As is the case with puritans in all times and in all places, the new puritans know what is best for the unenlightened (in other words, the rest of us). They believe that they have attained access to certain truths that must be acknowledged and accepted by all unbelievers. (The new puritanism is a religion of sorts, albeit one without gods.) To believe otherwise is to be a heretic.
In today's version of puritanism, everything is the opposite of what it seems. Our puritans think of themselves as being "tolerant" and "open-minded." In fact, they are the most intolerant and closed-minded set of people you will ever come across. The new puritans are fond of describing themselves as "progressives." Beware: within the heart of every self-styled "progressive" lies a totalitarian.
The following poem first appeared here back in January of 2015. Since then, things have only gotten worse.
Watch him when he opens
his bulging words -- justice,
fraternity, freedom, internationalism, peace,
peace, peace. Make it your custom
to pay no heed
to his frank look, his visas, his stamps
and signatures. Make it
your duty to spread out their contents
in a clear light.
Nobody with such luggage
has nothing to declare.
Norman MacCaig, in Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2009).
The poem was written in June of 1964. Fifty-odd years later, the "bulging words" are the same or similar. The smugglers have changed.
Albert Woods (1871-1944), "A Peaceful Valley, Whitewell"
Ah, well, we each make our own way in "the vale of Soul-making," don't we? The allure of puritanism is understandable: it offers simplicity, certainty, and a sense of superiority. All false, but hard to resist. Puritans find it difficult to sit still and be silent.
A chestnut leaf sinks
Through the clear water.
Shōhaku (1649-1722) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn (Hokuseido Press 1952), page 231.
But the false assurances of simplicity, certainty, and superiority come at a grievous cost: puritanism leaves out of account both the individual human being and the World itself. The world of the puritan is without truth and beauty, without poetry. It is a joyless world.
"Quiet stream, with all its eddies, and the moonlight playing on them, quiet as if they were Ideas in the divine mind anterior to the Creation."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, notebook entry (March or April, 1802), in Kathleen Coburn (editor), The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 1: 1794-1804 (Pantheon Books 1957), Entry 1154.
John Anthony Park (1880-1962), "Heart of Exmoor"
The world of the puritan is a clamorous, harsh, and distracting world. Moreover, I imagine that keeping up with the ever-expanding list of perceived injustices in that world, and then fashioning perceived solutions to those injustices, must be exhausting. I much prefer to remain a heretic.
"The trout leaping in the Sunshine spreads on the bottom of the River concentric Circles of Light."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, notebook entry (May or June 1802), Ibid, Entry 1200.
Over the past week, the sunlight has begun to take on its angled, honey-gold autumn cast. The first red leaves have appeared. Something is afoot. As always, there is too much going on in the World for me to pay any mind to the puritans and their preoccupations.
A trout leaps;
Clouds are moving
In the bed of the stream.
Onitsura (1660-1738) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn, page 253.
How each of us awakens in -- and to -- the World is a miraculous and ineffable mystery. A mystery as unique as each of our souls. This awakening is a matter between our soul, alone, and the World.
"The Whale followed by Waves -- I would glide down the rivulet of quiet Life, a Trout!"
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, notebook entry (1795 or 1796), The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 1: 1794-1804, Entry 54.
John Downie (1871-1945), "A Perthshire Stream"