Second Spring, the journal founded by the late Stratford Caldecott, that extraordinary and wonderful man, with his wife Leonie, has a beautiful new website. The header image of the new website is a painting of an oak tree by the Caldecott’s daughter Rose. In a reflection thereon, Leonie Caldecott writes:
As well as being the symbol of England, the oak tree is surely an apt symbol of the resilience needed to remain productive and fertile in the midst of inhospitable conditions. Wood: that substance on which God-made-man stretched himself out in that mysterium tremendum, is conceived of here as a sign of new life being added to the old. In place of the rainbow which normally unites sunshine and rain, the sign of the ancient covenant cast above the floodwaters, our noble tree roots the crux of the matter back in the earth. It is surely no coincidence that in The Lord of the Rings Gandalf the White, rescued miraculously from the maw of the Balrog, is discovered after the encounter with the Ents of Fanghorn Forest. Ents are slow-moving, considered creatures. For an Ent, as for any tree, there is no such thing as a state of emergency.
I’m so glad that Second Spring has itself shown something of the oak’s resilience. It’s continuation after Strat’s death is a fitting act of piety towards him, and of generosity toward the rest of us.
In his weird and partly brilliant book on infinity, David Foster Wallace writes, “what the modern world’s about, what it is, is science.” That is, the heart of the modernity as a project is the new science developed in the 17th century, which consists in the application of a certain kind of symbolic-calculation to nature through experiments for the sake of technological power over nature. This science was “new” because unlike the old science its goal was not the contemplation of the truth in the forms of things; the goal of the new science was and is practical. As El Mono Liso recently noted, “the attempt to analyze the world as a series of mathematical equations or chemical formulas is ultimately not an unbiased analysis of static essences, but a blueprint by which civilized actors seek to bend all things to their own will, in our case, the will of capital.” The reference to capital is crucial. The new science was wedded to a new attitude toward external wealth: capitalism. For the first for the first time in history “the economy” emerged as self-regulating system aimed at the measureless increase of exchange value. And it was capitalism that provided the main measure of the growth of technological power. Unlimited technological progress is the engine of economic growth, and unlimited economic growth the measure of technological progress. Continue reading
Hilaire Belloc calls the dons that taught him at Oxford «The horizon of my memories— / Like large and comfortable trees.» I can apply that expression to the friends of my parents whom I knew as a small child. Since we moved often when I was growing up, there are many who form the horizon of my childhood memories whom I have seen only rarely since. There is something wonderful about meeting those people now (or even just reading their writings), and being able to know them in quite a different way than I did as a child. Continue reading