Ah, man. This is depressing: Orbis Books is issuing James Martin’s Essential Writings as a volume in its Modern Spiritual Masters series. That’s really disappointing. I’ve really liked what I’ve seen in this series. I wonder if the book will feature any passages from Martin threatening people with hell if they disagree with his politics (like he seems to do in the last paragraph of this piece).
TDE readers know I have long been interested in Buddhism. I’ve also long been a fan of Catholic Stuff You Should Know. The two came together in a CSYSK episode last week on Buddhism. Here’s the link. Fast forward to minute 15:00.
Welcome to the first annual Day without Immigrants. Sigh. Everything is a parade of idiocy. I guess it was time for my Mexican friends to join. Crazy, loony days we live in.
Kirk’s distrust of libertarianism seems to stem exclusively from its demonic individualist strain, that of Isabel Paterson and Ayn Rand. Those, ahem, challenging women’s personalities, aggressive prose, and egos drove him away . . . and rightly so. (I once dealt with an unpleasant German immigrant woman in Grand Rapids, who I described to my client as “Ayn Rand without the charm and grace.” He immediately understood what I was dealing with.)
I, too, find the ego-driving individualism of libertarianism distasteful. But the thing is, that’s not why I’m a libertarian. I’m a libertarian because I want to see people come together: trade together in commerce without Washington squelching it in the name of interstate commerce, work with others without fearing sanctions from the State if they decide not to work with that person later, form social groups without fear that the State will force them to admit people they don’t want later (and yes, I would even let bigots form whites-only groups . . . I wouldn’t join, but I’d prefer to let such organizations exist than for the State to restrict in any fashion how we associate with others for non-criminal purposes).
The State is what atomizes society, not liberty. If the State tries to meet all of society’s needs, we don’t need society any more. It’s that simple. If the State provides a huge safety net, the white trash can cast a huge middle finger at society, knowing they don’t need anyone or anything . . . they’re entitled to federal government benefits. If the State provides for the poor, we don’t need people to come together in charitable organizations like the Salvation Army to alleviate their condition. The more the State does, the less people need each other . . . and society weakens, until it absolutely crumbles, like it did in Soviet Russia.
So, though I hate to say it, Kirk was wrong. Simply 180 degrees wrong. He was right to distance himself from the ego (and, let’s be honest, hateful) libertarianism of Ayn Rand, but any power given to the State, even if for “conservative principles,” ultimately weakens society and increases individualism. In the name of creating a society that is open to the other, we need to shrink the State that kills it.
I realized after posting that link to my Russell Kirk piece that it was published 14 years ago. Man, I’m getting old. And given that I worked on it for a few years (off and on), my thoughts in the piece reflect a man nearly twenty years younger than me.
I still remember buying my edition of The Conservative Mind at a used book shop in Niles, Michigan, a town about five miles from Notre Dame (where I was attending law school). It was a great used book shop. It was out in the country, hard to find. I went there so often, I could sense my way there. Years later (like ten), I tried to find it once but couldn’t. I’m sure the owner is dead by now, and I can’t imagine how I found it in the first place (Yellowpages, if I had to guess).
It was my third year in law school. Law school is ridiculously brutal your first year, and very hard your second year. But the third year? It’s like a year of undergrad: oceans of free time. I used my time to read and read and read. I still remember reading The Conservative Mind and getting totally engrossed in it. At one point, I was reading it in the ND law library and two friends walked up to me, asking me what I was reading. I excitedly told them about it. They laughed at me in puzzlement and walked away.
It wasn’t mean laughter, incidentally. We were always busting one another’s chops about something. For Lent my third year (I was becoming Catholic), I gave up greeting them with “Hey faggots” when I joined them in the lounge. That same year, I lectured one of them briefly about bathroom etiquette, turned off the bathroom lights on him while he was in the stall, then immediately sprinted three stories back up to my cubicle and saw him sitting there. When I saw him, I laughed so hard I couldn’t speak coherently enough to explain what I had just done. To this day, I don’t know who it was in that stall.
Happy Valentine’s Day to Marie. After reading that last blurb, I’m sure she’s wondering why she married me.
It’s also a great feast day: Saints Cyril and Methodius. It makes me want to crack open that modern classic, The Spirituality of the Christian East, by Tomas Splidik.
I dislike “Monday the 13th” more than “Friday the 13th.”
Article for my kids: Why You Should Stay in Your Hometown. The answer is, “permanence.” It’s worth reading. Excerpt: “The benefits of permanence, therefore, are considerable: family, tradition, conservation, and diversity of local culture. Yet Americans are quick to abandon permanence. Sometimes, admittedly, we have no choice. Sometimes mobility is necessary. But how often is moving away from our hometown simply a result of confused priorities? Many Americans move for the sake of more pleasant weather. Many others move for the sake of a more urban lifestyle. In these cases, moving is not the result of necessity. It is the result of subordinating permanence to lesser goods.”
It’s a deeply conservative piece . . . in the best senses of the word. Which reminds me: I’ve been looking for a first edition of Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. It appears to be hard to find. In fact, from what I can tell, my third edition might be a treasure. All of the versions on Amazon appear to be seventh edition or later. If anyone sees a cheap first edition out there, please let me know.
And why am I looking for the first edition? Simply because Kirk devoted more time to Nock and other libertarians in that edition. He later distanced himself from libertarians: Most of those claiming libertarianism or individualism, Kirk contended, sought after and followed only second-rate thinkers in history. Instead, real conservatives should “substitute Moses or St. Paul for Lao-tse, Aristotle or Cicero for Zeno, Dante for Milton, Falkland for Locke, Samuel Johnson for Adam Smith, Burke for Paine, Orestes Brownson for Ralph Waldo Emerson, Hawthorne for Thoreau, Disraeli for Mill, and Ruskin or Newman for Spencer.” Bradley Birzer, Russell Kirk: American Conservative.
