MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 39

Guests on Volume 39: Neal Gabler, on how entertainment has become the highest value in our culture; C. John Sommerville, on How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society; John L. Locke, on the value of personal interaction, and how technology is displacing it; Vigen Guroian, on gardening; Marion Montgomery, on how higher education has lost its way; Peter Berkowitz, on why liberal democracies need virtuous citizens; Harry Clor, on the need for the law to return to encouraging a public morality; and Ted Libbey, on French composer Francis Poulenc.

Part 1

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    Neal Gabler on how entertainment has become the highest value in our culture

    Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)

    Neal Gabler, author of Life, the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, speaks about contemporary culture's desire to replace reality with the fantastic. Gabler talks about the gradual ascent of entertainment values from their subordinate place in the nineteenth century to their overwhelming place as a persuasive ethic that drives our lives. While there are pockets of resistance, Gabler thinks that this is the dominant desire of the culture and that, unfortunately, many in our culture have the resource to succeed in creating this unreality.

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    C. John Sommerville on How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society

    How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society (InterVarsity Press, 1999)

    C. John Sommerville, How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society, speaks about the non-sapiential nature of the news. The news makes us dumb because it refuses to put the events of the day in their context, giving an explanation for them. Sommerville thinks that the news industry survives by tantalizing its readers by placing all events in an artificial suspense genre. To give wisdom or the context of a certain event defeats the very nature of the publication. Sommerville sees the place for ideas in the culture not in the daily media but in quarterly publications and books.

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    Vigen Guroian on gardening

    Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999)

    Host Ken Myers visits the garden of Vigen Guroian, author of Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening and professor of theology. The interview consists of a walk-through of Guroian's herb garden while Gurioan reflects about writing a book. The book, he says, was "an incredible joy to write; I've never written anything that has given me such pleasure." In the book Guroian reflects about the metaphor that gardening is for the life of grace. He also reflects upon liturgical texts and hymnody related to gardens. For him one of gardening's chief sacramental lessons is the reality of our bodies and the hope of the resurrection.

Part 2

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    John L. Locke on the value of personal interaction, and how technology is displacing it

    The De-voicing of Society: Why We Don't Talk to Each Other Anymore (Simon & Schuster, 1998)

    John L. Locke, author of The De-Voicing of Society: Why We Don't Talk To Each Other Anymore, speaks about the overlooked and undervalued communications that go on in face to face conversations. A culture that values the communication of information overlooks the benefit of these conversations whose content is irrelevant. The media is more important than the message. A culture that fails to speak face to face ultimately ends in a culture full of loneliness and public distrust.

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    Marion Montgomery on how higher education has lost its way

    The Truth of Things: Liberal Arts and the Recovery of Reality (Spence Publishing Company, 1999)

    Marion Montgomery, author of The Truth of Things: Liberal Arts and the Recovery of Reality, believes education should cause us to delight in our limitations. Education's place in the community is to encourage the love of wisdom. Knowledge of our limitations is knowledge of our reality; this can only be known when the physical is connected to the transcendent, knowledge connected with love, and the intuitive and the rational are held together. The bent life is the life of the individual; the life of love is the life of the person. The person who loves his limits is on the way to joy. Montgomery goes on to speak of how this understanding of knowing one's limits has been replaced by the industrialization of higher education in which hope and virtue are given not through self knowledge but through receiving a diploma.

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    Peter Berkowitz on why liberal democracies need virtuous citizens

    Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton University Press, 1999)

    Peter Berkowitz, author of Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism, argues that liberalism has never theoretically abandoned virtue and never thought that voters and politicians could get along without it. Rather, it is the disciples of political philosophers who have overlooked the essential place of virtue in liberal democracy. Many contemporary political philosophies view equality and freedom as antithetical to virtue. Unfortunately, they do not see that virtue equals excellence, nor do they see that the institutions which make up liberal democracies require the excellence which virtue produces.

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    Harry Clor on the need for the law to return to encouraging a public morality

    Public Morality and Liberal Society: Essays on Decency, Law, and Pornography (University of Notre Dame Press, 1996)

    Harry Clor, author of Public Morality and Liberal Society: Essays on Decency, Law, and Pornography, argues that the government must encourage public morality if it is to promote a culture in which people would want to live. In this interview, he discusses J. S. Mill and gives a definition of public morality. Clor argues that Mill, the great defender of personal liberty, presupposed the maintenance of public morality. His high view of human nature allowed him to hold great personal liberty and public morality together. Clor defines public morality as the ethics of decency, and he regards civility as important for community-not merely the individual. In his definition, the law upholds public morality when it rules against the ethics of rights and liberties in defense of a greater good.

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    Ted Libbey on French composer Francis Poulenc

    Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

    Ted Libbey, regular guest on NPR's "Performance Today," speaks about the music of Francis Poulenc. Poulenc as a French composer of religious pieces transformed the austere and serious into the playful. Poulenc returned to the Catholicism of his childhood but never ventured into the realm of the austere and abstract; instead, his music captures the earthy reality of existence. As a composer in the twentieth century, Poulenc received criticism for his style which did not conform to the modernist musical taste. He did not eschew traditional musical forms but incorporated them with the musical language of the twentieth century and attempted direct communication with his audience. Libbey argues that his conservation of traditional form gave him the freedom to bring his faith into his music, leave a legacy, and make sense of his world.