Friday, April 16, 2021

Aging

Patrick Kurp, who is younger than I am, on the advantages of age:
On this date, April 16, in 1939, George Santayana wrote in a letter to his friend William Lyon Phelps, the American writer and academic: “.... I heartily agree that old age is, or may be as in my case, far happier than youth. Even physically pleasanter. I was never more entertained and less troubled than I am now.” ....

I aspire to Santayana’s condition and thus far, at age sixty-eight, have experienced it. Aging has been mellowing – less worrying, less striving for attention, less desire to argue and set others straight. The ego seems to have settled on its proper dimensions. I’m content to be a spectator; not, in any sense, an activist. The world is a far more amusing place than it once was. Comedy is everywhere. ....
Anecdotal Evidence, "I Was Never More Entertained," April 16, 2021.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The greatest detective?

From Michael Dirda's review of a new book about Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot:
In the recent Washington Post poll to choose the greatest fictional detectives of all time, the top four vote-getters, tallied in descending order, were Armand Gamache, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Bosch and Hercule Poirot. Pfui, as Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe would say. ....

No, looked at historically, the only true contenders for world’s finest super-sleuth are Holmes and Poirot (with Wolfe and G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown close behind). Being a member of the Baker Street Irregulars and having written a book about Arthur Conan Doyle, I don’t need to say more about my own loyalties. But what about that other fellow, the protagonist of 33 novels and more than 50 short stories by Dame Agatha Christie? ....

...I impetuously decided to try an experiment: What would it be like to reread, after half a century, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd when I already knew its trick?

This time, Christie’s hints to the killer’s identity stood out almost too obviously, yet I quickly surrendered to the zest and smoothness of the fast-paced storytelling. James Sheppard, the village doctor who assists Poirot and narrates the book, proved far more witty than I remembered, though his deductive skills are no better than Dr. Watson’s: When Sheppard first sees Poirot, he tells his comically nosy sister Caroline, “There’s no doubt at all about what the man’s profession has been. He’s a retired hairdresser. Look at that mustache of his.” ....

...The Murder of Roger Ackroyd remains a triumph. As Poirot stresses when speaking of its solution, “Everything is simple, if you arrange the facts methodically.” That sounds easy enough, but only a great detective, like the fastidious Belgian (or Sherlock Holmes!), can disentangle the essential from the inessential. (more)
"Who is the greatest fictional detective? A new book reminds us why it’s Poirot," Washington Post, April 14, 2021.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun...."

Jay Nordlinger today:
Time was, boys and men memorized poems by Robert W. Service. Did girls and women? I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. Ronald Reagan committed Service poems to memory. While he was president, he memorably unleashed a little of “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” This was at an event with the education secretary, Bill Bennett. ....

Once, Pierre Trudeau challenged Reagan to recite “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.” They were at a state dinner — Buckingham Palace — where Reagan sat between the Queen Mother and Trudeau. Reagan accepted the challenge and recited the poem, all 112 lines. ....

He also writes of John McCain, who was campaigning across New Hampshire. Aboard the candidate’s bus was a crew from Comedy Central. They asked him, “Who’s your favorite poet?” McCain answered, “Robert Service, I guess.” The crew then challenged him to recite some — which he did: “The Cremation of Sam McGee” (115 lines). ....
"Poems by Heart"

Friday, April 9, 2021

Memories

Reading tonight from the "Memories of Mary Elizabeth Bond Skaggs" (1994), my mother.
I was born (Mary Elizabeth Bond) August 3, 1911 to Charles Austin and Maud Virginia (Hefner) Bond on Canoe Run, Roanoke, West Virginia. I was the fifth of eight children — Beatrice Mora, Walter Clarence, John Stanley, Luther Harold, Mary Elizabeth, Richard William, Charles Hefner, and Robert Levi.

