TBT^4: Back to School with Richard Weaver

We’re back into the swing of things with the new school year, and as of the time of this writing, I have not yet made my annual dip into the introduction to Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences.  That’s due in part to my morning Bible study, which has taken precedence over other, non-work-related reading, and because I’m weary with how accurate Weaver’s prophetic scribblings are.

I’m by no means black pilled, though.  Sure, things are not good at the moment, but life goes on and God Is in Control.  The solution is not to embrace the black pill, but to take the Christ Pill.

Regardless, we can take some joy in our daily lives while recognizing the real dangers facing liberty and civilization.  Being a Christian shouldn’t have to mean accepting the erosion of religious liberty and the secularization of our culture.  Indeed, we’ve probably been too complacent, especially on the latter point.

As such, Richard Weaver’s insights are still worth pondering today.  Studying the diagnosis could suggest a cure, or at least a course of treatment.

With that, here is 20 August 2020’s “TBT^2: Back to School with Richard Weaver“:

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Lazy Sunday CLVII: School, Part I

Aside from a fairly early issue of Lazy Sunday about education, I haven’t really done one about school.  Now that I’m back to work, it seemed like a good time to revisit some timeless classics about education, school, etc.:

  • Back to School with Richard Weaver” (and “TBT: Back to School with Richard Weaver” and “TBT^2: Back to School with Richard Weaver“) – I used to reread at least the introduction to Richard Weaver’s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, probably the most powerful book I’ve ever read (besides the Bible).  I haven’t read it in some time, but I think it’s time to pick up this old chestnut again.
  • First Day of School 2019” – Ah, yes, the 2019-2020 school year—easily the most unusual school year any teacher has experienced, with the possible exception of 2020-2021.  I was absolutely burned out by the time The Age of The Virus hit in mid-March 2022, and it ended up being a bit of a silver lining (with all due respect to those who suffered and even died because of it).
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Returning to School in The Age of The Virus” – I grew so accustomed to the freedom of working from home, I was actually really dreading returning to school for the 2020-2021 school year.  It wasn’t that bad overall; 2021-2022 was much more difficult.  But it was certainly an unusual—an unprecedented!—time to be a teacher.  I still feel sorry for those who entered the profession this year.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT^2: Back to School with Richard Weaver

Today marks the first day of school for the 2020-2021 school year:  The Year of The Virus, if we were to affix a Chinese Zodiac-style name to it.  It’s going to be the most unusual school year any of us have ever experienced, I imagine.  Please keep teachers, students, administrators, and staff in your prayers.

As I’ve noted often, I reread at least the introduction to Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences every school year.  The introduction offers a strong diagnosis of modernity’s ills, and it reminds me why teaching is so important—not just the accumulation of random facts into worldly knowledge, but to inculcate deeper knowledge and virtue—what we might call “wisdom.”

Here is “TBT: Back to School with Richard Weaver“:

Every year I try to reread the introduction to Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver’s masterful work of analysis and prophecy.

With school starting back in just FOUR DAYS—may God have mercy on us all—it seemed germane to bring back this post from 2018, itself a contextualization of a Facebook post from 2014.

Here is “Back to School with Richard Weaver“:

Every year, I try to sit down and re-read at least the introduction to Richard Weaver’s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, probably the most powerful book I’ve ever read.  I tend to undertake this re-reading around the time school resumes, as it helps remind me why I teach.

In addition to Ideas Have Consequences, Weaver wrote some of the most eloquent essays on the South—and what it means to be Southern—in the twentieth century.  In 2014, I posted the following quotation on Facebook; I will allow it to speak for itself[:]

I’m undertaking my annual baptism in the works of Richard Weaver to focus my philosophical thinking for a rapidly approaching school year, and, as always, I’m presented with an embarrassment of riches. Few thinkers cram so many nuggets of truth into so little space. Every paragraph of Weaver’s writings yields insights that speak to the very heart of humanity.

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TBT: Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction

Yesterday was the last session of the Summer 2020 History of Conservative Thought course.  This summer marks the second run of the course, and it was a fantastic class.  I had three young men enrolled, all quite eager to dive into the material.

I try to avoid lengthy lectures in HoCT, giving the basic background information and scaffolding necessary to put the readings into context.  I want the works to speak for themselves, and for the students to the do the heavy lifting of sussing out meaning and the author’s ideas.  Each week students wrote a short essay or answered a few different guided questions, then we would come in and discuss the material.

With this summer’s group, that model worked very well, as two of the young men in particular loved to plunge into discussions and ask questions.  One of the students was concurrently taking a colleague’s popular Terror and Terrorism course, which leads off each summer with the French Revolution.  That always dovetails nicely with our discussion of Edmund Burke, as we read several excerpts from his Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Burke comes on the heels of our discussion of Russell Kirk’s conservative principles, and helps frame the early portion of the course in the Burkean tradition.

In July, we left the nineteenth century and began looking at the modern conservative movement, with a heavy emphasis on William F. Buckley, Jr., and the notion of fusionism.  Buckley’s National Review catches a good bit of flack on the Right these days, including from this blog, but it truly shaped conservatism in the second half of the twentieth century.  Before National Review, conservatism was a disorganized, disunited hodgepodge of various ideologies, movements, and issues—it was, as Lionel Trilling put it, a “reactionary impulse,” a grumpy attitude about the way things were, but without a cohesive understanding of how to combat the dominance of New Deal liberalism.

For all its noodle-wristed hand-wringing and desperate virtue-signalling today, National Review created the modern conservative movement by giving conservatives their voice, their publication.  It also gave conservatism a politically viable platform of issues that could win in national politics.  That focus on nationalism certainly cuts against the Kirkean/Burkean mold of organic, ordered liberty, but it was the reality of post-war American political life.

We ended with another mid-century conservative, but one fitting far more into the spiritual and moral mold of Burke and Kirk, and far less in the neoliberal and materialist mold of Buckley-style fusionism:  Richard Weaver’s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, which I consider one of the greatest books ever written.  Indeed, I’m a bit of a Weaver fanboy, as he’s been featured twice on my Summer Reading Lists, first in 2016 for Ideas Have Consequences, and again in 2020 for his collection of Southern Essays.

For the course, we just read the “Introduction” to the book, which I try to read every August before school resumes.  It reminds me why I teach, and what is at stake.  Reading Ideas Have Consequences—first published in 1948—today reads like prophecy fulfilled.  Weaver’s core focus on William of Occam as the source of modernity and its related ills might seem a bit far-fetched, but that’s merely the germ from which the analysis of modernity’s fallen view of the world grows.

The real heart of Ideas Have Consequences is the abandonment of the transcendental—of God—in favor for navel-gazing particularism, a constant focus on lower, material concerns.  Unbound from any obligation to or belief in a transcendental moral order, men are left adrift in a world full of isolation, alienation, confusion, and meaninglessness.

I’ll let the rest speak for itself.  Here is 29 July 2019’s “Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction“:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2020

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.  NEW TIER: $3 a month gets one edition of Sunday Doodles every month!

It’s that time of year again:  summer!  That means we’re due for The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2020!

I’m actually a bit overdue for this list.  I typically publish it in early June, to give those of you blessed to enjoy summer vacation a chance to look them up.  But my long illness for the first couple of weeks of the month waylaid a number of plans, and last weekend I was occupied with family festivities, so the list is a few weeks later than I like.

But, like Sunday Doodles—a perk for $5 a month subscribers—my philosophy is “better late than never!”  And with the Independence Day holiday approaching, it’s a great time to do some reading.

For new readers, my criteria is pretty straightforward.  To quote myself from the 2016 list:

The books listed here are among some of my favorites.  I’m not necessarily reading them at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

Pretty vague, I know.  Additionally, I usually feature three books, plus an “Honorable Mention” that’s usually worth a read, too.

For those interested, here are the prior two installments:

But that’s enough yackin’.  Here’s The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2020:

1.) Richard Weaver, edited by George M. Curtis, III and James J. Thompson, Jr., The Southern Essays of Richard M. Weaver (1999) – Regular readers know I love Richard Weaver, and I featured his masterpiece Ideas Have Consequences on the 2016 list.  The Southern Essays feature a collection of Weaver’s writings on the South.

Weaver was a literary critic and English professor at the University of Chicago, but his roots were in Asheville, North Carolina.  He possessed a deep and abiding love of and respect for Dixie, particularly its writers.  Weaver’s background in literature and poetry is evident in these essays, in which he ruminates on the abundance of prolific Southern literary types.  He also brings some nuance to the question of the American Civil War and the South’s role therein.  I believe it was in this collection that I first learned of John Randolph of Roanoke, the great, ornery Virginian who resisted federal overreach in the early nineteenth century.

Weaver’s writing can be a bit dense, but once you get used to his mid-century style, his ideas are easy enough to absorb.  I highly, highly recommend you pick up this collection.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

TPP Summertime Update

Even with cities burning and an election mere months away, the summertime doldrums have hit.  “Doldrums” isn’t exactly the right word, as things are going pretty well, but the long (for me) Father’s Day weekend distracted me from the woes of the world.

There’s also the issue of unlimited free time that is summer vacation.  Don’t get me wrong—I’m not complaining—but when I have one slender hour in the day to get my blog post done, I tend to be much more productive and focused.  It takes pressure to make diamonds—or 600-word blog posts full of sweeping generalizations.

I’ve fallen a bit behind on SubscribeStar content.  I still owe $5 subs a couple of editions of Sunday Doodles, which I will have up soon.  All subscribers missed out on a SubscribeStar Saturday post, which I will also attempt to make up soon.

History of Conservative Thought is going well, and we have two more meetings before the Fourth of July break.  This Wednesday we’ll be reading documents from John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, the Federalists/Northern Conservatives.  Next week we’ll dive into Southern Conservatism with John Randolph of Roanoke and (possibly) some excerpts from Richard Weaver‘s Southern Essays.

So that’s it for a quick Monday update.  Be on the lookout for more substance tomorrow.

—TPP

Richard Weaver in the Age of The Virus

In the Age of The Virus, we’re beginning to reevaluate the way we live.  I’ve written quite a bit about distance learning, and photog has a piece up on his blog predicting a larger shift to remote work.  That transition would threaten micromanaging middle managers everywhere, though, and one doesn’t become a micromanaging middle manager without a knack of occupational self-preservation.

I’ve also been interested in the potential cultural impact.  Already there seems to be a minor revival in interest in gardening.  Part of that is prudent:  we need to have some food to fall back on should the supply chains face further disruption.

But I also suspect some of it is spiritual.  Modern man has become divorced from his roots in the soil—in Creation.  Modernity has liberated us from the constant fear of want, but that liberation came with a price:  we traded the liberty of the soil for the chains of comfort.  Growing a little vegetable garden, however meager, is a way to reconnect with the land, and with the beauty of God’s Creation.

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TBT: The Influence of Christianity on America’s Founding

My high school American history classes are getting into the American Civil War—or the War of Northern Aggression, or the War for Southern Independence, or whatever you’d like to call it—this week, so we’ve been talking about beginnings a good bit.  The Civil War had deep roots that go back not just to the 1840s or 1850s, and not even to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Indeed, the fundamental division dates back to the English Civil War in the 1648, when the Puritan Roundheads under Oliver Cromwell ousted and beheaded Charles I, and established the English Republic (which—the English having little taste for radicalism or dictatorships, fortunately collapses in 1660 with the restoration of the Stuart monarchs).  Loyalists to the king and the monarchical order were the aristocratic Cavaliers.  Those same Puritans of East Anglia settled heavily in Massachusetts following the Pilgrims’ famous landing at Plymouth Rock, and the Cavaliers—in body and spirit—dominated the tidewater plantations of the South.

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Lazy Sunday XXIII: Richard Weaver

I’ve been fan-boying a great deal lately about Richard Weaver.  He’s one of my favorite authors, even though I’ve read comparatively little of his work.  Weaver died during the prime of his academic career, but before his premature death he managed to bequeath a rich heritage of scholarly works about literature, religion, and his beloved Dixie.

As I’ve written again and again, I always enjoy rereading the introduction to Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, and hope to reread the entire book again soon.  The introduction sums up the modern West’s maladies starkly and clearly, tracing their origins to the nominalism of William of Occam.

I found one podcast in which two conservative commentators summarize and discuss the book, chapter-by-chapter; it’s a good, quick overview if you’ve got fifty minutes in the car:

That said, while I reference Weaver quite a bit, I actually have not written as many posts about him and his work as I thought.  Nevertheless, while I’m in the midst of my annual Weaver Fest, I thought it would be the perfect time to give the great academic his own Lazy Sunday:

1.) “Capitalism Needs Social Conservatism” – a #TBT post from the TPP 2.0 era, this post was part of a series on social conservatism, which I dubbed the “red-headed stepchild” of modern conservatism.  The post is more inspired by Weaver than it is about him, but I mention the paradox of prosperity near the end when I discuss Weaver’s drunk.

That’s my phrase for a metaphor Weaver employs near the end of the introduction to Ideas Have Consequences in which he compares modern society to a drunk.  The more inebriated and alcoholic the drunk becomes, the less capable he is of doing the work necessary to feed his addiction.  So it is with modern man—the more he luxuriates in excess and comfort, the less willing he is to do the uncomfortable work necessary to sustain his opulence.

2.) “Back to School with Richard Weaver” – the subject of last Thursday’s TBT, this little piece was from a 2014 Facebook post in which I quoted from “The South and the American Union,” an essay from Weaver’s Southern Essays.  It contrasts the Southerner’s “Apollonian” worldview of fixed limits and “permanent settlement” to the ceaseless striving and progression of the Northern, “Faustian” worldview.  It’s a fascinating dichotomy that, while controversial, certainly rings true to Southerners like yours portly.

3.) “The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2016” – my classic, original reading list; naturally, Ideas Have Consequences tops the list!  As I wrote at the time, if you’re going to read just one book this summer, make it Ideas Have Consequences!

4.) “Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction” – I wrote this little summary for my History of Conservative Thought course.  It’s my quick rundown to help breakdown the main ideas from the introduction to high school juniors.  Hopefully it worked!

Well, that’s it.  Enjoy Weaver Fest 2019!  It’s back to school for me tomorrow.

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments: