Requiescat in Pace Thomas Bertonneau

I bear the sad news that longtime Orthosphere author Thomas Bertonneau died last night in his sleep.   He had been suffering from a wasting disease and knew that death was near at hand, but he resolved to accept his end with a manly mix of Stoical reserve and Christian insouciance.  As Tom wrote to me in the first part of June,

“As soon as the neurologist made the diagnosis, I instructed her that I wanted to know nothing – absolutely nothing – about the details of the disease’s progress or about the timeline of my foreshortened future. I resolved to live – as happily as possible – one day at a time.”

For those who understood the happy warrior that Tom was, these words will come as no surprise.  He had the faith and the philosophy to know that a man should not worry about the hour that Death will knock at his door, but should rather worry about the man who must open that door and allow Death to enter in.

Please say a prayer for Tom’s dear, departed soul.  We will post a longer tribute to his life and work sometime soon.  I’ve pasted below a poem that seems to suit the circumstances.  It is by the Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, and it describes the way that men pass through our lives on their way to the life where there is no more passing through.  The second stanza describes men whose bright minds rain rich beams down on those they pass.  It would seem to have been written with Thomas Bertonneau in mind, since he has been for all of us an intrepid lantern-bearer in this dark and dolorous world.

The Lantern out of Doors

Sometimes a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?

Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mold or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.

Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.

Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.

On Oligarchs and Their Alien Allies

“They have many cries and various modes of conduct; but they have only one object—the establishment of an oligarchy in this free and equal land.” 

“While they aim at oligarchical rule, they apparently advocate popular rights.” 

“We find . . . a powerful section of the great nobles ever at war with the national institutions.”

Benjamin Disraeli, The Letters of Runnymede (1836)

Whatever fictions it may employ to conceal the fact, every society is governed by a minority or ruling elite.  All government is therefore oligarchical in the simple etymological sense of rule by the few.  But rule by the few is not the true essence of oligarchy, since that would make the title of oligarchical government redundant.  The true essence of oligarchy is, rather, rule by a rapacious few, and a concomitant and barely disguised hostility of these rapacious robber-barons for the nation of rubes over which they so rapaciously rule. Continue reading

Richard Cocks is Not Narrow-Minded and Should Not Consent to Become So

“For the narrow-minded man, though worthy of  good things, deprives himself of what he is worthy of.”

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (350 B.C.), iv. 3.

Richard’s latest post set me to puzzling over the meaning of the word narrow-minded.  I poked around and discovered that I had unknowingly swallowed the word as a liberal slogan, that the word narrow-minded has another meaning in ancient philosophy, and that Richard is the very opposite of narrow-minded in the ancient sense when he is most narrow minded in the liberal sense. Continue reading

Profiles in Pedantry, a Guide to Learned Braggarts, Learned Bullies, and Learned Bores.

“The haughty pedant, swoln with frothy name
Of learned man, big with his classic fame,
A thousand books read o’re and o’re again,
Does word for word most perfectly retain,
Heap’d in the lumber-office of his brain;
Yet this crammed skull, this undigested mass,
Does very often prove an arrant ass.”

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, “The Fourth Satire” (1687)

The word pedant was first used among the French to name a man charged with the instruction of children.  A pedant was no different than a pedagogue.  But by the sixteenth century the word pedant had become the epithet of a poser who was stuffed to the tonsils with a mishmash of inexact, superficial, and ostentatious learning.  Montagne tells us that farcical plays of that day always brought a pedant in “for the fool of the play,” since there is no fool so farcical as a fool who pretends he is wise. Continue reading

The Students in this Rare Instance are Right!

“How is it you can keep so serene and stay so utterly insensible with a storm of shells and bullets raining about your head?”

“Captain Smith, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed.  God has fixed the time for my death, I do not concern myself with that—but to be always ready, whenever it may overtake me.  That is the way all men should live.  Then all men would be equally brave.” 

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in Gods and Generals (2003)

We Texans are at present legally entitled to evade the covid virus in whatever manner we think best.  Masks are optional in public places, and hereabouts are seen on scarcely one Texan in ten.  Private businesses are at liberty to require masks, but those that mask their employees seem happy to ring up sales to unmasked customers.  This wanton and barefaced liberty extends even to the inmates of government schools, primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary alike. Continue reading

Which Mindset is Twisted?

