Quotable Literary Quote: Speechless by Michael Knowles

I am composing a review of the book I recently finished. Writing is slow going these days, but I plan to post it by Wednesday. In the meantime, I have already moved on to another book, and I wanted to share a quote from it because I love sharing tidbits of what I am reading. But y’all already know that about me.

My current read is Speechless: Controlling Words, Controlling Minds, by Michael Knowles. It’s a scholarly book with a conversational tone; in my estimation, the best kind of nonfiction. On page 73, he notes:

Leftist academics contrived the intellectual framework for political correctness in the 1920s and ’30s. Novelists around the world prophesied the political effects of PC in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Student radicals, armed with the writings of Mao and Marcuse, took up the cause in the 1960s. And in the 1970s, feminists helped political correctness break into mainstream public discourse.

“A man cannot be politically correct and a chauvinist too,” averred the feminist activist Toni Cade in her 1970 anthology, The Black Woman.

Feminists sought to overthrow a culture they decried as patriarchal by making language fickle, which itself required a fundamental restructuring of the political order.

For the record, this is not a book about feminism. It’s a book about the trajectory of language -and the political result- in the 20th and 21st centuries using thorough research and rigorous scholarship. In lieu of a formal review, I expect to give this book the same treatment I gave to Thomas Sowell’s, A Man of Letters. Insightful quotes seem far more impactful than my personal opinions of the writing within certain books.

Hope you’re having a great Monday.

Friday Faves: Funny but True

I’m not even sure how I ran across this woman, but her satirical videos of the 21st century church offer food for thought. I am feel certain that the first one is an accurate portrayal of what most of us look like to believers from parts of the world where Christians suffer heavy persecution, and even the threat of death.

The second is different and more funny, but equally tinged with truth.

“We’re called to love, not judge. You’re not a ‘mature’ Christian!”

LOL. That’s a judgement. Lastly, but certainly not least, is the deconstruction of what passes for a women’s Bible study in so many churches and church groups:

Have a great weekend!

Word Nerd Wednesday: Panglossian

I had another word on tap for today. It was a strange one, but my mood has shifted from zaniness to something else. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s not zaniness.

In our house we’ve talked a lot about impending doom. Culturally, politically, and economically, our country cannot seem to make it to what I refer to as “peak absurdity”; namely, that moment when things cannot get any crazier and people begin to revolt against the madness and begin the work of bringing sanity back to our society.

It just isn’t happening, and more than that, no small percentage of Americans seem to be happily jumping on the train to Crazyville. We Americans, writ large I mean, seem to have a stunning lack of imagination, and combined with our historical ignorance, become panglossian.

Panglossian: marked by the view that all is for the best in this best of possible worlds : excessively optimistic. Merriam-Webster

For those unaware, the word panglossian is drawn from Dr. Pangloss, a character in Candide, the satirical book written by Voltaire, a French philosopher of the Enlightenment period.

Pangloss is Candide’s tutor, whose philosophical perspective, “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds”, never wavers despite all evidence to the contrary. Evil, mayhem, chaos and disease encroach further and further into his own country, society, and personal life. No matter; Pangloss insists that it is all ultimately for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

I often feel as if our country, or at least large swaths of it, are trapped in a maze of Panglossian delusion. Faith in the institutions which are so obviously corrupt persists; at least enough that we are all at risk of living in a totalitarian state.

Our churches have neglected all sense of commitment and conviction to hard truths. Our schools operate as little more than basic training camps for the revolution, and we persist in believing that things can only go up from here.

Panglossian.

More Commentary on the State of American Education

I wish I could take credit for this, but I ripped it from Instagram. It was on the account of @thekangminlee:

“Take your vaccine so mine works better”

This apparently makes sense to 50% of Americans. Leaving aside for the moment that this particular shot would be the first vaccine that ever only works if everyone takes it. Let’s follow this line of thought into other areas of life:

“Take your vitamins so mine work better.”

“You have to exercise to make sure I lose more weight.”

“Wear sunscreen so I’m protected against UV radiation.”

“Stop eating fast food so I won’t gain weight.”

“You shower, so my hair won’t be greasy.”

This is clearly ridiculous and most people would think the person uttering such nonsense is pretty dumb. Apparently, “Take the vaccine so mine works better” does not reveal ignorance, but compassion.

It does, however, speak to the sorry state of American education, and not just recently. This reveals something about the way education has been sliding down hill for at least the past 50 years, if not longer.

Short Story: How Much Land Does a Man Need?

How Much Land Does a Man Need, a short story by Leo Tolstoy, written in1886. You can read it here, for free.

All of our children read this recently, and being somewhat out of the loop, I took a half hour today to read it. I do not regret it. First of all, it’s Tolstoy, which doesn’t necessarily guarantee satisfaction, but it definitely guarantees food for thought. The story is less than 20 pages long, which costs very little of your time. Consequently, I will offer a teaser, but no quotes, leaving you to decide for yourself if you wish to invest the half hour of your life.

Pakhom is peasant man, enjoying a happy and healthy life. One day, he overhears his wife debating with her wealthy sister the advantages and disadvantages of country life versus urbane life. He says to himself, “If only I had more land, I wouldn’t fear the Devil himself.” He has no idea that the Devil is sitting behind the stove, eavesdropping on him as he muses to himself aloud, and things begin to get quite interesting.

