Tuesday, 12/12/17

  1. The flesh became words …
  2. … but the math became music.
  3. Public intellectuals
  4. Law of Merited Impossibility update


The word became flesh—and then through theologians it became words again.

— Karl Barth


The Rochester school districts when I was a boy gave us free instrumental lessons and so I was able to try tuba (Junior High band!), violin, and piano … We also had vocal lessons.

God bless Rochester public and private schools. I did not know how blessed I was, because sadly when cuts came, and cuts always come, the arts go first and the administrators last. My life suggests that firing administrators and hiring music teachers would be good for students and education …

Music incarnates mathematics. Music takes the ideal and transforms the heavenly language into the earthly. Music stirs our passions, while we use our hands and our minds to produce beauty. Few disciplines bring head, heart, and hands together like music. Is it any wonder we are commanded to worship God with music?

A simple instrument like the recorder endured in my life, because I could take out some music at the Holidays and play. Joy to the world, if not to the house! When I have been sad, making music that fit my “feels” was helpful. When my (really) a musician wife plays her flute with me, the bond is real. We are making beauty together.

Do all you can to find a school that offers musical lessons. If you are involved in a Christian school, make music a higher priority than any other “extra.” Make it central. I cannot play soccer anymore (though I loved it!), but the recorder is still with me.

If you are at a college or university, cut sports before you cut music.

Citizens should demand that the football team at a high school support the band! Vote for the music budget: nothing is better for social, mental, and physical health.

If you are a student, play any instrument, even a simple one like the recorder. When I was a boy, the Sound of Music family, the Von Trapp’s, advocated the recorder and so we learned it in our school. If you cannnot sing, sing. Do the best you can. Find a community or church choir that will you (quietly) do your clumsy thing. Make music.

(John Mark Reynolds)


John Mark Reynolds again:

My old party has turned knowing nothing into a virtue, yet the situation is no better elsewhere.

I am a political conservative …

When I was a boy, the spokesman for conservative ideas was Bill Buckley. He was smart, but we knew he was vocalizing ideas from deeper, though less telegenic leaders. He simplified things for us, but if we cared his magazine National Review always showed its work. We could look up the sources, the real thinkers, and the research that undergirded the argument.

Buckley was a bright popularizer: a public intellectual, not an intellectual himself.

God help us, but in today’s movement Mr. Buckley would be too highbrow. What used to be our popularizers of hard ideas, became our intellectuals. After all, ideas are hard and do not get clicks. Better to go prophetic mode and create click bait headlines, even if that means saying things that are false.

This is not just a problem on the right. The left, secular or religious, now features people with no relevant academic credentials in the area in which they are opining and who have not read any of the relevant literature. The popularizers are now cut off from the idea people….

Point taken, but that’s not really the end of it.

The idea people and popularizers all need to be taken with a grain of salt especially (a) if their ideas contradict long-enduring traditions (i.e., those proven to be antifragile; yes, ironically, Nassim Taleb himself hasn’t yet proven antifragile) and (b) if the idea person is in an ivory tower or otherwise has no “skin in the game.” See above.

“Grain of salt” does not mean derision and complete disregard, but it does suggest not betting anything you can’t afford to lose. “Novel conservative ideas” (isn’t that an oxymoron?) are as dubious as “novel progressive ideas” (sorry for the redundancy).

Those grains of salt should also be applied to bloggers and pundits, not just academics.

So, for instance, John Mark Reynolds has plenty of “skin in the game” and is swimming in deep and ancient streams when he talks about classical education, but on politics and media, he’s just a smart guy on the stool next to you at the bar—a guy who wrote more than I’ve quoted:

Dinesh D’Souza paved the way for this career on the right. He had the right backstory, a good testimony, and a winsome speaking manner: not knowing anything did not matter. As he moved into Christian Apologetics, it became obvious he had not done the work needed, but if his arguments were shoddy, his conclusions were what we wanted to hear. Instead of demanding: “Get thee to a grad school or at least read more with some mentoring.” We let him go.

It has ended badly.

God can use an ass, of course, but nobody should aspire to be one ….

One more thing: If you haven’t saved enough for retirement, you should shift all your investment to Bitcoin since we know it can only skyrocket in value. Maybe even mortgage your home. I have no skin in that game, but really now, how could anything go wrong?


I am grateful to Ross Douthat for putting the Law of Merited Impossibility (“It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it”) into the national conversation. He’s exactly right, of course. You still hear and read liberals saying that Christian claims of oppression are nonsense. They aren’t nonsense to Jack Phillips and Baronnelle Stutzman. They aren’t nonsense to the Little Sisters of the Poor. They aren’t nonsense to Grove City College. And on and on.

(Rod Dreher)

“When I find I’m wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?” Attributed to John Maynard Keynes. Somehow, that seemed apt.

* * * * *

We must now have the courage to breathe moral and spiritual motivation into everything.

— Vaclav Havel