Commonplace Notebook

This page will be a collection of quotations and passages that struck me as compelling when I came upon them.

This time Purun Bhagat paid no calls, but leaned on the rail of the Mall, watching that glorious view of the Plains spread out forty miles below, till a native Mohammedan policeman told him he was obstructing traffic; and Purun Bhagat salaamed reverently to the Law, because he knew the value of it, and was seeking for a Law of his own.

“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a foundation of financial insecurity. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea. ‘Cruising’ it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change.”

Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, be- cause they understand everything too soon. POPE

Reality always gives itself as something more than can be grasped Pieper.

Nothing arouses ambition so much . . . as the trumpet clang of another’s fame. GRACIAN

The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as his audience so that they believe they are as clever as he. KRAUS

Some, like Boruch Shlomoi I\!layer, simply wanted to go back:

To me, America is a worse Goluth than Poland. The ukases and pogroms from the Czar, all the killings that could not kill us gave us the strength to live \Vith God. Learning ·was learning-dearer than gold…. But here in New York, the synagogues are in the hands of godless lumps of flesh. A butcher, a grocer, any moneymaker could buy himself into a president of a synagogue. \:Vith all that was bad under the Czar, the synagogue was still God’s light in time of darkness. Better to die there than to live here….


The men and women who make the best boon companions seem to have given up hope of doing something else. They have, perhaps, tried to be poets and painters; they have tried to be actors, scientists, and musicians. But some defect of talent or opportunity has cut them off from their pet ambi- tion and has thus left them with leisure to take an interest in the lives of others. Your ambitious man is selfish. No matter how secret his ambition may be, it makes him keep his thoughts at home. But the heartbroken people-if I may use the word in a mild benevolent sense-the people whose wills are subdued to fate, give us consolation, recognition and welcome.



Whitehead says “A clash of doctrines is not a disaster — it is an opportunity.”


Lap:  Many commentators believe that the destruction of the Christian faith will lead to a kinder, more moral, and more charitable society.

PH: Do they? I think they hope it will lead to a society in which fewer demands are made on them, which is rather different. But this is the difference which a belief in eternity makes. If we exist in eternity, then what we do here matters somewhere else, and at some other time, and the immediate consequences of our actions aren’t the most important things about them.  It might lead to more public acts of self-publicising ‘goodness’, but this is the problem of all Godless ethical systems. They rely on the appearance of goodness rather than on the inner heart seen only by God, and anyone who has attended a school or worked in an office will know that people are not always exactly as they seem to be.


  1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
  2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an arsehole.
  3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
  4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
  5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
  6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

Abject terror took possession of me in the presence of such wise and quiet dignity;
then one, in the pureness and freshness of youth, before having been contaminated by sin or afflicted by misery, is called to the presence of his Merciful Creator, it must be solely for his good.
All that the South has ever desired was that the Union, as established by our forefathers, should be preserved, and that the government as originally organised should be administered in purity and truth. If such is the desire of the North, there can be no contention between the two sections, and all true patriots will unite in advocating that policy which will soonest restore the country to tranquility and order, and serve to perpetuate true republicanism.


The thing about Weimar, as far as one can see, is not that it ended precisely with the Nazis. That will never happen again. It was that nobody who lived in it really had any clue that it would finish so abruptly, or what was coming next, until, the very end. Nor did they grasp how much their own liberalism was resented and how swiftly and absolutely most of it would be undone in the reckoning that followed.


When a man keeps as quiet as you for so long, he’s either in love or seedy.

Excerpt From Buchan, John. “The Half-Hearted.”


Like a Pharisee, I congratulate myself for not being among the mass murderers of history; for never having carried out a bank heist; for not having tortured even one kitten; for having thrown no grenadoes into crowded places, and shot none of the people I dislike; notwithstanding temptation. I consider myself better than many I could name who have done such things, with whom I have been in no way associated. But now that I am arranging my file for the canonical process, I see that it is thin. For what have I done on the side of charity?

If the man says, “It is good to be rich,” my instinct is to say the opposite.

We must learn, or if you will, discern, that joy has its entry through conscience, and not through the imagination. It is a little paradox that we, as moderns, are ill-equipped to discern. We would rather seek paradise in all the wrong places.

So crush all knowledge and experience of all forms of created things, and of yourself above . For it is on your own self-knowledge and experience that the knowledge and experience of everything else depend. Alongside this self-regard everything else is quickly forgotten. For if you will take the trouble to test it, you will find that when other things and activities have been forgotten (even your own) there still remain between you and God the stark awareness of your own existence. And this awareness, too, must go, before you experience contemplation in its perfection.


