Daybook, 19 September 2016


Something Beautiful:

Continuing my long-held love of rural churches, St. Michael’s in Michaelstow (Logmihal in Kernowek), Cornwall:

Something Else:

Aldous Huxley on the risks of enslaving ourselves–and being content, and even happy, with such a state:

Daybook, 15 September 2016

My daughter smiled at me in a way this morning–her bottom jaw jutted out, the two teeth in the middle, standing alone, proudly standing out from her mouth as her smile pulled her lips back, her eyes squinted closed, and her whole body shaking with happiness–that put me in a mind of the wonderful, winsome, and whimsical. Today’s Daybook reflects that feeling.


Heidegger, grandma’s house, and the quotidian beauty of boredom.

A Michigan man tries to spread some happiness and his father’s warm-hearted legacy, only to come against the anti-social paranoia that defines our shared social and cultural spaces. “‘I will never try to go out and try to do anything nice for anyone again,’ he said,” is the disheartening ending to the story. I say we take his example, and start doing strange, nice things for strangers. Maybe together we can beat the silliness that permeates our paranoiac public spaces.

On the internal lives of a man who practically lived in the library while he was at university, and his encounter with a student who has never darkened the door of that space.

A long essay on the connections between 19th century Romanticism and latter-day Traditionalism, and their shared reactions against post-Enlightenment modernity.

Something Beautiful:

Apropos of the last reading, a truly Romantic painting: Lorrain’s Sunrise:


Daybook, 14 September 2016

Being after Labor Day, wearing seersucker and chambray gets a man a funny looks–this, despite it still feeling like summer in Carolina, and it still being summer on the calendar. I don’t know where these silly fashion rules came from. Probably Martha’s Vineyard. Alas, I found myself needing to choose a new jacket this morning, as I’ve been wearing my navy linen blazer to death here recently. Instead of choosing my seersucker or chambray as I probably should have, I chose a wool blazer for the first time in a long time. It looks rather handsome, if a bit warm, and I do not regret it. Onto things for today.


Something Beautiful:

From Brian Brown’s incredible (and must-check-everyday) site, Vanishing South Georgia, a shotgun house in Fitzgerald, GA:

shotgun-house-fitzgerald-ga-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2016Something Else:

I’m teaching Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio in my Special Topics in American Literature course this semester (I’m focusing on the small town in American literature). Reviewing some pieces this morning in preparation for class tonight, I’m reminded of why I always loved this book so much: it’s so strange and varied, yet so absolutely true. Anderson is writing in the shadow of a world that has spun wildly out of control, has become so strange and so unstable and unknown (post-Darwin, Marx, Freud, Gilded Age hyper-industrialism, & Great War, the dawn of radio’s revolution in communication, etc.), where perhaps capital-T Truth is inaccessible. But he revels in the small truths of the mundane, and fearlessly explores how they appear, how we hide them, and how the consequences of their revelation are not, as those consequences of capital-T Truth are, liberating–but we must face these truths nevertheless. It seems, then, perhaps an apropos book for our current times. Realizing its age (published in 1919), it’s in the public domain now. So, for those who have maybe not read it, here it is, in its complete strangeness:

Daybook, 13 September 2016

A beautiful morning. I just read an essay that really put into words things I’ve been trying to explain to folks around me for ages: Michael Cooper, Jr.’s “Poisoning the Working Class.” In just a few words, Cooper provides a pretty through introduction to the issues that produced Trumpism, as well as the issues that are at the heart of our more through societal rot–atomism/hyper-individualism, economic stagnation, feelings of cultural alienation, both parties using, abusing, and ignoring certain segments of the populace, etc. It’s well worth your time. And while I don’t agree with everything Cooper says here (for one, I’m much more skeptical of immigration than he seems to be, at least as the close of the essay, at least in a few suggestions contained in a small line), he in many ways articulates things I’ve tried to say, often quite unsuccessfully, for some time.

Onto today:


Somewhat unintentionally, nearly all of these are apropos of the Cooper essay. That kind of morning, where (almost) everything comes together.

These are totally unrelated to the Cooper essay, but worth your time as well:

Something Beautiful:

A ruined tobacco barn from Duplin County, NC, right up the road from where I’m from:

These structures are imprinted in my psyche as monuments to the world that produced me–a world that was always past, always gone, that was part of me but that I could never be a part of. Ruined tobacco barns have always been both dreamscapes of fantasy and open wounds on my soul. They produce in me what the Welsh call “hiraeth,” and what my Cornish ancestors called “hireth.”

