Friday, April 04, 2008

Some links I've been sitting on (upon which I've been sitting?):

This article captures something of what it is like teaching where I teach, only my students are older and have more experiences. Experiences like fighting terrorists and building friendly forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Amazing.

We teach a lot of topics where I work--too many, some could argue passively--but they all seem to come back to planning, since that is what graduates of the school tend to go and do in their next jobs. That leads to a lot of discussion on thinking about the future, but generally not this far or this dramatic. Bounce around the site some, and be sure to take a look at the Michael Chabon article from Details magazine. He writes:

I don’t know what happened to the Future. It’s as if we lost our ability, or our will, to envision anything beyond the next hundred years or so, as if we lacked the fundamental faith that there will in fact be any future at all beyond that not-too distant date. Or maybe we stopped talking about the Future around the time that, with its microchips and its twenty-four-hour news cycles, it arrived.
More and more I'm afraid that not enough people feel the loss in these three sentences. The future must not be a denizen for only science fiction fans. I get it, I'm the guy who has finally, happily, discovered the work of John Scalzi and has been eagerly awaiting the final season of Battlestar Galactica, but I think that bias is by and large correct. The incomparable Walter McDougall hit on a similar theme here.

Some quotations from recent readings that stood out to me, without commentary:

It’s just cause and effect. We can never sort them out. Science refuses to admit any cause except first cause—knock down one domino, the one next to it also falls. But when it comes to human beings, the only type of cause that matters is final cause, the purpose. What a person had in mind.

-Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead, p. 402.

The army’s inability to recognize the weaknesses of its intellectual traditions is manifest in its selective use of historical examples…[appealing] to a mythical past, sometimes contrasting golden eras such as the Civil War of World War II with the allegedly dark periods that followed them. At times, this historicism approaches the ludicrous. During the late 1990s, it was almost mandatory that any briefing by a senior officer would show a slide juxtaposing German tanks with the Maginot Line as warning of the dire fate that awaited should the nation not fund the army’s transformation program. The choice, the slide intimated, was between overwhelming victory and humiliating defeat—history proved it. That the blitzkrieg-Maginot analogy was of almost no relevance to the United States even in the 1930s, much less today, appeared to escape an entire generation of officers. In this case, as all too often, historical cherry-picking does the very thing that the study of history should guard against. Rather than encourage informed analysis and criticism, the army’s interpretation of the past serves to enforce complacency and the ‘comfortable vision of war.’

-Brian McAllister Linn, The Echo of Battle, p. 237

Although the universe we live in may be characterized by a 'dearth of meaning and lack of discernible purpose,' we build and arrange collections of books as if they could represent a universal order, or will one into being as if by sympathetic magic.

-Matthew Battles, "Reading in the Dark," Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2008, p. 95.

That's all for now. I'm on enough antihistimines to kill a medium-sized pack animal, so I can't seem to tie together any meaningful thoughts, let alone write them out.

Nevertheless, circumstances have changed enough that I should be around the blogs a bit more frequently, but "should" is a tricky word, isn't it?