post tenebras lux
He saw the townlands
Purchase Jollyroger.com: Navigating An American Renaissance
Ahoy there mates! Contained herein are the captain’s logs of The Jolly Roger, flagship of Classicals & jollyroger.com LLC. The words were set down during a five year voyage of fantastic romance, peril, and adventure, as the Good Ship sailed the WWW on towards an American Renaissance. Beyond the fogs of cynicism we’ve navigated, and at the breaking edge of postmodern liberalism, we’ve sighted the dawning of a classical revival that shall be known by the rising generation, as well as by all who count themselves members of the community of eternal souls.
It’s good to be back on shore for the moment, as we always shall be whenever a fellow seafarer reads this introduction. Perhaps ye’ll meet us out tonight at The Jolly Roger Piano & Poetry Pub or our Great Books Brewery, before we arise at the crack of dawn to ferry ye on out towards the greatest treasure of this silicon revolution—the eternity in a grain of sand. We have seen the future away out there, in yer hearts and spirits, and it belongs to the honest, while the poetry belongs to the profound.
In 1995 Jollyroger.com set sail from Hatteras as a labor of love, and now, by the Grace of God and the loyalty of all our intrepid readers, the Good Ship has evolved into a profitable venture that allows us to do that which we were born to do—write. Unlike most dot-com startups originating from MBA homework assignments, jollyroger.com was not launched to line the pockets of venture capitalists, but rather she set sail to serve the eternal popular culture with a renaissance—an entity which the bankers could not afford to invest in, as enduring literature must be funded by the courage of poetic passion. Very few MBAs ever comprehend the business of eternity—the subtleties of how a world may be born from a grain of sand—and thus it is left up to CEO Statesmen and Poets to captain literary ships. Business ventures tend to be considered in terms of monetary risks and rewards, whereas words of eternity must be written, come hell or high water. It was not mere information that the Good Ship sought to deliver over the internet, but poetry, and so instead heading West to Silicon Valley and raising VC, we raised The Jolly Roger to strike fear into the hearts of Truth’s opponents, and we sailed forth from Hatteras one pristine September day, beneath a Carolina-blue sky. And we never looked back.
In an era where cool has been commodified and postmodernism has triumphed in the literary, cultural, and financial arenas, where inherent worth is oft dismissed and new-age hype rules the day, jollyroger.com has stuck by the guns of fundamental principle. She has sailed steadily along her foreordained course, signing aboard loyal crew members one by one, firing broadsides from the Western Canon to defend the embattled Great Books, and laying the foundations of the world’s classical portal with the most valuable kind of seed capital—heartfelt poetry.
In the postmodern culture’s pervasive gray, it’s often difficult to perceive the Permanent Things; and thus on the foggier nights over the past five years, faith in the ancient’s words came in handy upon this deck. In the deepest darkness of the most ironic ironies, where the fog itself is concealed, there yet exists an inner light in the form of a classical yearning for Truths greater than ourselves—many know her as Faith. And like the wind and waves of an approaching hurricane, the Bible, Plato, Shakespeare, the Founding Fathers, and Melville reminded us of her—the Words of the Greats let us know that something all-powerful and great existed just beyond our mortal sight. And by Faith’s inner light and the steady winds of immortal words, we were able to navigate beyond the postmodern fog, through the popular culture’s sound and fury, on towards the center of our souls—the placid eye of existence’s storm—on towards the eternal peace of immutable words written and read in the solitude and splendor of Truth’s Freedom. Thus we know firsthand that the greatest literature serves a higher purpose than the bottom line or the advancement of political causes—words exist not only to entertain, advertise, exhort, and explain, but also to light Faith’s beacons and fill the sails of God’s Grace. From Words we have fashioned the Jolly Roger’s Oak planks of reason, riveted them with rhyme, and designed a ship to voyage across all of time.
All generations are united by the classical elements, and the poets and prophets of each age are those who perform the timeless truths in the living language, adding to and enriching the context of the eternal popular culture heralded by the Great Books. Joining in this venture has always been a risky endeavor, and thus few prudent parents have ever encouraged their children to become poets. But in this era especially, ambitious proponents of the postmodern ideology actively seek to scuttle the souls of young poets embarking on eternity’s favorite venture. The postmodern blockade serves to protect the degraded trade of the liberal industrial cultural complex, while their fog shrouds the beacons of timeless truth, thereby rendering the context for contemporary classical literature all but impossible to navigate, while endangering the very hulls of morality and Western Civilization.
