Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Good luck moving up...

Moving day has arrived! As much as I have loved blogger over the years, I have decided to move my site to Wordpress for a variety of complex, not particularly interesting reasons. From now on, for new Awesomeness, please visit

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Living in Conversation

I have been trying to teach my students about the art of good conversation. They have been given the monstrous task of writing a research paper in four weeks (a Herculean labor for ninth graders, to be sure, but unrealistic expectations are my hallmark as a teacher). In the midst of their panic I have encouraged them to take time to speak with their friends about things that matter (in this case the content of their papers).

Curiosity and wonder are shimmering, fleeting wonders, not often sought or grabbed hold of. Conversation, I posit, is key to laying hold, because in it we (hopefully) see others possessing those same things. Mimesis drives our lives; we learn to love a thing by witnessing others love it.

How dull life would be if it consisted only of conversations about trivial topics! The memories I treasure most are of nights and days spent in deep, searching dialogue with others. There are the great numberless mass of conversations with Josh in high school. A conversation with Lee that I still think of as THE conversation. Late college nights heavy spent with thought with Andrew, Matt, and many others. Post class downtime with dear Stephen Isley. And of course many, many conversations with Leslie.

I love to converse because I love the thrill of stumbling across dusty old ideas which seem terribly new, of striking my foot against brilliant new ideas which invigorate my whole body. (I experience this sensation twenty times a minute when I talk to Dr. Gardner).

Yet to a large extent we as a people (and yes, me personally) have lost our capacity for true conversation. Our world has been reduced to soundbites and punchlines. Our conversations are no longer thoughtful symposia centered on real topics; they are instead carefully plotted battles with each combatant seeking to strike the decisive blow, to radically alter course through some devastating quip.

We teach our children history this way. They learn that events happened at such and such a place and time. Protestant Reformation? Martin Luther, 1517, 95 Theses. Check! Case closed. Perhaps a hasty mention of indulgences, but no indication that Luther was in conversation with those who came before, and certainly no invitation to engage with him in that dialogue. Over time I have come to appreciate the name TU's Philosophy Department gives to its introductory courses: The Great Conversation. Simple, yet fraught with meaning. The history of ideas essentially consists of one long conversation, and each voice adds fresh perspective. I do not mean to imply that truth as such does not exist, merely that arriving at that point is a journey (more on that in another post). That we, that I am invited to join in this conversation seems a grand, ridiculous miracle. I am no Aristotle, no Augustine or Aquinas, no Heidegger, Hegel, or Hume. Yet I too may raise my voice, by virtue of the fact that I am a man. Now that's something to talk about.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Because It Must Be Said

Ponder this.