The Path to Rome: Conclusion

This is from the last page:

Even you, that, having begun to read this book, could get no further than page 47, and especially you who have read it manfully in spite of the flesh, I love you all…

-Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome, p.441

“Read it manfully in spite of the flesh”. He’s talking about me. I was disappointed in the book. I kept waiting for it to get really interesting, or funny, or profound, or… something and it never did. It showed hints a few times but then it quickly returned to more description of the countryside.

Oh well. I read it for a book club that I’m a part of with my friends up north (that all happen to be traditionalist Roman Catholics). The club meetings themselves are a blast. Perhaps I’ll find what I was missing when we take a look at it (over drinks) this weekend.

The part I found most interesting I think was how primitive much of Europe still was, even only 100 years ago! Belloc is constantly having to find someone to ferry him across rivers and help him through mountain paths. Why? There are virtually no bridges! Grand suspension bridges like the one in Brooklyn are standing by this time but there is really only one developed highway through all of Italy. We have electricity and cars and airplanes. But MOST of the country might as well be back in 1000 A.D. Everyone is still cooking over fires and riding in horses and carts and farming in their vineyards the exact same way they have been for centuries.

Belloc and the Dodo bones relic

Belloc is an ardent, and I mean ARDENT Roman Catholic. His frequent swipes at protestants are a bit obnoxious at times. Nevertheless, it is nice to see that he doesn’t always take himself TOO seriously.

You will observe that the straight way to Rome cuts the Lake of Brienz rather to the eastward of the middle, and then goes slap over Wetterhorn and strikes the Rhone Valley at a place called Ulrichen. That is how a bird would do it, if some High Pope of Birds lived in Rome and needed visiting, as, for instance, the Great Auk; or if some old primal relic sacred to birds was connected therewith, as, for instance, the bones of the Dodo…. But I digress.

-Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome, p.205

The blessed quality of books

Oh, blessed quality of books, that makes them a refuge from living! For in a book everything can be made to fit in, all tedium can be skipped over, and the intense moments can be made timeless and eternal…

-Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome, p.200

This is one of the beauties of the medium – all the tedium can be skipped over and the good stuff that happened in an instant drawn out for all it is worth. The same could be said for movies. Shame on authors and film-makers who waste the reader’s/watcher’s time!

Coffee heretics

In his shoes, I would have done the same!

I also asked him for coffee, and as he refused it I took him to be a heretic and went down the road making up verses against all such, and singing them loudly through the forest…

-Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome, p.164

Belloc on contrived clever writing

I can’t say I have found a ton that I like about Belloc, but one thing I DO appreciate his his down-to-earth attitude and love of the common man. Here, he rails on people that refuse to use simple words and language in their effort to sound clever or sophisticated. Yes, a rich education and a deep vocabulary is good, but don’t use a ten-dollar sentence when a cliche that everyone knows will actually do just as well. You may earn a point in an essay writing class, but you won’t really be helping anyone.

You are as full of Pride as a minor Devil. You would avoid the cliché and the commonplace, and the phrase toute faite. Why? Not because you naturally write odd prose–contrariwise, left to yourself you write pure journalese; but simply because you are swelled and puffed up with a desire to pose. You want what the Martha Brown school calls ‘distinction’ in prose. My little friend, I know how it is done, and I find it contemptible. People write their articles at full speed, putting down their unstudied and valueless conclusions in English as pale as a film of dirty wax–sometimes even they dictate to a typewriter. Then they sit over it with a blue pencil and carefully transpose the split infinitives, and write alternative adjectives, and take words away out of their natural place in the sentence and generally put the Queen’s English–yes, the Queen’s English–on the rack. And who is a penny the better for it?

-Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome, p.162

Sticking with your first love, first faith

Certainly religion is a tragic as first love, and drags us out into the void away from out dear homes.

It is a good thing to have loved one woman from a child, and it is a good thing not to have to return to the Faith.

-Hilaire Belloc, The Path to Rome, p.161

A note on Irish fiddlers

I’ve been listening to neo-traditional Irish music for many years now. With Pandora I get a pretty heavy dose at work too.

I just have a few things to say.

Liz Carrol totally rocks. Just listen closely to the subtly of her technique. She is blow-your-mind good.

Natalie MacMaster’s is famous and pretends she’s a rock star. That leather jump-suit-wearing gal from Celtic Woman is even more ridiculous. Sure, they both have all kinds of chops, but the main thing they have going is their showbiz friendly looks. They are both tall slender blondes.

Liz Carrol on the other hand is kind of old, somewhat overweight and a bit frumpy looking. She completely smokes everyone else on her instrument though. Cool.

Her recent duet album with guitarist John Doyle (another favorite of mine) is top notch.

Kegan qualifications?

Saw this headline today:

Elena Kagan set record for fundraising at Harvard Law

Wow. That’s cited as a notable qualification for being a Supreme Court Justice? I guess if you’ve never served as a judge before you have to mention something. It doesn’t matter whether you like her or not or whether she’s on your team or not, the only thing you can say in this case is “follow the money”.

Pardon my skepticism, but money and justice do not a soluble solution make.

Belloc trashes rich folks pretending to be hippies or outdoorsmen

This was written nearly 100 years ago, but it sounds like something out of Stuff White People Like.

I say it roundly; if it were not for the punctiliousness of the middle-class in these matters all our civilization would go to pieces. They are the conservators and the maintainers of the standard, the moderators of Europe, the salt of society. For the kind of man who boasts that he does not mind dirty clothes or roughing it, is either a man who cares nothing for all that civilization has built up and who rather hates it, or else (and this is much more common) he is a rich man, or accustomed to live among the rich, and can afford to waste energy and stuff because he feels in a vague way that more clothes can always be bought, that at the end of his vagabondism he can get excellent dinners, and that London and Paris are full of luxurious baths and barber shops. Of all the corrupting effects of wealth there is none worse than this, that it makes the wealthy (and their parasites) think in some way divine, or at least a lovely character of the mind, what is in truth nothing but their power of luxurious living. Heaven keep us all from great riches–I mean from very great riches.

-The Path to Rome, Hilaire Belloc, p.72

Mere Churchianity notes

Just a word about Michael’s book. I had anticipated it through the past year and read it in just a couple days when it finally arrived.

I had expected to post a bunch about it here, but alas, I find I have nothing to say that hasn’t been said 100 times better himself.

Unfortunately, the book really didn’t do anything for me since I’ve been reading all his other stuff for the past (is it four?) years.

I would quickly recommend the book to a newcomer as a great quick introduction to some of his thoughts.

All the best stuff though, where he goes into (the most useful) depth of all the topics he brings up in the book are contained in somewhat disorganized essays written on his blog over the past decade.

To someone looking for some heavier material right away, I would point them to a few specifics.

A comment on what some other folks are saying: Michael was not as anti-institutional church as he appears to be in the book. The many nuances of his position on that appear to have been lost in editing.

Still, it’s a good book. I bought a couple copies and plan to pass ’em around. Even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, it’s a healthy reality check for contemporary American church culture.

He’s constantly bringing it back around to Jesus and we can always use some more of that, from every angle.