Postmodernism is the corruption of democracy, just as deconstruction is the violence of the weak—both cultural movements owe their popularity to their ability to empower anyone harboring intellectual or artistic ambitions overshadowing their talents. Postmodern culture is like an internet pyramid scheme, wherein cultural creations possessing no inherent worth are given vast valuations by the insider critics and cliques who subsist upon and profit from the ephemeral hype, which is often tax, tuition, and smut subsidized. But eventually all true art, like all true companies, must create real and lasting benefits for the public, or fade away, like communism. "One cannot pray a lie," noted Huckleberry Finn, but without faith in God’s Invisible Hand, postmodernists believe that it’s possible, as long as the requisite mob is assembled and promised a cut. And while the insiders benefit in the short-term when worthless companies, fallacious systems of government, and meaningless art are hyped and sold to a duped public, the public is oft left holding the bag, with their investments diminished, their classical religions tarnished, their armies demoralized, the sacred institution of marriage defiled, and the curriculums of their children’s schools gutted.
When the higher ideals and fundamental precepts are forsaken, the entire democratic ship of state may drift along happily through the fog, navigating by polls reminiscent of the one given by Pontius Pilate, not aware of the nature nor consequences of the errant direction. And when a few in the rising generation begin to seek the fixed stars above, which they’ve read about in antiquity’s forsaken myths and felt deep within their souls, they will be branded crazy. And when the classical rebels see the stars through the breaking fog, and seek to navigate a straighter course by the Permanent Things, they will encounter violent opposition from the postmodern culture czars who benefit from the lack of higher standards, who prefer their arbitrary will to the rule of Law in cultural entities ranging from politics, to architecture, to education, to poetry. The relativistic oligarchy shall view the rising poets’ loyalty to God as insolent rebellion, and the postmodern media shall be commanded to destroy them. And on that day, the postmodern critics’ souls shall be tested, as they choose to be loyal to tyrants or Truths greater than themselves, as they choose to remain upon postmodern liberalism’s sinking ship or sign aboard a fighting frigate bound for eternity.
One could spend several volumes chronicling the nature of postmodernism’s adherents and their predilection for bureaucracy, and the dark character of their political, cultural, and literary ponzi schemes, but that is not jollyroger.com’s destination. We all know what the fog looks like—too many know nothing else—and the nobler and more pertinent task becomes taking us beyond it. To criticize nihilism is to exalt it to undeserved heights, and rather than studying the ephemeral, poets would be wise to devoted themselves to penning the eternal.
Whether it’s inevitable as fate or it hinges upon perseverance and free will, we do not know, but jollyroger.com must gain a popular culture worthy of the Great Books’ context. And the only way to do that is to navigate by the same timeless beacon that yesterday’s poets navigated by—honesty’s courage.
The contemporary poet’s task is not only to pen the eternal verities in the era’s language, but it is also to resurrect the context in which those timeless truths may freely navigate and gain the home ports of the children’s souls. And that is where the WWW has played an invaluable role, for it has allowed us to establish a universe perpendicular to the contemporary popular culture—a universe wherein words mean things and the classical context thrives, but which also intersects with the popular culture. For Great Books growing dusty upon shelves are of little use, and the classical sentiments must be continually performed in the living language. While the majority of contemporary editors, agents, critics and literary officials yet remain loyal to the degraded postmodern-MFA mentality and the fleeting insta-classic literary fashions, the greater spirits of the rising generation are classical in nature, as children’s souls always are. And by allowing The Jolly Roger to circumvent the literary middleman’s cynical vortex, the WWW has allowed a renaissance to set sail.
Although all enduring truth must by definition be robust, history has shown that its messengers have often been castigated and impugned. But upon these American shores, it has ever been our right, as it has been our duty, to continually foster and defend the classical context wherein the foundational documents serve the people, come hell or high water. The Greats have all agreed upon this—liberty demands eternal vigilance. The pursuit of smaller government, less taxes, rhyming poetry, and more freedom is as long and arduous a voyage as it is a noble one.
