Today the Church remembers St. Andrew, the first of the Apostles. This is one of the two days traditionally thought of as the Church’s “New Year.” The first Sunday of Advent is always, by definition, the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s Day, either before or after. When it occurs after St. Andrew’s Day, then St. Andrew’s Day is the first day of the liturgical year. When the Sunday occurs before St. Andrew’s Day (like this year), then the first Sunday in Advent is the Christian’s “New Year’s Day.” The connection between the two is intentional, of course, with call of the first Apostle suggesting a starting point for the Faith, and the season of anticipating the coming of Christ–both at Christmas and at the fulfillment of time–points us to the primary, Incarnational basis of the Faith.
Apropos of the last reading, Entrance to the Wood, by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, ca. 1825:
I’ve read some Vernon Lee before, and found her Hortus Vitae to be rather charming. Here is Limbo, the collection of essays briefly mentioned in a reading for today. I look forward to reading through it at my leisure over the next few days.
It’s St. Andrew Eve on the Western Kalendar; in 21st century America, it’s also something called “Giving Tuesday,” a charitable response to the year-end consumerist latter-day traditions of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” Quite apropos, I commend to you a charitable organization I truly love, The Society of St. Andrew. Basing their work on the Biblical principle of “gleaning,” SoStA gathers together food that farmers are unable to sell to grocers and other distributors, and that would thus become wasted food, and distributes it to local food pantries and the like. My wife worked for a while at a food bank, and SoStA was one of their primary sources of fresh produce to be distributed amongst the needy.
[N.B.: I spent quite a bit of time yesterday working on some of the new things I’m adding to the site, especially the “library.” There will be quite a bit of work to come there in the next few weeks; check back with frequency if you find interesting those same things I find interesting.]
Stephen Pentz’s always-necessary First Known When Lost provides us with some post-election poetic “Perspective.”
In honour of Bp. Hugh’s commemoration, a few images of Lincoln Cathedral, one of the great churches of Western Christendom:
Lincoln Cathedral viewed from Lincoln Castle https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49001540
Bishop’s Palace, with Cathedral in the background. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35184206
Cathedral Interior, facing an altar, presumably in a chapel off of the transept. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35516448
The Nave. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35008877
A final note:
I’m working to re-configure this site, both as a place where I continue to collect things together in a regular Daybook, but where I also build a library of things that I find to be useful, and that others might find to be useful as well. You’ll see links to these in the menus above, though you’ll notice many of these are empty. They are in-progress works. I hope to have most of them done by the end of the year. Ideas and recommendations are appreciated, and can be sent to me via email: matt AT wmatthewjsimmons DOT info
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.
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.
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:
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.
Somewhat unintentionally, nearly all of these are apropos of the Cooper essay. That kind of morning, where (almost) everything comes together.
In these two short pieces, John Cuddeback reflects on two brief statements from the Nicomachean Ethics. The Philosopher, unsurprisingly, has things to say that speak to many of the concerns highlighted in Cooper’s aforementioned essay.
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.”
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.”
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:
First, the always-astute Daniel Larison disputes the notion that Trumpism (or the Sanders movement, for that matter) is a politics of race, but rather of class. However, this is not the standard-issue class war between the rich and poor, but a war between two separate elite classes, each of which draws on different segments of the non-elite portions of the populace: a managerial elite class, now out of favor, and brought back into contention by the Trump (and, to a lesser degree, Sanders) insurgency, and a “verbalist” “New Class” of Wall Street-backed, media-and-cultural elites who seek to change the social and cultural fabric of the country to meet their vision.
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.
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:
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:
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.