Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Henri Bergson's Creative Response

Henri Bergson was born in Paris in 1859. His global influence as a philosopher followed the publication of his book Creative Evolution (1907). After that, Western intellectual elites joined local students at his crowded lectures at the College de France. Eventually, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1927) and the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor (the French government’s highest honor) (1930).

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Dividing the 20th Century into Four Parts

Early in his book, The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century (2001), Peter Watson divides the century into four parts, each determined by a change in its shared sense of the future.

1. 1900-1914. In 1900, the dominant sense was one of optimism. Dramatic changes were taking place in society, with new methods of transportation and communication; and in culture, in both the arts and sciences. These changes gave the impression that the future of society and culture would be different and better than in the past. People shared the sense that history was a story in which a growing number of people would actually live better than their parents had.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Apollo Program: A Question of Meaning

Apollo: the program

In his book, The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century, Peter Watson identifies the exploration of space, including the spectacular landing of humans on the moon, as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the 20th century.

The Soviet Union took an early and surprising lead in space adventures. It launched into orbit Sputnik 1 in 1957, followed by the first animal (the dog Laika) in 1957 and the first man (Yuri Gagarin) in 1961.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Universal Benefits of the Great Books

Peter Watson divided his book, The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century (2001), into four parts. In the last, concerning our post-modern times, he included a chapter entitled “Culture Wars.” There he discusses various views of the Great Books of the Western World.

Among these he included views expressed by David Denby. Denby graduated from Columbia University in 1961 before becoming an editor with the New Yorker and a professional film critic. In 1991, he decided to return to Columbia and retake two classes that emphasized Western classics. Denby reflected on his experience in Great Books (1996).

Monday, June 14, 2021

Go, and Sin No More

Jesus Christ calls us each day to join him on the difficult but glorious path of freedom which is based on truth, expressed through love, and leads to eternal life.

In today’s story from the Gospel according to John (8:2-11), it’s early morning. Jesus is sitting in the Temple. People are walking to him to learn the truth.

Sadly, there are false gods abroad: gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption. Each day they bully, bribe, and deceive us to join them on the wide though ignoble road of power which is based on falsehood, expressed through indifference, and ends in death.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: On Being Bought So Cheaply

In his childhood, youth, and early adulthood, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was a devout Communist. Exceeding his peers in enthusiasm, he even dove into the primary sources of his society’s new religion to understand and embody it more thoroughly. Jesus nonetheless gave him a passion for truth which freed him from this idolatry. The powers that be did not allow this to go unpunished. They sentenced him to eight years in the Gulag, four as a mathematician at a labor camp specializing in scientific research.