Tag Archives: Truth

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful…

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful by way of John Senior, and Ben Cash

Have you ever heard of John Senior?  If not, and you’re a Christian, you should make yourself acquainted with him.  More Catholics than Protestants have heard of this teacher, but in this day and age we can all benefit from his kind.  There is a fantastic biography of him by Fr. Francis Bethel, OSB called John Senior and the Restoration of Realism.  During the 1970’s Senior was a professor at the University of Kansas and was instrumental in developing an Integrated Humanities Program there.  Interestingly the college shut the program down after several students converted to Christianity, many of them becoming Catholic.

The ideas the Senior put forward were that we are only truly human when seeking and finding the good, the true, and the beautiful, and doing so with our minds and our senses.  Not only were the classics taught in abundance, Senior and several other professors introduced the students to dancing, star gazing, poetry, and even singing.  Truth was presented as it really is; fixed and real.  Goodness as something to be pursued because it is rooted in truth.  The flip side (rejecting Truth), Senior argued, results in depression and hopelessness, destructive personal behavior, which in turn leads to a breakdown in society and culture.  Sound familiar?  Maybe sound like what’s going on in Western culture right now?  (Go check out the suicide statistics, study the trend, and then let that sink in.)

When I first watched Captain Fantastic, which I reviewed here just the other day, I instantly (and somewhat ironically) thought of John Senior and his method of teaching.  As I mentioned in my review of the movie Ben Cash is the father of the Cash clan and his method of teaching included star gazing, anatomy, copious amounts of reading and debating, music and singing, and exercising one’s mind and body through physical encounters with the real world.  I said “ironically” above because Ben Cash apparently despises Christianity (at least through much of the movie), which John Senior championed and also held up as the ultimate lynch pin of everything, including the true understanding of the humanities.

Both Senior and Cash seem to hold some key to the massive sense of… ennui we currently seem to have in our society.  Technology isn’t evil, but I think we can all agree that in most cases what was supposed to draw us closer together either hasn’t produced that promise, or, perhaps worse, has made us all engage in compulsive comparisons which then results in depression.  Keeping up with the Joneses has become global, and when the Joneses only post the highlights of their lives on social media it compounds the problem (folks, here’s the secret; Mr. Jones has a gambling addiction, Mrs. Jones is contemplating suicide, the kids hate each other, and they are in debt so far over their heads they’ll never get out… well, maybe that’s hyperbole, maybe not.)  Consumerism has run amok, mental health issues are on the rise, and we are more divided as a people than ever.

Both Senior and Cash call us back to our senses; we are whole and complete creatures only when our physical selves are involved.  Seeing someone’s picture or even a live vid of them is great when that’s all you can get, but isn’t a hug 100 times better?  You can see the real person, feel them, heck, even smell them (hopefully it’s a nice smell!).  How about nature?  Seeing a picture or a vid of a tree isn’t anything like experiencing a tree with our senses.  When our senses are involved it speaks to the concrete nature of our world, it gives us experiences that are more rich and steeped in truth.  When you are out hiking and trip on a root or a rock and fall, you are experiencing gravity first hand, and yes, you experience physical pain.

We have become divorced from nature and nature’s God.  We’ve even become divorced from each other.  And, yes, I’m speaking in generalities, as there are those who actually make an effort to experience life first-hand, instead of through a screen (however, I know more people who gripe about tech and social media and yet still have their noses shoved up against screens 24 hours a day).  How many of us still hike, stargaze, grow our own food, hunt our own food, write letters with a pen and paper, hold books in our two hands, bury our noses in roses, learn to actually dance with a partner in a manner that takes finesse and skill…  The classics of literature are being trashed (sometimes literally), and cast aside.  We read less and less (especially the males of our society) and watch TV more and more.

