by Martin Cothran
There are several modern authors who come up repeatedly in conversations among classical educators. One of them is Flannery O’Connor. Mitchell Kalpakgian writes at the Imaginative Conservative about an O’Connor short story, “Everything that Rises Must Converge.”
His gloss on the story has to do with the modern tendency of men to neglect their concrete, everyday moral responsibilities, a problem, he writes, that seems to result from thinking, not in concrete ethical terms, but in universal ideological abstractions.
Many of Flannery O’Connor’s stories portray the ineptness of men to uphold traditional ideals of manhood. The men show no leadership, they do not protect or care for their family members, they lack all manner of chivalry, and they lose a sense of priority as they commit to careers and professions or social and political agendas at the expense of their family members. In these stories, the failure of men to live with honor, integrity, and magnanimity leads to tragic loss of family members they neglected in their pursuit of political causes or personal desires.
“Everything that Rises Must Converge” is about a man who lectures his very Southern mother on her unintentional violations of the abstract modern ethical rules of proper race relations, but who treats her in a dehumanizing way. If you listen to modern political discussions, you’ll see this kind of problem staring you right at you.
What Kalpakgian is getting at is the subject of Chesterton’s poem, “The World State”:
Oh, how I love Humanity,
With love so pure and pringlish,
And how I hate the horrid French,
Who never will be English!
The International Idea,
The largest and the clearest,
Is welding all the nations now,
Except the one that’s nearest.
This compromise has long been known,
This scheme of partial pardons,
In ethical societies
And small suburban gardens
The villas and the chapels where
I learned with little labour
The way to love my fellow-man
And hate my next-door neighbour
Read more here.