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THE HILLSDALE

To Celebrate a feast
personhood and gender
The future doesn't exist
Humane environmentalism
Leon Bridges' Heartening vision
VOLUME III, ISSUE 13 | April 2016

Ta b l e o f C o n t e n t s
Cover Art: Pretending Nothing is Out There 1
Forester McClatchey

Irony part iii: to celebrate a feast 4


Chris McCaffery

Taste and community part ii 7


Stacey Egger

Personhood and gender 9


JoAnna Kroeker and Colin Wilson
the future doesnt exist

13

Emily Lehman
satire

15

Noah Weinrich

Music:leon bridges christian vision 16


Mark Naida

Movies:miyazakis humane environmentalism 18


Timothy Troutner

VOLUME III, ISSUE 13

M i s s i o n S tat e m e n t

The Hillsdale Forum is an independent, student-run conservative magazine at Hillsdale


College. The Forum, in support of the mission statement of the college, exists to foster a campus
environment open to true liberal education and human flourishing. We publish opinions,
interviews, papers, and campus news. The Forum is a vehicle to bring the discussion and
thought of the students and professors at the heart of our school beyond the classroom, because
if a practical end must be assigned to a University course, it is that of training good members
of society. The Forum brings the learning of the classroom into the political reality of campus.

T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

Letter

from the

A P R I L

EDITORS-IN-CHIEF
Madeline Johnson
Sarah Reinsel
MANAGING EDITOR
Emily Lehman
EDITOR-AT-LARGE
Chris McCaffery
COPY EDITOR
Andrew Egger
STAFF WRITERS
Timothy Troutner
Noah Weinrich
Mark Naida
ESSAYISTS
Stacey Egger
JoAnna Kroeker
Colin Wilson
DESIGN, ARTWORK,
& PHOTOGRAPHY
Sarah Reinsel
Forester McClatchey
FACULTY ADVISOR
Dr. John Somerville

Editors

2 0 1 6

Right as I was sitting down to write our final Letter from the Editors today,
a Facebook notification bleeped onto my laptop screenand since I was
supposed to be writing this letter, naturally I logged onto Facebook to check
the notification instead. It turned out to be quite a pleasant surpriseYou
Wont, a small-time, two-man band that happens to have quite a following at
Hillsdale, had allowed a website to stream their new album, Revolutionaries,
four days before the actual day of the album drop.
This Facebook notification just made Hell Week possible for a lot of
Hillsdale students.
As Stacey Egger explains with so much care in her article on taste
and community, small communities [bind] their members together in
a discourse that has the ease and depth that shared imagery and artistic
associations bring." This early album drop by You Wont furnishes a perfect
example: the new album will likely provide both the quietly humming
background music and the celebratory blasting-from-the-speakers music
that goes along with all of the camaraderie of all-nighters and hastily written
papers.This little-known band, well-loved by an even littler community,
has become a part of Hillsdales mythos, a recommendation passed down
and listened to and played at gatherings from birthday parties to weddings
for five or six years now, if not more. The albums appearance provokes
reflection on the richness of the Hillsdale student community's cultural
fabric: the communitys contemporary tastes are cultivated by its studious
appreciation of the liberal arts, and its general enthusiasm for beauty turns
outward to love for one another.
This issue of The Forum demonstrates the Hillsdale students love of
beauty in art particularly well. Chris McCaffery opens the issue with the
final installment of his essays on irony, urging us to learn to see not only
art and beauty, but reality itself, with new eyes. Stacey Egger follows up
her previous article on taste and community, explaining thoroughly what
I have only addressed briefly in this letter. Jo Kroeker and Colin Wilson
discuss better ways to approach gender with relation to personhood, and
Emily Lehman explores and contrasts our modern perspective on time
with that of the ancients. Providing another contrast of perspective, satirist
Noah Weinrich directs our attention to some of the non-art factors that can
forcibly shape a community. Finally, Mark Naida shares his thoughts on the
ways contemporary singer Leon Bridges has succeeded in becoming a part
of pop culture without cheapening his Christian vision, and Tim Troutner
explores the humane environmentalism of Hayao Miyazakis movies. On
the cover and throughout the issue, Forester McClatchey comes in clutch
with his delightful pen and ink illustrations.
As this is our final issue of the year, we would like to especially thank
the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the Collegiate Network for their
continued support, our advisor Dr. Somerville, and our senior editors Chris
McCaffery and Minte Irmer. And to everyone who has contributed to The
Forum this yearthank you for sharing your thoughts and contributing to
the conversation on campus. F
Sarah Reinsel is a junior studying English. Madeline Johnson is a junior
studying philosophy.

