touchstone archives

Commonplaces

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

Issue: May/June 2022



Attacks on our personhood always take the form of diminishing what we can do or have say over, sometimes up to the point of forcing us to submit to what we abhor. In the familiar human order, slaves are at the other end of the spectrum from kings. Their bodies and lives are at the disposal of another. Prisoners are, in most cases, several degrees above slaves. And, as the twentieth century has taught us, thought control is worst of all. It is the most heinous form of soul destruction, in which even our own thoughts are not really ours. It reaches most deeply into our substance.

Dallas Willard
The Divine Conspiracy (1998)


Politics Commonplaces #120 May/June 2022


A noted [man], who kept a tavern at Amboy, was standing at his door with as pretty a child in his hand, about eight or nine years old, as I ever saw, and after speaking his mind as freely as he thought was prudent, finished with this unfatherly expression, "Well! Give me peace in my day." . . . [A] generous parent should have said, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace"; and this single reflection, well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty.

Thomas Paine
The American Crisis, Number I (1776)


Family Commonplaces #121 May/June 2022


Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. . . .

O'Brien smiled faintly. 'You are no metaphysician, Winston,' he said. 'Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?'

'No.'

'Then where does the past exist, if at all?'

'In records. It is written down.'

'In records. And—?'

'In the mind. In human memories.'

'In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?'

George Orwell
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)


Politics Commonplaces #122 May/June 2022


A human who sins is less human after he succumbs than he was before. Still, there is a persistent, though imbecile, way of speaking in which some public figure who has an adulterous affair or a personal foible come to light thereby reveals a "human side" of himself. In fact, it is in keeping his commitments and displaying evidence of virtue that a man is most fully human; in giving in to temptations, even trivial or petty ones, he becomes that much more bestial.

When we fall, we fall from a human dignity, not an angelic one; our skid may well end at a level of animal savagery, but we never "tumble down" into humanity—and not because pigs are of themselves wickeder than men, but because the elevator, so to speak, was already at that floor.

Paul Mankowski, S.J.
"Why the Immaculate Conception" (1990), reprinted in Jesuit at Large (2021)


Christianity Commonplaces #123 May/June 2022


For the ancients, to meditate is to read a text and to learn it "by heart" in the fullest sense of this expression, that is, with one's whole being: with the body, since the mouth pronounced it, with the memory which fixes it, with the intelligence which understands its meaning, and with the will which desires to put it into practice.

Jean LeClercq, O.S.B.
The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture (1961)


education Commonplaces #124 May/June 2022


Fight bravely, for habit overcomes habit.

Thomas à Kempis
The Imitation of Christ (1441)


Christianity Commonplaces #125 May/June 2022


No sooner is a temple built to God but the Devil builds a chapel hard by.

George Herbert
Outlandish Proverbs (pub. 1640)


Christianity Commonplaces #126 May/June 2022


Si comprehendis non est Deus. (If you understand, that isn't God.)

Augustine of Hippo


Christianity Commonplaces #127 May/June 2022


There are three idealists: God, mothers and poets!
They don't seek the ideal in completed things—
They find it in the incomplete.


There are only two things that can destroy a healthy man: love trouble, ambition, and financial catastrophe. And that's already three things, and there are a lot more.

Peter Altenberg
(1859-1919)


Family Commonplaces #128 May/June 2022

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