A Cambridge Recollection

•August 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Well, it’s been awhile. But the season, according to Keats, “of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” when the air begins to carry a hint of the long winter to come and when pipe smoking comes into its own, is soon to be upon us. I, for one, am looking forward to cooler temps and a good smoke around a blazing fire.

I recently received a response to this blog from Malcolm Guite, a musician and poet who was part of a group including Jerry Root that met recently at the Orchard in Grantchester, near Cambridge. During a conversation about poetry, a few people pulled out pipes and when Malcolm couldn’t find his own, Jerry made him a present of an old Peterson. For those of us who know Jerry, this is nothing new. We have all been the beneficiaries of his largesse at one time or another. The first pipe I ever owned was given to me by Jerry. As he himself has frequently said, “I get the joy of things twice. Once when I get them, and once when I give them away.” Malcolm commemorated the moment on his website. Check it out:

http://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/a-present-a-pipeand-a-poem-to-go-with-them/

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New Blog Update

•July 13, 2010 • 2 Comments

Hello all. I hope everyone’s summer is going well. I am still sweltering under the Texas summer sun, but looking forward to coming home soon and once again joining everyone around the fire.

As you can see, there have been a few changes to the site. I’m making it more specifically geared to the Thursday night group, and taking out most of my personal writings. I will continue to blog on various subjects, however, under Recent Ink. Otherwise, I have dedicated it specifically to the activities and conversations of the group. I will continue to make some changes and additions to it that will hopefully make it more enjoyable to peruse.

I hope a few of you all are continuing to get together, even though summertime tends to be pretty quiet around the fire. But I look forward to some cool fall evenings soon when we can all share some Scotch and tobacco again.

Mark

Update on Briar Blog

•May 18, 2010 • 2 Comments

As I sit outside on this muggy Texas evening smoking a bowl of Balkan Sasieni, I am thinking of the many fine evenings that I have spent over the years with companions around the fire on Thursday nights. These meetings have become such a part of the fabric of my life that being absent from them feels a little odd, like missing  chapters from a well-loved narrative.

I am taking a short hiatus from the brotherhood of the briar blog while I am in Texas, as I cannot be there in Wheaton to record conversations or observe interesting events such as the incident of the Scotch and the burning jacket (!) I will be writing on other subjects though, so stay posted.

I raise my pipe to each of you who  have attended  brotherhood of the briar, be it few or many times. Your presence and the group’s influence have been an important part of my life. Keep smoking and keep talking. Start your own group in another place and stay in touch to let us know how it goes. Linger around the fire a little longer. Listen. Invite someone new. Realize that this community is a gift.

I am going to miss those nights during my stay here in Texas, but I look forward to coming back soon to share a bowl of something just right, to taste a little of the smoothness of single malt whiskey and to once again be a part of the important conversations and community taking place.

Until then,

Peace like a river

American Individualism: The World's Briefest Overview- April 15, 2010

•April 18, 2010 • 1 Comment

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Tobacco smoke is the one element in
which . . . men can sit silent together without embarrassment, and where no man is bound to speak one word more than he has actually and veritably got to say.

–Thomas Carlyle, History of Frederick the Great, Vol. 1

The day was unseasonably warm, the sort of soporific weather that makes you want to lay under a tree in the shade and nap all day. The evening was cooler, but still with a warmth that explained why, when I arrived, there was only one log in the fire pit, smoldering away.

Yesterday, I received what I believe to be the first ever piece of mail addressed to the Brotherhood of the Briar. In it was a wedding invitation to be hand-delivered to the group on Thursday. For those of you who were attendees of the brotherhood when Josh Lefler lived in Wheaton, he is getting married June 12 in Bakersfield, California.

