Worldly Felicity

This is our concern, that every man be able to increase his wealth so as to supply his daily prodigalities, and so that the powerful may subject the weak for their own purposes. Let the poor court the rich for a living, and that under their protection they may enjoy a sluggish tranquillity; and let the rich abuse the poor as their dependants, to minister to their pride. Let the people applaud not those who protect their interests, but those who provide them with pleasure. Let no severe duty be commanded, no impurity forbidden. Let kings estimate their prosperity, not by the righteousness, but by the servility of their subjects. Let the provinces stand loyal to the kings, not as moral guides, but as lords of their possessions and purveyors of their pleasures; not with a hearty reverence, but a crooked and servile fear. Let the laws take cognizance rather of the injury done to another man’s property, than of that done to one’s own person. If a man be a nuisance to his neighbor, or injure his property, family, or person, let him be actionable; but in his own affairs let everyone with impunity do what he will in company with his own family, and with those who willingly join him. Let there be a plentiful supply of public prostitutes for every one who wishes to use them, but specially for those who are too poor to keep one for their private use. Let there be erected houses of the largest and most ornate description: in these let there be provided the most sumptuous banquets, where every one who pleases may, by day or night, play, drink, vomit, dissipate. Let there be everywhere heard the rustling of dancers, the loud, immodest laughter of the theatre; let a succession of the most cruel and the most voluptuous pleasures maintain a perpetual excitement. If such happiness is distasteful to any, let him be branded as a public enemy; and if any attempt to modify or put an end to it let him be silenced, banished, put an end to. Let these be reckoned the true gods, who procure for the people this condition of things, and preserve it when once possessed. Let them be worshipped as they wish; let them demand whatever games they please, from or with their own worshippers; only let them secure that such felicity be not imperilled by foe, plague, or disaster of any kind.

—Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Book II Chapter 20, translated by Marcus Dods.


"As we sacrifice a finger to save the body, so we maun sacrifice a man to save the body politic.  I killed him because he was doing evil, and inhumanly preventing what was guid for humanity: the scheme for the slums and the lave.  And I understand that, upon reflection, ye tak the same view."

Angus nodded grimly. "Yes," said Angus, "I take the same view.  Also, I have had the same experience."

"And what's that?" inquired the other.

"I have had daily dealings with a man I thought was doing nothing but evil," answered Angus.  "I still think you were doing evil; even though you were serving truth.  You have convinced me that my beliefs were dreams; but not that dreaming is worse than waking up. You brutally broke the dreams of the humble, sneered at the weak hopes of the bereaved.  You seem cruel and inhuman to me, just as Haggis seemed cruel and inhuman to you.  You are a good man by your own code, but so was Haggis a good man by his code.  He did not pretend to believe in salvation by good works, any more than you pretended to believe in the Ten Commandments.  He was good to individuals, but the crowd suffered; you are good to the crowd and an individual suffered.  But, after all, you also are only an

Something in the last words, that were said very softly, made the old doctor stiffen suddenly and then start backwards towards the steps behind.  Angus sprang like a wildcat and pinned him to his
place with a choking violence; still talking, but now at the top of his voice.

"Day after day, I have itched and tingled to kill you; and been held back only by the superstition you have destroyed tonight.  Day after day, you have been battering down the scruples which alone defended you from death.  You wise thinker; you wary reasoner; you fool!  It would be better for you to-night if I still believed in God and in his Commandment against murder. One thing alone protected you and kept the peace between us: that we disagreed.  Now we agree, now we are at one in thought—and deed, I can do as you would do.  I can do as you have done.  We are at peace."

—G. K. Chesterton, The Paradoxes of Mr Pond.

Legislating Morality

If God preserves them in His laws, they will find out easily enough what legislation is in general necessary. Otherwise, they will spend their whole time making and correcting detailed regulations, always expecting thereby to achieve perfection. That is, they will lead lives like invalids who lack the restraint to give up a vicious way of life, but expect the doctor to cure them with no effort on their part.

The State whose prospective rulers come to their duties with the least enthusiasm is bound to have the best and most tranquil government, and the state whose rulers are eager to rule, the worst. Men whose life is impoverished and destitute of personal satisfaction hope to snatch some compensation for their own inadequacy from a political career. They start fighting for power, and the consequent internal and domestic conflicts ruin both them and society.

—Plato, The Republic.


One of the most striking features of socialist ideology is that quite special sense which it attributes to the concept of equality. We have already pointed this out in connection with the rationale for communality of property, of wives and children proposed by Plato. And later, in the majority of socialist doctrines, we encounter a conception of equality which approaches that of identity. Dwelling lovingly on the details, authors have described the characteristic monotony and unification of life in the state of the future.

