on moderation in consistency

My liberal friends complain about my conservative views, my conservative friends about my liberal ones. Some of them seem equally puzzled about where I am coming from and where I am going.

The fact of that matter is that I find myself moving largely against the prevailing winds, which means that I cannot make intellectual progress except by tacking back and forth, back and forth. This is why my friends see me moving in one direction and and then another. But it also means that whatever direction I am headed at the moment does not indicate the general path I’m following.

The one trait that can never emerge from this method is consistency, and it is difficult to convince people that certain forms of inconsistency are features, not bugs. Twenty-five years ago Leszek Kolakowski pointed out the “unpleasant and insoluble dilemmas that loom up every time we try to be perfectly consistent when we try to think about our culture, our politics, and our religious life. More often than not we want to have the best from incompatible worlds and, as a result, we get nothing; when we instead pawn our mental resources on one side, we cannot buy them out again and we are trapped in a kind of dogmatic immobility.”

Kolakowski’s pawnshop metaphor is a brilliant one, but if I were to stick to my own, I’d say that it is the epitome of foolishness to decide, when trying to move against the prevailing winds, to pick a direction and stick with it. Either you become lodged in “dogmatic immobility,” or you drift insensibly backwards, or, worst of all, you pretend that a starboard tack is an established course and sooner or later run aground on the rocks.

Kolakowski calls his essays “appeals for moderation in consistency” and concludes that there are therefore “not edifying.” But surely this is to take too narrow a view of what is edifying. I can be edified by the awareness that I am homo viator, a wayfarer, one on the journey — one who knows my destination but has not yet arrived.

To change the metaphor once more: “Thinking too has a time for ploughing and a time for gathering the harvest,” says Wittgenstein. But there are also long periods in between, waiting for what one has so carefully planted to come to maturity.


Again, that sounds exactly right to me, which is why I’m anti-anti-Trump. He is a very flawed candidate, but the success of his candidacy is not something for us to anguish over. It’s good, very good, that he is sweeping away the tired conservative orthodoxies. I hope he can do the same for the even more exhausted liberal orthodoxies in November.

Why I’m Anti-Anti-Trump | R. R. Reno | First Things. Pretty sure that’s just plain pro-Trump.

John Webster, RIP

I had known John for a couple of years only when the Society for the Study of Theology met in his then home university of Oxford in 2000. In one plenary session, I found myself seated between him and Tony Thistleton, as the speaker started telling us of the ‘pastoral need’ to ‘forgive God’. Tony turned across me to John and said ‘forgiving God is rather a difficult concept theologically, is it not?’. John’s response was straightforward: ‘It’s not difficult at all; it’s blasphemy. Come on, we’re going for a pint.’

— Steve Holmes

getting what we ask for

If the office of the presidency can turn George Bush’s “humble foreign policy” to “setting a fire in the minds of men” or President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize into a paperweight for his kill list, surely the office will similarly corrupt Hillary Clinton. America will get a dictator someday, relatively soon. That’s the job description we advert for in these elections.

Michael Brendan Dougherty

this pretty much covers it

But others simply believe Mr. Trump is unfit to serve in the Oval Office. Michael K. Vlock, a Connecticut investor who has given nearly $5 million to Republicans at the federal level since 2014, said he considered Mr. Trump a dangerous person.

“He’s an ignorant, amoral, dishonest and manipulative, misogynistic, philandering, hyper-litigious, isolationist, protectionist blowhard,” Mr. Vlock said.


not again

I am depressed by the news that Jose Mourinho is coming back to the Premier League to manage Manchester United. I am depressed not because of anything intrinsic to Mourinho — though like everyone else I find him distasteful — but because the British sporting press believe, with every ounce of their tiny shriveled little hearts, that Mourinho stories are the most fascinating stories in the world. From the day he arrived in England and announced himself as “a special one,” they have been unable to get enough. Every casual word of his, every facial expression, every team sheet submitted, is to the British football writer freighted with immense significance, to be looked at from every angle, like the Hope Diamond.

If he had stayed at Chelsea all season, we’d have heard scarcely anything about the amazing achievements of Leicester City. Why bother with some triviality like that, when Jose just said something that could be construed as an insult to Arsène Wenger? And now that he’s at the biggest club in the country, the press will become still more frantic, and more neglectful of, you know, football. All the stories will become, once again, Jose stories, and there will be no plausible way for those of us who already know all we want to know about Mourinho, and are not interested in hearing anything more,  to block them out.

This is a dark day.

‘I Want Soul’

On my bedside table, you’ll find mostly poetry, books on self-healing and medicine, contemplative literature. Ultimately, I want a peak experience in reading, and that is sometimes difficult to find in contemporary fiction. I’m not interested in books that are just clever and well executed; polish doesn’t impress me, and I don’t care about a merely capable sentence. Life is short; I want a confrontation with high art. I want soul. Great literature rattles the mind and makes the body sing. It’s an unmistakabe, electric feeling, and too rare. That is what I want.

— C. E. Morgan

My current employer, Baylor University — by which I mean also its students, alumni, and supporters — is right now learning in a very hard way something that, as a native of Alabama and a graduate of the University of Alabama, I have known all my life: Collegiate Football Success is the most jealous of gods. It will tolerate the worship of no other deities, and there will be no end to the sacrifices it demands.

a prayer in time of war

Most merciful God, the Granter of all peace and quietness, the Giver of all good gifts, the Defender of all nations, who hast willed all men to be accounted as our neighbours, and commanded us to love them as ourself, and not to hate our enemies, but rather to wish them, yea and also to do them good if we can: bow down thy holy and merciful eyes upon us, and look upon the small portion of earth which professeth thy holy name, and thy Son Jesu Christ. Give to all us desire of peace, unity, and quietness, and a speedy wearisomeness of all war, hostility, and enmity to all them that be our enemies; that we and they may, in one heart and charitable agreement, praise thy most holy name, and reform our lives to thy godly commandments. And especially have an eye to this small isle of Britain. And that which was begun by thy great and infinite mercy and love, to the unity and concord of both the nations, that the Scottish men and we might for ever live hereafter, in one love and amity, knit into one nation, by the most happy and godly marriage of the King’s Majesty our sovereign Lord, and the young Scottish Queen: whereunto promises and agreements hath been heretofore most firmly made by human order: Grant, O Lord, that the same might go forward, and that our sons’ sons, and all our posterity hereafter, may feel the benefit and commodity of thy great gift of unity, granted in our days. Confound all those that worketh against it: let not their counsel prevail: diminish their strength: lay thy sword of punishment upon them that interrupteth this godly peace; or rather convert their hearts to the better way, and make them embrace that unity and peace which shall be most for thy glory, and the profit of both the realms. Put away from us all war and hostility, and if we be driven thereto, hold thy holy and strong power and defence over us: be our garrison, our shield, and buckler. And seeing we seek but a perpetual amity and concord, and performance of quietness promised in thy name, pursue the same with us, and send thy holy angels to be our aiders, that either none at all, or else so little loss and effusion of Christian blood as can, be made thereby. Look not, O Lord, upon our sins, or the sins of our enemies, what they deserve; but have regard to thy most plenteous and abundant mercy, which passeth all thy works, being so infinite and marvellous. Do this, O Lord, for thy Son’s sake, Jesu Christ.

— a prayer composed by Thomas Cranmer in 1548 when England was at war with Scotland

At the origin of the democratic sense, taken in its human truth, there is not the desire to ‘obey only oneself,’ but rather the desire to obey only whatever it is just to obey.

— Jacques Maritain, Scholasticism and Politics (1940)

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