Words of wisdom for our time from one of my favorite columnists, "back in the day"—economist Milton Friedman:
One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.
Dost thou ever feel thus toward thy neighbour—“Yes, of course, every man is my brother; but how can I be a brother to him so long as he thinks me wrong in what I believe, and so long as I think he wrongs in his opinions the dignity of the truth?” What, I return, has the man no hand to grasp, no eyes into which yours may gaze far deeper than your vaunted intellect can follow? Is there not, I ask, anything in him to love? Who asks you to be of one opinion? It is the Lord who asks you to be of one heart. Does the Lord love the man? Can the Lord love, where there is nothing to love? Are you wiser than he, inasmuch as you perceive impossibility where he has failed to discover it? Or will you say, “Let the Lord love where he pleases: I will love where I please”? or say, and imagine you yield, “Well, I suppose I must, and therefore I will,—but with certain reservations, politely quiet in my own heart”? Or wilt thou say none of all these things, but do them all, one after the other, in the secret chambers of thy proud spirit? If you delight to condemn, you are a wounder, a divider of the oneness of Christ. If you pride yourself on your loftier vision, and are haughty to your neighbour, you are yourself a division and have reason to ask: “Am I a particle of the body at all?” The Master will deal with thee upon the score. Let it humble thee to know that thy dearest opinion, the one thou dost worship as if it, and not God, were thy Saviour, this very opinion thou art doomed to change, for it cannot possibly be right, if it work in thee for death and not for life.
George MacDonald, A Dish of Orts, "A Sermon"
Here are four poems that struck me in particular from a book of C. S. Lewis' collected poems.
Irresponsible actions have consequences.
I dreamt that all the planning of peremptory humanity
Had crushed Nature finally beneath the foot of Man;
Birth-control and merriment, Earth completely sterilized,
Bungalow and fun-fair, had fulfilled our Plan;
But the lion and the unicorn were sighing at the funeral,
Crying at the funeral
Sobbing at the funeral of the god Pan.
And the elephant was crying. The pelican in his piety
Struck his feathered bosom till the blood ran,
And howling at humanity the owl and iguanodon,
The bittern and the buffalo, their dirge began,
But dangerously, suddenly, a strange ecstatic shuddering
A change that set me shuddering
Through all the wailful noises of the beasts ran.
No longer were they sorrowful, but stronger and more horrible,
It had only been a rumour of the death of Pan.
The scorpions and the mantichores and corpulent tarantulas
Were closing in around me, hissing, Long Live Pan!
And forth with rage unlimited the North Wind drew his scimitar
In wrath with ringing scimitar
He came, with sleet and shipwreck, for the doom of Man.
And now, descending, ravening, loud and large, the avalanche,
And after it the earthquake, was loosed upon Man.
Towering and cloven-hoofed, the power of Pan came over us,
Stamped, bit, tore, broke. It was the end of Man;
Except where saints and savages were kept from his ravaging,
And crept out when the ravaging
Was ended, on an empty earth. The new world began.
A small race — a smiling heaven — all round the silences
Returned; there was comfort for corrected Man.
Flowered turf had swallowed up the towered cities; following
His flocks and herds where nameless, untainted rivers ran,
Leisurely he pondered, at his pleasure wandering,
Clear, on the huge pastures, the young voice of Man.
Shades of the Irish Rovers!
The Late Passenger
The sky was low, the sounding rain was falling dense and dark,
And Noah’s sons were standing at the window of the Ark.
The beasts were in, but Japhet said, “I see one creature more
Belated and unmated there comes knocking at the door.”
“Well, let him knock or let him drown,” said Ham, “or learn to swim.
We’re overcrowded as it is; we’ve got no room for him.”
“And yet it knocks, how terribly it knocks,” said Shem. “Its feet
Are hard as horn—but oh the air that comes from it is sweet.”
“Now hush!” said Ham, “You’ll waken Dad, and once he comes to see
What’s at the door, it’s sure to mean more work for you and me.”