While I was at Half-Price Books a few days ago, I came across an interesting volume entitled The Ultimate Pipe Book. Author Richard Carleton Hacker (how appropriate) is not the best writer, but the book contains good information and interesting pictures, so I bought it. This excerpt from the forward will give you an idea of his writing style:

I was first lured to the pipe while still in college, well over two decades ago. The complete recounting of these exploits (or as much of it as I felt the reader could endure) will be stumbled over occasionally as we wind our way along the course of the pages beyond. But suffice to say, nobody ever taught me how to smoke a pipe. Like many of the most important lessons in life, I had to learn for myself and was all the worse for it. Ah, but that only I had a mentor! Unfortunately, there were no readily available books on the subject back then. My only encounters with any pipe smokers that I knew on a regular basis were Sherlock Holmes in novels and Mammy Yokum in the comic strips. Still, I persisted in my eager pursuit of the briar, learning as I went, making new discoveries and, in time, meeting others of the pipe smoking coterie, an opportunity which enabled me to share not only friendships, but information as well. I soon learned that the pipe smoking world was omnipresent and in many cases served as a common bond that linked a humanitarian cohesiveness between individuals, ideologies and international borders. So ubiquitous has the pipe become, yet how often it is ignored; how little importance do we actually place upon it in the overall scheme of things. This situation must be changed, if pipe smoking is to endure beyond our time. Oh, it is healthy enough at the present moment, but there is always a danger of losing anything that we take for granted. And so, I felt that now was the time for this book to be written.

And you never knew pipe smoking could do so much.

The conversation tonight (what little of it I caught) centered around American individualism. Poet Jane Beal was attending tonight and quoted an Emily Dickinson poem. She considers Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman to be the mother and father of American poetry because of their significant impact. Jerry talked about American writer and literary critic Alfred Kazin, who wrote An American Procession and who said that American literature’s defining moment was when Ralph Waldo Emerson stepped up into his pulpit, renounced his trinitarianism, became a monotheistic unitarian and preached his sermon Self -Reliance. All of the people immigrating to America from various countries defined themselves by their rugged individualism, and felt it was their manifest destiny to conquer the continent. This rugged individualism is probably the culture in which Emerson preached Self Reliance. So the first generation of immigrants was characterized by their individualism; the next was characterized by the subjectivism of Emily Dickinson; the next generation by the cynicism of Henry Adams and Mark Twain and the fourth by the nihilism of Ernest Hemingway.

Jerry had another theory concerning American individualism: English-speaking peoples lived basically on islands and this geography might have shaped some of their language. In our language, we don’t have any way to make, except by artificiality, a distinction between the plural and singular “you.” Almost every “you” in the Bible is plural, written to the community. Our English reflects this geographic isolation and in some ways it reflects our individuality.

And that is the gist of the conversation, and the end of this post.

Note: The largest pipe show in the world is happening May 1 and 2 in St. Charles, IL.  For more information:  Chicagoland International Pipe and Tobacciana Show

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Reflections from the Culture Wars

Fire Extinguishers and April Fools

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Reflections From the Culture Wars: Questioning the Price of Technological Progress

•April 6, 2010 • 3 Comments

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I recently interviewed Nigel Goodwin, actor, international speaker, and founder of the London Arts Centre Group and Genesis Arts Trust when he came to speak at Wheaton College. During our conversation, I  asked him some questions about the effects of technology on modern culture. “Don’t get so worked up about the culture,” he advised me. “Let the wheat and the tares grow together. Don’t spend so much oxygen in the culture wars, battling what you don’t like. Work at and invest in the wheat, in the positive.”

I have spent years investing thought and energy in those very culture wars against which I have now been warned. I have watched as technological progress has brought not the freedom and ease that were  intended, but servitude.  I have watched it erode literacy and contribute to the decline of the printed word as the years go on. I have worked with high school students who cannot define basic, everyday words, and who no longer value literacy or ideas. I have seen a decline in relational skills as people become entranced with their electronic devices. I have seen a decline in the appetite or desire for the great works of literature that shaped generations before us and helped us to understand the world or be more empathic human beings. We now live in a world of potentialities. Our cellphones accompany us everywhere. We check email or social networking sites every few minutes.

And yet I acknowledge what technology has made possible in our culture: advanced medicine, transportation and communication, to name a few. But at what cost? What is being lost and what is the cost in both the public and private spheres? We are witnessing a massive lateralization of our culture. We can go as far as the eye can see, but we are losing the ability to go deep in a few places. Why are so few of us concerned about the price of progress?

