Monday, November 30, 2020

"The law is a ass"

Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist.
Bumble, the Beadle

“It was all Mrs. Bumble. She would do it," urged Mr. Bumble; first looking round, to ascertain that his partner had left the room.

That is no excuse," returned Mr. Brownlow. "You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and, indeed, are the more guilty of the two, in the eye of the law; for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction."

If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, "the law is a ass — a idiot. If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.”

"The Christ child...changes everything"

Alan Jacobs quotes from his introduction to W.H. Auden's For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio. I haven't read the poem but particularly liked these selections from Jacobs:
Auden had come to believe that all the matters he was strenuously reassessing — art, community, erotic love, politics, psychology — had been fundamentally altered by a single event: the entry of God into human history, what Christians call the Incarnation. The Christ child, as every character agrees in the poem he would write, changes everything. ....

According to the Christian liturgical calendar each year begins with the season of Advent, which uniquely concerns itself with past and future events: it remembers the first coming of the Messiah and looks forward to the day when, as the Nicene Creed puts it, Christ "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." To be a Christian is to live between these two advents, to be thankful for the salvation brought by the first Advent and to be soberly penitent in light of Christ's inevitable return in judgment.

The believer therefore lives poised on a cusp, with Before and After falling off on either side of the moment. We have no power to alter or delay the moment's arrival; it comes to us as decision because we must respond in some way to it. This condition is largely what Auden means by "the time being": to be faced with the necessity of radical choice, but a choice that must be made as a kind of leap of faith, since the fateful moment does not impose an interpretation, but rather calls one forth from us. ....
I discover that I have the poem in a book I haven't looked into for some time.

Alan Jacobs, "'We Have Seen Our Salvation': W.H. Auden and the Time of the Incarnation"

Sunday, November 29, 2020

For all...fall short...

Quoted by Patrick Kurp, from Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago. I've read the first paragraph many times because it is often quoted, but probably not the second since I read the book years ago.
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"A constant habitual Gratitude"


Via Anecdotal Evidence, Joseph Addison (1672-1719) in Spectator #381:
I have always preferred Chearfulness to Mirth. The latter, I consider as an Act, the former as an Habit of the Mind. Mirth is short and transient. Chearfulness fixed and permanent. Those are often raised into the greatest Transports of Mirth, who are subject to the greatest Depressions of Melancholy: On the contrary, Chearfulness, tho’ it does not give the Mind such an exquisite Gladness, prevents us from falling into any Depths of Sorrow. Mirth is like a Flash of Lightning, that breaks thro a Gloom of Clouds, and glitters for a Moment; Chearfulness keeps up a kind of Day-light in the Mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual Serenity. ....

If we consider Chearfulness in three Lights, with regard to our selves, to those we converse with, and to the great Author of our Being, it will not a little recommend it self on each of these Accounts. The Man who is possessed of this excellent Frame of Mind, is not only easy in his Thoughts, but a perfect Master of all the Powers and Faculties of his Soul: His Imagination is always clear, and his Judgment undisturbed: His Temper is even and unruffled, whether in Action or in Solitude. He comes with a Relish to all those Goods which Nature has provided for him, tastes all the Pleasures of the Creation which are poured about him, and does not feel the full Weight of those accidental Evils which may befal him.

If we consider him in relation to the Persons whom he converses with, it naturally produces Love and Good-will towards him. A chearful Mind is not only disposed to be affable and obliging, but raises the same good Humour in those who come within its Influence. A Man finds himself pleased, he does not know why, with the Chearfulness of his Companion: It is like a sudden Sun-shine that awakens a secret Delight in the Mind, without her attending to it. The Heart rejoices of its own accord, and naturally flows out into Friendship and Benevolence towards the Person who has so kindly an Effect upon it.

When I consider this chearful State of Mind in its third Relation, I cannot but look upon it as a constant habitual Gratitude to the great Author of Nature. An inward Chearfulness is an implicit Praise and Thanksgiving to Providence under all its Dispensations. It is a kind of Acquiescence in the State wherein we are placed, and a secret Approbation of the Divine Will in his Conduct towards Man. .... (more)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"He had to have a story"

Walter Hooper became C.S. Lewis's secretary for a time before Lewis died and has become one of the foremost scholars on all things CSL. He edited, compiled, and explained Lewis in one publication after another. From "Preserving the Legacy of C.S. Lewis":
The cataclysm of World War I helped to bring Lewis and the Inklings together in the postwar years. “I can’t think of anybody who was a dedicated member of the Inklings who was not in the war,” he says. “It caused you to really love these remainders, these friends who got through.” Chief among them was Tolkien, who shared Lewis’s taste for fantasy and mythology.

