Essays in Idleness


Apolaustic reflections

“Mankind must learn to serve beauty before we can faithfully serve freedom.”

True, I am quoting that radical Protestant, Friedrich Schiller, apparently with approval; but his view was shared, broadly, by such natural Catholics as Corneille, Burke, Plato. Alas, Schiller sometimes speaks with that repellant smile I hinted at yesterday. But fortunately it is not the happyface smile by which we are afflicted by naïve propagandists of the present time. He lived when the limits of “progress” had been illustrated by the collapse of the Revolution in France. His remarkable capacity for philosophical abstraction was freed by this disintegration of political ideals. He had no choice but to explore more deeply, honestly and awkwardly, the crossroad of philosophy and poetry.

His extraordinary work of 1795, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, swept me aloft many years ago; recently, I caught sight of its trajectory through the stars. The book was also written by a surprisingly young man, I now realize.

“Beauty is not an inductive idea; it is an imperative.” (I think that is a quote.) It is what moves us to right action, and to the making of good things.

The alternative inspirations turn out to be sordid. We could, most obviously, work for money, in order to get rich or perhaps just to get by; or we could be slaves of some other kind. We might not do much harm, while being paid “hourly”; but if we are idealistic, and work “for the greater good of mankind,” the result will be horrors.

Justice is, in this light, one aspect of beauty. I leave to some other discussion how beauty can be judged — Schiller refers to Kant, and for many of his examples to that other contemporary, Goethe. That each of us is born with some apprehension of the beautiful, quickening our heart, I accept almost as a point of dogma.

It is a command, an imperative. We must act upon it. It might be trivial to suggest that we should all be artists, but to be an artist is to be the opposite of a slave.

In the command of beauty, we rise to the discovery that we have been working for God. But when we don’t even make the attempt, to advance the beautiful into being, we find that we have created ugliness all around us.

This touches on what Prince Myshkin meant, when he said that: “the world will be saved by beauty.” In his novel, The Idiot, Dostoevsky sought to create this “perfectly good man” as a protagonist — this entirely positive, beautiful character. An artist, as it were.

The art of Jesuit-poking

Unscrupulous intrigue can sometimes lead to conspiracy theories. However, sometimes they grow imaginatively on their own. After the allegations have been often-times repeated, we begin to think that, as well as smoke, there must be fire. This is what gave the Jesuits such a bad name, for instance with Friedrich Schiller, and other Protestant writers; and even within the Catholic Church, for the last few centuries. For even inside, the Jesuits seemed “wicked,” in both the positive and negative sense. Yet most of the memorable incidents are ambiguous, or doubtful.

This reputation is a pity because the Jesuit order, in addition to little faults, has done so many noble things. These included their missions among the placid Huron Indians, and their sacrifices at the hands and tomahawks of the Iroquois — whose “Great League of Peace” once invaded the world of pre-Ontario, and bathed our current cottage district in blood.

Curiously, or perhaps there is no irony at all, the greatest achievement of the Jesuits, came when they were outwardly quite powerless. For a priest or missionary is radically powerless, I would say, while he is being burnt, flayed, or pickled. Yet oddly that is just when the most indelible mark is made — not only on himself but on his external observers, to say nothing of all-seeing God. And note that, the Jesuits did not need to intrigue to get themselves martyred, and probably did not lobby in this cause. Their most winning argument was made non-verbally, “in the flesh.” To this day, Christians need not sneak up on their assailants, or beg to be put down. It is the assailants who, normally, must do the sneaking.

Schiller is incidentally among my favourite Protestant bigots. He does not waste his time as a historian researching actual Jesuit conspiracies, which are frequently alleged. It is almost as if he doesn’t quite believe them. But in his dramatic works, he is quite free with dark Jesuitical legends. For instance, he paints their influence upon Spanish court and society in uniform tones of black.

He is the opposite of Shakespeare in his casting. Known Catholics in his plays are generally fanatics, known Protestants are morally upright; whereas in Shakespeare the Protestant exemplars go the distance to humourless priggery, and every faithful character depicted as a Catholic (starting with monks and nuns) is more or less a white-hat. We have the reverse face of Schiller’s lyrical display of smiling, tolerant, genial light and love — in which he settles scores like a Wokeman.

