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The Restoration of Christian Culture
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Restoration of Christian Culture > 5. Return to the nineteenth century

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Manuel Alfonseca | 1438 comments Mod
In this book Senior proposes a return to small-scale farming and other ways of life typical of the nineteenth century. Is this possible for everybody, or just for a few? Can small-scale farming feed the current world population? Can you offer any solution?


Madeleine Myers | 245 comments I think small farms, family farms, are one solution to many problems. My grandparents and several aunts, uncles, and cousins have been farmers in Texas, and they've done well. When I visited Japan, what they call a farm is about the size of a vacant lot in a middle class neighborhood, but apparently sustainable. The factory farms have put many small farms out of business, and given us bad food and a lot of good wasted on grocery stores. And some of the finest restaurants grow their own vegetables, raise their own animals for meat, because fresh always tastes so much better. I wish all schools had gardens so children can learn how to grow food . Too many have no clue where food comes from.


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Jill A. | 666 comments I am certainly an advocate of family vegetable gardens, better use even of urban space than front lawns. However, I think he's hopelessly romantic in proposing turning back the clock like this. Tailors and shoemakers and cheesemakers too? It's not going to happen, so we need to figure out how to humanize the life we currently share.


Madeleine Myers | 245 comments Jill said, "I think he's hopelessly romantic in proposing turning back the clock...". I agree, but sometimes an extreme point of view can provoke us to rethink our own extreme material addictions. Bishop Barron advises using our technology in loving ways, especially social media, and using it to bring greater awareness of the beauty of Catholicism. Bishop Sheen certainly did this in his day. Smashing our television sets is an extreme response to the trash that has become entertainment and news we can no longer trust, but when our last TV broke down my husband and I chose to cut cable and give it up. The peace in our home that resulted has made us more productive and better at communication with each other. Reading more good books and spending more of the day in prayer. I have noticed more local families doing the same, many are homeschooling children, and in a large room with lots of people we can almost pick their children out from others in the room! We have a parish a few miles from here which celebrates Mass in Latin exclusively, and I am told that it is flourishing, and Sundays are filled with young families, many with babies.


message 5: by Mariangel (last edited Sep 11, 2019 07:46PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mariangel | 535 comments Madeleine wrote: "The peace in our home that resulted has made us more productive and better at communication with each other. Reading more good books and spending more of the day in prayer."

Yes. I hear families are having technology-free nights each week, and everyone enjoys them.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1438 comments Mod
Mariangel wrote:

Yes. I hear families are having technology-free nights each week, and everyone enjoys them."


I agree with that, but what about his fobia towards musical equipment and even typewriters? The book having been published in 1983, he didn't consider computers, but I deduce from his other fobias that he would also want us to destroy our computers.

Are you aware that, if we did so, this conversation would be impossible? Can nothing good come out of it?


Madeleine Myers | 245 comments Good points, Manuel. We do have to work within our limits! And seek the highest and best uses for what we've been given.


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Bowler | 2 comments Manuel wrote: "The book having been published in 1983, he didn't consider computers, but I deduce from his other fobias that he would also want us to destroy our computers.

Are you aware that, if we did so, this conversation would be impossible? Can nothing good come out of it?"


To my recollection from the first chapter Senior states that technology like stereos and television aren't absolutely bad and that there may be some good attained from using them but that in terms of a cost-benefit analysis of how these technologies are used they are a net negative. I would probably add computers to that list of technologies one should avoid if possible. Far be it from me to be high and mighty about it but seeing how most of my peers use them it would probably be best if they tried abstention at the least. There are ways to use things like computers and television that wouldn't result in a net negative effect upon the self or upon the family but those that know about such methods and those fewer that are willing to practice them are few and far between. This is the reason I believe Senior says that everyone ought to throw them out entirely as the effort spent on trying to maintain a purity about them could be used for far better things that don't have such accompanying risks (e.g. reading, playing music, etc.).


Manuel Alfonseca | 1438 comments Mod
I disagree with Senior in his evaluation of technology. Of course technology (like any tool) can be used wrongly. Would you forbid the use of a hammer, because it can be used to kill a person? Or to destroy Michelangelo's Pietà? (Someone tried actually to do this).

What we must do in every case is encourage good uses of technology and make our utmost to prevent its bad uses. And remember, everything can be used wrongly.

In a short post in my blog I amplified this idea:
https://populscience.blogspot.com/201...


Kerstin | 100 comments I look at Senior's book more as his meditation on these issues. Not all of his suggestions were practical in 1983, let alone today. Taken as a whole what he says is to return to closer communities and family life, to simplify our lives so we can focus on what is essential: the good, the true, the beautiful, in other words, our relationship with God.