As a beacon in history’s darker contexts, America was founded as a haven for truth’s messengers, thereby becoming the world’s wellspring for science, religion, and freedom. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution, which may be found at the end of this book, were penned in tribute to higher principles superior to all politics and time. Even though the Founding Fathers believed in the existence of higher laws, they were humble about their ability to discern them, and thus they presented us with a Constitution which could be amended. They had as much faith in their children as they had in the timeless truths, and thus they bestowed us with the tools to pursue justice and happiness in a free marketplace of ideas, which they perceived to be ultimately governed by Nature and Nature’s God. The eloquent words of America’s founding documents provide for the civil structure that protects and promotes the acknowledgement of higher principles by which natural rights are defined, thereby preserving the sacred freedom of all individuals who are humble before the higher ideals. And thus upon these shores the honest have always been promised the freedom to pursue the exalted American dream.
But when the language is degraded until the poetry no longer rhymes except in vulgar rap, when sacred customs are honored more in the breach than in the observance, when words and their meanings part on their separate ways, when the bottom line is placed above the higher ideals, when the base bass beats over the melody in the music we listen to, in the clubs we frequent, and in our hearts and souls; when innocence is lost before it is known, when cynicism is loaded upon hope and hope is ballasted with irony, and we’re exhorted by tax, tuition, and smut-subsidized cultural officials to carry this pyramid’s load down the road to serfdom, shall we still be free to dream those greater dreams? When under this burden America is then cut free from her religious anchors in the name of secular economic freedom, and women are sent off to raise the Dow Jones to pay taxes rather than raise moral children, can America long survive and prosper as the flagship of free republics, even if all the postmodern pyramid schemes never collapse? Science and history have suggested otherwise—that where God’s morality is eroded, the eternal Bureaucracy marches forth to become the stolid regulator of human interaction. When people cease to govern themselves according to higher principles, they lose the ability to be guarantors of their own wellness and happiness, and they soon find themselves subject to a political order determined by other mortals—the rule of Law gives way to the rule by men.
Where the Word—the sacred vessel of all poetry and politics—was diminished or deconstructed, bullets and slogans oft became the new brushes with which humanity painted upon history’s canvas. And as the past is prologue, any optimist of human affairs would be wise to aspire to the wisdom of those who gave us not the gift of freedom, but the documents which define and defend the freedom that they perceived as being a gift from God.
In asking what is best for the future of a democratic republic, we are really contemplating the best way in which to pass along freedom’s traditions. How might we rebuild the classical context wherein children learn to love reading the Greats, and teachers are given the necessary authority to teach them? How do we reinstall the killer-app open-source software of the soul—the classics—which teach not by dictating how to think, but by inspiring free thought in a rational context?
Today, too many of our peers reside in a superficial context of image and sound, wherein the popular art, movies, music, and literature make circular references to the same superficial brands in a self-contained cultural whirlpool in history’s greater context, where ephemeral lusts, common degradation, and wayward feelings overrule rational thought and the higher ideals. So how shall we introduce our friends to a far more profound culture in the context of the Great Books? How shall we revive the center and circumference of civilization, the crux of conscience, the jury of justice, the romance of marriage, the honor of honor, and the device by which we mark the pinnacles of our aspirations—the written Word? We’re not sure of the exact mechanism nor means to accomplish this, but the crew here believes the answer lies more in art than in scholarship, more in poetry than in politics. For intellectuals study yesterday’s renaissances far more often than they inspire today’s, and politicians follow the popular culture far more often than they lead it.
At the dawn of the internet in 1995, the three sonneteers set out upon a fleet frigate, seeking to pirate the profound and establish a brave new website where the eternal optimism of the literary classics would prevail—where the news of the day would always be that the world’s grown honest and Hamlet’s gone mad. We saw the chance to marry the greatest that has ever been written and spoken to the greatest publishing medium ever known to the individual, and to create a classical context wherein the glory of words would resound. We saw the opportunity to circumnavigate the postmodern nonbelievers and cynics, to appeal to the nobler aspects of humanity’s conscience, and prove that the world yet loves common sense embroidered in eloquence. We saw the opportunity for a renaissance wherein dignity and honor would be restored to public office, and the poetry would rhyme once again.
And with a little bit of that Midwest humor which walks hand-in-hand with Midwest honor, we decided we’d have fun following the dream that Providence had enabled. We would salute the passing postmodern era from the decks of a pirate ship, acknowledging postmodernism’s vast success in pervading all aspects of contemporary culture; and with broadsides of truth fired from the Western Canon, we’d let them know we considered it good sport to play along with their irony—the irony that a lover of the Great Books could be considered a barbarous buccaneer upon Princeton’s ivied campus. We were ruthless rebels because we sought Truth’s Traditions.
