But perhaps individual virtue-modeling (what we used the call “the character question” in American politics) is not the only question. What if we also ask whether our leaders create an atmosphere that cultivates virtues?
On a typical day, I prepare to teach three different texts for the three courses I’m currently teaching: Shakespeare, Early British Literature, and introductory creative writing. This seems inefficient, don’t you think? What if I could prepare only one reading for all three courses?
Some quick work with online tools surprised me: the Bible is full of dwelling, from the Pentateuch to Revelation—at least in English. It turns out that dwell is one of those rich, Anglo-Saxon words that composts together several related concepts into a fertile loam.
Shakespeare is right to show us that there is no guarantee of reward for choosing integrity and mercy. Over against the example of his sources, Shakespeare eschewed a reparative ending. In Shakespeare’s final scenes, the noble among the younger generation pay a heavy price for the foolishness of their elders.
The red planet and seed pods: an odd juxtaposition. But as I padded quietly through the gallery, it seemed to me that what the two exhibits have in common is the way they, like those two scripture passages, invite us into altered perspective.
Part of my fascination, I suppose, is that we are talking about a face here. The article nicely rehearses the significance of the human face while visually explicating the devastating destruction of Katie’s. What’s compelling here is the idea of coming face-to-face, so to speak, with a worst-case scenario and watching someone survive it, though barely.
What is the value of a thistle? We don’t entirely know. I suppose God does. I suppose the little prickler gives praise to God in its own thistly way, just by being itself in cooperation with other nearby creatures being themselves. Is that enough for us to give it some respect, help it along?
As you spend a few last hours this summer in your Adirondack chair under a shady canopy of leaves—with that feeling of autumn’s imminence causing you to contemplate decline, aging, and the end of civilization—you might consider distracting yourself with some “climate fiction.” Sometimes short-handed to “cli-fi,” climate fiction is a recent modulation of environmental fiction, and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s not all doom and gloom.
But amid all your advice about clothes and food, I notice you’re saying absolutely nothing about government corruption and malpractice, ongoing racial hatred, mass incarceration, resurgent misogyny, torqued-up geopolitical tensions.
But neither Toller’s problems nor religious despair in general are particularly Calvinist, nor do I think that’s what Schrader means to suggest. Schrader has long thought about what it means to capture the holy in art, and a portrait of despair is one stunningly effective way to get there—though not the only way.