These are a few of the thoughts that have preoccupied me. And now I am offered a paradigm that says “don’t fight.”  If the culture is unaware, who is going to make it aware? Who is going to start people thinking about what they are doing and about the losses that occur with each new capitulation to technological progress?  True, mine is one more negative reaction in a world inundated with negativity and whose ravenous media can never be satiated with enough doom.  I do not harbor any notions or desires that technology is going to go away or the world is going to change. This, then, is where we are, for good or ill. However, I do want to be aware of the cost of technological progress and its implications, so that I do not capitulate mindlessly. Let it not be said I leaped before looking.

In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman looks at two dystopian novels that make predictions about the future of culture: 1984, by George Orwell, and Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

In his commencement speech to Harvard in 1978 entitled A World Split Apart, the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who was instrumental in the downfall of communism in the Soviet Union, saw that consumerism and “progress” (be it technological or otherwise) in Western society was leading to a moral and spiritual decline that was weakening our culture.  Since that time, we have strayed far down the path of consumerism. Other great thinkers have realized what was happening, but the culture was largely deaf to their proclamations. Many of us think that because everyone has jumped into the stream of technological progress, we must jump also or we will be left behind in the antediluvian past.

Some people are questioning the all-consuming drive for progress and they are right to do so. It is such questioning that keeps cultures from ending up like that described in Brave New World.  Blind acquiescence seems foolish. Just the other week, during a weekly meeting of pipe smokers that I attend, we had a conversation with a leading Czech economist who is publishing a book in which he explores the concept of a static model in economics. Zero percent growth, while the focus shifts to other aspects of life without always being obsessed with financial progress. This is a slightly different arena, but the concept is the same. I believe more and more people are realizing that their lives are less than optimal lived in the fading light of postmodern culture. Progress is dangled before us and we snap at it, yet it only enmeshes us further. We are more connected than ever, and more lonely than ever. We sit at home nights and wonder what to do. We surf the web, we watch television, we go to movies, we go out to eat. We do all those things our culture tells us people do for fun.  And a hollow emptiness pursues us that we try to fill with busyness. In the April, 2010 issue of AARP magazine, author David Dudley laments the vanishing art of conversation due to encroaching technologies. He tells the anecdote of  going to the park with his five-year-old daughter and spending the time sending emails on his iPhone and feeling a flush of satisfaction at getting work done.  At one point he looks up “to see all the other silently staring parents, slumped on benches or standing around, buried in the screens of their own smartphones. The kids ignored them: they ignored the kids; the birds sang, and the sun shone. And that flush faded to something closer to a chill.”

If you doubt the validity of any of these assertions, try to imagine, if you are old enough, how you  got along without computers or cell phones. Try to go three days, four days, a week, without using either and see how you feel.  The effect of technology is to erase the idea of a pre-technological past, as Sven Birkerts writes in The Gutenberg Elegies. It’s hard to imagine life or progress without it.

Certainly these issues are all over-generalized. There are many who are in control of the place technology holds in their lives. And I am by no means against technological progress.  But I do feel that its assumptions should be challenged and the consequent losses understood. Somehow we must master it, instead of it mastering us. And I am abundantly aware of the irony of writing about this subject on the very technology I am decrying. Again, I am not against technological progress or use per se,  but I am against it mastering lives. And the few issues I bring up here are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. This is not the place for an in-depth look at this topic, but I struggle with Nigel Goodwin’s statement. I want to be involved in knowing what is happening. I don’t believe that it is wise to ignore such things, but I also think Nigel  is right in saying that we must seek out and nourish what is good. Life is too short to focus exclusively on what is wrong.  But technology is a huge part of our culture and it is important to understand the trade-offs of unimpeded advancement if we are to live wisely.

One of the ways we nurture the good and keep the negative at bay is by investing in those things which make us and others more human. Meeting together face-to-face. Spending time with others in quality conversation, talking and discussing important issues. Sharing life stories. Volunteering. Getting involved in organizations that are doing something good for the world. There are a host of ways. I see my Thursday night pipe-smoking group as a means for nurturing the good.

