whittaker chambers

Spending time at the state capitol recently reminded me just how easily men are misled into embracing ideologies of every sort, and how much damage is done to our civilization as a result. The experience prompted me to open my Whittaker Chambers book from college — Witness — and thumb through to one of my favorite parts: His “Letter to My Children.” I first encountered this in one of fellow Imaginative Conservative Dr. John Willson’s American history classes at Hillsdale, and it has stuck with me ever since.

“Sometimes, of a spring evening, Papa would hear that distant honking that always makes his scalp tingle, and we would all rush out to see the geese, in lines of hundreds, steer up from the southwest, turn over the barn as over a landmark, and head into the north. Or on autumn nights of sudden cold that set the ewes breeding in the orchard, Papa would call you out of the house to stand with him in the now celebrated pumpkin patch and watch the northern lights flicker in electric clouds on the horizon, mount, die down, fade and mount again till they filled the whole northern sky with ghostly light in motion.

“Thus, as children, you experienced two of the most important things men ever know—the wonder of life and the wonder of the universe, the wonder of life within the wonder of the universe. More importantly, you knew them not from books, not from lectures, but simply from living among them. Most important, you knew them with reverence and awe—that reverence and awe that has died out of the modern world and has been replaced by man’s monkeylike amazement at the cleverness of his own inventive brain…..

“I have great silent thanks to God. For I knew that if, as children, you could thus feel in your souls the reverence and awe for life and the world, which is the ultimate meaning of Beethoven and Shakespeare, as a man and woman you could never be satisfied with less.”

For more on Whittaker Chambers visit The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

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