Posted by: Harold Knight | 12/03/2010

“We Praise Thee, O God”—Facebook Investor Peter Theil’s Floating Concrete Platforms

Whatever I write, however I try to work out my destiny—or as John Wesley, founder of Methodism, was so fond of preaching, following St. Paul’s admonition—“Work out my salvation” (1), I will never be free from the (specifically Christian) filter through which I see and experience the world whether or not I believe (any or all of) it.

All I (or you) can do is talk about life as I (you) see it through a pair of glasses that I (you) cannot remove or I (you) will be blind. You know, like Mr. Magoo. Unable to see, but refusing to admit it. I admit it. I need these glasses. But they are a prosthesis, not the real me.

Max Reger (1873-1916) was an enormously gifted and prolific composer, working during the transitional period between Brahms and Schoenberg, writing music somewhat in the harmonic and dramatic style of his contemporary, Richard Strauss. Born a Roman Catholic. Successful as composer, organist, conductor, teacher (neither Mr. Magoo nor I follow there very well).

In 1902 Reger married Elsa von Bercken, a divorced Protestant, and the Roman Catholics immediately ex-communicated him. Reger was apparently an alcoholic—a mess of a man, always in debt, always unhealthy, always at odds with and being taken advantage of by his publishers—who died of a heart attack at age 43.

Conjecturing what his musical output might have been had he lived longer is futile, but it would have been astounding. The oeuvre of his short life is prodigious enough (2).

You might be asking how Mr. Magoo and I relate to Max Reger. Well, Magoo and I don’t, precisely. I dunno about Mr. Magoo. I’m not aware that he is a musician. However, Max Reger’s works are part of the filter through which I (and maybe Magoo) view the world.

I have a copy of Reger’s “Thirty small chorale Preludes on the Most Familiar Tunes,” op. 135a (1914). I have had this score since I was in high school. Well-known tunes: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” Tunes all good Lutherans (and most Protestants) know. My high school organ teacher, Roger Wischmeier, assigned me to learn them because they are useful to a church organist. Any music I learned before my cerebral cortex matured is probably part of the filter through which I view the world.

Two points about Opus 135a: It is a very mature work in Reger’s oeuvre, and the hymns are all Protestant hymns—in those days some of them forbidden in the Roman Catholic Church (“A Mighty Fortress,” for example). So the Catholics booted him out, and he took up with the enemy.

Here’s my selfish connection to all of this. A few weeks ago I took Reger’s “Twelve Pieces” for organ, Op. 59 (1901) out of that file cabinet because I know and love one of the twelve, “Melodia”
(YouTube: ). It’s an elegiac melody spun out over a lush accompaniment. I noticed that the last of the twelve pieces, Te Deum, has marks in it indicating I’d played it. I stumbled through it and did not remember ever having heard it. I still don’t remember playing it in the past, but about four times through, and it began to fall under my fingers and toes from some recess of my memory that I cannot access consciously.

The Te Deum
(YouTube: is a short fantasy based on the intonation of the Te Deum (“We Praise Thee, O God, We Acknowledge Thee to Be the Lord”) assigned in the Liber Usualis of the Roman Catholic rite for the end of Matins. It’s the 5th-century “Simple Tone” (3).

There, that’s about as much musicology as anyone but a musicologist can stomach.

The point is, Reger composed the pieces of Opus 59 before he crossed the church, married a Protestant, and got booted out. His filter changed, and he started writing Protestant music instead of Catholic. (In case anyone is interested, I’m planning to play that mysterious Te Deum on a recital in March.)

So I see the world through a filter provided partly by Max Reger who saw the world through a filter provided partly by first the Roman Catholic Church, and then the Protestant (probably Lutheran) Church.

In 2009 Peter Thiel, whose personal fortune derives from founding PayPal and being one of the earliest investors in Facebook ($500,000 investment)—geeks and worshipers at the feet of Facebook know him as the despicable conniver in The Social Network, said,

I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible. (4)

Thiel also believes that women’s suffrage is the source of much of the destruction of the totally free market in the United States that would allow him to make all of the money he wants without paying taxes (certainly without helping to provide welfare to anyone).  In 2009 he wrote,

Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron. (5)

Since the Cato Institute is not known for its satire (shall we say “humorless?”) we can assume that Peter Theil—the spoiler in The Social Network whom the audience in the theater where I saw the film actually cheered at one point—means what he says. Women are the root of all anti-capitalist evil.

Peter Thiel has become so wealthy and influential that he is now one of the attendees of the annual Bliderberg Conference. You may make of that what you will. I, as you know if you have read my blogs about, for example, Nostradamus, am not a conspiracy theorist. I’m one of the three liberals in the United States who believes that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK and the Bush Administration did not perpetrate the horrors of September 11, 2001. So I’m not willing to say that anyone’s interpretation of Bliderberg is evidence that it is a conspiracy by the rich and powerful to rule the world. You may draw your own conclusion. See links below (6).

Peter Thiel’s solution to his problem of being unable to make more billions of dollars is to run away from the United States and take his rich friends with him. He’s planning to build huge concrete platforms in the ocean—”seasteading” they call it—where he and his buddies can manipulate world markets to their advantage without interference from us and our women-infested governments (7). (Gee, what must he think of gays? Oh, I forgot. Rumor has it he is. Can you say misogynist?)

Peter Thiel has a “filter through which he sees and experiences the world.” It seems to me (ego maniac that I am) that my filter is much more benign (although I have to divorce myself from 2,000 years of violent and repressive church history to make that statement) than his.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ –Luke 16:22-14

Am I judging where I should not judge? I dunno. Probably.
(1) Wesley, John. “On Working Out Our Own Salvation.” Sermon 85. The Sermons of John Wesley. General Board of Global Ministries, the United Methodist Church. 2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.
(2) “Max Reger Works.” Max Reger Institute. 2006. Web. 1 Dec. 2010.
(3) The Liber Usualis with Introduction and Rubrics in English. Ed. by The Benedictines of Solesmes. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic Education Press:  1934 (1834). YouTube:
(4) Weisberg, Jacob. “High-Tech Hogwash: What’s Wrong with Silicon Valley Libertarianism?” Newsweek. October 18, 2010. Web. 1 Dec. 2010.
(5) Thiel, Peter. “The Education of a Libertarian.” Cato Unbound. Cato Institute. April 13th, 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2010.
(6) ; ;
(7) Madrigal, Alexis. “Peter Thiel Makes Down Payment on Libertarian Ocean Colonies.” Wired.  05.19.08. Web. 1 Dec. 2010.


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