Daybook, 12 September 2016

A return from the dead of one of my favorite things–the Daybook. I know this is the fourth or fifth reboot of this at this point, but hope springs eternal for this reboot sticking.


Today would have been the 85th birthday of George Jones, arguable the greatest country singer of all time. Russell Moore reflected on charges of Jones’s “hypocrisy” in a 2013 essay, arguing that Jones is the “troubadour of the Christ-haunted South.”

Prof. Bruce Frohnen reflects on the Christians and social justice, and the ways in which our discourse about social justice (both within and without the Church) too-often ignores that also imminently-Christian notion of virtue.

I’m quite loathe to talk politics, but I have found both Trumpism and Bernie Sanders’s now-lost campaign to be significant and profound moments of reflection for the great fissures within our Republic, especially in terms of class. Several recent essays discuss these fissures from a variety of perspectives:

If this election gives us nothing else, I would very much like to see the return of serious political discourse carried out in print by individuals writing under Latin pseudonyms chosen with an eye towards suggestive historical references.

Something Beautiful:

Two of my great loves, rural churches and bucolic scenes, come together in this lovely photograph of church near Torpoint (Penntor in Kernowek) in Cornwall:

Something Else:

A mention of Latin pseudonyms earlier has me thinking of this forgotten, but incredible, epic silent film from 1914–Cabiria, directed by Giovnni Pastrone, set during the Second Punic War, and based on details contained in Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita:

Briefest of Commentaries: Confessions of a Heretic

Confessions of a Heretic by Roger Scruton

A lovely collection of essays about a wide range of topics, including government, the environment, animals, architecture, art, and how we die. This is the third book by Scruton that I’ve read; I’ve also read several uncollected essays, seen/listened to some interviews, lectures, etc. While his Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy perhaps gives the more nuanced overview of his thought, this collection, in being less abstract and permitting his wit, charm, and sometimes-acid critiques to shine through, reveals the essential touchstones and first principles of his thought clearly, cogently, and entertainingly.

Essentially, what we see in different ways and to different extents in every essay is an exploration of the relationship between an “I” and another “I.” In Scruton’s thought, subjecthood is contingent upon the recognition of the subjecthood of others, and expected reciprocation of that recognition by others unto us. From this “I” & “I” flows a concept of mutual obligation and duty, and a sense that statist, technocratic diktat and fiat destroys this “I” & “I” relationship, and thus undermines our status as thinking subjects–and ultimately our humanity. All of Scruton’s thinking in these essays seems to be based in some articulation of the relationship of a subject to other subjects, governed by mutual obligation and duty, and the way these first principles play out in considerations of art, environment, government, and the many more subjects he considers here are fascinating, challenging, and illuminating.


“Benign Shabbiness”

In an essay I struggled with (if for nothing else, because part of its logic would seem to be a defense of euthanasia, as well as the fact that the essay also seems to confirm my long-held suspicion that he is ultimately a Greco-Roman pagan with the excesses of such worn down by cultural Christianity), Sir Roger Scruton posits an compelling vision of how the virtue of courage prepares us for dying a timely death:

With courage a person can go about living in another way…This other way is not the way of the welfare culture in which we are all immersed. It does not involve the constant search for comforts or the obsessive pursuit of health. On the contrary, it is a way of benign shabbiness and self-neglect, of risky enjoyments and bold adventures. It involves constant exercise–but not of the body. Rather, exercise of the person, through relationships with others, through sacrifice, through the search for opportunities to be involved and exposed…Of course you should drink, smoke, eat fatty foods–but not to the point of gluttony. The purpose is to weaken the body while strengthening the mind…

Each of us must decide for himself what the life of benign shabbiness requires of him…The main point, it seems to me, is to maintain a life of active risk and affection, while helping the body along the path of decay, remembering always that the value of life does not consist in its length but in its depth.

“Dying in Time,” from Confessions of a Heretic, pp. 149-150

This is a decidedly different view of life from that promoted to us by various industries and our popular culture; this is a vision of life that tells us that death is to be accepted and embraced–but not heedlessly run towards in suicidal hedonism!–and that, having understood the reality of death, we must live, as beings that are a part of a world, a culture, a civilization. The last bit–depth, rather than length–is something the ancients (and even our grandparents) understood, but that we, sometime in the last generation or so, have forgotten. Well, most of us–including, I must admit, myself sometimes.

How can I live in benign shabbiness? How can I embrace the reality of death? How can I do that while still being true to my ethics, metaphysics, and faith?


