Friday, May 29, 2009


For those of you who have not experienced the wonder that is Manalive (by GKC) do yourself a favor and toddle out and read it; it is out of this world in order to return to it. I've just finished it myself (after much coaxing by my loving wife)!

Here are a few choice quotes:

"A wind sprang high in the west, like a wave of unreasonable happiness, and tore eastward across England, trailing with it the frosty scent of forests and the cold intoxication of the sea. In a million holes and corners it refreshed a man like a flagon, and astonished him like a blow. In the inmost chambers of intricate and embowered houses it woke like a domestic explosion, littering the floor with some professor's papers till they seemed as precious as fugitive, or blowing out the candle by which a boy read Treasure Island and wrapping him in roaring dark. But everywhere it bore drama into undramatic lives, and carried the trump of crisis across the world. Many a harassed mother in a mean backyard had looked at five dwarfish shirts on the clothes-line as at some small, sick tragedy; it was as if she had hanged her five children. The wind came, and they were full and kicking as if five fat imps had sprung into them; and far down in her oppressed subconscious she half-remembered those coarse comedies of her fathers when the elves still dwelt in the homes of men. Many an unnoticed girl in a dank walled garden had tossed herself into the hammock with the same intolerant gesture with which she might have tossed herself into the Thames; and that wind rent the waving wall of woods and lifted the hammock like a balloon, and showed her shapes of quaint clouds far beyond, and pictures of bright villages far below, as if she rode heaven in a fairy boat. Many a dusty clerk or cleric, plodding a telescopic road of poplars, thought for the hundredth time that they were like the plumes of a hearse; when this invisible energy caught and swung and clashed them round his head like a wreath or salutation of seraphic wings. There was in it something more inspired and authoritative even than the old wind of the proverb; for this was the good wind that blows nobody harm."

"'Yes,' he said with a huge sigh, 'I am free in Russia, you are right. I could really walk into that town over there and have love all over again, and perhaps marry some beautiful woman and begin again, and nobody could even find me. Yes, you have certainly convinced me of something.'
His tone was so queer and mystical that I felt impelled to ask him what he meant, and of what excattly I had convinced him of.
'You have convinced me,' he said, with the same dreamy eye, 'why it is really wicked and dangerous for a man to run away from his wife.'
'And why is it dangerous?' I inquired.
'Why, because noboday can find him,' answered the odd person, 'and we all want to be found.'
'The most original of modern thinkers,' I remarked, 'Ibsen, Gorki, Nietzsche, Shaw, would all say rather that what we want most is to be lost. To find ourselves in untrodden paths, and to do unprecedented things; to break with the past and belong to the future.'
He rose to his whole height somewhat sleepily, and looked around on what was, I confess, a somehwat desolate scene; the dark purple plains, the neglected railroad, the few ragged knots of the malcontents.
'I shall not find the house here,' he said. 'It is still eastward-further and further eastward.'
Then he turned to me with something like fury, and struck the foot of his pole upon the frozen earth.
'And if I do go back to my country,' he cried, 'I may be locked up in a madhouse before I reach my own house. I have been a bit unconventional in my time! Why, Nietzsche stood in a row of ramrods in the silly old Prussian army, and Shaw takes temperance beverages in the suburbs; but the things I do are unprecedented things. This round road I am treading is an untrodden path. I do believe in breaking out; I am a revolutionist. But don't you see that all these real leaps and destructions and escapes are only attempts to get back to Eden-to something we have had, to something at least we have heard of? Don't you see one only breaks the fence or shoots the moon in order to get home?'
'No,' I answered after due reflection. 'I don't think I should accept that.'
'Ah,' he said with a sort of sigh, 'then you have explained a second thing to me.'
'What do you mean,' I asked; 'what thing?'
'Why your revolution has failed,' he said...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thoughts on Transition


It has been far too long since my last post, but school and work will do that to one. For the record, this semester was the busiest of the 12 (twelve!) semesters I've experienced thus far, for both happy and sad reasons. One of our mothers fell asleep in the Lord (and that is not a euphemism, it is closer to reality than "death" is), Anne's mother, mine for a brief three years. I worked 20+ hours a week with University Mission and Ministry, completely editing their entire website and creating and publishing two campus-wide newsletters. I presented an academic paper on Aquinas and helped plan a workshop showcasing Marginal Theory. I completed and passed six weeks of Kaplan teacher training for the LSAT. I thoroughly studied (with "a little help from my friends") for and passed comprehensive exams and completed the coursework for an MA in Philosophy. We've awaited (and are awaiting) law school responses, witnessed baptisms, and look forward to four weddings. We've had awesome conversations with better friends, beautiful times with family, and powerful experiences that have helped bring life into focus and guide us "on the way."

