Category Archives: Republic of Letters

GREAT ROMANTIC MOMENT

Odysseus embraces Penelope as the Soldier Returns and his Odyssey is over

“Now from his breast into the eyes the ache

of longing mounted, and he wept at last,

his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms,

longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer

spent in rough water where his ship went down

under Poseidon’s blows, gale winds and tons of sea.

Few men can keep alive through a big serf

to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches

in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind:

and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband

,her white arms round him pressed as though forever.”

― Homer, The Odyssey

10 Books Every Imaginative Conservative Should Read ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Dedicated to the British people in the midst of war, Christopher Dawson’s 1942 The Judgment of the Nations is everything a history book should be but rarely is. With lively prose and ceaselessly innovative ideas, Dawson considers the role of Providence in history and produces a twentieth-century version of St. Augustine’s City of God. Modern evils and totalitarianisms, he notes, are the results of the shallowness of liberalism and the wickedness of progressivism, each conspiring to make men nothing but cogs in a grinding machine.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2021/04/10-books-every-imaginative-conservative-should-read-bradley-birzer.html

What Remains of Conservatism? ~ The Imaginative Conservative

To my mind, these voices have never been more needed and more relevant. A humanist but certainly no conservative, George Orwell once famously remarked, “we have now sunk to a depth at which the re-statement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

In this fine Orwellian tradition, it is worth remembering three things, each of which reminds us what it means to conserve our most cherished traditions—that is, to be a traditional conservative—even in a time of chaos.

First and foremost, we must remember that every single person is an unrepeatable center of dignity and freedom, each a moral and ethical agent, endowed with free will, and born in a certain time and certain place, never to be repeated. Life matters, and it is a precious gift every single time it appears. That is, each person is a unique reflection of the Infinite, a bearer of the Imago Dei, and a Temple of the Holy Spirit. No matter how much corruption a person puts on during this lifetime, he or she remains precious, at least at the heart of things. For even the most corrupt human being has within him the spark of divine grace, no matter how close to being smothered that spark is. “In Him, we move and live and have our being,” the Stoics and St. Paul assured us
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2021/04/what-remains-conservatism-bradley-birzer.html

A motorcyclist

Have known Ashutosh for 15 years, we actually worked together in three different companies in late 2000s. Around the same time we also picked up this habit of long distance motorcycle rides. Circa 2009 we did this two week ride from Bangalore to Cochin and back. This was roughly around the time we were let go from Freescale, so there was a lot of time to spare.

First day was mostly through rural inter-state highways until we reached Munnar. After a day of dreary sun, the sight of hills and green valleys were extraordinary. Spent few days exploring those winding roads flanked by tea estates, and dining at local tea shops. Sometimes even going off road, those less travelled routes, at one point we rode over this precarious wooden bridge, with 50 pounds of luggage strapped to the motorcycle. Road-side cardamom tea and snacks were the staple diet for few days.   

At Cochin we stayed at my family home. More tea, but this time some of my relatives and childhood friends were there too. Eventually rode back up north through Alleppey coast and backwaters. En route we discovered this rustic farmhouse for that well deserved sleep, silence and pristine water — a rare experience for urban dwellers riding motorcycles.   

My friends are few, but Ashutosh was one of them. We lost touch over the past few years, definitely wasn’t intentional. Life tends to get in the way. But, whether it’s in depth technical discussions at work, weekend movies, or long distance motorcycling, I remember him as civil and intelligent. A rare balanced individual who always did the right thing. We need more of his caliber, men and women who are aware, rational and wired with a sense of direct fairness.

(Adapted from the memorial shared with his surviving family)

Owen Barfield’s Commonwealth of the Spirit ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Shortly after Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany for its atrocious invasion of Poland in 1939, one of the lesser-known Inklings, Owen Barfield (1898-1997; yes, Barfield lived to just short of his 100th birthday) offered a profound analysis on the way community works and on the way it should work. All of society, he noted with no small amount of poetic insight, arises from our associations and friendships and communities that bridge our individuality with our nationality. Being too much of an individual leads to the tyranny of the self, and being too much of a nationalist leads to a tyranny of others. Instead, the human person must find his or her context and serve within the bounds of overlapping and competing communities, friendships, and associations. Or, as Barfield so eloquently put it, we must “build up and maintain a common stock of thought rather than… startle with a series of sparkling individual contributions—like a commonwealth of the spirit, in which there is no copyright.”

Yet, to create a commonwealth of the soul, or, more directly, a republic of letters, we do need to know the limits and range of individualism as well as the limits and range of national character. As Barfield understood creation, there is nothing wrong with individuals bringing their unique and particular talents to the community. Indeed, to bring one’s excellences to the community is vital to the health of all involved. In so doing, not only do individual persons contribute to the common good, but they themselves discover through free will the virtues, especially that of charity, in dealing with others. Like all things, though, individuality can become perverted, a sort of self-absorption that demands that our fellow members of the community reflect us rather than reflect what they are meant to be (by God or nature). As such, we would become sons of pride rather than of humility.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2021/03/owen-barfield-commonwealth-spirit-bradley-birzer.html

POEM: LOCH NA GARR

Lord Byron (1788–1824).  Poetry of Byron.  1881.
 
