July 10, 2008

"A patently permanently imperfect world"

I have nothing much to say on current topics, so I'll just pull this quote, by Joseph Epstein, out of the "stack of stuff..."

....The first time I encountered valet parking at a private residence was a number of years ago at the home of a multimillionaire in Los Angeles. His house, in Brentwood, was lavish and elegantly furnished. The paintings upon his walls, the sculptures in his garden, I was told by an art critic who was with me that evening, could not have been worth less than $15 million.

The man who lived in all this splendor turned out to be tall, with a discouraged slouch and a grim, almost stricken, look on his face. His politics, I believe, put the bend in his back, the permanent grimace on his face. Although the sumptuous trappings of his quotidian life gave no clue to this, he was, lifelong, a man of the Left. As such he had certain expectations of the world; and the world--shocking to report--let him down daily. He was entitled to, if perhaps not going so far as to say he deserved, his sour look, his grumpy disposition, the invisible but for him quite real black flags that hung over and doubtless spoiled each of his Degas, Henry Moores, Motherwells, Frankenthalers.

But a conservative brings no such expectations to his life. He takes the world as given, a place always full of sin, silliness, and a rich surplus of stupidity--but also much goodness and mirth. The conservative fancies he views the world, as the philosophers say, as in itself it really is. Utopia is not his idea of a good time; it is not, for him, an idea at all but an illusion. If he is sensible, he understands the need to alter social arrangements that are cruel or grossly unfair. But the installation of perfection in a
patently permanently imperfect world is not something he has signed on to deliver. This in itself ought to bring a smile to his face.

The barbarians may well be at the gates, but then they always have been. Besides, the gates are a damn good place for barbarians to be. "And now," writes the poet Cavafy, "what's going to happen to us without barbarians? / They were, those people, a kind of solution." Without barbarians, after all, conservatives themselves, in the realm of ideas, would be out of existence. So let us attack our barbarians with wit, mock them with laughter, greet their pretensions to superior virtue with a knowing smile. The duty of a conservative, try to remember, is to be cheerful....

Good advice. Cease never to laugh at them....

Posted by John Weidner at July 10, 2008 6:36 AM
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