Friday, October 29, 2021

An Amateur Blogger

 At the most recent Rochester Chesterton Conference I bought a copy of  Chesterton In Black and White. The book is a collection of early (1903-04) Chesterton essays from the magazines Black and White and The Bystander.

Many of the essays foreshadow topics he would address in his later writings such as humor, fairy tales, and, of course, paradox.

For Black and White he wrote a series of essays on "The Decline of Amateur Professions."

In one of the essays he defines an amateur "as a man who does a thing because he enjoys doing it."

He had individual essays on the following "amateur professions:" Dancer, Critic, Actor, Politician, Educator, and Soldier.

I suggest another profession to include: Blogger.

Blogs were once quite popular - including this blog. In addition to contributing to this blog, I've had personal blogs - on one of which I still post to on a regular basis. Our local newspaper also had community blogs for various town and groups. I was the blogger for my suburban town, and also contributed to a "men's" blog. 

Alas, social media has moved on, and so most blogs became passe. I quit my newspaper blog gig, and a few years later the newspaper shut down all its community blogs.

I joined this blog in 2006. At the time there were a number of other contributors - I was responsible at that point for posting on Thursdays. I liked the idea that I was the man who was Thursday!

Gradually, as blogging faded away, so did the other contributors. (Being talented individuals, they have likely gone on to better things.) Since 2014, I've been the only person to continue to contribute to this blog. and for a long time I was irregular about doing so. Indeed, in 2019 there was just one single post concerning the Rochester Chesterton conference that year. 

I also noted that many of the other blogs listed on this blog as "Chestertonian Blogs" have suffered a similar fate. Most have not had posts in years. some no longer exist. Only one in the list has had a post this year - just one post.

Despite all that, I decided in August that I would try to keep this blog active. This is the 14th post since.


Because while they are an older form of social media, blogs still exist and still serve a need. Some blogs - ones hosted by well-known individuals, or devoted to a particular niche market, or focused on such topics as fashion or pop culture, and so on - remain popular. Some of those blogs even generate income in various ways.

This blog might be a "niche market" one in that it focuses on particular writers like Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Hilaire Belloc, and writers with ties to them. Not a big market, to be sure, but still one with a loyal following, and one that deserves greater attention.

In addition, a blog, being an "old-fashioned" kind of social media, fits right in with a Chestertonian embracing of traditional literary - or social media - forms. 

Besides, I enjoy doing it. 

I enjoy writing. I enjoy reading and writing about Chesterton and Lewis and their friends. I enjoy classical literature and education and matters of faith. I enjoy clerihews and paradoxes and fairy tales.

I am an amateur blogger - a noble and honorable profession. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Books about Distributism

On social media earlier this day, I came across a post asking for advice about books that explained distributism, especially ones that might help to simplify the concept for those who are not economists or are not familiar with what distributism really is. A number of people had suggestions

I had to get off to Mass, so I did not read it in the depth it merited. And, of course, later when I tried going back to find it I could not.

Still, I do remember some of the titles. And naturally, there are some familiar authors cited.

Among the works mentioned:

Rerum Novarum: On The Condition Of Working Classes by Pope Leo XIII

What's Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton

The Outline of Sanity by G.K. Chesterton

Utopia of Usurers by G.K. Chesterton

The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc

Economics for Helen by Hilaire Belloc

Small is Still Beautiful: Economics as if Families Mattered by Joseph Pearce

I've read the Chesterton books. I'm currently reading Rerum Novarum. Pearce's book is on my shelf of books to read. 

I'm sure there were other books cited, some by other authors, but I don't recall them. I suspect
The Hound of Distributism by Richard Aleman and Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by Ernst F. Schumacher got mentioned.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Black and White and Chesterton


At the Rochester Chesterton conference I picked up a copy of Chesterton in Black and White. It's a collection of previously uncollected early Chesterton essays from Black and White and The Bystander

In the first essay, "That Black Is, in a General Sense, White," Chesterton discusses the nature of paradox, contending that paradoxes are actually quite common, "built into very foundations of human affairs," as exhibited in "universal and ordinary arrangements, historic institutions," and "daily habits." And he goes on to state, "As a matter of fact, it is the ordinary view and language which is paradoxical."

Chesterton uses the example of the word "white." A person may be described as "white," but that person is not really white. Nor are "white wine" or "white grapes" actually white. 

He continues in that vein. While he is discussing linguistic "paradoxes," however, the essay got me to thinking about language and how we use - or misuse it. Words become vague or distorted in meaning - sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally.

Take the word "love," for example. The word has been so overused that its meaning has been twisted out of shape. Thus I can say I love coffee, or the Buffalo Bills, or clerihews, or my wife. Obviously, there are varied levels of meaning or intensity. Indeed, my love for my wife is far deeper and richer than my love for those other parts of my life.

My examples of love cited above are all innocuous. But there are other uses of "love" that turn the meaning of the word on its head. Love can be taken as just a physical act - to make love - that really has nothing to do with the true meaning of love. When it comes to sexual matters, in fact, love is often used as an excuse rather than a reason. A person might declare he is showing love when he is cruel, violent, or destructive. Just look at some of the actions of terrorists who act out of love of country or of faith. 

There are many other possible ways in which language is manipulated. Take the example of two people going for a walk in the woods. Birds are singing, insects and frogs are chirping, the breeze is rustling the leaves. Suddenly one of the persons unhappily blurts out that it is too quiet. It is certainly not quiet, but that person is unhappy that these sounds he is used to and desires are not there. But because it is not what he wants, he fails to see and appreciate what is there. Thus the word "quiet" has assumed a meaning separate from objective reality. It is now defined subjectively.

Which is one of the problems of our age. Words are more and more viewed through subjective lenses. They are too often set adrift from the "universal and ordinary arrangements, historic institutions," and the "daily habits" that once helped to define them, and to give them solid roots.

Thus words like "choice" or "family" or "racist" are cut of from their traditional, common sense meanings. We can have politicians say our borders are closed because the official ports of entry are closed, even though a mile to the east or west of those closed ports people are freely and in large numbers crossing that border.

We end up with a Humpty Dumpty situation with those in power in some form declaring in a scornful tone, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." Which gives them all the control - as, I suspect, some of them actually want.

In such an unstable verbal world, one might end up as Chesterton notes with an honest official actually speaking the truth, and then being accused of just making a joke, of saying something fantastic, and subsequently subject to reproach. In these less gentle times, that person might lose his job, be hounded on social media, perhaps even suffer a physical attack.

Indeed, we seem to be living in a dystopian time where words are deliberately manipulated to destroy and to control. Motherhood becomes a negative thing, for example, interfering with one's life and career, or becoming a kind of vulgar insult. A time where war is peace, or at least good business. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

But fortunately there are still some folks who have enough common sense to recognize that nothing is completely black or white.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

C. S. Lewis and change


“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” - C. S. LEWIS