As is my custom, I have completely abandoned my planned reading queue for the remainder of 2019. How did that happen, you might ask? It happens the way it always does: with a trip to my local library, where I stumbled upon another book that piqued my interest.
In my bibliophile distractedness, I am now reconsidering family, community, beauty, and all of the things our culture purports to value while simultaneously throwing hand grenades at the foundations of the same. Inexplicably, we wail and lament, wondering why the whole thing is crumbling.
There have always been a quiet, thinking minority of great minds among us. Rather than preening before cameras and blathering into microphones, however, these thinkers are far more likely to take to the pen to share the wisdom they have acquired. In other words, to hear reasoned, thoughtfully considered opinions on the dilemmas of our day, you’ll have to shut of CNN, FOX News, and yes, even YouTube. You will have to pick up a book.
Today’s Friday’s Faves are quotes from some of my favorite thoughtful social and political writers, with one or two from writers that diverge from me on the major issues, but from whom I’ve read a glimmer of wisdom nonetheless.
I disagree with our first writer, Henry Miller, on quite a lot, but I agree with him completely on this:
There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy~ Henry Miller
Of course, the greatest source of wisdom is found in the book of Proverbs. Our culture seems trapped in a reactionary vice grip. We -collective, cultural we- scream in outrage over minor, perceived offenses, and tear them down with words; often without cause.
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.~ Proverbs 17:27
We are quick to excoriate others with very little context or information, only to learn a short time later that we are lacking even a fraction of the facts:
He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.
~ Proverbs 18:13
I’ve reviewed Wendell Berry in this space before, and I highly recommend his writings for an oasis of sane social commentary in our desert of postmodern intellectual thought. Here, he breaks down the problems with both conservatism and liberalism:
“The conventional public opposition of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ is, here as elsewhere, perfectly useless. The ‘conservatives’ promote the family as a sort of public icon, but they will not promote the economic integrity of the household or the community, which are the mainstays of family life. Under the sponsorship of ‘conservative’ presidencies, the economy of the modern household, which once required the father to work away from home – a development that was bad enough – now requires the mother to work away from home, as well. And this development has the wholehearted endorsement of ‘liberals,’ who see the mother thus forced to spend her days away from her home and children as ‘liberated’ – though nobody has yet seen the fathers thus forced away as ‘liberated.’~ Wendell Berry
The book I am currently reading is Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons, and it is from there that I pulled this quote. I am not sure if I will review the full book, but so far it’s proving to be worth my time:
Both mainstream liberalism and conservatism are essentially materialist ideologies, and we should not be surprised that both shape a society dedicated to the multiplication of wants and the intensification of desires, not improvement of character. ~ Rod Dreher
One of my favorite black people who lived during the period immediately following Reconstruction and shortly following is Booker T. Washington. His reception in the black community, then as now, is mixed depending on the ideology and circumstances of the interlocutors, but he is always tops with me:
I want you to get it firmly fixed in your minds that books, industries, or tools of any character, no matter how thoroughly you master them, do not within themselves constitute education. Committing to memory pages of written matter, or becoming deft in the handling of tools, is not the supreme thing at which education aims. Books, tools, and industries are but the means to fit you for something that is higher and better. All these are not ends within themselves; they are simply means. The end of all education, whether of head or hand or heart, is to make an individual good, to make him useful, to make him powerful; is to give him goodness, usefulness, and power in order that he may exert a helpful influence upon his fellows. ~ Booker T. Washington
Lastly, is a quote from the man many consider a father of modern conservatism. My mental jury is still out as it relates to a fully formed opinion of Russell Kirk, but I’m thinking I like him. A lot. I plan to read a book of his essays in its entirety in the near future, but until, here are his thoughts on the relationship between rights and responsibilities:
Every right is married to a duty; every freedom owes a corresponding responsibility; and there cannot be genuine freedom unless there exists also genuine order, in the moral realm and in the social realm. ~ Russell Kirk
Those are a few of the thoughts I think we need to internalize in order to revitalize what’s left of our culture.