We lived on my Grandfather’s farm until three of the older children were ready for high school. I have pleasant memories of these eight years of my life. Through third grade I attended the one room school with my sister and brothers. Charles and Robert did not attend the country school as we moved to Salem before they were of school age. My teacher was Mr. Tom Snyder. I remember the pot-bellied stove which stood in the middle of the room and the girls occupied one side of the room and the boys the other. Only one other (Warren Pickerall) was in my class. We went to the front of the room and stood beside our teacher for our reading and perhaps other work. I remember doing numbers on the blackboard and was impressed with Warren’s height as his work was so much higher on the board. We had work to do at our desks but also listened in as older classes went to the front of the room for their sessions with the teacher. Perhaps I even napped with my head on my desk at times. I remember doing ovals and push-pulls and forming letters as I learned to write. Recess was always fun. After we took our turn at the out-side toilet and had a drink of water from the pump there was time for activity. A stream ran across the road near the school and when it froze over the big boys and maybe girls too skated there. When I was little I was little so sometimes the big boys would carry me as they skated. In the spring I remember going across the road into the woods and gathering wild flowers. One Thanksgiving our cousins, Elizabeth, Virginia and Mary came on the train from Salem and went to school with us on Friday after Thanksgiving. That must have been an experience for them. Walter always carried the lunch basket and we gathered round to eat together.

Many of our church people lived relatively close together in what I believe was called “Seven Day Valley.” We lived farther away but went to church regularly. Dad was a deacon. We were related to most of the people there. Often we were invited to dinner. The older children sometimes went one place while the younger children went with Mom and Dad. At Uncle Lee’s (grandfather’s brother) there were always hickory nuts to crack (and eat) while dinner was being prepared. I seem to remember a spring in Uncle John Heavener’s under-ground cellar in the side of the hill. Often there were cool apples there! Aunt Darla had large loaves of freshly baked bread and Aunt Lily Bee had good meals too. You couldn’t go wrong! At a given time our family would meet and return home together. Sometimes Ruth and Main, (first cousins of Dad but near the ages of Bea and Walter) would come home with us and stay over night. We liked to have them come.

My Grandmother Bond died before I was born. Grandfather lived with us part of the time and with Aunt Goldie (his daughter) and Uncle Doc in Salem and visited from time to time in the homes of Uncle Arthur (Dad’s twin brother) and Uncle Ahva. We always enjoyed having Grandpa with us. His room was across the hall from our living room. I liked to go to his room, sit on a stool beside his chair in front of the fire and talk to him. He kept a diary, a small book which he carried in his pocket and wrote in any time — not just at the close of day. Always he mentioned the weather. I have ten years of his diaries including the World War I years. Uncle Doc served over-seas and sometimes Aunt Goldie and Bond (a cousin about my age) came to the farm and spent time with us. The cattle scales used by the farmers round-about were on Grandfather’s farm — a testament to his honesty. Grandfather Bond made shoes and repaired shoes. He had a shop a little way from the house where he did his work. In my time which was after Grandma died he only mended shoes, I think. I learned some of the tools of his trade as I spent time with him in the shop.

My Grandfather Hefner was a blacksmith. He was small in stature but very strong. I don’t remember my Grandmother Hefner except in a wheelchair. During my life they lived in Burnsville. They had lived in Roanoke earlier. I don’t remember them visiting us on the farm. I do remember going to Burnsville with Bea one Easter. This was the first time I had colored eggs. They were so pretty I took one home and kept it long — too long! ....
Ten pages in all. I have no pictures of her at that young age. After her memory began to fail Mom would sit and read her "memories" over and over.

Holmes

Richard Brookhiser spent some of his COVID confinement reading Sherlock Holmes stories aloud to his wife. He writes "The stories vary in quality...but all satisfy. Why?" Part of his answer:
The primary, and obvious, reason is the immortal pair. Holmes is fascinating by himself: the law-enforcer who is a skillful house-breaker, the misanthrope and misogynist who can charm stable hands and old ladies, the loner who defends society, the man who sports personal items presented to him by two different European royal houses but who is familiar with waterfront opium dens. He is simultaneously benevolent and cold; when the KKK — one clue that this mid-century boy reader did not need to have explained — manages to kill one of his clients, Holmes is wounded as an outfoxed professional and moved by the horror of the deed.

Dr. Watson is a reader transported into the story. Though he cannot unravel the mysteries any faster than we can, he does have a field of expertise (besides medicine) — and that is Holmesology. He does not know what his friend is thinking, but he almost always knows that he is thinking, and he can tell whether those thoughts are fruitful or still stymied. Watson’s double function as “author” also applies the final coat of verisimilitude. ....

The stories thrive on their sense of place. The crime-fighters venture into the countryside, where, however small the town, there is an inn to serve as a base of operations, and a noble or at least centuries-old house in which they must operate. But their preferred habitat is the city — Holmes “loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of people.” ....

The best, most vivid place is the era. The stories existed in real Victorian time when they first ran, but by the end of Doyle’s career they became nostalgic (the last ones appeared alongside flappers). A century-plus on, they are wholly so. .... (more)
Richard Brookhiser, "The Comforts of Holmes," National Review, April 19, 2021.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Unconditional curiosity

Patrick Kurp today:
“Nobody anymore under the age of fifty has any education whatsoever.”

A rhetorical exaggeration, but still sobering. It’s tempting to assume ignorance metastasizes untreatably across generations, that the young are willfully blind to their inheritance. Many are, and have been taught by parents and teachers to scorn learning. But the opposite of ignorance is not a college degree but unconditional curiosity. My essential education occurred not in classrooms but in libraries and wherever I happened to be reading a good book or listening to someone more knowledgeable than I.

The writer quoted above is Guy Davenport in a letter to James Laughlin on this date, April 6, in 1994. ....
Anecdotal Evidence, "Having Been Taught How to Find Things"

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Addison's Walk, Magdalen College, Oxford

.... On September 19, 1931, in what might rank as one of the most important conversations in literary history, Lewis took his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien on a walk along the River Cherwell near Magdalen College. .... (more)

Alleluia!


From the hymn "Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain," words by John of Damascus (675–749).
Tis the spring of souls today;
Christ has burst His prison,
And from three days’ sleep in death
As a sun hath risen;
All the winter of our sins,
Long and dark, is flying
From His light, to whom we give
Laud and praise undying.
Neither might the gates of death,
Nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal
Hold Thee as a mortal;
But today amidst the twelve
Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace which evermore
Passeth human knowing.
"Alleluia!" now we cry
To our King immortal,
Who, triumphant, burst the bars
Of the tomb’s dark portal;
"Alleluia!" with the Son,
God the Father praising,
"Alleluia!" yet again
To the Spirit raising.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

David Suchet

David Suchet, on becoming a Christian:
“Agatha Christie puts into Poirot’s mouth the words, ‘I am un bon Catholique’. He says his prayers and reads the Bible with a cup of hot chocolate every night of his life. He is a very religious man.” And so, too, is 74-year-old Suchet.

He quietly became a Christian in 1986, “fairly late in life”, but in recent years has been more public about his faith. To mark this Easter, when many churches will still be closed, he has recorded a reading of the whole of John’s Gospel that goes live tomorrow (Sunday 4 April) at 4pm on Westminster Abbey’s YouTube channel. ....
David Suchet: ‘I often wonder what Poirot would have made of my walk to faith,’ The Telegraph, April 3, 2021.

A Saturday kind of faith

Re-posted

 

.... Martin Luther said himself that Saturday was the day that God himself lay cold in the grave. Friday was death, Sunday was hope, but Saturday was that seemingly ignored middle day between them when God occupied a dirty grave in a little garden outside Jerusalem. Saturday is about waiting, about uncertainty, about not knowing what’ll happen. ....

So much of Christian faith is Saturday faith. ....

A medieval theologian, Anselm, once described the kind of faith that comes with Saturday—fides quaerens intellectum: “faith seeking understanding.” By that, he meant that faith isn’t something that arises after moments of understanding. Rather, faith is something that you cling to when understanding and reason lay dead. We don’t believe once we understand it—we believe in order to understand it. Saturday’s like that: offering a day of waiting, a day of ambiguity, a day when God is sovereign even if our ideas and theologies and expectations about him are not. It is the day that our ignorance is our witness and our proclamation. Truth is, our intellect will always be one step behind in our love of God. We don’t love God once we understand him; we love God in order to understand him. ....

At times, we are all like the two disciples on their way to Emmaus who were really close to Jesus but didn’t always know it. In Luke 24, two disciples walked away from Jerusalem, where they’d just seen their Lord and Master die on the cross. Leaving, dejected, upset, hopeless, and broken, to find the next stage in their lives and careers. Unbeknownst to them, Jesus had been resurrected and was actually walking alongside them on their way to Emmaus. The hope of Sunday hadn’t dawned on them yet. The Gospels tell us that, on their way to Emmaus, the disciples were “downcast.”

That experience is the kind of experience Saturday is all about. .... (more)
A.J. Swoboda is a pastor in Portland, Oregon. This is from his A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tension between Belief and Experience, excerpted in Christianity Today.

Monday, March 29, 2021

1662 BCP

Just received in the mail from InterVarsity Press, The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition. I came to order it after reading this by Alan Jacobs, author of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography:
What they have done is something deceptively simple, with only a few elements:
  1. Take the 1662 Prayer Book;
  2. Replace the prayers for the British monarchy with more general prayers for political leaders;
  3. Replace a few terms that have become wholly archaic or have changed in meaning so much that they will not be understood;
  4. Add a brief glossary for the unusual terms that it would have been unwise to replace;
  5. Present the result in beautiful typography. 
That’s it! The distinctive structure of the 1662 BCP — built around the rhythms of Morning and Evening Prayer, following the changing seasons of the church year, and centering always on Coverdale’s Psalter — remains, and it remains because it can’t be bettered.
It is attractive, cloth-bound in green, compact, and with a red ribbon.

I haven't had time to examine it thoroughly but as I was opening it properly I came across the collects for today:
Buy your own: The 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition

Sunday, March 28, 2021

"A disposition of reverence"

From a review of poet Dana Gioia's recently published memoir:
.... Today the word “piety” is used to describe hollow and sentimental shows of belief. In its ancient and proper sense, however, piety is a noble thing, a disposition of reverence toward those to whom we owe gratitude. The pious man worships God, serves his country, and honors his mother and father. He remembers the dead. “To name is to know and remember,” Gioia writes in one of his finest poems, and here he repeats the refrain: “Oblivion can do its work elsewhere. Remembrance is our métier. After all, our Muse is the daughter of Memory.”
Matthew Schmitz, "Dana Gioia’s Timeless Piety"

Saturday, March 27, 2021

"Obedience is not legalism"

Browsing through previous posts on this blog I came across this and I like it very much.
.... I have never yet met a parent who complained that his child was a legalist because he obeyed too much. In fact, it would be impossible for any parent to imagine how his child could obey too much.

Yet, find a Christian who is careful to obey God in everything, and we won’t have to look far to find another Christian to call him a legalist. What do we make of this?

It’s a word we all hate, but exactly what is legalism? Legalism is that attempt to establish or maintain a right standing with God by means of our own efforts. .... Anyone claiming to be Christian knows better than that, but even among believers there is sometimes found that attempt to maintain a right standing with God by means of personal efforts. They seem to think that having been saved by grace they must maintain that salvation by works. Legalism. ....