To Celebrate a Feast

I R O N Y
P art T hree of T hree :
Learning to See and
Learning in Order to See

by Chris McCaffery
He has the repose of a mind which lives in itself, while it lives
in the world, and which has resources for its happiness at
home when it cannot go abroad. He has a gift which serves
him in public, and supports him in retirement, without
which good fortune is but vulgar, and with which failure and
disappointment have a charm.

John Henry Cardinal Newman,

The Idea of a University.

want to give an account of what irony is because of its


prideful place at the heart of so much contemporary
living. My claim has been that life in the world today seems
to require an abstract way of interacting with society, full
of demagoguery, adverts, and an overriding moral norm
that is only the general demand to consume production
and therefore to work for the privilege of consuming.
Irony allows her hipster patrons to keep in mind the real
virtues of human life, paradoxically, without needing to
know what they are, win the culture war, or risk becoming
another demagogue, fad, or ad campaign. It is ironys
nature to shun these things.
In the third reflection, I simply want to point out the
intimate role that education must play in helping us
navigating this complex problem. I dont intend to go on
about liberal education as such, a topic about which we
have a near-endless supply of editorials, lectures, classes,
and essays in The Hillsdale Forum. I merely wish to clarify
what it means for us to have been liberally educated, and
how the drama that I have outlined between the life of the
mass man and the ironist can inform the way we interact

T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

with society and culture today. For


Hillsdale students, understanding
this tension of embrace and rejection
is the real, practical benefit of an
education which makes men free.
We, having been so often among
the great democracy of the dead
who have taught us what is, must
live among a rather more tyrannical
democracy of the living, without
rejecting them, without embracing
them, without finding ourselves
adrift either way.
Through all of the preceding
reflections
on
irony
and
contemporary culture, the
stance we take towards the
world has been central to my
argument. The first model is
the uncritical but unrestful,
unfulfilled bourgeois, the
man Barthelmes ironist
lashes out at in his rented
chalet overflowing with play
equipment. In him we have
what Jos Ortega y Gasset
identified as the mass man,
easily manipulated by the
abstractions of ideology into
conformity with external
interests. We can see the
mass man in the constant
appeals to national political
bodies to solve or resolve
issues as diverse as poverty,
racial discrimination, labor
rights, and healthcare. The
mass man wants freedom and security
above all other goods, because they are
what allow him to live an impulsive
life detached from the responsibilities
of religion, community, and economy.
In a certain sense, the more the state
can give him, the freer he is, because
he does not rely on anything but the
faceless, impersonal laws of the state
for his life of empty convenience.
This does not, however, create true
freedom to live a good life arranged
around some values; rather, it simply

makes one more and more a slave


to the rule of the stronger, easily
manipulated by ideologies and a
baseless mass culture.
His opposite is the ironist who, by
the way of negation, removes himself
from the typical world of mass
culture in order to seek authenticity,
creating the space outside of the
striking degree of boredom he
fears, a space where the moment
might become real because it is no
longer taken at face value. He finds
his freedom in negating all those
things through which the mass man

What unites both the empty


existence offered in mass society
and the ironism of the hipster
is their disconnectedness. They
are unsatisfying because in
different ways they attempt to
find happiness in an ultimately
solipsistic mode.

mistakenly attempted to find his own


freedom. But, as I noted in Part Two,
the space creating the potential for
something more authentic remains
essentially empty, trading one kind
of vacuum for another. It is purely a
negative liberty, created by criticizing
and undermining whatever seems
obviously false, because so many
peers are unreflective travellers with
consumerism. From the perspective
of the institutional voice in Barthelme,
He has given away his gaiety, and now

has nothing. Nothing, yes, but as the


foregoing argument has it, a nothing
like the nothing of G.K. Chestertons
open mind, which has as its object to
shut again on something solid. There
remains only a little more to be said
on the topic of shutting our minds
of, as I indicated, teaching the ironist
to live with his irony.
It is obvious what is necessary:
a third way that can harness the
initial ironic flight from the world
as it presents itself in the worldly
asceticism of contemporary society
while denying it the final word on
this relationship. What unites
both the empty existence
offered in mass society and
the ironism of the hipster
is their disconnectedness.
They
are
unsatisfying
because in different ways
they attempt to find
happiness in an ultimately
solipsistic
mode.
The
first, what Kerouac called
middleclass non-identity,
pursues what is desired
simply because it is desired in
uncritical acceptance of the
general demand that they
consume production and
therefore have to work for
the privilege of consuming.
The second escapes by
finding nothing of value
left to pursue besides the
escape itself. Both privilege their own
mindset over the actual world they
encounter (or fail to).
Over both of these paths I hold what
Josef Pieper identifies as the ability
to celebrate a feast in a truly festive
fashion. The true existential lack
of this ability results in the destitute
times of contemporary America: To
do just this requires, as everybody
knows, that the reality of our life and
our world be first wholeheartedly
accepted and that this acceptance,