Postmodern liberalism had won the day, but as a fundamentally secular-materialist philosophy, that was all that it had ever sought, and tomorrow shall belong to the classics. For however fun the postmodern era was, I don’t think we’ll be making a tradition out of it. Political rhetoric is soon forgotten, while poetry is that which endures.
We figured the best way to communicate our exalted vision would be to combine the cutting-edge technology with the exact same literary devices used by the sages of all ages. We’d use the common language and the colloquial to sign sailors aboard, and we’d endow the poetry at jollyroger.com with rhyme and meter. Whispering reason is far louder than pompous pedantry, just as poetry is far more adept at winning a girl’s heart than polemics. The greatest writers had adorned their works not with thesauruses, but with wit. If a preacher knows something of poetry, then we’ll listen, for they must know that deeper meaning behind the sacred scripture—that law and order exist to protect beauty’s fundamental freedom.
A contemporary literary renaissance presents itself as a formidable task—one cannot do it alone. For the fashionable relativists are right in that truth and custom must have an appropriate societal context within which to exist. And the concurrent relativistic societal context, fortified with the entrenched prejudices of a maturing, tenured generation that ushered in a Dionysian revolution via the pre-internet electronic media, along with a plethora of ideological "isms" to replace God’s simple grace, coupled with a fading popular culture centered about the printed word and an enforced cynicism amongst a generation who for the most part only know of the Greats in their deconstructed, corrupted form, makes the Apollonian renaissance that jollyroger.com’s sailing towards seem all but unreachable.
But then again, as the ancients noted, "post tenebras lux." After darkness light. Just as God and the Greats originally sprang forth in tradition’s void, so it is that they might be born again in the midst of a deconstructed culture. For poetry, religion, and romance are sought by the immortal parts of all souls, and they never have greater cause to be than when they are not. In the long run, without Truth men cannot have those possessions most coveted by all deeper souls—meaning and freedom. With this bold vision and humble hope, jollyroger.com has set out to resurrect a classical context.
Though jollyroger.com’s destination is pristine, the voyage has not always been and will not always be so. It is a wonderful time to be alive for the author and entrepreneur, with abundant wealth and opportunity being fostered by the internet revolution, but even so, it is a sobering mission to be called upon to serve poetry. For there are those powerful elite today, and their ambitious disciples, who so vehemently oppose the first Two Amendments of the United States Constitution, who have it as their mission to prevent the honest from lifting those pens which are mightier than the sword.
Neither Wall Street nor the postmodern academy nor publishing industry—the iron triangle—will invest time nor money nor faith in a renaissance, but that is OK, as a renaissance has little use for money, and eternity’s time will do just fine. Wall Street prudently considers the poetry of a cultural renaissance a financial risk in today’s cultural conditions, while the academic MFA postmodernists consider it a dire threat, and the corporate conglomerates of the publishing industry have one foot in either camp. But we foresee the dawn of a new era, wherein those who join in serving and enlightening the public with the classical sentiments will profit immensely, both spiritually and monetarily. It is time for a sea change, matey, and time for the poetry to rhyme once again.
There have been and there are yet to be cruel nights out there in the postmodern fog, where the Good Ship will seem all but lost, and where the winds of elite and popular opinion will rage and blow in opposition, while the critic’s cannons blaze away with all the fury of an MFA scorned. But such is the rugged nature of all greater adventures, and as of late the seaward signs suggest that the wind is shifting towards a more favorable direction.
Where men are yet free, they must have poetry equal to that freedom, and where men yet have poetry, they must be free. Thus exalted poetry is worth fighting for, and too, these are the reasons why those who serve the darker powers shall always oppose pristine poetry. The relativist’s favorite tactic in cultural warfare is to redefine sacred institutions as degraded, corrupted, political entities, from poetry to the Presidency, until it appears that there is nothing to defend, until only the dishonorable seem fit to slouch towards office. Thus they win the war by convincing the common man that there is no war to be fought, by deconstructing honor and chivalry, by proclaiming poetry to be no more than politics, by teaching that Presidents were always corrupt and will always be corrupt, and then enforcing their dismal science throughout the culture. They deconstruct God and appoint their friends to all the newly-minted bureaucracies which seek to overrule His Decree, and which exacerbate the problems they seek to solve, thereby providing coveted opportunities for more taxation, more government programs, and more bureaucracy. With a snide smile they call it irony and cynicism as they benefit in the shadows of the postmodern fog, but we see it as something much darker than that, as their methods rebel against God’s Will.
