The Great Gatsby: A Secular Saint?

by Zach Meckley

“We can die by it, if not live by love

…And by these hymns, all shall approve

Us Canoniz’d for Love:”

– John Donne

The Great Gatsby is indubitably a work indispensable in a full experience of American literature. Well established as a stylistic masterpiece, a rich portrayal of the Roaring ‘20s, and a dramatically magnificent story, this work is stolidly shelved among the foremost writings in our national heritage. Its beautiful prose, historical vividness, and emotional poignancy entitle F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus to the highest ranks of literary genius our nation can lay claim to.

Such an evaluation is no petty encomium; nevertheless it is not enough. This masterpiece, though perhaps not entitled to stand shoulder to shoulder with Dante’s Inferno or Homer’s epics, is worthy of some place among the Great Books. Obviously, this audacious classification must be justified by the discernible presence of the qualities which all truly great works of literature possess in some eminent way. In this essay, two essential properties of the most significant books mankind has to treasure will admit The Great Gatsby into the canon of Great Books. These are firstly: the presence in a work of themes or questions universal to human experience, transcending particular political, social, and economic boundaries as well as the confines of any particular time, and secondly: a portrayal of these themes and questions that adds something to the continuous human conversation about them (referred to as the “Great Conversation” by Mortimer J. Adler).

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The Salvation of Faust

by Monica Montanaro

Goethe’s Faust, the original story of a man’s wager with Hell, ends surprisingly.  The circumstances of Faust’s death near the end of the play are such that the devil seems to have won his soul, even in the devil’s own estimation; yet Faust is incontestably saved.  Either Heaven intervenes to save Faust against the terms of his own wager, then, or else he truly wins the wager.  A careful reading of the play shows that Faust does win his wager most spectacularly.  Through the story of Faust’s life, moreover, Goethe expresses an unusual idea about the fulfillment of man’s life on earth, which is in a certain way the fulfillment of his purpose as a man.  Goethe objects to the idea that man, a partially material creature who lives out his existence in material creation, must seek happiness and the fulfillment of his life in something sterile and distinct from material creation.  He cannot be satisfied with worldly things, but neither will he ever be able to rest, during this life, in something that causes him to ignore his earthly existence.  Rather, man’s fulfillment in this life consists of actions of a man as man, a creature essentially both soul and body.  This is not an absolute rest, but a resting sort of striving, which, in Goethe’s mind, corresponds more to the nature of man as he exists in this life than the absolute rest of a spirit does.  While Goethe’s idea of the end of man does not entirely correspond to the classical or to the Christian idea, it brings to light certain little-noticed aspects of that idea with extraordinary force.  Nevertheless, it must be qualified carefully.

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Ad Astra Per Aspera

by Tim Cantu

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon… (interrupted by applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

This vision of President Kennedy’s, first stated publicly on May 25, 1961, was fulfilled less than 7 years later when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, along with 400,000 other NASA employees and civilian contractors, successfully completed the Apollo 11 mission and returned safely to earth. Over the next three and a half years 12 men walked on the moon in 6 successful missions. The total cost of the Apollo program has been estimated at about $170 billion in 2005 dollars, and did not include Apollo 18 through 20, which were cancelled in order to create funding for the development of the Space Shuttle and other NASA programs. All of this to land on the moon 6 times with a degree of technology which is eclipsed many times over in any cell phone produced in the last 3 years.

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Fulfilled in Your Hearing

by John Hall

For even the most adroit of readers, the Scriptural texts that constitute the Bible can be complex and difficult to understand, not only in terms of content and meaning, but also with respect to their origin and purpose. The Bible has, for almost all of its history, been simultaneously a perennial object of study for scholars and a means of devotion and prayer for even the most simple and uneducated of believers. No other piece of writing in history has ever garnered such a great following from such a broad spectrum of readership. It is perhaps for this reason that the range of ideas about the role of Scripture in the life of Christianity and individual Christians is so diverse.

