29 December 2007

Quotes from Dewey, Hoyt, and Freud

The achievements of the past provide the only means at command for understanding the present. ...The institutions and customs that exist in the present and that give rise to present social ills and dislocations did not arise overnight. They have a long history behind them. Attempt to deal with them simply on the basis of what is obvious in the present is bound to result in adoption of superficial measures which in the end will only render existing problems more acute and more difficult to solve.
Growth depends upon the presence of difficulty to be overcome by the exercise of intelligence.

John Dewey
--Experience and Education

Excerpts from a history of the Great Depression:

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching had investigated college athletics earlier in the year (1929) and found them to be the same across the country - "sodden with commercialism." Of 112 schools investigated, only 28 did not offer improper subsidies to athletes. But instead of hanging their heads in shame, many colleges defended their athletic activities. A Brown University professor attacked the foundation for meddling. ...The Big Ten's commissioner of athletics defended the practice of buying college players.
One telephone operator in one of the city's largest hotels wore a new sealskin coat. Her spending was typical. She was playing the stock market on a broker's margin account, and boasted neither a bank savings account, insurance, nor a penny in the world except what she earned from week to week. But would she take her profits and convert them to bonds, as President Hoover wanted her and all Americans to do? She would not even consider it, for the gambling fever had her, as it had a million other Americans. The fever had her and them in red-cheeked, bright-eyed frenzy.
For billions of dollars were lost that day, including those of the young telephone operator in the New York hotel who had invested everything she owned in her sealskin coat and in a margin account on the stock exchange. A hotel resident, unable to complete a telephone call that night, had gone to the switchboard himself, to overhear her talking to her broker, her voice breaking and eyes bathed in tears. All the telephone operator had left at the end of this Black Thursday was her sealskin coat and her job.
That night the relatives of Abraham Germansky, a wealthy real estate man who lived in Mount Vernon, New York, put in a frantic call to police to help them find Germansky. He had last been seen late Thursday on Wall Street, tearing up ticker tape and scattering it along the sidewalk.
Hunger was not debatable.

Edwin P. Hoyt
-- The Tempering Years (a history of America between 1929 and 1939)

It is clear that in their play children repeat everything that has made a great impression on them in real life, and that in doing so they abreact the strength of the impression and, as one might put it, make themselves master of the situation. But on the other hand, it is obvious that all their play is influenced by a wish that dominates them the whole time - the wish to be grown-up and to be able to do what grown-up people do. It can also be observed that the unpleasurable nature of an experience does not always unsuit it for play. If the doctor looks down a child's throat or carries out some small operation on him, we may be quite sure that these frightening experiences will be the subject of the next game; but we must not in that connection overlook the fact that their is a yield of pleasure from another source. As the child passes over from the passivity of the experience to the activity of the game, he hands on the disagreeable experience to one of his playmates and in this way revenges himself on a substitute.

Sigmund Freud
--Beyond the Pleasure Principle

27 December 2007

2007 book recommendations

The following list includes the books I've read this year that I enjoyed the most and that had the biggest effect on me. I give the highest recommendation to all of them, and I've bolded the top five.

Akhmatova, Selected Poems
Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison
Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun
de Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition
Frye, The Educated Imagination
Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics
Hamsun, Pan
Hamsun, Growth of the Soil
Hamsun, Victoria
Hardy, Selected Poems
Ienaga, The Pacific War 1931-1945
Krakauer, Into the Wild
McCann, The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry
Petterson, Out Stealing Horses
Pieper, Hope and History
Rilke, The Duino Elegies
Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Steinbeck, East of Eden
Steinbeck, The Pearl
Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
Walker, Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs

If you are interested in checking out last year's list of recommended books, click here.

24 December 2007

Quotes from Hamsun, Krakauer, and Campbell

He wanders eastward, toward the sun, he comes to a mountain. A voice calls: are you near a mountain? Yes, he answers, I'm standing near a mountain. Then the voice says: That mountain you are standing near is my foot; I am lying bound in the uttermost part of the earth, come set me free!


Later, when he came to think about it, he acknowledged that those hours had had a significance for him that no one could realize, and if it was true - as had just been said - that at times his writing sparkled, then it was his memories of that time that had kindled the spark; it was a reflection of the happiness his two playmates had bestowed on him in his childhood. For that reason they could claim a large share in his achievements.


But his days varied, the good alternating with the bad, and sometimes he would be working at his best when a thought, a pair of eyes, a word from the past would strike him, quenching his inspiration. Then he would get up and begin to pace his room from wall to wall; he had done this so often, he had worn a white path across the floor, and the path grew daily whiter....

Knut Hamsun

And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness.

Boris Pasternak
--Doctor Zhivago (quoted in Krakauer, Into the Wild)

Because I was alone, however, even the mundane seemed charged with meaning. The ice looked colder and more mysterious, the sky a cleaner shade of blue.


It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.

Jon Krakauer
--Into the Wild

The universal triumph of the secular state has thrown all religious organizations into such a definitely secondary, and finally ineffectual, position that religious pantomime is hardly more today than a sanctimonious exercise for Sunday morning, whereas business ethics and patriotism stand for the remainder of the week. Such a monkey-holiness is not what the functioning world requires....


A single song is being inflected through all the colorations of the human choir. General propaganda for one or another of the local solutions is superfluous - or much rather, a menace. The way to become human is to learn to recognize the lineaments of God in all of the wonderful modulations of the face of man.

Joseph Campbell
--The Hero With a Thousand Faces

22 December 2007

Quotes from the week's reading

I was in the grip of a strange and glorious flow of ideas, the heavens opened, it was a warm summer day for my soul, an angel proffered wine, I drank it - strong wine, which I drank from a garnet bowl.


Forgive me if I'm hoping too much, believing too much, it's so lovely to believe blindly for once.


Such is the nature of love. No, no, it is something different again, like nothing else in the world. It visits the earth on a night in spring when a young man sees two eyes, two eyes. He gazes, he sees. He kisses a mouth, and it feels as though two lights have met in his heart, a sun that flashes at a star. He falls in her arms, and for him the whole world becomes silent and invisible.

Love was God's first word, the first thought that sailed across his mind. He said, Let there be light, and there was love. And every thing that he had made was very good, and nothing thereof did he wish unmade again. And love was creation's source, creation's ruler; but all love's ways are strewn with blossoms and blood, blossoms and blood.


The days came and went: mild, lovely days filled with the bliss of solitude and with sweet memories from childhood - a renewed call to the earth and the sky, the air and the hills.

Knut Hamsun

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes form our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

--Chris McCandless, quoted in Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Civility dies with the death of dialogue.

--John Courtney Murray

Understandably enough, a direct relationship exists between out-group hostility and in-group cooperation. The more intensely the enemy is loathed and feared, the greater the loyalty and cohesion within the group.


A perversion is someone else's pleasurable excitement that you disapprove of. You may disapprove of it for sound reasons, but you are making a value judgment, not an objective statement.


Attachment to parents provides the emotional basis for later adult attachment and loyalty to leaders; while early dislike of strangers provides the behavioural and psychic paradigm of later adult hostility to "the enemy."

Anthony Stevens
--The Roots of War and Terror

18 December 2007

17 December 2007

Excerpts from the week's reading

-My friends and I listened to over an hour of Barack Obama's 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father on our way back from our road trip to Appalachia yesterday. As everyone in the car was a member of the University of Chicago cross country team, we especially enjoyed hearing a story about a game of basketball Obama played in Henry Crown Field House, where we practice every day. I'm two-thirds of the way through the audio book, and it is very good - it's on an entirely different plane than The Audacity of Hope, which is more of a vague, guarded political manifesto.


No amount of word-making will ever make a single soul to know these mountains...One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books.

--John Muir

Thousands of different things, from fine holiday weather to world peace, can be objects of human hope and are, in fact, such objects. Yet, once again, there appears to be only one single object that, by being hoped for, renders a person simply "one who hopes."
The aspect of Plugge's findings that is really worth thinking about, if also likely to surprise at first, seems to me to be his observation that true hope does not emerge and show its face until the moment when one's various 'hopes' are finally disappointed, fall to pieces, and lose their meaning - only then can "fundamental hope...most convincingly be grasped"; this is actually an opportunity offered by disappointment for the "purging of all illusory hope"; "out of the loss of ordinary, everyday hope arises authentic hope".

