680: Inequality is the Source of All Delight.

Dr. Johnson, who sometimes let fall, in off-hand talk, sayings of such depth, simplicity, and significance that we must go back to the philosophers of antiquity to find the like of them, once remarked that “inequality is the source of all delight.” This saying, which must seem surprising to most modern ears, is absolutely true and even demonstrable.

All delight — not all pleasure, which is quite a different thing — will be found, when thoroughly examined, to consist in the rendering and receiving of love and the services of love. Hence the great and fortunately inextinguishable fountains of delight in the relationships of man and woman and of parents and children. It is true that a low and inorganic form of national polity may, to some extent, suppress even these pure springs of felicity; but, so long as there are women and children in the world, it can never become quite joyless. The doctrines of liberty, fraternity, and equality are known instinctively only by very bad children, and most women, when once they have been in love, repudiate such teaching indignantly, under whatever polity they may have been born.

“Between unequals sweet is equal love;”

and the fact is that there is no love, and therefore no sweetness, which is not thus conditioned; and the greater the inequality the greater the sweetness. Hence the doctrine that infinite felicity can only arise from the mutual love of beings infinitely unequal — that is, of the creator and the creature. Inequality, far from implying any dishonour on either side of the mutual compact of love, is the source of honour to both. Hooker, writing of marriage, says: “It is no small honour to a man that a creature so like himself should be subjected to him;” and we all know that the honour to woman which the chivalry of the middle ages made an abiding constituent of civilisation, was founded upon Catholic views of her subjection, and the obligation to give special honour, as of right, to the weaker vessel. Look also at the relations which usually subsist between an hereditary gentleman and his hereditary unequals and dependents, and compare them with the ordinary fraternal relations between a Radical master-tradesman and his workmen. The intercourse between the gentleman and his hind or labourer is free, cheerful, and exhilarating, because there is commonly in it the only equality worth regarding, that of goodwill; whereas the commands of the sugar-boiler or the screw-maker to their brothers are probably given with a frown and received with a scowl. Social inequality, since it arises from unalterable nature and inevitable chance, is irritating only when it is not recognised. The American plutocrat may be forced to travel for a week in the company of a hodman, because American theories discountenance first and third class carriages, but catch him speaking to him! Whereas an English duke, if by chance thrown into the companionship of an honest countryman, would be on the best of terms with him before an hour was over, and the good understanding between the two would be made all the easier should the latter have on his distinguishing smock-frock. The genuine Tory is the most accessible of persons, the genuine Radical the least so. The one takes things as they are and must be, the other views them as they are not and cannot be, and, kicking against imaginary evils, often pays the penalty of finding himself firmly saddled with the realities.

(Coventry Patmore, “Thoughts on Knowledge, Opinion, and Inequality,” The Fortnightly Review, Vol. XLII, 1887, pp. 264–265).

680: Inequality is the Source of All Delight.

679: A Life of Its Own.

A man coming out of a fight, eyes blackened, swollen… One always looks first at the eye. It is the thing most living, most eloquent, most insolent in a face. It lives with a life of its own, radiates light. It attracts even very young children, who always want to stick their fingers into eyes.

(Alphonse Daudet, “Notes on Life.” In: The Novels, Romances, and Memoirs of Alphonse Daudet, Vol. 14. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1904, pp. 184–185).

679: A Life of Its Own.

678: Ancient Soil.

The ancient soil of our country, surcharged as it was with the most marvellous creations of the imagination and faith, becomes day by day more naked, more uniform, more bare — nothing is spared. The devastating axe attacks alike forests and churches, castles and hotels de ville. One would say that the intention of our contemporaries was to persuade themselves that the world began yesterday, and was to end to-morrow, so anxious are they to annihilate everything whose duration exceeds the life of a man.

(Charles de Montalembert; quoted in Margaret Oliphant, Memoir of Count de Montalembert, Vol. 1. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1872, pp. 242–243).

678: Ancient Soil.

677: Um Vulto Sempre em Movimento.

É preciso não querer demarcar a sombra de Deus na terra… Nós, o que vemos da vontade de Deus, é uma sombra apenas — é como se víssemos a sombra que se projeta sobre a terra, de um vulto sempre em movimento… Como fixá-la? Como demarcar essa sombra em eterno movimento? Como julgar se é maior ou menor que uma outra?