Otras inquisiciones

One (this one in particular) does not know much about Argentina, and what he knows is at second hand, and from not much reading. Indeed, my Argentine Spanish “sucks,” as I must assume from a condemnation of my continental Spanish, if I understood one of my Spanish interlocutors. My Argentine reading is entirely in English, and consisted of Jorge Luis Borges — especially when I was a teenager. There is not much to add to it, although I recall Idle Days in Patagonia, by William Henry Hudson, which was one of my many influences in naming The Idler (thus).  Too, there was a gentleman named Adolfo Bioy Casares, who wrote a book entitled La Invencion de Morel. It is about a fugitive from Argentina on a remote island in the Indian Ocean, visited by many vividly illusory figures. This struck me as the ideal representation of a South American country.

But then I retrieve the sailor Vito Dumas, who single-handedly circumnavigated the planet in the ruta imposible of the roaring ‘forties (if not furious ‘fifties) of that other hemisphere. He eloped with my attention about forty years ago. His ship, an under-equipped thirty-foot ketch, seemed a still more whimsical place of exile. He was doing the right thing — avoiding politics during the Second World War — and didn’t carry a radio lest he be arrested (somewhere near Antarctica) as a spy. (Note to self: get rid of cell-phone.)

So you see, I am an expert on Argentina after all, having without visiting heard such interesting information as that Buenos Aires contains the prettiest girls in the whole world. This from a man whose objectivity was assured, because he was prejudiced against all the inhabitants of Argentina, and considered them all, and the women especially, to be corrupt and inclined to criminality.

Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner, known to the over-familiar as “CFK,” is a notorious example. An ex-president, and the widow of the ex-president Néstor Kirchner, she is one of the many “Peronists,” or “Justicialists,” who infest that country (as Liberals do in Canada). They are the fanatic champions of “social justice” — which I am unambiguously against — together with a species of economic perversity. Readers may remember her as a frequent visitor to the Vatican, when she was irremovably in power, and thus as one of the presumed intimates of Pope Francis.

Having strayed out of power, she is now the compelled visitor of some district attorney in Buenos Aires, who wishes to put her away, for twelve years or so, in a common prison, for her first billion dollars of road contracts, and has three tonnes of paper to give his accusations weight. My chief Argentine correspondent reports some “argy-bargy” (noisy quarrelling) in his neighbourhood and expects more. He tells me that another hundred billion (Yankee) dollars of dubious Argentine government payouts have yet to be contested.

This is the problem with presidents of banana republics such as Argentina or the United States. They tax us as long as we can be found breathing, then give most of the money away to their agents and supporters, who must be equally corrupt (though on a smaller scale).

But power politics (is there any other kind?) is so tedious. Surely anyone who has been president of anything should be in gaol by now.

Depends what you read

In the future, unless you are a member of the ruling class, you will surrender your home and move into an apartment; you will give up your car and take buses and trains; you will stop eating meat and begin eating insects (and highly-processed vegetable matter for a treat). You will submit to rationing for water and energy. And you will be happy.

For only if you can present yourself as delighted with the imposition of green fascism, will your bank account not be cancelled, and all the government’s “gifts” taken back. As in the heroic age of communism, you will have only one human right. That is the right to be annihilated when you step out of line.

Of course, you might instead be a member of the “progressive element,” in the ruling party, in which case you laugh at all these restrictions, and mock the people whose survival depends on abject obedience.

This is the future, for which progressives everywhere are striving, unknowingly, but also, knowingly. The prospective arrangement has enjoyed a “great leap forward” during the Batflu lockdowns, and is hyper-accelerated by inflation.

In the United States, the federal government has passed (under the current administration) three-point-eight trillion dollars of climate and woke subsidies, towards achieving this end. This is justified by an envelope of lies, pretending that the purpose of the spending is to “fight inflation,” when it is caused by the very same reckless expenditure. The American media support this effort with their own torrent of fiendish (and farcical) fabrications; in Canada, the media situation is worse.

In both countries, and throughout the world, governments and large corporations are simply “following the science.” This is their guiding satanic untruth.

Not George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, but C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, gives the best account of how we descend into Hell by this method; and the latter also, how we rise out, through an effort that is not our own. As Orwell complained, Lewis’s scientifictional story allowed supernatural agency, in defiance of readers’ bourgeois sensibilities. We might call it an attack on science. By contrast, Orwell provided a counsel of despair.