The GRE Manifesto

A quality that I’ve always admired is purposefulness. Time is something we can never get back (and who knows how much we even have left!), so there’s a real power in being able to confidently answer the question, “Why am I doing this?”

The great majority of my next few days will be consumed with studying for the GRE. (Joy of joys!) I’ve been joking to a few friends that I’ll be cafe-hopping through Omaha over my Fall Break. Except I’m not joking… And I may even hit up Council Bluffs if I’m feeling especially adventurous one day. But though I “just kinda know” this is something I need to do, I looked in the mirror this morning and understood that I needed to articulate my purpose more clearly. My lovely journal began to catch the words, but then I realized that was not nearly honest or humble enough. This was also something that I wanted to own up to publicly.

Therefore, let it be asked, “Why am I doing this”?

Starting with the least important reason, I’m doing this for myself. I’m doing this for the part of Clara that wants to know she can persistently pour herself out into a goal and reap the fruits of her hard labor. Theres’s definitely a dose of the stuff those cheesy motivational quotes are made of running through my veins. It’s invigorating, actually.

Secondly, I’m doing it for my friends, at home and abroad. The amount of support and encouragement I’ve received from my dear friends lately has taken my breath away. If you’re reading this, please know that I cherish those hugs and kind words when the going gets tough. I cannot wait to be there for you when you need the same strength! On a deeper level, I’m doing it for my friends abroad– especially holding in mind my little brothers and sisters whom I taught during Encuentro. I know there are multitudes who do not have as many doors open as I do; I’ve danced bachata with them and been humbled to live amongst them. That is why I embrace whatever small things I’ll have to give up these next few days. What an honor to be in these shoes!  May I never forget the joyful charge: to whom much is given, much is expected.

Thirdly, I’m doing this for my family, my rock. There’s something sublime in knowing you are prayed for. There’s something empowering in knowing you are loved no matter what. (There’s also something really appealing about not living on your couch next year, mom and dad!)

And finally, I’m doing it for Him. I’m doing it because it was His Hands that set me in this place, and His Love that placed these burning desires within my heart. We each have a mission, or as I like to think of it, a heavenly, beautiful story that He writes through us as we journey home. So, even should this next chapter not quite work out according to my plans, I know I’m not the one who knows best (thank goodness!) and I truly believe that there is a peace that surpasses all understanding.

It’s pretty simple, really, this is just me answering Your call with “yes.”

 

(Confession: I had to google “manifesto” before publishing this to make sure using the word wouldn’t make me a comrade…).

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I Should Be Engaged.

Duly Noted.

I want to be engaged this year. As of yesterday I’ve been on this earth for more than twenty-three years, and I think it’s about time for me to be engaged.

I’ve been asking people on my Home Team what one word they want to hold true for 2016, and when the question was finally reciprocated by my friend Sanford, I couldn’t come up with anything. I hadn’t found one that quite fit just yet.

I would  say seemingly meaningful words aloud to see if their meanings would hold any significance for what I want this next year to be.

I rustled up words like depth or rest or value and announced them to myself in the car or in the shower or on my walk to work. Nothing was clicking.

Until I drove to Joshua Tree yesterday morning, and that’s when a word so unexpected was whispered into the silence…

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Why a Humanities Lover Loves Business School

I was raised on the Greats. I will be forever indebted to a canon of remarkable people, whose names are recounted on countless journal pages, for this gift. The epic tales of history’s saints and sinners, symbolism and allegory woven into the classic texts, and a taste and talent for the arts nourished me as frequently and thoroughly as family dinner did each night. Within the timeless conversations of the humanities I am most at home, most comfortable, and most myself.

