Happy Epiphanies! About January 6th and Myself
Against Radicalism and For E Pluribus Unum
Welcome new readers! Thanks for the kind words.
I don’t often talk about my faith with all but a few close friends. I’m not preachy. Having been rolled by the holy rollers among us I’m not one to evangelize. It’s not my way. I keep it secular, at least, in public.
No, I am a quiet Christian as I am a quiet American. Having once been tempted by vanity — I inadvertently and stupidly became a public figure — I have found that the quiet life is quite the life. Still, my Christianity does inform everything I do and the kind of person I want to be. I’ve discussed its application to technology and the sorts of companies I’ve been involved with.
Now I don’t always live up to it but I don’t run from it either. “Greater love hath no man than he who laid down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9).
January 6th may well be a day that lives in infamy — though if you had family at Pearl Harbor, as I did, that comparison strikes me as more than a little extreme and offensive.Perhaps January 6th should be a national day of remembrance —though it was hardly the terrorist attack it has been made out to be.
The FBI says the events of that day are the largest investigation they’ve ever conducted. That may well be so — larger than say, the events of 9-11? Goodness gracious! — but one hopes it’ll reach a speedy conclusion and we can put the events o that day if not behind us at least not the central animating story of the moment. Let’s hope it doesn't rank up there with the Boston Massacre or the Harpers Ferry Raid.
Naturally I hope they catch all who did violence, stop all who enabled it, and shut down those vehicles of radicalization wherever they may be. I hope that those who were there have their wounds, physical and spiritual mended, and that the judges be fair and merciful in meting out justice.
It’s time to have a conversation about technology radicalizing people. Yes, do end Facebook and OANN and Fox News.
Sure, I believe things in this country need to change but “when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can’t me out.” I am a builder not a destroyer.
If you want real change in this country, you don’t defund the police but befriend the police. Civil disobedience needs to still be civil and for a cause bigger than one man’s ego. Social change can, and does, happen, but it happens by talking with one’s neighbor and not by brawling with him.
Far from a “national divorce,” we may be trapped in a very bad marriage. But let’s stay together for the kids, okay?
That’s the kind of note I tried to strike in an interview I did with Zev Shalev.
January 6th is for me it’s a holy day and I celebrated it just as I always have — with joy and with family. That is, in fact, how I spent the last January 6th, and how I’ve spent every January 6th since childhood.
When I was a boy my parents and I celebrated Christmas on January 6th — Epiphany — and I have fond memories of my parents and I going out to dinner or sitting by the fire place in our frigid New England town.
My parents owned a series of stores. I spent my childhood in those stores and learned some of the most important lessons of my life. How to treat people fairly. How to provide value for money. How to conquer my fears — shyness and social anxiety — to talk to just about anyone and sell them just about anything. How to always do the right thing by others, even if wasn’t easy.
My father is not a rich man but the lessons he imparted upon me were rich indeed. But we were often materially poor. Christmas could carry us through the year and keep us in the black. If we worked. And so we worked and worked and worked. By the time Christmas ended we were exhausted.
So, being neither particularly materialistic nor particularly wealthy, we celebrated on January 6th with small gifts. 2020 was not my year. I officially got divorced and my daughter, far from me, I went without seeing for months. It was extremely painful.
For those of us who are religious January 6th is the day Christ’s presence is made known to the whole world. Here Jesus, born in a manger, was visited by the three kings who had hitherto met King Herod, himself committed to a program of extremist genocide. A star appears and Jesus goes from being King of the Jews to Christ — King of Kings.
As an acolyte in my local Episcopal church I used to read the Book of Matthew in church and marvel at how great things have humble beginnings. King Herod lives in a palace while Christ is a helpless infant and yet we know how the story ends. Christ gives up his life for all of us. Everything in nature serves the divine project — including the celestial heavens. (This is the secret teaching of the Narnia books, if you can believe it.)
I have always believed that in Nature you shall find your Peace. God gives you everything you need in Creation — if you only look. He has a plan for you. You have but to discover it. I live my life doing nothing but.
The secular world says an epiphany is “striking and sudden realization.” That’s true but it’s also a recognition of something that’s self-evidently true, almost a kind of reminder. Your intuition and your reason combine to give you real clarity. It feels like a thunder clap, as if nothing will be the same again. As I get older and soberer I live for epiphanies. I find them in reading, in invention, and in writing. That eureka moment. That joy that comes from the work taking you to surprising places, far out on the frontier.
Every year I celebrate Epiphany. But this year is different. I celebrate the enduring nature of our institutions, which need all the help they can. I’m proud to play my part through the technology companies I’ve invented to sure up their foundations.
Ever since I was a kid I was part of one of the largest recruitment programs. I was often unwitting and I did my best to break free. But I was scared. I was subject to what David Brin, my favorite science fiction writer, calls “political blackmail.”
But the solution to political blackmail is friendship and love — and reminding people of what is good and noble. We must remind them to be their kingly self.
Great warriors know that courage is contagious.
And only then will you permitted to die as Théoden. "I go to my fathers in whose mighty company I shall not now feel ashamed."
May you have a Blessed January 6th and every day of this new year.