In an interview published by Christianity Today, Harvard political scientist Harvey Mansfield called Democracy in America “the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America.” Surprisingly, its author was neither a democrat nor an American, but a French aristocrat. Alexis de Tocqueville came to America in 1831 to study its prisons, yet his journey through the young democracy inspired a prescient work.
Have you ever played “I Spy”? It’s a game where one person sees something that no one else sees. Through a series of cues given by the “seer,” the others learn to see the item that the first person found.
Real teaching is a lot like this game. The teacher sees something that he wants the students to see. Now, conventional teaching sometimes has as its goal the prospect of “catching them out,” of finding students who don’t see and yelling, “Ah ha! I caught you in a mistake.”
It was an aesthetic education to live within those walls, to wander from room to room, from the Soanesque library to the Chinese drawing-room, adazzle with gilt pagodas and nodding mandarins, painted paper and Chippendale fret-work, from the Pompeian parlour to the great tapestry-hung hall which stood unchanged, as it had been designed two hundred and fifty years before; to sit, hour after hour, in the pillared shade looking out on the terrace.
Miracles, for many, raise a barrier to belief. Even for those of faith miracles can produce an intellectual tension. On the one hand, ample evidence shows the Bible is true and inspired. On the other hand, making sense of some miracles in the context of our understanding of the physical world is not easy. For instance, figuring out what it means in Joshua 10:13 for the sun to have stopped in its course is a bit mind-boggling.
Waiting Room Blues (After Anne Sexton)
Today let me be the one in the waiting
room who is sicker than you. A trip
to the pharmacy will likely suffice
for what you've got so stare at me
as I have also stared at the sickest. How I grind
my palms together gaze out the window
don't read the magazines. What does that guy
have? you wonder rightly glad
you are not me that you will buy
a coke to wash your CVS antibiotics down
in an hour. I have been you looking at me
"Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have tried and chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." (Isa. 48:10)
In the lobby of a local cinema, I was approached by a journalist conducting interviews.
INTERVIEWER: Excuse me, sir, would you mind telling me what movie you’re going to see?
GIBBS: Uh, sure. I’m about to see Jurassic World 2.
INTERVIEWER: Very good. And why are you excited to see this motion picture?
GIBBS: Oh, I saw the trailers for it and I thought they looked pretty good.
INTERVIEWER: Would you say this looks like a life-changing movie?
“A door had shut, the low door in the wall I had sought and found in Oxford; open it now and I should find no enchanted garden.” —Brideshead Revisited
This line is one of the saddest I have ever read. My heart feels pierced for poor Charles Ryder at losing his enchantment! I’ve been thinking about this line for days now. Do we naturally lose our enchanted garden as we get older? Are the doors to the enchanted garden fewer in number? Do we forget to look for the “low door in the wall”? What do the doors look like now? Where do I start looking?
A cursory glance at the news seems to indicate that support for traditional liberal rights is waning. For example, half of our young people support banning hateful or offensive speech. Yet while support for traditional rights diminishes, there seems to be growing support for emerging rights, like transgender bathrooms.
Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is the only book in which the author writes what cannot be written. The book is highly experiential, arguably to the point of superfluity. Among my students, the whaling chapters are those which push them to give up the fight. For myself, my first copy of Moby Dick was burnt upon Ishmael’s description of the Italian paintings of Christ wherein the narrator claims that they are most accurate because they capture the “hermaphroditical” character of the Son.