That's what I've been on, more or less, for the last few weeks, hardly visiting any websites other than that of my beloved Saint Louis Cardinals. On Monday, though, I embarked on a several-day fast. That's because, right after teaching a two-and-a-half-hour class on Dante's Paradise, sitting in the sun with my students outside of the Dominican Priory on campus, I came down with a sudden fever; by the time I got home it was 103. It's a bad leg I have, which gets infected now and again; so I pump myself with antibiotics and lie on my back with my leg propped up under pillows. When the fever broke, I spent a couple of days mainly on the floor of our living room, with the leg on the couch. I played with our new puppy. I watched old television shows with my wife. I said some prayers. What I did not do, for quite a few days, was look at the bleary-making sludge of news and come-ons that is the internet. I didn't even check my mail. And I felt like somebody who has been drinking too much, who has cut back, and then gone on the wagon for a little while, drying out, slowly returning to sanity.
I write this, of course, on an internet site, so my readers should take everything I say with a shaker of salt, since it's clear that I've gone and opened up another internet bottle, and am even contributing some moonshine of my own for others to sample. Still, I did feel, for those few days, like somebody who has been forced by circumstances to make a judicious retreat, and to learn to be more human for a while. I have happily missed, for example, the outrageous farce playing in England, where a couple of raving madmen wish to arrest the Pope for crimes against humanity; I won't grace the stupidity of the charges with the courtesy of a rebuttal. They are miles beyond the absurd, particularly when one considers that England is a perfectly toxic place now to raise a child, and that Benedict XVI is almost the last person remaining in Europe who believes in the holiness of human sexuality. And he, of all people, has been most energetic in ensuring, as well as is humanly possible, that such crimes will not happen again.
(By the way, a prediction. I recall, from the late eighties, that pedophilia had something of the chic about it, from the libertines and illuminati among us. Camille Paglia, for one, said that she was offended that scoutmasters and others were haled off to prison for doing what the Greeks at the height of their cultural achievement enshrined in art and poetry. The homosexual hero of The Kiss of the Spider Woman was in prison for molesting a boy; that made him, among moviegoers who trumped up that strange and miserable work, a figure of some humorous sympathy, not a moral monster. Mary Eberstadt, in a recent issue of First Things, made a similar observation, bringing to bear many a quote from those days. In any case, there's a disconnect here that will have to be resolved. We are sex-besotted, as a stroll down the aisles of any drug store will show, not to mention an analysis of how much money we spend on pornography, or a hard look at our out-of-wedlock birthrates, or a cursory viewing of what passes for family fare on the television networks. And we consistently value the welfare and the desires of adults over the needs of children. So our outrage over pedophilia will fade, just as we now greet the nude strollers at a gay pride parade with a yawn, and shrug when we hear that someone has four children by three different fathers. The outrage is simply inconsistent with everything else about sex to which we have committed ourselves, and with our neglect of the welfare of children.)
In any case, I find, with the pull of the internet, that I end up thinking about the things that everybody else is thinking about, and I'd rather not do that. I run the danger of lapsing into the unreality of that world. Yes, I understand that watching an old episode of Gunsmoke with my wife is not exactly to engage reality — though the show was remarkably fine at portraying a rich variety of human goodness. But we also talked. And the puppy needed to be seen to. And the birds have been singing outside the window. And the rhododendrons and the flowering quince and the forsythia are all in bloom at once. And God, who is closer to us than we are to ourselves, is good, and works wonders, some of them, as my friend the Dominican microbiologist put it, incredibly obvious, and others quiet and subtle, which only a lover will see. Going on internet detox for a few days was, alas, a great thing for me; a great thing for reminding me of truths that are as solid as rock. I am looking forward to the summer, when my family and I go to Canada and live in a house without access to the internet. I'll read books, and ride bikes with my son, and visit neighbors, and go swimming alone in a woodland lake, and harvest wild berries. Yes, I'll check my mail at a local library twice a week, drat it, and, more important, see what the Cardinals have been doing. And I'll try to contribute to this blog, too.