Noah’s voice came roaring from the darkness down below,
“Some animal is knocking. Let it in before we go.”
Ham shouted back, and savagely he nudged the other two,
“That’s only Japhet knocking down a brad-nail in his shoe.”
Said Noah, “Boys, I hear a noise that’s like a horse’s hoof.”
Said Ham, “Why, that’s the dreadful rain that drums upon the roof.”
Noah tumbled up on deck and out he put his head;
His face went grey, his knees were loosed, he tore his beard and said,
“Look, look! It would not wait. It turns away. It takes its flight.
Fine work you’ve made of it, my sons, between you all to-night!
"Even if I could outrun it now, it would not turn again
—Not now. Our great discourtesy has earned its high disdain.
"Oh noble and unmated beast, my sons were all unkind;
In such a night what stable and what manger will you find?
"Oh golden hoofs, oh cataracts of mane, oh nostrils wide
With indignation! Oh the neck wave-arched, the lovely pride!
"Oh long shall be the furrows ploughed upon the hearts of men
Before it comes to stable and to manger once again,
"And dark and crooked all the roads in which our race will walk,
And shrivelled all their manhood like a flower with broken stalk,
"And all the world, oh Ham, may curse the hour when you were born;
Because of you the Ark must sail without the Unicorn.”
It's presented as a poem, but to anyone familiar with the hymn, "Lead Us, Heavenly Father, Lead Us" it's a song that sings itself.
Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future's endless stair;
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.
Wrong or justice, in the present,
Joy or sorrow, what are they
While there's always jam-tomorrow,
While we tread the onward way?
Never knowing where we're going,
We can never go astray.
To whatever variation
Our posterity may turn
Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,
Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,
Tusked or toothless, mild or ruthless,
Towards that unknown god we yearn.
Ask not if it's god or devil,
Brethren, lest your words imply
Static norms of good and evil
(As in Plato) throned on high;
Such scholastic, inelastic,
Abstract yardsticks we deny.
Far too long have sages vainly
Glossed great Nature's simple text;
He who runs can read it plainly,
"Goodness = what comes next."
By evolving, Life is solving
All the questions we perplexed.
On then! Value means survival-
Value. If our progeny
Spreads and spawns and licks each rival,
That will prove its deity
(Far from pleasant, by our present
Standards, though it may well be).
The Apologist's Evening Prayer
From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.
Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.
I need to read Flannery O'Connor. I've been more than intimidated by the 617-page copy of The Habit of Being that is sitting on my shelves. But I just came upon the following quotation and am inspired to tackle this writer who so obviously understands why I write.
I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.
George MacDonald, from a sermon preached at the Christ Church, Addiscombe. Proving the Unseen, chapter 8: "Growth in Grace and Knowledge."
We should give ourselves an opportunity to understand humanity, to know those who are about us, and from them to know the individual, until we are a hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Every Christian ought to be a refuge. I believe that, if we were like Christ, even the wild beasts of our woods and fields would flee to us for refuge and deliverance.
Having recently read C. S. Lewis' The Pilgrim's Regress, I found a couple of quotations about extremism that I'm saving here.
I do not admire the excess of one virtue unless I am shown at the same time the excess of the opposite virtue. A man does not prove his greatness by standing at an extremity, but by touching both extremities at once and filling all that lies between them. — Blaise Pascal
Opposite evils, far from balancing, aggravate each other...widespread drunkenness is the father of Prohibition and Prohibition of widespread drunkenness. — C. S. Lewis
We found this at an exhibit on medieval music at the Veste Oberhaus museum in Passau, Germany:
A worship service without music was unthinkable. Almost every instrument was available as accompaniment for the singers: from the glockenspiel to the organ, from the harp to the guitar and from the flute to the horn.
Words of wisdom for our time from George MacDonald (from The Hope of the Gospel: "God's Family").
One thing is plain—that we must love the strife-maker; another is nearly as plain—that, if we do not love him, we must leave him alone; for without love there can be no peace-making, and words will but occasion more strife. To be kind neither hurts nor compromises.
