The Amateur and the Professional: A Moral Fable


Disclaimer:  Any resemblance to any actual person, real or imaginary, is entirely accidental, for the less part, among things for the sake of something, and not according to choice.  Readers who find such an intrusion of the garbled and accidental boastful or self-absorbed are entirely correct, and must read to the very end.

Walking about so as not to let the food (such as it was) rise, I chanced upon a wealthy man of the parish.  As it happened, I was collecting subscriptions for a whitsun ale, and having some experience in such matters would never have wasted my time asking wealthy folk.  For besides that it avails nothing, it tends to set up the sort of obligations which can only exist in modern times.  The sort, you understand, that exist in societies where there is no gratitude and honor.  Or rather, where the poor man’s recompense is gratitude and honor, or flattery and knowing grins (these are cheaper and just as good, so they have supplanted the former on the CPI), but the rich man’s recompense is exact and monetary.

By chance, upon this meeting, it occurred to me that just such a thing is envisioned by Aristotle as an example somewhere in the Physics.  When first I came to read of it, I thought, “Aha!”  Here, it seemed, was the sort of example that the modern mind could understand.  We of the twenty-first century have made much progress.  Like Swift’s spider, only more so, we have attained a plane of consciousness inaccessible, incomprehensible, to the ancients, and owing them nothing.  We find their philosophy, at its best, quaint.  But, being at the time not even a score of summers old, and having read less Kiyosaki than Leo XIII (that is to say, than I had, though Leo of course is reported to have been an avid reader of Kiyosaki), I thought, “Sure, the modern mind is obsessed with gain, particularly of the monetary sort.  The ‘principles’ of finance are to him as familiar as walking was to medieval man, before it fell into disfavor.  And as a consequence, subscriptions for a feast, whether a benefit for the poor or an ale for the church, or simply a festival of some sort, should be the sort of thing modern man can grasp.”  As you see, mine was a stunted, communist mind.  In my defense, I had, through no fault of my own, been steeped in marxist drivel all my life, from the Baltimore Catechism all the way to Quadragesimo Anno and beyond.  Indeed as an adolescent I had, to my shame, once almost picked up a thick volume by George Eliot, the title of which I do not recall, and even if I did, nec nominetur in vobis.  I did not read it, having at the last moment turned aside from those furthest extremes of socialism, but for a number of reasons I wrote a scathing book report on it anyway, and it turned out that it was the thin edge of the wedge where cultural marxism was concerned, propaganda from first to last, and not worth the modern student’s time.  Even so, I was a sort of rot brained Bolshevist.  I had not detected the subtle influence of Engels in Augustine’s City of God, disguised and hidden as it was amidst delightful stories of men who could sing any tune by farting, including Motel California.  Augustine, as you will doubtless remember, was sued by the Beagles for mentioning this song, and gave a very communist argument about the truth being common to all.  Needless to say, his counsel advised settling out of court, which he did, and even now continues to pay the Beagles twenty percent of all royalties on City of God, 87 Questions, and Retractations.

In the course, though, of later life better habits prevailed.  Class conflict, I came to understand, has always and everywhere its roots in the desire of poor people of very little worth to steal the wealth which rightfully belongs to Zuckerberg, Bezos, some various Waltons, Gateses and Slims and pretty much no one else.  Examples of this sort of class conflict abound, from beggars begging brazenly in public view all the way to the infamous revolutionaries buying food with food stamps.  Subscriptions for feasts, when requested from the wealthy, fall into this same category.  The widow is but just to give her mite, the rich man has a duty not to give this sort of handout.  And so it turns out that we do not understand this example at all, if we are ashamed to collect from the indigent and know better than to collect from the wealthy.  And together have died the whitsun ale and our chance at understanding Aristotle’s intention there.

There has been much talked of in recent months an hilarious prankster and satirist by the name of Rodney Drehngerfield.  His latest routine was a very succesful best-selling book proposing that all practice and knowledge of ethics, economics, politics, and religion should be set aside and one only right put in place of all, to wit, religious liberty.  This done, man should reinvent himself as a quasi non-communal beast, one which only does “religion,” not some particular religion (for instance the true one) but rather any.  This may have been the height of his comic career, or there may be better yet to come, but even thus far he has rivalled Sacha Baron Cohen.  He even calls himself “Your Working Boy,” as if to emphasize the droll mockery to which he is subjecting those who take his meticulously constructed persona seriously.  But it is the case with satire among serious things, especially when carried out by non-Christians such as Mr. Drehngerfield, that it often can provoke laughter at and contempt toward that which is fundamentally not funny.  So, although Drehngerfield has provided much amusement and public service by infuriating a certain class of hypocrite, he has also done a disservice to the communities and types of people he has parodied in order to do so.  Much like his hero Ignatius Reilly, his character is a deliberate laughingstock and exemplar of baseness, made in good fun and the best of intentions.  But now his bit is a nightmarish impediment to anyone arguing for the restoration of the ideals which he has in an ironical spirit nominally espoused.

