On Books and Gratitude

Wherein I say something nice about Robert Paul Wolff

Occasionally, Robert Paul Wolff says something at his blog that I agree with completely, for instance:

To an extent I did not anticipate when I set out on life’s path, books have provided many of the joys and satisfactions I have encountered.  I am constantly grateful to the scholars and thinkers who have written, and continue to write, the books from which I derive such pleasure, both the great authors of the past . . . and those less exalted . . . .

Gratitude is a characteristically conservative virtue; hence its presence in Wolff softens my attitude toward him. 

As Wolff suggests, our gratitude should extend to the lesser lights, the humbler laborers in the vineyards of Wissenschaft, the commentators and translators, the editors and compilers and publishers.  Beyond that, to the librarians and the supporters of libraries, and all the preservers and transmitters of high culture, and those who, unlettered themselves in the main, defend with blood and iron the precincts of high culture from the barbarians who now once again are massing at the gates.

Nor should we forget the dedicated teachers, mostly women, who taught us to read and write and who opened up the world of learning to us and a lifetime of the sublime joys of study and reading and writing.

But we must also be on our guard. Our gratitude must be tempered with vigilance, our warm sentiments of loving gratitude with steely resolve. For the book burners, the iconoclasts, and the erasers of collective memory are ever with us, and now it is the de-platformers of the Left who pose the greatest threat. In these times that try our souls, the bookman must needs be a rifleman. For high civilization is worth defending with blood and iron if it should come to that, not that any reasonable person would want it to come to that. Right reason, however, is not the strong suit of barbarians. He who cannot be reached by reason, however, can be reached in other ways.