ON THE UNSERIOUSNESS OF HUMAN AFFAIRS: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing

James V. Schall, Author
James V. Schall, Author . ISI $24.95 (189p) ISBN 978-1-882926-63-3
Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Paperback - 189 pages - 978-1-61017-025-3
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Although Schall's title might seem to promise a romp through the Elysian Fields with Epicurus and Nietzsche, nothing could be further from the truth. Recruiting philosophy and literary theory into an inspirational narrative, Father Schall (A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning), who teaches at Georgetown University, contends that "unseriousness" derives from the realization that while humankind is not the highest thing in existence, human beings are good. Humanity's joy, then, comes in its celebration of being-in-the-world; those enjoyable activities, which might seem like wasting time, are in fact related to "our transcendent destiny," our spirituality. Taking passages from Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante and Chesterton, Schall argues that our lives have a particular gravity, but that they are unserious compared to the seriousness of God. Our lives are merely, then, responses to an order that exists beyond us, and Schall demonstrates through readings of philosophers ranging from Aristotle to Peanuts' Charlie Brown that various unserious behaviors—playing, dancing, singing, writing—provide the skills to connect to that transcendent order. For example, he observes that "[e]ssays keep us alert to the wonder of things," and "[l]etters keep us in touch when we are not literally before those whom we would see face to face." Schall weaves together his meditations with theological interludes in which he explores briefly such topics as redemption, salvation and eschatology. Although these reflections do not break any new ground or open up any radically different channels of discussion, Schall's book will appeal to fans of C.S. Lewis, Chesterton and Peter Kreeft. (Nov.)

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