The Consolation of Art and Literature

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  The night of the 2016 election, my pain was visceral. I felt sick to my stomach. How long will progressive social policies stand up to the next Supreme Court? Never mind that: how long will the world survive climate change deniers? There was no end to my anxieties. “At least the republic will survive, right?” I asked my good friend, an unflappable optimist and a retired professor of political philosophy. “I’m not so sure,”…

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A Darkness too Deep: The 9/11 Memorial

I visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City this summer. I wanted badly for it to work.  It did not. Good memorials allow us to have a profound emotional experience that brings us to a greater understanding of what it was like to have been there. They provide a sense of closure to a complex and difficult historical moment.  They touch us both as individuals and as members of the…

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On Wearing Masks

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Shakespeare reminds me how exciting and terrifying it can be to play at who we are. In the theater, we try on a role – a persona, the Latin word for masks. Actors wear masks to become their characters, if only for a few hours. I am always alert to the possibilities in Shakespeare that a character may be wearing another mask beneath the mask the actor wears. Is Hamlet mad or just pretending? Does…

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Living Options

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I ran across Cassie Atchley, a Philosophy student in Dr. Panza’s Free Will course, and asked her who her favorite philosopher was. “I like a lot of philosophers but haven’t read enough of any of them to decide who is my favorite,” she said. I liked her answer. It suggested an openness to new ways of thinking, and a comfort level with uncertainty, but I suppose I admired it because it differed drastically from my…

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