One of the conceits that Lewis had was that we make our own hell by our decisions and our life. This has been taken too seriously by sociologists who believe in early interventions, such as Ron Kessler, who seriously thinks that if we intervene when a child develops his first phobia we can prevent their descent into fear in their youth and despair in adulthood. I’m more suspicious. We have enough to do already, and our treatments fail too frequently.
But our choices make our middle age, and lead us either to faith, courage and nobility or despair. Kitchener died in 1916 when the ship he was in hit a mine.
No stone is set to mark his nation’s loss,
No stately tomb enshrines his noble breast;
Not e’en the tribute of a wooden cross
Can mark this hero’s rest.
He needs them not, his name untarnished stands,
Remindful of the mighty deeds he worked,
Footprints of one, upon time’s changeful sands,
Who ne’er his duty shirked.
Who follows in his steps no danger shuns,
Nor stoops to conquer by a shameful deed,
An honest and unselfish race he runs,
From fear and malice freed.
Kitchener achieved much. He is hated by the progresives. who laud instead the Irish, such as Yeats. But Yeats is to honest. He shows how our vices build a hell.
Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad?
WHY should not old men be mad?
Some have known a likely lad
That had a sound fly-fisher’s wrist
Turn to a drunken journalist;
A girl that knew all Dante once
Live to bear children to a dunce;
A Helen of social welfare dream,
Climb on a wagonette to scream.
Some think it a matter of course that chance
Should starve good men and bad advance,
That if their neighbours figured plain,
As though upon a lighted screen,
No single story would they find
Of an unbroken happy mind,
A finish worthy of the start.
Young men know nothing of this sort,
Observant old men know it well;
And when they know what old books tell
And that no better can be had,
Know why an old man should be mad.
William Butler Yeats
We could do with a bit more Victorian righteousness, even if that means we have a bigger dose of repression.