Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Only if one sees things along the way..."

Whenever I re-read authors I haven't read for some time I am reminded that I have no originality — none at all. I may have forgotten from whence some idea or formulation came but it wasn't original with me. I am an unconscious plagiarist. My most important source has to have been C.S. Lewis, but having—over the last day—re-read essays by Russell Kirk that I probably haven't read since college or graduate school, I've realized how much he influenced me, too.

This morning I opened and browsed through Kirk's Confessions of a Bohemian Tory, a collection of (mostly) very short essays published in 1963. From some of them:

From "Walking":
I would have you know that I am one of a dying breed, the race of walkers. Several times I have done thirty miles, and more than once forty. Time was when almost anyone felt able to do that sort of thing, and folks walked all the way from Edinburgh to London without anyone thinking it extraordinary.

But I cannot commend the marathon-walk, which various freaks and political eccentrics have gotten into the news these past few years. Walking ought to be for pleasure, and for instruction, not for display. Only if one sees things along the way—old churches, interesting people or rare birds—is walking worth the exertion. ....
On marriage:
The object of human existence is to know God and enjoy Him forever. The object of matrimony is the perpetuation of the human race, for the greater glory of God. What we call "decadence" is the loss of an object, an end, an aim. Men and women are decadent when they have forgotten or denied the objects of life, and so fritter away their years in trifles or debauchery. ....
On riding the bus:
Being the last to lay the old aside, I still ride buses now and then. The surviving company of bus passengers might be assigned to a few categories, all of them groups that can't afford cars, or don't dare drive them: some students, mostly female freshmen; colored people short of funds; the aged and infirm; drunks; the insane; and your servant.

In his romance The Great Divorce, Mr. C.S. Lewis commences with a queue of passengers waiting disconsolately to board an omnibus for an unknown destination. Actually they are bound for Heaven—though most of the passengers don't relish the place once they have arrived. Well, my fellow travelers often resemble Lewis' passengers, bewildered in some dim and smoky city. But some of them definitely aren't destined for Heaven. ....
On T.S. Eliot:
Though nowadays a few envious people are trying to dent his reputation, Thomas Stearns Eliot is the great man of letters of our time. Also he is the kindest man in the world.

Now and again I have lunched with him at the Garrick Club, in London, or seen him at his publishing office on Great Russell Street, or sat with him in the austere parlor of a little hotel in Edinburgh. And always there is about Mr. Eliot an atmosphere of humorous goodness, mixed with melancholy. Old Thomas Burton said that melancholy men are the wittiest.

Although ever since the Twenties the young avant-garde have worshipped him, T.S. Eliot—far from being in the van—is culturally and politically fighting a rear-guard action: and more power to him. He calls himself a Royalist, finding modern British Conservatism too innovating for his taste. He says that there are no lost causes, because there are no gained causes—from age to age men fight the same battles, in different costumes, and so it must be until the end of all things. ....
Russell Kirk, Confessions of a Bohemian Tory, Fleet, 1963.