The human condition is a paradoxical one. What feels right to the human heart can be so very wrong, what seems logical remains so only by a steadfast belief in false premises. As Shakespeare’s Lear drives home with painful acuity, nations are often governed by fools claiming to be professionals, while the professional fool is the only one wise and brave enough to tell the truth. Reason is held to be the intellectual domain of the elite, and nonsense presumed the state of the working class; little time needs to be spent with the elite to understand that what they deem reasonable is frequently at odds with reality.
My recent creative project is a collaborative one. Partnering with my inestimable colleagues, Dr. Andrew Jacobs, Director of the Great Books Honors Program, and Dr. Taten Shirley, Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, we are producing a weekly podcast entitled Reason and Nonsense.
Unfortunately, this news may produce a collective groan more than any hopes we may hold of hearing Hoorays or rounds of He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. There are many podcasts out there from which one may sample generously. Political punditry. True Crime. Fantasy Football. The History of the English Language—if that’s your pleasure. Why do we need one more podcast? To which I would answer, surely, we don’t. The market is already saturated with more highly talented amateurs than we three. But we create because it is in the human spirit to create, and to create in community finds ever greater rewards than in the isolation of one’s own thoughts. To expand our community beyond the classroom walls and the halls of our university is more rewarding still.
For the primary audience for this podcast will be current college students, our dearly missed GB alumni, and any others interested in commentary on Great Books. We will draw from the ancients and moderns, contemplating some of the philosophical ideas on the air that we don’t always have time to address in class. As in our classrooms, the tone will be playfully serious, as we will dive into “big shelf topics” like love and romance, God and faith, and literature and culture. Surely some will find our discussions superfluous at best, irreverent at worst. But it is a short journey from prudent to prudish, and those who would deride our banter likely know little of the earnest camaraderie between fellows of the mind and heart. We take this approach ultimately because life is alternately a comedy and a tragedy: a tragedy because of human suffering, but even more a comedy because we are empowered to transcend suffering. To laugh at evil, even to mock it, infuses our bones with strength and courage; for evil holds no power in a world with an empty tomb. The more light we can shine in the darkness, the less darkness will reign over us. Likewise, the more nonsense we bring to reason, the more reasonable we shall become.
You can find the first episode here, and I will link each subsequent episode to one of the pages here on this blog if you are a frequent visitor and would like to make your way to the program. Like Charles Foster Kane’s Declaration of Principles—though hopefully proclaimed with more integrity than he—I can promise several things. I can promise we will be funnier to ourselves than we are to you, but that will not stop you from laughing. I promise we will disagree and debate but always start from a place of respect for one another and commitment to the truth. And I promise we will speak not because we have to say something but because we have something to say.
I cannot promise many goods, though I can affirm we are each together in search of the Good. We invite you to join the search with us.