But we must be careful not to confuse legalism with obedience. Obedience is not legalism. Obedience is obedience. God commands us to obey his Word, and when pressed with those commands we must not cry foul—“legalism!” No, disobedience is sin, and obedience is not legalism. ....

Simply put, we needn’t fear that we may obey our Lord too much. Jesus said that if we love him, we will obey him.

Happily, God has promised in the New Covenant to give us a heart to obey him. And every true Christian has found that obedience to God is not a burdensome thing. This is the work of his Spirit within us to bring us to obey him—not legalistically but faithfully. .... (more)
Legalism or Obedience?- Credo Magazine

Sunday, March 21, 2021

"To bind one's self to one man..."

Samuel Johnson, August 15, 1773, in Edinburgh, on the wisdom of committing oneself to a political party:
I CAN see that a man may do right to stick to a party; that is to say, he is a Whig, or he is a Tory, and he thinks one of those parties upon the whole the best, and that to make it prevail, it must be generally supported, though, in particulars, it may be wrong. He takes its faggot [bundle] of principles, in which there are fewer rotten sticks than in the other, though some rotten sticks to be sure; and they cannot well be separated. But, to bind one's self to one man, or one set of men (who may be right to-day and wrong to-morrow), without any general preference of system, I must disapprove.
James Boswell, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, with Samuel Johnson, L.L.D.

Friday, March 19, 2021

"Them that die'll be the lucky ones."

Last night I watched once again my favorite film adaptation of Treasure Island (1990). There have been quite a few. I've seen many of them and have four in my collection of DVDs (including one I very much dislike — not sure why I still have it). This is the best because it is the one that follows Stevenson's story most faithfully and is superbly executed. The cast is great: a teenage Christian Bale is Jim Hawkins, Blind Pew is played by Christopher Lee, Billy Bones by Oliver Reed, and Charlton Heston is Long John Silver, also Pete Postlethwaite and others well cast. The director was Heston's son which may explain how so much talent came to be in this version. The soundtrack is performed by The Chieftains. The ship used for the Hispaniola was originally built as the HMS Bounty for the version of The Mutiny on the Bounty filmed in 1962. The DVD can be purchased right now for less than ten dollars at Amazon or streaming from Amazon Prime.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"You’re fer or agin"

From a Jay Nordlinger post today:
In recent years, people have liked to describe themselves, and others, as “post-liberals.” I find this term puzzling. As I see it, they are anti-liberals, or illiberals. Such people, we have always had with us, and always will. In fact, they constitute the vast majority of mankind.

Liberalism — meaning, classical liberalism, rather than, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — has no “pre-” and no “post-.” It has friends and enemies. (A relative handful of the former, teeming multitudes of the latter.) You can no more be “post-liberal” than you can be post-freedom, or post–human rights.

I mean, you are or you aren’t. You’re fer or agin.

In a discussion of this topic last week, a reader drew my attention to a speech by Calvin Coolidge. The president was speaking on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in the summer of 1926. I’d like to quote a big ol’ chunk, and I don’t think you will be sorry.
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
Well said, Cal. They called him “silent,” but when he spoke — it was worth it.
Jay Nordlinger, "Bad words, good words, etc," NRO, Mar. 17, 2021.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Theology is like a map

From "Book Four" of Mere Christianity:
.... I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the RA.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, "I've no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I'm a religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!"

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

...Theology is like the map. .... Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it In fact, that is just why a vague religion—all about feeling God in nature, and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.

In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. .... For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. .... (more)
C.S. Lewis, "Beyond Personality: Or First Steps In The Doctrine Of The Trinity," Mere Christianity.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Old-style

Peggy Noonan on "Why We Care About the Royal Family Feud":
.... Why should an American care about any of this? I suppose we shouldn’t. In a practical way we’re interested in the royal family because we don’t have one, don’t want one, and think it’s great that you do. We get the benefits—the pictures of clothes and castles, the horses and military outfits, the stories of backstairs and love affairs—and you pay the bills.

