Essays in Idleness


Month: February, 2013

Father Ratzinger of the Vatican

Awoke this morning, a little late from being up very late, with a fine Lenten feeling of desolation. His Holiness chose to resign with effect on a Thursday; the last day of a calendar month. He chose eight o’clock in the evening because this had been the end of his usual working day. From that […]

The Lenten adviser

Sardines must of course be originally from the ancient Kingdom of Sardinia. They are little fellows, small herrings, that come in perhaps two dozen choice species, among more than three hundred that swim the open seas. “Sardines” are smaller & “pilchards” are larger; often different stages of exactly the same fish — all from the […]

Aristotle’s revenge

I was discussing a project for a Philosophical Dictionary with Saint Thomas Aquinas last night (in a dream), & he made a typically acute remark. “It will have to be bilingual, to include Greek words.” Sometimes I have difficulty remembering dreams. In this one, there seemed to be a dispute going, on distinctions between téchne, […]

Bystander syndrome

A woman named Wong Shuk Yee was struck by a car on Wednesday, somewhere in the northwest suburbs of Calgary. The driver of this car did not stop. The woman’s body became an obstacle to traffic, & two more cars had to swerve to avoid her. Neither stopped. A fourth car struck her again, dragging […]

Reason & the well-bred girl

It is very difficult to discuss intellectual history, & therefore ideas, owing to a sublimated version of the idea of progress. While superfically even the crassest enthusiasts for progress as “an inevitable & irresistible perpetual improvement of the human condition” — or shall we say, naïve optimists — have surrendered or died, their ghosts continue […]

In defence of idleness

In the past — do you remember when we were “living in the past,” gentle reader? neither do I — in the past, & with our old technology, time delays in publishing & correspondence were not so much an imposition as part of the rhythm of life. A physical letter took at least some time […]

Fresh fiats

Some general “Hints to the Commentariat” were previously offered. As I mentioned then, I’d intended the tone & style of comments to be that of the old-fashioned “letter to the editor,” as to the Times (of London) in some other century. In January I briefly considered cutting off comments entirely, being distressed by a tone […]

Benedict’s “wager”

It makes no sense to send reporters to cover the Vatican who know little about how the Catholic Church works, & are entirely out of sympathy with her cause. What they report will be consistently wrong; crawling with factual errors & silly misjudgements & missed points. In the whole press pool, only one reporter was […]

Reason & knowing

It is the received view, up here in the High Doganate, that we do not know what we do not know. Granted, this is a peculiarly Catholic view, & may therefore smack of sectarianism; but we cannot find an alternative to it that is at all convincing. We puzzle upon Mysteries that were simply “given,” […]

The resignation

“Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made & properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.” (Canon 332, §2) It does not really matter how one feels about such things: they are as they are. […]

False comfort

My latest column at Catholic Thing would seem to be on “False comfort” — or, comforts; I was unsure whether to use the singular or plural in the title I suggested. There is a Whole Earth Catalogue of potential false comforts, indeed: “There are so many ways to derive false comfort from the situation of […]

Questions of children

Near the beginning of Lark Rise to Candleford — Flora Thompson’s trilogy remembering an 1880s childhood around & about a dusty hamlet of north-east Oxfordshire — the children in the stonemason’s house ask seven searching theological questions: — Who planted the buttercups? — Why did God let the wheat get blighted? — Who lived in […]

Ornithological note

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I personally resolved never to buy a car — until I could afford a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, & a uniformed chauffeur. This resolution did not last. In the end I bought several cars, always second-hand & a bit rusted, at the insistence of a certain estranged […]