Though it may feel like we are being left behind, it is good to climb out of the flow of progress and camp on a rock in midstream and think about these issues. Because it is only when you climb out that you can see the stars and the great panoply of the real world, the world that we so often miss by being immured in the stream of culture, which is always rushing somewhere, but not always getting somewhere. Yes, we should invest in what is good and make it flourisheven more. But we should also, if not fighting outright against it, be aware of how technological progress is shaping us so we don’t become mindless drones caught in the onrush of a progress that threatens to devalue our humanity.

Interview with Nigel Goodwin, 2/11/10

The Economics of Good and Evil, Part 1

The Economics of Good and Evil, Part 2

Continue this discussion. Ask questions. Disagree with me. Leave a comment. I’ll be reading and responding.

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Fire Extinguishers and April Fools: April 1, 2010

•April 5, 2010 • 3 Comments

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When I arrived tonight, Bruce, who was in town again, shook my hand and told me he had been reading my blog and the proof was over on the table by the house. I looked and saw several bottles of Scotch and, assuming he had brought one, I said “Oh, that’s awesome,” and he said “No, behind the Scotch,” and I went and looked and there was a shiny brand new fire extinguisher. If you read last week’s post, you will understand. If not, I suggest you click here to read it now,  as well as the comments about it, so you can be in on the joke.

As another adjunct to last week’s post, I learned that Jerry threatened to throw Greg out of the house if he did not divulge the identity of the person who mixed Scotch with diet 7-Up. So Greg obliged. But this person shall remain nameless here.

Thirteen gathered on this windy, warm, April Fools evening. For the curious, the origins of April Fools Day seem to be unknown, lost, it seems,  in the mists of time. There are many theories, but one of the more plausible ones is based on the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar. The Julian new year began on March 25 and was celebrated in a week-long holiday that ended on April 1. With the advent of the Gregorian calendar, January 1 became the new beginning of the year and those who continued to celebrate on April 1 were called April Fools. And of course, it is now the one legitimate day in the calendar set aside for practical jokes. Even Google joined the tomfoolery this year, changing their name to “Topeka” for a day.

After saying our mantra, Jerry brought out an old volume of Robert Browning’s poems and read the song from Pippa Passes in honor of this wild spring evening whose wind fanned the ardor of the fire, making it flare out in sheets of gleeful flame and sent its sparks like fireflies into the sky.

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his Heaven –
All’s right with the world!

We talked about a recent article written by Sandy Rios,  a talk show host on WYLL in Chicago. In the article she lamented what she called Wheaton College’s “move to the left,” and cited the statistics that 60% of Wheaton’s faculty voted for Barack Obama. She theorizes that this move to the left is the result of a focus on social justice issues, which, in its truest form is good, but at Wheaton, has been twisted and co-opted by the left’s cunning ability to change meanings. She looks at a few authors in the education department with Marxist, social justice leanings and projects this onto the rest of the college, its faculty, and its students. You can read the full article here, which isn’t long. When you read it, you’ll find that it’s full of assumptions that don’t logically follow from what is stated. Interestingly, Jerry knows Sandy Rios (who doesn’t Jerry know?!) and had the following comments:

“I know Sandy really well. The article was unfortunate and outright wrong. She’s very conservative, sometimes thoughtfully so, sometimes not. She assumed that because 60 % of the professors at Wheaton voted liberal, they couldn’t be pro-life. I don’t know a single person at Wheaton College who is not pro-life. So she’s projecting on that. She assumes that if they have this view then they must therefore be this. I think she’s wrong. And it was sad. And she engages in some degree of ad hominem (attacking the person rather than the issue). She’s trying to say that the dirty words are Bill Ayers and Obama. Rather than discussing substantively, she’s projecting through them onto the professors. It kind of upset me. She was way out of line.”