And yet it is not enough. A lifestyle that revolves around loving to learn and learning to think reveals a distinct tragedy at the heart of our human existence. The enchantment of  learning is not in it’s satisfaction– for surely every answer contains the seeds of still more mysteries. And some mysteries cannot even be solved– they are only worth thinking about. C.S. Lewis called this bittersweetness sehnsucht, a German word that signifies “the inconsolable longing in the heart for we know not what.”It augments our activities on this earth while increasing our hunger for more. “Man cannot live on bread alone” and yet still “the highest does not stand without the lowest.” My learning needed grassier, more organic grounds.

Why business school? 

Why the marketplace?

Why move to a realm that seems unaffected by these deeper rhythms and meanings in life? 

There are many great reasons (and I’m sure I will eventually record them on here, one way or another) but the bottom-line is that I was tired of longing. I was ready for something to bite into, not just to mull over. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but slowly and surely over the course of my semester abroad in the Dominican Republic. I realized how precious our marketplace can be. As my mind was opened to the ancient questions of poverty and the good life, I grew to appreciate the lower on which the higher must be founded. Especially when we think outside our comfortable nation, the tangible “lower” is still missing from the lives of countless numbers. It still bothers me that the children whom I taught in a makeshift school in the Dominican Republic are unlikely to ever read The Consolation of Philosophy or enjoy an afternoon perusing the local art museum. They won’t have the opportunity to discuss the merits of school choice in the public square or whisper verses from “God’s Grandeur” under their breath upon beholding a particularly illustrious sunset.

As I’ve progressed in my studies, the benefits of studying business have been amplified into three distinct purposes: 1) great theories can be very different in practice, 2) teamwork is remarkably good for people, and 3) interdisciplinary dialogue is the key to true progress. 

The theory vs. practice tension arises from the simple reality that human beings are imperfect. We are to take this world as it is, not as we would have it. Accounting problems, financial statements, and knowledge of business law will help you identify the way our messy world actually works. Anyone blessed (cursed?) with siblings can attest to the fact that, at the end of the day, the whole family is greater than the sum of its parts. In fact, I am convinced that 90% of the organizational issues can be traced to the fact that certain people never really learned how to work nicely with others. Mustering up a cheerful attitude during a meeting (even when the height of entertainment was the magical way your cream swirled through your coffee) and letting small annoyances (monotone voices…droning….on….) roll of your back are survival skills for the business world, but also for life. Considering that many children will not learn these things before school in our modern world, it is truly a blessing that business school students are forced to learn them through semesters of group projects and team presentations. Not to mention that you are essentially forced to hang out with a new group of friends– something that always opens your eyes.

Lastly, I firmly believe that conversations across disciplines are necessary for seeking truth. Again, real life is not like an amusement park where each subject has its play-area, but more like kaleidoscope lenses, where each fresh rotation is the view from a distinct department. There is undeniable strength to focusing on one portion of truth, and perfecting that as befits your skills, but it would be hilarious to think that any department has a monopoly over the right way of thinking. Yet something like this goes on in more ways than one. Senator Sasse has provided excellent insight on improving the way that we debate:

In conclusion, this humanities lover loves business school because it is refreshing. It is refreshingly real, refreshingly human, and something refreshingly solid on which to build a good life.

 

Cyprian Norwid on Beauty

Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up    –Cyprian Norwid (Polish poet)

A girl–even a girl who cares very much about economics and school choice–can only read and summarize working papers for so long until she has to take a break for something beautiful.  Something less useful. I came across this quote in a letter from Pope John Paul II, discovered through my brother’s recent blog post, and it struck a chord. Perhaps because he goes on to discuss a remarkable Greek word, kalokagathía which signifies the incarnation of goodness in the form of beauty, or because my cottage endured a glorious bout of spring cleaning this morning, I am quite sure that beauty is the one thing that we all desperately need more of. Especially in ourselves.

But what does it mean that beauty excites us for work? Beautiful things tend to resonate with us, and when we allow ourselves to be allured, they can draw us from where we are to where we ought to be. The power of beauty is that it resonates, but just not enough. We have to change if we want to feel at peace in the presence of a beautiful artwork, musical composition, or personality.  I felt this just a moment ago during my pre-class morning procession to the coffeeshop, over the well-worn cobblestones, past spring’s sweet-smelling trees, and under the light blue and light coral sky.