It is a widely circulated truth that exposure to the texts of the Bible is, for many Roman Catholics, almost exclusively limited to the public readings that occur during the Mass on Sundays. Catholics are somewhat notorious among the wider group of Christians for their lack of familiarity with the Bible. Admittedly, the attitude behind this phenomenon in Catholics is not exactly laudable, but is it entirely false? Is there perhaps some element of truth behind many Catholics’ exclusively liturgical experience of Scripture?

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A Vision of a Living World

by Ben Milton

1 / INTRODUCTION

As physical beings, we are closely attuned to spacial relationships. This goes down to very deep levels, levels that we are sometimes not consciously aware of. Most of us have had the experience of being disturbed by structural arrangements, but we may not have been able to say why. Most commonly, this occurs in building or cities, elements of the built environment erected by humans for humans. It rarely, if ever, occurs in areas shaped by purely natural forces.

This experience can be puzzling. Oftentimes we cannot pin down what feels “right” about one place and “wrong” about another, but the feelings are definitely present, and are usually agreed upon by the majority of the people there. Often the feelings can be quite strong. Chartres Cathedral or the Alhambra, for example, provide deeply moving experiences in their own right, and smaller works of architecture provide this as well; we all know of a house we’ve visited, a road we’ve walked, or even a garden someone planted that evoked a deep sense of rightness.

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Battle Cry

by Julia Kraus

I began reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother with more trepidation than real interest. Published in early 2011 by Amy Chua, the eponymous mother of the title, the book is a terrifyingly non-fictional account of Chua’s experiences raising her American daughters in the traditional Chinese manner. The book garnered reams of shocked press, some boldly complementary, others tearfully indignant that such a woman be allowed to continue in existence.

To clarify, the “traditional Chinese manner” of which Chua speaks is summed up nicely within the first two pages:

Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do: attend a sleepover, have a playdate, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A, not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than piano or violin, and not play the piano or violin.

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Sacraments and Faculties

by Daniel Quinan

Can a laicized priest administer the sacraments validly? This question will serve as a stimulus to the following investigation. Of course a laicized priest might administer the sacraments illicitly, if the law has forbidden him from doing so for some reason – but this is certainly not the same as suggesting that the law could render his sacraments invalid. Indeed, I suspect that many (if not most) people would naturally assume that (given valid matter, form, and intention) sacraments administered by an ordained priest will always be valid, even if they are not always licit. And this is not an unreasonable assumption; nor, as we will see, is it a very wrong assumption. After all, if the man is a validly ordained presbyter, and ordination cannot be undone, then it follows that he must retain the power of orders, and therefore (in principle) he cannot fail to have the ability to transubstantiate bread and wine, hear sacramental confessions, and the like.

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The Enigma of Werner Herzog

by Nick Milton

German cinema was dealt a vicious blow during WWII and the years following. Joseph Goebbels, after being promoted to the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, formed the Reich Chamber of Film, which unsurprisingly banned Jews and Foreigners from the now nationally controlled film industry. This resulted in numerous German directors, producers, and actors fleeing their homeland and finding employment in Hollywood. This list includes such notables as Michael Curtiz (Casablanca), Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot), Peter Lorre, Marlene Dietrich, and Fritz Lang. In fact, Fritz Lang left Germany because Goebbels himself, after watching Metropolis, had expressed his desire to make Lang head up his Propaganda Film Unit. Germany’s Murnaus and Dreyers were replaced by specially appointed directors whose sole purpose was to instill in the German people national pride.

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American Power and the Common Good

by Stephen Sims

A recent article in a prominent newspaper identified the unfathomable spending and reach of the Department of Defense. The concerned journalist pointed out that no one is sure of the number of American military foreign bases, although conservative estimates place the number around 1,000. The journalist, distressed at alleged profligate military spending and inept bookkeeping, added his voice to the chorus shouting for a reduced military presence of the United States in the world. This chorus especially dislikes American power in the form of the soldier and the aircraft carrier, due partly to the strain defense puts on the government’s budget, but especially because they see a widespread military as an arrogant expression of power.

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