Jefferson once stated that from time to time freedom’s fields must be fertilized with the blood of Tyrants and Patriots, and thus in order to defend the profound prose of this renaissance, treacherous battles shall be waged against the ferocious prejudices of pedants and postmodernists for the right to write, publish, and disseminate poetry written with words that rhyme and mean things. Postmodernists consider the rhyming truth’s shining light a violent assault upon their fogged territory, and they will fight back viciously according to their fundamental rules, which state that there are none but for what they feel. A tyranny of liberal thought exists in the contemporary publishing and academic industries, which is equal parts ignorance and resentment, and which may best be defeated by light and truth rendered with poetry and humor. God’s Patriots must learn these gentle ways of war.
Though these words will not be directly censored, pristine poetry may be effectively banned by the erosion of the context which supports it—when pornography is published, the sacred is censored. The Great Books have been banned far more often by ignorance than by law. Many in my generation shall never hear this melody as it’s drowned out in the base pounding bass of this week’s corporate rock’n’roll, but it shall be their loss, and not the words’. While we feel sympathy for the cultural conformists lost in the apathy and cynicism of the swirling fog, we nevertheless believe that as individuals it is ultimately their choice, and may God help them find the Better Way. To those who have, more shall be given, and to those who have not, even that shall be taken away. May God inspire their moral imaginations to dream beyond the gray on gray that has come to define their indifferent universe, wherein spurious definitions of irony have become their bigoted religion.
Postmodernists know that in order to defend their arbitrary power structure, where exalted critics wield influence by hyping the value of degraded literary works, they must defend to the death their deconstructed context. They have learned that as long as the common water source is poisoned with their politics, nothing will be allowed to grow upon the private property of our souls but for barren cynicism. They know that were the fog to break, the ideals of fidelity, honor, and lasting romance would begin to blossom in the rising generation’s spirits. As the powerful architects of contemporary corruption, they must disparage and destroy all who do not ultimately agree that black is white and white is black, and thus noble romance and honest innocence are their dire enemies.
The greatest postmodernists have never been the most beautiful nor talented nor honest—they have ever been those with the least to lose in the absence of beauty’s truth and truth’s beauty. Having little in the way of the fundamental decencies and Natural private property, as relativist critics they seek to gain by deconstructing others’ private property. And eventually there comes a time when there is nothing left to deconstruct, but for the true living poets, who shall be invincibly wicked in seeking vengeance for the razing of their spiritual heritage and the cold-blooded murders of their cultural fathers. So it is that the entire postmodern army of deans, agents, editors, critics, and publishers today fear a lone poet by the name of Drake Raft. For last night I saw his ghost in midtown Manhattan, crossing Madison Avenue in cowboy boots, with his hat’s brim hiding his eyes.
Convoluted ironies and swirling vortexes will be encountered on the high seas of postmodern culture, wherein it will yet once more be observed that institutions which purport to cherish and transmit the truth can easily be turned right around in the fog and become those entities which most oppose it. As it must take an honest stand before reality, some of the poetry and prose contained herein details the more macabre customs particular to this generation, raised in the jaded wake of free love, a declining reverence for the eternal soul, the crassification of the popular cultural and political arena, and the spiritual casualties of abortion.
At times aboard the decks of jollyroger.com, we peered a bit too deeply into the fog’s void, and as it looked back into us, we learned firsthand how postmodern cynicism may breed the most powerful enemy—one’s very own conscience. For even when a man has slain all the external demons, often the battle is only beginning, and never has the enemy within known a better ally than postmodern relativism. We kind of know where a lot of the postmodern priests are coming from. We were in a grunge band and all that—we saw what the theories sung from the secular pulpits on high could do to the souls of one’s friends, and we lost more than a few friends at the edge—to the classic clichés of drinking and drugs, to the all-out pursuit of the material high, to a few too many girls, and to the Freudian-Darwinian-Nietzschean cynicism that God is no more than a myth, and that we’re no more than random chemical reactions, sans intrinsic nor extrinsic meaning. Alas, without faith they joined the living dead. Raised in the gray void sans tradition nor religion, they never could discern the very grayness of the void, and so certain of postmodern indifference, they were convinced that the eternal soul did not exist, and they sold out for nothing at all. Such is the arrogance of the small mind which never knows a context greater than itself, and though conscious, never apprehends conscience.
