His only flaw, if indeed it is a flaw in so remarkable an individual, is a lack of humility, an unwillingness to bow before Jesus Christ.…

Where Your Treasure Is

When Lot moved with his family to live among the Canaanites at Sodom, he wanted not for reasons. The lands surrounding the city provided superior pasture. His own herds were too large to graze with those of his uncle Abram in any case. The city had strong walls, the occasional military defeat notwithstanding. What if the citizens had strange ways? Abram had been growing increasingly fanatical for some time, and a great city could not help but play host to exotic practices. In the final reckoning, he and his family had prospects, but only in the city. He wished Abram well in the wilderness.

Over the following years, Lot’s calculations were borne out. His herds burgeoned and increased, and before long he was numbered among the most prominent elders of the city.…

“They have healed the wound of my people lightly”: A Response to Bishop Barron

While Christianity is being extirpated from some of its oldest seats around the world, American Catholics are instead forced to confront the seemingly bottomless turpitude of many bishops, exposed by the revelation of former Cardinal McCarrick’s history of sexual predation and the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report. These have been followed by an almost uninterrupted stream of insults from the pope, most prominently in the Vatican intervention at the American bishops’ meeting last November and the continuing battle over Archbishop Viganò’s allegations.

In this climate of woundedness and well warranted mistrust, Bishop Robert Barron has published a Letter to a Suffering Church. He seeks to reassure a discouraged and disheartened American laity in the face of the scandal, describing it as “the Devil’s masterpiece” and reminding readers that the history of the Catholic Church is marred by many such scandals.…

The Antithesis of Fatherhood

The mass shooting has become the signature horror of our time and place. Such events have become monstrously common, and yet we seem to understand them no better today than we did twenty years ago. An often-quoted essay in The Atlantic from 2015 examined the plague of mass shootings as a kind of “slow-motion riot”, where each subsequent horror makes its successor more likely. But this is merely to say that mass shootings become more common as mass shootings become more common: a description, not an explanation. When pondering these events, it quickly becomes clear that apart from the obviously mad (Tucson, 2011), politically motivated (Alexandria, 2017), or utterly mysterious (Las Vegas, 2017), the great majority of the perpetrators are disturbed young white men who do not know their fathers.…