The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
8.1 (Winter 2008)
The previous issue of Praesidium (Fall 2007) may be viewed by clicking here.
John R. Harris, Ph.D.
Thomas F. Bertonneau, Ph.D.
Helen R. Andretta, Ph.D.
Michael H. Lythgoe
Lt. Col. USAF (Retd.)
Praesidium 8.1 (WInter 2008)
Dr. Paterson Visits the Library While the Cool People Wiki and Blog Thomas F. Bertonneau
William Carlos Williams foresaw the spiritual poverty of the post-literate age when most cultural prophets were still singing the praises of “progress”.
The Emergence of Media: Humanity’s Endgame Mark Wegierski
The alarm about the cultural consequences of electronic mass media continues to be sounded in discrete realms of experience, with little appreciation of the phenomenon’s vast reach.
A prize-winning Honors thesis, this treatise on a little-explored vein of English Romantic thought has been divided in two; the present half clarifies a subtle connection between evangelical and Lockean views.
Freedom Grows on Trees: A Eudemonist Economics (I) John R. Harris
This first essay in a two-part series argues that the forces now styled “conservative” in the West have divorced abiding human value from gainful employment, leaving true culture unprotected.
Our roving reporter breaks a story on the real reason for high tuition and low test scores: failure to sign the Kyoto Accord!
Converse Experience J. S. Moseby
A story written faintly in the form of a “radio play”, this dialogue examines questions of faith and morality in contemporary living.
It seems not necessarily to be true that “if you live, you learn.” We all know several people of advanced years—too many—who extrapolate nothing of their long their time on earth to an assessment of how they have used that time. Yet I find in my own increasing familiarity with the aches and pains of mounting years a strange conviction growing upon me which is not without solace, nor was it sought in any deliberate chain of reflections. I refer to the awareness of decadence as a part of cycle. The divine Ortega y Gasset welcomely silences a great many wits and wags in his classic book when he observes that every generation’s more senior population has not, in fact, always believed the world to be going to hell in a handbasket. The sensation of decline is not universal: it is not irresistibly projected by the progressively frail upon the world around them. Indeed, I could name a few young people who have confided to me in the soberest tones that they feel the end to be nigh. I recall having that feeling myself at their age, back in the spectacularly (now almost naively) decadent seventies.
In any case, I will repeat that the insight I have in mind prophesizes an upswing, not simply a nosedive into cataclysm. I almost wrote “Ragnarok”… but then, Ragnarok is something like the other side of the contrast. Regeneration will follow degeneration. The meltdown of neighborhoods into honeycombed launching pads for automobiles, the demise of business ethics as venders become faceless links on the Internet, the insulation of young people from real social contact as they chatter into cell phones or pipe in noise through their iPods… the paralysis of film and television within cliché which has rendered caricaturing so common that “adult comedies” are now animated like cartoons, the composition of novels either with a view to selling their movie rights or after the movie has already “sold” the dramatic setting and characters… these and dozens of other vectors are indisputable testimony that some end or other indeed looms. We cannot go on this way and remain ourselves. We must either morph into those caricatures which send us into peals of laughter with their inanity, or else vomit forth the whole toxic brew.
And, of course, we will do both. We will survive in both forms—which is to say that some of us, probably a great many, will choose not to survive as thoughtful, purposeful human beings. Others will be passed over in the rush to the edge, left to scratch out a meager living in unkempt nooks and crannies which will grow increasingly picturesque as “progress” moves on. Imagine, one year from now, the massive shift to digitalized television. A certain number of us will not turn the corner… and then we will face life without TV! But this will be, by default, a life more enriched by silence, reflection, and probably books. The famous “gap” which some politicians aspire to exploit, others to ignore, will send its crack running into places unimaginable to any politico—into the depths of the soul. It is true that, as a result of this crack, we will not hold together as a social and cultural unit. What no politician will admit is that we have already fallen apart in that sense, and what none can conceive of is that this is a good thing. The seed must decay for the new plant to sprout.
Naturally, if our air becomes unbreathable and our water undrinkable, or if the diabolical elite of some oil-fattened society-in-caricature begins to set off nuclear weapons like fireworks (and I do not rule out the possibility that our own elite may play this unenviable role), the nooks and crannies will become as lifeless as the high ground. Nobody will see a new tomorrow with eyes of flesh once the sun explodes. That failing, however—and we should not underestimate the potential for the elite to be degraded into the same inept stupidity as they have fostered in their dully amused, highly engineered masses—somebody will write another book a hundred years from now, and somebody will read it. A new classic will be born.
I prefer to introduce this issue with the very vague comments above and invite the reader to carry his or her response to them through the ensuing pages. As much as we at The Center for Literate Values tend to shake our heads over the contemporary scene, we also, it seems to me, offer a more mature kind hope—and even a more enduring kind of humor—than one finds round about the town. You can whistle your way through the graveyard… or you can pay your respects to the dead, pull some weeds, plant some flowers, and close the gate behind you. ~J. H.