Mr. Hooper once found a letter in which Lewis recounts Tolkien reading him a story about “Middle-earth.” The letter was dated 1929—nearly 20 years before Tolkien completed the “The Lord of the Rings.” Lewis never stopped encouraging Tolkien to turn his “mad hobby” into an epic romance. “I never had any inclination to write a story. What I liked was building up languages,” Mr. Hooper remembers Tolkien telling him. “But you know what Jack Lewis was like. He was such a boy. He had to have a story. And that story, The Lord of the Rings, was written to keep him quiet!” ....
Preserving the Legacy of C.S. Lewis

Sunday, November 22, 2020

"The" C.S. Lewis biography

Alan Jacobs:
Just discovered that a fairly generous excerpt of my biography of C.S. Lewis is available online — as a PDF — complete with the absolutely hideous cover image that I fruitlessly protested against when it was shown to me.
His biography is, in my opinion, the best book about C.S. Lewis I have read. After reading the introductory material and first two chapters of The Narnian here (pdf), buy the book itself here. If you like Lewis, you won't be disappointed.

November 22, 1963

From Christianity Today on this date in 2012: "Giving thanks for C.S. Lewis":
I read a newspaper obituary about Lewis that my grandmother kept. She preserved the entire paper. The event was buried in the back–barely two column inches if memory serves. The rest of paper, or at least the majority of it, was dedicated to reporting the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Both men died the same day. ....
Lewis was not well the last few years of his life. In his final days, Miller writes, he was still reading:
Holed up at The Kilns, he reread the Iliad and other books. Sayer lists not only the Iliad and the Odyssey but mentions that he read them in Greek, that he read the Aeneid in Latin, as well as “Dante’s Divine Comedy; Wordsworth’s The Prelude; and works by George Herbert, Patmore, Scott, Austen, Fielding, Dickens, and Trollope.”

Surrounded by his books, Wilson says that Lewis “remained...propped up in the very room where Joy had spent so many heroic hours suffering.”

And then he joined her.

It was Friday, November 22. He was cheerful but had a hard time staying awake. He ate breakfast, got dressed, answered some letters. After lunch, his brother Warnie “suggested he would be more comfortable in bed, and he went there.” Warnie took him tea at four. An hour and a half later he heard a crash. Lewis had collapsed at the foot of his bed. Unconscious, as recorded Warnie, “[h]e ceased to breathe some three or four minutes later.” .... (more)

In 2013 a memorial to C.S. Lewis was placed in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. The stone is inscribed with his name, the dates of his life, and this quotation:
"I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I can see it but because by it I can see everything else."
Giving thanks for C.S. Lewis, BBC News - CS Lewis honoured with Poets' Corner memorial

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Advent is nigh

Jonathan Aigner at Ponder Anew tells us "Don’t Sing Christmas Carols Until You’ve Sung These Advent Hymns." He provides performances but first he reminds us:
In Advent, we put ourselves in the place of the faithful who had waited generations for their promised King. Our four-week period of hope and expectation encapsulates the longing and yearning into which Jesus finally, miraculously arrived. Advent slows us down and restores our hearts and minds so that the heaven-born Prince of Peace can be fully born in our hearts once again.

People of God, take time to ponder anew the mysterious reality of the Incarnation. Allow yourselves to feel the emptiness, and allow it to be filled with joyous hope in the coming Messiah, through whom all of creation would be made whole. ....
He provides sixteen hymns via YouTube videos, most of them familiar to me but a few weren't.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


I'm about two-thirds of the way through Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis. I've read a great deal about both going back many years as well as most of their own work, but this book has taught me more and I like both of them even more. It has not improved my opinion of Charles Williams, though.