I recently had the opportunity to read The Excellence Habit: How Small Changes in Our Mindset Can Make a Big Difference in Our Lives by Vlad Zachary. As a whole, I did not find the book helpful, because despite the promising title, it is primarily directed at the business world. However, the following passage clearly applies to us all.
The one stress factor that always reduces our choices and affects how we react is the availability of time. ... At any moment we are hurried, or feel hurried, we will exhibit a diminished ability to respond in line with our circumstances. Even when we encounter new, unfamiliar, and potentially dangerous circumstances, if we had plenty of time, we would have a better chance of self-control and adequate response. When time starts running out, so does our capacity for reaction, problem solving, and creativity. This is almost universal as a response to time pressure.
Having read that, my reaction was to be confirmed in my belief that we need to build more time-space into our lives by reducing our commitments, beginning preparations well in advance of an event, building deliberate open spaces into our schedule, and not getting into the car with just enough time that if all the lights are green and there are no slower drivers in front of us, we will just make it to our destination as the event begins.
The author, however, heads in a different direction.
Awareness and preparation, therefore, are critical to how well we perform when short on time. ... Practice and how well we do under pressure are positively correlated. ... The more we prepare, the better we will perform when it matters.
I can see that, too. The correlation is obvious among athletes, musicians, artists, the military, and my friends who carry guns: practice is the only way to build up the good habits and automatic responses that will enable us to react correctly and effectively under pressure.
I would go further. For any positive trait we wish to acquire, or instill in our children—compassion, timeliness, responsibility, courtesy, self-control ... good handwriting, mathematical facility, driving skills ... the ability to handle pain, to resist temptation, to follow the right course in the face of opposition—without correct, consistent, and constant practice under more favorable circumstances, a crisis situation will leave us wide open to panic, paralysis, poor decision-making, and the betrayal of our own values.
From J. R. R. Tolkien, in The Return of the King, Appendix F.
In those days all the enemies of the Enemy revered what was ancient, in language no less than in other matters, and they took pleasure in it according to their knowledge. The Eldar, being above all skilled in words, had the command of many styles, though they spoke most naturally in a manner nearest to their own speech, one even more antique than that of Gondor. The Dwarves, too, spoke with skill, readily adapting themselves to their company, though their utterance seemed to some rather harsh and guttural. But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering, thought models are easy to find. Much the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigour, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.
It's time to bring back this quote from Joel Salatin.
On every side, our paternalistic culture is tightening the noose around those of us who just want to opt out of the system. And it is the freedom to opt out that differentiates tyrannical and free societies. How a culture deals with its misfits reveals its strength. The stronger a culture, the less it fears the radical fringe. The more paranoid and precarious a culture, the less tolerance it offers. When faith in our freedom gives way to fear of our freedom, silencing the minority view becomes the operative protocol.
This observation needs reviving again, from John Caldwell Holt.
One of the saddest things I've learned in my life, one of the things I least wanted to believe and resisted believing for as long as I could, was that people in chains don't want to get them off, but want to get them on everyone else. Where are your chains? they want to know. How come you're not wearing chains? Do you think you are too good to wear them? What makes you think you're so special?
Contempt is the sulfuric acid of love.
This observation by John Gottman—from "The Calculus of Love", Science News, Vol 165, No. 9, 28 Feb 2004, p. 142—is what leapt to my mind when I read Michael Hyatt's essay, Why Speaking Well of Your Spouse Is So Important. It's a short article, in which he briefly fleshes out the following points:
- You Get More of What You Affirm
- Affirmation Shifts Your Attitude
- Affirmation Strengthens Your Spouse’s Best Qualities
- Affirmation Wards off Temptation
- Affirmation Provides a Model to Those You Lead
Simple, powerful, difficult, and important in much more than the marital relationship. With our children, on the job, with our neighbors, in politics, on social media. Contempt is the sulfuric acid of love.
From The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien:
Do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know.