We are, in the words of Kenneth Burke, sentenced to the sentence. This curious, if concise, turn of phrase suggests that you and I, dear reader, are at this very moment linked through language. This link is tenuous. In an instant you can choose to stop reading (you will be missed) and my sentences cease. Continue reading Eloquence and Wisdom
President Krueger, honored guests, distinguished faculty, staff, and administrative colleagues, friends and family members, and most of all to you, the Concordia University Irvine graduating class of December 2017:
I stand here acutely aware of two things:
- I am the last thing standing between you graduates and your diplomas; and
- Because of item 1, it is extremely unlikely that you will remember anything I say here today.
I’ve been a member of Concordia’s faculty for more than 25 years. I’ve attended every commencement ceremony organized by the university during that time except one, and to be honest, I only really remember two graduation speeches: Continue reading Today You’re at Bree
What is the point of a liberal arts education? This question is bandied about by politicians, parents, professors, employers, and students. Continue reading Enduring Questions & Ideas
This address was delivered by C.J. Armstrong at Concordia University Irvine’s graduation ceremony on May 7, 2016.
President Krueger, it is an honor to have been asked to deliver the commencement address this year. For this I thank you. And I repeat the welcome to our distinguished guests, our honorees, the regents of our university, my fellow faculty, the parents, family and friends of our graduates. But above all my hat is off to the Concordia University Irvine graduating class of 2016.
It’s a special honor for me because it wasn’t too long ago that my hat was on here, when I walked across this stage at the Bren Center, graduating from University of California, Irvine after a lengthy study of the greatest poet ever born on earth, Ovid, who died on this very day, give or take a month or two, one year shy of 2000 years ago. You know Ovid: he’s the poet who told all those wonderful mythological stories in the Metamorphoses about people turning to stone through divine retribution or bad luck, and even a couple who change from statues into real human people. You know, like the story of Pygmalion, who didn’t like any of the girls in his class so he made a statue of a woman and prayed to the gods that he might love someone like his ivory girl; he kissed the statue and it came to life. What a story!
I might ask, what does a classicist like me, someone who reads mythology and talks to dead guys like Ovid all day long, have to share with you graduates? Continue reading Turning Statues of Stone into Humans with Hearts
This is the second post of a two-part essay on wisdom and education.
Qoheleth, “the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1), casts a long eye on the course of life “to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things” (7:25). Taking an “under the sun,” or purely human and non-heavenly, approach, Qoheleth applies his “heart to seek and search out by wisdom” the way of life (1:3, 13). In reflecting on his experience through this vantage point, Qoheleth repeatedly comes to the same conclusion: life is “vanity,” or to give the literal translation of the Hebrew word hebel, life is “vapor” (1:14). It is insubstantial, momentary, and fleeting. To “know wisdom,” then, is to know the vexation of “striving after the wind” (1:17).
Qoheleth’s major arguments for the non-existence of meaning in life “under the sun” can be summarized in five ways. Continue reading The Fruit and Cost of Wisdom
This is the first post of a two-part essay on wisdom and education.
The roots of Western education largely rest in the Greek love of pursuing wisdom. In Nicomachean Ethics and Protrepticus, Aristotle envisions those who constantly contemplate wisdom, which is the highest end of humanity, as being like gods. “Understanding,” Aristotle states, “is by nature our end and the exercise of it the final activity for the sake of which we have come into being,” for “every man has been made by god in order to acquire knowledge and contemplate.” Every person, Aristotle says, “who exercises his intellect and cultivates it [is] in the best state and most dear to the gods.” Indeed, it is by means of rational contemplation that people make themselves immortal like the gods. Continue reading The Pursuit of Wisdom
This is the first in a series of four essays on core texts connected to the educational goal of developing wise, honorable, and cultivated citizens.
In 1524 the theological and educational reformer Martin Luther wrote a letter to the councilmen of Germany encouraging them to maintain and establish Christian schools. One snippet nicely summarizes Luther’s missive:
Now the welfare of a city does not consist solely in accumulating vast treasures, building mighty walls and magnificent buildings, and producing a goodly supply of guns and armor. Indeed, where such things are plentiful, and reckless fools get control of them, it is so much the worse and the city suffers even greater loss. A city’s best and greatest welfare, safety, and strength consist rather in its having many able, learned, wise, honorable, and cultivated citizens. They can then readily gather, protect, and properly use treasure and all manner of property.
In Luther’s view, which Concordia University Irvine has adopted and adapted in its Core Curriculum, all young men and women need a proper education so that they can use their gifts and callings in the best way possible to serve society and the church.
But what sort of education best suits this end? Continue reading Psalm 1 as Educational Pattern and Vision