First Things RSS Feed - Elizabeth Corey
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60Our Need for Privacyhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/08/our-need-for-privacy
Sat, 01 Aug 2015 00:00:00 -0400The new game Cards Against Humanity advertises itself as “a party game for horrible people—despicable and awkward [like] you and your friends.” Its premise is simple. Black cards pose a question like “What did Vin Diesel eat for breakfast?” or an incomplete statement, such as, “After months of practice with ——, I think I’m finally ready for ——.” Players must answer the question or complete the statement by using white cards printed with answers that have to do primarily with unusual kinds of sex, excrement and bodily fluids, and popular culture. Some of the tamer answer cards: “a bloody pacifier” and “my genitals.”
]]>Learning in Lovehttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/04/learning-in-love
Tue, 01 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0400Over the past few months there has been a marked increase in stories about the decline of the humanities in higher education. Sometimes the coverage emerges from a particular political vantage point: The humanities are dying because they have been corrupted by leftist ideologues. Race, class, and gender, that great triumvirate, have replaced Plato, Chaucer, and Milton.
]]>No Happy Harmonyhttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/10/no-happy-harmony
Tue, 01 Oct 2013 00:00:00 -0400At least once a semester, a young female student will come to my office with questions about an assignment, and after we have finished our official business, will mention her concerns about the future: whether she should apply to medical school or take the less demanding physician’s assistant route, or whether she should marry right away and move with her husband for his job. Often she is the one with the better opportunity, and she wonders if she can expect her fiancé to follow her as she pursues graduate education at a prestigious East Coast school. Even if she isn’t in a romantic relationship, she wonders what it will mean for her goals when she is. Inevitably, she confesses that she is worried about the difficulty of pursuing both family and career.
Thu, 01 Nov 2012 00:00:00 -0400 Susan was a colleague in Baylors Honors College, not exactly a friend, though we were quite friendly. She was reserved and elegant, with a willowy figure all women couldnt help but envy. She was a fine scholar and a beloved teacher, but she never cultivated a following, eschewing celebrity and recognition. She never seemed to worry about whether people noticed what she was doing; she simply did it.
The last substantive conversation I had with her was in November 2011. Thomas Hibbs had just addressed a group of prospective students, making the point that in the modern world most people are ill-prepared to deal with death. Either they sensationalize it, as in action movies, or they avoid thinking about it altogether. Many modern Americans, Hibbs pointed out, persist in the vain hope that healthy eating, regular exercise, and seatbelts will somehow protect them from the indignities of aging and death.
But when a loved one dies nevertheless, most of us dont know what to do. Former ages had rituals for accepting the natural transitions of life. Now, much of modern America has lost the faith that made death something comprehensible, natural, and even, at times, to be welcomed. Many people offer empty phrases like Shes gone to a better place, even though they have no sense of what that place might be.
Susan and I ran into each other a few days after Dean Hibbs presentation and reflected on the prospective students we had talked with. A young man in my group had insisted that death was not a problem for
, because he had faith, and Susan said that her students had talked like this as well. Several had insisted that while death might be frightening for non-Christians, it would not be so for them. A few of these seventeen-year-olds even claimed to have no fear of death at all. We both smiled at this, and Susan commented that Plato, Augustine, and Dante might have something to show these students about the complexity of death and life alike.
But then the conversation turned serious, as we reflected that those students seemed to have overlooked the fact that death was not just about them, but about the others they would leave behind in dying. They assumed that they would simply transition to heaven. Both Susan and I paused at this, and I remember her saying, You know, it just isnt that easy. Theyre so young, and they really dont know what theyre saying yet.
In the weeks that followed, we all became aware that Susan was ill. She announced in an email that she would be undergoing chemotherapy treatments but that her cancer had a reasonable chance of being cured. And so things went, for several months. Busy with our own lives, we all missed her but expected that she would be back soon. After all, she was young and strong, a devoted wife and mother with a great will to live. Someone like Susan just wouldnt
, of all things.
But by April and May it had become too quiet. Those of us in the office respected the familys privacy, knowing that their church was taking good care of them; and yet none of us knew how Susan was doing. We all had a creeping sense that things were not going well. Eventually someone contacted her husband Carlos and managed to arrange a visit at her hospital in Dallas. She was very ill, but nevertheless able to carry on a conversation with us and to welcome with great enthusiasm a gift from one of her colleagues”the complete first season of
During the last weeks of Susans life I found myself established in her office in the Honors College, advising nervous new freshmen who were coming to Baylor for the first time. Its hard to describe the emotions I felt the first day I opened her office door, simultaneously aware of her grave condition and of my own hope that she would somehow return. I saw the family photos on her bulletin board and desk, one in a picture frame with a quotation from Jeremiah: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.