"Disappointment" is thus to be taken...as a "disillusioning" that frees from illusion (or deception). The illusion, the perhaps at first totally unavoidable self-deception, consists in our believing that the attainment of certain goods in the objective world, including bodily health, constitutes existential well-being or is at least necessary to it. ...Every deep disappointment of some hope whose object was to be found in the worldly sphere potentially harbors an opportunity for hope per se to turn, without resignation and for the first time, toward its true object....

Josef Pieper
--Hope and History

In (slavery) cases, time and again, the judiciary paraded its helplessness before the law; lamented harsh results; intimated that in a more perfect world, or at the end of days, a better law would emerge, but almost uniformly, marched to the music, steeled themselves, and hung Billy Budd.

Robert M. Cover
--Justice Accused: Antislavery and the Judicial Process

We cannot remain uprooted from the earth for too long without losing our sense of what it means to be fully alive.

Fred D. White
--Essential Muir: A Selection of John Muir's Best Writings

The causes attributed to past wars by historians are not really causes at all, but merely the triggers that set them off.
If the psychodynamic investigation of our warlike propensity has any advantage over other approaches, it is that it gets closer to the core of the problem. It underlines the truth that wars do not begin in senates, parliaments, or military headquarters but in the minds of men. It demonstrates that the rational use of force for political objectives and the rational use of strategy to attain military goals are based on an irrational substrate in the human organism which makes military behavior an available resource at the disposal of governments, chieftains, tyrants, and warlords. On this foundation of unreason do our reasoned strategies proceed.

Anthony Stevens
--The Roots of War and Terror

Despair is the anticipation of nonfulfillment. There is also, of course, the anticipation of fulfillment, but that is equally at odds with the reality of our existence as wayfarers (viatores).

The one who hopes, and he alone, anticipates nothing; he holds himself open for an as yet unrealized, future fulfillment while at the same time remaining aware that he knows as little about its scope as about its time of arrival.

Josef Pieper
--Hope and History

11 December 2007

Quotes from Petterson, "Out Stealing Horses"

I don’t switch on the ceiling light at once but leave the room in twilight so the yellow flames in the stove flicker brightly over the floor and walls. The sight of them slows my breathing down and makes me calm as it must have done for men through thousands of years: let the wolves howl, here by the fire it’s safe.

But each time he came home he had changed a little, and I had to concentrate hard to hold on to him.

My father looked almost happy then, and I could see by the way he looked at me that I did, too.

And she waves briefly and slams the car door and it starts to roll down the slope. I go up the steps and turn off the yard light and walk through the hall to the kitchen. Lyra is at my heels, but even when she is behind me the room feels a bit empty. I look out at the yard, but there is nothing but my own reflection in the dark glass.

He is watching the news. I don’t know when I last watched the news. I did not bring a television set out here with me, and I regret it sometimes when the evenings get long, but my idea was that living alone you can soon get stuck to those flickering images and to the chair you will sit on far into the night, and then time merely passes as you let others do the moving. I do not want that. I will keep myself company.

‘Would you rather I hadn’t come?’ she says again, insistently.
‘I don’t know,’ I say, and that is also true; I don’t know what to think of her coming out here, it was not part of my plan, and then it strikes me: now she will go away and never come back. That thought fills me with such sudden terror that I quickly say:
‘No, that’s not true. Don’t go.’

So I get up. Six fifteen. Lyra leaves her place beside the stove and goes to the kitchen door to wait. She turns her head and looks at me, and there is a trustfulness in that look I probably do not deserve. But maybe that is not the point, to deserve it or not, perhaps it just exists, that trust, disconnected from who you are and what you have done, and is not to be measured in any way. That’s a nice thought. Good dog, Lyra, I think, good dog.

Per Petterson
--Out Stealing Horses (highly recommended; check it out here on Amazon.com)

10 December 2007

Belief isn't for the unimaginative; let kids see 'The Golden Compass'

The following editorial was published in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer:

I was thrilled to learn that The Golden Compass, the first book in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, was going to be released as a movie on Friday. I read the trilogy first in middle school and again in high school, and it was my favorite story for a long time. It is filled with imagination and erudition, and it is a significant cut above the vast majority of works aimed at young adults.

But the story's greatest strength - its infusion with ideas - is as much a threat to pundits and "protect-the-children" types as it is a joy to readers. Pullman is an atheist, and the books reflect his negative view of organized religion. Some religious advocacy groups are, accordingly, up in arms over the release of the movie.

I have already received my first mass e-mail warning me about the dangers of The Golden Compass and advising me to keep my kids inside, with doors locked. The movie will, I am told, "kill God in the minds of children"; its objective is to "bash Christianity and promote atheism" and "sell atheism to kids."

But Pullman's real quarrel is less with belief itself than with the intolerance that organized belief systems sometimes foster, an intolerance demonstrated every time some busybody condemns a book without having actually read it.

There are a lot of sophisticated theological and philosophical ideas woven into the "His Dark Materials" narrative. The story speaks as positively about religious concepts such as soul, spiritual existence and love as it speaks negatively about intolerance and bigotry. It opens a window in the reader's mind and invites him or her to investigate all of these ideas further.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that "His Dark Materials" will threaten some readers' identities and beliefs. To listen to and take seriously alternative viewpoints is to make oneself vulnerable; it raises the possibility that our certainty is not as justified as we had thought.

Complaints about Pullman's books and calls for a boycott of the movie are based on several seriously flawed assumptions: that parents should shelter teenagers from views that don't seem in accord with those of the parent; that young adults cannot or should not think critically and engage in dialogue about serious ideas; and that imaginative fiction threatens religious belief.

In fact, great stories are the stuff of which religious belief is made. Literature shapes and expands our imagination, and imagination is critically important to our ability to believe.

In religious practice, for example, we are asked to internalize symbols, such as the cross, seeing them not as mere shapes or designs but as signs that point toward the infinite. We are asked to believe in unseen forces that never register on scientific instruments. We are asked to imagine ourselves as part of a human community larger than ourselves and our families, and we are asked to imagine our lives not as isolated, meaningless evolutionary aberrations but as part of a grander narrative of creation.

Belief is not for the unimaginative. If it were, perhaps religious wisdom would be passed down through history in some more concrete form than the symbols, stories, myths and parables we have inherited.

Parents who want their children to grow up with faith should take them to the fiction section of the local library or bookstore and give them free rein to explore. It is in literature that they will find the most convincing evidence for eternal things, and it is through exposure to literature that they will develop the imagination that belief requires.

Ryan McCarl is a masters student in international relations at the University of Chicago and a freelance writer. His blog is ryanmccarl.blogspot.com.

24 November 2007

Quotes from James, Meredith, Campbell, and Jung

His lack of all thought by which to weigh the danger against the attractiveness of the bait, and of all volition to remain hungry a little while longer, is the direct measure of his lowness in the mental scale.

William James
--The Principles of Psychology

But whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grade of life, the call (to adventure) rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration - a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand.
Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or "culture," the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless.... Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his Minotaur. ...The myths and folk tales of the whole world make clear that the refusal is essentially a refusal to give up what one takes to be one's own interest. The future is regarded not in terms of an unremitting series of deaths and births, but as though one's present system of ideals, virtues, goals, and advantages were to be fixed and made secure.

Joseph Campbell
--The Hero With a Thousand Faces

Romeo wants Juliet as the filings want the magnet; and if no obstacles intervene he moves toward her by as straight a line as they. But Romeo and Juliet, if a wall be built between them, do not remain idiotically pressing their faces against its opposite sides like the magnet and the filings with the card. Romeo soon finds a circuitous way, by scaling the wall or otherwise, of touching Juliet's lips directly.

William James
--The Principles of Psychology

(The introvert's) ideal is a lonely island where nothing moves except what he permits to move.

Carl Jung
--Psychological Types

In all ages the man whose determinations are swayed by reference to the most distant ends has been held to possess the highest intelligence. The tramp who lives from hour to hour; the bohemian whose engagements are from day to day; the bachelor who builds but for a single life; the father who acts for another generation; the patriot who thinks of a whole community and many generations; and finally, the philosopher and saint whose cares are for humanity and for eternity, - these range themselves in an unbroken hierarchy....

William James
--The Principles of Psychology

I read, I love
I eat, I drink
I watch the world tilt
I watch the children think:
there's so much to it
and most of it good
that while I've tendons
to lift my head,
like a rooster drinking
I'll nod to God
and save despair
for when I'm dead.

