Charles Williams on Empathy

01.14.2018 / Misc

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Charles Williams, close friend of (and influence on) CS Lewis once said:

“If a man seems to himself to endure the horrors of shipwreck, though he walks on dry land and breathes clear air, the business of his friend is more likely to be to accept those horrors, as he feels them, carrying the burden, than to explain that the burden cannot, as a matter of fact, exist.” – Descent Into Hell, Chapter 5

Empathy sometimes requires correcting a loved one’s delusion. But sometimes it requires not correcting someone’s delusion.

This kind of empathy is required rather often in parenting. Children need to be believed, and comforted within their incorrect belief, as often as they need to be taught the correct belief. If my son thinks there is a monster in the closet, I don’t tell him “There’s no such thing as monsters;” I go in the closet with a bat and dramatically kill the beast.

This kind of empathy is sometimes required with parents, friends, clients, students.

If an atheist tells me that he feels as if god is cruel, harsh, uncaring, my first response is to help him carry the burden of living in a world with such a god.

Believe first, affirm and comfort first, then correct (later), if and when it’s appropriate.






The Super Duper Meta-Irony of the Room

01.10.2018 / Culture

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Once upon a time, Tommy Wiseau created a film: The Room.

The Room is so bad that it’s almost miraculous.

The Room is like a horrifying mixture of castle-in-a-cloud idealism and an actual trainwreck.

The Room is a trainwreck in a cloud.

It’s funny mostly because it’s not trying to be funny.

Tommy Wiseau created it without knowing how bad it is.

Wiseau is so frank, unapologetic, genuine, and likable in his awfulness that he elicits mixture of embarrassment, pity, and equally genuine delight.

Now, we know the Internet memefies everything it loves.

Accordingly, it has memefied everything about the Room. There’s not just the regular memes, videos, gifs, pics, rifs, songs, and allusions – there’s a full, faithfully rendered Room video game.

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It's Actually a Good Star Wars Film -- The Last Jedi Review 3 (SPOILERS)

01.03.2018 / Culture

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TLJ is a truly good film.

As a basic necessity, it successfully looks, sounds, and “feels” like Star Wars. That doesn’t make the movie great but it helps.

Also, the acting is the best out of any Star Wars movie (except perhaps Rogue One). Leia’s acting was better than passable, unlike The Force Awakens. Luke’s acting is better than the Original Trilogy. Rey’s acting has even come along, and Kylo Ren is even better than he was before (and still the best of the bunch).

The acting and special effects and so on don’t make a movie great, but I point them out because even the most aggrieved haters are admitting that they were good. Start with the obvious.

More to the point, The Last Jedi is actually a good film because it improves the Star Wars universe.

Here’s a few ways it does so.

1. Leia’s Force Powers

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Real virtue wins out every time

01.01.2018 / Classical education

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I’m happy to announce a new interview with a classical educator, Dr. “Lou” Markos. Dr. Markos is a literature professor and authority on C.S. Lewis as well as a dynamic voice in the classical renewal.

In this talk, Dr. Markos explains next steps for classical educators, how we can win the culture war by being Frodo, why you shouldn’t go to Yale or Harvard especially if you could, and more.

(Some of the audio quality isn’t the best, but it’s audible – thanks for your patience!)

If you enjoy this interview, please, “like”, comment, and “subscribe”. I have one more interview to edit and post soon, and more coming up!

Thanks Dr. Markos for taking the time!

Check out Markos’ Books here.

And his page at HBU here.

Some key quotes:

  • “Preserve masculinity and femininity!”.
  • “At a classical school people are healthy of body, mind, and soul. There is real eagerness.”






It Had to be Weird -- The Last Jedi Review, Part 2 (SPOILERS)

12.30.2017 / Culture

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A Paradoxical Big Picture

Was TLJ a good movie? Did it satisfy expectations? Did it please fans and critics?

First, we have to keep some perspective.

