Identity and society

I want to do something different this quarter, a unit on identity and society. Students will choose one book to read from a short list of books, interview a United States resident born outside of the United States, and write (among other things) a profile of that person. Which books, though. The college just approved… Continue reading Identity and society

This year’s assigned book

I assign all Americans but a single book a year, and they must discuss it with their neighbors as part of an effort to reconstitute the local. I don’t think this is too much to ask. (Past assigned works have included Reinhold Niebuhr‘s The Irony of American History, James Baldwin‘s Notes of a Native Son,… Continue reading This year’s assigned book

This year’s reads, Voegelin in particular

I met a few writers this year who seem to understand who I am and encouraged me in the direction I’m heading. Chief among them is the Austrian philosopher Eric Voegelin. Voegelin is considered a conservative political philosopher; in fact, Mark Lilla introduced me to Voegelin through an essay dedicated to him in Lilla’s The… Continue reading This year’s reads, Voegelin in particular

James Baldwin, Karl Popper, & other stuff I’ve read this year

Lists of books read are misleading. For instance, I spent the first half of this year reading Karl Popper every night, and I spent the second half of the year reading James Baldwin every night. This slow going through two authors presents a better idea of my reading this year than the more comprehensive list… Continue reading James Baldwin, Karl Popper, & other stuff I’ve read this year

Marginal

On The Tempest. Baldwin says something very similar to what Langbaum says in one of my post’s epigraphs, but from a broader perspective. Langbaum: “. . . romance deals in marvelous events and solves its problems through metamorphoses and recognition scenes – through, in other words, transformations of perception.” Baldwin wouldn’t disagree, I don’t think,… Continue reading Marginal

The Tempest

Outside it’s cold, and a man sleeps against the garage. I’ve dropped Bethany off at the theater, and I’m disoriented. He could be dead. Then a guy comes from the night as if he were the night coalescing. He has a badge on a lanyard, just like the college kids that come to my door summertime in the suburbs. Except he’s around fifty, around my age, or he says he is, but I don’t believe him at first. He says he remembers the riots here after they shot King. He was five years old then. His dark dreadlocks fall behind him down somewhere near the dark street. They pull at the wrinkles on his forehead and make his eyes big and sweet.

Invincibly impersonal

Public life is impersonal, and that impersonality can be either bad or good. Self-righteousness is impersonal because it treats the other as less than a person. But self-government is impersonal because it transcends personality. Self-government is based on a sacred truth, as the Declaration’s first draft puts it, that all men are created equal. Our essential equality, deeper than personality, is the basis for celebrating our diverse personalities and cultures – even for celebrating, ultimately, our common failings.