“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not "perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)
“In the relation to God, unconditional exclusiveness and unconditional inclusiveness are one. For those who enter into the absolute relationship, nothing particular retains any importance—neither things nor beings, neither earth nor heaven—but everything is included in the relationship. For entering into the pure relationship does not involve ignoring everything but seeing everything in the You, not renouncing the world but placing it upon its proper ground. Looking away from the world is no help toward God; staring at the world is no help either; but whoever beholds the world in him stands in his presences…” (from I and Thou
“When I attempted a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light… For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can, no one cares. Now, a scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable Something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in the universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, the bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret.” (from The Weight of Glory
Days of Heaven
The Thin Red Line
The New World
“Truth is the truth of Being. Beauty does not occur alongside and apart from this truth. When truth sets itself into the work, it appears. Appearance—as this being of truth in the work and as work—is beauty. Thus the beautiful belongs to the advent of truth, truth’s taking of its place. It does not exist merely relative to pleasure and purely as its object.” (from “The Origin of the Work of Art.”)
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)
“All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.” (from The Medium is the Massage
And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid
(from “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”)
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“And as I sat there brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s long dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it, He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.” (from The Great Gatsby
“All representations, even the most abstract, infer a rendezvous with intelligibility or, at the least, with a strangeness attenuated, qualified by observance and willed form. Apprehension (the meeting with the other) signifies both fear and perception. The continuum between both, the modulation from one to the other, lie at the source of poetry and the arts.” (from Real Presences
“What is the nature of a being that is able to produce art? Man is finite. He is, as one could say, mixed of being and nonbeing. Once he was not. Now he is and some time he will not be. He is not by himself, but thrown into existence and he will be thrown out of existence and cease to be for himself. He is delivered to the flux of time which runs from the past to the future through the ever-moving point which is called the present. He is aware of the infinite. He is aware that he belongs to it. But he is also aware that he is excluded from it… Out of the anxiety, and the double awareness that we are finite and that we belong to infinity from which we are excluded, the urge arises to express the essential unity of that which we are in symbols which are religious and artistic.” (from On Art and Architecture
“Poets have, indeed, often communicated in their own mode of expression truths identical with the theologians’ truths; but just because of the difference in the modes of expression, we often fail to see the identity of the statements.” (from The Mind of the Maker
Over the Rhine
What a beautiful piece of heartache this has all turned out to be.
Lord knows we've learned the hard way all about healthy apathy.
And I use these words pretty loosely.
There's so much more to life than words.
(from “Latter Days”)
“He will grant thee a hiding place within Him, and once hidden in Him he will hide thy sins. For He is the friend of sinners... He does not merely stand still, open His arms and say, 'Come hither'; no, he stands there and waits, as the father of the lost son waited, rather He does not stand and wait, he goes forth to seek, as the shepherd sought the lost sheep, as the woman sought the lost coin. He goes--yet no, he has gone, but infinitely farther than any shepherd or any woman, He went, in sooth, the infinitely long way from being God to becoming man, and that way He went in search of sinners.” (from Training in Christianity
“In what belongs to the deeper meanings of nature and her mediation between us and God, the appearances of nature are the truths of nature, far deeper than any scientific discoveries in and concerning them. The show of things is that for which God cares most, for their show is the face of far deeper things than they; we see in them, in a distant way, as in a glass darkly, the face of the unseen. It is through their show, not through their analysis, that we enter into their deepest truths. What they say to the childlike soul is the truest thing to be gathered of them.” (from The Voice of Job
The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted opon Earth –
The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
“In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror.” (from East of Eden
He woke up, the room was bare
He didn't see her anywhere.
He told himself he didn't care,
pushed the window open wide,
Felt an emptiness inside
to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate.