TLJ had to meet insane and impossible expectations: it had to be on brand for a Star Wars movie and yet unpredictable, unexpected, and surprising.

It had to avoid the pitfalls of the Lucas-era prequels (too different from the original trilogy) and that of the JJ Abrams reboot (too similar to the original trilogy).

It had to please original trilogy fans (age 20-45) who have enchanted childhood memories of Perfect Star Wars films and it had to please “new” young fans (age 5-12) for whom this may be their first Star Wars films.

The only way to meet paradoxical demands is with a paradoxical solution.

In my view, TLJ met all the impossible expectations by being impossibly good. It did contradictory things at the same time and somehow worked.

Setting Expectations

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TLJ was comfortably familiar: the opening space battle against impossible odds, the “run and chase” plot that doesn’t really matter (remember the “run from the Empire” plot of Empire Strikes Back?), an awesome light-saber battle, the unbreakable bond between Luke and Leia, the “Resistance” forces are back to being called “Rebels”, AT-AT Walkers, an ice planet – scratch that, salt planet. The best moment of the film – Luke gazing into the sunset on Ahch Tu – was powerful in its own right and recalled the best moment in the Star Wars Saga – Luke gazing into the twin sunset on Tatooine.

Also, TLJ was uncomfortably new: the irreverent humor, the Rose sub-plot, the alien milking, Luke’s cynicism, Leia’s surprising display of the Force, the visit to Canto Bight, the not so subtle “social justice” points about animal rights and war profiteering, Snoke’s untimely demise, Rey’s Jedi training (or lack thereof), the “Master Codebreaker” con man character, Luke’s force projection. And more.

Ask yourself, though: How much of your love or hatred of the movie arises from the new, different, and weird stuff?

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All about Expectations -- The Last Jedi Review Part 1 (NO SPOILERS)

12.30.2017 / Culture

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Introduction

I don’t envy Chris Terrio.

What in the world is Episode IX going to be about?

Chris Terrio and JJ Abrams have to write a chapter to follow the Last Jedi (TLJ). Doing so is going to be almost impossible. I’ll try to explain why later… But just think about it: What is it going to be about?

Here’s my bottom line review of The Last Jedi: Rian Johnson hit a target in the bullseye.

That is, he accomplished exactly what he set out to do; he satisfied his own criterion.

But was it the right target to aim for?

The question (for audiences and critics) is whether he was aiming for the right thing. If you agree with his target, you’ll love the movie; if not, you’ll hate it.

I’ve not read or heard many reviews that were lukewarm. Either Johnson improved Star Wars or “ruined” Star Wars.

Goals

TLJ ratiings

In my review, I have three goals.

First, I want to argue that TLJ is a truly good film. I think it’s Rian Johnson’s best by far, and probably better than Rogue One or Episode VII.

Second, I want to argue that people are justified in not liking it. I get it. TLJ is weird and disappointing and destructive. It changes things and plays fast and loose with sacred elements of the franchise.

Third, I want explain and defend the expectations that one must have in order to enjoy the movie.

I’ve been very curious to understand why this movie is so divisive. Almost half the movie going audience hated the dang thing; and almost half loved it. The film is slightly less divisive than Donald Trump, but only slightly.

It’d be nice for some more reviews that help each side understand the other.

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Monkey Island Updates

12.26.2017 / Culture

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Approximately 27 years ago, I played a game called “The Secret of Monkey Island” with my brothers and sisters. I was eight years old. The game was funny, fun, and an enduring source of delight in my family.

Although Monkey Island was an incredibly enchanted piece of my childhood, I thought it was just another game. Turns out it was apparently a brilliant adventure game and a watershed.

Ron Gilbert, the creator, has made a new game via Kickstarter: it’s called Thimbleweed Park.

I bought and started playing Thimbleweed Park as a Christmas treat. So far, it’s hilarious and fun.