We read a hard copy pamphlet of this story which was prefaced by an 8-page foreword by Os Guinness. I decided to read the story before reading the foreward, so as not to be “tainted” by someone else’s analysis of this beloved morality tale. I will however, share a snippet from Guinness’ foreword:

Throughout history, the most universally acknowledged problem with money is that its pursuit is insatiable. As we seek money and possessions, observers note, the pursuit grows into a never-satisfied desire that fuels avarice- described by the Bible as a vain “chasing after the wind,” by Buddhists as “craving,” and by moderns as an “addiction.” The very Hebrew word for money (kesef) comes from a verb meaning “to desire” or “languish after something.” This emphasis is important because avarice is often confused with an Ebeneezer Scrooge- like hoarding. Traditionally, however, it has been better described as a form of spiritual dropsy or an incurable thirst that can never be slaked. The insatiability touches two areas: getting what we do not have and clutching on to what we do.

If you have a spare 30 minutes of reading time and you haven’t read this one (or haven’t read it in a very long time), give it a read. It’ll make you think.

Word Nerd Wednesday: Progressivism

This post is slightly different from my regular Word Nerd Wednesday installments. Rather than offer up a dictionary definition of the world progressivism, I’m going to tell you a story.

Yesterday, one of my history students asked me to explain the meaning of progressivism. Because we had a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time to cover it, I decided to tell her the hypothetical story that I am about to tell you.

Imagine, Katie”, I told her, “that your great grandmother bequeathes you a two-story 1920s era home with French country decor. Inside the home you found a wide variety of beautiful things. There is gorgeous wood molding, elegant poster beds, and Tiffany lamps. The house is lovely. However in the den is a strange nod to a 1970s style decor that you hate. Overall, you’re really not a fan of the house. Even with all of its acknowledged charm, you have a strong preference for modern architecture and decor. You’ve decided that you’ll probably nevrer live in the house.”

“Having mostly found it useless to you at this stage of your life, you decide to get rid of it. To accomplish this as soon as possible, you go and grab a can of gas, and pour gas on as much of the walls and furniture as you can manage, and toss a match on the whole shabang as you walk out the front door. In your haste to unload the old house and find a new one, you fail to consider the valuable treasures from your grandmother you are leaving behind. Gone is the ugly 70s den and the drafty attic, but also gone are the beautiful Tiffany lamps, highly artistic wood moldings, and pretty poster beds. It’s all reduced to ash, despite the fact that you’re not quite sure exactly what it is you’re looking forward to in your next house. Your entire focus is directed towards leaving the known behind coupled with the unquestioned belief that the next house you find will necessarily be better, simply because it is newer.

That, Katie, is progressivism in a nutshell.

I really wish you could have seen the look on the faces of these teenagers. Some were shocked, and others were clearly processing what I said.

Here;s to hoping they never forget it.

On Mother Tongues and Functional Community

This morning, I contemplated the meanings and usage of language. What is language? What are its purposes, and how do we use it most effectively? The first order of business is to define language. One of the things that any cohesive unit needs to function is a common definition of terms. Without that, things fall apart. But we’ll explore that more in a minute. Merriam-Webster defines language as follows:

“The words, pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community.”

Communities, as well as their unique ways of communicating, come in various iterations. A community, for purposes of this exercise, can be as small as a family or as large as a nation. After a brief, humorous exchange with my husband this morning, I had occasion to consider this concept more in-depth. As I was recounting it to someone else, I was instantly aware that to an outsider, my funny story could sound pretty offensive. Our family’s mother tongue, however, is often heavy with sarcastic dialect.

Consider the current state of affairs in what is left of the United States. One of the major culprits in the continuing breakdown of our national unity is the loss of understanding surrounding language. This is true of big idea words such as “justice”, “equality”, and “discrimination”, but it’s even true of rudimentary words such as “woman”, “man”, “mother” and breast”.

Without a common language, values, and understanding of reality, there is no way my children can ever experience any sense of the America that existed when I was a child a few decades ago.

And that is too bad.

Love Quotes from Classic Literature

Consider this a mood post. It is mostly inspired by my noticing that the framed quote on the wall over our king-sized bed was hanging crookedly:

As I reached up to straighten the frame, it occurred to me that this quote, a statement and theme of a life together, came from a children’s book by A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh. I began to do a running list in my head of the literature quotes that I find not only romantic, but a reflection of love as it ripens over time. I will now share them with you.

One of my very favorites is by my favorite Jane Austen hero, Mr. Knightley from Austen’s 1815 novel, Emma :

If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.

From Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights:

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.

Another from A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh:

If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.

When I first read A Farewell to Arms in my late teens (or maybe early twenty-somethings), I really loved it. In retrospect, I have reassessed Hemingway’s characters within it as profoundly dysfunctional. Nevertheless, there are some great lines in the novel. For example, this one:

Why darling, I don’t live at all when I’m not with you.

Oscar Wilde was a fairly dysfunctional fellow, but he put his finger on the pulse of something profoundly insightful with this line from A Woman of No Importance:

Who, being loved, is poor?

I’ll round this one out with a very beautiful exposition from Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady. It dovetails nicely with the Oscar Wilde quote:

It has made me better, loving you…it has made me wiser, and easier, and brighter. I used to want a great many things before, and to be angry that I did not have them. Theoretically, I was satisfied.I flattered myself that I had limited my wants. But I was subject to irritation; I used to have morbid, sterile hateful fits of hunger, of desire. Now I really am satisfied, because I can’t think of anything better.

I hope you enjoyed my supremely saccharine levels of romantic rambling.

Happy Monday, all!