Being the Philosopher that I am (entitled now), I've pondered all these things (treasured them up in my heart as it were) and come to some small conclusions:

1) I've read A Severe Mercy, I've read A Grief Observed, I know that those that die experience a reality that we dream of achieving all our hours on this earth... but that does not make the death of a loved one any easier. We're biological creatures, matter and form, creatures of habit, and when a piece of that manifold, that vasty interconnected web of human relationships is no longer there, even in the physical world... we miss him or her. There is no one on the other end of the phone, no one to ask for help, no one to request that you build a fence, no one to hold where there has always been someone before. It's more than that though, as CS Lewis knew so well, we miss that she is not there for the other strands of the web that were even more closely connected than we were: "You do not know loneliness until you've lost a spouse." I know I cannot explain it to someone who has not lost a dear loved one. I had not until March 11th and could not know before then. 

2) Our culture, our society is not set up to care, primarily because the things worth caring about (indeed, those that everyone still does care about whether they admit it or not) are shunted away precisely because of their "careful-ness". We fear death, mortality, life, youth, age, so much... but it is what we care about most as well. To distract us from these "first things," these "urgent importants" we work, we set up schedules and deadline, we smoke, drink, fornicate, we drive fast and honk loud, we increase the ease of slipping into the biological pattern of experiences because it is our only "escape". But it is an escape just as much as shooting yourself is. It's giving up on the joy of living, it's giving up on the "battle to the death", it's giving up on yourself. Pull out, pull up, uproot before the poison gets you. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam and ask the further pertinent questions of your situation. Don't live the subtle, oh so subtle lie.

3) In studying for comps and in having a conversation with Dr. Stebbins, I realized the crucial, enriching value of understanding the history of ideas, not just history, not just philosophy, but the whole kit and kaboodle of human living through time. You've heard of Great Books programs and how valuable they are, but their value isn't in what is usually touted. Some of the primary reasons I've heard are: the value of a classical education, in reading "good" material, working through ideas somehow making you a better person... which are all noble and valuable things in themselves. The two primary (and operative is some way whether recognized or not) reasons are these: 1) in understanding history writ large you come to an understanding of yourself in the here-and-now in every decision you make, and 2) following along in a dynamic fashion with the flow of ideas, questions, and answers throughout history, your own questions and answers change. More on this later... it's the topic of a inchoate essay.

4) I find that my quality of life improves roughly in direct proportion to the amount of time I spend with friends and family. My GPA improves, I'm happier, more peaceful, more communicative, get more done... thank you all for your love and friendship! :D

Anyway, back into the rest of this post. I've created a reading list for the summer, and I thought I would share it because you all have such good comments and suggestions on further good reads! Here goes (don't laugh; I know I prolly won't finish it all this summer either):

More on the academic side of things:
Norris Clarke: (finish) Person and Being, The Philosophical Approach to God, The One and the Many
Von Hildebrand: Man and Woman, (finish) Transformation in Christ
Barzun: (finish) Dawn to Decadence
Benedict: (finish) Truth and Tolerance, (finish) On Conscience
JPII: (read again) Theology of the Body, Love and Responsibility
Lonergan: (finish) Method, Way to Nicea
Maritain: The Person and the Common Good, Man and State
Fortin: Human Rights, Virtue, and the Common Good; The Birth of Philosophic Christianity; Dissent and Philosophy in the Middle Ages

More on the novelish/easier reading side:
Joyce: The Dubliners
Chesterton: (finish) Manalive
Berry: The Unsettling of America
Pollan: (finish) The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food
Kingsolver: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Peale: The Power of Positive Thinking

As you can easily see, I need some more good novels... I'm always up for increasing my knowledge of the solid classics, as many of you know from my love of Austen, Hugo, Dostoevsky, Cooper, Chekov, Tolkien, Tolstoy, Dickens, and many others. Suggestions?