Anthony Esolen provides a useful history lesson.
Posts Tagged ‘marriage’
From Not Exactly Allies, two old friends in the spy business have some rare time off, and get philosophical. Durand is French and Catholic. Richard is British and something of a skeptic.:
“He had me fooled, I tell you.”
“He wasn’t quite as advertised. I’ll give him that,” Richard conceded.
“But who is?” Durand sounded philosophical and resigned.
Richard laughed. “We’d be out of business if everyone was exactly who they appeared to be.”
“I could live with that.”
Richard almost agreed, but stopped. And considered. “No, you couldn’t. At least I couldn’t.” he said.
“Would you not agree it would be better?”
“Better, possibly. But boring.”
“I have come to appreciate boredom in my old age,” Durand said.
“Stop it with the old age business. I’ve got that birthday breathing down my neck. Fifty. Half a century. It shouldn’t matter, but it’s making me crazy thinking that there must be some sort of symbolism in it, some sort of reckoning. It’s funny, but I’m not the least worried about being 51. Just 50 itself. Stupid, that.”
“You always were superstitious.”
“I’m not as bad as I used to be. Emma seems to have cured me of that.”
Durand pretended not to see Richard nervously crossing his fingers then hiding the offending hand after saying such a fate-tempting thing.
“Wives cure many ills,” Durand said. “At least your Emma does not set out to cure you of non-existent diseases. Many wives seek perfection in their mates. It is foolish, that.”
“Thank you. You’ve reminded me that I was trying to say something but that you got me sidetracked.”
“I’m sure it was all my fault,” Durand said, with false haughtiness.
“Mostly your fault, I’m sure. Now shut up a minute. You’re getting me sidetracked again. It’s something to do with that perfection business. Give me a minute.”
Durand began to hum a tune, as if to fill time for a minute. A sharp glance from Richard cut him off. Durand sat quietly for about twenty seconds, and then broke back in. “If you are going to say that just about the only thing wrong with communism is that it is impossible because it requires men to give up being whole men, while at the same time demands of them that they be better than they would be if they were whole, I welcome you to the world of civilized and truly educated mankind.”
“Something like that, I guess,” Richard said. “I’ve been thinking about it, trying to figure out why otherwise intelligent people get sucked into it.”
“Ach! That is easy. There are not enough properly trained Christians.”
“Well, obviously, being religious does tend to inoculate one against an anti-religious movement.”
“No, my friend. No. You do not understand me at all. You should read more unrevised history or something. Most historians are dupes, of course, but there are a few good ones from whom a person can learn what happens in societies that morally maim their citizens as a matter of policy. Then you would know, for instance, that communism counts on worship of the state and of its theories du jour. I will lend you some good books. I would lend you my copies of The Gulag Archipelago, but they are in French. I know you read French, but you cannot possibly know it well enough to tackle such a work, with such nuances in it.”
“Emma has copies, in English. All three volumes.”
“Of course she does. She is not afraid of facing what we are up against. I know she also has several books by G.K. Chesterton. You should read those, all of them. His ability to predict the problems of our day is uncanny, and he is humorous, too, which you should appreciate. But you have derailed me again.”
“You said there weren’t enough properly trained Christians.”
“You should go to a proper church, one that has not married the age instead of the truth. Then you would understand what I am talking about.”
“Does this really answer what I was asking, about why otherwise intelligent people get sucked into communism? Or socialism, for that matter? They tend to slide into each other, somehow.”
“Of course they do. Once people fall into grasping for power or dreaming of a spotless group identity or a perfectly functioning society, and one -ism fails them, they quite naturally grab at another -ism, hoping a different tool will do the trick.”
“But why do people fall for any of it?”