William Meredith
--From "The Preponderance"

20 November 2007

Excerpts: Jung, Rilke, and Campbell

The fact that an intellectual formula never has been and never will be devised which could embrace and express the manifest possibilities of life must lead to the inhibition or exclusion of other activities and ways of living that are just as important. ...Doubtless there are exceptional people who are able to sacrifice their entire life to a particular formula, but for most of us such exclusiveness is impossible in the long run. Sooner or later...the potentialities repressed by the intellectual attitude will make themselves indirectly felt by disturbing the conscious conduct of life. ... The first function to be affected by the conscious inhibition is feeling, since it is the most opposed to the rigid intellectual formula and is therefore repressed the most intensely. No function can be entirely eliminated - it can only be greatly distorted.

--Jung, "General Descriptions of the Types" in Psychological Types

From The Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Leishman & Spender:

...And before
A single pain has got within range of your ever-
galloping heart, comes the tingling
in the soles of your feet, ahead of the spring that it wells from,
chasing into your eyes a few physical tears.
And, in spite of all, blindly,
your smile....

--From "The Fifth Elegy"

Angel: suppose there's a place we know nothing about, and there,
on some indescribable carpet, lovers showed all that here
they're for ever unable to manage - their daring
lofty figures of heart-flight,
their towers of pleasure, their ladders,
long since, where ground never was, just quiveringly
propped by each other....

--From "The Fifth Elegy"

Pillars, pylons, the Sphinx, all the striving thrust,
grey, from fading or foreign town, of the spire!
Wasn't all this a miracle? Angel, gaze, for it's we -
O mightiness, tell them that we were capable of it - my breath's
too short for this celebration. So, after all, we have not
failed to make use of the spaces, these generous spaces, these,
our spaces. (How terribly big they must be,
when, with thousands of years of our feeling, they're not over-crowded.)

--From "The Seventh Elegy"

The multitude of men and women choose the less adventurous way of the comparatively unconscious civic and tribal routines. But these seekers, too, are saved - by virtue of the inherited symbolic aids of society, the rites of passage, the grace-yielding sacraments, given to manking of old by the redeemers and handed down through milleniums. It is only those who know neither an inner call nor an outer doctrine whose plight truly is desperate: that is to say, most of us today, in this labyrinth without and within the heart.

Joseph Campbell
--The Hero With a Thousand Faces

19 November 2007

UCXC: NCAA DIII Cross Country National Championships

I traveled to Northfield, MN this weekend to race in the NCAA Division III Cross Country National Championships - the final cross-country race of my life. The experience was intense: the race was taped and relayed to an enormous screen for spectators; the "boxes" that show runners where to stand on the starting line were separated by physical barriers instead of the usual paint on the ground; huge circular blue NCAA logos were painted at the start and the finish; and the race was narrated by an announcer. Every runner received a duffel-bag, fleece blanket, mittens, and headwrap with the race logo. The numbers we pinned to the front and back of our singlets had our names printed on them.

It was fun but nerve-racking. I was assigned to the spot on the line next to Peter Kosgei of Hamilton, who took 2nd overall and got off the starting line faster than anyone I have ever seen in an 8k race. The entire field got out fast, as everyone was concerned about the sharp right turn about 200 meters from the start. After that turn, I couldn't change my position for the entire first mile; I was out uncomfortably fast, and I was being shoved around from both sides and from the back.

At the mile, I was finally able to move to the outside and find some space to go around people; I took the gamble and moved into the top 50 by 1.5 miles, but at that point I realized that I was already largely exhausted and would not be able to sustain the pace for another 3.5 miles. And so the goal changed from racing to be an All-American to hanging on and finishing the race with a respectable time. Racing to pass people is much more fun than racing to survive, and it felt pretty miserable to be passed by about 100 people between the 2-mile and the finish. I finished 141st with a decent time of 26:03 on a tough course. The official results are here.

Not a fun race, but the season itself was the best I could ever ask for. All-Region, First-Team All-Conference, the U of C school record, and a lot of great experiences, travels, and new friendships. Now it's time to relax, finish the academic quarter, find a job for next year, and eat as many cheeseburgers as I can get my hands on.

Quotes from Jung and Rilke

Man is not a machine that can be remodelled for quite other purposes as occasion demands, in the hope that it will go on functioning as regularly as before but in a quite different way. He carries his whole history with him; in his very structure is written the history of mankind.


This is the extravert's danger: he gets sucked into objects and completely loses himself in them.

C.G. Jung
--Psychological Types

From The Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke:

Who's not sat tense before his own heart's curtain?
Up it would go: the scenery was parting.

--From "The Fourth Elegy"

Do you really suppose your gentle approach could have so
convulsed him, you, that wander like morning-breezes?
You terrified his heart, indeed; but more ancient terrors
rushed into him in that instant of shattering contact.

-- From "The Third Elegy"

I know why you so blissfully touch: because the caress persists,
because it does not vanish, the place that you
so tenderly cover; because you perceive thereupon
pure duration. Until your embraces almost
promise eternity. Yet, when you've once withstood
the startled first encounter, the window-longing,
and that first walk, just once, through the garden together:
Lovers, are you the same? When you lift yourselves
up to each other's lips - drink unto drink:
oh, how strangely the drinker eludes his part!

...Were not love and farewell
so lightly laid upon shoulders, they seemed to be made
of other stuff than with us? Remember the hands,
how they rest without pressure, though power is there in the torsos.
The wisdom of those self-masters was this: we have got so far;
ours is to touch one another like this; the gods
may press more strongly upon us. But that is the gods' affair.

--From "The Second Elegy"

14 November 2007

Quotes from Meredith, Apollinaire, and Delors

From Fables about Error

What is as wrong as the uninstructed heart?
Left to its ends, it clutches things and creatures
That can't be held, or held, will slip their natures;
It lives to hoard or to protect a hoard.
To school, to school! Teach the poor organ skill
That all its ignorant, nervous will
Does not unpage us like old calendars.
A life should be all gathering and art.

Let there be academies of everything,
That the trap in the warm kitchen yield to guile,
That grackles leave a fire single file
And swallows find their true halves the first spring.
The mind should be, like art, a gathering
Where the red heart that fumes in the chest
Saying kill, kill, kill or love, love, love,
Gentled of the need to be possessed,
Can study a little the things that it dreams of.

--William Meredith

There is a need for urgency, for history does not wait.

--Jacques Delors, "A Necessary Union" (in Nelsen & Stubb, eds., The European Union: Readings on the Theory and Practice of European Integration)

From Rhenish Night

My glass is filled with a wine that trembles like flame.

--Guillaume Apollinaire (tr. William Meredith)

11 November 2007

UCXC: Midwest Regional Championships 2007

This was one of the best weekends of my life. It was my last team trip as a member of a collegiate cross-country squad, and memories were made. We traveled to beautiful, spacious Oshkosh, WI for the Midwest Regional meet. Shortly before the starting gun, huddling with the team, doing stride-outs, and giving high-fives, I realized that I was doing all of these things for the last time, and in a moment of clarity I understood how much cross-country has meant to me for the past 8 years.

Conditions were flawless - 45 degrees, hard ground, a flat course, winds under 10 mph - and everyone on the team had a performance they could be proud to end the season with. The men finished 12th and the women finished 14th out of 35 teams. There were several personal bests, and Liz Lawton made All-Region on the women's side.

I ran 24:33 - 57 seconds faster than my P.R. of two weeks ago - finishing 7th overall, qualifying for the national championships, and setting a new University of Chicago cross-country school record. It was far and away the best race of my life, and I'm still feeling high from it. In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy describes the emotion like this:

Yet that grief and this joy were alike outside all the ordinary conditions of life; they were loopholes, as it were, in that ordinary life through which there came glimpses of something sublime. And in the contemplation of this sublime something the soul was exalted to inconceivable heights of which it had before had no conception, while reason lagged behind, unable to keep up.

