Tag: Chesterton

Sobriety is a Sin?

The Friday “Drinking Matters” Column (BYCU)

wine glass with red wine
Photo by Posawee Suwannaphati on Pexels.com

Sunday marks the Feast Day of Thomas Aquinas. Well, not really. It was his Feast Day until 1969, when “they” moved it to January 28th (apparently, so it wouldn’t fall during Lent).

In his Summa Theologica, he wrote that “if a man were knowingly to abstain from wine to the extent of molesting nature grievously, he would not be free from sin.”

Many years ago, when I was the editor of Gilbert Magazine, this passage prompted an email-chain discussion about whether Aquinas thought teetotalling is a sin. At least one of the participants said that wasn’t Aquinas’ position. Aquinas’ position is that every extreme that gives rise to sin must have a countervailing sin on the other extreme. So, for instance, cowardice is a sin, but so is reckless disregard for one’s safety. In this case, Aquinas pointed out that drunkenness is a sin, so there must be a sin on the other extreme, and that’s all he was saying. He wasn’t articulating what, exactly, that sin consists of, other than, if you abstain to the extent of molesting your nature, you’re in sin.

That makes sense to me.

Though it should be noted that tetotalling is a sin. Abstaining is not a sin, but teetotalling is. The difference is, tetotalling is refusal to drink alcohol on grounds that it’s evil. It’s a type of ancient Gnosticism (which thought creation evil). Abstinence, on the other hand, is a refusal to drink alcohol in pursuit of something better. The person who abstains doesn’t believe alcohol is evil, anymore than a person who declines to reads newspapers because he’d rather read more substantive fare thinks that newspapers are evil.… Read the rest

Stop Being So Serious: Ten Hints

Shortly before he was martyred with others in 203, St. Saturus related a vision he had of heaven. He said he and the other martyrs were carried eastward to a garden, where a handful of angels started exclaiming, “Here they are! Here they are!” The martyrs were taken to a group of elders and an aged man with a youthful face. The martyrs kissed the aged man, and he touched their faces with his hand. Then the elders told them, “Go and play.”

Fr. James Schall understood why the martyrs were told to go and play.

On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs explores the unseriousness of serious human affairs and the seriousness of unserious human affairs. Yes, it is a paradoxical book, but that’s only to be expected from Schall — a devoted reader of G.K. Chesterton.


Schall’s book is a series of loosely-connected essays that revolve around a very basic question: How ought we to live our lives? He never tries to offer an answer to such a question, but he provides guidance in an array of areas, as evidenced by the book’s subtitle: “Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing.” To these, I would add Writing and Receiving Letters, Watching Sporting Events, and Spending Time With Friends.… Read the rest

Are You Trapped in the World of Total Work?

Josef Pieper (with a G.K. Chesterton kicker) teaches us the importance of leisure

It’s commonplace knowledge that many of our best ideas hit us in the middle of the night or in our first waking moments. While we are completely at rest, not obsessed with ourselves or our work, ideas come to us like a gift.

The twentieth-century Thomistic philosopher Josef Pieper explains this phenomenon in his work, Leisure, The Basis of Culture.

Like most of Pieper’s books, Leisure is short but thick (don’t be deceived and think you’ll finish it in two sittings). True to Pieper’s approach, Leisure tends to be filled with sweeping statements that compress ten pages of truth into one sentence. This makes his books short, but also makes it necessary to read them slowly and deliberately, with many pauses and breaks.

Two parts

Leisure consists of two essays: “Leisure, the Basis of Culture,” and “The Philosophical Act.”

The first essay pushes the main thrust of his argument: Leisure, properly understood, is stillness — absence of pre-occupation and an ability to let things go. Leisure is also the end of all effort: We should work to leave time for leisure, not engage in leisure to refresh us for work.

As we cultivate leisure, we increasingly hear the rustling of reality (“only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still, cannot hear”). This ability to hear produces a sense of wonder, and this then leads us to engage in the act of philosophy, which is the thrust of the second essay.

As he proceeds with his analysis, he makes startling observations about leisure, the type of observations that tend to affect your thinking for the rest of your life.

For instance, in response to the notion that all knowledge results exclusively from work, … Read the rest

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Your Community

There’s a localism movement afoot. People seem to sense, and perhaps even understand at some level, that it’s important to be a part of a thriving local community.

The Saturday after Black Friday is now recognized as “Small Business Saturday,” an effort to remind people that it’s important to support their local stores. There has been a corresponding harsh backlash against Amazon and its disturbing gains on the back of COVID.

The phrase “Bowling Alone” from Robert Putnam’s 2000 book about America’s alarming reduction in “social capital” has gained currency. I see it used with no explanation, since the writer just assumes everyone knows what it refers to.

More people seem to understand the importance of buying and eating locally-grown food.

The American Chesterton Society, that flagship organization for the oft-forgotten but persistent economic school of Distributism, recently declared that “Distributism” ought now to be called “Localism.”