“Is it so difficult to see? The attractive element to communism is that it would truly be heaven on earth if it were true. But it is, of course, not true. It is built on lies tangled up with theories based on a false view of human nature. People who are not trained to understand that there is true and untrue are fools waiting to be plucked by the people who preach newness and happiness, and who tout their pretty philosophies as strong or inevitable or courageous, although they are nothing of the sort. ‘Join us and be somebody,’ they cheer. ‘Sacrifice for us and be a hero!’ And, except for mature Christians, people want to feel important, and to look important in the eyes of other men, and so they are doomed. It is as simple as that.”
“Exactly what I was going to say,” Richard said.
“Bah,” Durand said.
They both understood that doomed was not exactly the right word. It suggested that people couldn’t discover their mistake and correct it, given enough time and observation of the universe in general, and the human animal in particular, not to mention the grace of God. The world was awash with people who had been led astray in one way or another, but did not stay astray. Stolemaker, for example. But ‘Bah!’ seemed a good way to end the conversation, at least for the moment. It was a nice day, and it was pleasant just to play cards, now that they had agreed upon the variation of rummy they would play. It was not a pure game, if you were the sort of person who insisted upon using a book of standardized rules, picking just one game, and sticking with it. Instead, they had chosen the elements of play that they liked best from several different types of rum, and mixed them with aspects of an obscure and ancient form of poker. It was pleasant, inventing your own card game and having someone who would play it with you.
After a few minutes of companionable silence, Durand sat up straighter. “By the way, I am sure that I have a better nose, at least, than Voltaire, if the insufferable Voltaire is your man of the ogre-imp statue. With a better nose he is not so bad looking.”
“I rather like the man’s nose. Distinctive, you know,” Richard said.
Having let loose that succinct bit of commentary, Durand grinned and leaned back into his best reclining philosopher’s position.
“Uh, oh,” Richard said.
Durand smiled. “It seems to me that we were rudely interrupted before I could explain to you the importance of thinking in alloys. Somehow we have never found our way back to the subject.”
“I forget the context,” Richard said.
“We were sitting in Orchard’s flat, and it went boom.”
“That part I remember. What I forgot was what we were talking about.”
“Oh, that’s right. The beneficial aspects of marriage. The basis for good marriages. Love. Hope. Art. Natural law. The importance of thinking in alloys,” Richard said.
Durand broke into gales of laughter. “You must be more careful, my friend. Men who admit to good memories acquire reputations that cause them much trouble.”
“Have you ever seen me admit to a superior memory in front of anyone besides your humble and good-natured self?”
“I am not laughing at you. I am just laughing. I hope you know that.”
“It is very simple. Gold by itself is too soft for most of the purposes to which gold is put. So something must be added. An alloy, no? For another example, for brass you must have both copper and zinc, no? Neither of which can behave like brass, you understand. For bronze, you start with copper but you must add tin. Nothing against either copper or tin, mind you – but by themselves they can only be copper or tin, and nothing else. Steel? You cannot make steel with just iron. You must add carbon to it. Furthermore, you must add just the right amount of carbon, in just the right way. Do you remember what some people say about the Titanic?”
“Some people say that what doomed the Titanic was not so much the iceberg, but that they were using a new type of steel, one that was supposed to be new and improved, but was not tried and true, and turned out to be brittle. When the ship hit the iceberg, the metal shattered instead of bending under the force of the blow. I do not know whether that story is true, but for my purposes let us say that it is true because it illustrates the point I wish to make so beautifully.”
“In other words, to have a good marriage, you must introduce just the right elements, and join them in just the right way, or you fall short of what marriage should be and/or the resulting combination is not strong enough to hold up.”
“A very good assessment. Almost too good. I think perhaps that you knew what I was going to say before I said it.”
“I mentioned what you said earlier to Emma, and she asked Perrine, and Perrine explained it to Emma, who kindly explained it to me.”
“Hah! So your curiosity got the better of you after all!”
“It’s your turn, I think.”
“Cards. The game we’re playing? It’s your turn, I think. I know it’s no fun to lose, but-”
“I haven’t lost yet.”
“Care to bet on the outcome?”