Friday, November 30, 2007

On Hope

G.K. Chesterton in Charles Dickens (1906):
It is currently said that hope goes with youth, and lends to youth its wings of a butterfly; but I fancy that hope is the last gift given to man, and the only gift not given to youth. Youth is preeminently the period in which a man can be lyric, fanatical, poetic; but youth is the period in which a man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of the world. But the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged; God has kept that good wine until now.

Pope Benedict XVI in Spe Salvi (30 Nov 2007, St Andrew's Day):
“SPE SALVI facti sumus”—in hope we were saved, says Saint Paul to the Romans, and likewise to us (Rom 8:24). According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.

Punker Chestertonian

Sean Daily, editor of Gilbert Magazine, is a punk rock fan. Check out his great post about punk rock music (which he ties into Distributism at the very end). Excerpt:

Punk as a genre arose simultaneously in America and the UK, but there were distinct sub-genres and styles depending on where it came from. There was Los Angels punk (bands like X and the Vandals), New York punk (the Ramones) and London punk (the Clash and, of course, the Sex Pistols). Of course there were a lot more bands than these, and there were other regional outposts, such as Athens Georgia (home of the B-52’s), but these are the most recognizable examples. The American Midwest, particularly Chicago, Madison (yes, Madison), and Minneapolis also developed its own regional sound.

Of these regions, LA punk was most heavily influenced by R&B and country. X even released a purely country-western LP, Poor Little Critter on the Road, for which they renamed themselves the Knitters. It is a BRILLIANT album, and nearly impossible to find (I found a scratched copy in a used record store in St. Paul -- still have it; and you can buy it here now -- and look, I guess X put out a second Knitters album. The things you can learn on Amazon...). Another West Coast band from a little later in that era, the Beat Farmers, shamelessly flaunted their rockabilly roots (I saw them play multiple times at the Cabooze in Minneapolis). The duo Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper, from San Diego, even took the stage with Skid playing a washboard for percussion.

The London punkers also were heavily influenced by American R&B and country, especially the Clash. To listen to their masterpiece, London Calling, is to listen to a band steeped in American musical traditions and styles: jazz, country, rockabilly, blues, R&B, folk, and more, with some reggae and Hispanic influences thrown in for good measure.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Jack

Today is C. S. Lewis' Birthday.

In honor of the day - and of the Christmas season that is upon us - here's a little passage form The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

It was a sledge, and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. But they were far bigger than the Witch’s reindeer, and they were not white but brown. And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as hollyberries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest. Everyone knew him because, though you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world—the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn’t find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Holiday Gilbert Magazine is Here

I don't have time to blog about it now, but it's thick. Unfortunately, based on a quick glance it doesn't appear to have much Christmas stuff in it. It is, however, heavy on Harry Potter. That's bad news for me (a mere spectator, the Harry Potter debates bore me) but good news for the normal people out there who share the HP obsession, either by loving HP or hating it. My wife loves Harry, so I'll put the copy on her nightstand.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post Thanksgiving Thoughts

Greetings All,

Sorry to miss a couple appearances here.

A handful of unconnected thoughts. Unconnected save for a morsel from the Chestertonicopia.

Laura Ingraham(wonderful woman, convert to the Church as well) and some of the other conservative radio commentators really get after the pornification of the culture. I think we have truly warped sexuality in our society. However, I think money and its role have equally been distorted far from the place proper reason would put things of this sphere, much less the demands of the Gospels. Peter Kreeft said it so well...something like we use sex as a means of exchange, and expect our money to get pregnant and reproduce itself.

The more I read about the Puritans the more I am deeply, deeply disturbed. I do think that the meme of the Puritans still exists in American culture, especially amongst East Coast Bluebloods. The puritanical morality is basically gone, but the puritanical urge to purge and persecute those who dont live up to its current incarnation is alive and well. The new scarlet letter is "C" for Carbon.

Does anybody besides me see the movies Fargo and My Big Fat Greek Wedding as racist trash?

Does anybody else see the irony and flat out weirdness of the recent bunch of athiest books that have been published? Im particularly thinking of the Mother Teresa hatchet jobs. What intellectual slovenliness. Even a superficial investigation into Catholic spiritual theology would find the concept of the Dark Night of the Soul. At the very least, one could point a finger at the Church for enshrining a depression related disorder as a mark of spirituality. One could also explore if such a state corresponds to any of our contemporary DSMMD conditions. But nobody does this. I could make better arguements across the board than these guys, and Im on the other side. And they consider themselves enlightened and "brights."

