Sunday, January 22, 2012

Baptism by Beer

Dear BOTL (Brothers of the Leaf) who are likewise BOTV (Brothers of the Vine) and BOTH (Brothers of the Hop). I have written before of the importance of moderate realism as the philosophy of common sense. For example, I mentioned it in the posting entitled Ceci n'est pas un cigare. Ahh, us mortals must learn from the likes of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, that our senses are, in the main, reliable inlets for objective truth. Shun we must, the nonsense of Descartes, of Kant, of Hegel, of Nietzsche, of Foucalt, and of the legion of modern philosophers, and hold fast to the adequacy of our senses to inform our minds as to objective truth. Let us read these misguided ones and sorrow. Let us pity them, for they were not baptized by beer.

Baptized by beer? What does being baptized by beer mean? To be sure, it is not in the Catechism. There is only mention of baptism by water, by blood, and by desire mentioned therein. Where shall we go to learn more about the baptism by beer?

Why to that infallible source of Catholic common sense, Hilaire Belloc. In a book called The Four Men: A Farrago, Belloc tells a delightful tale of a pilgrimage in Sussex, a half-real and half-fictional allegory of the pilgrimage of life. It is full of curiosities, inane things, doggerel, silliness, whimsy, and fun, as so much of Belloc's writings have. But it is also serious, and contains some very deep reflections about life, about beauty, about friendship, about love, about lasting things, about the fleetingness of human life, and our hankering after the divine. There are four main protagonists, all really part of Belloc's personality, called Myself, Grizzlebeard, the Poet, and the Sailor.

Hilaire Belloc

To get back to the baptism by beer. Grizzlebeard is arguing "hammer and tongs" with a modern philosopher, a "stranger," who--egads!--drinks not beer, but only tea, and who--like the philosopher David Hume--denies the principle of cause and effect, and who, like Francis Bacon, the father of empiricism, denies any notion of the Aristotelian efficient cause. Here is a man who denies the moderate realism of Aristotle and Aquinas, in sum, who denies the perennial philosophy. He is on the road to untruth, to be sure, and perhaps even well-along the road to a Nietzschean insanity.The description of the philosopher by Belloc is marvelous:
The Stranger was a measly sort of fellow in a cloak, tall, and with a high voice and words of a cultured kind, and his eyes were like dead oysters, which are unpleasing things; and he and Grizzlebeard, though they had so recently met, were already in the midst of as terrible a balderdash of argument as ever the good angels have permitted on this sad earth.
What is more dead than dead oysters?

As these two argue, they ignore the efforts of the others to converse with them or to understand the argument, which appears as so much Latin, German, or Greek, and so the Sailor warns the Poet and Myself to do what any sensible man would do: go to a bar and drink some beer, and hang out with some common folk:
"Let us go hence, my children, and drink in the bar with common men, for the Devil will very soon come in by the window and fly away with these philosophers. Let us be apart in some safe place when the struggle begins."

With that we all went out and stayed about ten minutes, drinking with certain labouring men, and paying for their drinks, because we were better off than they.

While drinking with the Poet and Myself, the Sailor complains of the constant bickering of philosophers who, like a couple of fighting dogs, can't seem to do anything but yelp and yap at each other. The arguments continue, and he finally reaches the extent of his patience in hearing Grizzlebeard and the stranger continue to argue about "their realities and their contents, and their subjectivities and their objectivities, and their catch-it-as-it-flies." So the Sailor tells his friends:
Have you not seen two dogs wrangling in the street, and how they will Gna! Gna! and Wurrer- Wurrer all to no purpose whatsoever, but solely because it is the nature of dogs thus dog-like to be-dog the wholesome air with dogged and canicular noise of no purport, value, or conclusion? And when this is on have you not seen how good housewives, running from their doors, best stop the noisome noise and drown it altogether by slop, bang, douches of cold wet from a pail, which does dis-spirit the empty disputants, and, causing them immediately to unclinch, humps them off to more useful things? So it is with philosophers, who will snarl and yowl and worry the clean world to no purpose, not even intending a solution of any sort or a discovery, but only the exercise of their vain clapper and clang. Also they have made for this same game as infernal a set of barbaric words as ever were blathered and stumbled over by Attila the king when the Emperor of Constantinople's Court Dentist pulled out his great back teeth for the enlargement of his jaw.

This is the problem. The problem of philosophers who have lost their grounding in reality, in what is. It is the whole host of modern philosophy since Descarte's "epistemological turn," though we may also lay it earlier at the feet of nominalists such as Ockham. Hume and Kant and Hegel and Foucalt are simply infected with this stuff. The likening of moderns philosophers and their discussions to two dogs in flagrante delicto is hilarious.

Is there are cure for this kind of philosophical malady which brings men to act like to dogs copulating? Is there a cure for those unfortunates who cannot, like Plato, understand that wisdom is know what is, and that it is, and what is not, and what it is not?

Thankfully there is. Belloc (through the Sailor) informs us of the cure:
Now this kind of man can be cured only by baptism, which is of four kinds, by water, by blood, and by desire: and the fourth kind is of beer. So watch me and what I will do.
Armed with the knowledge of this fourth kind of baptism--baptism by beer--let us see what the intrepid Sailor decides to do.
Then he [the Sailor] went in ahead of us, and we all came in behind, and when we came in neither Grizzlebeard nor the Stranger looked up for one moment, but Grizzlebeard was saying, with vast scorn:

"You are simply denying cause and effect, or rather efficient causality."

To which the Stranger answered solemnly, "I do!"

On hearing this reply the Sailor, very quickly and suddenly, hurled over him all that was in the pint pot of beer, saying hurriedly as he did so, "I baptize you in the name of the five senses," and having done so, ran out as hard as he could with us two at his heels, and pegged it up the road at top speed, and never drew rein until he got to the edge of Jockey's Spinney half a mile away, and we following, running hard close after, and there we found him out of breath and laughing, gasping and catching, and glorying in his great deed.
What happened to the philosopher, we are not told. Whether the baptism by beer works ex opere operato, like the baptism of water, we are not told. But regardless, any good Catholic will be "baptized by beer," which is to say "baptized in the name of the five senses," because he will know that the senses are given to him by God and they inform him reliably enough of reality, of what is, and this includes the entirety of creation. And not only the entirety of creation, but that creation is but need not be, and so it screams--as loud as any fact does, whether it be bacon, cheese, or beer (all given high encomia in the Sussex pilgrimage)--of the existence of the Creator.

Blessed be God, in his angels and in his saints. And blessed be God in all the good things of this earth including (dare I say it?) cigars, strong drink, friendship, and, above all, the Faith.

(As an aside. We have had discussions about incipient or resurgent Jansenism in our group. Belloc has a funny song about the British heretic Pelagius in his The Four Men. Perhaps I'll put my hand to Bellocian style song on Jansenius.*)

*Latin name for the "founder" of Jansenism, the overly rigorous bishop of Ypres and author of the book Augustinus, Corneille Janssens, known as Cornelius Jansen or Jansenius (28 October 1585–6 May 1638)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nailed by Cigars

For those laymen whose wives might want to participate in the cigar spirit without smoking cigars, this is one interesting (weird?!) way to do it.

For a full description, see the blog entitled The Daily Nail.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Only great men smoke cigars

There are a few exceptions to the rule, but the rule is generally a good one. For members of the St. HOLG's Cigar Club, it is an absolute rule without no exceptions.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar

Happy New Year, St. HOLG's members!

I thought it apropos to include a couple of cigar labels that say Gelukkig Nieuwjaar or "Happy New Year" in Dutch.