Epicurus on the Good of Philosophy

From Letters and Sayings of Epicurus, translated by Odysseus Makridis

A philosophy which cannot heal any one of the maladies afflicting human beings is empty. This is not unlike the case of medicine: It is of no benefit whatsoever unless it can effectively expel illness from the human body. So it is with philosophy too: It is of no worth whatever unless it can expel the ailments of the soul. (64)

I know little of Epicurus, but I suspect that he and I would have disagreement on what such “maladies” and “ailments of the soul” are; he, as my very limited gloss of him would lead me to believe, is likely to think of “pain” as one of the chief of such ailments. I, on the other hand, see perhaps the principle ailment of the soul to be based in man’s inability to accept his own finitude and limitedness. But regardless of these differences, Epicurus is correct about the purpose of philosophy; his analogy to medicine can be taken further–should a philosophy not point a man towards a means for dealing with the “ailments of the soul,” it is at best a drug that creates a dependency that obscures life, and at worst a poison that destroys life altogether.

Daybook–13th July 2016


The last reading is of particular enjoyment to me, as I’ve found myself in many cases feeling as if I’m the only person on earth who’s read a certain book in some time. These things often do feel like personal and private treasures, and there’s an associated intimacy. Two such books are Robie MacAuley’s The Disguises of Love, which I read just a few weeks ago, and Vernon Lee’s Hortus Vitae: Essays on the Gardening of Life. With some other works, like The Men’s Club by Leonard Micheals, the collected works of James Salter, and the collected works of my beloved Peter Taylor, I feel as if I am a part of an exclusive club, and meeting with others who know those works leads to a sense of joy and comradeship from the opening moments. Minor literature is always something to share, and it is something always enjoyed, loved, and rejoiced in–while major literature normally enjoys its status for a reason, those reasons often lead to appreciation, not outstanding and overwhelming joy. When I design literature courses for my students, I try to include a work of minor literature or two, just for these very reasons.

Today’s Commemoration:

Today, the Church commemorates the life, the work, and the faithful witness of Silas, a companion of the Apostle Paul and a fellow-worker with the Apostles in spreading the Gospel. He is mentioned extensively in the 15th and 16th chapters of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, as well as a few other places in the New Testament.

SilasAlmighty and everlasting God, we thank thee for thy servant Silas, whom thou didst call to preach the Gospel to the peoples of Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia. Raise up, we beseech thee, in this and every land evengelists and heralds of thy kingdom, that thy Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Something Else:

I read a fascinating little Edwardian-era pamphlet on using time responsibly yesterday. It’s something one can read in an hour or so, and it has some real and significant suggestions for its titular subject: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day:

Daybook, 11th July 2016

Spent a lot of the weekend thinking and reading about beauty and faithfulness. Today’s Daybook reflects such things.


Today’s Commemoration:

Today, the Church commemorates the life, work, and faithful witness of St. Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Western monasticism. St. Benedict is all the rage in certain corners of the internet these days, because of the so called “Benedict Option” proposed by the writer Rod Dreher. Like most things, I have incredibly complex feelings about the “BenOp,” some very positive, some incredibly negative, that won’t do for discussion here. But leaving those questions and issues aside, St. Benedict is a fascinating figure, and his work to preserve the good, the true, and the beautiful in the face of often violent social chaos, political uncertainty, and decadence is something that all Christians should seek to emulate in some way or another, methinks, and he Benedictine Rule is something I am curious to see if there are ways in may be applied to the life of non-monastics.

st-benedictAlmighty and everlasting God, whose precepts are the wisdom of A loving Father: Give us grace, following the teaching and example of thy servant Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service; let thine ears be open unto our prayers; and prosper with thy blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Something Else:

For the last several months, I’ve been struggling with various issues related to various doctrines of faith. As a new father who was finishing a dissertation and starting a fairly demanding new job, I’ve not had a whole ton of a lot of time to explore these issues in any detail. But this last weekend, I read a small book that explored one such issue with which I’ve been struggling–John Wesley’s Predestination Calmly Considered. Now, I’ve not read Calvin, but the glosses I’ve read and have been taught present a version of the Gospel that, well, I’ve always found troubling and unsatisfying. As a result, I’ve thought of myself as an Arminian, inasmuch as “Arminian” seems to be the opposite of “Calvinist.” Wesley’s little book, written, as is true of all of his works, as more pastoral than theological, explains and articulates the position my reading of Scripture has lead me to–or at least explains why my reading of Scripture ensures I cannot be a 5-point Calvinist.

Again, having not read Calvin, I can’t be certain that Wesley is actually giving the tenents of Calvinism a fair shake. But he does take Scripture very, very seriously. While I’m certain Reformed folk would surely disagree with Wesley, I think this little book might, indeed, be something useful for them to read as well.