Feeling nostalgic, I re-played all of Monkey Island (the first one) with my son. He was interested the whole time I let him watch.

Amazingly, I remembered about 50% of the puzzles all these years later. In addition to the nostalgia, I also genuinely laughed out loud, crushed on Elaine, and felt joy and sehnsucht.

Ron Gilbert also runs a blog that is delightfully grumpy. It’s called grumpy gamer. I even posted a comment on his wall.

Moral of the story: Gilbert’s a genius and Monkey Island is not just “good when I was a child” good but actually good. And I recommend checking out Thimbleweed Park if you want a few hours to kill!






Advice to Christian Philosophers -- Eric Silverman Interview

11.24.2017 / Philosophy

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I’m happy to announce a new interview on my other blog, Advice to Christian Philosophers.com

Our 4th interview is with Eric J. Silverman, associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at Christopher Newport University.

Dr. Silverman is a philosopher of contemporary ethics and medieval philosophy. He did his undergraduate study at Rutgers and majored in political science and history, intending at the time to go to law school. After surviving a battle with cancer (Hodgkins-Lymphoma), he decided to study philosophy(!). He earned his MA from Baylor and Ph.D. from St. Louis University under the guidance of Eleonore Stump.

His first book, The Prudence of Love (Lexington Press), argues that love is a virtue which benefits those who practice it.

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With a penchant for fascinating topics, Silverman’s most recent volume is Paradise Understood: New Philosophical Essays about Heaven


"...systematically investigates heaven, or paradise, as conceived within theistic religious traditions such as Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It considers a variety of topics concerning what life in paradise would, could, or will be like for human persons. The collection offers novel approaches to questions about heaven of perennial philosophical interest, and breaks new ground by expanding the range of questions about heaven that philosophers have considered."

Paradise Understood includes essays by Richard Swinburne, Robert Audi, and more, and it is co-edited by Ryan Byerly and published by Oxford.

It was recently reviewed by the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

You can read more about the project here or order the book on Amazon.

In this interview, he shares sage advice for younger philosophers who are making their way through school and the job market, including:

  • how surviving cancer lead him to study philosophy
  • how a high place for universal love (as opposed to love of family, nation, etc.) is distinctive to Christian philosophers
  • why non-Christians shouldn’t re-invent the wheel when arguing for or against God
  • how to think analytically about the afterlife
  • and more!






The Alcuin Retreat (Updated)

11.20.2017 / Classical education

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Fun update: I went to New York a couple of weeks ago for the Alcuin Retreat. Alcuin is a retreat for teachers and administrators at classical schools. The Society of Classical Learning puts on the Alcuin Retreat every year, with the leadership of Dr. Chris Perrin. I’m also excited to visit King’s College and meet Dr. Thornbury, about whom I’ve heard many good things.

My heartfelt thanks go out to Grant Horner, a new colleague at Trinity, for helping me get into the conference. Chris Perrin invited me over the summer but the Alcuin retreat fell off my radar, with the move and new job. Dr. Horner not only reminded me but got me in last minute and is sponsoring my hotel stay, which was very generous.

The theme this year was “assessment,” so talked about testing and grading: How can we re-think grading? What is the purpose of grades and are current methods serving that purpose? How has assessment been done in the past? What has worked and what hasn’t? What does standardized assessment assume about the student and the learning process? What does oral assessment assume? I’ll be posting my notes here any day.

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The Complete Works of C. S. Lewis

10.18.2017 / Misc

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The list below supplies, in chronological order, all of C. S. Lewis’s books.

The reason for composing it is that many Lewis fans want to read “everything he wrote” but may have a hard time actually finding everything he wrote. There are lots of unpublished or hard-to-find essays, letters, and introductions. This list is only about full books. Making this list has helped me find some hidden gems in the Lewisian corpus. Hence I present it for you.

Explanation and more information on how it’s organized is below (scroll to the bottom).

Happy reading!

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