The child, or adult for that matter, who is enthralled by beetles, will be delighted by the book. It will be, to him, a pearl beyond price; on every page, he will find a revelation. No effort is made to proselytize, however. If you don’t like beetles, you won’t find the book interesting at all, and so, … off you go, bye-bye!

This, I think, is the right attitude to teaching. Give them the goods, straight. And if they are a little slow, as even the most interested students often are, help them over the intellectual mounds. A little unGermanic humour might be permissible, and a friendly atmosphere; a certain approachability together with that subtle hint of discipline from teacher that suggests, “Cross me and you are a dead man.” Or let us mention enthusiasm, which can be contagious. Too, we have this “grammar of beetle zoology” to fall back upon, as a kind of map when we are getting lost.

I will mention here Mr Henry, an American biology teacher I once had in a wonderfully backward British private school, in Asia. (The Patana School, Bangkok, in its underfunded days.) Except that he couldn’t control a class, he was a pillar of authority. He would begin each lesson by drawing an elaborate diagram on the chalkboard; he was a superb draughtsman. By the end of that, only three or four boys would still be paying attention. He would then ignore the nattering at the back of the classroom, and tell us what the diagram showed. At the end of term the front-row elitists would be savagely competing for his highest mark; the other dozen or so would flunk. Their parents would then demand Mr Henry’s removal.

I think of the moral genius of a beloved old friend (John Muggeridge, 1933-2005), a man who was hardly without Opinions. He had a preternatural tendency not only to get along with, but actually to be liked by his most natural adversaries. This I attributed to his gift of vision. He could see, in the most unlikely characters, virtues that were hidden, possibly even from their own mothers. Mention a name to him – the name of some utter deplorable – and he would be ready with what was not quite a defense; more like a kindly acknowledgment.

Beyond the life issues, there is no peace. We live in an age – have lived, through a century – in which politics have infected every particle of life, so that the man who hates politics will have to wade in, to defend his right to be left alone. And he will lose, for by the invention of the income tax, Big Brother established his right to intrude, inspect, molest – on a presumption of guilt that flies in the face of all our ancient liberties.


What is diversity, as opposed to divergence?

What is diversity, as opposed to mere variety?

What goods, precisely, is diversity supposed to deliver?

Why is intellectual diversity not served by the study of a dozen cultures of the past, with their vast array of customs, poetry, art, and worship of the gods?

The Way of Spiritual Childhood stresses again that .”love,” and not great outward achievement, is the fulfilling of the law; that it is character, not career,  which counts; that since· for most souls sanctity, if achieved at all, must be achieved in a restricted sphere, the daily round of little duties, little sacrifices, common tasks and trials, all fulfilled and accepted perfectly and for love, generous doing and suffering of the will .of God, will provide all that is needful for the highest heroism.

And it watches from its splendid parochialism, possibly with a smile of amusement, motor-car civilization going its triumphant way, outstripping time, consuming space, seeing all and seeing nothing, roaring on at last to the capture of the solar system, only to find the sun cockney and the stars suburban.

‘Tis true, a poor man must work hard for his daily bread; but then he is free. And his food is all he has to lose or win. He can possess all things in possessing Him who pervades all things,—earth, and sky, and stars, and flowers, and children. I can understand that I am great in that I am a part of the Infinite, and in that alone; and that all I see is mine, and I am in it and of it. How much of content and happiness should I not gain if I could but be a poor boy!”

and that I was manifesting “seraphim tendencies,” a phrase meaning that one has with­drawn from the struggle of life and considers oneself infallible.


Live. Work. Act decently. Pray. Remain buoyantly aloof, and do your own thinking.
And the success with which nuptial estrangements are depicted in modern “problem plays” is due to the fact that there is only one thing that a drama cannot depict—that is a hard day’s work.
In everything on this earth that is worth doing, there is a stage when no one would do it, except for necessity or honor.

We are trapped in the temporal view, so that we think of eternity as somehow in the future. We look forward as if to some earthly Utopia, when all on this planet may be made well. Or, to an “end time” in which this earthly utopian is prefigured, as if in another “war to end all wars.” We cannot see that it is with us now, and has always been with us, within, but also outside our chronologies. For we can look only forward, to death, until our eyes are adjusted to see beyond it. Yet even in death — on a certain day, of a certain month, of a certain year — is every man’s apocalypse, not to be gainsaid; the narrative climax of his own temporality.

God, however, would have another point of view, necessarily beyond our understanding. To us, He is somewhat Chinese. That is to say, the tenses we use in our language are not used in His speech, which is uninflected. (Part of the extraordinary condescension of Christ, in his descent from Heaven, was this divine concession: this agreement to participate in our own “before and after.”) Coming-to-be is an earthly affectation. I’m sure the angels understand the poetry of it, but have no need of the philosophy. It is but a small part of the “is” within the Kingdom of Being.



He soon found out that the new liberal Western-style order that replaced the old communist regime did not live up to these expectations. He was shocked to learn how many were hostile to his anti-communist position. He was mystified by the sympathy and favor enjoyed by so many former communists and socialists.

That is when Legutko looked at the roots of things. He began to wonder why communist persecution of the Church had failed while its later counterpart “without any effort and simply by allowing people to drift along with the flow of modernity succeeded.” He was familiar with communism’s militant anti-Catholic boot but not modernity’s strong cultural intolerance.

With penetrating analysis, he concludes that communism and liberal modernity have common philosophical roots although they follow different methods. “Modernity and anti-Christianity cannot be separated,” he affirms, “because they stem from the same root and since the beginning have been intertwined.”




It is the contention of these pages that while the best judge of Christianity is a Christian, the next best judge would be something more like a Confucian.



Seemingly from the dawn of man all nations have had governments; and all nations have been ashamed of them.


and that I was manifesting “seraphim tendencies,” a phrase meaning that one has withdrawn from the struggle of life and considers oneself infallible.

It is this sense of the meaning, not only “of life” but of history, that we must recover; and Christmas will do merrily as a time to struggle for it in our minds. We are not part of some meandering and essentially pointless “evolution.” We are not accidentally smart apes. We are instead part of a cosmic drama which has a Beginning, a Middle, and an End. And if this could be comprehended by the simplest people, many centuries ago, we are capable of comprehending it today.

If twenty thousand naked Americans were not able to resist the assaults of but twenty well-armed Spaniards, I see little possibility for one honest man to defend himself against twenty thousand knaves, who are all furnished cap-à-pie with the defensive arms of worldly prudence, and the offensive, too, of craft and malice.  He will find no less odds than this against him if he have much to do in human affairs.

The very purpose of what is miscalled multiculturalism is to destroy culture, by teaching students to dismiss their own and to patronize the rest. Hence the antidote to love of this place is not only a hatred of this place, but a phony engagement with any other place. Multiculturalism in this sense is like going a-whoring. Pretending to love every woman you meet, you love none at all. Nor do you genuinely get to know any of them, since it never occurs to you that there are any depths to learn to appreciate.

I beg you – so long as he has not also changed my face into that of some monster, to make me abominable in your sight – not to refuse to look on me with gentleness and love, seeing in my position of submission and prostration before your disguised beauty the self-humiliation of my soul’s adoration.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

Analects 12.vii, quote:

子貢問政。 子曰足食、足兵、足信之矣。 子貢曰、必不得已而去、於斯三者何先。 曰、去兵。 子貢曰、必不得已而去、於斯二者何先。 曰、去食、自古皆有死、民無信不立。

Tsze-kung asked about government. The Master said, “The requisites of government are that there be sufficiency of food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler.”

Tsze-kung said, “If it cannot be helped, and one of these must be dispensed with, which of the three should be forgone first?”

“The military equipment,” said the Master.

Tsze-kung again asked, “If it cannot be helped, and one of the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should be forgone?”

The Master answered, “Part with the food. From of old, death has been the lot of all men; but if the people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the state.”

I’ve worked out why the modern Left hate Donald Trump so much, and why anti-Trump parades have become the biggest boost to the Rentacrowd protest industry since the Vietnam War, opposed by millions who didn’t know what it was about or where Vietnam was.

It’s because the President subconsciously reminds them of themselves. Unlike most ‘Right-wing’ figures, he adopts the habits and practices of the shouty Left. He’s shamelessly bigoted, and regards his bigotry as a virtue. He’s ignorant, materialistic, unread, foul-mouthed, sexually liberated, sees opponents as enemies to be crushed rather than as fellow citizens to be persuaded or at least respected, and he despises the rule of law.

People hate in others what they dislike in themselves. I’ve seldom seen a better example of this maxim in action.

“Our existence, in its very foundations, is structured for sacrifice. As we grow up we want to become something, to grasp, to climb; but then the curve takes a downward turn. Quietly life takes from our hands everything we have snatched up. In the end we are granted the possibility of dying and, with it, that of performing the highest act of homage before the Eternal One.”