We’d tasted that pseudo-scientific-secular atheism as physics majors at Princeton, and we’ll tell you that it was a natural faith in something greater that saved us—wherefrom we also learned that virtue is not to be found within revenge, but rather it is to be gained by forgiving one’s enemies. Never shall one prevail against the darkness by answering with darkness, but only by lighting a light. We bear the postmodern oligarchy and army—the deans, editors, professors, lifetime politicians, cultural czars, MFA officials, professional administrators, and all their eager students of decline—no malice, but we only wish to inspire a literary movement that will grant the children something greater than was given our generation.
This renaissance is by no means a generational war, but rather it’s a generational peace, as classics are written for all generations. It is a recent marketing myth which ordains that every fifteen minutes the new generation must be different (consume different things) from the preceding one, for there is no difference in the continuum of eternal souls. Justice is justice is justice, as it has always been, and as it shall always be. By no means are the boomers in general to be held responsible for postmodernism’s obligatory cynicism, for I sense that most of them are on our side, such as my mother and father, and the high school teachers back in Ohio, who were humble before Shakespeare and taught him by setting his words free within our souls.
And never forget—no matter what postmodernism’s fading oligarchy ordains, they cannot keep young poets from enjoying aesthetic freedom. They can degrade the romantic to no end, assaulting the ideals of pristine femininity and noble masculinity in the greater culture, but young lovers’ hearts belong to God alone, and the poetry of this renaissance shall blossom in their souls. For I saw it in her deep brown eyes just last night, walking the streets of Davidson, North Carolina. If ye manage to keep objectivity’s even keel—as our conscientious teachers and parents did—knowing that the Greats are yer crew members and God is the captain, then the eternal treasures at jollyroger.com shall be yers for the keeping.
Poets are the fundamental leaders of all cultural transitions, and all noble leaders must begin by voyaging beyond the contemporary in their dreams, on towards the higher ideals; and from these spiritual pinnacles they can hope to appeal to the better angels of human nature. Fortune and chance play a decisive role in setting the stage, but once set, all those who follow the call to set the truth down in words proceed by creative endeavor and luck, on towards the same immutable, classical elements that all poets and prophets have ever sought. Though ye might sometimes feel yer walking the straight and narrow alone, know ye that this voyage is eternity’s most popular journey amongst the Greats, and thus yer always in good company.
We were fortunate in that we began harboring dreams of a literary renaissance at the dawn of the internet revolution, and too, we were fortunate to be living in beautiful North Carolina, where we could meld the natural romance emanating from places like Kill Devil Hill and Chapel Hill and Boone, and the majestic lighthouses and mountains—all reaching for the Carolina blue skies—into the jollyroger.com aura. And the power and fury of September’s hurricanes always served to remind us of beauty’s fundamental fragility.
Back in 1994, rejection slips were piling up for our more traditional and refined literature, when suddenly a channel out towards a popular renaissance opened upon the internet. We took advantage of the Linux knowledge which becomes second nature to all physicists, and we set about creating a classical context in the popular culture. And out upon the web, we found that greatest treasure of all—a live global audience to serve. Upon the open seas, all yer appreciative emails combined to form the favorable winds that filled jollyroger.com’s sails in its formative years. And never for a moment do we forget—were it not for all of ye out there, we might’ve made it out beyond the postmodern fog, but we would’ve never made it back to shore. For writing is the voyage out, and being read is the voyage back on home.
While the revolutions in online commerce have been trumpeted far and wide, and while jollyroger.com has certainly benefited from them, we see a spiritual revolution in the culture as a nobler opportunity. As the ecommerce infrastructure solidifies, with the thousands of high-tech pyramid schemes collapsing, and the useful websites achieving global dominance, the renaissance beyond the postmodern fog shall take a bit longer to realize, as it is easier to change how people shop for books rather than change the books they shop for, and the context they read books in. It is perhaps impossible to change an aging generations’ heart, and thus the culture must wait for the rising generation to resurrect those permanent beacons which endow life with its richer meanings. Have faith we will, mate, for God springs eternal.
Before the internet, it was difficult to imagine a locale upon this globe where people from all walks of life could gather to discuss the Great Books, but now such a timeless, ubiquitous entity exists, an equidistant one-click away from everywhere in the world. And though the conversations range in quality and tenor, the Great Books don’t seem to mind, as they have changed not one word, nor their unyielding, eternal context of Freedom’s Truths. And now and then we receive the email that makes it all worthwhile: "Thanks for inspiring me to read Moby Dick. . ."
