Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Not to turn Mencken into a sage, which is the wrong way to read him, but contemporary readers, especially the combatants on both sides of the culture wars, could well learn from the Aristotle of Baltimore the virtue of not taking themselves too seriously. ... Like Solomon, Mencken recognized the follies and pleasures of life. He understood the appeal of religion as one of "man's bold efforts ... to penetrate the unknowable, to put down the intolerable, to refashion the universe nearer to his heart's desire." But in the end, religion was as much a testament to human "imbecility" as it was to man's "high striving." That left Mencken, like Solomon, with the consolation of work, food and drink, and friends. He did not try to inflate his own capacity to "put down the intolerable," his ability to go on with life in the face of its meaninglessness, into a program for psychological well-being, let alone a movement.
-D. G. Hart, Damning Words: the life and religious times of H. L. Mencken