Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Life Under Compulsion by Anthony Esolen



Last week I finished a book by one of my favorite authors of cultural commentary, Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child  by Anthony Esolen of Providence College.  It's a follow-up to his Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child.  However, it's not written in Screwtape-esque style as was the first one.  As you would expect if you've read anything by Esolen, the prose is well crafted, lucid, and fluid.  I'm looking forward to attending a conference in April in which he will be the plenary speaker.

Here are a few choice quotations from the book~

If you are not in love with beauty and goodness, you will be clutched by the drab and the listless if not worse.

What happened to this freedom-making education?  The short answer is that John Dewey happened to it.  Dewey, mild of temperament, was as narrow-minded a reformer as the world has ever been plagued withal.

Every encounter with what is good--the chivalry of General Lee, the willing poverty of Mother Theresa, the shy greathearted youth of Alyosha Karamazov--can expand the soul; it helps to set us free from the compulsions of false goods, which Christians have long grouped under the headings of the seven deadly sins.  Every encounter with beauty--the glint of a simple word in a poem by Herbert, the meditative subtleties of the late Shakespeare, the sweet charm of a ballad by Burns--can expand the soul; it helps to set us free from the heavy accretions of the drab, the dull, the mean, the spiritually sluggish, the smog of contemporary workaweek life.  Every encounter with human truth--Jane Austen deftly showing how little we know our own motives; Dickens revealing the meaning of "economy" in the cheerful and charitable housekeeping of Esther Summerson, his finest heroine; or Shakespeare offering us the foolish Lear, mad and childish and yet 'every inch a king'--can expand the soul; it helps to set us free from the common delusions of our time, the lies we believe and the lies we tell.
 That's just a taste.  Perhaps I'll post more another day.  Now, I'm off to read Esolen's latest release, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture.

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