Some critics contend that literature serves no moral purpose and that words should be read for mere enjoyment, and we hope that they enjoy these words. And too, we hope jollyroger.com serves as a map that helps the reader find a safe passage out towards their dreams. Always remember this—even though our greater dreams are sometimes unobtainable, there is yet vast beauty left in the wake of their pursuit. For although Einstein, Socrates, and Captain Ahab never apprehended the white whales they originally set sail seeking, they yet left behind immortal art and science within the records of their pursuit of the Truth.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing away out here, but it would have been far more perilous had we not had the vast inheritance of the priceless maps created by all the poets and philosophers who have sailed before us. If ye haven’t read the Greats, let jollyroger.com be the portal out to great adventures, and if ye have read them, may these words accompany ye on yer next voyage; for the Great Books are the ones worth returning to time and again. From Hamlet, to the Declaration of Independence, to the Bible—those were the charts by which we navigated the Good Ship, and ye’ll find many of the same prominent markers throughout the words which follow.
Contained herein are essays, articles, and poetry written during the five years we’ve spent before the mast of jollyroger.com—many of the passages and poems were composed close to land’s end, in places like Ocracoke, Kill Devil Hills, Hatteras, and Nantucket, and perhaps the words would best be read in close proximity to the wind and waves. The final chapter was written as our band was being evacuated from the Outer Banks during Hurricane Floyd—the last major hurricane of the millennium—and though there’s no need to duplicate those extreme conditions while perusing this prose, there’s certainly a poetry-enhancing magic to be found a stone’s-throw from the ocean. The vastness of eternity becalms the spirit, and the ocean’s expanse reflects the eternal dimensions of our souls, reminding us that our spirits are far greater than the daily trifles and worries which so often obscure life’s grander picture.
Some of the passages are a bit more angst-ridden or satirical than we would write now, but at the same time, many of the youthful sentiments we could never quite express again, so we have left them mostly intact. For that which seems trite or naïve to the more experienced conscience is often beautiful to those just setting sail—and after all, what is angst but vital hope that yet perseveres in the midst of overarching irony and corruption? At any rate, passion did most of the work for us, and thus we should be grateful to her and not overstep our bounds in editing someone else’s work. We have faith that with the great diversity of readers out there, of all ages and from all continents, the words which follow shall find appropriate minds and spirits to reside within.
Although jollyroger.com is a profitable business, the words which follow constitute the most valuable treasures ever transported within the Good Ship’s holds. They are the intangible, eternal, ungraspable part—we set out not to make money, but to publish these verities which we felt would be of use to others also harboring dreams of a cultural resurgence. Each chapter views an aspect of contemporary society from the deeper context of the classics; and as relationships, art, the environment, poetry, ghost stories, business, music, philosophy, science, the classics, publishing, politics, breweries, piano pubs, and God are all inextricably woven into the quilt of existence, the chapters share many common elements.
The chief aim of science and literature are to unify and explain the mysterious without denying it—to make everything as simple as possible, but not more so. And in its simplest form this renaissance must be a collection of renaissances—literary, political, technological, architectural, and spiritual—within the poet and the reader alike. For we only know the definition of a word within the context of others. Hence our new domain: renaissances.com.
Once upon a time, when we would have sent this manuscript out to agents and publishers, our journey on out towards yer deeper souls would have ended at the blockade of their reluctance to believe in the prospects or possibility of this renaissance. But today the revolutions in electronic publishing are rendering the postmodern literary bureaucrats insignificant. Neither Plato nor Shakespeare nor Thoreau nor Jefferson nor Melville ever had to work through MFA agents and editors who must relentlessly publish and hype temporal books so as to earn their keep. The contemporary abundance of literary middlemen and general literary decline is in part a symptom of the plethora of creative writing workshops, which mass produce marketers and critics who are sympathetic to the postmodern cause. Sensing the threat to their elite culture clubs and lumbering bureaucracies, which are as close to eternity as they’ll ever come, the literary elite must try to convince themselves that these words shall be unable to find a market within the hearts and souls of the public—that is their job. By devaluing Truth and the Word, they were able to temporarily enhance the relative worth of their liberal politics. As uncreative administrators and redistributors of literary wealth, they are of course sympathetic to relativistic and communistic causes, as these are the ideologies by which the untalented ambitious can band together and share the spoils of others’ labor and craftsmanship, or spoil others’ labor and craftsmanship, and hype vulgar nihilism. The postmodern era has been the golden era of middlemen critics and politicians, but it is foolish for them to believe that it can last forever, especially when they failed in their central task of deconstructing the Permanent Things, which are now again beginning to blossom.