But I think there’s something deeper, more mystical in our interest, a sense that however messy the monarchy, it embodies a nation, the one we long ago came from and broke with. The high purpose of monarchy is to lend its mystique and authority to the ideas of stability and continuance.

Henry VIII, Mad King George, Victoria—these names still echo. It is rare and wonderful when you can say of a small old woman entering a large reception area, “England has entered the room.” Someday Elizabeth II will leave us and the world will honestly mourn, not only because of what she represented but because she was old-style. She performed but wasn’t performative. She was appropriately, heroically contained, didn’t share her emotions because after all it wasn’t about her, it was about a kingdom, united. You could rely on her to love her country and commonwealth; she was born and raised to love them. And so she has been for the world a constant. And in this world, a constant is a valuable thing. ....
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, "Why We Care About the Royal Family Feud," March 11, 2021.

Pride

One of the essays collected in Dorothy L. Sayers' Creed or Chaos (1949) is "The Other Six Deadly Sins" (an address delivered on October 23rd, 1941 at Caxton Hall, Westminster). Early on the Church defined "seven deadly sins" along with "seven heavenly virtues." The virtues were Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility. The sins are Lust, Gluttony, Greed or Avarice, Laziness or Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.

Sayers on the deadliest of the deadly sins, "Pride":
But the head and origin of all sin is the basic sin of Superbia or Pride. In one way there is so much to say about Pride that one might speak of it for a week and not have done. Yet in another way, all there is to be said about it can be said in a single sentence. It is the sin of trying to be as God. It is the sin which proclaims that Man can produce out of his own wits, and his own impulses and his own imagination the standards by which he lives: that Man is fitted to be his own judge. It is Pride which turns man’s virtues into deadly sins, by causing each self-sufficient virtue to issue in its own opposite, and as a grotesque and horrible travesty of itself. The name under which Pride walks the world at this moment is the Perfectibility of Man, or the doctrine of Progress; and its specialty is the making of blueprints for Utopia and establishing the Kingdom of Man on earth.

For the devilish strategy of Pride is that it attacks us, not on our weak points, but on our strong. It is preeminently the sin of the noble mind—that corruptio optimi which works more evil in the world than all the deliberate vices. Because we do not recognize pride when we see it, we stand aghast to see the havoc wrought by the triumphs of human idealism. We meant well, we thought we were succeeding—and look what has come of our efforts! There is a proverb which says that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. We usually take it as referring to intentions that have been weakly abandoned; but it has a deeper and much subtler meaning. That road is paved with good intentions strongly and obstinately pursued, until they become self-sufficing ends in themselves and deified.  ....

The Greeks feared above all things the state of mind they called hubris—the inflated spirits that come with over-much success. Overweening in men called forth, they thought, the envy of the gods. Their theology may seem to us a little unworthy, but with the phenomenon itself and its effects they were only too well acquainted. Christianity, with a more rational theology, traces hubris back to the root-sin of Pride, which places man instead of God at the center of gravity and so throws the whole structure of things into the ruin called Judgment. Whenever we say, whether in the personal, political or social sphere,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul
we are committing the sin of Pride; and the higher the goal at which we aim; the more far-reaching will be the subsequent disaster. That is why we ought to distrust all those high ambitions and lofty ideals which make the well-being of humanity their ultimate end. Man cannot make himself happy by serving himself—not even when he calls self-service the service of the community; for “the community” in that context is only an extension of his own ego. Human happiness is a by-product, thrown off in man’s service of God....

Cursed be he that trusteth in man,” says Reinhold Niebuhr (Beyond Tragedy) “even if he be pious man or, perhaps, particularly if he be pious man.” For the besetting temptation of the pious man is to become the proud man: “He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous.”
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves 
that they were righteous, and despised others. (Luke 18:9)

Dorothy L. Sayers', "The Other Six Deadly Sins," Creed or Chaos (1949)