Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Living in the past

Continuing to browse through The Quotable Chesterton (1986) I came across this from Avowals and Denials (1935):
We talk of people living in the past; and it is commonly applied to old people or old-fashioned people. But, in fact, we all live in the past, because there is nothing else to live in. To live in the present is like proposing to sit on a pin. It is too minute, it is too slight a support, it is too uncomfortable a posture, and it is of necessity followed immediately by totally different experiences, analogous to those of jumping up with a yell. To live in the future is a contradiction in terms. The future is dead; in the perfectly definite sense that it is not alive. It has no nature, no form, no feature.... The past can move and excite us, the past can be loved and hated, the past consists largely of lives that can be considered in their completion, that is, literally in the fulness of life.
It would, of course, be preferable to know more of the past than just your own personal past.

The Quotable Chesterton, Ignatius Press, 1986

Monday, September 28, 2020

Tender mercies

From Alan Jacobs' newsletter this morning, a "'Prayer for Persons Troubled in Mind or Conscience' from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer":
O Blessed Lord, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comforts: We beseech Thee, look down in pity and compassion upon this Thy afflicted servant. Thou writest bitter things against him, and makest him to possess his former iniquities; Thy wrath lieth hard upon him, and his soul is full of trouble: But, O merciful God, who hast written Thy holy Word for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of Thy holy Scriptures, might have hope; give him a right understanding of himself, and of Thy threats and promises; that he may neither cast away his confidence in Thee, nor place it any where but in Thee. Give him strength against all his temptations, and heal all his distempers. Break not the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. Shut not up Thy tender mercies in displeasure; but make him to hear of joy and gladness, that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice. Deliver him from fear of the enemy, and lift up the light of Thy countenance upon him, and give him peace, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The person who wrote this prayer understood as well as anyone ever has the distinctive miseries of self-accusation, self-condemnation, and so beautifully pities the person so afflicted, and intercedes for that person with God: Shut not up thy tender mercies in displeasure; but make him to hear of joy and gladness.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

"Saying something true about human nature"

P.D. James is one of my favorite novelists and her series of detective novels, most of them with Scotland Yard's Adam Dalgliesh, are all good reading. Today I pulled her Talking About Detection Fiction (2009) from my shelves. The second chapter is about Conan Doyle and G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories:
.... Another Victorian whose influence and reputation have been almost as great, in my view deservedly, was as prolific as Conan Doyle but very different both as a man and as a writer. Gilbert Keith Chesterton, who was born on Campden Hill in London in 1874 and died in 1936, can be described in terms which are hardly ever used of a writer today: he was a man of letters. All his life he earned his living by his pen and he was as versatile as he was prolific, gaining a reputation as a novelist, essayist, critic, journalist and poet. Much of this output, particularly on social, political and religious subjects, has proved ephemeral, but a few of his poems, including "The Donkey" and "The Rolling English Road," continue to appear in anthologies of popular verse. But he is chiefly remembered as one of the most brilliant writers of the short detective story and for his serial detective, the Roman Catholic priest Father Brown. The Innocence of Father Brown was published in 1911 and was followed by four further volumes; the last, The Scandal of Father Brown, appeared in 1935. G.K. Chesterton converted to Roman Catholicism in 1922, and his faith became central to his life and work. His fictional priest was based on his friend Father John O'Connor, to whom The Secret of Father Brown, published in 1927, was dedicated. ....

G.K Chesterton's output was prodigious, and it would be unreasonable to expect all the short stories to be equally successful, but the quality of the writing never disappoints. Chesterton never wrote an inelegant or clumsy sentence. The Father Brown stories are written in a style richly complex, imaginative, vigorous, poetic and spiced with paradoxes. He had been trained as an artist and he saw life with an artist's eye. He wanted his readers to share that poetic vision, to see the romance and numinousness in commonplace things. He brought two things in particular to detective fiction. He was among the first writers to realise that it could be a vehicle for exploring and exposing the condition of society, and for saying something true about human nature. Before he even planned the Father Brown stories, Chesterton wrote that "the only thrill, even of a common thriller, is concerned somehow with the conscience and the will." Those words have been part of my credo as a writer. ....
P.D. James, Talking About Detection Fiction, Knopf, 2009.

Friday, September 25, 2020

"Knowledge is good"

.... Reading is not a generalized skill. It involves another factor, background knowledge, which is not an abstract intellectual capacity. If you hand two groups of kids a passage about baseball—one group made up of strong readers who know little about the sport, the other of middling readers who know a lot about it—an interesting result follows. When tested on their comprehension of the passage, the average scores of the two groups converge. This is why Hirsch says that a reading test is really a knowledge test.

It is also why he rejects “skills” curricula—that is, teaching and assignments that emphasize abstract capacities such as “critical thinking” and “problem solving” and, in the lower grades, “reading comprehension.” Exercises such as “Find the main idea” and “What does a topic sentence do?” are of limited value. It is much better, Hirsch says, for teachers to assign knowledge-building readings and discuss the specific content of those readings. One, this will build the background knowledge that will enable students to perform well on high-stakes tests later on; and two, students will absorb unconsciously how to find a main idea and what topic sentences do.

.... His new book has fresh scientific findings to back up the knowledge factor. There is a fascinating section on the memory of chess Grand Masters, good historical material on Noah Webster and nineteenth-century schooling, and dismal records of what happened to academic achievement when schools went with the “skills” approach to learning. I recommend his books especially to those parents who find themselves doing lots of homeschooling in this age of lockdown.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Reading aloud

I know of couples who read to each other. My parents did. And, of course, reading to children is crucial if they are to become readers. This essay argues that reading aloud does more good than we might suppose.
Today, silent reading is the norm. The majority of us bottle the words in our heads as if sitting in the hushed confines of a library. Reading out loud is largely reserved for bedtime stories and performances.

But a growing body of research suggests that we may be missing out by reading only with the voices inside our minds. The ancient art of reading aloud has a number of benefits for adults, from helping improve our memories and understand complex texts, to strengthening emotional bonds between people. And far from being a rare or bygone activity, it is still surprisingly common in modern life. Many of us intuitively use it as a convenient tool for making sense of the written word, and are just not aware of it.

Colin MacLeod, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has extensively researched the impact of reading aloud on memory. He and his collaborators have shown that people consistently remember words and texts better if they read them aloud than if they read them silently. This memory-boosting effect of reading aloud is particularly strong in children, but it works for older people, too. “It’s beneficial throughout the age range,” he says. ....

For many respondents, reading aloud brought joy, comfort and a sense of belonging. Some read to friends who were sick or dying, as “a way of escaping together somewhere”, Duncan says. One woman recalled her mother reading poems to her, and talking to her, in Welsh. After her mother died, the woman began reading Welsh poetry aloud to recreate those shared moments. A Tamil speaker living in London said he read Christian texts in Tamil to his wife. On Shetland, a poet read aloud poetry in the local dialect to herself and others.

“There were participants who talked about how when someone is reading aloud to you, you feel a bit like you’re given a gift of their time, of their attention, of their voice,” Duncan recalls. “We see this in the reading to children, that sense of closeness and bonding, but I don’t think we talk about it as much with adults.” .... (more)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Who are we?

I have no strong opinion about the larger argument in this post — I didn't really read it attentively — but when I noticed this paragraph I enjoyed it a lot! Who are we?
We are those who have been crucified with Christ, buried with him in baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life. We are those who have been set free from the Powers of death and darkness; liberated from the domain of Sin. We are those who have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. We are those who are “now called the sons of God,” who also “shall be like him” in glory. We are those bound by chains of grace, living between the great bookends: “No Condemnation” and “No Separation.” We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus. We are the ones who have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” We are not of those who draw back, but those who believe to the saving of the soul. We are the grateful recipients of covenant mercies made fresh every morning. We are those who have been filled with the Spirit, made partakers of the divine nature, adopted and appointed as sons of the Most High God, and destined to sit with Christ upon his Father’s throne. We are the Church of Christ; his living body and beloved bride. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us! ....


In this case, fasting not as a religious discipline, but fasting to lose weight. At "Five Books" the author of The Diet Myth is interviewed about the five books he would recommend on dieting. First of all he says "all diet books are fatally flawed because they suggest there’s only one way to do things. In general, the genre is outdated. And it preys on human weakness: peddling that there’s a quick fix for everything." One of the most serious errors that persists is the "low fat" diet. He drinks whole milk when he drinks milk. Meat itself isn't a problem (although he does have a problem with cows because farting causing climate change), but sugar is. Salt doesn't seem to be an issue. Exercise, on its own, doesn't work. About breakfast: "Try a high fat breakfast such as yoghurt, eggs or cheese, or skipping it altogether." And so on. The final book he discusses is The FastDiet, and that is the only diet he recommends.
.... This means that either every other day, or for two days a week, you will either fast completely or consume only 25% of your normal calories. The rest of the time you just eat normally. The idea was that you reset your metabolism and allow your body to rest. You’re able to lose weight on this diet, because you don’t overeat as much as you might think on the other days. ....

It turns out that the longer you fast overnight or during the day, the longer your body is not dealing with food and the better and healthier your metabolism. A lot of that’s coming from gut microbes. Your gut health is better when they have time to recover, heal, tidy up your gut lining, help your immune system. Or that’s the current theory, and increasing data is supporting that.

Our ancestors didn’t eat six times a day and feel faint if they didn’t have a McVitie’s biscuit at 11 o’clock. ....

I think if people start to experiment, they can find what suits them. You mentioned breakfast; studies show that if you randomise people to breakfast or no breakfast, but the same amount of food in a day, people overeat a bit if they miss breakfast, but not so much that they over-compensate. .... (more)
Interesting. Although this approach to dieting seems to have been around for a while, I don't recall ever having heard of it.

Monday, September 21, 2020


There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness; and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we ourselves are incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real. It is the fundamental fact of being, as against not being; it is unthinkable, yet we cannot unthink it, though we may sometimes be unthinking about it; unthinking and especially unthanking. For he who has realized this reality knows that it does outweigh, literally to infinity, all lesser regrets or arguments for negation, and that under all our grumblings there is a subconscious substance of gratitude. ....
G.K. Chesterton, Chaucer, found in The Quotable Chesterton, Ignatius Press, 1986.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Finally and ultimately

Modern Heresies is a book I found on the shelves of the Milton College Library, and soon ordered for myself. It was an early introduction to the idea of heresy. (If reprinted, it should be re-titled Perennial Heresies.) This is from Chapter Three, "The Personal God":
.... A friend of mine has characterized most preaching which he hears as consisting of "if-only" sermons: "If only people would obey the Sermon on the Mount, the world would be ever so much better." The image of God that such sermons project is of a Divine floor-pacer, wringing his hands over the mess men are getting into and wishing desperately he could think of something to do about it. How often one hears in sermons phrases like this : "God is trying to do so and so"; "God hopes we will hear and obey him." Some of this language is inevitable as the language of analogy, but we ought to be quite sure we see how very misleading it can be. God isn't really "trying" to do anything; he is doing it. God doesn't "hope" for anything; he is quite aware that his will is done perfectly both in earth and in heaven. The danger of talking about a limited God who is trying things out and hoping things will work out well is that one can put no confidence or trust in such a God. For if a limited and finite God is really our image of the Divine then he may very well fail. Perhaps our experience with democracy has misled us into thinking that God is not so much the eternal King of creation as just a candidate seeking that office ( and the preachers are his precinct workers, out drumming up votes). But what if he isn't elected?

Orthodoxy's answer to this heresy has always been the assertion that God can do anything he wants, but what he wants is to create free beings able to respond to him wholeheartedly and trustingly. Omnipotence is not the ability to do anything; it is the ability to achieve one's purpose. .... God's omnipotence is proved by the freedom with which he allows man to run the world as he wants. If he were interfering all the time, shrilly insisting that men hew to the line and seizing them by the scruff of the neck if they did not, one would conclude that he was a very nervous and uncertain Deity, indeed. God's omnipotence lies in his capacity to make all things work together for good, finally and ultimately. Perhaps the most powerful evidence for this is the story of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
John M Krumm, Modern Heresies (1961), pp. 48-49.


