Just shoot me

We are ruled by a bipartisan bunch of buffoons.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

(Macbeth, Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5)

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

50th Reunion

I spent the weekend at my 50th high school reunion.

I’m at (something of) a loss for words to describe it, but that may be because I don’t want to do kiss-and-tell, and I don’t want to generalize (at least publicly) about the 26 or more precious individuals who came (out of a class of about 60, with at least 6 having died). But I can still reflect on it for an audience only one of whom, so far as I know, was there over the weekend.

There’s an unusual reason why my reunions are such a draw for me, though they’re at a campus some three hours away: for about 40% of us, including me, it was a boarding school. And I entered at age 14. It’s a major life landmark to get that much “distance” (geographically and emotionally) from parents at that age especially. Maybe college means that to you, but it’s probably less intense because you were older.

The 50th reunion, I think, is a draw because we’re all feeling our mortality. Where in the heck did 50 years go? How can 10% of our classmates be gone already? Does anyone know how Jane died? Cal? Randy? (We knew what took Rich, Gwen and Carol.) Most of us looked pretty healthy, but one of the really rowdy and athletic young men is crippled (his own word) as a result of accidents the bade well to kill him. But he’s glad to still be here. And we were glad he made it, too; his undiagnosed ADD made him pretty unforgettable.

Ten years ago, one of our classmates was awarded alumnus of the year and I couldn’t remember him! There’s a good reason for that: he was there only 5 months, second semester senior year, and had to study constantly to compensate for his prior educational deficits. He didn’t even have time to run track, where he would have excelled.

In the world of evangelicalism, he’s our most famous classmate, but I didn’t know that, either, as I had left evangelicalism, at least equivocally, about the time he joined the little evangelical charity he turned into a huge evangelical charity. He’s the kind of guy of whom evangelicals might say “You know him?! Too bad the answer would need to be “sort of.”

The weekend brought testimonies of how the school changed us, including that former alum of the year. But the world has changed, too, and we’re in the middle of a continuing revolution in how devout Christians will be allowed to live in the culture. So Saturday night, some of us were huddled earnestly discussing how our grandchildren or great-grandchildren are going to survive the unfolding social revolution as Christians.

One of us, now retired from teaching, said “Classical education. Then Hillsdale, or St. Johns, or Thomas More.” I tend to agree, but would generalize: some place that has had the foresight, integrity, and private support to shun government money, and maybe even to scorn the accreditation martinets.” I could go on a little longer, too. Read The Benedict Option, and Shop Class as Soulcraft, and some of the delightful books of Joel Salatin, even — maybe this (which I’ve read) or this (which I haven’t). [UPDATE: Or anything by Wendell Berry, of course.]

I wish we’d had time to probe “why classical education” at greater depth. But I’m going to connect that to something a school leader said in my hearing Saturday morning. He is adamant about the name “Academy:”

“High school” is a made up category, born of the industrial revolution. And it’s going away.

I appreciate the vision that tacitly says “our mission is too distinctive to do exactly what other high schools are doing at the moment but with a little Jesus thrown in. The current ‘high school’ model isn’t even very healthy.” Classical education gives the tools for being a good person in any kind of society.

My alma mater is not a classical school, then or now, but with leadership like that, it has, I think, the integrity to make costly refusals of the unacceptable demands that I’m all but certain will be coming. The open question is whether the prosperous parents (who probably have big influence in the school’s leadership) will understand why the Academy cannot offer even one pinch of incense on the altar of Leviathan.

At a closing Alumni Chapel Sunday the Alumni Choir sang something that I’d never heard before:

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

CHORUS:
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

REPEAT CHORUS

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

(Find us Faithful, by Steve Green)

As we rehearsed it, I thought “This is kind of a thin gruel, middle-class-American version of why my Church has icons. ‘Those who’ve gone before us’ are the great cloud of witnesses of Hebrews 11. They’re not just stories. They had faces and bodies and can be pictured. They’re worshipping with us as we worship. They’re cheering us on. I appreciate the visible reminder.”

And many of them suffered, and entered into glory, for refusing to offer that pinch of incense.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think anything that bad awaits us in the U.S. during even my grandchildren’s lives. But we’ve gotten soft. It might not need to be threat of death to trigger apostasy. It seems to me that it’s very, very likely to reduce us from middle class to a kind of dhimmitude, but under secularism, not (yet) Islam.

I remember nothing about Fox’s Book of Martyrs, the only martyrology the Academy knew back in my day, except the feeling “those dirty, murderous Catholics!” I knew nothing of the pre-Protestant heroes of the faith, Catholic and Orthodox, whose martyrologies leave one not hating their killers, but marveling at their lives and courage and how they won glory.

I’ll try to be fair to evangelicalism at its best, which I caught many glimpses of this weekend, but they need to get to know the earlier martyrs. In fact, they need to get deeper into history generally; the Church did not disappear, or become contemptible, with Constantine and until Luther.

Ultimately, they need to get into the ark that is the Orthodox Church, but the troubles may be coming sooner than that’s plausible. May God find my old friends faithful anyway.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

 

Trigger-warned

“Natural disasters and their man-made counterparts (mass shootings, terrorist attacks) pose an obvious challenge for those living the Me-Driven Life. These events are frustrating, and inconvenient, because they tend to cause those people to think about their own problems: their injuries, the loss of loved ones, their hunger, thirst, discomfort, life-threatening cholera, what have you.

This is a common character flaw, and it is harmful because it distracts them from their more pressing obligation to think about you ….”

(Dana Milbank, A Narcissist’s Guide to Helping Others Understand It Is All About You)

President Trump is the author of many of the most successful business books of all time, from The Art of the Deal to … um … those other ones. And with his presidency spooling out before us like an endless rainbow of winning, there’s much that leaders of any organization, company, or family can learn about how to make their enterprise function like the “fine-tuned machine” that is the Trump administration.

Perhaps someday Trump will sit down to write a book detailing his leadership secrets, offering up another trove of penetrating insight and inspiring prose. Until then, here are some tips we can glean from watching Trump’s unrivaled performance as president.

1. Force your underlings to praise you in public. This will make them feel like honored parts of the team! It’s a technique Trump often employs, whether it’s a Cabinet meeting or a get-together with a group of religious leaders. He’ll call on them one at a time, knowing that they’ll all feel compelled to give him the hosannas he’s looking for …

(Paul Waldman, Leadership tips from Donald J. Trump)

Why? Why can’t just one religious leader, of all people, have the cojones to say “It’s always an honor to be invited to meet with the President of our nation” and leave it at that?

UPDATE:

The thing I got most wrong is that I did not anticipate the sheer chaos and dysfunction and slovenliness of the Trump operation. I didn’t sufficiently anticipate how distracted Trump could be by things that are not essential. My model was that he was greedy first and authoritarian second. What I did not see was that he was needy first, greedy second, and authoritarian third. We’d be in a lot worse shape if he were a more meticulous, serious-minded person.

(David Frum, The Atlantic, October 2017)

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Short shorts

A judge after my own heart tells SCOTUS it’s wrong and nonsensical, but then follows the &!!(%##! precedent.

 * * *

I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.

(Leah Libresco, I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 5

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.