12. University of Chicago

7. Ryan McCarl (Sr.) - 24:33
57. Arthur Baptist (Fr.) - 25:36
80. Chris Peverada (Jr.) - 25:59
96. Alex Garbier (So.) - 26:25
98. Nick Nunez (Fr.) - 26:26
102. Andrew Wells-Qu (Fr.) - 26:30
114. Adam Kaye (So.) - 26:47

09 November 2007

More poems & lines by William Meredith

Original Aversions

In all respects unready for a fall
They fell, our first progenitors, and these
Two traumas still disturb us most of all:
High places and our own unreadiness.
Towers or wells unfoot us in our dreams
Repeatedly. Old-fashioned people still
Believe that nothing saves them but their screams
And that an unawakened fall would kill.
Anticipation cannot really ease
The other trouble; waiting for the day
When such and such will happen or will pass,
It is not hard to wish your life away.
Apart from angels, winged and prevised,
Nobody likes to fall or be surprised.

From Starlight

Going abruptly into a starry night
It is ignorance we blink from, dark, unhoused;
There is a gaze of animal delight
Before the human vision. Then, aroused
To nebulous danger, we may look for east stars,
Orion and the Dipper; but they are not ours,

These learned fields. Dark and ignorant,
Unable to see what our forebears saw,
We keep some fear of random firmament
Vestigal in us. And we think, Ah,
If I had lived then, when these stories were made up, I
Could have found more likely pictures in haphazard sky.

From Sonnet on Rare Animals

I have alarmed on your behalf and others'
Sauntering things galore.
It is this way with verse and animals
And love, that when you point you lose them all.
Startled or on a signal, what is rare
Is off before you have it anywhere.

From Orpheus

The mind turns from causes in such cases -
All a man can say is, it happened.

08 November 2007

Great quotes from recent reading

We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

Robert Frost
--From "Mending Wall"

World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.

Robert Schumann
--"The Schumann Declaration"

I asked her, urgently, if she could see my face, and she said: "See it?" And, smiling: "It's reflected in my eyes, isn't it?"


Natsume Soseki
--From "The First Night"

And home, where passion lived and died,
Becomes a place where she can hide,
While all the town and harbor side
Vibrate with her seclusion.

Edwin Arlington Robinson
--From "Eros Turannos"

Despite all of these examples of colloquialism and apparent simplicity in Frost's poetry, we should not be deceived into thinking of Frost as a rustic or a primitive. On the contrary, Frost was a sophisticated writer who was well versed in Latin poetry and who knew as well as any poet of his time how to make effective use of formal and rhetorical strategies. From his early career on, Frost prided himself on being "one of the most notable craftsmen of my time," as he wrote in his 1913 letter to John Bartlett.

Christopher Beach
--The Cambridge Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Poetry

In Those Days

In those days - they were long ago -
The snow was cold, the night was black.
I licked from my cracked lips
A snowflake, as I looked back

Through branches, the last uneasy snow.
Your shadow, there in the light, was still.
In a little the light went out.
I went on, stumbling - till at last the hill

Hid the house. And, yawning,
In bed in my room, alone,
I would look out: over the quilted
Rooftops, the clear stars shone.

How poor and miserable we were,
How seldom together!
And yet after so long one thinks:
In those days everything was better.

Randall Jarrell

02 November 2007

The case for a School of Education at the University of Chicago

Today's unsigned editorial in the Chicago Maroon:

The University of Chicago is often referred to as the “Teacher of Teachers.” U of C graduates tend to go into academia at much higher rates than do those at peer schools, and many of the ideas associated with the University—the “Life of the Mind,” “Chicago Math,” and “progressive education,” for example—are directly relevant to the challenges faced by America’s K–12 schools.

Having benefited from a great education, many Chicago students would appreciate the opportunity to introduce the next generation of students to the world of ideas. Unfortunately, their desire to do so runs headlong into a system that discourages them from teaching in public schools.

This was not always the case. John Dewey, arguably the greatest educational theorist of the 20th century, started the U of C’s School of Education in 1895. The program was allowed to deteriorate until it was finally shut down in 2001. Students in the College now have no way to earn teaching certification or study the discipline of education during their undergraduate years.

Each year, many U of C graduates enter Teach for America or other alternative certification programs. Such programs tend to send recent graduates to the toughest, most disadvantaged schools in the country, with minimal training. Although many graduates are able to rise to this challenge, the high turnover rate shows that these programs are not appropriate for everyone.

U of C students who want to teach generally must choose between alternative certification programs and graduate school in education. But the burden of student loans combined with relatively low teacher salaries often precludes the latter option. The current system encourages U of C students with a desire to teach to become investment bankers or consultants instead.

There is a growing consensus in American society that education at the K–12 level needs to be a top priority if American workers are to remain internationally competitive. America’s schools will continue to underperform if the best minds of our generation are turned away from the profession because of financial and practical constraints. As long as the University does not provide a way for students at the College to pursue certification as undergraduates, the University is part of the problem.

The administration should commission a study to determine the best way to reinvent the School of Education and make it one of the top programs in the country. This would fit comfortably with the University’s traditional focus on research and theory as well as with the administration’s goal of giving back to the community. It’s the least a place that preaches the merits of the “Life of the Mind” can do.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.

01 November 2007

Poems & fragments by William Meredith

From Ten-Day Leave

Oh, identity is a traveling-piece with some,
But here is what calls me, here what I call home.

A Major Work

Poems are hard to read
Pictures are hard to see
Music is hard to hear
And people are hard to love.

But whether from brute need
Or divine energy
At last mind eye and ear
And the great sloth heart will move.

From June: Dutch Harbor

It is hard to keep your mind on war, with all that green.

The Open Sea

We say the sea is lonely; better say
Ourselves are lonesome creatures whom the sea
Gives neither yes or no for company.

Oh, there are people, all right, settled in the sea-
It is as populous as Maine today-
But no one who will give you the time of day.

A man who asks there of his family
Or a friend or teacher gets a cold reply
Or finds him dead against that vast majority.

They are speechless. And the famous noise of the sea,
Which a poet has beautifully told us in our day,
Is hardly a sound to speak comfort to the lonely.

Although not yet a man given to prayer, I pray
For each creature lost since the start of the sea,
And give thanks that it was not I, nor yet one close to me.

-From William Meredith, Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems

31 October 2007

Poems and lines by Randall Jarrell

From The Orient Express

One looks from the train
Almost as one looked as a child. In the sunlight
What I see still seems to me plain,
I am safe; but at evening
As the lands darken, a questioning
Precariousness comes over everything.

From Deutsch Durch Freud

Have you too sometimes, by the fire, at evening,
Wished that you were - whatever you once were?

From A Girl in a Library

An object among dreams, you sit here with your shoes off
And curl your legs up under you; your eyes
Close for a moment, your face moves toward sleep...
You are very human.
One sees it, in the glass, in one's own eyes.
In rooms alone, in galleries, in libraries,
In tears, in searchings of the heart, in staggering joys
We memorize once more our old creation,
Humanity: with what yawns the unwilling
Flesh puts on its spirit, O my sister!

From Aging

I wake, but before I know it it is done,
The day, I sleep. And of days like these the years,
A life is made. I nod, consenting to my life.

The Meteorite

Star, that looked so long among the stones
And picked from them, half iron and half dirt,
One; and bent and put it to her lips
And breathed upon it till at last it burned
Uncertainly, among the stars its sisters -
Breathe on me still, star, sister.

25 October 2007

Quotes from Paul Tillich and a poem by Mark Strand

And, certainly, the way to maturity in thinking is a difficult path. Much must be left behind: early dreams, poetic imaginations, cherished legends, favored doctrines, accustomed laws and ritual traditions. Some of them must be restored on a deeper level, some must be given up. Despite this price, maturity can be gained - a manly, self-critical, convincing faith, not produced by reasoning, but reasonable, and at the same time rooted in the message of the divine foolishness, the ultimate source of wisdom.


From century to century it has become more and more evident that knowledge without wisdom produces external and internal self-destruction.


He who has encountered the mystery of life has reached the source of wisdom. In encountering it with awe and longing, he experiences the infinite distance of his being from that which is the ground of his being. He experiences the limits of his being, his finitude in face of the infinite. He learns that acceptance of one's limits is the decisive step towards wisdom. The fool rebels against the limits set by his finitude. He wants to be unlimited in power and knowledge. He who is wise accepts his finitude. He knows that he is not God.

Paul Tillich
--The Eternal Now

The Man in Black

I was walking downtown
when I noticed a man in black,
black cape and black boots, coming toward me.

His arms out in front of him,
his fingers twinkling with little rings,
he looked like a summer night full of stars.

It was summer. The night was full of stars.
the tall buildings formed a hallway down which I walked.
The man in black came toward me.

The waxed tips of his mustache shone
like tiny spears and his teeth glistened.
I offered him my hand which he did not take.

I felt like a fool and stood in his black wake,
shaken and small, and my tears
swung back and forth in the sultry air like chandeliers.

--Mark Strand

Quotes from Randall Jarrell and Knut Hamsun

"I lie in my own bed,"
He whispers, "dreaming"; and he thinks to wake.
The old mistake.

--From Randall Jarrell, "A Field Hospital"

We read our mail and counted up our missions-
In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school-
Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
The people we had killed and never seen.
When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
When we died they said, "Our casualties were low."
They said, "Here are the maps"; we burned the cities.

--From Randall Jarrell, "Losses"

A machine-gun away
Are men with our faces.

--From Randall Jarrell, "Jews at Haifa"

Here too, though death is hushed, though joy
Obscures, like night, their wars,
The beings of this world are swept
By the Strife that moves the stars.

--From Randall Jarrell, "The Breath of Night"

[Note: Jarrell was an American control tower operator during World War II.]

The letter shot through me like a stream of light, and I heard myself give a little cry, a meaningless sound of joy: the letter was from the editor, my piece was accepted, being set in type immediately! "A few minor changes...a couple of typographical errors corrected...shows real ability...will appear tomorrow...ten kroner."

I laughed and cried, leaped in the air and ran down the street, stopped and beat my legs, swore wholesale at no one about nothing. And time went by.


For a few minutes I didn't have a single sad thought. I forgot my troubles and felt peaceful looking at the harbor that lay serene and lovely in the dusk. I had the habit of cheering myself up by reading through the article I had just written, which always seemed to my afflicted brain the very best piece I had done. I pulled my my manuscript out of my pocket, held it up close to my eyes, and read through one page after the other. Finally I grew tired and put the papers in my pocket. Everything was still; the sea stretched away like bluish mother-of-pearl, and small birds flew silently past me, going from one place to another. A policeman walked up and down a little way off. Otherwise, not a person could be seen, and the entire harbor was silent.

Knut Hamsun

21 October 2007

Quotes on religion, love, and int'l relations

Every summer he's on the prarie harvesting wheat and every winter in the Wisconsin forests chopping cordwood. That's his life.

A life maybe as good as any other.

--Knut Hamsun, "On the Prarie" (from Tales of Love and Loss)

The theological dimension is needed both for interpreting and for solving present day problems in human society.

--Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

The human being is made for love and cannot live without love. When it is manifested as the total gift of two persons in their complementarities, love cannot be reduced to emotions or feelings, much less to mere sexual expression. In a society that tends more and more to relativize and trivialize the very experience of love and sexuality, exalting its fleeting aspects and obscuring its fundamental values, it is more urgent than ever to proclaim and bear witness that the truth of conjugal love and sexuality exist where there is a full and total gift of persons, with the characteristics of unity and fidelity. This truth, a source of joy, hope, and life, remains impenetrable and unattainable as long as people close themselves off in relativism and skepticism.

--Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

We lived through much happiness and unhappiness,
Separations, miraculous rescues. And now, this ash.
And the sea battering the shore when I walk the empty boulevard.
And the sea battering the shore. And ordinary sorrow.

--Czeslaw Milosz, from "On Parting With my Wife, Janina"

Enemy images have a long pedigree, and some states continue to position each other in such terms today. The Greeks represented the Persians as "barbarians"; the Crusaders perceived the Turks as "infidels"; medieval Europeans feared their defeat at Liegnitz at the hands of the Mongols heralded Armageddon; later Europeans treated the peoples of the Americas as savages; conservatives thought civilization was threatened by the French Revolution; and, in our own century, we have the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the early Cold War, Northern Ireland, Pol Pot, Palestinian and Israeli fundamentalists, the Bosnian Civil War, Hutus and Tutsis - all based on representations of the Other as intent on destroying or enslaving the Self.

It is important to recognize that this concept implies nothing about whether enemy images are justified. Some enemies are "real," in that the Other really does existentially threaten the Self, as the Nazis did the Jews, and others are "chimeras," as the Jews were to the Nazis. ...Real or imagined, if actors think enemies are real then they are real in their consequences.

--Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics

16 October 2007

Readings on certainty, racism, and foreign policy

-Today's Maroon column: "Certainty is a luxury none of us has." Religious fundamentalists and secular fundamentalists are all-too-alike in their belief that they, and only they, have answers to the biggest questions in the human dialogue. What unites us all is doubt and searching. Read the article here.

-Must-read: "Principal of Arabic School Says She was Forced Out." This is what racist, nativist hysteria looks like.

-From an Economist article on the new Fox Business Channel: Mr Murdoch apparently wants his channel to be more “pro-capitalism” than CNBC—which is hardly a pinko outfit—and, sure enough, there was soon a discussion about the pharmaceutical industry entitled "Capitalism cures cancer", which—let’s be “fair and balanced”, as the Fox News slogan puts it—it does.

-MIT international relations scholar Barry Posen on "the case for restraint" in U.S. foreign policy. I haven't read this yet, but I generally like what Posen has to say. Responses from Francis Fukuyama, Stephen Krasner, G. John Ikenberry, and others are also online.

14 October 2007

UCXC: Parkside Invitational 2007

It was a beautiful fall day in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and I was reminded of why I love cross-country. The course at Wisconsin-Parkside is designed specifically for cross-country: it isn't a golf course with a white line drawn through it. It has handmade signs marking each quarter-mile, it has hills and trails through woods, and the start is sounded with a cannon rather than a gun. From the starting line, runners look forward and see an enormous hill surrounded by trees, and above the hill, the cloud-filled Wisconsin sky.

Whenever I am in Wisconsin, I feel at home. In the Aeneid, Virgil writes of people's desire for a "permanent shore." When I think of my own permanent shore, I think of the upper Midwest, and places filled with lakes and trees, where Saturday mornings in the fall are spent at cross-country meets.

Here are our team results for the day (out of 17 teams, 187 runners):

6. University of Chicago (154 points)
11. Ryan McCarl (Sr.) (26:06)
16. Chris Peverada (Jr.) (26:11)
41. Nick Nunez (Fr.) (27:01)
45. Adam Kaye (So.) (27:10)
54. Andrew Wells-Qu (Fr.) (27:10)
56. Brian Taylor (Sr.) (27:23)
61. Alex Garbier (So.) (27:29)

10 October 2007

Mortimer J. Adler on war and peace

"Our view of war, then, must be broadened to include both armed conflict and battles of diplomacy, economic aid, and propaganda. War is war, whether it is "hot" or "cold." The struggle for power and prestige among the nations goes on all the time. Only the means vary, and whether these be armed force or diplomatic pressure or other nonviolent means depends on the occasion.

It follows, then, that peace is not merely a negative thing - the absence of armed conflict. What real, positive peace among the nations would be we may see by considering the state of affairs in local, state, and national communities. In our civil society, peace and order, not war, are the normal state of things. The whole meaning and purpose of civil society is peace and order. Civil government creates civil peace. Individuals who violate the law are disturbers of the peace and are dealt with accordingly.
Contrary to a lot of loose talk, it is peace and not war that is proper to human nature. Cicero and many other thinkers rightly point out that fighting and snarling are the way of brute beasts, while talking things over and listening to reason are the proper way for men. Peace is required not only for our material survival but also for a really human existence."

--Mortimer J. Adler, Great Ideas from the Great Books

07 October 2007

Quotes from Mearsheimer's "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics"

In international politics, God helps those who help themselves.


Because Americans dislike realpolitik, public discourse about foreign policy in the United States is usually couched in the language of liberalism. Hence the pronouncements of the policy elites are heavily flavored with optimism and moralism. ...Behind closed doors, however, the elites who make national security policy speak mostly the language of power, not that of principle, and the United States acts in the international system according to the dictates of realist logic. In essence, a discernible gap separates public rhetoric from the actual conduct of American foreign policy.