The examples could go on and on.

If you’re interested in the localism movement, here are five things about the importance of your community that you should keep in mind.

1.            Communities are organic

“[Man] combines with other men because isolation endangers him.” Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage.

The earliest communities came together for safety. The world has bad people who will beat and rob you, unless you have protection. If you belong to a group, you have a layer of protection, hence the rise of the earliest communities.

They are, in other words, organic. No one told the first peoples, “Go live in that village together, so the marauders can’t get you.” People did it naturally. The communities formed organically, from the bottom up, with no direction required or sought from the top.

When you get involved in your community, you are living organically.

2.            Communities solve problems

“ . … Read the rest

Chesterton: Journalist?

I have troubles referring to GKC as a journalist. When I hear “journalist,” I think “Kolchak.” I’m not the only person who has grappled with the idea that Chesterton was a journalist. Paul Johnson wrote in the Winter 2002 Chesterton Review:

[M]ost of his time was spent in journalism. In one sense, this is curious. Journalists deal with facts, or at least factual lies or half-truths. GKC avoided facts. There are fewer facts in his books, including his history of England, than anyone else’s. Yet his journalism survives just as fairy stories survive, because neither is attached to facts, which grow out of date and are uninteresting. GKC was a highly unprofessional journalist but he believed strongly in the ethics of journalism.

A “highly unprofessional journalist.” That seems apt.

It’s not fair to say he wasn’t a journalist, just because he didn’t engage in the muckraking of his era  or doesn’t resemble the shoe hounds of today. After all, he was a denizen of that hotbed of journalism, Fleet Street, his biographer Michael Coren noting that “most of the mythology about Gilbert had its origins in Fleet Street,” and that “Fleet Street was his domain, and he was as much a part of it as the El Vino and Cheshire Cheese watering holes which he frequented.”

It might be apt to say that GKC was an op-ed writer. That, after all, is what he wrote: opinion pieces by the truck-full, especially for the Illustrated London News. He landed that weekly column gig in 1905 and would do it for over thirty years, publishing over 1,600 columns. They paid him 350 pounds annually (which would equal about $45,000 today). The assignment gave him financial stability and continued access to the leisure that allowed him to create some of the … Read the rest

GKC in the Comics

G.K. Chesterton was a leading character, and a surprisingly true-to-life one, in DC’s award-winning comic book, The Sandman, numbers 10 through 16 (November, 1989—June, 1990). The character returned to The Sandman in issue 39 (July, 1992); and showed again for brief third and a fourth turns in numbers 63 and 65 (September and December, 1994).

The Gilbert character’s later appearances were brief, unexciting, and devoid of apparent significance. The third ended with his violent, grisly, unfunny comic-book death. Gilbert’s final appearance came in the August, 1995 issue, as he indignantly refused to permit Morpheus (the Sandman) to raise him from the dead! DC Comics ended publication of The Sandman with issue number 75.… Read the rest

Christmas Eve with GKC

In the round of our rational and mournful year one festival remains out of all those ancient gaieties that once covered the whole earth. Christmas remains to remind us of those ages, whether Pagan or Christian, when the many acted poetry instead of the few writing it. “Christmas and the Aesthetes,” Heretics

Christmas [is] the old European festival, Pagan and Christian, that trinity of eating, drinking and praying which to moderns appears irreverent, the holy day which is really a holiday. “Dickens and Christmas,” Charles Dickens

If you do not like what is sentimental and ceremonial, do not celebrate Christmas at all. You will not be punished if you don’t; also, since we are no longer ruled by those sturdy Puritans who won for us civil and religious liberty, you will not even be punished if you do. Illustrated London News, Jan. 12, 1907

When Bernard Shaw says that Christmas Day is only a conspiracy kept up by poulterers and wine merchants from strictly business motives, then he says something which is not so much false as startlingly and arrestingly foolish. He might as well say that the two sexes were invented by jewellers who wanted to sell wedding-rings. “The Dramatist,” George Bernard Shaw

Everything that is really lovable can be hated; and there are undoubtedly people who hate Christmas. Illustrated London News, Jan. 13, 1906

Christmas occurs in the winter. It is the element not merely of contrast, but actually of antagonism. It preserves everything that was best in the merely primitive or pagan view of such ceremonies or such banquets. If we are carousing, at least we are warriors carousing. We hang above us, as it were, the shields and battle-axes with which we must do battle with the giants of the snow and hail. All … Read the rest

GKC on Waugh

Evelyn Waugh liked to send out satirical Christmas cards, and the apex (or nadir] of this practice was reached during the Christmas season of 1929. Waugh’s card that year consisted of extracts reprinted from unfavorable reviews of his first novel, Decline and Fall. The harshest passage of all was taken from a review by Chesterton. [Christopher Sykes, Evelyn Waugh, Boston, 1975, p. 98]… Read the rest