Decades ago, perhaps centuries, a Colombian girl who almost spoke English demanded an account of my studies, which were very much taken up at the time with the fascinating subject of apotomes.  Being the very naïvest sort of child, I told her this.  Then I explained in great detail almost everything I would later forget about apotomes.  No term paper or exam ever received fuller attention from me than that short, learned treatise on apotomes.  Here was a chance to raise an aboriginal (somewhere, anyway) savage from her squalor to the contemplation of speculative truth.  The outcome was inspiring.  Not only did she readily grasp the subject at hand, with the exception of certain minor points such as those having to do with commensurable and incommensurable magnitudes, but saw beyond this to the higher and more noble purpose hidden in all those marvellous propositions.  “How,” she asked, “can you use that to make moneys?”  As the Frenchies say, the more the cat changes, the more it makes a choice meme.

Moral:  The professional writer, like professionals in general, can be excused for providing sordid information about rates, credentials, personal foibles, and to some extent even for misleading and destructive agenda.  We understand instinctively that the Writer must eat.  But in the amateur such things have no excuse.

The Nugae of The Serious

Maiorum nugae negotia vocantur, puerorum autem talia cum sint, puniuntur a maioribus, et nemo miseratur pueros vel illos vel utrosque.

It is impertinent of people to laugh.  There is a gravity to life from which we must not be distracted by trifles, jests, and general levity.  As Mr. G. Silverspoon says, laughing is the unmistakable sign of lacking a mind.

It is, however, important always to enjoy the serious and sober minded pleasures, such as reading Asimov, watching important, non amusing, films, and appreciating hauntingly exquisite paintings such as Dali’s early work, which are capable of proving the superiority of our own judgements to those of the sensual.  Other restrained, non-trifling, business includes studying the grave and noble art of wealth-getting, getting money, taking stuff from people in a way that they will not notice, or at least in such a way that, should they notice, they still will not be able to recover it, and an exceedingly wide variety of other very diverse disciplines of which, incredibly, this is just the merest smattering (further examples include lending at good competitive rates, managing employees properly to obviate the necessity of paying them, and gently inculcating in those around us an awareness of their moral obligation to give us stuff or do work for us).

The sort of people that do ludicrous things (such as drink, dance, smoke, smile, sing, and even—reader discretion advised—greet each other with a friendliness that can only be described as revolting, and which in our abandoned times occasionally goes so far as to culminate in an actual physical embrace) have introduced an imbalance into our society which must be forcefully corrected.  The more this sort of thing is allowed, the more difficult it is for true Traditional Catholic Morality which consists of the Traditional Three Commandments to take root in our society and transform people into the image of God the Wealthy.  These Three Commandments, as the reader is doubtless already aware, are:

  • Thou shalt be rich.
  • Thou shalt love the Lord, Queen Victoria, with all thy mind, hating children and all mirth.
  • Thou shalt believe that all material things which God the Wealthy hath created, save money alone, are made of the substance of evil.

When men turn from their trifling ways, and follow God’s commands, the world will be a better, richer, place, and all men will attain true happiness by living in accord with their best advantage, as descibed in Lencioni’s The Advantage.

Things We Thought We Were Done With

Uns ist in alten maeren wunders vil geseit
von heleden lobebaeren, von grozer arebeit,
von vroevden hohgeciten, von weinen und von klagen,
von chvener recken striten muget ir nu wunder hoeren sagen.

Pater Edmund mostly hits (as carpenters and lowly folk sometimes say) the little round thing on the end. Now, of course, the critics of Dreher, the third or fourth, if not second or third, wisest and most important person in the history of the world, are silenced. The weirdly prolonged aftermath of Dreher’s recent act of intellectual terrorism should be a sign at least that the issue of “new sorts of community” broadly speaking has a sort of urgency to it at the moment. It’s like Mr. Gulliver Silverspoon says in The Conceited Pillage, “but a bold pedantry, their country’s pride, when once destroyed can never be supplied.”