From leftist sentiments and Obama we landed on the topic of abortion. I often get fidgety when this topic is raised because for all the conversation and energy that has been poured into this issue, we don’t seem to have made much progress on legislation to stop it. Perhaps I’m wrong. I know certain groups are making progress on a smaller level. Perhaps I lament a morality that doesn’t recognize or value human life or that the forces of good have not been strong enough to carry the day. Jerry had some solid, logical arguments against abortion, as you’ll see.

Justice spoke about the emotional damage that occurs to women who have aborted babies in the past. And Jerry told stories of women who knew their children were going to die when they were born but who carried the children to term anyway, despite doctors’ advice to abort them. And in one case, a woman who was advised to abort her baby because it was going to die when it was born, carried the child to term, and ended up delivering a perfectly healthy baby, proving the doctors wrong.

Jerry thinks the issue is definitional. You have to ask: Is this a human being or not? If you decide it’s a human being, the issue is over. Everything else, all the touching stories, are anecdotal. However, you don’t solve the problem by the stories, but over the question “Is this a life?”

During his tenure at College of DuPage, where he taught philosophy, C.S. Lewis, and ethics classes, Jerry described how students in his ethics classes would debate issues. One of these issues was abortion. The class was divided into three groups: pro-life, pro-choice, and doctor’s dilemma (what is to be done if an aborted child comes out alive). During the debate one of the pro-choice people said “You don’t have a problem eating an egg or crushing an acorn, so what’s the difference with aborting a fetus?” So Jerry said, “Let’s look at the adult phase of each. Do you have a problem eating a chicken? No. Do you have a problem chopping down a tree? No. Do you have a problem killing an adult? If it doesn’t work at the adult level and you project back, what about the fetal stage of this thing that is going to develop? By definition, this is a human being.” The doctor’s dilemma group said the doctor should look at the child and make a decision about whether or not the child can live a substantive life. “But then you are playing God,” challenged the pro-choice group. “Then in every case, the child that comes out alive should be put to death,” said the doctor’s dilemma group. “As soon as that person made that statement,” said Jerry, “everyone gasped. If abortion is legitimate, in every case you put to death the child that comes out alive. They gasped because they saw. By definition, it doesn’t work. You have to stick with definition.”

I don’t really have any smooth transition from abortion to tobacco.  I like non sequiturs anyway. And I like tobacco. When you want some fun, try having a conversation that is composed entirely of non sequiturs with someone. It’s quite amusing.

I tried some Dark Birdseye tobacco from Gawith, Hoggarth & Co., which Carl gave me. Looking at their website, I found Dark Birdseye described as “A strong smoke which was particularly favored by the fishermen, as the finer cut meant the tobacco was easier to light and to keep in on board ship.” Interesting.

Maybe I should ask Carl to contribute his pipe or tobacco tip of the week so I can include it here. After all, he is an expert, and if not for him, all our knowledge of pipe smoking would have remained in the mud, as Jerry says. And I have to give credit to Jerry. He’s been trying many new kinds of tobacco, though I think he secretly prefers his enormous bag of Walgreens black cavendish. Well, as Carl says, “Smoke what you like and like what you smoke.” By the way, if any of you are interested in pipe or tobacco sites, Carl has given me these two:

tobaccoreviews.com

aspipes.com

So there you have it. Until next time, peace like a river.

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Of Cows, C.S. Lewis and B.B. Guns: March 25, 2010

The Economics of Good and Evil: Part 1 March 11, 2010

The Economics of Good and Evil: Part 2 March 18, 2010

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Of Cows, C.S. Lewis and BB Guns: March 25, 2010

•March 29, 2010 • 5 Comments

The gravity that usually attends the Thursday gatherings of Brotherhood of the Briar was conspicuously absent this week, as you will see. A spirit of hilarity and amusement prevailed, and even the fire seemed in a mood for laughter and jokes as it merrily spat out large chunks of burning embers which we dodged all evening. The night seemed darker than usual, perhaps due to the absence of the ambient pink glow that lingers in our sky most nights.  But tonight the sky was dark and the stars clear, and I’m sure they laughed with us as they pursued their way across the heavens.