This is a passage I just read:
...[S]he could be a staunch defender in public as well as an appreciative listener in private. In July 1955, for instance, Jack happened across a letter to the editor of the Spectator that Dorothy had written, vigorously defending the Narnia books against a critic who had not only disliked but grossly misunderstood them. It turned out that, without Jack having been aware of it, Dorothy knew the series quite well. She wrote about her liking for it in a 1956 letter to Barbara Reynolds, who was reading them with her young daughter. Dorothy expressed in particular her appreciation that
the girls, on the whole, are given as much courage as the boys, and more virtue...and they are even allowed to fight with bows and arrows, though not with swords—a curious sex-distinction which I don't quite approve of; as though to kill at a distance were more feminine than to kill at close quarters!
But that minor point aside, her impression of Narnia had been decidedly positive. So in her letter to the Spectator, in her own inimitably blunt fashion, she set the critic straight about both Jack's theology (the critic having mistaken Aslan for an archangel rather than a Christ figure) and the rules of fantasy, which she argued were much more lenient than the critic allowed.

Jack was touchingly surprised to find that Dorothy had been reading his "opuscules" (little works) and grateful to her for standing up for him against the "nit-wit." Her words about his books in that article—including her assertion that "Professor Lewis's theology and pneumatology are as accurate and logical here as in his other writings"—must have helped to soothe the old sting of Tolkien's disapproval.

From then on Jack and Dorothy discussed Narnia freely (including Dorothy's dislike of Pauline Baynes's illustrations, referred to earlier), and she confessed herself as eager as any child for the publication of The Last Battle. He made sure to send her a copy as soon as it came out.
Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis, Baker Books, 2020.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Teach your children well

University education may not be worth its cost these days:
.... Recent graduates know much less about U.S. government than older Americans do. In 2018 the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation gave a sample of Americans a test based on the exam for U.S. citizenship. Only 19% of people under 45 passed, while 74% of those over 65 did, meaning even elderly people who learned the material more than 40 years ago can summon it from memory better than recent grads. Similar studies have found a regression in knowledge of U.S. history. Today’s universities are presiding over a nationwide reversion to civic illiteracy. That’s a disaster for the country, but it suits campus radicals. A well-informed citizenry would hardly wish to be governed by people whose ideological kin have reduced so many countries to economic and political deserts.

America’s universities were once the leading edge of an advanced culture, reinforcing and expanding the country’s best features. They steered differences of opinion away from rancor and toward well-regulated, informed debate. They welcomed eccentric opinions, expanded the boundaries of thought and learning in every sphere, prepared students for citizenship by rooting them in their society’s government and history, and trained students for nonpartisan service in the specialized professions an advanced society needs.

None of that persists today. Far from being the leading edge of an advanced culture, the universities drag America back toward a more primitive state. They have contempt for the restraints and rules that define society, such as political neutrality in nonpolitical institutions. For radicals, politics takes precedence over everything, and every field within social science and the humanities eventually degrades into a mere channel to spread progressive orthodoxies. .... (more)
Woke Universities Lead America to a Primitive State

Sunday, November 15, 2020

"I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into? "

On Facebook this morning, a request for the location in The Lord of the Rings of a quotation that turned out to be from the movies. But one of the responses located the much lengthier likely source in The Two Towers:
'The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually — their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on — and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same — like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into? '

`I wonder,' said Frodo. 'But I don't know. And that's the way of a real tale. Take any one that you're fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don't know. And you don't want them to.'

'No, sir, of course not. Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that's a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it — and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We've got — you've got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we're in the same tale still! It's going on. Don't the great tales never end? '

'No, they never end as tales,' said Frodo. `But the people in them come, and go when their part's ended. Our part will end later — or sooner.'

'And then we can have some rest and some sleep,' said Sam. He laughed grimly. 'And I mean just that, Mr. Frodo. I mean plain ordinary rest, and sleep, and waking up to a morning's work in the garden. I'm afraid that's all I'm hoping for all the time. All the big important plans are not for my sort. Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We're in one, or course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: "Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring! " And they'll say: "Yes, that's one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave. wasn't he, dad?" "Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that's saying a lot."'

`It's saying a lot too much,' said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places since Sauron came to Middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again. 'Why, Sam,' he said, 'to hear you somehow makes me as merry as if the story was already written. But you've left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. "I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn't they put in more of his talk, dad? That's what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn't have got far without Sam, would he, dad? " '

`Now, Mr. Frodo,' said Sam, 'you shouldn't make fun. I was serious. '

`So was I,' said Frodo, 'and so I am. We're going on a bit too fast. You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: "Shut the book now, dad; we don't want to read any more." '

`Maybe,' said Sam, 'but I wouldn't be one to say that. Things done and over and made into part of the great tales are different.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, Book IV.

