Review by Ryan Cysewski
"Brains, like muscle—you can hire them by the year or by the hour. The only thing not for sale is character."
- Antonin Scalia
Today more than ever, it seems that public service has become a narcissistic mockery of itself. Most prominent politicians only seem intent on doing what is politically expedient, principles be damned. Without diving into politics (this is the book review section, after all), I thought it would be fitting to highlight a man who was truly good and just, who served in the public sphere according to his conscience and principles.
Scalia Speaks is a collection of speeches given by the late Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia, throughout his long and distinguished career. The speeches are funny, enlightening, and most of all, thought-provoking. At different points, I found myself challenged by some of the points made in Scalia's speeches (separation of church and state, the obligation of judges to uphold the law over their personal convictions in most cases, etc.). Many of the speeches are worth highlighting, but I will only discuss one in this review.
In his speech titled “Being Different”, Scalia points out that he “had the great good fortune” of growing up at a time where being Catholic was considered a little strange, and there was still a fair amount of prejudice in society against Catholics. This reality forced Scalia to realize that adopting the same values as the rest of society did not guarantee a virtuous life, and that sometimes you have to be willing to stand apart from the mainstream, whether that be in regard to Friday abstinence from meat, or sexual morality. We are just passing through as pilgrims during our short time on earth, and as such, we will always remain a little bit apart from others.
The only thing not for sale is character—this idea is repeated in several of Scalia’s speeches. Justice Scalia certainly acknowledged the value of the intellect, but he realized that in the end, it is moral character that makes the man. This recurring theme in his speeches speaks to the fundamental importance that he placed on not taking up just any cause that seems suitable, but having a true cause that is worth fighting for, on account of its veracity. I think this book would be a worthwhile read for anyone, but especially for those with an interest in politics or law.
Take a moment to consider how incredible it is that for thirty years, there was a devout Catholic sitting in our nation's highest court. If more of us aspired and worked towards being leaders in our communities and professions, maximizing our God-given gifts, the world might be a significantly different place. If nothing else, we would be significantly different, and that is where true change for the better begins.
THE HOUND OF HEAVEN
by Francis Thomas
I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated Adown titanic glooms of chasm-ed fears
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase and unperturb-ed pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat — and a Voice beat,
More instant than the feet:
“All things betray thee who betrayest Me.”
I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red, trellised with inter-twining charities;
(For though I knew His love who follow-ed, Yet was I sore adread
lest having Him, I should have nought beside ) But, if one little casement parted wide, The gust of his approach would clash it to. Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled, And troubled the gold gateways of the stars, Smiting for shelter on their clang-ed bars, Fretted to dulcet jars
and silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.
I said to dawn — Be sudden; to eve — be soon — With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over From this tremendous Lover!
Float thy vague veil about me lest He see!
I tempted all His servitors but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him, their fickleness to me, Their traitorous trueness and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue,
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind,
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue,
Or whether, thunder-driven,
They clanged His chariot thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn of their feet, Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase and unperturb-ed pace , Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following feet, and a Voice above their beat —
“Nought shelters thee who wilt not shelter Me.”
I sought no more that after which I strayed In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes Seems something, something that replies, They at least are for me, surely for me!
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair, With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
“Come then, ye other children, Nature’s — share with me, said I, your delicate fellowship;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine with you caresses, Wantoning
with our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses, Banqueting
with her in her wind-walled palace, Underneath her azured dais,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice, lucent weeping out of the dayspring.”
So it was done:
I , in their delicate fellowship was one —
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies,
I knew all the swift importings on the wilful face of skies;
I knew how the clouds arise,
Spum-ed of the wild sea-snortings.
All that’s born or dies,
Rose and drooped with,
Made them shapers of mine own moods, or wailful, or divine — With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers Round the day’s dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather, Heaven and I wept together,
and its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine. Against the red throb of its sunset heart,
I laid my own to beat
And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that was eased my human smart. In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek. For ah! we know what each other says,
these things and I; In sound I speak,
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor step-dame, cannot slake my drougth; Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue-bosomed veil of sky, and show me The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
with unperturb-ed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
And past those nois-ed Feet,
A Voice comes yet more fleet:
“Lo, nought contentst thee who content’st not Me.”
Naked, I wait thy Love’s uplifted stroke!
My harness, piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me, And smitten me to my knee,
I am defenceless, utterly.
I slept, methinks, and woke,
And slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours,
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amidst the dust o’ the mounded years — My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap. My days have crackled and gone up in smoke, Have puffed and burst like sunstarts on a stream.
Yea, faileth now even dream the dreamer
and the lute, the lutanist;
Even the linked fantasies in whose blossomy twist, I swung the earth, a trinket at my wrist, Have yielded, cords of all too weak account For earth, with heavy grief so overplussed.
Ah! is thy Love indeed
a weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must —
Ah! must thou char the wood ‘ere Thou canst limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust; And now my heart is as a broken fount, Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sigh-ful branches of my mind.
Such is. What is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds, Yet ever and anon, a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity,
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then Round the half-glimps-ed turrets, slowly wash again; But not ‘ere Him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal; cypress crowned: His Name I know, and what his trumpet saith. Whether man’s heart or life it be that yield thee harvest, Must thy harvest fields be dunged with rotten death?
Now of that long pursuit,
Comes on at hand the bruit.
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea: “And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me! Strange, piteous, futile thing;
Wherefore should any set thee love apart? Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said),
“And human love needs human meriting — How hast thou merited,
Of all Man’s clotted clay, the dingiest clot? Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art! Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee, I did’st but take, Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms. All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home: Rise, clasp My hand, and come.”
Halts by me that footfall;
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee who dravest Me.”
books we are reading
My book right now:
The Art of War
by Sun Tzu
My book right now:
Heroism and Genius
by Fr. William Slattery