For better or worse, states are rarely willing to expend blood and treasure to protect foreign populations from gross abuses, including genocide. For instance, despite claims that American foreign policy is filled with moralism, Somalia (1992-93) is the only instance during the past one hundred years in which U.S. soldiers were killed in action on a humanitarian mission. And in that case, the loss of a mere eighteen soldiers in an infamous firefight in October 1993 so traumatized American policymakers that they immediately pulled all U.S. troops out of Somalia and then refused to intervene in Rwanda in the spring of 1994, when ethnic Hutu went on a genocidal rampage against their Tutsi neighbors. Stopping that genocide would have been relatively easy and it would have had virtually no effect on the position of the United States in the balance of power. Yet nothing was done.


But sometimes the pursuit of non-security goals conflicts with balance-of-power logic, in which case states usually act according to the dictates of realism. For example, despite the U.S. commitment to spreading democracy across the globe, it helped overthrow democratically elected governments and embraced a number of authoritarian regimes during the Cold War, when American policymakers felt that these actions would help contain the Soviet Union.


It is difficult to imagine a modern political leader openly asking the public to fight and die to improve the balance of power. No European or American leader did so during their world war or the Cold War. Most people prefer to think of fights between their own state and rival states as clashes between good and evil, where they are on the side of the angels and their opponents are aligned with the devil. Thus, leaders tend to portray war as a moral crusade or an ideological contest, rather than as a struggle for power. Realism is a hard sell.

--John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

05 October 2007

Poetry selections from Wilbur, Basho, and Apollinaire

From Transit

A woman I have never seen before
Steps from the darkness of her town-house door
At just that crux of time when she is made
So beautiful that she or time must fade.

-Richard Wilbur

From Journey of the Year 1694

I trudged alone far into Yoshino. The mountains truly stretch on and on, and white clouds lie piled on the peaks. A smoky rain buried the valleys, here and there interrupted by the huts of the mountain folk, very small. To the west, the sound of a tree being felled; to the east, the echo. The voices of the bells of many temples found a response deep in my heart.
Weary of sleeping every night in strange lodgings, I got up from bed while it was still dark and went out onto the beach.
As the days went by in travel, untying my straw sandals at this place and laying down my walking stick at that, the year drew to a close.

-Basho (tr. Donald Keene)

From Mirabeau Bridge

All love goes by as water to the sea
All love goes by
How slow life seems to me
How violent the hope of love can be.

-Guillaume Apollinaire (tr. Richard Wilbur)

29 September 2007

UCXC: Loyola Invitational 2007

Not the best day for the UCXC men: we were hoping to place around seventh or eighth at the Loyola Invitational, the gold division of which is packed with DI and DII teams, but no one ran particularly well, and we wound up in thirteenth.

In the final steps of the race, I was hit by the problem of overheating I occasionally get when I race - suddenly, all strength goes out of my limbs, moving a single step becomes a major effort, my body has begun to burn muscle instead of calories/fat, and I feel as though I might black out. After the race, I was barely conscious and could not open my eyes more than a fraction, my feet and legs were racked with cramps, and my head burned with a dehydration headache. It is an extraordinarily unpleasant experience, but things ended up fine.

13. University of Chicago (359 points)

44. Ryan McCarl (Sr.) (26:00)
57. Jon Ascolese (Jr.) (26:12)
92. Arthur Baptist (Fr.) (26:41)
101. Greg Rizzolo (Sr.) (26:56)
107. Alex Garbier (So.) (27:00)
122. Adam Kaye (So.) (27:00)
123. Nick Nunez (Fr.) (27:12)
127. Chris Peverada (Jr.) (27:15)

20 September 2007

Back in the States!

I had a great time in Tokyo, and now I am home - in Muskegon overnight and driving to Chicago first thing tomorrow morning. I'll post a few of the best pictures from the trip over the weekend.

A few of the things I did in Japan:

-Reconnected with the Japanese people with whom I am closest - Ai (a former exchange student in Muskegon) and my former host family. Had many memorable outings with friends of Ai and became close with one in particular, a guitar-playing writer/actor named Okada who, at age 23, has already published two books of poetry in Japan.
-Took a scenic train that ran along the seacoast to Kamakura, a beautiful, tree-filled former capital of Japan that is filled with temples and shrines.
-Had dinner at a yakitori restaurant and drinks at an bar with Morimoto Reo (Leo), an actor famous in Japan. We discussed politics, literature, translation, and all sorts of other things. He said that he had never expected to be able to have a real conversation with an American, so we went out and talked from six at night to 1:30 in the morning.
-Went to a members-only bar in Shinjuku run by another famous actor.
-Went to Tokyo Disneyland with my former host family. Heard the Enchanted Tiki Birds and the Country Bears sing in Japanese.
-Observed my first typhoon, Typhoon No. 10 (of the year), which hit Tokyo a few hours after I arrived.
-Ate at "Freshness Burger," a Japanese burger chain. Not good.
-Toured various places in Tokyo: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Asagaya (where I lived), Koenji, Kichijoji, Odaiba, Jinbocho, Nakano, Urayasu.
-Discovered that in the four years since I was last in Tokyo, at least one Starbucks has prominently appeared in every district.
-Saw a Disney-style line formed in front of Tokyo's one Krispy Kreme, near Shinjuku Station. A white-gloved employee guided people into the line and managed a sign that said: 30 minutes.
-Learned that when the first Burger King opened in Tokyo recently, some people waited (and still wait) several hours to eat there.
-Was robbed by the exchange rate and fees to the tune of 8 cents per dollar I exchanged.
-Wrote over 100 pages in a travel journal and took almost 500 photographs.
-Watched a Japanese friend get written up by a policeman in Asagaya after ignoring a command to stop our guitar-playing and singing in a park at 1 a.m.
-Read Tolstoy's Hadji Murad, Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, Northrop Frye's The Educated Imagination (a book about the importance of literature), Walker's Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan, and about half of McCormack's The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence and Virgil's Aeneid.
-Discovered new Japanese music and brought home seven CDs.
-Visited a used English-language bookstore in Jinbocho; the bookstore had some incredibly rare books, including a complete set of the Criterion, the journal T.S. Eliot edited, and many first-edition books by John Steinbeck, my favorite American author.
-Bought Japanese books: the collected early poems of Tanigawa Shuntaro (some of which I am going to translate this year), a book on homes in Tokyo, and others. Also bought several used books in English.

The trip was a complete success. I was glad to be in Japan, and now I am glad to be back. Everything starts on Monday: classes in the M.A. program at Chicago, cross-country practice, editorial meetings at the Maroon, and another year of work at D'Angelo Law Library.

04 September 2007

Two weeks in Tokyo

Thursday at 1 p.m., I will be on a plane bound for Minneapolis, and then I'll fly direct from Minneapolis to Tokyo-Narita. It's a 12-hour flight and a 13-hour difference from eastern time, so I'll arrive in Tokyo around 4 pm on Thursday. Then, I'll figure out how to ride the bus from Narita to Shinjuku, the district in the photo, and at Shinjuku I'll meet up with my friend Ai.

I became friends with Ai when she was an exchange student in my hometown of Muskegon, MI, during my senior year of high school; although I haven't seen her in over three years, we've kept in touch through letters and emails. I'll be staying with Ai and making the most of Tokyo for two weeks, seeing as much as I can and improving my Japanese as much as possible in the process.

On Sunday, I'll also spend the day with the Takada family, the wonderful host parents and sisters I stayed with for six weeks as an exchange student near Tokyo in the summer before my senior year of high school.

Naturally, I don't want to spend any of this precious time typing in English and surfing the Internet. So the blog is on hiatus until September 20th or so. Thank you, as always, for reading, and feel free to browse the archives.

As always, I will take hundreds of photos and keep a detailed travel journal these next two weeks, and I will post some of that on this blog when I return. Until then: Ja, ne.

01 September 2007

Personal update: Elmhurst Invitational 2007

The cross-country season got off to a great start for the UCXC men and women - the men placed our top 5 in the top 11 spots of the meet. What's more, we did it by starting very conservatively and gradually moving up, a tactic that allowed us to run comfortably in a pack of 7-10 runners for the first 2 1/2 miles of the 4 mile race. I don't remember the last time I enjoyed a race so much. Full results are here. The UCXC women took 2nd, placing 4 in the top 11.

I'll write more later, as I'm driving to Ann Arbor in six hours for a Michigan football game. But here are the team results:

(Overall place, name, year, time)

2. Ryan McCarl (Sr) - 17:57
5. Jon Ascolese (Jr) - 18:11
8. Chris Peverada (Jr) - 18:14
10. Arthur Baptist (Fr) - 18:19
11. Nick Nunez (Fr) - 18:27
15. David Yu (Jr) - 18:50 - (David ran unattached; he's spending the year in Great Britain)
18. Harry Backlund (Fr) - 18:57
22. Greg Rizzolo (Sr) - 19:06
24. Dan Gardner (Jr) - 19:07
30. Adam Kaye (So) - 19:16


31 August 2007

Quotes from the week's reading, part 2

As we would expect, during most wars consumer spending is deliberately held back by heavy taxes to make room for swelling military expenditure. During World War II, for example, consumption was squeezed back by heavy taxes to barely more than half of GDP. …During the Vietnam War military expenses for that conflict were not compensated by taxes to roll back consumption and the excess demand for goods and services ignited a subsequent inflation.

[Question: Could this happen today, given that the U.S. government is spending over $2 billion each week in Iraq?]

--Robert Heilbroner and Lester Thurow, Economics Explained

From Six Years Later

So long had life together been that now
The second of January fell again
On Tuesday, making her astonished brow
Lift like a windshield-wiper in the rain,
So that her misty sadness cleared, and showed
A cloudless distance waiting up the road.

Joseph Brodsky, tr. Richard Wilbur

Can we still believe at all? Or rather - for the question must be posed in a more radical fashion - is it still permissible to believe? Have we not a duty to break with the dream and face reality? The Christian of today must ask himself this question: he is not at liberty to remain satisfied with finding out that by all kinds of twists and turns an interpretation of Christianity can still be found that no longer offends anybody. When some theologian explains that "the resurrection of the dead" simply means that one must cheerfully set about the work of the future afresh every day, offense is certainly avoided. But are we then really still being honest?

--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Introduction to Christianity

Those societies that adapt themselves to the requirements of economic growth and technological innovation in a particular epoch become the economic leaders of that epoch, and societies that do not or cannot adjust to such requirements fall behind.

--Robert Gilpin, Global Political Economy

Can the mathematician who looks at the world mathematically find anything else but mathematics in the universe? Should not one rather ask him whether he has not himself at some time or other looked at the world in a way that is other than mathematical? Whether, for example, he has never seen an apple tree in blossom and wondered why the process of fertilization by the interplay between bees and trees is not affected otherwise than through the roundabout way of the blossom, thus including the completely superfluous wonder of beauty...?
Yet the man who seeks a view of the whole will have to say: In the world we find present, without doubt, objective mathematics; but we also find equally present in the world unparalleled and unexplained wonders of beauty, or, to be more accurate, there are events that appear to the apprehending mind of man in the form of beauty, so that he is bound to say that the mathematician responsible for these events has displayed an unparalleled degree of creative imagination.

--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Introduction to Christianity

30 August 2007

Quotes from the week's reading, part 1

From How It Should Be in Heaven

How it should be in Heaven I know, for I was there.
By its river. Listening to its birds.
In its season: in summer, shortly after sunrise.

Peace eternal
Could have no mornings and no evenings,
Such a deficiency speaks against it.
And that’s too hard a nut for a theologian to crack.

--Czeslaw Milosz

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.

--Joel Kurtzman, MBA in a Box

There is every reason to help the poor man who happens to be a farmer, not because he is a farmer but because he is poor. The program, that is, should be designed to help people as people, not as members of particular occupational groups, age groups, wage-rate groups, labor organizations, or industries. … The arrangement that recommends itself on purely mechanical grounds is a negative income tax…. The advantages of this arrangement are clear. It is directed specifically at the problem of poverty. It gives help in the form most useful to the individual, namely, cash. It is general and could be substituted for the host of special measures now in effect. It makes explicit the cost borne by society. Like any other measures to alleviate poverty, it reduces the incentives of those helped to help themselves, but it does not eliminate that incentive entirely, as a system of supplementing incomes up to some fixed minimum would.

--Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom

And Yet The Books

And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
“We are,” they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant,
Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.

--Czeslaw Milosz

From Relics of the Past

The dust raised by the royal cavalry has long since settled.
One by one, poets and historians, the standard-bearers of culture,
have gone silently to their graves. Of what use is the purple
and fine linen now, the baubles that women love?

--Akhtarul Iman, tr. R. Parthsarathy

27 August 2007

Personal update: the final weeks of summer

After a quiet and happy week in Michigan, I am now back in Chicago for a week of training and racing with the U of C cross-country team. This will be my fourth and final year as a member of the squad, and I am more excited about the sport and ready to race than I've been in years. We begin to miss things and feel the pain of losing them before they go, and being a member of an XC team has been a big part of my life for almost eight years. I will miss it.

I spent most of the past week reading social science and other nonfiction stuff at Barnes & Noble and Good Grains in Muskegon: Economics Explained by Robert Heilbroner and Lester Thurow, Global Political Economy by Robert Gilpin, a sociology textbook, a book on expressing emotions in Japanese, and an introductory religious studies textbook. I focused on literature all summer because I was dealing with numbers and facts all day at my job and because I was searching for direction. Now I must get into the groove of reading duller and tougher materials in order to prepare for the academic year.

The weekend was also nice: Mona Shores beat Muskegon Catholic Central for the second straight year in football on a beautiful Friday night. On Saturday, I won the Roosevelt Park Days 5k in 15:54, hung out all morning with my family and watched my 8 year-old sister in the parade, and then drove to my grandparents' cottage in Baldwin for a weekend of kayaking, looking at the stars with Grandpa on the dock, eating at backwoods diners, writing, and watching Stranger Than Fiction. Driving home through the hills and farmland of west-central Michigan, I felt outrageously happy to be alive. I get that feeling a lot these days. Fall is my favorite season: indoor warmth, Saturday morning meets, football, excitement about school, and hope for new beginnings.

This week, training and preparing for the school year in Chicago; Friday, the first race of the 2007 cross-country season (in Elmhurst); Saturday, an overnight stay in Ann Arbor to watch the Michigan vs. Appalachian State football game; another three days in Muskegon; and then, next Wednesday afternoon, I'll step off a plane and be in Tokyo for a two-week stay.

What might have been is just thin air,
A loss we long ago outgrew.

--Czeslaw Milosz, "In Salem"

After Paradise

Don't run anymore. Quiet. How softly it rains
On the roofs of the city. How perfect
All things are. Now, for the two of you
Waking up in a royal bed by a garret window.
For a man and a woman. For one plant divided
Into masculine and feminine which longed for each other.
Yes, this is my gift to you. Above ashes
On a bitter, bitter earth. Above the subterranean
Echo of clamorings and vows. So that now at dawn
You must be attentive: the tilt of a head,
A hand with a comb, two faces in a mirror
Are only forever once, even if unremembered,
So that you watch what is, though it fades away,
And are grateful every moment for your being.
Let that little park with greenish marble busts
In the pearl-gray light, under a summer drizzle,
Remain as it was when you opened the gate.
And the street of tall peeling porticoes
Which this love of yours suddenly transformed.

--Czeslaw Milosz

22 August 2007

Quotes from Max Muller, historian of religion

Not many years ago great offence was given by an eminent writer who remarked that the time had come when the history of Christianity should be treated in a truly historical spirit, in the same spirit in which we treat the history of other religions, such as Brahmanism, Buddhism, or Mohammedanism. And yet what can be truer? He must be a man of little faith, who would fear to subject his own religion to the same critical tests to which the historian subjects all other religions. We need not surely crave a tender or merciful treatment for that faith which we hold to be the only true one. We should rather challenge for it the severest tests and trials, as the sailor would for the good ship to which he entrusts his own life, and the lives of those who are most dear to him.


The difficulties which trouble us, have troubled the hearts and minds of men as far back as we can trace the beginnings of religious life.


(We) must aim at truth, trusting that even unpalatable truths, like unpalatable medicine, will reinvigorate the system which they enter. To those, no doubt, who value the tenets of their religion as the miser values his pearls and precious stones, thinking their value lessened if pearls and stones of the same kind are found in other parts of the world, the Science of Religion will bring many a rude shock; but to the true believer, truth, wherever it appears, is welcome, nor will any doctrine seem the less true or the less precious, because it was seen, not only by Moses or Christ, but likewise by Buddha or Laotse. ...Some of the most vital articles of faith are the common property of the whole of mankind....