I. Personal, Lyric, and Elegiac
Loch Na Garr essentially about childhood, what the Gael calls ancestry (dualchas), heritage (dualchas) sense of place (duthchas).
Byron contrasts the green landscaped civilized fields of southern England, with the wild, windswept craggy East Highlands
Byron himself wrote:
“I allude here to my maternal ancestors, “the Gordons,” many of whom fought for the unfortunate Prince Charles, better known by the name of the Pretender. This branch was nearly allied by blood, as well as attachment, to the Stuarts. George, the second Earl of Huntley, married the Princess Annabella Stuart, daughter of James I. of Scotland. By her he left four sons: the third, Sir William Gordon, I have the honour to claim as one of my progenitors.”
Byron also referred to  Lochnagar in The Island:

The infant rapture still survivied the boy,
And Loch-na-gar with Ida looked o’er Troy.[7]
— The Island: Canto II, stanza XII, lines 290-291

As the Penguin Book of Scottish Verse says:
“There are few major English poets who can be heard sung in peasant bothies among the more native fare, but Byron’s Lachin A Gair is a popular favourite, and those sophisticated critics who sneer at the poem but don’t know the tune should hear it sung by a farm-labourer’s ‘tenore robusto. “

Or I daresay David Solley or Kenneth McKellar
 AWAY, ye gay landscapes, ye gardens of roses!  
In you let the minions of luxury rove;
Restore me the rocks, where the snow-flake reposes,  
Though still they are sacred to freedom and love:
Yet, Caledonia, beloved are thy mountains,       
 5  Round their white summits though elements war;
Though cataracts foam ’stead of smooth-flowing fountains, 
 I sigh for the valley of dark Loch na Garr. 

Ah! there my young footsteps in infancy wander’d;  
My cap was the bonnet, my cloak was the plaid;       
 10On chieftains long perish’d my memory ponder’d, 
 As daily I strode through the pine-cover’d glade:I
sought not my home till the day’s dying glory 
 Gave place to the rays of the bright polar star
;For fancy was cheer’d by traditional story,        
15  Disclosed by the natives of dark Loch na Garr.

 “Shades of the dead! have I not heard your voices  
Rise on the night-rolling breath of the gale?”
Surely the soul of the hero rejoices,  
And rides on the wind o’er his own Highland vale.        
20Round Loch na Garr while the stormy mist gathers, 
 Winter presides in his cold icy car:
Clouds there encircle the forms of my fathers;  
They dwell in the tempests of dark Loch na Garr. 

“Illstarr’d, though brave, did no visions foreboding        
25  Tell you that fate had forsaken your cause?”
Ah! were you destined to die at Culloden,  
Victory crown’d not your fall with applause:
Still were you happy in death’s earthy slumber,  
You rest with your clan in the caves of Braemar;      
  30The pibroch resounds, to the piper’s loud number, 
 Your deeds on the echoes of dark Loch na Garr. 

Years have roll’d on, Loch na Garr, since I left you,  Years must elapse ere I tread you again:
Nature of verdure and flow’rs has bereft you,       
 35  Yet still are you dearer than Albion’s plain.
England! thy beauties are tame and domestic  
To one who has roved on the mountains afar:
Oh for the crags that are wild and majestic!  
The steep frowning glories of dark Loch na Garr!        40 

ZOOM STUDENTS GO ZOOM, ZOOM ZOOM….

by Richard K. Munro

Until last year I had never heard of “Zoom” as teaching tool or “Canvas.” I had done some online training classes and some correspondence classes via email and via snail mail with the occasional phone call. I remember writing an illustrated poem in elementary school that went like this “THE PLANE WENT ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM then crashed and went BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! ” I thought it was exciting and realistic but I remember it did not that the approval of the classroom teacher.

I am a classroom teacher in the trenches. Now of course I am teaching students as if they were on a distant moon or Mars or in the Space Lab. I have done virtual teaching since March 18 2020. All I will say is that it is better than in March 2020 and it is better than nothing.

But it should go without saying that online technology creates a barrier or affective filter that discourages and impedes comprehension and learning. No one would think to try to teach a foreign language by phone or merely via emails. Students who do not hear well, comprehend aural English and who do not type or word process quickly and accurately are at severe disadvantage.

All that side we are doing VIRTUAL testing of the English Proficiency Tests this year (via ETS) https://www.elpac.org/ We teachers have to learn a test interface for distant testing.
Students have to use a special ten digit student # for the ELPAC they cannot past this number nor can it be sent via email. Students must have the APP for the secure test browser on their Chromebook or computer
If they don’t they are out of luck. Even so even with a school

Chromebook technical difficulties are not unusual especially due to the quality of the internet connection. The Secure Test Browser requires a fast and continuous Internet speed.