Saturday, November 14, 2020


From a review of What’s Wrong With Rights? by Nigel Biggar:
.... Rights are qualified by duty, not least that not to harm others. There is a liberty that belongs to Christian people by the word of God, a liberty Biggar defines as “the freedom not to be forced to do anything that God forbids, or to be forcibly prevented from doing anything he commands.” Also, to have a right “is not yet to have moral permission to assert it” — the social good might demand otherwise. ....
What’s Wrong with Rights by Nigel Biggar review: one man's crusade for intellectual freedom continues

Friday, November 13, 2020

"Present laughter to utopian bliss"

I was introduced to the essays of Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) as an undergraduate student of politics by a political philosophy professor at Milton College and read more while studying that subject in graduate school at William & Mary. The best collection of Oakeshott is Rationalism in politics and other essays (1962, 1991). Revisiting his essay, "On being conservative."
The common belief that it is impossible (or, if not impossible, then so unpromising as to be not worth while attempting) to elicit explanatory general principles from what is recognized to be conservative conduct is not one that I share. It may be true that conservative conduct does not readily provoke articulation in the idiom of general ideas, and that consequently there has been a certain reluctance to undertake this kind of elucidation; but it is not to be presumed that conservative conduct is less eligible than any other for this sort of interpretation, for what it is worth. Nevertheless, this is not the enterprise I propose to engage in here. My theme is not a creed or a doctrine, but a disposition. To be conservative is to be disposed to think and behave in certain manners; it is to prefer certain kinds of conduct and certain conditions of human circumstances to others; it is to be disposed to make certain kinds of choices. And my design here is to construe this disposition as it appears in contemporary character, rather than to transpose it into the idiom of general principles.

The general characteristics of this disposition are not difficult to discern, although they have often been mistaken. They centre upon a propensity to use and to enjoy what is available rather than to wish for or to look for something else; to delight in what is present rather than what was or what may be. Reflection may bring to light an appropriate gratefulness for what is available, and consequently the acknowledgment of a gift or an inheritance from the past; but there is no mere idolizing of what is past and gone. What is esteemed is the present; and it is esteemed not on account of its connections with a remote antiquity, nor because it is recognized to be more admirable than any possible alternative, but on account of its familiarity: not, Verweile doch, du bist so schon, but, Stay with me because I am attached to you.

If the present is arid, offering little or nothing to be used or enjoyed, then this inclination will be weak or absent; if the present is remarkably unsettled, it will display itself in a search for a firmer foothold and consequently in a recourse to and an exploration of the past; but it asserts itself characteristically when there is much to be enjoyed, and it will be strongest when this is combined with evident risk of loss. In short, it is a disposition appropriate to a man who is acutely aware of having something to lose which he has learned to care for; a man in some degree rich in opportunities for enjoyment, but not so rich that he can afford to be indifferent to loss. It will appear more naturally in the old than in the young, not because the old are more sensitive to loss but because they are apt to be more fully aware of the resources of their world and therefore less likely to find them inadequate. In some people this disposition is weak merely because they are ignorant of what their world has to offer them: the present appears to them only as a residue of importunities.

To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss. Familiar relationships and loyalties will be preferred to the allure of more profitable attachments; to acquire and to enlarge will be less important than to keep, to cultivate and to enjoy; the grief of loss will be more acute than the excitement of novelty or promise. It is to be equal to one's own fortune, to live at the level of one's own means, to be content with the want of greater perfection which belongs alike to oneself and one's circumstances. With some people this is itself a choice; in others it is a disposition which appears, frequently or less frequently, in their preferences and aversions, and is not itself chosen or specifically cultivated.

Now, all this is represented in a certain attitude towards change and innovation; change denoting alterations we have to suffer and innovation those we design and execute. ....
Michael Oakeshott, "On being conservative," Rationalism in politics and other essays, 1991.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Pure Sherlock

Just as Joan Hickson was the perfect Miss Marple, Jeremy Brett was the definitive Sherlock Holmes. From a Telegraph appreciation of the series:
.... Stage actor Brett was approached in 1982 with the idea to make an exquisitely crafted, fully authentic adaptation of the consulting detective’s best cases. He set his heart on becoming “the best Sherlock Holmes the world has ever seen”.