I find Kirk’s position rather unsettling (and I think I’ll address it later this week), but it seems common: the radical anarchist/libertarian turns conservative as he ages and gains wisdom. Unfortunately, I (and others) have done the exact opposite: started out conservative and veered libertarian as we have aged (and, hopefully, gained wisdom). I think it’s simply a sign of the times. If Kirk had seen the DC behemoth that went on steroids after 9/11, I suspect he’d revisit Nock and Co. more often.
BTW: Bradley Birzer’s Kirk biography is great. I’m only about 20% of the way through it, but so far, it’s excellent. Lots of details that I never knew, and I spent a fair amount of time looking at his life in connection with this piece (and even spent a weekend at Piety Hill in Mecosta). The book is highly recommended if you’re interested in this most interesting of men.
The answer to last Saturday’s quiz: The picture is a Tucker, and the author of the article I linked to is named “Tucker.” No one got it right, thereby saving me fifty cents in candle charges.
“The rash of recent reports about purported ICE checkpoints and random sweeps are false, dangerous and irresponsible,” ICE said in a statement Friday. “These reports create panic and put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger.”
We are facing the Trident of Fraud: The mainstream media (claiming a surge in enforcement), the State (saying there has been no such thing, except perhaps increased efforts to deport actual criminals), and individual reports of arrests on social media (which is about as reliable as a 1974 Ford Pinto in a Winnipeg winter).
We simply can’t trust any of them.
So which of those prongs of fraud do I rely on?
I simply don’t know, but in light of the mainstream media’s flat-out fraud over the past decade or so, I trust nothing with a political angle from those sources, especially when every surge story I’ve read “top loads” the surge information at the top and puts countervailing information toward the bottom, realizing the average person won’t read the entire article.
I also don’t trust social media, for obvious reasons. Although I think Wikipedia is far more reliable than people realize, the random Tweet and Facebook post isn’t a collaborative effort like Wikipedia. They have no checks and balances. People can say anything.
So that leaves us with the government, which, as readers know, I don’t trust at all, but for now, am believing. I don’t believe there is any sort of push against peaceful immigrants. Call me the naive German circa 1933, but Trump has been true to his campaign so far, and he clearly stated that he would not be attempting to deport 11 million Mexicans so until I see something more reliable than The New York Times, I don’t believe it.
Great piece by Jeffrey Tucker: What Happens When Trump Takes Over the Vatican? But the title is misleading. It’s really an article about HBO’s new series, The Young Pope, a series that I assumed would be highly disrespectful but apparently isn’t:
It is funny in places, deeply touching in others, sometimes terrifying, often thoughtful, and, despite first appearances, it is deeply respectful of faith (this is not some send up of Catholicism). It takes a while to emerge, but the series does, in fact, have a pious heart.
I doubt I’ll watch it, but if I subscribed to HBO, I’d be tempted:
The scene that had me roaring with laughter was the Pope’s first address to the Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. He becomes the first Pope to wear the full Papal Tiara in the 50 years following Paul VI’s giving it up as a symbolic homage to the poor. Having snatched back the Tiara, the new Pope arrives carried in the Papal chair and wearing the most elaborate liturgical gear I’ve ever seen (or imagined). It is so preposterous that every Cardinal in the room is left with gaping mouths.
(Aside: I’ll light a candle for first person who can draw the connection between this post’s picture and the post.)
I’d had another brutal week at the office, which I concluded with a trip to a Kalamazoo doctor. I then drove back south to meet Jack (my college son) at a pub in the town where my high school was playing basketball later that evening. I got there at 5:20. Jack was delayed until 6:00.
My first drink arrived, and with it, something of a sacramental moment.
Nice pub, TVs (with no volume) to stare at, no acquaintances to break up (or threaten to break up) my isolation. My gin and tonic. Just me and unwinding.
I just kinda took some deep breaths, looked about me, smiled at strangers, nodded at anything. It was serenity on steroids. Or, relaxing with gin and tonics. I ended up drinking three before Jack got there.
I’ve had moments like that before. Often at bars like this one, but sometimes on my front porch (with a drink in hand).
Once in awhile, similar intense floods of peace hit me at the beginning of Mass, especially if I’ve worked all day on Saturday, leaving the office in time to catch the Saturday evening Mass.
But for the most part, these experiences are confined to the first minutes of drinking by myself.
Sure, the feeling wears of quickly. Last Friday, I felt that serene peace for about thirty minutes, before I started to wonder what was taking Jack so long. It didn’t go away entirely and, in fact, I still felt it as I left the pub, but definitely in a diluted form.
So what causes these moments? I really have no idea. The juxtaposition of a frenzied life against sudden serenity, yes. The drink: normally. The isolation: often. It all just seems to come together once in awhile, giving one a deep sense of everything good: peace, gratitude, receptivity.
If I could bottle something to give that feeling every time, I’d make a killing.
The great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote scathingly of “cheap grace,” which is the warm fuzzy feeling we give ourselves, and the praise we win from others, by making little virtue-signals that cost us almost nothing — and might well impose suffering on innocent third parties. Jesus Himself denounced it when He saw it among the Pharisees, but Christians are not immune.
He then goes on to apply it to the likes of Fr. James Martin who tout open borders, regardless of the effect it would have on other people.
“Cheap grace.” Great phrase. I’ve long recognized the desire for cheap grace among people who like to accuse other people of racism, a tendency I see far more pronounced in people racked with vice, almost like they need to find some sort of grace, any grace, pseudo-grace, to make themselves feel better.
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