Month: October 2020

Ten Catholic Drinking Costumes Guaranteed to Impress

Halloween lands on the weekend! Far out. If you have costume parties to attend, and you want to embrace your Catholicism, and you want to embrace the (drinking) weekend, I have ten great ideas.

The Liberated Nun, circa 1518

This one might be hard to set up with your crowd, so you may want to limit it to a small setting. The point is, to look like a drunken tart, without the moral sensibilities that continued to persist in Protestantism after the Reformation. Of course, you could go for the Munster Anabaptist look, which would pretty much blow wide open your options.

The Liberated Nun, circa 1970

This one is great fun. And simple. You just need a pantsuit, a dainty glass of wine, and an annoying air of complacency.

The Drunken Monk

Go for this look.

You’ll have to give yourself a tonsure, which kinda sucks if you’re trying to pick up chicks. Then again, you can forego the tonsure and point out that you’re not a medieval monk and that the tonsure was banned by Paul VI in 1972.

The Chesterton

Okay, you might need a fat suit for this one. If you don’t, well, good luck with your doctor at your annual physical.

To pull this one off otherwise, put on a cape, carry a swordstick, tousle your hair, grow a mustache, laugh uproariously, and drink enormous amounts of wine or beer.

And oh yeah, no matter how drunk you are, continue to be brilliant.

The Belloc

Hold a large glass of wine and a scowl. Be nice to the Catholics. Be a dick to everyone else. Talk about how Whig … Read the rest

Russell Kirk: The Anti-Modernist Cerberus

The author of The Conservative Mind opposed modernity in at least three ways

view of dark hallway
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Russell Kirk hated modernity.

He rebelled against it his entire life. He hated the automobile, calling it a “modern Jacobin.” He wouldn’t allow a TV in his house (though he let a hobo named “Clinton” have one in his room), and once, when he found out his daughter was watching TV, hurled the set from a third-floor window. Bradley Birzer, Russell Kirk: American Conservative, 521.

He didn’t even like the radio, sharing his friend, Max Picard’s, intense dislike for “radio noise.”

But what exactly is “modernity”?

Thinkers quibble over its meaning, but I think most would agree that it was given form by the Enlightenment, reveres science, and is marked by a vague sense that the human race will have continual success in its worldly activities . . . through the exercise of reason.

Many people refer to modernity as “The Age of Reason.”

Others point out that it’s marked by “Rationalism.”

Kirk would’ve agreed.

He countered that “rationalism” is merely “defecated rationality.” Kirk, Beyond the Dreams of Avarice, “Liberal Learning, Moral Worth, and Defecated Rationality,” 153.

But his dislike of modernity and its exclusive use (worship) of reason didn’t stop with funny slurs and personal idiosyncrasies. He opposed it in at least three ways:

First, he wrote The Conservative Mind and gave the whole conservative philosophical tradition a name. Prior to Kirk, no one quite knew what to call that gaggle of writers, thinkers, and politicians who battled against the rational mindset of modernity. By giving it a name and a pedigree, … Read the rest

Misshapen Creatures that Live in the Earth Can Give Us Sage Advice?

Well, no. But: Don’t Fear the Gnome

man people art tree
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The first philosophical event in the Greek world, the selection of their seven sages, gives the first distinctive and unforgettable characteristic of Greek civilization. Other people have saints, while the Greeks have philosophers. They are right when some state that a people is not defined by its great men it has but by the way it recognizes and honors them.

Friedrich Nietzsche

When you hear “gnome,” you probably think of a scary little creature.

That’s because of the Rosicrucians, a 17th-century mystical movement in Europe that said gnomes are little misshapen creatures that live in the bowels of the earth.

But well before the Rosicrucians, the word “gnome” meant something different. It meant a short statement that expresses a general truth, like a proverb or maxim.

There were seven men in ancient Greece who were well-known for the particularly-insightful gnomes attributed to them. These men were called “The Gnomics.” Today, we refer to them as the “Seven Sages of Ancient Greece.” They were philosophers, poets, rulers, statesmen and lawmakers who were renowned for their wisdom.

Actually, there were a lot more than seven.

One ancient writer (Hermippus) said there were 17 of them. That’s probably because ancient Greece was an amalgamation of city-states and different city-states had different lists.

But all the Greeks agreed that wisdom is a great thing. The ancient Greeks’ veneration of the Gnomics was, in the words of Nietzsche quoted above, the “first philosophical event in the Greek world.”

