Happened across this brilliant article arguing for more tradition and less relevance in education.
Here is one particularly excellent section:
The real objection to relevance is that it is an obstacle to self-discovery. Some sixty years ago I was introduced to classical music by teachers who did not waste time criticizing my adolescent taste and who made no concessions to my age or temperament. They knew only that they had received a legacy and with it a duty to pass it on. If they did not do so the legacy would die. They discovered in me a soul that could make this legacy its own. That was enough for them. They did not ask themselves whether the classical repertoire was relevant to the interests that I then happened to have, any more than mathematicians ask whether the theorems that they teach will help their students with their accounting problems. Their assumption was that, since the musical knowledge that they wished to impart was unquestionably valuable, it could only benefit me to receive it. But I could not understand the benefit prior to receiving it. To consult my desires in the matter would have been precisely to ignore the crucial fact, which was that, until introduced to classical music, I would not know whether it was to be a part of my life.
The main strength of this book is that it is beautifully written. One really feels like he is fishing or flying with the protagonist.
The weaknesses are substantial. The plot moves along very slowly. If you are glad to enjoy beautiful prose without much action, this book is for you. If you like apocalypse and action, check out Lucifer’s Hammer.
It is difficult to envision a post-apocalyptic setting like this without a person–especially a literature man like our protagonist–reflecting rather deeply on the question of God and the ultimate (or primordial) nature of humanity. But aside from a brief narrative about meeting a fundamentalist, anti-Semitic Christian on a ski lift, there is almost nothing. I relished the brief reflections on Ecclesiastes in Earth Abides, not to say anything of brilliant, devastating theological tome A Canticle for Leibowitz. Heller was capable of more.
While the book does end with a slight hint of hope, what we are waiting for is new life from his new Eve. Why does the author not provide this? Is he so negative about the nature of humanity? Is it his way of promulgating the late modern narrative that one can be happy while denying their biological drive to procreate? The same late modernity that led to the near-eradication of humanity, I would note.
The book was worthy of my time. It represented to me a slow induction into the uncertainty and precariousness of existence in Heller’s wasteland. The loneliness is palpable. The depravity of Heller’s demonic humanity is painful. He reveals to us the paradox of the human state: our profound depravity and our ability to venture forth in humble heroics. But he fails to even humbly suggest an explanation.
It was quite a new experience for me, as an Anglican Christian, to be interviewed by a thoughtful and inquisitive leader from the LDS (Mormon) Church about my research in religious conversion from Islam to Christianity.
I was very pleased to write a guest post for Chad Bird’s blog. Previously I published a guest post at Gladys Ganiel’s blog, and I’m glad to follow that up with this one.
Chad asked me about conversion from Islam to Christianity. What did I think was at the core of the movements we are seeing today?
Here is the intro:
The first time I heard the Breeders was during an episode of Beavis and Butthead, that pinnacle of American civilization and culture. It was the video for their song Cannonball. I loved the austere, lo-fi, sparse production. I loved Kim Deal’s raspy but powerful voice. And, especially, the bass line implanted itself deep in my brain. While I don’t remember the insightful sociological analysis presented by Beavis and Butthead anymore, a love for the Breeders has stuck with me, and over the years as they have come out with new albums I have picked them up (or more recently, downloaded them). Cannonball is from their 1993 album, Last Splash. Their next full-length album was Title TK (2002), followed up by the 2008’s Mountain Battles.
The title track of Mountain Battles is about dealing with an aging parent’s decline in vitality and mental health. But the peppiest track on the album is the irresistible It’s the Love.
And as I thought about this blog post and years of researching converts from Islam to Christianity, the name of the song just wouldn’t leave my brain. Why? Because, in a nutshell, what is the principal draw of Christianity to Muslims? It’s the love. But let me tell you how I learned this.
I read this during a day of traveling and airport layovers. For a travel novella where you are jumping in and out of reading, it was suitable and I enjoyed it.
This is a dystopic, reality-challenging novella. I suspect that it was originally published as a series of short stories, as it certainly reads that way. But that is not a weakness. If you are looking for character development, don’t look here. Also, if you looking for a novella that finally resolves, as in the great 1998 film ‘Dark City‘, don’t look here.
What is reality? Who are we? Could some version of solipsism obtain? These are the questions that Laumer addresses in this book. The setting is not good enough for a full-length novel. But Laumer, a skilled and experienced author, understood that. And so, he gave us this brief novella.
And here is the third and final interview where Al Fadi, a Christian from Saudi Arabia, interviews me on various topics. These include Christians in the Holy Land, that time I had an audience with the Pope, and yes, the controversial Insider Movements. Al Fadi is founder and president of CIRA International.
I have a PhD in divinity, have taught and published on the Roman and Ottoman Empires, and have conducted anthropological research throughout four continents. This book challenged me in all of these areas.
Let me first say that the book is not dated. There is a certain timelessness to it that the greatest books have–I think of The Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Flies. Indeed, I kept on going back to meta-metaphor of the hammer in Earth Abides in relation to Piggy’s glasses in Lord of the Flies.
But this book touched me on a deeper level: I am like Ish. I am the kind of person who is always asking. Or as one former girlfriend asked me a long time ago: don’t you ever stop thinking? Like Ish, I cannot.
This book is set apart from other ‘end of the world’ books, like Lucifer’s Hammer or The Stand, in that it extends decades beyond the apocalypse, which in this book is a plague which eliminates very close to 100% of humanity. While those other books focus on the preservation of technology, this book gets to the primordial question: is civilization better than primitivism? Does reason, and so science, and so applied science–technology–make life better? What is progress? Is it, in fact, good?
Enjoy the audio book version I listened to. It is narrated by Jonathan Davis and he does this masterfully. The language is refreshingly clean, so let your children listen too while you’re on a trek from, say, San Antonio (where I live) to Denver (where my dad lives).
I will, in closing, note that the main character’s name is Isherwood, but he is always called ‘Ish’. It is a Hebrew word. It means ‘man’.