What Senior and the fictitious Cash calls us toward is a reconnect with what makes us human, something that gives us roots and wings.  I think of Tolkien’s hobbits when I read of Senior as well; comfort, and parties, and food… a warm, dry house, and a full belly while strolling in the garden that you planted and tended.  Sure, Bilbo and Frodo were grand adventurers and heroes, but that is because their roots were in the good, the true, and the beautiful represented by the Shire.  Ben Cash’s kids were indeed brilliant, but lacked that incredible piece of the puzzle that makes us fully human; society.  Now our society itself lacks the good, the true, and the beautiful, and it’s up to us as individuals to seek them out, and to offer them to others as much as we can.  (BTW, Ben Cash, and his wife, both turned their backs on God and that was the other major piece of the puzzle missing… interesting how Cash’s downfall involved rejecting both key commandments summed up by Christ; Love God, and love your neighbor.  So, as much as Cash reminded me of Senior in his teaching style, that’s the major difference and why Cash became so disconnected to the world he tried to teach his kids about.)

We need more physical activity, more time in nature, more unprocessed food, and to share that healthy food with others, more gratitude.  Instead of basking in the glow of our electronics, perhaps a good ol’ fashioned cookout is in order, with the glow and the warmth of the fire reflected from friendly faces.  When is the last time you read a classic?  How about some poetry?  Go visit someone you haven’t seen in forever, take ’em some home grown veggies, flowers, or just yourself.  After it’s all over, find and acknowledge those feelings of gratitude.  God hasn’t gone anywhere, perhaps spare some time for Him, and that’s to fulfill your needs, not His.

In other words, let’s remember what it’s like to be fully human in the world we inhabit; seek and find the good, the true, and the beautiful, share it with others, it’s still there.

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Filed under Christianity, Musings, Philosophy, Psychology

Feedback; The Bible…

I had a recent question on my stance on the Bible; here is the link to a previous article on my blog: The Reliability of The Bible.  I encourage all the new readers to my blog (hello, BTW!) to utilize the “search” function on the side of the page when looking for certain topics.  As always, comments welcome…

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, The Bible

“Making the blanket fit;” via Dead Poets Society…

One of my all time favorite movies is Dead Poets Society.  It is actually one of the reasons I enjoy teaching so much, and gave it a try in the first place.  If you’ve never seen it; shame on you. 😉  On to the point; there is a scene where Keating is trying to get Todd to open up, and tap into his inner poet.  Here’s a snippet of what Todd finally comes up with:

Todd Anderson: Truth like-like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.
John Keating: [
some of the class start to laugh] Forget them, forget them! Stay with the blanket. Tell me about that blanket!
Todd Anderson: Y-Y-You push it, stretch it, it’ll never be enough. You kick at it, beat it, it’ll never cover any of us.

I loved the image of the blanket, because most of us have had an experience like this with something that we are trying to cover ourselves in, especially blankets.  Your feet’re cold, hands, back, even your ears…and no matter how you attempt to comfortably cover up, that blanket will not seem to fit.  You know it’s big enough, but you can’t manipulate it into the right shape to both be warm and comfortable in how you are laying.

In Todd’s attempt at self-expression he uses this imagery in connection with the truth.  To me, this connects with people and religion as well as truth.  We are always attempting to make the truth fit us, because of what we want out of it, just as with the blanket.  We kick at it and try to stretch it and shape it to our will, and it never seems to quite cover; when our backs get warm, we notice that a foot is sticking out, so we readjust the blanket…now our shoulders are draughty (or drafty for us Americans).

But, here’s the rest of the imagery added in by me:  The blanket will fit, we know it’s big enough, do you know the easiest, pain free way to get all snug and warm and wrapped up?  Ask someone for help.  The two most common people I’ve sought out with the literal blanket issue are people who actually care about my well-being; my mother and my husband (and every now and again, my brother).  It is such a relief, when one is really trying to get covered up, to simply ask, “Help me get my feet in here too…cover me up.”  The person helping easily picks up the blanket, gives it a shake and oh so casually lays it over you so that it covers.  They can do it because they are seeing the situation from a different perspective, and are standing up, thus can properly fit it, and they are in a much better position to fit it to us, without us trying to manipulate the blanket.  (If they really care for you, they’ll even mummify you on request; tucking in all the corners so the blanket won’t cause problems for you in the near future.)

