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Dumping Ground?

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Here is some more provocative insight from Alan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, pg. 187-188 (emphasis mine):

“…culture refers to art, music, literature, educational television, certain kinds of movies-in short, everything that is uplifting and edifying…the link is that culture is what makes possible, on a high level, the rich social life that constitutes a people, their customs, styles, tastes, festivals, rituals, gods-all that binds individuals into a group with roots, a community in which they think and will generally, with the people a moral unity, and the individual united within himself. A culture is a work of art, of which the fine arts are the sublime expression. From this point of view, liberal democracies look like disorderly markets to which individuals bring their produce in the morning and from which they return in the evening to enjoy privately what they have purchased…A Charles de Gaulle or, for that matter, Alexander Solzhenitsyn sees the United States as a mere aggregate of individuals, a dumping ground for the refuse from other places, devoted to consuming; in short, no culture.

“Culture as art is the peak expression of man’s creativity, his capacity to break out of nature’s narrow bonds, and hence out of the degrading interpretation of man in modern natural and political science…it is profounder then the modern state, which deals only with man’s bodily needs and tends to degenerate into mere economy. Such a state is not a forum in which man can act without deforming himself. This is why in the better circles it always seems in poor taste to speak of love of country, while devotion to Western…culture is perfectly respectable. Culture restores the “unity of art and life” of the ancient polis.”

It is for these reasons and the ideas found in my previous posting why I argue that there is no such thing as an American culture, even if there was such a thing in the past. It is also why I believe there are really 5-7 different “countries” that exist at present, participating in the same government. One necessary remedy for this is returning to the cultural foundations of the west, which involves a great deal of education and “unlearning” in the present climate. An essential western music section has been started here, and a good starter list for literature literacy can be found here (please note that while I find the list and some of the explanations useful, I do not endorse all of the content of the site as a whole). A literature section will be added to this site on a later date, and will have some similarity to the link provided. Any thoughts? Are you up for the challenge? Or are you content with the cultural “dumping ground?”

*Lest I seem hypocritical, of late, my attempts for cultural literacy and the like include:
Literature: Dante’s Divine Comedy
Music: Mendelssohn’s chamber music
Bible/Theology: Scripture itself, along with systematic theology/apologetics.

Would anyone else like to share their respective attempts at literacy?


  1. Jeremy Woods says:


    Can you work out this sentence more?: “One necessary remedy for this is returning to the cultural foundations of the west, which involves a great deal of education and ‘unlearning’ in the present climate.”

    I am intrigued by what you are saying, and wish that our culture would change. What do you recommend we do? Change one person at a time? Change our government (Ron Paul/Charles Baldwin)? Something else?

    Here is what I am working on:
    Literature: Currently a LOT of non-fiction Christian books. The most recent fictional was Les Miserables, which I loved. I want to get into Dostoevsky, starting with something short like “The Idiot.”
    Music: Don Giovanni currently, though I will check your list and look through iTunes
    Bible/Theology: Lots! Biblical and Systematic Theology, Church History, Missions and Evangelism, plenty of non-fiction books (beyond my MDiv load), practical experience with my pastor, spiritual disciplines (daily scripture reading, daily prayer)


  2. Jeremy, I think that one person at a time is the best approach, as top down approaches in todays mob-rule climate tend to be viewed as tyrannical, especially when it comes to government setting educational policy. Bloom talks about how families used to provide some of this foundation, with Scripture and perhaps some church tradition, which was later supplemented later on in school and college. It starts at the home, and then proceeds to larger arenas. In terms of “unlearning,” I advocate a return to what some call the “pre-modern” or “early-modern” form of thought, which includes the correspondence theory of truth, the referential theory of language, and a linear/providential view of history. While most Christians and some conservatives would hold to these views, many have not thought out the implications of a complete worldview, including the arts etc…

    The Idiot was actually the first Dostoevsky book that I read, and found the character of Prince Myshkin to be a fascinating “Christ-type.” For many, Don Giovanni is THE opera, and I myself prefer Mozart, as he is both profound and accessible, unlike some of the hyper-romantic excess that is found in some later Italian opera. It is always encouraging to see another trying to pursue excellence!

  3. […] also relates to a question I asked in a post quite awhile ago, relating to whether or not America is even a nation anymore, or a variety of nations held together […]

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