“How can I more precisely express truth and beauty in my writing?” asked the young traveler, sitting by the rocky entrance of a cave, high on the east side of Mount Athos (prosopopoeia).
“Two loves, then, have made two cities. Love of self, even to the point of contempt for God, made the earthly city, and love of God, even to the point of contempt for self, made the heavenly city. Thus the former glories in itself, and the latter glories in the Lord. The former seeks its glory from men, but the latter finds its highest glory in God, the witness of our conscience.” (City of God, Book XIV)
That’s it, people. It is summer. Finally. We are done with the school year!
Facebook is full of last day of school pics and videos of kids jumping into the pool for the first time this season. Grills have had the spring pollen dusted off and are being put to perpetual use. Burgers, chlorine, cut grass, and sunscreen are now the scents of summertime. There are parties and graduation ceremonies, and countless homeschool moms have collapsed onto the floor, saying, “We did it.”
Technology dominates our lives. Most of us walk about carrying supercomputers with more processing power than NASA had for the Apollo 11 mission. These labor-saving devices promise freedom, but we are more enslaved than ever. Eliminating communication barriers means that we may be interrupted at any moment by a call or text. Constantly dinging notifications (real or imagined!) trigger a Pavlovian response to glance at our screen. The time saved by our devices is quickly devoured as we consume the hours on social media trivialities.
Our replacements have arrived at the front. They have come to relieve us. We have fought, valiant and unceasing, till we no longer remember a world without fighting. But we are not finished. We must prepare these new soldiers to take over our posts, to hold the line, to push forward against the Enemy. And yet, one glance at the blush of their youth and naiveté reveals that our most dire struggle will be with them. They are not ready, and we are nearly spent. Should we not tremble for the future darkness into which we send them, ready or not?
Our scene is a high school acting class in late November. Twenty-nine students sit at their desks, all watching a thirtieth who walks up to the front of the room to rehearse a monologue. She is to recite a two-minute passage from Wuthering Heights. The part has been well researched: the actress has a good grasp on the plot of the book and the monologue’s place within the story. She understands the action of the scene and she sympathizes with her character emotionally. Everyone in the room is excited, as the actress has some talent and has been fun to watch in previous scenes.
It’s May, and the world is finally awake. The campus of EDUCRAT STATE hums like a hive. Outside the dormitory, the day is all daffodils and spring zephyrs, but inside 303 WEST HALL a storm-cloud of academic fear brews. Dreading an impending final in literature, sophomore Joe Schmo peruses a SparkNotes article on Herman Melville’s classic whaling adventure. Travelling through time to rescue Joe from this perilous, ethical fog, Socrates materializes on the couch—quite unexpectedly.
SOCRATES: Hey, Joe. What are you up to?
The deepest wisdom of humanity apart from Christ is tragedy, both as a concept as well as realized in art. Oswald Chambers, while contemplating the book of Job, understood this and oft repeated it throughout his theological writings:
Standing in the dry heat of a desert, surrounded by dun-colored mountains, desperately wishing that I could communicate with the children we were serving was the moment I first seriously considered learning Spanish. I was on a mission trip to Mexico. Not knowing Spanish as challenging as we served alongside long-term missionaries to an indigenous people group. After the trip, I began studying but quickly gave up.
A few weeks ago, I had dinner with an old college friend who now works as an English teacher at a high-performing magnet school. Naturally, I asked him about the books he was assigning his students, wondering if I’d hear the usual high school standbys: The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, Lord of the Flies, and so forth.