the small things

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.

JRR Tolkein,  The Hobbit


Modernity in the rear-view mirror

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wireless telephones and television, following naturally upon their present path of development, would enable their owner to connect up with any room similarly installed, and hear and take part in the conversation as well as if he put his head in through the window. The congregation of men in cities would become superfluous.


Democracy as a guide or motive to progress has long been known to be incompetent. None of the legislative assemblies of the great modern states represents in universal suffrage even a fraction of the strength or wisdom of the community. Great nations are no longer led by their ablest men, or by those who know most about their immediate affairs, or even by those who have a coherent doctrine.


We have the spectacle of the powers and weapons of man far outstripping the march of his intelligence; we have the march of his intelligence proceeding far more rapidly than the development of his nobility. We may well find ourselves in the presence of ‘the strength of civilization without its mercy.’

from "Fifty Years Hence" an essay by Winston Churchill reprinted by First Principles Web Journal.


using your toolbox

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Corinthians 3:6 "the letter kills but the Spirit gives life."

In fact, as much as we need systems, ultimately they will kill us. The life is in the blood. This can almost be applied across the board.

Grammar is a good thing. We cannot write without it. We cannot communicate without it but it isn't the only thing. If we approach writing as a purely grammatical exercise we will kill ideas.

Systematic theology is a good thing. We cannot understand the Bible without it. But if our theology is merely systematic it is dead.

The law (Pentateuch) was a good thing but it was powerless to save.

Systems are tools. They help us find the real things. Unfortunately, many people are happy when they have found a system. They never look up from their scavenging in the rubble to see the reality of the thing they are searching for.

Very often it is the conservative, Christian wing of the world that enjoys substituting the tool for the thing. The problem is that you can have a measure of success with a system but in the end you are left bankrupt and confused (Col 2).


God's grandchild

Thursday, October 8, 2009

from Dante's Inferno: Canto 11

"Turn back again, " I asked, "to where you said
that usury offends the Power Divine,
And pray explain to me this knotty point."

"Philosophy," my master answered me,
"To him who understands it, demonstrates
How nature takes her course, not only from
Wisdom divine, but from its art as well.
And if you read with care your book of physics,
After the first few pages, you will find
That art, as best it can, doth follow nature,
As pupil follows master; industry,
Or art is, so to speak, grandchild to God.
From these two sources (if you call to mind
That passage in the Book of Genesis)
Mankind must take its sustenance and progress.
The moneylender takes another course,
Despising nature and her follower,
Because he sets his hope for gain elsewhere."


a warm kitchen can do wonders

Friday, August 14, 2009

"In the embracing light and warmth, warm and dry at last, with weary legs propped up in front of them, and a suggestive clink of plates being arranged on the table behind, it seemed to the storm-driven animals, now in safe anchorage, that the cold and trackless Wild Wood just left outside was miles and miles away, and all that they had suffered in it a half-forgotten dream."

p. 57, Chapter 4, The Wind in the Willows


when the literal loses its Truth

Friday, July 3, 2009

In a discussion of the Song of Solomon . . .

I read the end of Ephesians 5 as an example of what happens when you discover a metaphor so elusive you know it must be true. As you elaborate, and try to explain, you begin to stumble over words and their meanings. The literal takes hold, the unity and the beauty flee.

p. 110, Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris


the less he said

Friday, June 19, 2009

. . . Later, I came to see that Mr. Dickens and Mr. Wordsworth were thinking of men like me when they wrote their words. But most of all, I believe that Williamson Shakespeare was. Mind you, I cannot always make sense of what he says, but it will come.

It seems to me the less he said, the more beauty he made. Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most? It is 'The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.'

I wish I'd known those words on the day I watched those German troops land, plane-load after plane-load of them - and come off ships down in the harbor! All I could think of was damn them, damn them, over and over. If I could have thought the words 'the bright day is done and we are for the dark,' I'd have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstance - instead of my heart sinking to my shoes.

p. 63, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.



Monday, June 8, 2009

Civilization has never been the product of armies and factories. It is the fruit of the always tenuous marriage of the farmer and the merchant.

Andrew Kern, Quiddity blog, May 10, 2009


the frailty of modern science

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The only science we have or can have is human science; it has human limits and is involved always with human ignorance and human error. It is a fact that the solutions invented or discovered by sciece have tended to lead to new problems or to become problems themselves . . . Our daily lives are a daily mockery of our scientific pretensions.

p. 32-33, An Essay Against Modern Superstition, Wendell Berry.


men without chests

Monday, April 27, 2009

We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

CS Lewis, from The Abolition of Man, p. 26


sensual sacraments

Thursday, April 23, 2009

For as the word of God preached putteth Christ into our ears, so likewise these elements of water, bread, and wine joined to God's word, do after a sacramental manner put Christ into our eyes, mouths, hands and all our senses.

Thomas Cranmer, "The First Book of the Sacrament", from The Works of Thomas Cranmer, (ed. JE Cox), p. 41 .


ex nihilo

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Being young, and growing up, is like making something out of nothing. You cannot quite tell what you are. You do not know what you want to be. You have scarcely a notion of what you can be or do. And so you make yourself, by differentiating yourself from others. Later the differences will be qualitative; but at first they are only differences of degree.

Gilbert Highet, The Art of Teaching, p. 130


spiritual self-assuredness

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Of course you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound the Scripture without the assistance from the works of divine and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition . . . . It seems odd that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.

Charles Spurgeon, from Commenting and Commentaries (p.11) via Kelley Matthews' blog


education for heaven's sake

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Education, as classically conceived is not primarily for citizenship, or for making money, or for success in life, or for a veneer of "culture," or for escaping your lower-class origins and joining the middle class, or for professional or vocational training, whether the profession is honorable, like auto repair, or questionable, like law; and whether the profession is telling the truth, like an x-ray technician, or telling lies, like advertising or communications or politics. The first and foundational purpose of education is not external but internal: it is to make the little human a little more human, bigger on the inside.

The primary end of classical education, then, is in the student. But the student is a human being, and according to all the religions of the world (and therefore according to the vast majority of all people who have ever lived, in all times, places, and cultures), the ultimate end of final cause of a human being is something more than simply the mature flourishing of human powers, especially the powers of the mind, in this life. If this is true - if in fact this life is a gymnasium to train for another, sterner combat - then the ultimate purpose of classical education is there.

Peter Kreeft, "What is Classical Education?", The Classical Teacher (Memoria Press), Spring 2009.


monocultured modernism

Saturday, March 28, 2009

At this moment especially we should be protecting actual diversity - bio-diversity, financial diversity (i.e., local markets) and educational diversity in the name of local, regional, religious and pedagogical traditions (rather than being blinded by the monoculture-based claims of “multiculturalism”). Yet, at this moment we are apt to cling to our modern faith in the logic of monocultures, even as the news seems to be undeniable that nature hates monocultures, and nature will not be indefinitely denied.

From Patrick Deneen of Front Porch Republic blog, March 26th, 2009