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by Russell Kirk
Human Life

Russell Kirk


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 know that the anarchical or the tyrannical society is that in which Love lies corrupt. He has learnt that Love is the source of all being, and that Hell itself is ordained by Love. He understands that Death, when we have finished the part that was assigned to us, is the reward of Love. And he apprehends the truth that the greatest happiness ever granted to a man is the privilege of being happy in the hour of his death.

He has no intention of converting this human society of ours into an efficient machine for efficient machine-operators, dominated by master mechanics. Men are put into this world, he realizes, to struggle, to suffer, to contend against the evil that is in their neighbors and in themselves, and to aspire toward the triumph of Love. They are put into this world to live like men, and to die like men. He seeks to preserve a society which allows men to attain manhood, rather than keeping them within bonds of perpetual childhood. With Dante, he looks upward from this place of slime, this world of gorgons and chimeras, toward the light which gives Love to this poor earth and all the stars. And, with Burke, he knows that “they will never love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.”–Prospects for Conservatives

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2 replies to this post
  1. This is a wise, powerful quotation, and I'm grateful that you've posted it.

    Lest there be any confusion, one section has been inadvertently truncated, for Kirk did not write: "He knows that the just and ordered society is that in which Love lies corrupt." Instead, he wrote: "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."

    Again, thank you for posting this superb quotation by the Sage of Mecosta.

  2. Mr. Person, thank you for pointing out the error. I have inserted the missing section of the sentence. It appears that one of the purposes of my life is to serve an example of the imperfection of man. This may be better than no purpose at all.

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