Quit Your Grumbling

Donna Marie “Daisy” DeBolt, who described herself at least once as a zydeco singer from Winnipeg (a discipline that includes jazz, blues, folk, country, and – of course – accordion and mandolin, to say nothing of her dynamic vocal range) was a positive presence up here in these northern wastes. She was a classically-trained musician.

One might also mention the long floral granny dresses and the streaming scent of lavender perfume that made her a typically untypical hippie in the coffee house music set, reaching forward from the ‘sixties. Or mention the gardening and culinary innovations that reflected her optimism.

I glimpsed her only briefly, and only in her triumphant, though impoverished, middle age; but the encounter was unmistakable. Indeed, the motto of a magazine I founded was lifted from her song, “Take a Train to Europe.” Its refrain was, “Gotta get me to Moosonee, / Dog train to Germany.”

I would count her as a radiant northern muse, by the standard of Étienne Gilson; she shone like the star, Polaris. She is being modestly rediscovered on YouTube, after being dead these last twelve years: but her graciousness could not be reduced by death.

Today’s motto, “Quit your grumbling,” is from her number, or grand orchestration, “Paradise,” whose lyrics go, as I recall:

I’m just a country girl,
Like it raw and steady,
Like it in the morning,
Like it in the afternoon
When the sun comes down;
I like it when all my friends are around.

Oh, this is paradise,
Oh, oh, oh, this is paradise,
Look around you, … &c.

For this is the message that her music conveys, and she manifested in her person. She was unashamed. She did not complain, even about her death from cancer.

Another far off muse, this one still living in Australia, offers encouragement in my defiance of medical setbacks, but has nothing to say against the madness of the contemporary world. She says this is because it is so easy to deal with, “as the madder things become the clearer is the choice.” She hopes that the prevailing derangement shocks more people into sanity.

One aspect of this madness is the reduction or transformation of women, who are replaced by Wokist quasi-women who make the idea of a “muse” ridiculous. For it is a calling of the woman, to be a muse to poets.

The madness is sprayed all over the Church, and inside. I have complained of it myself, until I have grown tired of complaining. It is not hard to spot things from the Vatican, down and out, that make the Catholic’s life embarrassing; and his own life may be contributing to the scandal.


Flannery O’Connor, the southern muse, explained this in a letter to someone who criticized the Church, in his generation: “All your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to me to come from an incomplete understanding of sin. This will perhaps surprise you because you are very conscious of the sins of Catholics.”

On priests, she expounds, “the hidden love that makes a man, in spite of his intellectual limitations, his neuroticism, his own lack of strength, give up his life to the service of God’s people, however bumblingly he may go about it.”

It is easy enough to find things that are big and need some change, in our humble opinion, but which cannot be changed, from our humble station.

And it easily becomes a form of lust, as the complainer derives a perverse pleasure from enumerating the many faults throughout Church, priests, and lay Catholics, eagerly piling them into a very human commination. It becomes an “expense of spirit in a waste of shame.”

“It’s our business to try to change the external faults of the Church – the vulgarity, the lack of scholarship, the lack of honesty – wherever we find them and however we can,” Miss O’Connor declared. We carry these faults with our pain, our suffering; and this is what we were after all called to do. Our Founder is crucified by all Catholics.

He did not carry the banner of reform and revolution, however. His detestation was restricted to sin, and his scheme for amendment restricted to holiness.

O’Connor: “To expect too much is a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness. Charity is hard and endures.”

The three muses I’ve mentioned were, and are, all real women. They are to be distinguished not only from the surgical cases I mentioned above, but from the leggy maidens that are chosen to be Miss This and Miss That in our heterosexual beauty contests. (Now modified to make them tawdry Woke demonstrations.)

For as Étienne Gilson said, in his book on the Choir of Muses, “We must never forget the background of these stories: if so many muses were married women, mothers of children and a good deal richer than their poets, it is because the most footloose vagrants of artistic adventure keep in their heart a longing for home.”

This, by coincidence, is just what I look for in a conservative, old-fashioned, faithful Catholic who may be grumbling about one thing or another that is beyond his power to fix. Is he just footloose, or does he long for home?

In his apprehension of sin, does he start with and ideally end upon himself, or has he hatreds and bigotries of all kinds? Not that a certain amount of hatred and bigotry isn’t useful in detecting what is truly despicable in the world; but like any form of darkness, it is cloying. It could even rise to a grave sin, requiring confession and absolution.

And if we get rid of priests, who will provide that crucial service? For all his imperfections. Or get rid of the Church and then would anything be left except the miserable environment we seem to find ourselves in, as the result of constant complaining?

Think positive, instead. When in doubt, try holiness.


*Image: A Muse (Calliope?) by Cosimo Tura, c. 1455-60 [National Gallery, London]. The muses, nine in all, were the daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne (Memory) who presided over the arts: in Calliope’s case, poetry.

You may also enjoy:

Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas’ Cause of Our Joy

Robert Royal’s We’ve Got Issues – and They’re Cosmic

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: davidwarrenonline.com.