Essays in Idleness


Month: October, 2016

Norcia again

“If it falls down, it will have to be mended.” The words are recalled from a French Canadian builder, and pertained to a chimney, not the whole house. A mason of worldly understanding and broad reading, he was not commenting upon his own work. I learnt that the words, in their original French, were from […]

Saints in the mists of antiquity

The two Saints Simon and Jude have been linked together in the Canon of the Mass, since time out of mind. We continue to celebrate them, this day. Our missals suggest the reason: for these were Apostles, “brethren of Our Lord,” who went off to Mesopotamia, then into Persia. From hints in Bible and Tradition, […]

Short item

A couple of years ago, a friend sent this link (here) to an artsy little flick on an old man living in the California mountains. He was ninety-three; still making violin bows, with gout-knobbled fingers; and chopping wood for his stove. The cabin itself, which he and his adoptive son had built many decades before, […]

Epistolary arts

A young man of my acquaintance belongs to an interesting club. The members communicate with each other in an unusual way. They write letters, by hand, and fold them into envelopes, onto which they affix postage stamps. They eschew email — except for communication with institutions and strangers. Telephones might also be used in emergencies. […]

On life & death

Archbishop Chaput’s recent punch-in-the-nose speech, at Notre Dame (text here), has been widely reported but little read. I link it because it is worth reading through. A dozen major themes in contemporary Catholic and Christian life are thoughtfully woven together. Chaput, among my favourite Roman bishops, overflies the territory staked by Rod Dreher and others […]

The invalid gourmand

People do silly things when they are ill. The worst thing is, to consult the Internet. The medium is a magnet for fad-mongers. As no method has yet been invented to screen against idiocies, and only an infinitesimal fraction of Internet content is of any value — actual or potential, material or spiritual — it […]

What & how to read

Never judge a book by its contents, I was reminded the other day, by one of my worthy acquaintances. There is much wisdom in that. People buy books because they are interested in the topic. They are fools. They buy books by fools. The intelligent reader will first look about, to discover which authors, or […]


One is surrounded today by reductionists, and reductionism. It is a form of magic, or rather, prestidigitation. The man dressed in the labcoat makes his move and, poof! … There is no rabbit any more. But I tell you there is a rabbit and — poof! — it is back again. Anyone who follows pop science will […]

Don’t think twice

There were two reasons why I did not immediately comment on the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature (Kipling, Tagore, Yeats, Undset, Mann, Eliot, Perse …) to Bob Dylan. One was that Mr Essays-in-Idleness does not feel the need to comment on every passing item of news, and has not done since the last […]

All about Nothing

The point of Confession is not to mortify one’s pride, but to disable it. Of this I am reminded by an old philosophical friend, on the second anniversary of whose death I happened to be born. Pride can be mortified easily enough — you don’t need any religion for that. In fact, it tends to be […]

An anti-globalist tirade

Why do people want what they don’t want? This could be confused with a fundamental Platonic question, but I want it to be only slightly confused. If, arguably, people could see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, there would be no evil. They would know better than to entertain invidious thoughts; […]


There are many virtues I lack, but among them Patience, which I take as a species of Fortitude, is conspicuous for its absence, perhaps even to some of my gentle readers. This is especially unbecoming in an advocate of philosophical Idleness, who holds that we direct our energies habitually towards the wrong things. There is […]

Hard rain chronicles

History will never repeat itself, precisely, any more than two sunsets will be exactly alike, or the wind will blow everywhere in the same way. Yet there are patterns, themes, human habits, that are extremely repetitive, and the intelligent student of history will notice them. There is “nothing new under the sun,” and the wise […]