In any event, although there were various lists of Gnomics, the following seven were most often agreed upon: Thales, … Read the rest

The Downfall of Cecil Rhodes (11/26/2020)

Stefan Kanfer, in his book on the De Beers diamond cartel, gives Chesterton the last word on Cecil Rhodes, who instead of promoting Western values “illustrated almost every quality essential to the Sultan, from the love of diamonds to the scorn of women.”

The irony was, as Kanfer points out, that Rhodes’ “scorn of women” caused his ruin. While he hid from Poland’s aggressively flirtatious Princess Catherine Maria Radziwill, the lady searched his study and carried away the secret telegrams that would eventually lead to enormous problems. [The Last Empire: De Beers, Diamonds, and the World, New York: Farrar Straus, 1993. pp. 47-48.]

Read the rest

McConaughey on His Way to Rome?

Recommended: Joe Rogan’s engaging interview with Matthew McConaughey

Delightful interview from Austin, Texas, with Matthew McConaughey at the Joe Rogan Show. I listened to it yesterday while using my new nifty leaf mulcher to create some great winter beds for my garden (the mulcher is great, but (i) it eats the whipping string pretty fast, and (ii) it goes a lot slower if the leaves are wet).

McConaughey has always struck me as a genuinely decent guy, and this interview confirmed it. He has no problem confirming his Christian faith and I’m pretty sure he’s right-of-center politically. How right? I don’t know.

But what really grabbed me: his prayer life. He says he spends time getting in touch with himself every morning, then he “bookends” it in the evening by doing a review of his day. He does the review, he says, right before he does his prayers.

Wow. The guy is doing the Examen. He didn’t call it that, but that’s clearly what he’s doing.

I love seeing Catholic practices erupt into pop culture like that. I call it “Accidental Catholicism.”

I swear, Ryan Holiday is creating an entire cottage industry out of re-packaging Catholic spiritual practices under the name of “Stoicism” (check out these Stoic medallions that he’s selling . . . the guy is really clever).

Here’s the thing: If we Catholics have the truth, or the nearest we can come to the truth on this earth, then we are all sitting on a goldmine of marketing possibilities. We all ought to be developing Stoic medallions and making money from them. Doing well while doing good . . . and … Read the rest

How Many Beers Does It Take to Find the Tao?

C.S. Lewis would’ve said “zero.” It’s the Tao that helps you find the beer.

It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar.

That’s C.S. Lewis writing about the Tao in his famous book, The Abolition of Man. Since the book’s publication in 1947, Lewis’s name has been associated with the Tao because of his love and respect for the natural law it embodies.

But I associate Lewis with the Tao for a different reason: his beer drinking.

You see, Lewis spent many Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and Child public house drinking beer with J.R.R. Tolkien and other friends.

It’s vintage Lewis. Although he was at times melancholy, Lewis could find enjoyment almost anywhere doing almost anything: attending church, taking long country walks, living at his humble Kilns, tutoring students, writing theology or children’s fiction, teaching.

The difference between enjoying and enjoying the enjoying

Lewis’s capacity for enjoyment stemmed at least partly from the early influence of a little-known Australian philosopher named Samuel Alexander.

Alexander pointed out the distinction between enjoying something and being aware of the enjoying. Here’s how Lewis put it:

“Enjoyment and the contemplation of our inner activities are incompatible. You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment. Of course, the two activities can and do alternate with great rapidity, but they are distinct and incompatible.

Read the rest

The Great London Gin Craze

William Hogarth, “Gin Lane” (1751)

Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum.

G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

For years, I foolishly assumed GKC disapproved of hard liquor, or at least gin.

I don’t think that’s the case. Rum, for instance, plays a central in his entertaining frolic, The Flying Inn.

But he counseled moderation in drinking, as evidenced by these famous words from Orthodoxy: “We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them” (even though it’s not always clear to me whether he followed his own advice in this regard).

Gin in Moderation?

Gin had a history of immoderation in England, staring with a gin craze that took hold of the country in 1720 (it was first made available with the Glorious Revolution in 1688).

The narrative of the gin craze is incredible.

By the mid-1730s, there were 8,659 gin shops in London, where 5.5 million gallons were purchased in 1735. The sheer number of distilleries cast a nasty fog over the city.

It was cheap, so it was the drink of choice for beggars and vagrants, but also of women. It was known as “the ladies’ delight.”

Children drank it too. Mothers gave it their babies to keep them quiet. Older children drink in gin shops until they couldn’t move. Drunk and destitute girls (as young as 12) sold themselves as prostitutes.

Men and women died in the gutters from drinking too much.

When Parliament passed laws to discourage its consumption (raising taxes on it and requiring a costly license to sell it), speakeasy-practices became … Read the rest