The internet, by providing a clear passage out towards a classical renaissance, has exposed their arrogant uselessness in eternal matters better than any words ever could have. They had ample chance to sign aboard, or even set up renaissance sites of their own, and they’ll always be welcome aboard as deckhands, but for now jollyroger.com sails on towards eternity without them. All artists must make choices, to serve the fleeting fashions or the thundering eternities felt deep within their souls, and it are those rarer spirits, who have the courage and strength to follow eternity’s calling rather than the critic’s ephemeral editorials and the banker’s temporal lusts, who end up penning the poetry for eternity’s popular culture. It’s nothing more than fate, matey, and it would be hubris to fight it.
We’ve hung out in New York enough to know how the future is presented in the slackademic MFA/MBA marketing departments’ PowerPoint presentations, but from high atop the crow’s nest, we’ve glimpsed the dawn beyond the breaking fog. Literature in its most sublime form has never been about following markets, but it has ever been about creating them. The hundreds of thousands of visitors to jollyroger.com may receive these words immediately with a simple click, and these words of optimism may be forwarded and downloaded endlessly about the watery globe, spreading like wildfire throughout the contemporary conscience. So it is that in the internet age we no longer approach publishers so much as to ask to have a book published, but instead we invite them to join us aboard an entire context—for this ship has left port.
We know it’s just a small ship, and its contribution towards any renaissance will be far smaller than the daily contributions of all the hard-working, innovative people who make this country work. Machiavelli once stated that a man’s intelligence can be assessed by the quality of men he surrounds himself with, and in that regard, the three sonneteers have been very fortunate. And if we can be of any assistance in helping parents inspire their children to read, or entertaining and exalting a cynical college student with a few words of contemporary wisdom from their peers, then all the better. If jollyroger.com serves to introduce a couple of people to the beauty of the classics, then I’ll know the Good Ship is headed in the right direction. If the rising generations seek to engage in the Apollonian arts and once again return to rhyming, metered verse; and narratives with plots, and heroes with moral dreams and flawed natures rather than anti-heroes with perfect cynicism; and if a new scholarship arises, wherein words once again mean things, promises are made to be kept, and professors illuminate the greater moral truths in the Great Books; and if politics follows the poetry’s lead, and just beauty is again found in eternity’s higher order, and tomorrow’s statesmen are again schooled amongst the Greats, then jollyroger.com shall be well on her way. And we think she is.
There’s a poem which scrolls across the bottom of the jollyroger.com pages, which has scrolled hundreds of thousands of times over the past five years. Now a lot of sailors have expressed admiration for it, and many have requested printouts, so we would like to conclude this introduction with the poem, which also opens our first volume of collected jollyroger.com poetry entitled Eternity in a Grain of Sand: The Most Perfect Silence of Jollyroger.com Poetry. Neither this manuscript nor the volume of poetry were ever even sent off to the traditional publishers for consideration, but instead they were both sent directly to you, via a myriad of new technologies ranging from HTML to XML to PDF to print-on-demand. The lumbering conglomerate fleet, anchored by postmodern prejudices and loaded with thousands of faceless middlemen hypesters, has proven too dilatory and demented to navigate a renaissance upon the high seas of the WWW. They had their chance to get in on the ground floor, but now it’s going to cost them millions, and even then, maybe something that you just can’t buy. Again, poetry’s profound peril and glory, and literature’s wondrous risks and rewards, are left to the rugged individual—the rugged individual who one day awakens to realize that they have no choice but to follow God’s Will.
Not only were we the first to pen these sentiments, but we were also the first to publish them, which of course will be viewed as a liability by our critics. But we contend that if yer man enough to write a book yerself, ye might as well be man enough to publish it yerself.
In lecturing about the purpose and beauty of poetry, in defending the rational foundations of noble civility and exalted existence, we pledge to never forget the most perfect silence which resides at the center and circumference of jollyroger.com’s reason to be—eternal poetry for all the stalwart sailors. In war, one must never forget the peace one is fighting for. Welcome aboard an American Renaissance, mate.
—At yer service, Captain Becket Knottingham
Standing on Hatteras, North Carolina
The Most Perfect Silence
I know where the most perfect silence is,
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