Beauty will humble us, then work exalts us. I am drawing completely from my personal experience here– the best feeling that I know arrives when I rest my head on my pillow after a full day of fruitful work. Whether it’s a long, refreshing run, a completed paper, or painted canvas for a birthday gift, we humans love looking over our shoulder and seeing progress. Work was made for us. Sure, it’s terribly frustrating, and the space between where I am and where I want to be seems insurmountable at least once a day (especially during those hours right before lunch), but beauty comes in and reminds us of the reward.

“You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.”

Beauty, truth, and goodness return us back to our right selves. They grant not only practical clarity, but pure excitement as well. It is precisely this reason why we should all care very much about surrounding ourselves with beautiful things and beautiful people, in our home, at work, and at play. It turns out that bare, useful things aren’t quite useful enough to complete the work we seek to complete.

And still the real crux of the matter has yet to be mentioned. At the end of the day, Peter Kreeft had it right in his lecture on the Sea when he spoke that we don’t want to possess beauty, but instead what we find we really want is to be entirely possessed by it. Just as the sea engulfs us as we rush into the waves, so we want to be engulfed by Beauty.


For further reading:

Asceticism: The Alternative to “Hope and Change”

We can’t be satisfied

A beautiful piece to reflect on in the midst of Lent 🙂

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It’s simple.

We can’t be satisfied.

We drink water. And get thirsty. So, we drink more.

We eat breakfast. And get hungry. So, we eat lunch. And dinner. (And two desserts.)

We work hard. We work hard today, and then we work more tomorrow. And the next day.

We get a promotion. Then we want another one, to be another step up.

We make money. Yet we always need more.

We drink. Excessively. But when we sober up, the void is still there. So we drink more.

We think sex is going to satisfy us. Then, we just want more and more.

In middle school, we just want high school. In high school, we just want college. In college, we just want a day job. Then, we just want marriage. And then, kids. We can’t be content in the season we are in.

We have clothes. And shoes. And purses…

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Bach on the Purpose of Work

The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God and the refreshment of the spirit.
― Johann Sebastian Bach

Supposedly, that is the reply that Bach gave when asked why he composes music. This hasty weekly passage was sparked by an Arthur Brooks lecture that I watched while ellipticalling (asserting my legitimacy as a writer by creating funny words?) on this fine morning:

This video, which really draws from Bach’s wisdom, presents us with the same question. Many college students like myself are usually under the impression that we’re here to answer questions like what do you do? The funny thing is, the answer to that questions is not only incredibly simple, but it will change day-to-day. I submit to you that the only truly important question we ought to be able to answer is why: 

Why are you on this earth? Why do you do what you do?

A ship may be the best-equipped vessel sailing on the majestic seas, but sans guidance from the radiant North Star, it will inevitably become frustratingly lost. The haunting conclusion from Pathedy of Manners, “alone in brilliant circles to the end,” comes to mind all too easily. It is in our nature to be guided by a purpose. A few old guys in ancient Greece were fond of saying this, but we seem to have forgotten how to build upon the wisdom of the humans who came before us.

As I see it, we have two options in our current situation. We can accumulate skills, wealth and knowledge to best equip ourselves for a comfortable journey through time (and conveniently try to forget that we’re not home yet.) Or, we can seek out the answer to why, fall in love with that why, and allow that Love to lead us Home.

According to Aristotle: 3 Levels of Friendship

What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.

When it comes to a classical education, the ancient Greek thinkers are irreplaceable. Just as important and equally refreshing though, is when these giants turn their gaze to the matters that connect us throughout the ages– matters that are at the core of our human identity and warm our hearts daily. Such a gem is found when Aristotle writes of friendship in Book XIII ofThe Nichomachean Ethics. In his eyes, friendship is the very cement with which strong cities are established. But not all friendships are the same or even equal, and he divides them into three categories, “equal in number to the things that are lovable”: friendships based on utility, friendships based on pleasure, and friendships based on common goodness.

