touchstone archives

Commonplaces

Piquant excerpts lifted from Touchstone editors' own reading & listening.

Issue: July/Aug 2019



I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer no, he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.

C. S. Lewis
Time Magazine interview, September 8, 1947


Family Commonplaces #39 July/Aug 2019


When psychoanalysis frees a patient from the tyranny of his inner compulsions, it gives him a power that is not otherwise his. . . . This ultimate technology aims at increasing the range of choice. Yet, without a parallel range of god-terms from which choices may be derived and ordered, choice itself becomes a matter of indifference, or man will become a glutton, choosing everything. There is no feeling more desperate than that of being free to choose, and yet without the specific compulsion of being chosen. After all, one does not really choose; one is chosen. . . . What men lose when they become as free as gods is precisely that sense of being chosen, which encourages them, in their gratitude, to take their subsequent choices seriously. Put in another way, this means: Freedom does not exist without responsibility.

Philip Rieff
The Triumph of the Therapeutic (1961)


Society Commonplaces #40 July/Aug 2019


The Roman Empire is luxurious, but it is filled with misery. It is dying but it laughs.

Salvianus
(5th century)


Society Commonplaces #41 July/Aug 2019


Yes,” she went on, “you have got to thank me that you are so poor, Peter. I have seen to that, and it has done well for both you and me, my friend. Things come to the poor that can’t get to the door of the rich. Their money somehow blocks it up. It is a great privilege to be poor, Peter—one that no man ever coveted, and but a very few have sought to retain, but one that yet many have learned to prize. You must not mistake, however, and imagine it a virtue; it is but a privilege, and one also that, like other privileges, may be terribly misused.”

George MacDonald
The Princess and Curdie (1883)


Society Commonplaces #42 July/Aug 2019


Money occupies the same place in modern society that God occupied in medieval society, as a kind of abstract guarantor of values that confers worth on different things and on different people.

William T. Cavanaugh


Society Commonplaces #43 July/Aug 2019


Charles Williams speaks as if [John Milton’s] Comus were of immediate and vital importance to himself and every member of the audience, and needs urgently to be discussed and understood. . . . But he also understands the students’ resistance, their scepticism, their doubts. Comus, he explains, is about chastity, a virtue undervalued in the present age, but of utmost importance, which we may choose to reject—that is our right—but which must first be understood. In the ancient world, he tells them, chastity was not merely abstinence. It was spiritual power. His hearers are spellbound.

Grevel Lindop
prologue to Charles Williams: The Third Inkling (2015)


Society Commonplaces #44 July/Aug 2019


Decadence is a moral and spiritual disease, resulting from too long a period of wealth and power, producing cynicism, decline of religion, pessimism and frivolity. The citizens of such a nation will no longer make an effort to save themselves, because they are not convinced that anything in life is worth saving. . . . Normally, the rise and fall of great nations are due to internal reasons alone. Ten generations of human beings suffice to transform the hardy and enterprising pioneer into the captious citizen of the welfare state.

Sir John Glubb
The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival (1977)


Society Commonplaces #45 July/Aug 2019


The expressions commonly used [to describe “religious freedom”], such as “freedom of conscience” or “freedom of profession of faith” should be rejected as inexact; conscience is always free and no one can prevent a martyr from confessing his faith.

Vladimir Solovyev
Russia and the Universal Church (trans. Herbert Rees; 1948), VI, note 2


Christianity Commonplaces #46 July/Aug 2019

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