(from “Simple Twist of Fate”)
“What is the malaise? You ask. The malaise is the pain of loss. The world is lost to you, the world and the people in it, and there remains only you and the world and you no more able to be in the world than Banquo’s ghost.” (from The Moviegoer
Lost in Translation
“Church is to be participated in and not consumed. The point is not what one gets out of it, but the worship of God; the service takes place both because of and despite the needs, strengths, and frailties of the people present. How else could it be?” (from Dakota
“Whenever I think of Edward, I think of playing catch in a hot street and that wonderful weariness of the arms. I think of leaping after a high throw and that wonderful collaboration of the whole body with itself and that wonderful certainty and amazement when you know the glove is just where it should be. Oh, I will miss the world!” (from Gilead
“Preaching the gospel means announcing Jesus as Lord of the world; and, unless we are prepared to contradict ourselves with every breath we take, we cannot make that announcement without seeking to bring that lordship to bear over every aspect of the world.” (from What Saint Paul Really Said
It's weird to think of all the things
That have not been keeping up with the times
It's ten o' clock the sun is down
Just begun to set the western hills on fire
I hear that you don't change
How do you expect to keep up with the trends
You won't survive the information age
Unless you plan to change the truth to accommodate the brilliance of man
The brilliance of man
(from “Letter From a Concerned Follower”)
“Gazing at some detail like a bird or a cloud, we can all ignore its awful blue background; we can neglect the sky; and precisely because it bears down upon us with an annihilating force it is felt as nothing. A thing of this kind can only be an impression and a rather subtle impression; but to me it is a very strong impression made by pagan literature and religion. I repeat that in our special sacramental sense there is, of course, the absence of the presence of God. But there is in a very real sense the presence of the absence of God. We feel it in the unfathomable sadness of pagan poetry; for I doubt if there was ever in all the marvelous manhood of antiquity a man who was happy as St. Francis was happy.” (from The Everlasting Man
Gus Van Sant
"I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor--it is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by." (Ecclesiastes 3:10-15).
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” (from On the Road
"Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee..."
“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Okay, I’ll be honest: when I opened this post, I thought this was going to be a rant against Twilight, to which I was going to say, “Let’s just enjoy it, okay? There’s room for mindless fun sometimes, okay?”
Instead, you totally drew me in and I appreciate very much what you’re saying here. Thanks for this. It reminds me of something I viewed recently that sums it all up quite nicely (and, unfortunately, quite horrifyingly). It’s a comic piece that juxtaposes Huxley with Orwell. You can view it here.
Also, even though I hear what you’re saying there at the end about parents needing to turn off the TV and inspire wonder through zoo trips and painting lessons, the trouble is that the root is also in the parents. Adults (through the age of at least 50, I’d wager) are no better at this than the youth. They too would rather watch Jon and Kate Plus 8 or Dancing with the Stars or [insert your favorite reality TV show here], not to mention obsess about celebrity gossip and designer logos and Starbucks coffee. The parents cannot solve the problem if they have the problem themselves. It is much deeper than all of that. It goes to the root of who we are as human beings and what we believe about reality and our reason for existence.
Today I saw a sign that read like this:
GET A JOB.
Regrettably, this was an advertisement for a university. And if this isn’t a prime example of the pragmatic and utilitarian nature of modern education than I don’t know what is. To the extent that now schools advertise this way!
You talk mention our schools being like factories: The terrible irony of the situation is that our entire American public school system is based entirely on the factory system of the late 19th century.
True story: Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc. were the men who helped to fund and found the early public school system. They did so with the belief that in creating conditions that most closely resembled the conditions in their factories they would be able to raise – nay, create – workers who were prepared to work in said factories.
From the one hour sessions to the ringing bells to the industrialized structures of the buildings, the elements of the system were based on those factories.
In the 19-teens they tried this new system on workers in cities like Gary, Indiana, outside of Chicago. Not surprisingly, the families in those cities literally rioted. Fires broke out, there were beatings ,etc. Today this is the same system to which we are accustomed – and this is true of our private schools and christian schools too.
This new system over-turned centuries of learning, centuries of educational theory and instead built a system of learning on utility, therefore completely ignoring the natures of ideas, thought, education in general, not to mention children themselves – and childhood.
As someone who works in the education field for an organization that does research and consulting in education – specifically classical education – this is an important issue to me.
Thanks for bringing it up.
I don’t think it can be overstated enough how much of a disaster the utilitarian, pragmatic approach to modern thought and education has become.
A quick plug:
I highly recommend anyone interested in an alternative, traditional, thoroughly classical approach to education check out classical education: a paradigm built upon the reading of the great books and the liberal arts, meant to avoid specialization too soon, and meant, entirely, to open a child’s eyes to the wonder of the world – not to destroy it.
our organization’s website is: http://www.circeinstitute.org.
We have some great resources if anyone is interested.
Thanks. Good stuff.
This is one of the most frustrating societal issues of our day. Lack of morality, general cynicism, greed and corruption – those are all societal issues the Church has battled historically. But this problem subverts any platform for “battle.” No one’s interested.
Thanks, David, for mentioning Classical Education. It is a fantastic alternative to the modern education “machine”. I thought about it while I was reading this post, and I’m glad someone mentioned it.
What’s sad is that many students who would do well moving up Bloom’s taxonomy are kept on the bottom two levels because they are the easiest to quantify. Schools need data to justify their existence and funding. And ideas don’t get kids into college these days, unfortunately.
This is true, regrettably. But there’s that utilitarian approach again – why are kids in school? To go to college. Why are they in college? To get a job.
It wasn’t that long ago that people were educated so that they could become virtuous. Education was meant to feed the soul, not the wallet.
I suppose it should come as no surprise that this transition occurred as our country shifted from the agrarian economy to a purely industrial one.
Dang kids and their lack of imagination. I wish they’d get off my lawn.
“The problem with kids today is not that they aren’t motivated to be successful and/or change the world, it’s that they aren’t curious about the world.”
Seriously? And teenagers in the 60s were more curious? in the 20s? in the 1860s?
I’m going to give this entire post, the thesis of which is “kids today are dumber than they used to be” a big “citation needed.”
Ebert’s post, on the other hand, was a fairly well-reasoned critique not of young people (although, puzzlingly, he seemed to think it was), but of the media in general.
The problem isn’t young people being dumber, it’s the mainstream media’s lack of depth. To imply that the media is dumb as a reflection of young people’s lack of depth is a false dichotomy–one doesn’t equal the other.
Young people don’t care about mainstream media b/c the media hasn’t shown them anything worth caring about, which isn’t to say they’re not interested in anything, but rather that they’re not fufilling their interests in the same way people have in the past.
So to measure their depth by their interest in old school media and find it lacking is a hollow measurement.
I’m excited to read Ebert’s rant…I hope that this instant gratification culture and the boredom it unveils will somehow push the young generation to seek thrills and joy at the feet of Jesus in prayer and fasting, worship and praise.
Is that too much to ask?
Brett, L.A. Times Book Editor David L. Ulin, in a recent article The Lost Art of Reading, suggests that our electronic culture erodes any sort of “contemplative atmosphere” conducive to thinking. He writes, “Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know.” It’s a good piece. You should check it out.
You stole my thunder with the “get off my lawn” crack!
Relax, folks. Today’s kids are every bit as curious and “intrigued” as any other generation. Just look at the Harry Potter phenomenon.
The way they’re portrayed on tv, and in movies, however, continues to degrade as taboos fall by the wayside. But don’t fall for the false reality foist upon us by the modern media.
So don’t worry. In the words of the great R. Daltry: “The Kids are Alright.”
In conclusion, I’d like to show my classical education by citing another great philosopher, A. E. Newman: “What? Me worry?”
Just thought I’d pop in and add that I read a post disputing Ebert’s view tonight on the Daily Dish by a guest blogger (conservative Peter Suderman), which can be read here.
Really great post. I’m an occasional reader, and first time commenter. These are the things I think about most. This would be my issue. I have 3 kids, ages 8,3,2 and raising them in Hipster Williamsburg (well not the hipster side of Williamsburg, the Latino side). We’re doing our best to ride that fine line between resisting the flood of devices, mind-numbing entertainment systems and the like, but also not raise our children in a bubble of mental segregation from the community.
It’s very tricky to find that balance. I battle the TV, but I don’t throw it away. It can be useful during moments of familial insanity. I myself was raised on TV and now it has become a lucrative career. One that has enabled me to support a family.
I want to teach them to live a more sensual life – one that goes against the norm of constant mental stimulation – but fear that rejecting all that is popular will just create barriers between my children and their peers. They already have a great deal of bridge building to do in our community, and do so admirably.
So there is a balance there. The most effective vehicle my wife and I have for keeping things sensual is with creative projects or spontaneous creative expression though painting or music. We have guitars, a piano, drums out in the open in the living room. We play music regularly with them and provide lots of space for drawing, painting and mess making. We’ve put lots of chips on that approach.
Also going against the grain of the hipster family norm and raising them in the local Catholic church. Prayer is a regular part of the nightly routine. Incense and candles burn during dinner time (when we can manage to get all three to eat at the same time).
It’s an organic strategy. One we think is working. But it’s not one that has a next phase plan. When they get older or are teens. We hope creative expression manifests as a formal interest in the arts. But here in Brooklyn, with limited budget, we pray interest in the arts and prayer can be satisfied while receiving a public education. I guess we’ll just have to have faith it will and take it a day at a time.
Hey Brett, keep up the thoughtful posts. Yours and Ebert’s posts are not the only ones popping up lately on this issue. One I recently read, titled “The Poetry Wars,” discussed students fighting with a professor about poetry interpretations – with students claiming that there were no better interpretations than others.
Several of the comments on Eberts posts contain a common thread with this article and others – that students have the notion that there are no correct or better interpretations of any piece of art.
Of course this is postmodernism in play – the relativism of beauty – but I would submit that from my own experience teaching, it seems to be getting worse. Not only are students coming in with this notion, but they get angry when their poorly supported or completely unsupported interpretations are called into question. They truly believe at some level that all opinions are equal and “to each his own” to the extreme.
I think some of this has to do with blog/tweet/status update/wikipedia culture in which anyone can say anything and have enough people believing it as truth. “Truthiness” indeed. But the root is definitely the education system’s acceptance of a sort of bastardized pop culture form of cultural relativism (I’d argue that anthropological cultural relativism as first formulated didn’t include the argument that “all views on everything are equally valid no matter how unsupported”).
The good thing is that most of my students, as much as they resist it, can be led to accept that arguments can be made about the quality and worth of art or an interpretation of a work’s meaning as long as it is supported properly.
And as difficult as the assignment is for them because they’ve rarely been called to really judge art, it’s one reason I make my remedial students do a film review as one of their essays. They may not like what I pick, but they learn how to support their views on the film.
Oh and by the way, an interesting tidbit – there is definitely a few generation gaps in my students’ experience of that assignment. I generally choose an older or independent film with slower pacing and more intelligent dialogue than my students are used to – 95% are watching something very different than their usual viewing.
My students over 40 are able to watch the film I show them without too much protest and accept that it can be rated, but generally have trouble on the part where they have to think new ways about film and make a written argument. However, if there is fast dialogue, or quickly changing action, they can’t keep up. These students tend to agree that some movies are better than others, but get into trouble when they want to be “right” about their opinion. Often they can back up their arguments, but resist stating a clear thesis/opinion in their papers out of some sort of fear of taking a stand/humility.
My students in their teens/twenties have major trouble being able to sit still and watch the film in the first place. They can keep up with faster dialogue/plot, but mostly can’t understand or stomach scenes that slow down to express beauty/meaning/characterization. They particularly have major problems with conceptualizing and carrying out the assignment – “but it’s just my opinion!,” “it was boring,” “it sucks,” “it’s just an opinion – what am I supposed to write about?” Generally, they do have a strong opinion on the film and can state a thesis (most often disliking it), but have problems supporting it.
My students who are in their thirties seem to straddle the fence between the two groups. They tend to be the best writers of this essay because they seem to be able to watch various types of film, catch the meaning/plotting of various scenes, and are able to have an opinion/thesis AND support it.
Thanks for the comments Steve! The whole “to each his own” / “any opinion is valid” mindset is truly disturbing.
well i do agree that the problem with the kids are that they are not curious about world…..n the school has become factories now….the school should focus on practical knowledge rather then theoratical one….school makes the base of students….they dont hav any right to play with these innocent souls…..they should try to give them proper guidence…..