Friendships of Utility

Now those who love each other for their utility do not love each other for themselves but in virtue of some good which they get from each other.

This first pair of friends, notably saturating business networks in our present day, is born through mutual usefulness. They are more than mere acquaintances, though shallow by all other measures, since the only end of their friendship is the satisfaction of some want/need/whim. The joy of this is in it’s practicality, but the tragedy is in it’s transience, as Aristotle points out, “the useful is not permanent but is always changing.” It is a relationship with a productive motive and purpose in mind– which of course removes those cumbersome characteristics of trust, honor, and mutual affection necessary for deeper human connections. Interestingly, Aristotle attributes this kind of friendship most frequently to the older circles; those who have identified what they want and are experienced in knowing precisely how to use others to get it.

Friendships of Pleasure

On the other hand the friendship of young people seems to aim at pleasure; for they live under the guidance of emotion, and pursue above all what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately before them…their friendship changes with the object that is found pleasant.

These are the witty, excitable, and perhaps markedly adventurous friendships. They occur when we seek out companions specifically for their humor or even good looks, since these things serve to make the passing time more pleasing. Although a source of fun, these relationships still lack real love, since, “those who love for the sake of pleasure do so for the sake of what is pleasant to themselves, and not in so far as the other is the person loved but in so far as he is useful or pleasant.” In other words, these companions are only concerned with the other’s happiness to the extent that it affects his own. It does not seek the Good but rather “what is good for myself.”

Friendships of Goodness

Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good- and goodness is an enduring thing.

It is here that we encounter Aristotle’s golden rule of true friendship, arising from philia, or brotherly love. Here the participants actively choose to love the other because it is good for the other to be loved, rather than receiving the love of the other for his personal pleasure and use. It is noteworthy that he attributes the individual goodness and virtue of each character to the purity and success of their relationship. “Such friendship requires time and familiarity,” because it is gently and beautifully that their common character is revealed until the two are united as a “single soul”.

We can look at the first two pairs of friends, and see how they were loosely roped together by accidental and ephemeral circumstances, but here is a drastically different situation. It occurred because it was fitting. In a sense, any good found in the previous two friendships imitates the reality created in the friendship of goodness,

Friendship for the sake of pleasure bears a resemblance to this kind; for good people are pleasant to each other. So too does friendship for the sake of utility; for the good are also useful to each other

As it lasts, only this kind is the bedrock of society. Again, Aristotle insists,

Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good, and alike in virtue… Love and friendship therefore are found most and in their best form between such men.

To conclude, while Aristotle identifies three kinds of friendships, there is only one pair of friends that he believes truly loves each other, and that is friendship built by wishing for the true good of the other. It is also the only type that is unchanging in Aristotle’s view, since it is erected upon the sure footing of shared virtue, rather than the fleeting, lesser goods of usefulness or pleasure. These friendships not only uplift the particular participating souls, but the whole community as well, since they animate (as only love has the power to do) the citizens to aspire to excellence.

We leave you with this last, powerful passage, well worth pondering in the search for the truth:

Now it looks as if love were a feeling, friendship a state of character; for love may be felt just as much towards lifeless things, but mutual love involves choice and choice springs from a state of character; and men wish well to those whom they love, for their sake, not as a result of feeling but as a result of a state of character.