There are philosophers, no doubt, to whom both Christianity and all other religions are exploded errors, things belonging to the past, and to be replaced by more positive knowledge. To them the study of the religions of the world could only have a pathological interest, and their hearts could never warm at the sparks of truth that light up, like stars, the dark yet glorious night of the ancient world. They tell us that the world has passed through the phases of religious and metaphysical errors, in order to arrive at the safe haven of positive knowledge of facts. But if they would but study positive facts, if they would but read, patiently and thoughtfully, the history of the world, as it is, not as it might have been: they would see that, as in geology, so in the history of human thought, theoretic uniformity does not exist, and that the past is never altogether lost. The oldest formations of thought crop out everywhere, and if we dig but deep enough, we shall find that even the sandy desert in which we are asked to live, rests everywhere on the firm foundation of that primeval, yet indestructible granite of the human soul, -- religious faith.

--Friedrich Max Muller, Chips from a German Woodshop

Perhaps there are few people here present who have watched a sunrise more than once or twice in their lives; few people who have ever known the true meaning of a morning prayer, or a morning sacrifice. But think of man at the dawn of time... with his mind yet lying fallow, though full of germs - germs of which I hold as strongly as ever no trace has ever, no trace will ever, be discovered anywhere but in man; think of the Sun awakening the eyes of man from sleep, and his mind from slumber!


It is a mere story, it might be said, and why should there be any meaning in it? My answer is, because people do not tell such stories of their gods and heroes, unless there is some sense in them.

--Friedrich Max Muller, "On the Philosophy of Mythology"

Both selections from Strenski, ed., Thinking About Religion: A Reader

Robert Gilpin on the case for free trade

Economists of every persuasion are convinced that free trade is superior to trade protection. In fact, they consider free trade to be the best policy for a country even if all other countries should practice trade protection, arguing that if other countries resort to trade protection, the economy that remained open would still gain more from cheaper imports than it would lose in denied export markets.
Underlying this liberal commitment to free trade is the belief that the purpose of economic activity is to benefit the consumer and maximize global wealth. Free trade also maximizes consumer choice, reduces prices, and facilitates efficient use of the world's scarce resources.
Economists have strongly disputed the alleged benefits of trade protection. Trade protection, they point out, reduces both national and international economic efficiency by preventing countries from exporting those goods and services in which they have a comparative advantage and from importing those goods and services in which they lack comparative advantage. Protection also decreases the incentive of firms to innovate and thus climb the technological ladder; it also discourages shifting natural resources to their most profitable use.
Most American economists have... attributed almost all of the relative decline in the wages of low-skilled American workers to technological changes within the American economy itself. Technological changes such as the computer and information economy, they have argued, significantly decreased the demand for low-skilled workers and greatly increased the demand for skilled, especially college-educated, workers. Furthermore, these economists have noted that the relatively small trade flows between the United States and low-wage economies cannot possibly explain the roughly 30 percent difference in wages between skilled/college-educated and unskilled workers in America. Instead, this decline in the wages of low-skilled workers has been due to such technological changes as automation, lean production techniques, and computerization.
It is certain that trade protection is not a wise solution to the problems of stagnant wages, income inequality, and job insecurity. The solution lies in job-training programs and other programs to aid adjustment to rapidly changing economic and technological developments.
Trade, however, does create losers as well as winners in the areas of both wages and employment. Economic sectors in which a nation possesses or wins a comparative advantage gain from trade, while sectors in which a nation loses comparative advantage suffer. As losers frequently feel the pain more acutely than winners feel the gain, both ethical and political reasons make it necessary that national policy assist or compensate workers and others harmed by trade liberalization. In any case, the worst response a nation can make to inevitable shifts in comparative advantage is to close itself off from the stimulus of trade competition.

--Robert Gilpin, Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order, ch. 8.

19 August 2007

A personal update, and last quotes from Growth of the Soil

The internship is over and I am home in Muskegon, happy to use the weather as an excuse to spend entire days reading in coffeeshops. I am leaving for Japan on September 5th and my Japanese is very rusty, and there is plenty of IR and political theory I would like to cover before school starts in late September.

This should be a wonderful week: home, family, friends, books, bowling, Muskegon, running on the lake. August continues to be the best month yet this year for me - every side of life is good and I am excited about the future. I love my apartment and roommates in Chicago, am in great shape for the cross-country season that starts next week, have read three new favorite novels over the past month (Steinbeck's Travels with Charley along with Knut Hamsun's Growth of the Soil and Pan), am satisfied with my now-completed internship, and will be in Tokyo in two and a half weeks. Things are very, very good.

The summer was difficult, not least because it was my first experience of working 50 hours a week in an office - that's a pretty big leap from academic life. But I learned an incredible amount; it often felt like I was being paid to go to school. Every day, I read The Wall Street Journal practically cover to cover as well as pages upon pages of other news sources, academic papers, and economic forecasts. My discussions about economics with my supervisors - emerging market bond portfolio managers - felt like private office hours with a great professor. I observed the way Wall Street functions and the way investment decisions are made by institutional investors. I learned how bonds work and how political risk affects investment decisions, and developed a spreadsheet to quantify the effect of political risk on developing countries' creditworthiness. I created economic forecasts for Brazil, Russia, India and China. I learned about currency fluctuations, liquidity, the subprime mortgage meltdown, current accounts, economic indicators - and much more. Every day, I was bombarded with information.

I enjoyed some aspects of the job more than others, and found that my background had left me better prepared for the political risk analysis side of the work than for the economic forecasting and modeling side of the work. But I also gained a new respect for the power and complexity of financial markets, and I realized that if one's goal is to understand the world in order to improve it, it is crucial to study markets as well as politics. Political decisions create the space and the incentive structure in which markets function, but it is useful to think of politics and markets as intertwined and inseparable.

I have a long way to go and a lot to study on all fronts, which is a major reason why I am grateful for this week of peace at home in West Michigan.

Final quotes from Hamsun's Growth of the Soil - right up there with The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, and War and Peace as one of the absolute best novels I have ever gotten my hands on. This book, like the others just mentioned, has reshaped the way I think and will hopefully reshape the way I live - it has inspired me to look away from the temptation of great wealth and great expectations, avoid being another rootless young person floating around the world's cities, investigate rather than avoid the issue of abortion and find ways to reduce it, and be content with making and spending less and leaving a lighter footprint on earth. Check the book out here on Amazon.com.

Why could not folk go on living as well or as poorly now as before there had been any mine at all? Well, they could not, and that was all about it. They had grown accustomed to better food, finer bread, store-bought clothes and higher wages, general extravagance - aye, folk had learned to reckon with money more, that was the matter. And now the money was gone again, had slipped away like a shoal of herring out to sea - 'twas dire distress for them all, and what was to be done?


Inger has made her stormy voyage, 'tis true, has lived in a city a while, but now she is home; the world is wide, swarming with tiny specks - Inger has been one of them. All but nothing in all humanity, only one speck. Then comes the evening.


Nothing growing there? All things growing there; men and beasts and fruit of the soil. Isak sowing his grain. The evening sunlight falls on the grain that flashes out in an arc from his hand, and falls like a dropping of gold to the ground. ... Forest and field look on. All is majesty and power - a sequence and purpose of things.


A man of the wild was not put out by the thought of great things he could not get; art, newspapers, luxuries, politics and such-like were worth just what folk were willing to pay for them, no more. Growth of the soil was something different, a thing to be procured at any cost; the only source, the origin of all. A dull and desolate existence? Nay, least of all. A man had everything; his powers above, his dreams, his loves, his wealth of superstition.


There you are, living in touch with heaven and earth, one with them, one with all these wide, deep-rooted things. No need of a sword in your hands, you go through life bareheaded, barehanded, in the midst of a great kindliness. Look, Nature's there, for you and yours to have and enjoy. Man and Nature don't bombard each other, but agree; they don't compete, race one against the other, but go together. ... Fjeld and forest, moors and meadow, and sky and stars - oh, 'tis not poor and sparingly counted out, but without measure. Listen to me, Sivert: you be content! You've everything to live on, everything to live for, everything to believe in; being born and bringing forth, you are the needful on earth. 'Tis not all that are so, but you are so; needful on earth. 'Tis you that maintain life. Generation to generation, breeding ever anew; and when you die, the new stock goes on. That's the meaning of eternal life.

Knut Hamsun
--Growth of the Soil