Thirteen of us were present this evening, trying to dodge not only sparks, but an uncommonly cold night that seemed sprung upon us as part of a joke. We warmed ourselves with a Bowmore Islay 15 year darkest scotch. Many expressed their distaste for the cold by saying such things as “This feels colder than January”or “That’s because it was the cold that you weren’t expecting.” But Greg summed it up succinctly by saying “I hate it more than my mom’s third husband.”

We began innocently enough, and with a degree of seriousness, when Nathanael was asked to describe the craziest thing he saw during his time in Chad. He explained that he didn’t see anything crazy, but he saw some beautiful things, one of which was the cattle-herding nomads known as the Fulani, a group that has spread all over central Africa. They are an old people group, and in their history have been mercenaries hired by local kingdoms for protection, slave-traders, merchants and nomads. They are quite conscious of their appearance, to the point that it is common for men to receive manicures, braid their hair, put ornamental dots on their faces and wear colorful clothing. A cross between Arab and African, they possess a syncretistic, animist, Muslim belief system. Their lives revolve around their cattle which are distinctive: long-horned, red and known as Fulani cows. Our resident psychologist Ben said that the Fulani were known in cognitive psychology for their ability to look out at a herd and count hundreds of animals very accurately with a quick glance.

Perhaps it was the Fulani cows that got us started, because the talk turned to the shooting of pest animals and people (it’s true) with BB and pellet guns.

Everyone seemed to have a story.  Some described the squirrels or rabbits they would shoot in their yards or the battles they would have when they donned plastic safety glasses with their friends and shot each other with copper pellets. It is entirely true that in the late seventies and eighties when I was a youngster, I used to wander through the neighbors’ backyards with my pellet gun shooting squirrels, rabbits and sparrows without eliciting any comment whatsoever. However, during my phase of practicing with a bow and arrow in my back yard, Mrs. Furie, the neighbor lady behind me, did get pretty upset when she found arrows buried in her yard that I had shot completely through her wooden fence.

Wheaton College students seemed to posses a special merit for being the objects of various projectiles. Tim had heard about a boy who used to shoot them with BB’s from the third story of his house as they walked by on Franklin Street. And Ben’s  former Young Life students would hide behind trees and pelt students with stale cupcakes. As Ben and I are both  former Wheaton students, I suppose we should be glad we were not made such targets.

Following protocol, we said our mantra in unison, and Justice, who was excited about the G.K. Chesterton books he had downloaded on his Palm Pilot, read to us from Heretics. He began reading, but almost immediately the backlight on his phone went dark and Nathanael laughingly asked, “What happened? Did your pages flip in the wind?” We pride ourselves on reading from “a book that’s not too new,” you see, and usually that means a physical book, not a virtual one.

During a silence punctuated only by the sound of lighter wheels clicking and matches striking, a large chunk of burning wood hurled itself gleefully out of the fire and landed on Ralph’s jacket. A member of our group who shall remain anonymous for reasons that will become abundantly clear, put out this fire by dumping his glass of scotch over the affected area. As we all know, scotch is extremely flammable and when thrown into a fire (as has been demonstrated many times at these gatherings) will create a large fireball that roars into the sky. However, this scotch was fire-retardant because it was mixed with diet Seven-Up (?!) and so was sufficiently diluted to do the trick. The upshot was a gaping hole about four inches square in the arm of Ralph’s jacket and an affronted amusement for the single malt purists among us.

“When we say a smoking jacket, Ralph,” said Justice, “we mean it as an adjective, not a verb.” We all laughed and someone said that the patch to cover the hole should be made of velvet.

Of course we talked about C.S. Lewis. There is rarely a week when his name is not mentioned. We talked about his eidetic memory, the discipline of his thinking, how one of things he was good at was spiritually addressing a philosophical issue and holding on to a biblical truth without letting go of either one.

Ben described the incongruous climate of this week’s gathering nicely. “This week we have animals getting shot and killed and we watched Ralph burn; last week we were discussing economics with Václav Havel’s chief economist.”

The Economics of Good and Evil, Part 1

The Economics of Good and Evil, Part 2

Continue the discussion. Ask questions. Give your version of what happened. Leave a comment. I’ll be reading and responding.