Essays in Idleness


Christ the King

The royalty of Christ is difficult to explain, to our republican society. He is to be grasped, to start, in the creation of the universe; mere kingship seems rather to demean Him. Yet it isn’t meant to do so, instead to make his claim on our loyalty explicitly greater than that of any earthly power, or prince. We celebrate His Dominion, beyond his personal authority. (Kings were once more than political officers; their lives ran conspicuously above the lives of their nations.) Martyrs have so often gone to death, declaring this kingship. It announces something above mere citizenship.

Whether in church, or outside it, we have for several reasons come to ignore this festival. This year, with All Saints on a Monday, reverence for Christ the King may seem to appear inconveniently in the Calendar. It is the same night as Hallowe’en. (The Novus Ordo had moved it away.)

Hallowe’en, in its crassness, and commercialism, makes the same appeal as Saint Valentine’s Day — to be retired or cancelled from common observation. Both are only tangentially Christian, but in our time, even Christmas and Easter come to be acknowledged as crass, commercial affairs. We cannot save them without restoring a world that was capable of religious sincerity.

My younger son is “Down syndrome,” which means he is a member of a tribe that is now usually murdered in the womb. Yet also, surprisingly, a tribe which by its nature, is understood to be innocent and kindly. This year, through my various “ischemic events,” I have perhaps had a small, partial experience of how my son finds the world; a new understanding of how plainly he assimilated Christ from our conversations; of the horror with which he learnt of the Crucifixion; but too, the incomprehensible simplicity of the Everlasting Life. He has, or course, a genius for understanding things that my cleverness would put beyond me.

The typewriter keyboard, for instance, is something I find myself almost learning again, yet it doesn’t amount to much.

With luck, my brain is as neuroplastic as others have been discovered to be, and I look forward to having the use of it back, in due season. For Christ is King, and what can be taken away from us? Except by Him who is the source of all gifts?


The earlier stages of my vegetation were more interesting, or rather entertaining; for they involved psychotropic drugs. The surgeons give these to the people they propose to operate upon. They are merciful, it should be said, in the main. But, eight months into the adventure, it becomes tedious. I wish to recover my health and my poise; even my balance. I wish to avoid another spell like that of the last fortnight or more, in which I have been unable to form a sentence coherently.

Nevertheless, according to Thy will.

Thou who hast foretold that Thou wilt come to judgement in a day when we look not for Thee and at an hour when we are not aware:

make us prepared every day and every hour to be ready for thine advent,

and save us.

Book use

As a reader, and sometime owner of books, I’ve been curious about what use they can be put to. I myself once justified a large collection of them, to a sceptical Canadian, by declaring their insulation value through the winter months. To a more searching questioner, I mentioned literature, as a way to kill time. In ages past, I supposed they could also be used to kill people, or at least the small ones, and the more modestly-sized inhuman predators. This was when books were mostly produced in the gigantic folio format, with thick wood covers, by the printers of five centuries ago. But Aldus Minutius invented the portable, pocket-sized version in the cusp of modernity (about 1500). This, I speculate, encouraged reading, at the expense of hunting.

For physical fitness, it was a dead loss, and I used to see modern students tote little libraries about without great difficulty. Now the texts have been reduced so that all the world’s writing can be fit into a cellphone, or similar ┬ádevice, and the trend to not reading (except government health directions) advances quickly. For, if everything can be squeezed inside one of these small machines, it must be the devil to read, and I can understand not being tempted.

A woman I know had charge of several male children, and was determined to “get them educated” in the old-fashioned way (which involves reading). For years they were out of her company in the daytime, attending something called a “school.” Now that they have decided to be “woke,” and to condemn everything this lady stood for and believed in (including, presumably, sending them to school), she has joined the ranks of the sceptics. She says that she profoundly regrets allowing her eldest to attend a university.

However, she continues to honour books, in which she takes great delight. (She can often be seen reading: in English or German.) Her point is about the effect they have on her juniors.

Her sons show no effect at all. In their schools, they were presumably taught to read (and were shown how at home if the school skipped that discipline). But she had assumed that the school would inculcate the habit of consulting these works of “literature,” on which unwoke Western civilization had been based. They would help to make the young minds thoughtful, as well as conveying content to them that is not easy to find on a computer. They would educate the young reader in the use of leisure.

This lady, Gertrude I shall call her, now is something of a widow, having been abandoned by everyone she formerly knew who was younger. (Those who were older are, increasingly, dead, including her husband.) She will have no company for her old age, but should not fear the loss — for she would have nothing to talk to them about, anyway.

Nevertheless. she is in possession of a theory. It is that the most important thing that has been lost by the collapse of our primary, secondary, and tertiary education systems, is this habit of reading, and associated habits of assimilating music and art. The consequences of losing it, and of the tedious vacuum that has filled the space, was not considered by the liberals in their projects of “reform.”

Or perhaps it was considered, and not as a “bug,” but as a feature of the revolutionary, woke truncation. All surviving human thought to be ruthlessly compressed, into 150 characters of Twitter, and fewer where alpha-numeric symbols may be substituted. Much of it, of course, banned outright.