He conducted exhaustive research, becoming a stickler for any discrepancy between the scripts and Conan Doyle’s stories. One of Brett’s most treasured possessions was his bulging “Baker Street File”, detailing everything from Holmes’s mannerisms to his eating habits. In contrast to the stuffy portrayals of the black-and-white era, Brett brought passion to the role. He introduced Holmes’s fluttering hand gestures and barks of eccentric laughter (“Ha!”). He would leap over furniture in search of clues or hurl himself to the ground to examine a footprint.

Brett’s Holmes was like a bird of prey, with piercing vision and a predator’s instincts. He suffered black moods between cases – like Brett himself, who was bipolar – but crackled with electrifying energy when the game was afoot. .... Of the 80-odd actors to portray Holmes, Brett is how I imagine the character. ....

The series ran from 1984 to 1994, comprising 41 films. .... This is pure Sherlock for the connoisseurs, as faithful to his literary roots as has ever been seen on screen. ....
I watched Jeremy Brett in The Hound of the Baskervilles only two nights ago.

Culture Fix: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A correspondence

From a review of Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis.
.... In a new book, Dorothy and Jack, Gina Dalfonzo delves into the correspondence between these two writers, which spanned more than a decade, beginning with a letter from Sayers to Lewis and ending with Sayers’s death. With this compact tome, Dalfonzo draws out the ways in which the writers might have helped spur each other to greater creativity in their work and to deeper understanding in their personal lives. The book features long quotations from many of their exchanges, following the thread of one topic or another through the course of several letters back and forth, but their text is set inside what is primarily a case Dalfonzo outlines: that the correspondence between them, illuminated by knowledge of their personal lives, illustrates how the friendship altered both for the better. ....

Dalfonzo’s ability to pull the right excerpts from these letters and capture the playful spirit in which they corresponded will make readers feel almost as if they are being immersed in this very real friendship, watching slowly as Sayers and Lewis warm up to each other, their mutual fondness growing over the course of years. It is immediately obvious, thanks to the brief biographies Dalfonzo provides, that Sayers and Lewis had much in common in how they approached their work and in the values that undergirded their efforts. Most notably, both were profoundly shaped by their days at Oxford, and both had undergone significant personal experiences earlier in life — he a conversion, and she a series of troubled relationships — that helped explain their passion for using the written word to influence readers.

But those similarities did not mean they always saw eye to eye, even on those vital matters where their interests aligned. ....

In some of the book’s strongest sections, Dalfonzo explores ways in which this friendship between a highly intelligent man and woman may have shaped — and reshaped — Lewis’s views on friendship between the sexes and on women in general. Lewis didn’t marry until a little more than a year before Sayers passed away in late 1957. By that time, it seems clear from his writing, her presence as a strong female friend in his life had altered his attitude toward women and the possibility of platonic friendship. ....

Dalfonzo recounts that when Sayers passed away after a sudden heart attack, Lewis cried — the first time his stepson Douglas Gresham ever saw the older man shed a tear. That event recalls a passage earlier in the book, when Lewis told Sayers he had “shed real tears (hot ones)” after reading her play-cycle The Man Born to Be King. Perhaps his tears on both occasions were evidence of Lewis’s belief that our most meaningful friendships are those in which we see and share the same truth. .... (more)
C.S. Lewis & Dorothy Sayers: Review of Dorothy and Jack by Gina Dalfonzo

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Laurence Binyon, 1914

 First World - Prose & Poetry - Laurence Binyon

“Retreat? Hell, we just got here!”

Allen Guelzo on "The Great War's Price":
.... Given that almost 8 percent of the American population was (like my great-grandfather) either German-born or the offspring of German parents, and another 4.5 percent Irish, who had every reason to sympathize with the 1916 Irish uprising against British rule, the United States might have felt little incentive to take the Allies’ side. ....

But once in, Americans were all in. “There was a crusading spirit in the air,” recalled one new recruit in the spring of 1917, “bands were playing martial music on the courthouse squares.” Newspapers hawked stories of German atrocities and pictured the German emperor, Wilhelm II, as “the Beast in the Bible’s Book of Revelation, who wanted to conquer the world.” Re­cruitment posters (led by James Montgomery Flagg’s frowning Uncle Sam) confronted young men with the demands “I want you for u.s. army” and “Uphold our honor, fight for us.” Those more hesitant would be drafted under the Selective Service Act of 1917.

After three years of watching the Great War from the sidelines, Americans ought to have been better prepared for taking up arms. They weren’t. The Army’s tactical doctrine showed no sign of any of the brutal lessons being taught in the trenches in France about machine guns, barbed wire, and poison gas.

The country would soon learn otherwise, for what the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) walked into was an entirely new and horrific way of making war, honed by three years of remorseless practice. All told, the United States put into uniform less than 4 percent of its population that was eligible for military service; from that number, 116,000 Americans died in the short span of their involvement. ....

From the muck of the war, American soldiers were able to retrieve at least a few moments of glory. The first sizable American units to go into action fought at Cantigny on May 26, 1918, at Soissons and Château-Thierry in July, at Saint-Mihiel in September (where up to 14 American divisions participated), and, in October and November, in the 47-day battle to clear the Argonne Forest. The U.S. Marines earned their first great title to combat glory in the fighting for the Belleau Wood in June 1918, along with the memorable response given by Lieutenant Lloyd Williams when the French advised him to retreat: “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” The Germans gave the Marines one of the names they’ve lived with ever since: Teufel Hunden (Devil Dogs). ....

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

"The footprints of a gigantic hound"

CrimeReads has a good post about Conan Doyle's best Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles. If you haven't read the book or seen one of the films, don't go to the link — it reveals too much of the plot, and that's fatal to the pleasure of a first read. From the post:
.... The Hound itself is no common blackmailer or thief or assassin. It is a thing of nightmares, so frightening that the sight of it alone can induce a fatal heart attack in one victim and send another hurtling to his death off a rocky outcrop while fleeing it. It is designed to scare not just characters in the novel but readers too....

Nobody can forget the book’s title character, once they have met it, even if the details of the story surrounding it may grow a little hazy in the memory afterwards. Like Count Dracula in the Bram Stoker original, the Hound looms perpetually over the events of the narrative even when it is, so to speak, offstage.

Professor Moriarty may be Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis, an archvillain every bit his equal in intelligence and perceptiveness, but the Hound is arguably the more formidable opponent, not least because—brutish, instinctual, carnal, inhuman—it represents everything Holmes is not. His ultimate victory over it is a victory over fear, proving that intellect should be the master of irrationality, that ego should always trump id.

Somewhere in all of us there is a Dartmoor haunted by a gigantic hound. We have seen its footprints. We know it lurks amid the swirling mist. ....
In the Footprints of the Hound: Why The Hound of the Baskervilles Still Haunts

Prayers instead of posts?

Wise words from Kevin DeYoung, who is "ready to think about something other than politics, read something other than politics, breathe something other than politics." From "When You Say Nothing at All," all of which is worth reading.
.... I’m not against Christians offering cultural and political analysis. I’m not against discipling Christians to see all of life through the lens of Scripture.

What I am against is the instinct shared by too many Christians, including pastors and leaders, that says, “If everyone is talking about it, I should probably say something too.” ....

More than anything else, I fear we are letting the world’s priorities dictate what the church is most passionate about.

This isn’t a blanket denunciation of ever saying anything about political issues or political candidates. I have before and probably will again. But perhaps there are questions we should ask next time before joining the online cacophony.

Am I making it harder for all sorts of people to hear what I have to say about more important matters? Think about it: most of us are annoyed when athletes and movie stars feel the need to enlighten us with their political opinions. At best, we roll our eyes and still watch their movies or their games anyway. At worst, we turn them off for good. People will do the same to us. It’s good to think twice before we cash in our goodwill chips, doubling down for or against a particular candidate. ....

Am I speaking on matters upon which I do not have special knowledge and for which no one needs my opinion? If my knowledge about something is limited to the three minutes I’ve been angry, or even the 30 minutes I’ve been surfing online, I probably don’t need to download those thoughts to the world. ....

American culture is incredibly diverse. We don’t all watch the same movies or television shows in this country. We don’t all go to church. We don’t all read the same thing or listen to the same music. The one thing that we can all get into is politics, and that’s not healthy. Politics has become the national pastime that brings us all together, only so it can drive us all apart. The task of the church, in this polarized environment, is to slow down, set our minds on things above, and stick to our own script. To be sure, we should not always be silent. But neither should we be the noisiest people in the room, especially when the room tries to tell us what we should be talking about.

