Highly likely that this post will sit up for four months waiting for a Tuesday, with a title like that. Remember when there was going to be a Part 2 of How the Spiritual Life is Like My Terrariums?
POST-NOTRE DAME CONFERENCE THOUGHTS, PT. 1 of 500
I had the great honor of attending the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture’s 20th annual Fall Conference this past weekend, where I participated in a panel with Bo Bonner and Eve Tushnet on the general topic of friendship. We had three different approaches to the subject. Bo examined Aristotle’s thought on friendship and what literature can show us about the formation of habits that lead towards virtue. Bo is hilarious and profound. Eve, whom I have “Internet known” for probably 15 years (!), talked about the literature of addiction. I did not take notes on either of their excellent talks, because I was seated between them on the panel, trying to avoid Resting Matron Face. I am going to ask Eve for the titles of the novels she talked about, and I know she also mentioned The Next Right Thing, which is apparently available for free on Kindle if you have Amazon Prime! I secured a copy of Eve’s novel Amends, which is cleverly satirical and sensitive as it explores a reality show set in a rehab facility. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to be in conversation with the two of them on various subjects related to friendship in literature.
.@DorianSpeed takes us through art and reflection upon virtue friendship. she shows us the shepards coming together in friendship with the goal of gazing upon the face of Jesus Christ. Virtue is not an abstract idea, but is embodied in a person. #frieND19 @ND_EthicsCenter pic.twitter.com/ImxuFeoljq— Kristin Collier (@KristinCollie20) November 8, 2019
It’s a little intimidating to prepare for something like this if you have never been to the event before, so I know there are things I would change about my talk if I could do it over. It’s always tempting to shove every possible thought into the assigned window of time and I know I wasn’t the only speaker this weekend who had to zip through things with apologies for running out of time! I talked about using art and literature to develop our “Catholic imagination” and examine moral themes, the idea being that you can use a particular lens to examine any specific story. We can use this as an abstracted way of looking at challenging topics instead of forcing people to share their stories when they may not wish to do so for various reasons. (A grand theme of my life re: catechesis/youth ministry is LET’S STOP WITH THE FORCED SHARING.)
I have set a time limit for this post!
This conference was refreshingly free of “This is more of a comment than a question” audience participation. The speakers came primarily from academia but there were attendees of all ages present. It was especially encouraging to see college students from various campuses there, and I appreciated that everyone I spoke to was very encouraging and welcoming.
John Haldane said at the beginning of his talk that this annual conference feels like “family being reassembled.” This was my first year to attend (and my first time on the campus of Notre Dame!) and I have already put on my calendar the date of next year’s family reunion (November 12-14, 2020!).
I am overly neurotic about things like people listing off names of people they hung out with at such-and-such social event, because I always worry about forgetting people or signaling that “only those whose names I have dropped are worthy of attention.” BUT . . . 60 seconds, here are three that stood out:
- John Haldane, whom I’ve already mentioned – I heard him speak a few years ago at the University of St. Thomas right before he went to Baylor. Highly entertaining, talked about civic friendship and whether it is really possible for us to politely get along when our discussion of moral claims becomes more and more relativistic (“this is hurtful” vs. “I disagree”, etc.). We need to try to say “Look at it like this…” and help our interlocutor see our position rather than assume we can demonstrate the logic of an argument proceeding from a self-evident principle.
- Vera Profit on The Portrait of Dorian Gray and narcissism – wow. Extremely clear and direct overview of what malignant narcissism entails, how this novel shows its ultimate effects, and why it is so challenging to respond appropriately to narcissists. As an only child named Dorian, I try to be ever on my guard about narcissism, since my mother’s childhood refrain was “the world does not revolve around you.” I’m pretty bad at it but perhaps have gotten better, haha. She referred frequently to M. Scott Peck’s work, The People of the Lie, which I read years ago and found chilling. She also made the excellent point that we can learn about the moral life by reading about someone who does the exact opposite of what is virtuous. A great response to those who are concerned that we only need to read the most pious of stories lest we start to imitate the actions of bad actors.
- Audra Dugandzic, a PhD student in sociology at Notre Dame, discussed her research studying members of a Benedict Option-type intentional Christian community. She spoke to parishioners, school families, and non-Catholics in the area about the impact of living inside (or in proximity) to a parish that in many ways deliberately cultivated an identity based on the principles described in Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option (the community predated the book but is mentioned as an exemplar therein). It was a very interesting talk. It sounds like this particular parish didn’t have as much economic and ethnic diversity as perhaps other BenOp-ish communities do. I understood her ultimate conclusion to be that true cultural renewal requires more than a “conglomerate of intentional communities.” I hope to read more from her on this topic, which is one I spend a lot of time ruminating about.
Hoping to do this again for the next 500 days, which might be enough time to mention all of the incredible talks and perspectives presented at this conference! I mean, I didn’t even mention Leticia Ochoa Adams yet . . . and I dined with MrsDarwin! . . . and ALISDAIR MACINTYRE (I did not dine with him, but he merits a CAPSLOCK MENTION) . . .