Essays in Idleness


Month: May, 2016


One of the great things about my privileged life — I get to live in the High Doganate — is the library up here. The resident at a loss what to do — how, for instance, to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them — may reach blindly for a […]

Teach the controversy

Controversy continues to swirl around my habit of calling my finches “purple.” A consensus is emerging among semi-perfessional birders that they cannot be. Bird Dog, at Maggie’s Farm (here), is the latest to “call me” on this. Purple finches are piney-wood avians, he insists. Those must be common-garden house finches who address me from my […]

Mysterious ways

“It is one thing to pray for discernment, but quite something else to announce being in receipt of it.” I quote Maureen Mullarkey, one of my living heroines, whose essays and blog (here) are a constant source of furious uplift. As the Naga peppers from the Chittagong Hills, I suppose there are people who don’t like […]

Conservative indifference

The phenomenon to which I will devote today’s squib has been known to me from childhood. It has a place, but not in my heart. I do not necessarily refer to “conservatism” in its political form. It is an attitude mostly indifferent to politics, as it is to most other things. By its nature it […]

Among the leaves the small birds sing

My Chief Newfoundland Correspondent (I hadn’t mentioned the appointment yet: I hope he is not unduly alarmed) writes about prayer, among the birds. Or rather, he asked a question of my purple finches, who are at last back in force from wherever, exploiting the sunflower generosity of the High Doganate. He asked if they, or […]

On liberal education

During a conversation with whisky, a gentleman used the expression “teacher training.” He thought it ought to be improved. I had heard the phrase before. It struck me as unhappy: only two terms, and the one cancelling the other in the post-modern way. Surely we should use more words to conceal our self-contradictions. Even the […]

High Doganate confidential

Should gentle reader think I have forgotten about her (or him, as the case may be), let me reassure. I think about her all the time. Over what, in Canada, is an extended Victoria Day weekend — loyal firecrackers bursting upwards, all over the Greater Parkdale Area as I write — I have been continuously […]

In patience to abide

“Too much peace only leads to war,” a beautiful young Indian lady said to me, once upon a time. “And too much war only leads to peace,” she added. This, I reflected, was a succinct account of how things go on this planet. Those idealists who would put an end to war, are shown to encourage […]

Buchanan yes & no

The idea that, “We must do something about this,” is not necessarily a bad one. One encounters it often among the Victorian Imperialists, back when the United Kingdom, and not the United States, had the role of “world policeman.” It can be a very bad idea, too, of course, especially if the intentions behind the […]

The talkpast

Among the difficulties in writing about politics, society, religion, is that of expectations. The reader today, even when he won’t admit it, has an “agenda” that is set by what our beloved last pope called “the council of the media.” This is so regardless of his opinions. He knows, or cannot help knowing, what the […]

Creative destruction

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was proclaimed by Chairman Mao Tse-tung (as he was then spelt) on the 16th of May, 1966. I leave gentle reader to do the math. It continued ten years, until its author’s death. It was one of the greatest continuing massacres of history — a work of incredible destruction through […]

A thought

So long as we live — breathe, take sustenance, sleep and rise, work and play, stand in the sun or the rain — we have, every one, something to look forward to. Death. Perhaps this does not come as breaking news to gentle reader. To some, however, it surely must. Those who are young are […]

Peace at last

On consulting my notes, I am appalled to discover that on April 17th, because it was a Sunday, I failed to post an item I had intended to commemorate the anniversary of the conclusion — only thirty years before — of one of the world’s longest wars. This was the Three Hundred and Thirty-Five Years’ War, […]