(Otávio de Faria; citado em Rodrigo Gurgel, “A Sombra de Deus,” Rascunho, Fevereiro de 2018).

677: Um Vulto Sempre em Movimento.

676: The Clown.

Western man for centuries now has lost the key to his own meaning. He has been striving for a long time to break out of the ruins of a City half destroyed at his own hands. Political Liberalism of the old-fashioned Marxian variety grew out of a psychological desire to get away from where man actually found himself. Post-World War II existentialist despair, considered as a socio-historical reality, is a philosophical justification for this urge to break all existing cultural and historical limits. What must be done, at all costs, is to exorcise our common historical heritage, our faith, our corporate memories. A fresh beginning can be the only beginning. This is a presupposition that is operative everywhere, most concretely in the arts, most consciously in philosophy, and most dangerously in religion.

Such is the estrangement modern man has carved for himself. In social and economic life the masses are estranged from their spiritual and cultural past. Politically, techniques forged by Western man himself have alienated him from his ancient freedom. The home, the nation, the Church, the West, the past, roots, origins — these are always wrong, always wicked: only the wilderness of the future promises salvation. The poet has retreated to that uniquely modern place invented in the early nineteenth century — the state of mind called Bohemia. His destiny seems assured when he has pruned away everything reminiscent of the objective order, and when he finds himself alone with his broken soul. Philosophically, the age has had urged on it the clever monstrosity that since consciousness renders to me what is Other than Myself, then my personality is defined by a negation. Theologically, the Barbarian God of the peat bogs has come back with “neo-orthodoxy,” and man is told that he is so utterly other than God that he is in no sense the image of his Creator. The human fabric has been so cut to ribbons that man has been reduced to a nothing that can parade his utter absurdity only by putting on a mask. The clown has come into his own.

(Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, Hilaire Belloc: No Alienated Man. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1953, pp. 44–45).

676: The Clown.

675: Mental Tabasco Sauce.

Books were once my refuge. To be in bed with a Highsmith novel was a salve. To read was to disappear, become enrobed in something beyond my own jittery ego. To read was to shutter myself and, in so doing, discover a larger experience. I do think old, book-oriented styles of reading opened the world to me — by closing it. And new, screen-oriented styles of reading seem to have the opposite effect: They close the world to me, by opening it.

In a very real way, to lose old styles of reading is to lose a part of ourselves.

For most of modern life, printed matter was, as the media critic Neil Postman put it, “the model, the metaphor, and the measure of all discourse.” The resonance of printed books — their lineal structure, the demands they make on our attention — touches every corner of the world we’ve inherited. But online life makes me into a different kind of reader — a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention — and thus my experience — fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.

Author Nicholas Carr (The Shallows) writes that, “digital technologies are training us to be more conscious of and more antagonistic toward delays of all sorts.” We become, “more intolerant of moments of time that pass without the arrival of new stimuli.” So, I throw down the old book, craving mental Tabasco sauce. And yet not every emotion can be reduced to an emoji, and not every thought can be conveyed via tweet. […]

For a long time, I convinced myself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate me somehow from our new media climate — that I could keep on reading and writing in the old way because my mind was formed in pre-internet days. But the mind is plastic — and I have changed. I’m not the reader I was.

(Michael Harris, “I Have Forgotten How to Read,” The Globe and Mail, February 2, 2018).

675: Mental Tabasco Sauce.

674: States of Life.

It is a grave error to place exclusive confidence in old men. The mission of old men is to hinder evil. That of the young is to do good; and this double destination requires the united action of both states of life. Give the helm to a young man, he will upset everything under the pretext of reforms. Give it to an old man, he will let everything become corrupt for fear of innovation. But as all human institutions hold within themselves the germ of decay, and one must continually repair if one would not see the building fall in ruins it follows that public affairs cannot get on without the activity of youth. Old age learns nothing, corrects nothing, establishes nothing.

(Joseph de Maistre; quoted in T.L.L. Teeling, “Joseph de Maistre,” The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Vol. XX, 1895, p. 837).

674: States of Life.