May “green grass … grow on your grave” Mr. Buckley, you will be missed!
With wit and dry humor William Buckley tells a story that I have emblazoned in my mind when I wish to grin. He talks of lecturing and having two questions always asked of him, the second most oft asked question is this:
“‘What is conservatism?’ Sometimes the questioner – guarding against the windy evasiveness one comes to expect from lecturers – will add, ‘preferably in one sentence.’ On which occasions I have replied: ‘I could not give you a definition of Christianity in one sentence, but that does not mean that Christianity is undefinable.’
Usually that disposes of the hopes of those who wish a neatly packaged definition of conservatism which they an stow away in their mind, alongside (or replacing?) the definitions of astrology, necrophilia, xenophobia, and philistinianism. Those who are obstinate I punish by giving, with a straight face, Professor Richard Weaver’s definition of conservatism as ‘a paradigm of essences towards which the phenomenology of the world is in continuing approximation’ – as noble efforts as any I have ever read.”
Frank S. Meyer, ed., What Is Conservatism? A Timely, Important and Provocative Examination of American Conservatism by Twelve Leading Thinkers and Spokesman (New York, NY: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1964), 211.
For his discussion with Kenneth Minogue, see: