In the Bleak Midwinter by Anthony Esolen

In the Bleak Midwinter

Behold a little child, a boy. He has only a few words yet, but within the wondrous dome of his head, tousled with a wisp of wild hair, a whole world is coming into being. Sometimes he regards things with a settled seriousness, as if he were a metaphysical scholar, batting a toy swing back and forth, investigating the principles of motion. Sometimes he crouches down to the earth to make finger-marks in the soil. Sometimes he gazes into the eyes of a stranger, and breaks into a smile, the two teeth on the bottom making him look a little like a rakish old man who has just downed a swig of cider.

If we knew, in advance, that the child would “amount to nothing,” as we say in our ruthlessness—that he would be the first dumped overboard in the surreality television show of modern life, the first sent packing with his half a talent—indeed, if we knew he would die before the age of reason, should that not make him all the more precious in our eyes? The good of the child is beyond quantity; it is like the good of love, and beauty.

Do we understand that? I don’t know. A hedonistic world is, at base, cruel, pitiless. That is because sensual pleasure can be calibrated. It raises the horrible questions, “How much?” and “How many?” Egotistical pleasure, for which many of us, worshiping a Higher Hedonism, sacrifice the sensual, can also be measured. Larry is the youngest partner in Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe. Linda has two Master’s degrees in Personnel Management. In such a world the child may be a “lifestyle accessory,” to use the inhuman patois, but is otherwise an embarrassment to be managed, or an irrelevance.

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


Anthony Esolen is Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Thales College and the author of over 30 books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House) and, with his wife Debra, publishes the web magazine Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

Online
Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.


more from the online archives

19.5—June 2006

The Creed We Need

On the Picture of God We Draw with Words by David Mills

22.8—November/December 2009

Looking for Wenceslaus

on the Real Men Behind the Christmas Carol by Michael Baum

35.6—Nov/Dec 2022

To Is or Not To Is

on E-Prime by J. Douglas Johnson

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

00