Month: May 2004

Power mowers, power blowers, power edgers. Chain saws and weed whippers. Pervasive, pushing, penetrating noise.

“Silence is not just the absence of noise any more than peace is the absence of war. It is rather a positive and difficult accomplishment, a state of justice in the soul in which according to the classical formulation stretching back to Plato, each part receives its due in the performance of its proper function—the passions to give affective force in accomplishing the dictates of the will, the will to execute the commands of reason and reason to receive the truth; truth from without in abstracting essences from sense-particulars, truth from within in recognizing principles, and truth from above in obedience to grace. All that in the single word, ausculta—’hear.'” John Senior, The Restoration of Christian CultureRead the rest

“Many of us feel remorse for our sins, yet we gladly accept their causes.”

“Blessed is the monk who looks with great joy on everyone’s salvation and progress as if they were his own.”

Mark the Ascetic

“There is scarcely any other virtue that the demons fear as much as gentleness.”

Evagrius… Read the rest


Miscellaneous snippets about one of the greatest literary post men of the twentieth century

In those early years of the twentieth century, a quick-moving age that was experiencing the fruits of industrialization and new trends, he pushed for tradition. He argued for the need to preserve the family and to honor women’s domestic role. He bashed big business and big government, condemning unbridled capitalism, socialism and overweening bureaucracy in its private and public forms. He pushed for an economic system (called “distributism”) that holds that ownership should be distributed as widely as possible. He praised the little and ordinary in an age that was becoming increasingly enamored with the big and extravagant.

Chesterton’s meandering style and anti-Zeitgeist ideas notwithstanding, he appeals strongly today to people who have become disenchanted with aspects of our culture. The materialism, the broken families, the vast immorality. Chesterton saw it all coming. He was one of the first to observe that the psychoanalyst’s couch is merely a secularized version of the confessional. He saw that big government meant trouble for the average man years before the average man experienced it. He said society would worry excessively about health, become overly-concerned with sports, and turn to increasingly loud and depraved forms of entertainment.

Reading Chesterton is like taking a leap of faith. By diving in, thinking you’re hitting water and will start swimming. Then you find that you’re in a substance more like quick sand: difficult to swim in and downright weird to swim in and sometimes thinking you might want to quit and let yourself sink.

Paradox sits at the beginning of Chesterton, which is fitting because it sits at … Read the rest

“A great division among the American people has begun–gradually, slowly–to take shape: not between Republicans and Democrats, and not between ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals,’ but between people who are still unthinking believers in technology and in economic determinism and people who are not.” John Lukacs, At the End of an Age (2002)

Later in the same book: “It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.” Wendell Berry (1999). … Read the rest

Dogma Man

A few years ago, I was talking with an acquaintance about George Roche’s resignation as president of Hillsdale College in light of allegations that he’d been engaged in an affair with his daughter-in-law. My acquaintance was outraged by the idea that Hillsdale College may have dismissed him if he hadn’t resigned. It was none of the College’s business, he assured me, since the sexual activity took place between two consenting adults.

A while back, my office’s e-mail box received a video clip of a couple having sex (as discreetly as possible) in the bleachers of a baseball stadium during a game. The message that came with it said the couple was arrested for it. My acquaintance was outraged. He ferociously explained that they weren’t hurting anybody and if anyone didn’t like it, they didn’t have to watch.

Where do you begin? With the Hillsdale situation, we’re talking incest; one of the most ancient taboos. Caligula-like stuff. With the bleacher sex, we’re talking public copulation, where children can see—blatant immorality, vice, potentially causing an unsuspecting fan to sit on your semen.

But my acquaintance, a man in his early forties, was latched onto his stance like a pit-bull on a six-year-old’s bleeding arm.

A few years ago I told a friend that the local school might condemn (claim by eminent domain) land for a new school building because the land owner was demanding an unreasonable price. I added, “I’m not really sure that’s the right thing to do, though.”

My friend (another guy in his early forties) responded with the acidity of a woman who’s just learned that her husband gave her herpes, … Read the rest

Good Christians are many, if it weren’t for all those maddening people: the whiners, the manipulators, the crooks, the liars, the heretics, the greedy. But Christ put up with all of them and remained sinless. The Bible recounts disciple buffoonery and selfishness, yet Christ communed with them, loved them, confided in them—chose them. Maybe the disciples were incredibly annoying individuals that no one else wanted to hang out with, yet Christ chose them to show a person can hang out with the most troubling personalities without lapsing into impatience, despair, arrogance, or other sinful state of mind. … Read the rest

Essayist Joseph Epstein once described reading as a “lovely, antisocial, splendidly selfish habit.” Selfish? I suppose so, but could one be so unselfish as to deny himself the pleasures of the mind and strengthening of the soul that come from reading? I’m reminded of Josef Pieper’s concluding words of Divine Madness: “To be so ‘unselfish’ as to be ready to renounce the ultimate fulfillment, eternal bliss, is entirely impossible for us. Our will, as Thomas Aquinas has formulated many times, is unable not to desire such bliss.” I realize reading and eternal happiness aren’t exactly the same thing, but in reading we do get glimpses of that happiness. … Read the rest

“As soon as a man satisfies his desire by obtaining what he wants, he starts to desire something else and finds himself empty again; and if he satisfies his desire with this, he becomes empty once again and ready for still another. And this never stops until we depart from this material world.” Gregory of Nyssa … Read the rest