Month: April 2004

Quite odd, all this pornography in America, a country with a remarkably high percentage of people who identify themselves as Christians. Kinda reminds me of Walker Percy’s reference in The Moviegoer to the “cult of the naughty nice”: Where “everyone is nicer than Christians and naughtier than pagans.”… Read the rest

Michigan in March

Of all the Meadian gifts from Zeus, the sudden surprise of nature has always been my favorite. A wise man once said that those who set out to appreciate nature are the ones most likely to miss it. The converse is also true: Those who set out with no thought to nature are most likely to find it.

And that’s been my experience, albeit one that hits most often when I’ve been drinking.

And tonight, I was struck by the remnants of death: of winter and its lifelessness. No trees are budding and no flowers blooming. But there is a moon and streetlights. The brittle tree limbs sit still, as if afraid to move for fear they’ll break. All still.

That’s what captured my attention tonight. I slowed my walk to a slow stroll, head up looking at the tree shadows and moon and a few stars. All silent.

This lasted for about ten minutes.

Then a car came blasting down the street, stereo blasting, windows down (45 degrees is warm this time of year).

A “mechanical Jacobin.” That’s how another wise man described the car. And though I like cars, at times like these—moments shattered by that metallic beast—I tend to agree. … Read the rest

The pagan gods don’t drink mead with mortals for a reason, and it’s not snobbery. It comes from the desire to hang out with their peers—with those who know they are merely imperfect gods and can jokingly point out their flaws. … Read the rest

There is an amiable muse and a mordant muse. I’m not sure which should be indulged more. The amiable muse is more edifying; the mordant muse, more entertaining. … Read the rest

Thomas Merton described the Tao as “the simple good with which one is endowed by the very fact of existence. Instead of self-conscious cultivation of this good (which vanishes when we look at it and becomes intangible when we try to grasp it), we grow quietly in the humility of a simple, ordinary life.” The true “man of Tao” grows “without watching himself grow, and without any appetite for self-improvement.” The man of Tao takes in his surroundings, but without thinking about taking them in, more concerned about the “outer and other” than about himself.

Merton once recounted a famous Tao story by Chuang Tzu, called “The Woodcarver.”

At the request of a prince, a master carver named Khing made a bell stand that was so beautiful that the people ascribed it to the work of spirits. When the prince asked how he accomplished such a feat, Khing replied: “I am only a workman: I have no secret. There is only this: When I began to think about the work you commanded I guarded my spirit, did not expend it on trifles, that were not to the point. I fasted in order to set my heart at rest. After three days fasting, I had forgotten gain and success. After five days I had forgotten praise or criticism. After seven days I had forgotten my body with all its limbs. . . I was collected in the single thought of the bell stand. Then I went to the forest to see the trees in their own natural state. When the right tree appeared before my eyes, the bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt. … Read the rest

“Everyone has within himself something he does not know as long as he has not searched it out; but if he has searched it out—he shudders.” Boethius… Read the rest

It’s Just My Imagination

In the second volume of lectures published posthumously as Redeeming the Time, Russell Kirk celebrates the workings of the moral imagination (the power of ethical perception) and contrasts it with the idyllic imagination (the fanciful imagination of people like Rousseau) and the diabolic imagination (the imagination which delights in the perverse and subhuman).

The three types of imagination are vastly different, but different in the sense that any tool can be used for good, bad, or inane purposes. The hammer can be used to build a house, to juggle, or to kill somebody. The imaginative faculty that creates Superman and Gandalf also produces innovative forms of torture and pornography.

The imagination is critical to our everyday existence. The leisurely moments that give play to imagination bleed into every hour of the day, helping to shape them, influencing our decisions. In the words of Henry Osborn Taylor about medieval chivalry: “For final exemplification of the actual and the ideally real in chivalry, the reader may look within himself, and observe the inextricable mingling of the imaginative and the real. He will recognize that what at one time seems part of his imagination, at another will prove itself the veriest reality of his life.”

The imagination always exerts itself in real life, hopefully for the better through use of the moral imagination. But if a person indulges the diabolic imagination—repeatedly entertaining the darkest imaginations—those imaginations will eventually become real, often with a devastating flash which burns into another’s life and tears the fabric of society. The psychotic rapist or child molester is often no more than a man who has let his … Read the rest