Mon, 13 October 2008
This issue of Audition features commentary by MARS HILL AUDIO host Ken Myers about recent on-line essays by political theorist Patrick Deneen. The four essays discussed were posted on Deneen's blog, What I Saw in America, and they each offered perspective on our current economic crisis gleaned from classical political philosophy. The essays were titled: "Abstraction," "Political Philosophy in the Details," "Whack a Mole," and "Democracy in America." Also referenced in Myers's comments is the 1976 book by sociologist Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Patrick Deneen, associate professor of government at Georgetown University, was also a guest on Volume 91 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal; a portion of that interview may be heard here. In this interview, Deneen and Myers discuss the thought of Wendell Berry, whom Deneen describes as a "Kentucky Aristotelian."
Ken Myers also comments on an article from the May 2008 issue of Harper's by Wendell Berry. Berry's article, "Faustian Economics: Hell Hath No Limits," identifies the destructive (yet perennially attractive) Gnostic tendency to assume that limits are bad and always in need of breaking, a tendency implicated in many forms of cultural disorder.
Finally, Myers previews a new audiobook published by MARS HILL AUDIO, called The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education, by Norman Klassen and Jens Zimmermann.
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Tue, 7 October 2008
On his blog, Patrick Deneen (author of the 2005 book Democratic Faith) identifies himself as a political theorist. "Theory" comes from a Greek verb meaning "to see." The English word "theater," denoting a place where scenes from human life are enacted to be seen (and to promote greater vision about life), comes from the same root. As Deneen himself explained in a 2002 essay on the nature of patriotism, the word "theory" came over time to designate a particular kind of seeing in the Greek world. "Certain designated city officials—theoroi—were charged with the task of visiting other cities, to 'see' events such as religious or theatrical or athletic festivals, and to return to their home city, where they would then give an account of what they had seen. To 'theorize' was to take part in a sacred journey, an encounter with the 'other' in which the theorist would attempt to comprehend, assess, compare, and then, in [the] idiom of his own city, explain what had been seen to his fellow citizens." Theorists in the best tradition are people who enable us to become "other-wise," encouraging us to realize that the way we live life isn't the only way it could be lived, and may not be the best way we could live.
In the past few weeks, Deneen's posts have placed the Wall Street meltdown in a larger cultural perspective that is absent from most media diagnoses and from the comments of politicians, whose handlers and PR experts forbid them from ever saying anything critical of the dominant trends of our cultural moment. . . .
Read more from Ken Myers about Patrick Deneen's analysis on the MARS HILL AUDIO website. Subscribers to the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal will have heard our interview with Patrick Deneen on volume 91. If you missed that interview, you may hear a portion of it here.
Category:Further reading -- posted at: 5:31pm EDT
Thu, 25 September 2008
Almost every year, thoughtful books are published documenting the various crises of higher education. The titles alone express a mood of dismay: Excellence without a Soul; Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind; Crisis in the Academy; Killing the Spirit: Higher Education in America; and (most pessimistically) The University in Ruins. Surveying such books, one soon realizes that the problems besetting higher education are often instances of larger problems in the society at large. The University has lost its way because modern Western culture has lost its way. In their more optimistic book The Passionate Intellect, Norman Klassen and Jens Zimmermann offer a longer and deeper perspective in identifying what's wrong. Their book—subtitled Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education—traces the history of higher education from its medieval roots to the present, focusing on how educational agendas have been assembled in light of shifting understandings of the nature of knowledge and the nature of human well-being. They demonstrate that some form of humanism has always been central to the purposes of higher education, and insist that the recovery of a rich, Christocentric Christian humanism is the only way for the University to recover a coherent purpose. MARS HILL AUDIO has just released an audio version of this important book, available on CD or as an MP3 download. Look here for more information.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 4:55pm EDT
Sat, 9 August 2008
With the death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in early August, the modern world lost one of its most trenchant prophets. In many eulogies and obituaries, Solzheitsyn was identified mainly (or exclusively) as a fierce foe of the Soviet Communist system. Of course, he was that: the publication of the first volume of his massive work, The Gulag Archipelego—documenting the horrors of the Soviet labor camps—led to his expulsion from his homeland in 1974 and to the West's recognition of the suffering of many Soviet citizens. But there was something more important in his writing: a positive, hopeful vision that was often overlooked by readers too preoccupied with politics. It was a vision rooted in a Christian view of human nature and purpose.
