In her introduction, Hudson calls The Soul of Civility “a humanistic manifesto.” And she’s right: the book is steeped in humanism, in more ways than one. First, Hudson underscores the profound potential of humanistic texts, from a variety of human civilizations, to pinpoint the thorniest problems of human existence and to help readers contemplate how best to address them.
None of us gets to choose where we land. But if we cannot choose the times in which we live, we can choose how we live in the time we are given. Will we do so thoughtfully or heedlessly? Courageously or cravenly? Honestly and honorably or falsely and deplorably?
Maybe we can just call it something else, like, “Living with family and friends in a neighborhood designed to encourage the building of social capital, relying on them in real and tangible ways (rather than just manufacturing reasons to occasionally interact with them), and overcoming the isolating dynamics of modern life.”
It is not solely (or perhaps even primarily) about there being more hours of work and therefore less time for reading. It is about the possibility of work hovering over every moment of supposed leisure. For me, that is the fundamental distraction, not TikTok. So yes, smartphones are the problem.
A good number of Christian scholars draw first and foremost on Thomas Aquinas for their accounts of beauty. Desmond, though he’s aware of and engages with the Thomistic tradition, has spent much of his career interacting with the thought of Hegel, perhaps most directly, as it pertains to the subject of beauty, in Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel’s Aesthetics.
Barba-Kay argues that we tend to resolve our cognitive dissonance by outsourcing all the choices that do matter and consoling ourselves with a plethora of choices that don't.
The liberty and justice which republics are erected to safeguard requires, as Milton and the Founders knew, a moral, virtuous, and religious citizenry. Without this moral and virtuous spirit, the citizenry is slothful and servile. Despotism takes hold once the bulwark of liberty and justice, moral love, has withered away. Welcome to the twenty-first century.
This trend is peaking in a small rectangle, the smartphone. As Marc Barnes observes, the smartphone has replaced the TV. The smartphone is portable and personal and has enticed us to enjoy our shows in our private rooms. The ubiquity of the smartphone is an artifact of our own loneliness.
There are things that a full room can do for us. It can reassure us. It can offer comfort. It can offer luxury and pleasant distractions. A full room can be cozy and a crowded refrigerator reassuring. A room can be full of company. We can be and feel less alone. A full room can teach us to share.
It is, I realized, handy to have a proper template handy, ready to use, should my fears come true, and I discover that I really did forget to answer an email for a few months, and then need to send a very thorough and sincere apology. In fact, it is possible that such an email is buried somewhere in one of my three inboxes right now, awaiting this very reply.