Isnt it ironic that despite the mad jihadists out to get us, the US has established more Moslem regimes around the world than Al Queda? (Bosnia, Iraq, Kosovo)

Have a great week?

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Black Friday Atheist

"There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less." GK

At 6 a.m., I got up and took the dog for a walk.

Then I went out for my morning walk, enjoying the quiet and the fresh snow.

When I returned home, I made some coffee, and sat down to read the paper.

I checked my e-mail, and posted a blog entry. I wrote a haiku.

I helped my wife fold some laundry. Then I made a nice bowl of oatmeal, and took a warm shower.

I post this as I sit here in my bathrobe. In a few minutes I will get dressed.

Maybe later we will go see a movie or dip into our Christmas video/dvd collection. Or go out for a cup of coffee. Or read a good book (plenty of Chesterton lying about!)

I also have some students' research papers to grade.

Mostly, we'll just relax.

You won't see me near the malls today.

Black Friday is a "holy day" I do not honor. I don't worship the gods of commerce and excess.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Huckabee Clerihew

With Mike Huckabee
you get what you see:
A plain-spoken man
with a national plan.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Black Wednesday

From my other blog:

These guys need a Black Wednesday: Beer sales in English pubs have slumped to their lowest level since the 1930s, brewery representatives have said. Of course, they don’t have Thanksgiving Day over there, though I’ve always liked Chesterton’s comment that they should: Just as America is thankful the Puritans came to America, England is thankful they left. (Puritans were a rather difficult lot, our Rockwell vision of them notwithstanding, and it’s no coincidence that their intellectual descendants today are secularist East Coast elitists who are quite demanding in their vision of how things ought to be.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Reader Writes

A reader wants to know where he can find this GKC quote: “I like children that are moderately well behaved, houses that are moderately clean, and their inhabitants that are moderately sober.”

I'm embarrassed to say that it doesn't even look familiar to me. Can anyone help?

GKC's Baptism

I always mean to run this factoid on July 1st, but I never remember:

"According to the 1874 Registry of St. George's Parish (page 45, item number 359), on July 1 the Reverend Alexander Law Watherston baptized the son of Edward and Marie Louise Chesterton of 14 Sheffield Terrace. The father's occupation was listed as "auctioneer." The child was given the Christian name of Gilbert Keith. The location was described in G.K.C.'s Autobiography as "the little church opposite the large Waterworks that dominated the ridge" of Campden Hill in Kensington. Chesterton did not claim the two buildings were related. "I indignantly deny that the church was chosen because it needed the whole water-power of West London to turn me into a Christian," he wrote.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Fool

The fool of the village sat on a wall at the edge of town. He was wearing his long yellow rain coat with the black polka dots. At a distance he looked like a breathing pile of Daises.
The rains fell last night. From the sorrow colored sky they fell. They fell with the loud hateful anger born of ignorance. They fell upon the land without mercy. They fell like the giant gleaming curved swords wielded by those wild characters of Ali Babba's old gang, stripping the trees of the last of their meager autumn possessions.
“It was to be expected" they would say. No one cried at their passing, no one wore the dark cloths of morning. No one, except two, the fool cried and the sky wore grey.
The fool could never accept this ruthless behavior. He felt the shame of the naked trees, the lose of the promise. As the last leaf fell he cried out at the dashing of the dream.
"Look at their longing.” He would say to no one, to anyone. No one answered. They all had their collars up and no time to taunt the fool.
"What happened? Everything was going so well. Have they heard of this at the palace?!" Again no one heard. No one listened.
A bright red bird silently landed beside him on the wall.
The only two primary colors in the landscape were now next to each other.
The fool laughed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Grow A Beard Month

I just learned that November is Grow a Beard Month. Heck, and all this time living in Michigan, I thought it was just rednecks getting ready for hunting season.

To the best of my knowledge, GKC always shaved, but this blogger invokes GKC's famous saying in honor of the month.

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Halloween has slipped past us as if it were the end of a children’s holiday or maybe it was like the beginning of a holiday. All I know is that is was a weak event here where I live. As I walked my child and her two friends around town I saw very few candy beggars and too many dark houses and when we got home my wife still had a half a bowl left of chocolate treats.
I was saddened by the whole non-event.
I thought I was the only one to feel that this day of childhood pretending and ghostly delights was now a thing of the past. Then I read an editorial by Susan Estrict called Halloween Horrors She too laments its passing.

Just a quick poll: What was it like where you live?

Friday, November 09, 2007


Havent had the chance to post much here.

Just wanted to put out the idea that despite the decades between Chesterton and ourselves, he stands as such a powerful model of a person of faith interacting in the public sphere. I think the upcoming 2008 elections will effectively shatter the "moral majority"/Catholic-Evangelical/Neocon junta. I think we need to look to Chesterton as an example of one who sees the nuances of faith as it moves from the intimate parts of the soul, to the community, to the nation, and to a philosophy of life. Faith and politics are two separate things, often at odds and with a tension, but Chesterton's writings and professional career stand as a beacon guiding us to proper discernment in these areas.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A clerihew

Belloc of Batavia
imbibed a bottle of ratafia.
His subsequent hangover led him to snark,
"I place all the blame on Bishop Clark."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Generations of Newspapers

The forerunner of G.K.'s Weekly was Cecil Chesterton's New Witness, and the forerunner of the New Witness was Hilaire Belloc's Eye Witness. Few probably know that Maurice Baring and Belloc founded an earlier newspaper called the North Street Gazette and that this was indirectly the parent of the Eye Witness. The paper's motto was "Out, out, brief scandal!" It folded after one issue in the summer of 1908. [Emma Letley, Maurice Baring, London: 1991, 139-40] Upon Gilbert Chesterton's death in 1936, the newspaper became The Weekly Review. The directors of G.K.'s Weekly had wanted to shut it down, but they were persuaded by Hilary Pepler to pass the enterprise on to a small group of key Distributists, including Hilaire Belloc. Belloc edited the paper for a brief time and then passed that responsibility to his son-in-law, Reginald Jebb. [Brocard Sewell, Habit of a Lifetime, Padstow, 1992, p. 99]

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Belloc in "Commonweal"

The October 26 issue of Commonweal arrived. It contains a Peter Steinfels article about Belloc.

"A Catholic in the Room - Second Thoughts on Hilaire Belloc" has some pointed things to say about Belloc. What occasioned the piece was Steinfels reading of Belloc's The Crisis of Civilization earlier this year - 70 years after the Fordham University lectures by Belloc that became that book.

Steinfels says he was a fan of Belloc when younger. But he is critical of the book and Belloc's ideas contained in it, and in some of his more insensitive comments concerning Jews and African Americans.

I need to read the piece more closely. And I admit that I have not read Crisis, so I don't know if the picture is accurate. But it is damning - and it gets in some digs at modern "conservatives."

Just to quote a couple of passages (out of order):

"There is little mention of Christian impulses like charity, kindness, humility, and forgiveness. At least in these lecture, Belloc's celebration of Roman Catholicism is far more Roman than Catholic."

"So should Belloc's myopic and skewed views be quietly left to gather dust on the Fordham library bookshelves? That might be the case were it not for the current temptation to shore up a sagging sense of Catholic identity with the bellicose, pseudo-swashbuckling, in-your-face style that was Belloc's signature and that, alas, only looks pitiful and self-deceiving in today's imitators."

"The greatest gap in Belloc's history is the story of political liberty. Early and repeatedly he stresses the movement in Christian Europe from slavery to serfdom to freedom and suggests its religious origins. But of modern civil and political rights - freedom of speech and religion, constitutional accountability, independent judiciaries, democratic suffrage, and so on - he says nothing. In part, he takes them for granted. In part, he considers them illusory. It would take a tale that he could not have told without shining a different, more favorable light on Protestantism, the nineteenth century, and the great absentee from his account, liberalism."

The concluding paragraph is:

"Belloc is a major figure in the remarkable Catholic literary and intellectual revivals of the century past. Those revivals continue to hold out a hope and a model for resurgent Catholic presence in the twenty-first century. But Catholics, including myself, are tempted to look only at the finest moments of these revivals, loyally and nostalgically veiling their less happy aspects. Pragmatically, we need to ask why, in the long run, these revivals petered out. Morally, we need to ask, with unblinking eyes, whether they responded adequately to the brewing crisis of civilization and if not, why not."


Anyone else read the article? If so, observations?