English Editor, Writer, Journalist, Media Personality and Satirist
English Editor, Writer, Journalist, Media Personality and Satirist
Television, I should say ? in the light of what I know about it; my memories of working with it ? is the ultimate in fantasy: a sort of Caliban's Island; full of sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not, so that when we wake, if we ever do, we cry to sleep again. And it is precisely the transposition of good and evil in this world of fantasy that, in my opinion, lies at the root of our present malaise. Such was also Solzhenitsyn's first impression when he arrived in the West. ?Our troubles,? he said, ?were due precisely to our loss of any awareness of good and evil.? It is good and evil after all that provides the theme of the drama of our mortal existence. In this sense, you might capture them with the positive and negative points that generate an electric current; transpose the points, and the current fails, the lights go out, darkness falls, and all is confusion.
There is a gulf between reality? and the world of fantasy that the media project.... Western people are being enormously misled by being induced to regard things on the screen as real, when actually they are fantasy. But, of course, God can use all things ? even television, even you and me.
When I use the word "fantasy", I do not mean the imagination, because the imagination is the heart and source of all art. Coleridge has a splendid exposition of the difference between fancy, or fantasy, and the imagination. When Blake said he believed in the imagination, he saw the imagination as providing an image of truth. But fantasy is the creation of images and ideas which are not truth, which have no relation to truth, and which cannot have a relation to truth.... It's an entirely different thing ? like the difference between sentimentality and sentiment.
Bad humor is an evasion of reality; good humor is an acceptance of it.
I doubt whether the Revolution has, in essentials, changed Russia at all. Reading Gogol, or Dostoevsky for that matter, one realizes how completely the Soviet regime has fallen back on to, and perhaps invigorated, the old Russia. Certainly there is much more of Gogol and Dostoevsky in the regime than there is of Marx.
It was a somber place, haunted by old jokes and lost laughter. Life, as I discovered, holds no more wretched occupation than trying to make the English laugh.
Only dead fish swim with the stream.
Thanks to the great mercy and marvel of the Incarnation, the cosmic scene is resolved into a human drama. God reaches down to become a Man and Man reaches up to relate himself to God. Time looks into eternity and eternity into time, making now always, and always now. Everything is transformed by the sublime dream of the Incarnation ? God's special parable for fallen man and a fallen world. The way opens before us that was charted in the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The way that successive generations of believers have striven to follow, deriving themselves the moral, spiritual, and intellectual creativity out of which have come everything truly great in our art, our literature, our music, the splendor of the great Cathedrals, and the illumination of the saints and mystics, as well as countless lives of men and women serving their God and loving their Savior in humility and Faith. It's a glorious record ? not just of the past, but continuing now. The books are open, not closed.
There is something ridiculous and even quite indecent in an individual claiming to be happy. Still more a people or a nation making such a claim. The pursuit of happiness... is without any question the most fatuous which could possibly be undertaken. This lamentable phrase the pursuit of happiness is responsible for a good part of the ills and miseries of the modern world.
When the devil makes his offer (always open incidentally) of the kingdoms of the earth, it is the bordellos which glow so alluringly to most of us, not the banks and the counting-houses and the snow-swept corridors of power . . . Sex is the mysticism of a materialistic society - in the beginning was the Flesh, and the Flesh became Word; with its own mysteries - this is my birth pill; swallow it in remembrance of me! - and its own sacred texts and scriptures - the erotica which fall like black atomic rain on the just and unjust alike, drenching us, stupefying us. To be carnally minded is life!
Civilization?a heap of rubble scavenged by scrawny English Lit. vultures.
I hate government. I hate power. I think that man's existence, insofar as he achieves anything, is to resist power, to minimize power, to devise systems of society in which power is the least exerted.
It was perfectly true -- a point that Will Straughan was liable to bring up at the Saturday evening gatherings -- that on the present form the new citizenry might be expected to have a marked preference for dog-racing over chamber music or readings from 'Paradise Lost,' but, my father would loftily point out, education would change all that. Education was, in fact, the lynchpin of the whole operation; the means whereby the Old Adam of the Saturday night booze-up, and fondness for Marie Lloyd in preference to Beatrice Webb, would be cast off, and the New Man be born as potential fodder for third Programmes yet to come.
Our twentieth century, far from being notable for scientific skepticism, is one of the most credulous eras in all history. It is not that people believe in nothing ? which would be bad enough ? but that they believe in anything ? which is really terrible. Recoiling, as they do, from accepting the validity of miracles, and priding themselves on seeing the Incarnation as a transcendental con-trick, they will accept at its face value any proposition, however nonsensical, that is presented in scientific or sociological jargon.