We may not all become farmers, but there is a growing trend to source locally. The butcher where I get most of my meat from buys all his meat locally produced within about a 2 hours' drive. He also sells local eggs and honey. There are other places, such as artisan bakeries, farmer's markets, orchards, etc. where locally produced food can be purchased and many producers supply local restaurants. In our vicinity we have quite a bit of that, and I am grateful. But they don't cover all our needs.
I do think big box stores are here to stay and large-scale farming to feed our immense cities.


Madeleine Myers | 245 comments Kerstin, I'm seeing more local food sources becoming available here too, including a weekly farmer's market. Having descended from Czech farmers, I'm well aware how much better food is the sooner it gets from ground to table. Also seeing more restaurants claiming to feature locally grown produce, and a place in Oklahoma which raised their own beef (on the hoof just outside the store!) When we were in Alabama they had a chain: Urban Cookshop, which used local farmers and that was one of the best sandwich places ever, as well as being moderately priced. Some years ago I was in a group doing some work with The College Board. One year we met in Berkeley and were treated to dinner at C
hez Panisse, then a renowned five star restaurant that has its own farms and then was verrry expensive. It's good to see more grocers and restaurants now doing the same (for us commoners!)


Manuel Alfonseca | 1438 comments Mod
One must take into account that the happiest time in the past for one person is probably not the same for other persons.

There is a Woody Allen's film titled "Midnight in Paris" where the protagonist thinks that the best time in the world was in Paris in the twenties (20th century). One night he's magically transferred to that time, and is happy encountering famous people of the time, such as the young Hemingway, Picasso, T.S.Eliot or Gertrude Stein. He then falls in love with a girl of that time, but the best time for hers is not hers, but Paris at the Belle Epoque (the turn of the century). She finally leaves him to get back to that time.

The gist of the film is this: the best time in the world for you is not necessarily the best time in the world for others. We know that Senior's "best time" is the last quarter of the nineteenth century. But that may not be appropriate for everybody.


Madeleine Myers | 245 comments Manuel, I saw that film. Good point.


Kerstin | 100 comments Manuel wrote: "One must take into account that the happiest time in the past for one person is probably not the same for other persons."

And in addition, every generation lived in modern times - to them. What were folks nostalgic about in the 1850s, or 1420s?? Longing for the golden past isn't a realistic endeavor. Senior takes it a bit too far for me by saying we can do so. I certainly have no desire to do so.


Kerstin | 100 comments Manuel wrote: "The gist of the film is this: the best time in the world for you is not necessarily the best time in the world for others."

God willed us to be, to live in a certain moment in time. It is here where we have our place, our purpose, and are called to do his will. Looking at John Senior's work I would suggest he reminded all of us of the beauty of our Christian faith and the culture it inspired and that it is not only worth of preserving but to live to the fullest again. For him much of that centered on the Great Books of Western Civilization, what they can teach us about ourselves, the human condition, and our relationship with God.


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John Seymour | 1858 comments Mod
Kerstin wrote: "For him much of that centered on the Great Books of Western Civilization, what they can teach us about ourselves, the human condition, and our relationship with God."

I suspect that Senior would violently disagree with that sentence, in that it is cast in a relativistic framework. The Great Books tradition is education focused on the best that has been thought or written in the creation of Western Civilization, of and by Christendom. His argument is, as I read it, that this approach to education is critical for anyone to arrive at a proper understanding of "ourselves, the human condition, and our relationship with God." That absent such a focus it is not possible to come to such an understanding. I think Senior over states the case here slightly, assuming I understand him rightly. With God all things are possible, so with effort it may be possible to arrive at a right understanding of "ourselves, the human condition, and our relationship with God" even with the burden of modern miseducation.


Kerstin | 100 comments You have a point there, John. I may have to revise my first impressions anyway. I am currently reading the other book, The Death of Christian Culture, and it is clear the second book is built on the first. I'm about 60 pages in, and he goes into great detail how devastating Modernism has been and is to Western Civilization.


Madeleine Myers | 245 comments I have just spent a weekend at a parish retreat, no phones, no electronic devices, not even a clock in sight or any answers to "what time is it?" And windows were blacked out! Unsettling, but calming and a way to open the soul to something more powerful! We did have electricity and water, though. But what we gained in return was so much more awesome than any of us expected. And I am filled with gratitude that we live in a parish that can celebrate our faith with beauty and solemnity and deep reverence. I can't describe the sense of wonder and the beautiful people who guided us through this.


Kerstin | 100 comments John Senior would approve :)

Though I don't know if I could handle blacked-out windows. I'd be ready to jump out of my skin, Madeleine. I crave daylight.


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