The Religious Sensibility of Michael Oakeshott

Here is the opening to Elizabeth Corey’s essay for the Companion.

I have often thought that one of the best introductions to the philosophy of Michael Oakeshott is a children’s book by Arnold Lobel. Grasshopper on the Road describes the journey of a remarkably even-tempered grasshopper who meets various other insects on his way down a pleasant country lane. Each of these insects displays some modern pathology. Grasshopper first encounters the members of the “I Love Morning” club, who raise placards extolling the virtues of morning while shouting such slogans as “Morning is Best” and “Hooray for Morning.” Grasshopper is welcomed into the club when he reveals that he, too, loves morning. But when he remarks that he also loves afternoon and evening, the other insects turn on him in disgust and order him out of their ranks. A bit later, he meets “The Sweeper,” a housefly who has noticed a speck of dust on her rug. Her effort to sweep it away has made her aware of the dust that has collected on the floor next to the rug, and also on her front stoop and sidewalk. She realizes, in despair, that there is also a great deal of dust on the road in front of her house. It is here, as she attempts to sweep clean a gravel road, that she meets Grasshopper. The book is full of subtle political commentary of this sort. It playfully lampoons the vanity of attempts to control the world, the desire of people to find purpose in life by joining a movement, and the general human inability to enjoy life as it happens. It is a wonderfully Oakeshottian book.