The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.
There is something, to me, very sinister about this emergence of a weird kind of conformity, or orthodoxy, particularly among the people who operate the media, so that you can tell in advance exactly what they will say and think about anything. It is true that so far they have not got an Inquisition to enforce their orthodoxy, but they do have ways of enforcing it which make the old thumbscrews and racks seem quite paltry.
When you reach your sixties, you have to decide whether you're going to be a sot or an ascetic. In other words if you want to go on working after you're sixty, some degree of asceticism is inevitable.
Education, the great mumbo-jumbo and fraud of the age, purports to equip us to live and is prescribed as a universal remedy for everything from juvenile delinquency to premature senility. For the most part it only serves to enlarge stupidity, inflate conceit, enhance credulity and put those subjected to it at the mercy of brain-washers with printing presses, radio and TV at their disposal.
I have never forgotten these visitors, or ceased to marvel at them, at how they have gone on from strength to strength, continuing to lighten our darkness, and to guide, counsel and instruct us; on occasion, momentarily abashed, but always ready to pick themselves up, put on their cardboard helmets, mount Rosinante, and go galloping off on yet another foray on behalf of the down-trodden and oppressed. They are unquestionably one of the wonders of the age, and I shall treasure till I die as a blessed memory the spectacle of them travelling with radiant optimism through a famished countryside, wandering in happy bands about squalid, over-crowded towns, listening with unshakeable faith to the fatuous patter of carefully trained and indoctrinated guides, repeating like schoolchildren a multiplication table, the bogus statistics and mindless slogans endlessly intoned to them. There, I would think, an earnest office-holder in some local branch of the League of Nations Union, there a godly Quaker who once had tea with Gandhi, there an inveigher against the Means Test and the Blasphemy Laws, there a staunch upholder of free speech and human rights, there an indomitable preventer of cruelty to animals; there scarred and worthy veterans of a hundred battles for truth, freedom and justice--all, all chanting the praises of Stalin and his Dictatorship of the Proletariat. It was as though a vegetarian society had come out with a passionate plea for cannibalism, or Hitler had been nominated posthumously for the Nobel Peace Prize.
It was the Catholic Church's firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally made me decide to become a Catholic . . . As the Romans treated eating as an end in itself, making themselves sick in a vomitorium so as to enable them to return to the table and stuff themselves with more delicacies, so people now end up in a sort of sexual vomitorium. The Church's stand is absolutely correct. It is to its eternal honour that it opposed contraception, even if the opposition failed. I think, historically, people will say it was a very gallant effort to prevent a moral disaster.
Pascal was the first and perhaps is still the most effective voice to be raised in warning of the consequences of the enthronement of the human ego in contradistinction to the cross, symbolizing the ego's immolation. How beautiful it all seemed at the time of the Enlightenment, that man triumphant would bring to pass that earthly paradise whose groves of academe would ensure the realization forever of peace, plenty, and beatitude in practice. But what a nightmare of wars, famines, and folly was to result therefrom.
The eminent so often say and do things which are infinitely more ridiculous than anything you can invent for them. That might not sound to you like a terrible difficulty but it is, believe me, the main headache of the editor of an ostensibly humorous paper. You go to great trouble to invent a ridiculous Archbishop of Canterbury and give him ridiculous lines to say and then suddenly he rises in his seat at the theatre [at a performance of Godspell] and shouts out: "Long live God" . . . which, as I reflected at the time, was like shouting, "carry on eternity" or "keep going infinity" . . . And you're defeated, you're broken.
There's a large strain of irony in our human affairs... Interwoven with our affairs is this wonderful spirit of irony which prevents us from ever being utterly and irretrievably serious, from being unaware of the mysterious nature of our existence.
Where, then, does happiness lie? In forgetfulness, not indulgence, of the self. In escape from sensual appetites, not in their satisfaction. We live in a dark, self-enclosed prison, which is all we see or know if our glance is fixed ever downward. To lift it upward, becoming aware of the wide, luminous universe outside - this alone is happiness. At its highest level, such happiness is the ecstasy that mystics have inadequately described. At more humdrum levels, it is human love; the delights and beauties of our dear earth, its colors and shapes and sounds; the enchantment of understanding and laughing, and all other exercise of such faculties as we possess; the marvel of the meaning of everything, fitfully glimpsed, inadequately expounded, but ever present.
A pornography of the will.