Then students have to use their first name (first letter capitalized)
type in there unique student ID # for the ELPAC
then type in a unique session # for their grade level or the reading, writing and listening test they are doing. Believe me this is complicated If one thing goes wrong or the internet is slow everything crashes.
So far 40 % of students in my class have not been able to log on even to begin a test.
Of those who have tested only about 30% have finished all the required tests. Some are incomplete because the test froze while they were testing. Some are incomplete because despite numerous attempts day after day during class and after school they could not log on via their Chromebooks.

I am a good soldier. I try to do my best. I monitor for HOURS (often after my regular school day) WITHOUT ANY PAY to make sure the students can finish tests. Sometimes I have to spend 3, 4, 5, 6 hours monitoring ELPAC my camera and their camera MUST BE ON and IS RECORDED so that students can finish the test. I have taken to having my ,lunch and coffee during testing because it is too much trouble to log off or pause the test.

And of course the students have to sign a form that they can’t use any materials or phones or aides during the test. But let’s be honest I can see the person who is front of the camera and I recognize that person. I montior what they are doing and how long they do it. But such a test is NOT SECURE. Really it should be considered INVALID.

It is HORRIBLE how much school time is spent merely on test prop for EL PAC all readings all assignments mimic the ELPAC and that is all we do. But don’t forget we have to give other tests like the STAR READING test (fortunately a snap to take and administer just a link no layers of “security”)

But the word is the State of California has paid millions for these tests and ETS is desperate that they tests be given because they want them to be renewed for next year and the year after that.

It would be logical to suspend this testing in this plague year. We could have easily done practice tests to familiarize students for a future year and left it at that.

But soon my journey of the cross will be over and so will the Calvary of the students. We will begin to meet in person April 6-April 12th. But with a difference. Some students will still be at home since attendance in person is voluntary. So teachers have to do distance learning and in person learning simultaneous. We will be equipped with additional cameras, speakers and a Plexiglas protector on our desks. We will have to wear a mask at all times while teaching. In April and May we will dedicate ourselves to literature (Homer) and poetry (including Shakespeare). I have Audible books on tape and electronic versions of all the books and poems. Students will listen and recite proverbs and poems to improve their diction and they will write short responses to literature and keep vocabulary notebooks.

But it appears they will remain on a distant moon and I on my distant spaceship. Some students will report to classrooms (computer labs) with teacher aides but many will continue distance learning from home.

As I said , it is better than nothing but the truth is the Matthew effect is quite evident. The Rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Without constant supervision and close encouragement, many students are distracted and demoralized. For many the entire year has been a loss. Poles and Jews in forced labor camps during WWII have learned more. And I am sure that you are away how disastrous it was for youth to lose out on education from 1940-1945.

Covid 19 has been as bad as war and worse than the Great Depression.

I only hope schools will return to normal by Fall. There is a future for distance learning, of course. But it works best with fluent, motivated mature and highly motivated students.

It is a poor choice for k-6, for English Learners, for neophyte foreign language learners, immature, easily distracted and marginally motivated students. If a student has a poor home environment then that student does not even have the advantage of a bright, clean, secure environment

YES, BY ALL MEANS STANDARDIZED TESTING SHOULD BE SUSPENDED UNTIL FURTHER
NOTICE.

But no one pays any attention to me. So I carry on as in the Ypres Salient and do my duty.

But I mourn the massive casualties all about me.

Some students are being destroyed have been discouraged and have dropped out. Many are working in the field, in packing sheds in kitchens etc. The Plague Year has been a sad year. A year of suffering, loss and tragedy.

Owen Barfield’s “History, Guilt, and Habit” ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Despite having built up a North American following in the 1960s and 1970s, Owen Barfield (1898-1997) could find almost no publication, periodical, or serial to review his 1979 book, History, Guilt, and Habit. Only one academic journal, the Virginia Quarterly Review, even deigned to acknowledge it, and, in one swift paragraph, the journal dismissed the book’s author as “cranky” and the book as meaningful only to right-wing Hegelians.

Based on a set of three lectures delivered in British Columbia in October 1978, History, Guilt, and Habit does the difficult work of attempting to understand the deepest meanings of history and its relation to the human person. Throughout the lectures, Barfield very capably—indeed, with uncanny precision and a seemingly never-ending bulwark of contexts—defines terms such as history, evolution, consciousness, perception, thinking, and, most importantly, imagination. History, Barfield contends, is something quite different from evolution as it is a “consciously directed process,” as opposed to the mere passive accumulation of change and events. Through his definitions, Barfield is especially interested in identifying those things that allow us to make free decisions and act rather than being merely acted upon. “Perception,” for example, “is essentially a passive experience, something that happens to us; thinking is an active one, something we do.” Yet, Barfield cautions, one should never fall into the Manichaean habit of dividing all things into opposites. Some of the most interesting aspects in humanity and in human society come from the overlapping—or interpenetration—of opposites
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2021/03/owen-barfield-history-guilt-and-habit-bradley-birzer.html