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    Book Club: The Roots of American OrderChapter 8

    April 26, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    I really hope I am able to keep up all the way until the end. I love this book club and this book, but my, am I getting crunched for time these days! Discipline is the only thing that is going to get me by for the next two months, so here’s hoping I develop some!


    I think the most important sentence in this chapter is:

    Imagination, not dialectic, rules the world. For every American who read Oceana once, ten thousand Americans read The Pilgrim’s Progress.

    Obviously, I mean the first sentence in that quote. I included the second in order to offer a little context.

    This really struck me, and I’m still thinking about it. Imagination, naturally, does not preclude fact. We are reading Charlotte Yonge’s Book of Golden Deeds, and all of it is based upon real deeds accomplished by real men at real times in history. But her sublime literary retelling, along with her reverence for the Good, True, and Beautiful, capture the imagination for sure.

    I hope these good deeds romp through my children’s imaginations for years to come.

    All of the perfectly formed arguments in the world cannot replace the love that grows in our hearts for good men living rightly during hard times. We cannot help but admire them.

    So I get Kirk’s point about The Pilgrim’s Progress. As you know, we are always reading Pilgrim’s Progress, and apparently this is important:

    Being brought up on Bunyan was some protection against being swallowed by Hobbes’ Leviathan.

    The Roots of American Order
    by Russell Kirk

    Chatper 8 emphasized over and over what it is that causes men to sacrifice their liberty. For instance, in a time of chaos, they will sacrifice their freedom for the sake of having order returned. Some men will “submit themselves to the power of the state” because they believe they will gain “safety and creature-comforts.” The section discussing Hobbes, though, added something new to a list that was otherwise familiar to me: some men will bow to the State, as long as this frees them from the bonds of loyalty and duty–as long as they are freed from the ties of “the Church, the town, the guild, and the local authorities.” Apparently, one supreme but distant master is preferred over a number of small but intimate duties and relational ties. The impersonal is chosen over the personal.

    And man bows to Leviathan, as Hobbes called it.

    These days we call it the Federal Government. Yawn. I much prefer the dragon imagery.

    What I found interesting was that exposure to Bunyan was equated to inoculation against this sort of cowering, self-serving statism.

    I keep coming back to the indispensability of  fiction and literature, and also the idea that what we read must be chosen with the utmost care, because imagination is a powerful thing. As I’m thinking about next year, I keep wondering if more time reading aloud isn’t in order. We already do a lot of it, but the children seem hungry for more, and the arguments from Kirk are compelling.

    Read More:
    Buy the book and join in the conversation
    More book club posts linked at Cindy’s blog

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Pilgrim May 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you for pulling out that quote – I remember being struck by it when I was reading. I too am learning to appreciate and fire the imagination. I have to say this is one reason I really appreciate Librivox. My kids can hear classics read and I don’t always have to be the one doing it. So during dinner my oldest builds with his legos and listens to a story. There are some books I want to read first – then I let them listen over and over if they want to do so.

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