Tuesday July 31, 2102

  1. What’s a liberal arts education without poetry?
  2. Satan, in Paradise Lost.
  3. Is it schismatic not to commune schismatics?
  4. Fukuyama on Rooseveltian Republicanism.
  5. Slow Money.
  6. Built Environment.
  7. Mark T. Mitchell on the même of “culture wars.”
  8. Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Religion, and line drawing.

1

Without this education in poetry, a liberal arts education becomes not only futile but also dangerous. It destroys our prejudices without deepening that understanding of them, which is the precondition for their correction. A liberal arts education without poetry ends in nihilism, a fact illustrated by the current state of higher education today.

From The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry.

2

A mind not to be chang’d by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
What matter where, if I be still the same. . . .

Satan, in Paradise Lost (I, 253–56) quoted in The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry. I’ve seen a microcosm of this over the past few months.

3

Is it schismatic for the Orthodox and Catholic communions to deny communion to heretics and schismatics? Peter Leithart thinks so; he’s Too Catholic to be Catholic:

My Catholic friends take offense at this, but I can’t escape it: Size and history apart, how is Catholicism different from a gigantic sect?  Doesn’t Orthodoxy come under the same Pauline condemnation as the fundamentalist Baptist churches who close their table to everyone outside?  To become Catholic I would had to contract my ecclesial world.  I would have to become less catholic – less catholic than Jesus is.  Which is why I will continue to say: I’m too catholic to become Catholic.

“History apart”?! Well, yes, I suppose that if one eliminates a decisive factor, one will likelier achieve the desired indecisive outcome, as with abortion:

[A]bortion and childbirth, when stripped of the sensitive moral arguments surrounding the abortion controversy, are simply two alternative medical methods of dealing with pregnancy. . . .

Beal v. Doe. Much as we like paradox, Orthodox Robert Arakaki thinks Leithart’s wrong, as does Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick. I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s a pretty big deal, and it first my renewed emphasis on art and contemplation.

It’s good, however, the see Calvinists taking Mercerburg Theology of of Calvinism’s dustbin and giving it a good look. A journey of a thousand miles begins with such modest steps.

4

Begin relapse – sorta, since Fukuyama is not really a political figure and this example is not a political panacea:

A new kind of conservative might look at the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt for inspiration. Just as in the present, American capitalism in the late 19th century had generated powerful new interests, particularly the railroads and oil interests that provoked huge conflicts with farmers, shippers and their own workers. Roosevelt believed that no private interest should be more powerful than the American state, and set about to ensure that by going after Northern Securities and other trusts. One imagines that if he had been president during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, he would not have been satisfied with the regulatory hodgepodge that is Dodd-Frank, but would have sought to break Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase up into smaller pieces that could safely be allowed to go bankrupt if they took undue risks. If a new breed of conservatism could put Wall Street in its place, then it would have much more credibility taking on public sector unions and other interest groups on the left, just as Roosevelt did.

Francis Fukuyama, Conservatives and the State (emphasis added). Some of my favorite people have already critiqued what Fukuyama said relevant to foreign policy, but it was this, with which I agree so heartily, that caught my eye.

5

In contrast to the recent explosion of “finance” as our nation’s dominant industry, I’ve been toying with – and I mean trying to keep on my radar for a closer look some day – various options for economics on a human scale, without unaccountable shell games like derivatives and collateralized debt obligations.

Consider this, for instance:

In order to enhance food security, food safety and food access; improve nutrition and health; promote cultural, ecological and economic diversity; and accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration, we do hereby affirm the following Slow Money Principles:

I. We must bring money back down to earth.
II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down — not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.
III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.
IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.
V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.
VI. Paul Newman said, “I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:
* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?
* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?
* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?

The Slow Money Principles. This strikes me as akin to bottom-up Distributism – a way of building a Distributist economy without government coercion, if only as a counter-culture – which increases its appeal.

6

I have paid considerably more attention to built environment than to “Slow Money.” I think that’s consistent with my renewed emphasis on culture and arts, because buildings can be artful, and a properly built neighborhood is a part of culture, encouraging human-scale interactions. Some of the images I’ve culled are up at Pinterest.

7

Coincidentally, Mark T. Mitchell from Front Porch Republic revisited the idea of “culture wars” on Monday, as I did earlier in the day:

Furthermore, “culture war” suggests two or more competing cultures. But this doesn’t quite get matters right, for if there is a war it is between the beleaguered forces of culture and the aggressive forces of anti-culture. Of course, “culture” is a notoriously difficult concept to define, but it is nonetheless true that the recent main-streaming of thuggery in some forms of music, dress and speech represents not a culture but something that seeks to destroy culture. Today significant groups in our society despise liberal education. They are anti-nomian and take a perverse delight in offending standards of decency, courtesy, and basic good manners. There are many who seek to overturn the basic structures upon which our civilization was built. This does not represent the rise of an alternative culture but a rabidly vicious anti-culture that offers nothing but the occasional vague platitudes about freedom and equality as an alternative.

I emphasize “coincidentally.” I don’t think the editor of a book on Wendell Berry slavishly follows me.

8

[M]any commentators seem to be genuinely mystified by this summer’s controversies. They accuse religious critics of contraception or gay marriage (or advocates of infant circumcision) of stepping over the line between religion and politics as if it were clearly and uncontroversially drawn. But that distinction is precisely what’s in dispute. The categories of “politics” and “religion” simply don’t mean the same thing in traditions that reject liberal Protestantism’s deep intertwinement with modern philosophy.

Freedom of Worship and Freedom of Exercise, Samuel Goldman (emphasis added).

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.