Thursday, February 7, 2013

For What Do You Hunger?

Brant was one of my professors at Purdue University -- and he was one of the people’s whose brilliant ideas and passion for his job made me fall in love with the idea of being a professor.  Even today, I can’t help but think of him every time I teach.

In the months before cancer claimed his body, I began saving all of our emails, knowing that one day his name would no longer show up in my inbox.

Today, I happened upon a particular exchange that moved me.  Less than a week after the Ravens beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, the topic seems pertinent. 

Together, we were working through some ideas about football players as idols and stadiums as places of worship.  I asked,  “On Sundays, people gather in stadiums around the country, throw their arms in the air and "worship" the team for whom they cheer... Wasn’t it once churches that brought people together in this way?”  

To which he responded:

“You are on target about our culture - we do worship athletes, and our sports arenas and stadiums are temples where we worship our (false) gods.  It says something about the poverty of our culture that this is so - not that we worship athletes, but that we don't collectively worship other elements of our culture (playwrights, poets, historians) as did the ancients.  I worry about what my students do NOT know - it seems sometimes like they haven't inherited any culture to speak of - they know very little history and the "culture" with which they are familiar is restricted to the lowest common denominator - pop culture.  I'm not against pop culture or knowledge of it (though some of our pop culture is pretty vulgar), but I do wish this was only ONE thing about which our young people were knowledgeable - I honestly think lots of folks would be happier human beings if they were more culturally enriched.  Maybe if people had a sense of place historically and philosophically, they wouldn't have such a hunger for material toys."

Maybe Brant was right.  Tonight, in honor of my friend, I’m turning off my twitter feed and turning instead to the books that line my shelves.  And I hope that you might too.  Let's educated ourselves so that we might educate our sons and daughters to know their place historically and philosophically, and perhaps someday they won’t hunger for the same false nourishment that holds the rest of us hostage from what matters most.

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