School; Monovian Editorials

Editorials - 1954



No. 63 Spring, 1954.


Editor: R. N. TAMPLIN.

Assistont Editor: W. H. WALKER.



There is at present discernible among British intellectuals a welcome return to orthodoxy-Church orthodoxy. This is understandable, for we lost our last hope for orthodoxy with the passing of the emotions aroused by the Spanish Civil War, and have since then lived in an unsupported vacuum, one without gravity, and yet how grave were the problems it presented. Now there is a narrow file of men's minds leading slowly back to the Church, tentatively, but that too is understandable, for we cannot but approach our gods in fear. This orthodoxy has not, I think, reached the mass of the people yet, but it will, for it is through the work of the pioneer intellectual that all changes in the people's thought are effected. The situation is rather odd, however, because it is the mass of the people and not the intellectuals who have the greatest need of a reliable moral backing for their lives. In any community the intelligentsia are best allowed freedom of thought-"the freedom to deny God in the morning and worship Him in the evening "- for then, without regimentation they will tend, regarded collectiively, to produce their best work. This is not to say that orthodoxy is a bad thing, stifling individual art and thought. The examples of Virgil, Pope, Goethe and Sergei Eisenstein are alone sufficient to disprove this. But nevertheless collectively it is right that the intellectual should have the choice of forming his own attachments as he will and when he feels ready. It may be that any particular and inclusive orthodoxy may satisfy every soul-stirring of a Goethe, but it will not satisfy every man of similar ability even in the same period. It is for these other men who have ability yet not opportunity that intellectual freedom is necessary. But for the mass of the people freedom of thought is liable in its extremities to be dangerous. It must be understood that I speak not of any age but of the age immediately to come. There are no eternal truths except the truth of God, and that can be interpreted so widely as to be contradictory and to resolve into several truths. Each age finds its own truths, and provided they are believed in by the people, they are sufficient for that age. But there is nothing our people believe; no universal church, no over-riding political philosophy, no culture, nothing. They do not even believe in the democracy they pretend to practise. Or if they do, then it is not worth believing in, for it is destroying our culture, and our unity of feeling, our much boosted common heritage. As a nation we are stagnating, for we are holding on to beliefs which for our country are outmoded, or nearly so, as everything becomes outmoded The age of the sociologist is passing; his place must he taken by the polemicist and the poet. Vet all in their time are righ,. though the intellectual has seldom been able to see this so clearly as he should now. His only honest way in this life is paradoxically to be two-faced. But the view of the people must be turned by solicitation, by incitement, by force, and by circumstance one way, for no country, at the stage of development that the United Kingdom has reached, can afford to confuse its people as much as we have with our democracy since the war. Besides destroying our social and cultural unity with its insistence on the judgement of the masses as against and not in combination with that of the minorities, it is now destroying itself, which is not altogether regrettable. But at the same time it is destroying what is left of a Britain, without culture and without an integrated society, by smashing our financial structure. We are watching a democracy which, because of its doctrines, especially with regard to the distribution of power, is bringing disaster to the country of its origin. This is a liberty that must seem excessive even for a democracy that has gone as long unquestioned as ours. Our country is on the turn. If we think our democracy can work then we must correct it. But if we are doubtful, the possibility of change must not be ignored. And whatever we do,provided we do it with and from our whole strength it will be well done. I do not now respect our democracy, for it is destroying those things I most admire, in our country, or in any country. To restore these values my hope is that the steady trend towards Church orthodoxy and Church power continues, stronger and stronger as our time goes past.




No. 64 Summer, 1954.


Editor - W. H. WALKER



Although these words were written by Aristotle over two thousand years ago, they are still true today. Our present-day psychologists, who base their statements on scientific experiment rather than observation, have reached the same conclusion as Aristotle. "Laying stress on the importance of work (says Freud) has a greater effect than any other technique of living in the direction of binding the individual more closely to reality." The truth of the statement cannot be doubted. Inactivity and unemployment lead to depression and boredom. Work adds meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence. History offers countless examples of men who have suffered through want of proper employment. We have only to cite the more notorious Caesars to show how inactivity has led to depravity and demoralisation. Ennui was their constant companion. As ordinary pleasures became mundane, they sought excitement and occupation through debauchery and excess. Perhaps they were psychologically defective, but their lethargy and idleness had a great deal to do with their boredom and the consequent moral decadence. In modern times we have the lesser but none the less pathetic case of the man who is too old for work and so is pensioned off. Lacking any further occupation, he becomes dejected, cynical, and resentful. Thus work is important, but the nature of the work is equally important. Aristotle realized this and he believed that in our work we should aim at an ideal, a standard of excellence ("arete "). This is a conception of excellence as something to be sought in every sphere and activity, a conception that everything whether it be a human faculty or an object of art or utility, has its own form of excellence which should be striven for as an end in itself. The business of life is to seek the highest and make the most of whatever man is or does. The same attitude is expressed by Jesus in the parable of the talents. But there is one important difference. Plato and Aristotle thought that reason was the noblest thing in man, and therefore that the highest lift was the life of reason lived by poets and philosophers and men of science. The idea that manual work could be an ennobling activity was quite excluded by Greek philosophy. Jesus, of course, saw no such narrowness. He Himself was a carpenter; and He naturally valued manual work as much as intellectual. Nobody can be happy in life unless he is doing useful work, work that he likes and does without compulsion, aiming at an ideal, a goal which directs the course of his action. There is no more certain cause of misery and demoralisation than inactivity, aimlessness, the feeling that we are not wanted. Nothing is more pitiful than the person who goes about his work sulkily, yearning for pay-day. His life has no meaning, no guiding force, no foundation, and so he seeks a nepenthe, a consolation in fantasy and day-dreaming. Drink and cheap entertainments and gambling take the place of reality. Admittedly these things are harmless if kept within bounds. When they completely replace reality, however, then there is a danger. When one lives only for the Saturday bacchanalia or a large win on the football pools, then one has lost contact with reality and is living in a mesmeric dream-world which cannot last indefinitely. One day there will be some crisis or other which makes the person face reality. The shock may be then so immense that the person becomes unbalanced. Suicides are often the result. The importance of doing work - and work that one enjoys cannot be over-emphasised. Yet such is not always possible. Physical or mental incapacity or financial difficulties may make it impossible to follow the vocation that one enjoys. This is where the proper use of leisure plays an integral part. Life can be made tolerable even if you find your work odious and insufferable, provided you have ample leisure to pursue those recreations that you really enjoy. But again the leisure must be well-spent. Using it merely for shoddy amusements such as those already noted is far from beneficial. It is detrimental. Leisure must not be entirely a time for fantasy, for escape from reality. The recreations must be those that come to terms with reality and provide for a fuller life, not ones that translate the individual to the clouds and leave him dangling there until the intractable force of gravity sends him hurtling to the ground with a loud crash. Leisure is a time for enriching ones life and this can only be done by living and not by stargazing. To be truly happy a man must be active, doing work that he is interested in. Idleness gives rise to ennui from which terrible things emanate. Leisure is a time for living a fuller life, not for daydreaming. For habitual castle-building can have dire consequences. "Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness." (Thomas Carlyle.)

W. H. W.

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