Category: Ideas and Reflections

Limbo More Than Ever

I have been absent from Limbo for longer than usual, due to the death of my father. Needless to say, a lot of noteworthy events have occurred in the world of public significance during my absence, but — also needless to say — nothing really substantial has changed. A brief roundup of what I have observed, unsurprisingly, upon my return to the real...

Independent Judgment In The Age of Mob Rule

A few days ago, Armond White at National Review published his retrospective assessment of Rob Reiner’s cult favorite comedy, The Princess Bride. His basic take on the movie, which as he notes with disapproval is often affectionately cited by conservatives (i.e., NR writers and readers), is that it lacks both artistic and moral coherence, and owes its enduring popularity to the fact that...

Two Reflections On Higher Education

The purpose of higher education, as originally founded in the solid ground of the classical philosophic life, was to foster the civilized notions that there is no real safety in numbers; that truth is not amenable to popular opinion; that the adage “knowledge is power” is not reversible; that detached, quiet reflection is the only antidote to the intellectual poison of the public...

Reflections: Crises of Faith, Smallness of Mind, Discomfort

Faith vs. Convenience.– A student recently wrote to me about the diary of a well-known Korean author, written for a Catholic magazine, describing her emotional journey following the death of her son. At the heart of the diary is the author’s struggle, quite typical of such stories, whether public or private, to find an answer to such questions as, “Why would God do...

Reflections On The New Tribalism

A Symptom.— Public shaming implies a character that is incapable of mercy, which implies a lack of empathy, which implies an inability to recognize one’s likeness in the other, which implies seeing the other as specially separate and thus essentially unfamiliar. The inability to recognize one’s likeness in the other, i.e., to see the subjectively unfamiliar as objectively familiar, indicates an uncivilized man....

Reflections on Appearances

The French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said of a famous American director (I quote from ancient memory), “He points the camera somewhere, I suppose, but he doesn’t see anything.” Today, four billion would-be cinéma vérité auteurs are pointing their own cameras “somewhere,” as we may suppose, but the assumption that all this pointing and shooting constitutes seeing, or revealing, anything —...

Learning and Stereotypes

Any two objects seen from a great enough distance will look fundamentally similar. The closer we get, the more differences we will begin to discern. The same is true with mental distance. The unfamiliar tends to group itself together in our minds, naturally. As we get to know individual instances within the group, they separate themselves from this new generality in our minds, and we see….

What You Are Going To Do

We spend a lot of time (which is itself an illusion) hemming and hawing with mock-profundity about what we are going to do, as though we were making decisions, rather than merely waiting to do what we must do. We must either flow with the wave in which we inevitably find ourselves, or struggle to remain standing and resistant against its force. But...

Musings to Begin the New Year

Lost in the Cloud.— We are all, today, in all our endeavors, at the mercy of everything we ever did, everything we ever said, and everyone with whom we ever interacted in any way, at any time, under any circumstances. In practice, this means that standing apart from others, or disagreeing in any way with current moral or political orthodoxies, no longer merely...

Merry Christmas

It is typical these days, among those still sufficiently sentient and resistant to ideological indoctrination to have wayward thoughts, to wish others a Merry Christmas with a disclaimer to the effect that Christmases, at this historical moment, do not seem to offer much to be merry about. While I certainly sympathize with that mixed tone of well-wishing lamentation, I always try to remind...