It is possible to attempt to formulate the specific concept of equality inherent in socialist ideology. The usual understanding of "equality," when applied to people, entails equality of rights and sometimes equality of opportunity (social welfare, pensions, grants, etc.). What is meant in all these cases is the equalization of external conditions which do not touch the individuality of man. In socialist ideology, however, the understanding of equality is akin to that used in mathematics (when one speaks of equal numbers or equal triangles), i.e., this is in fact identity, the abolition of differences in behavior as well as in the inner world of the individuals constituting society. From this point of view, a puzzling and at first sight contradictory property of socialist doctrines becomes apparent. They proclaim the greatest possible equality, the destruction of hierarchy in society and at the same time (in most cases) a strict regimentation of all of life, which would be impossible without absolute control and an all-powerful bureaucracy which would engender an incomparably greater inequality. The contradiction disappears, however, if we note that the terms "equality" and "inequality" are understood in two different ways. The equality proclaimed in socialist ideology means identity of individualities. The hierarchy against which the doctrine fights is a hierarchy based on individual qualities—origin, wealth, education, talent and authority. But this does not contradict the establishment of a hierarchy of internally identical individuals who only occupy different positions in the social machine, just as identical parts can have different functions in a mechanism.

"Political democracy is Christian in nature because man in it—not man in general but each man separately—is considered a sovereign and supreme being; and this is said of man in his uncultivated, non-social aspect, of man in a haphazard form of existence, man as he is in life, man as he is corrupted by the whole organization of our society, lost and alienated from himself; in a word, man who is not yet a genuine creature." (Karl Marx, Works p. 368)

There is no doubt that if the ideals of Utopia are realized universally, mankind, even in the barracks of the universal City of the Sun, shall have the strength to regain its freedom and to preserve God's image and likeness—human individuality—once it has glanced into the yawning abyss. But will it? For it seems just as certain that the freedom of will granted to man and to mankind is absolute, that it includes the freedom to make the ultimate choice—between life and death.

—Igor Shafarevich, The Socialist Phenomenon.

Experience Not Required

Azalea Adair and I had conversation, a little of which will be repeated to you. She was a product of the old South, gently nurtured in the sheltered life. Her learning was not broad, but was deep and of splendid originality in its somewhat narrow scope. She had been educated at home, and her knowledge of the world was derived from inference and by inspiration. Of such is the precious, small group of essayists made. She was exquisite, she was a valuable discovery. Nearly everybody nowadays knows too much—oh, so much too much—of real life.

—O. Henry, A Municipal Report.


You see, he thinks the whole thing has made him look ridiculous, and it will take him a long time to forgive you for that."

I realised the truth of this. One can pardon any injury to oneself, unless it hurts one's vanity.

—P.G. Wodehouse, Love Among the Chickens.

Do the Next Thing

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: "Doe the nexte thynge."

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not to-morrows, child of the King,
Thrust them with Jesus, "Doe the nexte thynge."

Oh! He would have thee daily more free,
Knowing the might of thy royal degree;
Ever in waiting, glad for His call,
Tranquil in chastening, trusting through all.
Comings and goings no turmoil need bring;
His all thy future—"Doe the nexte thynge."

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all resultings, "Doe the nexte thynge."

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor!
In the shade of His presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance, live out thy psalm;
Strong in His faithfulness, praise Him and sing:
Then, as He beckons thee, "Doe the nexte thynge."

—Emily Steele Elliott, Stillness and Service, c.1867, quoted by Elisabeth Elliot,


"Hast thou looked ever, on a showery day in spring, upon the rainbow flung across earth and sky, and marked how all things of earth beyond it, trees, mountain-sides, and rivers, and fields, and woods, and homes of men, are transfigured by the colours that are in the bow?"

"Yes," she said, "and oft desired to reach them."

"We have flown beyond the rainbow. And there we found no fabled land of heart's desire, but wet rain and wind only and the cold mountain-side. And our hearts are a-cold because of it."

—E.R. Eddison, The Worm Ourorobos.


He that cannot chuse but love.
And strives against it still.
Never shall my fancy move.
For he loves 'gaynst his will;
Nor he which is all his own.
And can att pleasure chuse;
When I am caught he can be gone.
And when he list refuse.
Nor he that loves none but faire.
For such by all are sought;
Nor he that can for foul ones care.
For his Judgement then is naught:
Nor he that hath wit, for he
Will make me his jest or slave;
Nor a fool, for when others ...,
He can neither ......
Nor he that still his Mistresse payes,
For she is thrall'd therefore:
Nor he that payes not, for he sayes
Within, shee's worth no more.
Is there then no kind of men
Whom I may freely prove?
I will vent that humour then
In mine own selfe love. 
—John Donne, quoted in The Worm Ouroboros, by E.R. Eddison.

1 Corinthians 10:23

'All things are possible, but not all things are profitable; all things are conceivable, but not all things are constructive', as the structural engineer said to the architect.