Let them be born in wonder

    Let Them Be Born in Wonder is the title of an excellent article that highlights the work of the storied, but relatively short-lived, Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas.

    Part of the reason the program no longer exists is that a disproportionate number of students in the program were converting to Christianity as a result of their studies. The program was closed for this reason in 1979, despite the fact that the investigative committee found “no evidence that the professors of the program have engaged in such activities in the classroom.” It was, in many ways, the mere exposure to great minds and works of the past that drew students to God.

    But the three founding professors also noticed something about the students entering the program that is worth us considering today: they had lost an interest in real things. These professors were convinced that before their students could encounter great works, they needed to reencounter, and be drawn again, to reality itself.

    Aristotle and St. Thomas teach that the human person, as a union of body and soul, lives an integrated life in which the intellect and will rely on the senses, the imagination, and emotions. The professors recognized that the new generation of students was sensibly and emotionally disconnected from reality. Their technology, their whole environment, pre-internet thought it was, cut them off from God’s creation, and inclined them toward fantasy. Their basic correspondence to reality, to the true, good, and beautiful, had been blunted. They were not interested in real things, were restless, and could not focus.

    What makes these observations more poignant is that they were made in 1968. Our world has grown to prefer the virtual and the digital even more in the decades that have followed.

    I share all of this for three reasons.

    First, I hope that you read the article, and grow to appreciate what the IHP sought to be and do.

    Second, I hope this gives you some perspective on why any classical Christian school worth its salt will insist on nature studies, physical activity, art and music appreciation, and a direct encounter with great works from the past. We learn to learn from thinkers who we may not entirely agree with, but who nonetheless had a better picture of ultimate reality than most in our own age.

    And finally, I hope this encourages us to remedy our own preference for the virtual and the digital; to sharpen our “blunted correspondence to reality” by seeking to “be born in wonder” by the natural order and human community around us.

    If we are all determined to begin this work in our own lives, we might just stand a chance at leading our students to do the same.

    I am a happier, healthier, and more focused person when:

    • I do not have email on my phone
    • I do not have a web browser on my phone
    • I go for a morning walk before looking at a screen
    • I pray the morning office before looking at a screen

    These are undisputedly true. And I still find them hard to maintain.

    Steps towards a more analog 2024

    2024 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Apple Macintosh. To properly mark the occasion, and in a nod to Steve Jobs—who never wanted our devices to become part of who we are—I am taking some intentional steps towards analoging my life.

    I will do this in two primary ways, one aesthetic, and one ascetic. For the former, I will work towards making analog things more intellectually and physically attractive, when reasonable. For the latter, I will intentionally dumb down a current tool as a form of fasting from digital bells and whistles.

    Initial plans are below.


    • Pick up letter writing as a regular habit. (Aiming for one a month. A good friend has already kickstarted this for me by writing me a letter last month.)
    • Carry my leather legal pad folder with me to classes and meetings.
    • Continue my recent adoption of the Personal Punchcard method for work and life tasks.
    • Pray the Daily Office by candlelight. (Saving the Podcast edition for emergencies. I’d still rather pray the Daily Office via Podcast than not at all.)


    • Unless I am on a run or hiking, leave the Apple Watch behind. (I would have to purchase a new device in order to replace the Apple Watch as an exercise watch, so I am holding on to it for now.)
    • Using my Mac in Grayscale.
    • Using my iPhone in Grayscale.
    • Remove all iPhone apps except for Ulysses, Maps, Messages, Calendar, Music, and Podcasts.

    MLB commentators continue to dismiss the intentionality of Garcia being hit by a pitch in Game 5.

    “It couldn’t be on purpose; putting a second man on base doesn’t make sense.”

    They are completely ignoring the fact that baseball players are humans, not robots. We are not purely rational beings.

    Are you against computers, Socrates?

    Socrates: Of course not. Am I against brains? I am against confusion—against personalizing instruments and instrumentalizing persons—which is what is at stake in this philosophical question about human and computer intelligence.

    From Peter Kreeft’s brilliant book The Best Things in Life, which imagines dialogues that occur when Socrates visits a modern university campus. Even more poignant: this book was written in 1984.

    Moral idiots and a liberal arts education

    The paragraph below, from Alan Jacobs, is an important one to comprehend. The rest of his post helps frame some of the wider issues at hand, and points to other helpful works for those seeking to read more widely on these things.

    I want to make a stronger argument: that the distinctive “occupational psychosis” of Silicon Valley is sociopathy – the kind of sociopathy embedded in the Oppenheimer Principle. The people in charge at Google and Meta and (outside Silicon Valley) Microsoft, and at the less well-known companies that are being used by the mega-companies, have been deformed by their profession in ways that prevent them from perceiving, acknowledging, and acting responsibly in relation to the consequences of their research. They have a trained incapacity to think morally. They are by virtue of their narrowly technical education and the strong incentives of their profession moral idiots.

    While it is not the only point of the paragraph, I cannot help but revisit the final sentence (emphasis mine):

    they are by virtue of their narrowly technical education … moral idiots.

    Learning to lead, love, and serve our world does not require more technical training, either in K-12 or higher ed. It requires more humane teaching and learning.

    Your eight year old can learn to code from an app whenever they need it, whether that is this summer or twenty summers from now. They cannot so easily learn what it means to be a human being who is a member of a human society, while also learning to master the art of letters and numbers.

    One of the best things you can do now to prepare young children for the moral idiocracy of our age is to ground them in a rich education in the liberal arts.

    On Leisure and Work (Josef Pieper)

    One of Josef Pieper’s central claims in his 1948 Leisure: The Basis of Culture is this: we place too much value on hard work, and as a result our happiness, productivity, art, and ability to flourish as a human society is suffering.

    Here are just a few nuggets from the book:

    The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.

    In other words: our over-emphasis on work has made us less capable of receiving life as a gift.

    There is more:

    Of course the world of work begins to become - threatens to become - our only world, to the exclusion of all else. The demands of the working world grow ever more total, grasping ever more completely the whole of human existence.

    We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence.

    His recommendation for recovering a better approach to work is actually to recover a better approach to leisure.

    Leisure is “an attitude of mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world.”

    When we overwork, we perceive the universe poorly, placing our own effort at the center. Good Leisure can help correct this poor vision.

    What was before him appeared no longer a creature of corrupted will. It was corruption itself, to which will was only attached as an instrument. Ages ago it had been a person, but the ruins of personality now survived in it only as weapons at the disposal of a furious self-exiled negation.

    Perelandra, C.S. Lewis, Chapter 12, during Ransom’s fight with the Unman.