Ryan McCarl

Reading, writing, learning, languages, law, politics, etc.

Excerpts from Benedict Anderson, Gottfried Benn, and Bob Altemeyer

Happy Thanksgiving weekend! I am spending it in Boulder, CO, one of the most beautiful cities in America. From “Static Poems” Deafness to imperatives is profundity in the wise man, children and grandchildren don’t bother him, don’t alarm him. To represent a particular outlook, to act, to travel hither and yon are all signs of a world that doesn’t see clearly. –Gottfried Benn (in Poetry, 11⁄09.) Adult authoritarians tend to be highly ethnocentric and heavy users of the “consensual validation pill” (Newcomb, 1961). Read more →

A limited ecumenism

My latest op-ed, “A limited ecumenism,” appeared today in Sightings, the newsletter of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School. It discusses the Catholic Church’s recent outreach to traditionalist Anglicans. Sightings is a free online publication sent out twice a week to over 7,000 scholars, ministers, students, and others interested in the intersection of religion and public life; you can subscribe to it at the Sightings subscription page. Read more →

Readings from Solomon’s ‘Judaism: A Very Short Introduction’

Martin Buber and Emanuel Levinas put their faith in the God of relationships. Alles Leben ist Begegnung (‘all life is encounter’), declared Buber, and the important thing is to get your relationship with God and with people right (I-Thou, rather than I-It); from that relationship, which is the essence of Revelation, ethical action flows; laws and rules are feeble attempts to capture revelation, and doomed to inadequacy. … Genesis 1:27 states clearly enough: ‘So God created humankind in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Read more →

Readings from Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

I am currently reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl, a psychiatrist, was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, for several years. He survived the experience and went on to develop the theory of “logotherapy,” a branch of psychoanalysis that focuses on human beings’ “will to meaning.” The part of the book that discusses Frankl’s memories of his camp experience is, like any Holocaust memoir worth its salt, extremely disturbing and difficult to read, but it ought to be read in spite of that. Read more →

Readings from Charles Taylor and Erich Auerbach

One way to put the question I want to answer here is this: why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable? … Important as science is to our present outlook, we mustn’t exaggerate its causal role here, and make it the main motor of the transformation. Our encasing in secular time is also something we have brought about in the way we live and order our lives. Read more →