All in Essays

The Illuminating Light

Most of you know that we have inherited a very rich educational tradition from those who preceded us. We know that in one sense, education is the transmission of culture—the transmission of the soul of society from one generation to another, as G. K. Chesterton put it. But many readers may not be aware that an important part of our educational culture comes to us through the monastic tradition. How important? In fact, if we remove monastic education from the wider western culture, we must also remove our universities and hospitals; we must remove much of the classical liberal arts curriculum, we must remove Aristotle himself, and Cicero, and much of what we have of Vergil and Horace.

 

The Quadrivium and the Character of God

Sometimes when reading or studying or listening, I catch a glimpse of ideas and connections beyond my current understanding. At times these ideas are nascent and ephemeral—mists that have not yet solidified (if they ever will). It is as if figures are coming together on the periphery of my vision, and I fear that if I look at them directly, the forms will dissolve into vaporous ribbons and float away. Some passages of scripture are like that—for a moment I can grasp a spiritual truth or significance that swells beyond my comprehension. I am encouraged by the fact that even the Apostle Peter said that Paul was hard to understand. 

The Arts & The Education of Attentiveness

The smallest things often spark the greatest alterations; our happenstance changes and choices, like pebbles dropped in still water, ring their way outwards till the whole of life’s encircled. Had you been a reflective Italian tradesman in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, your attention may have been captured by the wonderful and terrible Great Events happening all around you: the city-states finding independence from the papacy, sublime cathedrals springing towards the skies, a whole new class of merchants bridging the class divide, rumors of a Black Death prowling nearby. And with your whole world convulsed in the eager pangs of a new birth, a Renaissance, perhaps you would not have assigned much significance to the changing of the bells. 

Let Us Attend

Has it ever been harder to get and hold a student’s attention? It seems that we suffer from a cultural attention deficit disorder every bit as much as from the more well-known cultural amnesia. Excessive stimulation assaults our senses while fragmentation creates discord in our souls.

Yet, the most important skill our students need to practice, the skill on which everything depends, is the ability to pay attention. We can learn how to cultivate this faculty, or we can ensure that most of our teaching goes to waste. 

The Seeing of the Eye: On Job, God's Revelation, and the Problem of Evil

Classic literature is one of the great humanizing forces of our civilization. This is because literature can take an arcane philosophical problem and clothe it with living flesh, forcing readers to grapple with universal questions in the context of human relationships. At its best, classic literature calls forth essentially human reactions from its readers; the more we read it, the more human we become. 

Ecce Homo: The Classical Refrain of The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel endures its fair share of criticism from Christian parents and classical teachers. It is the poster child for twentieth-century debauchery and godlessness—a reputation it has earned. But a close reading of the novel reveals Fitzgerald working in a literary tradition that goes all the way back to ancient Rome. His masterpiece aims at some of the most cherished literary goals of the classical world while drawing power from a much more contemporary setting.

 

Why Mystery Stories Are the Cure for What Ails Us

It is impossible for us to fully grasp the cataclysmic cultural shift that was created by World War I. Each of us has lived and moved and had our being shaped by the world that emerged from that rubble. The War to End All Wars did not succeed in ending war, but it did herald the final blow to the unparalleled optimism of the 18th and 19th centuries, destroyed the remaining vestiges of the Medieval world, and ushered in worldwide despair, angst, and nihilism.In other words, Modernity was born.