Kevin DeYoung:
Wisdom is what we need to live a godly life. God does not tell us the future, nor does He expect us to figure it out. When we don't know which way to turn and are faced with tough decisions in life, God doesn't expect us to grope in the dark for some hidden will of direction. He expects us to trust Him and to be wise. This is the theme of Proverbs, especially chapter 2. Consider verses 1-6 (NIV):
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Verse 5 gives the answer to the question, "What is wisdom?" Wisdom is understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God. Wisdom, in Proverbs, is always moral. The fool, the opposite of the wise person, is not a moron or an oaf. The fool is the person who does not live life God's way. Wisdom is knowing God and doing as He commands. Foolishness, on the other hand, is turning from God and listening only to yourself. So when we talk about wisdom, we are talking about more than witty aphorisms and home-spun advice. We are talking about a profoundly God-centered approach to life. Biblical wisdom means living a disciplined and prudent life in the fear of the Lord. ....
Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something (2009), pp. 88-89.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Ever after

Bruce Edwards on the Narnia book nobody cites as their favorite, Prince Caspian:
...I adjure all readers to read them in the order in which Lewis wrote and published them! For dramatic, thematic, as well as suspense purposes, it is crucial that LWW  [The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe] be the first to be read, followed by the Caspian Triad, then The Horse and His Boy (a kind of found tale, deliberately anachronistic), then Narnia’s origin story, The Magician’s Nephew, and, finally, the truly consummating The Last Battle. This is the most compelling and satisfying way to begin and complete a journey to Narnia. ....

If Prince Caspian is no LWW, there is no shame in that. For how could any story measure up to what is, in fact, a retelling of the greatest story ever told, the story with the greatest significance for every creature great or small, the scintillating and enchanting tale that delivers the “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” ....

Having said that, I will tell you that there remains a most important lesson to be emphasized from the very start of this underrated and undervalued Narnian tale, namely, that in imagining and creating Prince Caspian, Lewis has taught us the profound but overlooked truth that life does have sequels. Life is, in fact, filled with sequels, that emphasize our heretofores, once-agains, and ever-afters.

There is an “ever after,” even after the seemingly “most important things” have already happened. How could anything that occurs after the death, resurrection, and triumph of Aslan to set things aright be anything but trivial. Aha! The recent slogan, “been there, done that,” the older slogan, “the show must go on,” and the oldest one of all, no doubt uttered by Adam and Eve more than once in the Garden, “life goes on,” is certainly just as true in Narnia. The question is not “how has life gone,” but how can life go on? ....

“Old truths don’t lose their value or validity because they are old.” This is an important maxim governing the whole of the Chronicles—but especially relevant here. One must not judge the validity and truth of a statement by “when” it first originated. This is a fictional treatment of the challenge of “chronological snobbery,” which Lewis faced and defeated, described in Surprised by Joy as a key to his own liberation.

Dr. Cornelius, Caspian, Trumpkin, Reepicheep, all must fight through their skepticism in order to accept as true the “old” belief that Aslan exists and Narnia’s future is dependent on this “ancient” knowledge. Life for us all is “in medias res,” in the middle of things; we don’t get to choose the moment in which we will enter the world, nor what conversations, ideas, victories, and defeats have preceded us, or will succeed us. .... (more)

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A faithful, but unheralded, life

Via Mere Orthodoxy, quoting from the ending of a book I probably should have read, but haven't. I really like this:
“... [F]or the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” George Eliot’s Middlemarch

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

An opening to murder

.... Born on this day in 1890, in Torquay, England, she enjoyed surpassing fame in her lifetime and lays a current claim to being the bestselling novelist of all-time. She was and remains the undisputed Queen of Crime. But for all we celebrate her popularity, her prolific output, and her ingenious plots, Christie is sometimes overlooked on the craft level. .... [T]o celebrate the day, we thought: why not gather up some of Christie’s greatest opening lines?
For example, from The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926):
“Mrs. Ferrars died on the night of the 16th–17th September—a Thursday. I was sent for at eight o’clock on the morning of Friday the 17th. There was nothing to be done. She had been dead some hours.”
Other examples of Christie's openings.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The worm in the apple

A graduate student explains "Why I am a Conservative":
A good political ideology must be concordant with human nature. Ideologies that are not, however inspiring they might sound, will inevitably lead to frustration and ultimately to disillusionment. I believe that conservatism is the political ideology that is the most consistent with human nature. And therefore, I am a conservative.