So, what’s the point here?  Making the blanket fit is a lot easier if you ask for help.  The blanket of truth is God’s domain; He made you, He made the blanket, He is the Truth.  Sometimes people are struggling so hard with the truth, trying to make it do what they want it to do, it isn’t working for them, it isn’t covering what needs to be covered in their lives.  If we quit struggling, and ask our Father to help, He can pick up that blanket, give it a shake and cover us properly.

So many people try to twist the idea of God into their own shape, they try to manipulate the truth to suit them, usually so they can attempt to dismiss it; it doesn’t work.  When we finally realize that we don’t define God, that we don’t manipulate Him, or His truth, that He is indeed the great I AM, we should also realize that it means asking for His help in understanding ourselves, understanding Him, understanding the Truth, and fitting it to our lives so that we are covered, and warm.

Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Sacred Secular

Claims about Truth freak people out…

There is a way to make a more scholarly statement on this topic, but the title is pretty much the bottom line.  I’ve realized this for a while, but never really mulled it over seriously…modern peoples are freaked out by truth claims, especially religious truth claims.  Now, I’m not limiting this to non-believers, but yes, I’ve picked up on this vibe from the non-believing individuals I’ve talked to often.

If you make a claim of truth or knowledge, often your discussion partner acts as though you’ve slapped them in the face.  I have to admit that it amuses me, even though it shouldn’t.  I recently had a back and forth with an atheist on a forum; our back and forth regarded the phrase, “I know.”

I was informed quite seriously that I cannot use that phrase, that it is inaccurate.  I got quite a chuckle out of that.  I informed them that English is my first (and only) language, and that it can indeed be used accurately, “I know I’m not feeling hungry right now,” “I know one of my nicknames is Kliska,” “I know that I had a turkey sandwich for lunch,” “I know that Jesus is Lord,” “I know that I have a pond in my yard,” “I know that my house is white,” and on, and on…

I feel our society is partially to blame for this shock and amazement…everything is so “wishy-washy” anymore.  A majority of the people don’t even bother to try to get the know the truth about themselves, esp. when the truth hurts, let alone the truth about anything or anyone else.  Parents are beginning to lose their knack at parenting (have you noticed that?), part of which stems from a lack of consistency, which could be connected to a denial of the existence of truth; plain good ol’ black and white truth that back up the idea of true right and true wrong.  The truth in our society has become negotiable.  Morality has become negotiable.  Tell someone that it isn’t and you get stared at like you have two heads, esp. in the realm of Religion.

If a Muslim tells me he knows that Muhammad is a prophet, I don’t  get upset.  I don’t agree with the Muslim, but I don’t get upset that the Muslim is making a truth claim.  I can’t say the same for the majority of humanity, however…or I guess I should say, the majority of “Westerners.”  Make a claim, “I know for a fact that Jesus is Lord, and He’s the only way to the Father” and you are likely to cause mass panic, unfortunately this can also be seen amongst my fellow “Christians” as well (I put “Christians” in quotes for dramatic effect, I cannot judge their salvational standing, it’s not my job).  It is getting far less popular a thing to make any sort of truth claim in religion.

What has struck me, is how they must have looked at Jesus when He made the very bold, but very true claim, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Not only did He claim to know the truth, He claimed to be the walking, talking, eating, drinking embodiment of Truth itself.  I’ve said it before, “how I love the Lord!”  There is no wishy-washy here, no beating around the bush.  You know precisely who and what you are dealing with.

I’m comforted by the fact that God has a preference for this style of truth and communication of truth, and that He expects us, and likes us to use “I know.”  Revelation 3: 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Anywho, just a few musings on a very windy day, “I know it is windy at my house today…”

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