21 April 2013

The Limits of Human Charity

"'But, hang it all,' cried Mallow, 'you don't expect us to be able to pardon a vile thing like this?'

'No,' said the priest; 'but we have to be able to pardon it.'

He stood up abruptly and looked round at them.

'We have to touch such men, not with a barge pole, but with a benediction,' he said. 'We have to say the word that will save them from hell. We alone are left to deliver them from despair when your human charity deserts them. Go on your own primrose path pardoning all your favourite vices and being generous to your fashionable crimes; and leave us in the darkness, vampires of the night, to console those who really need consolation; who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend; and none but a priest will pardon. Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes; means as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came...'

'You say that you could not commit so base a crime. Could you confess so base a crime?'"

-G.K. Chesterton, The Chief Mourner of Marne

13 April 2013

Roosevelt Island: Confrontational Reading

I rarely ever carry my camera with me, especially on long runs and hikes (too much looking through the lens instead of at what's in front of it), but I wish I had brought it along on my run this morning. On my trek over the river, I spent some time at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial on the island. Flanking the central statue of Roosevelt himself are four giant stone panels with some of his most memorable words. A nice little hidden inspirational place. Below is an image of one of the panels. I have reproduced the text of the others below. I was so struck by the timeliness of Teddy's proverbs. Hardly anyone seems to favor 'righteousness over peace' anymore. Conservation, both in respect to natural resources and intellectual and cultural heritage, continues to have a reputation as a static, rather than dynamic activity. And the world, in various regions, seems unduly obsessed with 'order without liberty' and promoting 'liberty without order.' I just love how the bold and chiseled words confront and challenge the viewer so directly (each panel is probably taller than 20'). I think public sculpture plays a surprisingly important role in nurturing contemplation, especially when books are increasingly being sold and consumed as entertainment.


A man's usefulness
depends upon his living up to
in so far as he can