November/December 2015: Belloc and His World
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Recently, upon reading Hilaire Belloc’s classic The Four Men, I came to a new appreciation: the virtue of “re-reading”. The first read, I have learned, always tells you what happened, but each subsequent read tells you what it means. There is no better work to re-read than a book about a pilgrimage. Especially one described by Hilaire Belloc. We care where the pilgrimage takes us. But we care even more what the pilgrimage means.
Belloc opens his extraordinary journey having found himself in a state—a funk—in which we all may find ourselves sooner or later. It is the bittersweet position of taking stock in our life when, in a moment of naked honesty and true poignancy, we find we have strayed from our intended path. Belloc’s moment came on the twenty-ninth of October, 1902 to be exact. He was in an English inn known as the “George” at Robertsbridge. Nursing port and staring at the fire, the intense, brooding Belloc arrived at a harsh conclusion: You are missing what matters.
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