Volume 147 (CD Edition)
Guests on Volume 147
• R. JARED STAUDT on the tradition of brewing beer in monastic and Christian culture
• JASON PETERS on defining localism, dealing with discontent and imperfection, and appreciating nostalgia
• D. C. SCHINDLER on the classical and Christian understanding of the Transcendentals and why they matter now
• CRAIG GAY on why we need a theology of personhood in response to challenges posed by technology
• MARY HIRSCHFELD on comparing contemporary economics with economics as understood by Thomas Aquinas
• PATRICK SAMWAY on the publishing relationship between Flannery O’Connor and Robert Giroux
R. Jared Staudt
“What I’m trying to do in the book is to call people to rethink their lives. How does everything fit together? Is our faith really the center that integrates everything else?”
Dominican oblate R. Jared Staudt wants to call attention to the cultural influence of the monastic tradition of brewing beer. Benedictine monasteries have themselves been recovering a lost tradition of craft brewing and Staudt’s book reminds Christians that brewing beer, among other practices, is part of what has shaped a way of life for Christians through many centuries. Beer traditionally served as part of one’s subsistence and now encourages local virtues such as building community, providing employment, and participating in local economies. Closely linked not only with festivities, but with the Benedictine theme of hospitality, sharing local beers with one’s friends and neighbors is just one way of integrating all of life into Christian faith and practice.
“We are habituated to the world long before we’re conscious of it. And then we find that we’re implicated in things that we would rather not be implicated in. And that’s a fact of existence; that’s a fact of the world as we find it. I think the honest thing is to own up to that and then to go about the modest but difficult task of shaking what has to be shaken.”
English professor Jason Peters discusses the challenges of thinking about localism. While “localism” is a concept that has gained much ground in recent years, there is still the danger of it being a movement united around discontent over the current states of affairs, rather than around constructive or substantive principles. One way of overcoming this hurdle is by recognizing the various ways in which we are all implicated in “things as they are” whether we like it or not. A commitment to localism, says Peters, requires both honesty and modesty with regards to life as we find it. But such a recognition does not open the door to cynicism. Rather, it is a call to “get busy.” To be honest about our own embeddedness in the imperfections of life also protects a sense of home and even nostalgia for a lost home.
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D. C. Schindler
“The idea in this book in a way is to try to bring back a sense of the ontological depth of love. It’s certainly not a mere chemical reaction in the brain, but nor is it a mere emotion. It’s not even simply wishing others well, a kind of good will. It includes all those kinds of things in their proper place, but it’s ultimately I think the meaning of reality.”
— D. C. Schindler
Philosopher D. C. Schindler examines how postmodernism poses a unique threat to our sense of an interior self. Schindler argues that the postmodern predicament requires a recovery of reality, which would be more easily achieved through a recovery of the classical and Christian understanding of the Transcendentals: Truth, Goodness, Beauty. Of key importance to this task is a renewed understanding of how Love and Beauty are connected and their capacity to unite us to what is really real.
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“What we need is a robust theology of personhood. And what I’m trying to remind people of is that ‘hey, if we’re Christians, we have one! And we need to remember it.’ It’s there and it’s rich and it’s full and it’s been developed over many centuries by all kinds of really interesting, intelligent people. And this is something that we for a variety of reasons seem to have forgotten, but now it’s time to remember it, because it’s only as we remember this theology of personhood that we stand any chance of answering the kinds of questions that are being put to us today about technology and our use of it.”
— Craig Gay
Sociologist Craig Gay argues that in order to address the challenges of a technological approach to the world, we need to recover the Christian tradition’s robust theology of personhood. Advocates for technological progress often point out how adaptable humans are, but Gay wants to push back, asking why it is that humans need to adapt to technology rather than the other way around. Simply having the ability to adapt does not mean that it is in our best interests to do so or that we ought to do so. Without asking the basic questions about the kinds of people we are or what we ought to become, we will be powerless to address the pressures imposed upon us by technological opportunities.
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“My ‘self-concern,’ among other things, includes other people for Aquinas much more naturally than would an economist’s conception of it. But also my self-concern is about developing community, supporting my family, and developing my character, right, developing virtue. And if those are my ultimate concerns, however that looks in my particular life, [then] the material goods that are used to sustain that life are instrumental goods and because they’re instrumental goods, for Aquinas, our desire for them is finite.”
— Mary Hirschfeld
Economist and theologian Mary Hirschfeld compares how modern economists think about the human person compared to Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of personhood with regards to property and material wealth. While it may be unintentional, Hirschfeld argues that modern economics makes some fundamental assumptions about personhood, material goods, and God that prevent the discipline from developing a truly human understanding of economic life. To correct this error takes some honest rethinking of the discipline (with many clarifications along the way).
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“We tend to think of a writer writing somehow in a cabin in the woods and it’s so beautiful. But as a matter of fact, these writers all have a lot of problems. And I thought it would be interesting to write about Flannery and her relationship with her editor. What I’m really writing about is the interstices. You know, the in-between times. What she was doing and what he was doing and how they collaborated.”
— Patrick Samway
Biographer and priest Patrick Samway talks about the relationship between fiction writer Flannery O’Connor and the legendary editor Robert Giroux. Samway’s direct link with Robert Giroux through their lasting friendship brings to the conversation several intimate accounts about the relationship between these two literary figures as well as their personal stories.