I did my first i-FIT, NordicTrack run lately, a much-anticipated endeavor thanks to my wife’s insistence that I try this new piece of fitness Americana. She had been running on it herself, and kept telling me how fun the runs were, how there is a trainer on a screen around whom is an interesting and real landscape, usually of the trainee’s own choosing.

She did not undersell it. For, much like she’d said, after choosing a beginner’s 5k training run in Romania, I was off on a not-so-brisk jog (my days of speed are over), across the city of Hunedoara, on our way to the ultimate destination of Corvin Castle, a Gothic-Renaissance structure from the Middle Ages.

The injection of myth into the jog was irresistible. I completely overlooked how clever the producers were to include this and was overcome with only one thought: We’re on our way to a Castle. It first evoked images (sorry to admit) of Mario in Super Mario Brothers on his way to rescue Princess Peach, though this middle-brow notion quickly gave way to more literary tableaus of Don Quixote, Amadís of Gaul, and The Three Musketeers. It was such a clever device that I found myself completely engrossed in this postmodern quixotic journey, easily keeping pace with the computer settings, as well as climbing the hills and steps that were a part of the run.

But something happened once we got inside the castle. We toured a few rooms during our cooldown, making our way finally to what was for me, the icing on the cake, the thing that makes sense of all such journeys, which was a look into the chapel … and this is where I was let down.

There was virtually nothing. No medieval candles or rood screen, no ornate painting of Mother and Child, nor, most sadly, any tabernacle or altar. It was simply an empty room, stripped clean of anything meaningful.

According to the trainer, the government of Romania owned the castle now, so it wasn’t too much to assume that all the Christian meaning that would have been a part of the chapel since its inception bore just a bit, shall we say, too much meaning. In short, this postmodern odyssey was even more postmodern than I thought.

The image of the empty altar-place, stripped clean as though by birds on a roadkill, brought my mind back to something I saw online not long after the Hamas attack on Israel. It was a young Muslim man standing frantic and desperate in Times Square, claiming that now was the time that EVERYONE must convert to the religion of Islam.

“Is the West strong enough to withstand this?” I wondered.

To me, the answer is no, and evidence of this lies in the empty chapel of Castle Corvin in Romania. The very thing that instructed us on how to withstand not only temptation but also assault, the thing that incidentally told us who we were as a people and culture—which taught us how to resist but also who is doing the resisting—has been stripped away, leaving a postmodern emptiness that, as the High Priests of our Modern Culture tell us, should be filled with “our truth,” i.e., whatever we want it to be.

It’s a weak position in which to be. For what happens if someone wants the space to be filled with forced Islamic conversion? Who’s to say it’s wrong? What sacred text, what holy tradition, can we resort to, not only for wisdom but also strength, to stand up to such a thing?

Something tells me it won’t be found in the Humanist Manifesto nor the writings of Karl Marx.

The old maxim says that “nature abhors a vacuum.” Nature has come calling. It has indeed found a vacuum.   

Along with his father, Allen Keller runs a lumber business in Stevenson, Alabama. He has a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and an MBA from University of Virginia. He can be reached for comment at allen@kellerlumber.net.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News.

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