MARS HILL AUDIO has assembled a special Anthology of interviews to explore The Christian Humanism of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Guests include Edward E. Ericson, Jr., coeditor of The Solzhenitsyn Reader (2006) and The Soul and Barbed Wire (2008); David Aikman, for years a senior correspondent for TIME magazine; and James Pontuso, author of Solzhenitsyn’s Political Thought (1990). Host Ken Myers discusses with them the themes in Solzhenitsyn’s books and speeches, including his Nobel Prize speech and his controversial commencement address at Harvard in 1978.
The Anthology is available on CD ($7) or as an MP3 download ($5). Also of interest is the MARS HILL AUDIO Reprint called One Word of Truth: A Portrait of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, written and read by David Aikman, who in 1989 was granted the first—and, for many years, only—major interview given by Solzhenitsyn to an American news organization. Aikman's engaging and lively account portrays an amazing man who devoted his life to the battle for truth. One Word of Truth also includes introductory remarks by cultural critic Os Guinness and is available as an MP3 download ($2).
Wed, 16 July 2008
The first of five books by Eugene Peterson detailing his vision of "spiritual theology" was published in 2005; its title (borrowed from Gerard Manley Hopkins) was Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. The fourth book of that series, Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers, will be published this Fall by Eerdmans. In anticipation of that book, MARS HILL AUDIO has released a Conversation with Eugene Peterson about his vision for spiritual theology. In Dancing Lessons: Eugene Peterson on Theology and the Rhythms of Life, the pastor/theologian talks with Ken Myers about the challenges of remaining faithful in a culture that disorders our lives in countless ways, stressing the theme of the "livability" of the Bible's message. "None of it is esoteric. None of it is a specialized, compartmentalized thing. It's all lived." Just as the redemptive work of God is lived out in the grand story of Scripture, so our lives are stories about God's work. "One of the wonderful things about being a pastor is that your whole work takes place in a 'storied' context. . . . Nothing is mere doctrine. . . . It's all embedded in this narrative way of living."
Hovering around the themes of God's work in creation, in history, and community (the organizing ideas of Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places), Peterson discusses the necessity of taking time in worship; the benefits and liabilities of small groups; the delightful gifts of language; and the centrality of "fear of the Lord" in describing our response to God's initiative in salvation.
This Conversation is available on CD (for $7 plus shipping) or as an MP3 download (for $5). Look here for further information.
Category:MHA MP3 -- posted at: 4:48pm EDT
Sat, 31 May 2008
This issue of Audition features an interview with Japanese-American painter Makoto Fujimura. A reproduction of one of Fujimura's distinctive paintings is displayed to the right.
The following biographical material is from the artist's website:
"Makoto Fujimura was born in 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts. Educated bi-culturally between the US and Japan, Fujimura graduated from Bucknell University in 1983, and received an M.F.A. from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music with a Japanese Governmental Scholarship in 1989. His thesis painting was purchased by the university and he was invited to study in the Japanese Painting Doctorate program, a first for an outsider to this prestigious traditional program.
"It was during the six and a half years of studying in Japan that Fujimura began to assimilate the combinations of abstract expressionism explored in the US with the traditional Japanese art of Nihonga. Upon his return to the US, he began to exhibit his paintings in New York City, while continuing to show in Tokyo, and was honored in 1992 as the youngest artist ever to have had a piece acquired by Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo."In this Audition interview, Fujimura talks about the intertwining of his life, his painting, and his faith. Fujimura is also a guest on volume 90 of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal, an interview in which he talks about the importance of reading as a way of cultivating engagement with the world.
Also featured on this podcast is Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia discusses the NEA Report To Read or Not To Read, which was released last year and which is the subject of in-depth discussion on the latest issue of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal.