touchstone archives


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

Issue: July/August 2022

Now consider the difference between advice and wisdom. To my mind, wisdom is what enables one to bear the inevitable; it offers the solace of recognizing and accepting the limits of doing. With wisdom, one can endure what is necessary, inescapable, unchangeable. It is retrospective and essentially theoretical. Advice, on the other hand, is prospective and essentially practical. It offers counsel on altering for the better what is still subject to change. Deliberate counsel given through wise judgments, enabling one to alter future actions, makes advice useful.

Morris Philipson
Foreword to Jacques Barzun on Writing, Editing, and Publishing: Essays Explicative and Hortatory (1971)

Education Commonplaces #132 July/August 2022

Boyhood, like measles, is one of those complaints which a man should catch young and have done with, for when it comes in middle life it is apt to be serious.

P. G. Wodehouse
Uneasy Money (1917)

Education Commonplaces #133 July/August 2022

There is an untranslatable Italian word for the mental bank account you acquire by memorizing poetry: it is gazofilacio. Contini believed that an accumulation of such treasure would eventually prove its worth even if it had to begin with sweated labor.

It was the universal conversation, conducted through memory. . . . Though it can be overdone, there is nothing like a trading of quotations for bringing cultivated people together, or for making you feel uncultivated if you have nothing to trade.

Clive James
Cultural Amnesia (2007)

Education Commonplaces #134 July/August 2022

A valid argument does nothing to guarantee the living truth of its premises. Logic is the logician's business; truth he leaves to others.

David Berlinski
One, Two, Three: Absolutely Elementary Mathematics (2011)

Education Commonplaces #135 July/August 2022

The further left one goes, the more one finds that the ideology provides moral cover for a life that is not moral.

Dennis Prager
on his radio show (2016)

Politics Commonplaces #136 July/August 2022

cannot myself imagine a more fearful fate for our species than that they should so habituate themselves to their earthly circumstances as to be finally contented with them, or a more sublime one than that they should continue till the end of time to peer into the distance after the land that is very far off. In my early days this sense of being a stranger was closely related to political zealotry; the Left is for strangers, who persuade themselves that the causes they espouse are on behalf of the weak against the strong, of the poor against the rich. In my case, enlightenment came dramatically in the course of a journalistic stint in Moscow. The spectacle of all my heroes abasing themselves before a great tyrant, and purporting to justify all his doings and his works cured me of hero worship forever. . . . It was not just that a particular regime had been discredited in my eyes, and a particular set of hopes and desires shown to heaven fraudulent. The whole notion of progress died on me, and I saw our way of life based on it as crazy and hollow—getting richer and stronger and wiser, moving faster and farther, pursuing happiness ever more avidly, and leading all mankind into the same pursuit, which in the end turns out to be a fantasy, a death wish.

Malcolm Muggeridge
Jesus Rediscovered (1969)

Christianity Commonplaces #137 July/August 2022

After he had read Witness, André Malraux, the author of Man's Fate, wrote me: "You are one of those who did not return from hell with empty hands." I did not answer him. How is one man to say to another: "Great healing Spirit"?

Whittaker Chambers
from "The Direct Glance," an essay published in Cold Friday, a posthumous collection of his writings (1964)

Politics Commonplaces #138 July/August 2022

The disappearance of Jesus as teacher explains why today in Christian churches—of whatever leaning—little effort is made to teach people to do what he did and taught. . . . Who among us had personal knowledge of a seminar or course of study and practice being offered in a "Christian Education Program" on how to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who spit on you and make your life miserable"? Much less, then, one on how to conduct our business or profession on behalf of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:17,23). The most common response by Christians in the "real" world to Christ's teachings is, precisely, "Business is Business." And we all know what that means.

Sincere teaching on such matters simply does not appear on the Christian's intellectual horizon as something that might be done. We do not seriously consider Jesus our teacher on how to live; hence we cannot think of ourselves, in our moment-to-moment existence, as his students or disciples. So we turn to popular speakers and writers, some Christians and some not—whoever happens to be writing books and running talk shows and seminars on matters that concern us.

Dallas Willard
The Divine Conspiracy (1998)

Christianity Commonplaces #139 July/August 2022

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