The fundamental premise, as I see it, of conservatism is original sin. Humans are flawed, fallible, limited creatures. For thinkers in the Christian tradition, original sin was a separation from God and an almost inexplicable drive to disobey his divine orders. For the secular, original sin can be understood as the belief that humans are compelled to imagine and create a moral order that they cannot possibly obey. Humans can imagine paradise, but they are condemned to dwell in the purgatory of earthly reality, bound inevitably by their biological natures. They can, for example, envisage a world of perfect cooperation, a world free from the strife of conflict and competition. But they can never instantiate it. Thus, original sin in this sense is a separation of humans from their moral ideal.

Humans have four chief limitations: They are tribal, local, competitive, and fallible. These traits lie like maggots in the fruit of humanistic idealism and preclude the creation of a progressive’s paradise. Communism, socialism, a world without tribes or irrational attachments — these are fantasies that will never come to pass. The conservative accepts this as the price of moral maturity and attempts to deal with humankind’s frailties and shortcomings without counseling despair but also without promoting utopian optimism. .... (more)


"Rethinking Race" is thought provoking and very much worth your time.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, to be a progressive, right-thinking American intellectual was to believe in the genetic superiority of certain racial groups. Otherwise known as eugenics or race science, the idea that races can be readily sorted along an immutable biological hierarchy had far-reaching policy implications, from marriage laws to immigration, and heavily influenced the racial policies of Nazi Germany. The logical conclusion of the belief that racial groups were inherently distinct from one another was that societal disparities between them must be a consequence of nature, rather than the results of a complex tangle of socioeconomic, cultural, historical and other demographic forces. At the time, to offer a critique of the prevailing vision of race, such as those made by Franz Boas and G.K. Chesterton, could have resulted in social stigma and opened up the critic to the charge of being on the wrong side of history.

What is considered progress at a given point in history can, with the passage of time and the advent of better information, come to look like the opposite. Nowhere is that juxtaposition more stark than on the loaded subject of race in America. ....

The term racecraft refers to all the ways in which we uphold the psycho-social construct of race, from subtle acts of projection to overt discrimination and brutal suppression. “Disguised as race, racism becomes something Afro-Americans are, rather than something racists do.” The one-drop rule under the systems of slavery and Jim Crow—whereby a drop of African blood made a person socially black even if their ancestry was largely European—is a clear example of the mental contortions necessary for racecraft. ....

.... When we look at race through a sociological microscope, isolating it from other associated factors such as culture, ethnic background, national identity and politics—we are left with almost nothing of any meaning or value: it refers to the general region of the world most of a person’s recent ancestors came from and may imply a heightened or reduced risk of certain medical conditions at the margins. But race itself has no human weight. ....

White supremacy was an abomination because it ascribed moral meaning to the arbitrary and unchosen fact of skin color. Yet much of what constitutes antiracism today is effectively an inverse continuation of this misbegotten belief. We see this in the lack of emphasis on concrete policy issues and the focus on totalizing theories of whiteness, privilege and structural oppression. We see this in the conceptual expansion of the term racism from individual discriminatory behaviors to an unconscious systemic bias that is built into the edifice of society itself. We see this in the cynical tokenization of minorities to score political points. We see this in the way the racial double standards of the past are used to justify racial double standards in the present. We see this in the unwillingness to track the astounding racial progress of the past 60 years. ....

