Month: July 2013

GK

Background: When I was the editor of Gilbert Magazine, I was responsible for the “Tremendous Trifles” column. It was occasionally hard to find a sufficient amount of interesting GKC material to fill the page, so John Peterson sent me a file full of Chesterton ancedotes. They were idiosyncratic, historical, and Chestertonian. He gave me permission to use them here. I hope y’all find them as interesting as I have over the years. Most of them have never been published.

Chesterton Short(s)

Clarence Darrow’s biographer Kevin Tierney repeats the familiar story of the Darrow-Chesterton debate in 1930 before a packed house at the Mecca Temple in New York City. As the audience listened to Darrow explain his unquestioning faith in science (which, according to Tierney, was as naive as any literal fundamentalist’s faith in the Bible], a power failure cut off the microphones. While Darrow waited helplessly for repairs, Chesterton brought a roar from the crowd by shouting, “You see, science is not infallible!” [Darrow, New York: Crowell, 1979, p. 360]… Read the rest

It’s been a rough week for Anthony Weiner. His campaign manager in the race for mayor just quit because of Weiner’s newest scandal. And it’s tough finding a replacement because every time he emails someone, they’re like, “I’m not opening that.” Jimmy Fallon… Read the rest

Voegelin and Pressure

Voegelin with a Nock Kicker

History, said Voegelin, is “the perpetual task to regain the order under God from the pressure of mundane existence.”

That’s the science of history? Heck, it’s the science of everyday life. Just as Plato noted that society is man writ large, I guess history is everyday life writ large. It reminds me of Nock’s observation that each person has one responsibility and one responsibility only: to present society with one improved unit. I don’t know if Voegelin would agree (one of his heroes, Solon, impressed his one improved unit on all of Greek antiquity), but he would certainly agree that, at a minimum, each man has that responsibility.

Kinda related:

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Monday

I have a few contemporary things to discuss, so today’s Eudemon will revert to the traditional TDE style. * * * * * * * Received in the mail: The Tumbler of God: Chesterton as Mystic by Fr. Robert Wild. I’m looking forward to reading it. From the back cover: Franz Kafka said of Chesterton, ‘He is so happy one might almost think he had discovered God.’ I’ve read a ton about and by Chesterton, but I’d never seen that Kafka quote, but it’s a great one. * * * * * * * It surprises me that I’ve never seen that quote. I’ve read a ton about and by GKC. I’ve even occasionally been introduced to people as a “Chesterton expert.” But I’m not, and that’s not false humility. A true Chesterton expert has to know a lot more about Chesterton than I do, plus a whole lot about Chestertonian things: distributism, Belloc and Shaw and Wells, Fleet Street, philosophy in general, etc. I’ve been around Chesterton experts–in particular, Dale Ahlquist and John Peterson–and trust me, Senator, I’m no John F Kennedy Chesterton expert. * * * * * * * TDE readership has fallen lately, but not much. It’s averaging 550ish during the week. Prior to the new TDE, it averaged 625ish. That’s not a big drop and, if the rest of the world is like my world, everyone is on vacation in July. * * * * * * * Interesting: “A proposal backed by several Colorado counties to form a new state called North Colorado is getting public support.” Of course, the very next sentence said the “support” consists of 49 people showing up for a meeting, so it makes me wonder. Regardless, the whole idea of secession is interesting. The contemporary scene is … Read the rest

Friday

BYCU

If you haven’t spent a lot of time with Zmirak’s Bad Catholic series, you’re missing out. The material is flat-out brilliant. Content, prose, humor: it’s all there. I expect to draw a lot of BYCU material from Zmirak, including this nugget: Zmirak got drunk trying different bourbons at the Waterfront Ale House. After sampling many bourbons, he informs his reader that Basil Hayden bourbon is his favorite drink “in the world.” I have very little taste for bourbon, but on the authority of Zmirak, I will try it the next chance I get.

His book on drinking, incidentally, is blowing me away. He packs more Catholic lore onto one page than most people experience in a year. If you like Christian history and booze, the book is required to be on your bookshelf.

Happy birthday to my father. He would have been 80 today. … Read the rest

William James

I’ve always meant to read more William James or, failing more by James, more about James (“Do not read history. Read biography for it is life without theory.” Disraeli). Early on, I read his Varieties of Religious Experience with intense enjoyment. I was struck by James’ intellectual honesty, and I realized that, no matter how much I differ from someone, I can learn something from him if he’s forthright.

For years, I’ve wanted to read Pragmatism because I believe it might be the foremost work of American philosophy, setting forth the pragmatic school of thought that started with J.S. Mill and extended through (that stain) John Dewey, but with due respect for the role religion and philosophy play in a truly pragmatic approach to life (philosophy, properly pursued, is the most practical thing because it teaches the art of living).

Pragmatism starts off with a quote from Chesterton’s Heretics (which James calls an “admirable collection of essays”). That’s on page one, then page two sets forth this great observation:

There is, it must be confessed, a curious fascination in hearing deep things talked about, even though neither we nor the disputants understand them. We get the problematic thrill, we feel the presence of the vastness. . . Philosophy’s results concern us all most vitally, and philosophy’s queerest arguments tickle agreeably our sense of subtlety and ingenuity.

I call it a “great observation” because, though it’s obvious, most people don’t recognize it until a great thinker like James points it out.

I have, however, noticed a tendency in men (especially men in their forties) to dismiss “deep things,” almost as though the existence of something beyond their immediate understanding offends them. I believe it’s bravado that pretends mastery (“I’m the man!” “No one *!&%s with me!”) when mastery is the last … Read the rest

GKC

Background: When I was the editor of Gilbert Magazine, I was responsible for the “Tremendous Trifles” column. It was occasionally hard to find a sufficient amount of interesting GKC material to fill the page, so John Peterson sent me a file full of Chesterton ancedotes. They were idiosyncratic, historical, and Chestertonian. He gave me permission to use them here. I hope y’all find them as interesting as I have over the years. Most of them have never been published.


Chesterton Short(s)

In 1912 Robert Frost rented a five-room house in Beaconsfield, noting its location “within a mile or two of where Milton finished Paradise Lost and a mile or two of where Grey lies buried and within as many rods as furlongs of the house where Chesterton tries truth to see if it won’t prove as true upside down, as it does right side up.” [Lawrence Thompson, Robert Frost, New York, 1966, p. 394]… Read the rest

De Lubac and Dostoyevsky

If you’re intrigued by Dostoyevsky but can’t bring yourself to read any of his lengthy fiction, get a copy of Henri de Lubac’s The Drama of Atheist Humanism. It ranks in my top 10 books of all time. The reader will be rewarded with Nietzsche, Feuerbach (the link between Hegel and Marx), Comte, Kierkegaard, and, of course, Dostoyevsky (“Dostoyevsky as Prophet”):

Dostoyevsky made one profoundly important social truth clear: man cannot organise the world for himself without God; without God he can only organise the world against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism.

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