To read Blood Meridian without having read Simone Weil is one thing; to read it having read Simone Weil is quite another...
In this Lockean conception of mind and will, what morality amounts to is whether or not an individual wants something. If he directs his will towards it, it is good. What we have here is a sort of psychological precursor to Hayek’s pricing mechanism. Untethered to larger metaphysical claims, morality becomes a tug of war between wills. Objectivity perishes in the crossfire of solipsistic reasoning. Men and women are turned into toadies of ideology. In Schindler’s words, “If freedom is conceived as power, then a basic form of the exercise of freedom in the world is the conversion of the world into money.”
So post-liberal critiques of Locke matter because our whole social order is predicated upon ideas which, if he did not outright invent, Locke at least popularized. It might be better, therefore, to say that post-liberal conservatives are in actuality pre-liberal. After all, markets, like culture, haven’t always been Lockean. Says John Milbank in Church Life Journal:
[W]hile the perennial presence of an acquisitive instinct is banally true, there is no real evidence of any pre-modern social inclination anywhere to organise an economy, much less a socio-political order, on the minimum basis of individualistic greed. To the contrary, as Karl Polanyi famously asserted, this has been almost universally avoided by embedding the economic in social goals of reciprocal human flourishing. It is only capitalist modernity that perversely does just the opposite: embed social and political pursuits in the economic realm, itself newly understood in terms of a mutual satisfying of essentially isolated egoistic needs.
This difference is the dividing line in political taxonomy. It is the most important question by far. Is it possible to serve the common good through rapacity and weaponizing radical individual will? There have always been conservatives who would answer in the negative. And we have never been laissez-faire.
Gardening At Night is an exploration of home, family, nature, and time. Published by Schilt Publishing, 2015.
"The theological perspective of participation actually saves the appearances by exceeding them. It recognizes that materialism and spiritualism are false alternatives, since if there is only finite matter there is not even that, and that for phenomena really to be there they must be more than there. Hence, by appealing to an eternal source for bodies, their art, language, sexual and political union, one is not ethereally taking leave of their density. On the contrary, one is insisting that behind this density resides an even greater density – beyond all contrasts of density and lightness (as beyond all contrasts of definition and limitlessness). This is to say that all there is only is because it is more than it is. " - John Milbank, Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology
"This inert political atmosphere fits James’s outlook on life. In his letters, he often complained about politics. He resented the way in which election seasons tend to monopolize attention. Otherwise witty, entertaining conversation turns into tense, sometimes bitter political disagreements. During one of the crises that punctuated late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century English political life, James wrote to a friend in despair of the power of political partisanship to eclipse all else: “Literature, art, conversation, society—everything lies dead under its black shadow.” He was not someone who liked talking politics, which is no doubt why the long passages in the novel in which various characters declaim their political convictions are so empty of warmth and interest.
It was that black shadow to which James wished to give fictional form in The Bostonians. His story draws attention to the universalizing, abstracting, and depersonalizing political imagination of New England progressivism, a sensibility that he feared (rightly) would come to dominate the modern era. But James wants to do more than observe and depict. He also wants to resist—resist the imperial ambitions of political ideology. The Bostonians provides a powerful and poignant literary defense of love’s privacy against the progressive’s demand that every sphere of life be subdued by justice’s demands. It is as if James anticipated the feminist battle cry—“the personal is the political”—and wrote a novel to forestall its triumph."
[image: Dora Maar - 'Double Portrait' - 1930]
Michel Houellebecq : Can the restoration of Catholicism to its former splendor repair our damaged civilization? Here we are in agreement—it’s much simpler, almost self-evident. The answer is “Yes.”
"The point is that when I walk into a place of sacred beauty, the ideas I bring with me really matter. Irreverence grows out of ugly ideas I have about creation, the human person, and God’s saving providence. These misconceptions make it difficult for me to recognize beauty no matter how much of it I see around me. Becoming aware of my own misconceptions can open me to the experience of beauty in its three traditional properties – proportion, integrity, and clarity – and serve as a remedy for irreverence itself."
One such example of the exquisitely crafted style comes late in the story, when Rikio wanders around the film studio and, amid the industrial nondescript non-space, observes the production company’s “sapphire flag flapping from a pole at the peak of the roof.” This minor observation becomes the novella’s epiphanic high point, a mundane moment made magnificent through its structural placement after the fray of the plot has subsided, made beautiful through the author’s heightened sensibility:
The flag spasmed on the breeze. Just as it would seem to fall limp, it whipped out smart against the sky. Its cloth snapped between shadow and light, as if any moment it would tear free from its tethers and fly away. I don’t know why, but watching it infused me with a sadness that ran down to the deepest limits of my soul and made me think of suicide. There were so many ways to die.
Mishima’s sensibilities are too complex to be boiled down to mere symbolism; the flag is not just a stand-in for humanity’s hopeless condition of being simultaneously animated and static, like a flag tied to the pole of existence while violently yearning to flap free and thereby terminate itself. The flag punctuates and accentuates Rikio’s yearning, his extreme desire for both beauty and death, and how sometimes these are inextricably interconnected.