Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Importance of Struggling to Understand

In his speech when he was awarded the Emerson-Thoreau Medal, Robert Frost made this poignant aside about his years of struggling with one of Emerson's poems:

"I don't like obscurity and obfuscation, but I do like dark sayings I must leave the clearing of to time. And I don't want to be robbed of the pleasure of fathoming depths for myself."
Robert Frost, "On Emerson." In Selected Prose of Robert Frost. Hyde Cox and Edward Connery Lathem, eds.(New York: Collier, 1968) p.114. (Originally delivered as an address to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on the occasion of Frost's being awarded the Emerson-Thoreau Medal. Later published in Daedalus, Fall 1959.)
I like Frost's use of "clearing" which still echoes the older meaning of "clear," that is "brighten."  Frost's point is also excellent: simply explaining poetry, or great texts, to students is not enough.  It is often helpful to guide them and to show them hermeneutical tools, or to speak with them about how we ourselves have grappled with texts, but we should be careful about the temptation to explain, since explanations can rob students of the pleasure of discovery.  Poetry has immense value for us, and one -- just one -- of its benefits is the way that it can become the means by which we learn to solve problems that we have never encountered before.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Animal Sacrifice And Factory Farming

I'm reading David Clough's On Animals, and this line reminds me that I was once taught that animal sacrifice is barbaric.  It may be so, but I don't think that makes it worse than what we do today.  If anything, sacrificing an animal might be much better, since it regards the animal as a fit gift for the divine rather than as a raw material to be fed into the machinery of slaughterhouses:

“In the period of the history of the Christian Church, we have traveled from a time in which the killing of animals was only permitted within religious rituals to a time in which 60 billion animals per year are killed for human consumption, the majority of which are raised, slaughtered and processed in factory conditions far removed from the sight or concern of their consumers.”
David L. Clough, On Animals: Volume I, Systematic Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2012) (xiii)