I pray that The Imaginative Conservative offers a conservatism of thought and imagination in the hope of preserving the best of the Western tradition and restoring the virtue of our Republic. After a decade of faithful effort we continue to persevere and pray.
Long before our own time, the customs of our ancestors moulded admirable men, and in turn these eminent men upheld the ways and institutions of their forebears. Our age, however, inherited the Republic like some beautiful painting of bygone days, its colors already fading through great age; and not only has our time neglected to freshen the colors of the picture, but we have failed to preserve its form and outlines….Through our vices, rather than from happenstance, we retain the word “republic” long after we have lost the reality. —Cicero, De re publica
Do we too retain the word “republic” long after we have lost the reality? Is the American Republic beyond hope? President Richard Nixon once asked Dr. Russell Kirk if “we have any hope.” Dr. Kirk replied that “it is all a matter of belief. If most intelligent and energetic people come to believe the prophets of despair, then indeed ruin falls upon the state, for many folk withdraw to hidie-holes, there to conceal themselves from the coming wrath.” We should ask ourselves if we encourage our fellows to have hope. Do we suggest paths to cultural renewal as often as we lament the present discontent? Or have we given in to a conservatism of nostalgia where we immerse in mourning the loss of what we can never regain? Are we prophets of despair?
Alternatively, is ours a conservatism of restoration and preservation? Dr. Kirk went on to tell Nixon: “But if, rather than despairing, people recognize the gravity of social circumstances and hopefully resolve to take arms against a sea of troubles—why, hope breeds hope, and a nation’s vitality is renewed…. The American Republic is still young, as civilizations go, and that despite our present discontents we Americans conceivably may enter soon upon an Augustan age.”
A conservatism of hope which helps to bring about an Augustan age. I like that.
My desire is for The Imaginative Conservative to offer an ongoing conversation on conservatism that brings a better understanding of what is worth conserving. We seek to draw all we encounter closer to the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
Simone Weil wrote that our time is a time of disorder very like the disorder of Greece in the fifth century before Christ. In her words,
It is as though we had returned to the age of Protagoras and the Sophists, the age when the art of persuasion—whose modern equivalent is advertising slogans, publicity, propaganda meetings, the press, the cinema, and radio—took the place of thought and controlled the fate of cities. So the ninth book of Plato’s Republic reads like a description of contemporary events.
An essential part of true conservatism is a commitment to liberal learning. The beauty of liberal learning is the in-depth consideration of the greatest works of the best minds of Western Civilization.
Dr. Kirk understood this breadth and dignity inherent in true conservatism. Neither dour nor shrinking, the conservative asks the burning questions of the human condition and diligently seeks their answers:
At the back of every discussion of the good society lies this question, What is the object of human life? The enlightened conservative does not believe that the end or aim of life is competition; or success; or enjoyment; or longevity; or power; or possessions. He believes, instead, that the object of life is Love. He knows that the just and ordered society is that in which Love governs us, so far as Love ever can reign in this world of sorrows; and he knows that the anarchical or the tyrannical society is that in which Love lies corrupt.
The Imaginative Conservative, we believe, offers to our families, our communities, and the Republic, a conservatism of Hope and Love.
Joy and Renewal
Perhaps the 30th Psalm captures the quest for conservatives in the 21st century?
I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.
Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.
I cried to thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
Joy cometh in the morning! Let us proclaim a conservatism of joy, gratitude, and love. Let us proclaim a passion for the true, the good, and the beautiful. Let us be true conservatives, conservators of all that is worthy of conserving. And yes, let there be dancing, praise, gladness, laughter, and joy. Shouldn’t conservators rejoice in the grand heritage they’ve inherited to share with the next generation? At The Imaginative Conservative we say “Yes.”
Let us turn to the great book of wisdom where Truth, Love, and Beauty are always to be found. I embrace these words as the credo for my conservatism.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. —Philippians 4:8
The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.
The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay and has been brightened for clarity.