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Russell Kirk

To protest against the existence of order is to protest against well-being, justice, freedom, and prosperity. Happiness is found in imaginative affirmation, not in sullen negation. Gratitude is one form of happiness; and anyone who appreciates the legacy of moral and social order which he has inherited in America will feel gratitude. The pursuit of happiness is not altogether vain. One finds happiness in restoring and improving the order of the soul and the order of the republic—not in acts of devastation that make a desert of spirit and of society.

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism (Visit our Bookstore to find books by/about these men) .

We address a wide variety of major issues including: What is the essence of conservatism? What was the role of faith in the American Founding? Is liberal learning still possible in the modern academy? Should conservatives and libertarians be allies? What is the proper role for the American Republic in spreading ordered liberty to other cultures/nations?

We have a great appreciation for the thought of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt and Christopher Dawson, among other imaginative conservatives. However, some of us look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.”

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Published: Oct 30, 2011
Russell Kirk
Russell Kirk (1918-1994) was the author of some thirty-two books, hundreds of periodical essays, and many short stories. Both Time and Newsweek have described him as one of America’s leading thinkers, and The New York Times acknowledged the scale of his influence when in 1998 it wrote that Kirk’s 1953 book The Conservative Mind “gave American conservatives an identity and a genealogy and catalyzed the postwar movement.”
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4 replies to this post
  1. Gratitude is also an unselfish form of happiness. How could pride or greed be anything but ungrateful, if it can only love, desire and extol materials goods and praise the self? Gratitude rejoices in what has taken place or in what is because of the efforts of those who came before us. The Japanese Naval Lieutenant's Samurai sword is not valuable because it is worth a lot of money but because it came from Guadalcanal given to a young woman whose fiancee never came home because he made the supreme sacrifice in defending Henderson Field. That sword like Guadalcanal is not just a word or a thing but AN EMOTION. Ours is the solemn pride that something of what we are today is based on the struggle of a young Marine captain whose men held off a banzai attack of 1000 Japanese marines; they took almost 100% casualties and their captain was killed. In fact, they told the young women that the Japanese Naval officer paused to behead the dead Marine but before he could do so was literally chopped in half by a burst of 50 cal machine gun ammo. Gratitude (Charis in Greek) is this joy of the past, of memory which does not suffer over what is no longer but joyfully recalls the best of what was. Death does take a lot; it deprives us of the future which then for us no longer exists. It could be said that gratitude frees us from death because sadness is always mingled with joy. Gratitude is an acknowledgement that the present and all we have, our freedom, our security, our prosperty even our lives we owe to others, our mother , our father, our forebears and our forefathers. We cannot understand the present without the past and gratitude touches on the truth which is eternal and inhabits it. Gratitude is for the living and it is something precious to be passed on. One could say gratitude is the enjoyment of eternity. Gratitude does not abolish grief or loss but completes it. The Greek philospher said: "We must heal our misfortunes by the grateful recollection of what has been and by the recognition that it is impossible to make undone what has been done." So that young woman, who never married, was proud to see her young godson (me) march at Quantico to be called a Marine by the Commandant. And she bequeated to me that sword which represents not a financial investment or a great sum of money but the supreme sacrifice of a young American Marine almost 70 years ago who gave his tomorrows for our today. "In the eyes of Christ-the-ever-young, he is no less -nay he is more- that the kings of realms far-flung." For he died not for conquest or wealth or glory but for our freedom and independence. Personally, it is hard for me to respect people who do not show any love and respect for their parents, their elders and their country.

  2. He may have improved with age, but Milton's son, David Friedman, spoke in favour of anarchy 35 years ago at Hillsdale: spontaneous social order (not Hayek's order of the marketplace), why we need no cops, etc. Libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan, smuggled out of communist Czechoslovakia as a child, replied: "Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, David's greatest social problem was finding a parking place."

    To any American who disdains order and fancies anarchy, 26 million Afghans and I extend a cordial invitation to come live in some of our rougher neighbourhoods. Viva Kirk!

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