Racial categories promote thinking in terms of race. As the ethnic composition of the country rapidly changes over the coming decades, it’s imperative to consider which guiding principles will allow us to see past superficial differences and embrace what we have in common as citizens and human beings. At the moment, we’re doing a terrible job of this. We need a different vision for American society, what Ralph Ellison called a new American humanism, which views the diverse strands of American identity in positive-sum terms and rejects all forms of identity essentialism. .... (more)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Kids like to know stuff

I thought E.D. Hirsch right when I first read him in the 1980s. Hirsch, who considers himself a man of the political left but not the cultural left, has given an interview at the Wall Street Journal that they titled "Bad Teaching Is Tearing America Apart." From the account of the interview:
.... The current fashion is for teachers to be a “guide on the side, instead of a sage on the stage,” he says, quoting the latest pedagogical slogan, which means that teachers aren’t supposed to lecture students but to “facilitate” learning by nudging students to follow their own curiosity. Everything Mr. Hirsch knows about how children learn tells him that’s the wrong approach. “If you want equity in education, as well as excellence, you have to have whole-class instruction,” in which a teacher directly communicates information using a prescribed sequential curriculum.

Mr. Hirsch, 92, is best known for his 1987 book, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. It is an argument for teaching “specifics,” followed by a lengthy list of them—thousands of historical figures, events, concepts and literary works with which, in Mr. Hirsch’s view, educated Americans should be familiar. Heavily weighted toward Western history and civilization, the list provoked charges of elitism. Yet Mr. Hirsch is singularly focused on helping disadvantaged kids. They “are not exposed to this information at home,” he says, so they’ll starve intellectually unless the schools provide it. ....

He cites both history and neuroscience in explaining how education went wrong. It began in the 1940s, when “schools unbolted the desks and kids were no longer facing the teacher.” Instead children were divided into small groups and instructed to complete worksheets independently with occasional input from teachers. “That was also when our verbal test scores went down and the relative ranking of our elementary schools declined on a national level.” On the International Adult Literacy Survey, Americans went from being No. 1 for children who were educated in the 1950s to fifth for those in the ’70s and 14th in the ’90s. ....

Mr. Hirsch also takes issue with grade schools’ focus on “skills.” Whether it is imparting “critical thinking skills,” “communication skills” or “problem-solving skills,” he says such instruction is a waste of time in the absence of specific knowledge. ....

There are now about 5,000 schools in the U.S. that use some form of the Core Knowledge curriculum, developed by Mr. Hirsch’s foundation. And research suggests Mr. Hirsch is right. A recent large-scale randomized study of public-school pupils in kindergarten through second grade found that use of the Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum had statistically significant benefits for vocabulary, science knowledge, and social-studies knowledge.

Even in poor neighborhoods, kids at Core Knowledge schools perform well and are admitted to competitive high schools. ....

Before classes began one morning, a second-grade girl approached him (the principal) and said: “I’m so excited for today.” When the principal asked why, she said, “Because today we are going to learn about the War of 1812.”

“Gee, I wonder what that’s about,” the principal said.

“I don’t know,” the girl replied. “But today I’m going to find out!”

For Mr. Hirsch, the lesson is clear. No matter the circumstances, “kids delight in learning things.”

(Just re-named the post.) 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Evil incarnate in someone else

This morning Kevin Williamson quotes a very good passage from T.S. Eliot's The Idea of a Christian Society. Eliot:
It ought not to be necessary for me to insist that the final aims of the churchman, and the aims of the secular reformer, are very different. So far as the aims of the latter are for true social justice, they ought to be comprehended in those of the former. But one reason why the lot of the secular reformer or revolutionist seems to me to be the easier is this: that for the most part he conceives of the evils of the world as something external to himself. They are thought of either as completely impersonal, so that there is nothing to alter but machinery; or if there is evil incarnate, it is always incarnate in the other people — a class, a race, the politicians, the bankers, the armament makers, and so forth — never in oneself. There are individual exceptions: but so far as a man sees the need for converting himself as well as the World, he is approximating to the religious point of view. But for most people, to be able to simplify issues so as to see only the definite external enemy, is extremely exhilarating, and brings about the bright eye and the springy step that go so well with the political uniform. This is an exhilaration that the Christian must deny himself. It comes from an artificial stimulant bound to have bad aftereffects. It causes pride, either individual or collective, and pride brings its own doom. For only in humility, charity and purity — and most of all perhaps humility — can we be prepared to receive the grace of God without which human operations are vain.
T.S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society, 1940