Brothers and sisters, it’s OK to have an unarticulated thought. It’s OK to go about our lives in quiet worship and obedience. It’s OK to do your homework, read your Bible, raise your kids, and make your private thoughts prayers instead of posts. Alison Krauss was right: sometimes you say it best when you say nothing at all. (more)
When You Say Nothing at All

Monday, November 9, 2020

"There are no lost battles..."

It always surprises me when Christians seem to expect politics to solve things. We are supposed to have a pretty robust sense of what has traditionally been called "original sin," the idea that human beings are often fallible and sometimes simply evil, and that some things we deplore are conditions of life in a fallen world — not problems that can be solved. Anyway, reposted from 2011:

Hearing a politician say that those he disagrees with are "on the wrong side of history," Peter Berger "noted that being on the wrong side of history is not just a deplorable condition, but a morally reprehensible one. It is a disease—call it OTWSOH—for which the patient is responsible. Sort of like cirrhosis of the liver." Berger did a Google search for the phrase and discovered 1,380,000 results in 0.12 seconds. And, although he didn't do a count, he is pretty certain who is most likely to use it:
...I think it is likely that the phrase “on the wrong side of history” comes more naturally to those on the left. Progressives, almost by definition, think that they know where history is going. After all, they are children of the Enlightenment and thus inheritors of the idea of progress. Marxists have been most cocksure about this. They knew where things were headed, in the long run. Like all believers in predestination some of them were willing to wait more or less patiently for the inevitable culmination, others wanted to speed up the process by violent efforts of their own. Of course the story of Marxism is one of false predictions. Less grandiose versions of a philosophy of progress have not been much better in discerning the “right side of history.” There were indeed some conservatives who also claimed to know the inner logic of events. Hegel, no less, thought that history culminated in the Prussian state. In the first half of the twentieth century, miscellaneous fascist movements were convinced that they embodied the irresistible wave of the future. But conservatives tend to be much more cautious in the way they look at the future. They are instinctively suspicious of grand assertions of historical inevitability, especially the idea of progress. They are typically more pessimistic. This inclination was classically expressed by William Buckley’s definition of the conservative attitude as “standing astride history and yelling, Stop!”. Heimito von Doderer, a twentieth-century Austrian writer, had a more whimsical definition of conservatism: the insight that “the old aunts were right after all”.

It seems to me, though, that there is a fundamental recognition that can be shared by reasonable people on both sides of the ideological divide: We cannot say who or what is on the wrong side of history, because we cannot know who or what is on the right side. This postulate of ignorance need not lead to paralysis. It necessarily leads to a measure of humility. (more)
The Buckley quotation was actually from his mission statement for National Review in 1955: "It stands athwart history, yelling Stop..." It is a sensibility that refuses to believe in the inevitability of "Progress." Oddly enough, it is optimistic, believing that even the worst trends can be reversed, that as T.S. Eliot wrote "There are no lost battles because there are no won battles."

Saturday, November 7, 2020

In the day of trouble

From the Book of Common Prayer (ACNA, 2019):
O God, the Creator of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you in Jesus Christ; in whose Name we pray. Amen.

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure conduct. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom, in Thy Name, we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It's November!

Beginning in 1907 and continuing at least into my youth, at some point in the Fall the Sunday Chicago Tribune would publish these on the front page. The cartoonist was a nationally famous Tribune cartoonist, John T. McCutcheon.

The story, from 1907 — if this is difficult to read (it will enlarge if clicked upon), it is also here

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The rock that naught can move

If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trust in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.
Only be still and wait His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate'er thy Father’s pleasure
And all deserving love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.
Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
So do thine own part faithfully,
And trust His Word: though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook at need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

"For all the saints..."

A hymn most appropriate for All Saints' Day sung to Ralph Vaughan Williams's SINE NOMINE ("without name"), perhaps referring to all those saints whose names are not remembered on earth.

For all the saints,
who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith
before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus,
be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
The golden evening
brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors
comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of
paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou wast their Rock,
their Fortress and their might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain
in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness, drear,
their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
But yonder breaks a
yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant
rise in bright array;
The King of glory
passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O blest communion,
fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle,
they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee,
for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
From earth’s wide bounds,
from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl
streams in the countless host,
Singing to God,
the Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!