Source: According to Aristotle: 3 Levels of Friendship

The burden of free speech

Took a study break from midterms only to stumble upon this thought-provoking piece; leave it to Chesterton to tell it how it is! Enjoy the food for thought on this lovely fall morning:

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My latest piece at MercatorNet looks at the burden of offensiveness implicit in a defense of free speech, of which Chesterton wrote:

This listening to truth and error, to heretics, to fools, to intellectual bullies, to desperate partisans, to mere chatterers, to systematic poisoners of the mind, is the hardest lesson that humanity has ever been set to learn.
This piece was prompted by a Tasmanian Greens party candidate’s complaint to the anti-discrimination commissioner about a document defending and explaining the Catholic church’s position on marriage.
How do we balance the offense felt by the complainant against the freedom of the church to express its own principles and tradition? The answer lies in Chesterton’s depiction of free speech not as a self-evident good, but as a terrible burden nonetheless worth bearing.

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Here’s to a Fine, Warm Day

Just though I’d pass along this delightful article. Most fond of: “We read many books, because we cannot know enough people.” – T. S. Eliot.

May your Wednesday be filled with “books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music” 🙂

Interesting Literature

The best quotes about books, from some of the most famous writers in the world

Here is a list of our favourite quotes about books from various writers, some famous, some not so famous. We’ve only included those quotations for which we’ve managed to track down a source, whether in print or online, so you know these are authentic quotes about books, rather than of the amusing-but-apocryphal kind.

When I was a child I read books far too old for me and sometimes far too young for me. Every reading child is different. Introduce them to the love of reading, show them the way to the library and let them get on with it. – Terry Pratchett, No to Age Banding Campaign

Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know. – John Keats, letter of August…

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Dive Right In

“Lean into discomfort,” is a great phrase that has been echoed many times here. While well-intended and assuredly well-received, it dawned on me that I’ve just never been one to inch into the water. If I’m going to get my feet wet, I might as well go all the way, as quickly as possible, and with feigned bravery written on my face. I recently had the pleasure of receiving a lovely letter in the mail, which contained a lucky little reminder: I have no doubt in your ability to dive right in. So do it! Lately, I have been the tiniest bit guilty of complacency and choosing comfort over the uncertainty of adventure. That is not how a courageous women would travel through life, especially when she is studying abroad in the Dominican Republic. Who am I not to open up and try new things (even if that means somewhat regretting that cachú-doused street food)? Luckily the Man Upstairs knows precisely how to nudge us in the right direction, and in less than three days, the Comunidad will embark on our first campo immersion. I’m not going to smooth over my uneasiness and act like spending 10 days in a mountain village with no Internet, no running water, and no English-speakers doesn’t freak me out. In fact, the mere thought makes me want to wrap myself up in a tidy burrito of cleanliness, familiarity and good Internet access. But like the rest of my tough companions, I’m just going to take it into stride. It’s actually pretty funny the way things work out.  Recently, I was surprised to find myself suffering the pangs of deeply missing my grandparents and the crazy hooligans I call my siblings, but it turns out that my host family includes an abuelita, Olga, and two niños, ages 12 and 8. ¡Qué linda! Not only that, but there’s a tree-climbing, swamp-exploring, and bug-catching little girl inside of me that I would love to get in touch with again. Here’s to rediscovering simple ways to be joyful. Here’s to discovering new ways to be thankful. And on that happy note, an admirable poem:

Inexorable Deities

By: Edgar Lee Masters

Deities!
Inexorable revealers,
Give me strength to endure
The gifts of the Muses,
Daughters of Memory.
When the sky is blue as Minerva’s eyes
Let me stand unshaken;
When the sea sings to the rising sun
Let me be unafraid;
When the meadow lark falls like a meteor
Through the light of afternoon,
An unloosened fountain of rapture,
Keep my heart from spilling
Its vital power;
When at the dawn
The dim souls of crocuses hear the calls
Of waking birds,
Give me to live but master the loveliness.
Keep my eyes unharmed from splendors
Unveiled by you,
And my ears at peace
Filled no less with the music
Of Passion and Pain, growth and change.
But O ye sacred and terrible powers,
Reckless of my mortality,
Strengthen me to behold a face,
To know the spirit of a beloved one
Yet to endure, yet to dare!