On her bookshelves were books by Dickens, George Eliot, Disraeli. On her desk was a stack of business cards, a list of journals in which (I imagine) she hoped to publish, folders with topics to be written about”parable, Victorian religion, and so on. A water bottle sat next to the phone, whose message light was blinking, and next to the phone a tape dispenser had begun to gather dust. The calendar was open to November 2011.
Most poignant of all was a cutout heart tacked on her bulletin board, the kind of item all parents treasure, with I Love You Mommy written in sprawling blue crayon. It was almost too much to bear: the absolute ordinariness of the scene, which would remind any of us of our own desks and unfinished projects, combined with a fear that she might not be back to finish things up, to clean the dust off the tape dispenser and wash out the water bottle for another use.
Throughout my weeks of advising in her office I became somewhat more accustomed to the surroundings, though never less aware of the strange situation. I was helping students start exciting new lives at college even as their parents were, in a sense, mourning the loss of their children to adulthood, and as I was more and more coming to realize that we all were going to mourn the loss of Susan. She declined quickly in the first weeks of summer, and late on a Friday night came an urgent message announcing that her daughter, Elise, would be baptized the next day, Saturday, at noon.
Susan and her family had been longtime members of a Baptist church in Waco. I arrived with my five-year-old son just after the service had begun. It took place outside in the grass around the large baptismal pool, a rectangular concrete structure that resembled nothing so much as a Roman sarcophagus. The heat that day was absolutely blistering, as it often is in Waco in the summer, and the sun shone with the kind of intensity that will burn a fair-skinned person in less than ten minutes.
The crowd was made up of church members and Susans colleagues from Baylor, and there was not a dry eye among us. Susan was able, I later learned, to watch from her hospital bed via live streaming.
I wonder now if any of us had ever experienced anything like what took place there that day. As churchgoing people, we had seen many baptisms, and we all understood that baptism symbolizes both death and life. But the death part had been only figurative, to be declared and observed and ultimately passed by in the event itself.
Death was something wed turn to later, on another day, in other circumstances. But here, on this day, death and life were bound up together, and we realized that as Elise was entering a new Christian life, Susan, her mother, was leaving her earthly one.
As the pastor observed, preparing to immerse Elise in the water,
is what the Christian faith is all about: dying, and life again, and the faith that believes that it is all true. Its almost impossible to convey the intensity of the scene: the vivid blue sky, the daughters baptism as her mother lay dying, the white towel that was placed around Elise as she emerged from the water, the combination of dread, sadness, hope, and even joy that we all felt as witnesses to the event.
Susan passed away the next morning.
Elizabeth Corey is assistant professor of political science at Baylor Univerisity.
]]>Life on the Dividehttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/06/life-on-the-divide
Fri, 01 Jun 2012 00:00:00 -0400 On a typical afternoon, I drop off my eight-year-old daughter and her best friend at ballet lessons and return home to meet my five-year-old son’s friend for a “play date.” Their mothers and I appear to have everything in common. We all order our children’s clothes from the same upscale retailer, an elegant purveyor of classic clothing with styles evoking sheltered and civilized Edwardian childhoods. We love to cook and entertain. We have inherited furniture and china that we display in traditional homes. We attempt to keep our children away from the influences of television and computers.
]]>A Disposition of Delighthttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/02/a-disposition-of-delight
Wed, 01 Feb 2012 00:00:00 -0500 After his death in 1990, Michael Oakeshott’s executors found dozens of unpublished but completed essays in the drawers of his desk. It’s hard to imagine a modern-day academic, under pressure to produce, leaving such a volume of work unpublished, but Oakeshott never felt compelled to bow to worldly pressures or pursue worldly gains—going so far as to decline, graciously, an offer of a knighthood. He confounded even friendly critics like Gertrude Himmelfarb, who commented that his early brilliance “might have been expected to [issue] in an illustrious and productive career.” Instead, he took his time, producing on average about one essay a year.
]]>Shaping Up the Campushttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/05/shaping-up-the-campus
Sun, 01 May 2011 00:00:00 -0400 Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities
by Mark C. Taylor
Knopf, 240 pages, $24