For Betty Duffy

Noel Coward, 1954.  Those days will never be long past.



  1. Angelico will flip out over this.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      You know me like a book, old man.

      Don’t let’s be beastly to the Cathars!

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun; but only Coward and Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus do so in evening dress.

  2. “The temperature that day reached 119 as Coward relaxed in his underwear during the drive to a spot in the desert about 15 miles from Las Vegas.”

    A True Man of Style.

    And the pants-length…impeccable. Thanks for this.

  3. Cubeland Mystic says

    He had a tailor.

  4. What kind of boots was he wearing?


  5. The modern desert father.

  6. Cubeland Mystic says

    I’d like to pose some questions to the blog.

    What are we doing to achieve greatness?

    What does it mean to achieve greatness?

    I hear it a lot but I am not sure I know why, and what it all means in the context of Christianity.

  7. Cubeland Mystic says

    I am not sure. It could be sanctity. It could be perfect too. Is perfection a means to sanctity? I really don’t know. I hear it tossed about a lot. I am also trying to discover what truth, beauty, and goodness mean.

    As you see I have trouble with words. If I had posting power I would make a post out of it.

    • CM, if you want posting power, say the word. I mean, as a guest blogger at the very least. I try not to think about greatness. I think doing anything for the sake of being great is deadly. Unless one is aiming at great love, which is sort of opposite of everything we ordinarily associate with greatness, since it is so self-emptying.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      Mr Mystic,

      I read around a bit and did some thinking. I’ll try to articulate what occurred to me. If it still seems to hang together in the morning, I can try to illustrate it with some examples. But for now, see what you think:

      ‘Greatness’ basically means ‘bigness’. A ‘great’ oak, or a ‘great’ stone, is not necessarily beautiful, say, or useful; but it is necessarily large of its kind. So in a concrete sense you can ‘achieve greatness’ by expanding the volume of your body. But that sense of the word doesn’t seem to have much to do with Christianity.

      ‘Greatness’, in a less concrete sense, can refer to the ‘bigness’ (i.e., magnitude) of the extent to which someone realizes his potential to achieve some particular good. (Note that the scope of the potential may vary from individual to individual.) There are as many potential ‘greatnesses’ as there are goods a person may achieve: greatness in cooking and in statecraft, in piloting planes and cutting hair, playing soccer and splitting rails.

      Those rulers or saints who get ‘the Great’ appended to their names tend to be scholars, statesmen, and/or soldiers whose decisions and achievements had a notably strong effect on large numbers of other people. So, in the case of Tsar or Saint So-and-So ‘the Great’, ‘greatness’ refers not just to the ‘largeness’ of his excellence in scholarship, statecraft, or war, but also to the ‘largeness’ of the number of people whose lives were changed significantly by said excellence.

      But of course — and here we come back to Mr Lickona’s point — see 1 Corinthians 13: Paul says that ‘greatness’ with respect to such goods as eloquence, prophecy, knowledge, and faith are worthless without the particular good called love, or charity. Greatness in charity — a tremendous self-emptying self-giving — is the greatness at which a Christian must aim. We have to share in Jesus Christ’s excellence in self-giving, which is also the Father’s.

      I do think it is right to aim at excellence with respect to other goods (see the parable of the talents), but to leave aside any concern whether one’s own excellence will reach the level of ‘greatness’.

      What do you think, Mystic? Anyone?

      • I was really under the impression that greatness was getting your name in the title of a Korrektiv post.

        Sorry, I second what Lickona and Angelico have said. In Christianity, Greatness is the imitation of Christ, the Greatest, Supreme Good.

        And Christ made himself small, the least of any human. Not just because he suffered like a human, but because he is God who allows himself to be annihilated by his own creation, out of love for it, and to share his Divinity with it. We can’t approach that level of Sacrifice, but we can imitate it in a limited human capacity.

        • Cubeland Mystic says

          Can’t really reply till tonight. Busy day.

          • You probably didn’t go out. You’re all the same person. I’m the only other person!

          • Cubeland Mystic says

            Angelico and Betty

            This is from Tolkien’s biography

            “You call a tree a tree, he said, and you think nothing more of the word. But it was not a “tree” until someone gave it that name. You call a star a star, and say it is just a ball of matter moving on a mathematical course. But that is merely how you see it. By so naming things and describing them you are only inventing your own terms about them. And just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth.

            We have come from God (continued Tolkien), and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a “sub-creator” and inventing stories, can Man ascribe to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic “progress” leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”

            Excluding the obvious use of the word, like in the sense that Eli Manning is a great quarterback. I thought about that passage today above after reading your replies. To me there is something all tied together with the emptying of self and achieving greatness. What does it mean to empty? Obviously it is an action. The action should imitate Christ. What is the emptying? To me I think it is one’s creative energies. When one empties their creative energy it opens them up to grace. By taking that step to empty in imitation of Christ in some creative act you are achieving greatness.

            At least that is what I get from all your inputs. Thank you for replying.

            If someone wants to take a shot at Truth Beauty and Goodness that would make a great conversation.

            • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

              Emptying one’s creative energies, in the Tolkienesque sense, is an imitation of Christ, an opening to grace, and potentially a path to greatness-in-charity.

              But creating (or rather, sub-creating) is only one of many possible ways of achieving greatness-in-charity, and for most people most of the time, I doubt that it’s the surest. Maybe it’s an advanced course. I think the Works of Mercy probably provide the best starting point and reminder of how (and when, where, and for which individual people God sets before him) the Christian should empty himself and practice great charity. They are definitive examples.

              That said, you should keep chipping away at your novel, when you have time!

              • Cubeland Mystic says

                Thank you I will keep chipping away.

                If you know her story, do you think Mother Teresa’s charity was a creative act?

                • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

                  Yes indeed. I had not thought to characterize it that way — but if the sandal fits, wear it.

                  • Cubeland Mystic says

                    Look at St. Francis another great act of creativity. This is the creative force. Take the Catholic author Michael O’Brien. His opening himself to divine providence allowed him to live a truly creative life.

                    Right now while I am writing this, the notion of Kenosis is very clear to me. Tomorrow it won’t be so clear. I will have to start over. I can’t say that I fully understand the concept, but I am starting to.

                    • Cubeland Mystic says

                      Here are some wise words from Elder Proclus. He’s basically saying that all the demons have gathered on earth. Also that was the theme of last year’s Mystics, hermits, recluses, and anchorites convention in Vegas.

  8. As my children take piano, I can’t help but think in these terms. Greatness is hitting all the keys – not at the same time but in a way that demonstrates their fittingness to one another and to the ear.

    I think the same sort of thing can be said for moral greatness. The fellow who locks into all the virtues, using the right one at the right time, and making it look easy.


  9. Very interesting thread.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      Threads, sir, no? ‘Very interesting threads.’

      For what it’s worth, I agree. It’s the slight curve of those lapels that gives the jacket just enough visual interest to avoid blandness, without also sacrificing the garment’s requisite formality: a Scylla-and-Charybdis maneuver, executed with tailor’s shears on wool and satin. Magnificent.

  10. Jonathan Webb says

    Suave isn’t an adequate word.

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