Dorothy Day, Humility, and Ed McClanahan

Photo by George W. Ackerman

Will the Real Dorothy Day Please Stand Up?” In this review of D.L. Mayfield’s new biography of Dorothy Day, Myles Werntz offers a masterclass in how we ought to befriend the dead. They are irredeemably strange, and rather than appropriate those aspects of a person’s character that we find congenial, friendship requires that we listen to the full witness of a figure like Day: “To embrace—to befriend—a figure like Day, or any figure from the past, means being willing to let their strange gifts rest uncomfortably within our orbit until we are able to hear them and listen to their claims. Otherwise, the friend remains only a mirror of the self, an amplified reflection of what we are.”

Listening to Old Voices.” Eric Miller reviews Wendell Berry’s How it Went and ponders the wisdom and gratitude found in these late stories of the Port William membership: “We hear above all a testament to beauty, to a final beauty. Pages and pages of sentences bear witness to the play and presence of wondrous, immanent grace.”

Is the Church Getting Worse?” And Josh Retterer draws on Berry’s stories to reflect on the nagging fear that church and culture are locked in a kind of decline: “Like my neighbor, Andy shows an eagerness to pass on what he’s learned. If that sounds a bit basic or even romantic; that’s largely because of its rarity. It felt like a privilege to encounter.”

And It Was Good.” This haunting essay by Kelly Lindquist has great wisdom for the spirit in which we might respond to the call of suffering and even death, wisdom drawn from walking with her husband to his death: “Our Lord was calling him to suffer and to die, and his response was to meet his death with courageous hope, loving gratitude, and joyful integrity, united in the graces of God.”

The Difference between ‘Becoming like God’ and ‘Playing God’? The Virtues of Humility and Gratitude.” Nathan Beacom praises the humane localism of David McPherson’s book on limits: “He, like Berry, wants an economy that is defined more by the flourishing of home and family life than by the profits of a handful of powerful corporations.”

Sam Bankman-Fried Tries to Explain Himself.” Speaking of playing God, Sam Bankman-Fried has been trying hard to make himself the poster boy for all the ways in which a weird blend of woke utilitarian ethics can serve as a flimsy cover for selfish and destructive behavior. This interview with Kelsey Piper is quite disturbing. At least he feels “bad” for the people who suffer “by this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shiboleths and so everyone likes us.”

Staying for the Truth.” Alan Jacobs considers the myriad ways in which we are tempted to turn away from the difficult work of seeking and cultivating and obeying the truth: “The only way out of this prison of self-deception and self-justification is to love and seek the truth—and to believe that truth is something we share: not “my truth” and “your truth” but the truth, truth as a commons, a potentially fertile plot of ground we tend together and that is nurtured by our collective work or ruined by our neglect. We must shun the jesters, and pity the deceived.”

“Kentucky Arts and Letters Day 2022.” Last weekend The Berry Center hosted several poets and storytellers from the state to share their art. In these two separate videos, you can hear several tributes to Ed McClanahan and listen to Maurice Manning play a dulcimer made from a cigar box and a tobacco stick.

Robert Nisbet: TAC’s Man.” Bill Kauffman appreciates Nisbet as only Bill Kauffman can: “Sociologist Nisbet was a gentle contrarian, a Californian who had been much affected by his reading of the Southern Agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand while a student at Berkeley. Ah, Berkeley, hotbed of Southern agrarianism!”

Old Latin Mass Finds New American Audience, Despite Pope’s Disapproval.” Ruth Graham focuses on the political controversies swirling around the traditional Latin Mass, but she also talks to many people drawn to it for its aesthetics and aura: many “are attracted to the Mass’s beauty, symbolism and what they describe as a more reverent form of worship.”

Between Chaos and the Man.” Alan Jacobs ponders the meaning and merits of anarchism: “Those of us drawn to any scheme of decentralization, either anarchism or the Distributism of G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, are often treated to a litany of the gifts of modern civilization that would be absent in an anarchist society. One could argue about the quality of those gifts—the meaning of the German word Gift comes to mind: poison—but I think it more expedient to waive the point. I am not at all certain that any of us are better off with iPhones than we were without them but, sure, let’s posit that iPhones are wonderful, gifts in the English sense rather than the German. Without contesting that point let’s simply say: enough is enough.”

Diagnosing Modern Medicine.” Ronald W. Dworkin reviews Big Med by Lawton R. Burns and David Dranove and explains some of the myriad reasons why health care costs continue rising while health care quality and patient satisfaction stagnate at best.

The Magic of Britain’s Rainforests.” Aris Roussinos details the condition of older forests in Britain, ones weighted with mythic and ecological significance: “A committed campaign to save Britain’s rainforests would surely strike the imagination of many people who may not even know that they still — just — exist. It is a more concrete and achievable good than that achieved by throwing soup at paintings, say, and one more likely to win public support.” (Recommended by Martin Schell.)

The Gospel in Wingfeather.” Thomas M. Ward pens the best, most perceptive review essay I’ve read on the brilliance of Andrew Peterson’s fantasy series: “I was prepared to enjoy a good yarn and have something to talk to the kids about; I was not prepared to find such a believable depiction of love for one’s enemies and such heartbreaking reflection on the cost of redemption. I don’t say this lightly: I don’t think children’s literature has achieved the theological depth of Wingfeather since the Chronicles of Narnia.”

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