“And, above all else, these angry Western men detest feminism.”

Mary Harrington, “It’s Horrifying how some Young Western Men are so Alienated by Woke Culture that They Even Admire the Taliban’s Twisted Mindset.”  Daily Mail (August 28, 2021)

“Feminism was one of the biological factors involved in the downfall of the [Roman] empire . . . . No civilization has ever been able to survive after the natural biological differentiation of the sexes was weakened.” 

Paul Popenoe, The Conservation of the Family (1926)

“The only groups in the United States reproducing at rates far above replacement are located in certain rural areas . . . remote from those educational and cultural influences which are symbolic of social progress.” 

Paul Henry Landis, Population Problems (1943).

The author of my first epigraph agrees with Orthosphere commenter a.morphous that unfeminized Western men are quietly cheering the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan because the bearded blitzkrieg represents a small victory for patriarchy.  She makes the usual progressive error of projecting her leftist love of abstractions onto the right.   Whether we are young or old, angry or jolly, alienated or adapted, unfeminized Western men love particulars, not abstractions.  In the case at hand, we love our own particular people, both male and female, and advocate patriarchy as necessary to their welfare. 

So long as our own people is staggering under the multiple maladies of foul feminism, however, we are not in the least bit consoled by the thought that the beacon of patriarchy is burning on a dusty hill on the other side of the world. Continue reading

Christian Theocracy is an Oxymoron

“When kings are kings, and kings are men—
           And the lonesome rain is raining!
O who shall rule from the red throne then,
And who shall covet the scepter when—
            When the winds are all complaining?”

James Whitcombe Riley, “The Flying Islands of the Night” (1878)

Orthosphere readers a.morphous and Scoot are engaged in a gentlemanly exchange of views in the comment thread of my recent post, their polite back-and-forth enriched with additional comments by Kristor.  I have been silent because I have been, for the better part of the past few days, glued to the steering wheel of an automobile.  While glued to that steering wheel, I did however brood on certain points that a.morphous and Scoot raised, once going so far as to jot a note as I stiffly hobbled across the hot tarmac of a raucous roadside rest area. Continue reading

Prepare for the Wilderness

“Nationality, without race as a plea, is like the smoke of this narghile, a fragrant puff.”

 Benjamin Disraeli, Tancred: Or the New Crusade (1847)

If America is, as some would have us believe, nothing but the idea that all men are equally endowed with a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, one wonders what need men have for laws, schools and opinion columnists in newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times.  Apart, perhaps, from some stringent statutes against murder and negligent homicide, it seems that men governed by this bare idea could be left to exercise this liberty, and pursue this happiness, in the manner that seems best to each man.   Indeed, claiming the summit of a journalistic dung heap and crowing like an overbearing cock seems like an affront to equality, especially when these barnyard busybodies have their own narrow and bigoted notions about how these bare ideas should be clothed. Continue reading

“We Must Believe Thereon”: A Note Against Open Society.

“A positive culture must have a positive set of values, and the dissentients must remain marginal, tending to make only marginal contributions.” 

T.S. Eliot The Idea of a Christian Society (1939)

T.S. Eliot here dissents from the liberal creeds that we nowadays call multiculturalism, inclusion, and the open society.  What he calls a “positive culture” positively affirms itself, while it at the same time rejects all other cultures. It may reject them implicitly or explicitly, courteously or rudely, but it must reject them because it has faith in itself.  If I like books and you like beer, I can leave you to your brew; but each time I turn a page, I declare that books are better. Continue reading

Uncle Toby and the Fly

“My uncle Toby had scarce a heart to retaliate upon a fly.  ‘Go,’ says he, one day at dinner, to an overgrown one which had buzzed about his nose, and tormented him cruelly all dinner time . . . . ‘Go,’ says he, lifting up the sash, and opening his hand as he spoke, to let it escape.  ‘Go, poor devil, get thee gone, why should I hurt thee?  This world surely is wide enough to hold both thee and me.’” 

Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1765)

I am not a fractious man.  I say this not to boast, or even because I think it benign, but only as a matter of fact.  What I mean is that I am not, in the ordinary rubs of social life, overly keen to apprise people of my peculiar views and my out of the way opinions.  You could meet me at a dinner party, or talk to me for years over the back fence, and never discover that we do not see exactly eye to eye. Continue reading