then, on special occasions, be expressed and


lived out in exceptional ritual: this indeed is
what it means to celebrate a feast! This is
just what the bourgeois and the ironist lack.
Pieper moves the reflections on culture from
the abstract question of for-or-against the world
to that relationship's definite height, the true
riches of human existence that it is ours to
affirm if we desire to escape the hold of what
Friedrich Hlderlin called our barren times.
The question seems to be decided in favor
of the world and its riches, indeed in favor of
the play equipment of the bourgeois that has
on the face of it a more festive face than the
dour sarcasm and eye rolls of the ironist who
has given away his gaiety. In fact, we all know
that most destructive thing about sarcasm is the
inability to celebrate anything! But we shouldnt
be so quick in this judgment. After all, it was

to them we transform our vision into a tool of


penetration, able to order the things around
us and put them in their proper relation to the
whole. Pieper accuses modern man of losing the
ability to see: We do not mean here, of course,
the physiological sensitivity of the human eye.
We mean the spiritual capacity to perceive
the visible reality as it truly is. D.C. Schindler
concurrently complains that it is no doubt the
case that the almost maniacal multiplication
of images in the technological explosion of the
twentieth century has done nothing to nourish
the imagination, but instead has fed it with
unwholesome food. On different paths, these
diagnoses arrive at the same prescription for our
blindness: a restoration of the ideas of reality
and truth that will allow a deeper and more
receptive vision, a more intense awareness, a
sharper and more discerning understanding,
a more patient openness for all things
The only third way is that of the life educated quiet and inconspicuous, an eye for
previously overlooked.
in living concretely in the world. The life things
The attention to reality that orders
which, because it has been trained to care our studies is the only real point
for and trained to recognize reality beyond of contact between acceptance and
rejection, between the mass man and
the obvious, knows from its training which the ironist. The only third way is that
things to reject and which to cling to without of the life educated in living concretely
in the world. The life that, because it
making either technique the only law of life. has been trained to care for and trained
to recognize reality beyond the obvious,
the first point of this essay to show the way in knows from its training which things to reject
which irony allows for greater, more genuine and which to cling to without making either
and fulfilling celebration of human riches than technique the only law of life. This represents
the culture of simulacra it rejects. We only the enduring value of an education in reality: as
need to think of Socrates, the man who seemed Newman put it, the liberally educated man is
to live to put everything to the grindstone of at home in any society, he has common ground
questioning, but who said that the philosophical with every class; he knows when to speak and
life he pursued would allow the soul to enjoy when to be silent. If we believe this, we should
its own pleasures, the best pleasures, and to the believe it of our own society too, and have faith
greatest possible extent, the truest pleasures. that our education trains us in seeing when to
Well need to hold both pieces together, bind speak, and when to be silent; when to love, and
our ironic rejection to the real good of life in when to scorn; when to embrace, and when
order to achieve this celebration, and the only to flee from those simulacra only disguising
way to learn to do that is through a liberal themselves for the reality we have grown to love.
education, which, as Dr. David Whalen often F
insists, is pursued as a training in recognizing Christopher McCaffery is a senior studying English.
reality for what it is.
What is true of art, as discussed in Part Two,
is true of all our studies, insofar as in submitting

T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

&Community

Taste

Part 2

Charity Through Translation:


The Community of Taste
by

Stacey Egger

t is one of the beauties of a human being that


he cannot construct his interiorhis thoughts,
memories, convictions, feelingsin a way that is
detached from the world and the people around
him. Artistic and intellectual influences facilitate,
speed, and color an individuals coming-toknow, and they are one of the most natural and
effective ways to communicate knowledge to
others. We like to share what we love, and for
this reason small, isolated communities tend to
develop their own ecosystem of shared artistic
and literary taste. This little cultural tide pool
makes communication easy, as whatever new
things fall in shine in the same light and reflect the
same colors. The more a small community shares
common images, experiences, and meaningful
artistic and intellectual influences, and the more
refined, specific, and detached from outside forces
these tastes are, the more quickly and precisely it
is able to function as a unit, to communicate and
to pursue truth together.
This essays previous installment emphasized the
dangers of personal tastes withdrawing us from
others. Yet it is this same faculty that can foster
the greatest level of closeness in a community.
This can manifest itself in many ways, but it is
certainly evident, and relevant, in an intellectual
community on a college campus.
The development of a language of shared taste
within a small community is similar, on a much
smaller scale, to a system of mythology and imagery
shared by an entire culture, a lost experience in
the modern world. Cultures that possessed folk
tales and popular mythology familiar to all of

their members had the advantage of the depth


and ease of communication of ideas facilitated
by these shared images. Works of art, literature,
and philosophy employed these images, tapping
into an web of associations already constructed
in the minds of their viewers and readers. In a
small community of college students, a Sufjan
Stevens album or a novel by David Foster Wallace
can serve as similar touchstones, the origins and
holding-places for the ideas, conversations, and
truths sought and acquired by the members of
the community over time. On the other hand,
this analogy demonstrates the difficulties of
communication that can arise when the individual
must take his conclusions out of their incubating
context. When we approach a work of literature
or art that was produced for an audience steeped
in a common mythos, it takes a great deal of work
for us to get down to meaning that was readily
accessible to those for whom all of the images had
immediate significance and associations. When
we read Dante or Shakespeare, it takes a long time
for us, with the help of extensive footnotes, to get
down to meanings immediately apparent to their
contemporaries. Cultural richness made their
expressions of meaning incredibly rich, and this
imagery was shared by the culture at large. For us,
however, who do not share this imagery, it takes
time and effort to understand ideas that could be
so easily and richly conveyed in their time.
We live in a world beyond this loss, the loss of
a greater cultural mythology and language. And
here is the importance and beauty of smaller
communities of shared taste, which function as
7

microcosms of this richness of imagery


and association, binding their members
together in discourse that has the ease
and depth of shared imagery and artistic
associations. To be intellectually fair,
then, we must accept the difficulties of
such a community alongside its benefits.
If we enter this type of close intellectual
community we are naturally isolating
ourselves and our discourse from those
who are not inside. We are also isolating
the conclusions we reach, because our
way of coming to know them and thus
our way of understanding them will be
grounded in and colored by the palette
we have shared to paint them.
The ease of this closeness, therefore,
does not come without a cost. We
have all, likely, gone home and found
it more difficult to relate to our old
friends and peers and even our families.
More than just an inconvenience,
this can be seriously discouraging. In
our communities here, it has seemed
easy and obvious to find something
resoundingly true and have those
around us get it. Trying to export this
information can be a disheartening
experience. A phrase that has a wealth
of association and background in our
academic and cultural circles, we find,
does not contain these associations, or
perhaps any at all, for our uncle who
asks about the term paper we are typing
in the living room at Christmas.
The ease with which we are able to
know and communicate within such
a fostered community of taste will
correspond directly to the difficulty we
have in translating this knowledge to
those who are not in that community.
This is not some kind of flaw in the
system; it is the systems natural
balance. The exceptional benefits of
communication that this kind of a
community of taste offer are received
along with the language barrier with
the outside world that accompanies
them. It is natural that, having reached
strong and resounding conclusions
within such a body, we should feel
misunderstood when we go outside and
those associations are not shared, and
seem so difficult to share.
8

T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

By drawing attention to these


difficulties, I do not meant in any way
to critique this kind of community.
Quite the opposite. When the chafe we
feel with the minds of those outside
is recognized as a natural result of
this kind of intellectual community,
responsibility and intention should
take the place of despair. Recognizing
the language barrier that a
community of taste can form, it is
crucial to evaluate whether the reasons
for difficulty in a conversation, or a
straight-out disagreement, are based
in fundamental divisions over truth, or
merely these taste-centered difficulties.
This distinction between matters of
taste and truth helps us to identify
those differences which are legitimate
and crucial to attack (read: hills to
die on), and requires us show charity
in conversations which may require,
instead, the effort of translation. There
are evil ideas in the world, and these
require all of the disdain and hatred
that we have.
Those with whom we feel friction
merely because they happen not to
have been enrolled in the courses we
have been enrolled in and known our
most definitive friends, we should
love, and in the spirit of this love, we
should work earnestly and joyfully to
share the blessings that we have been
given by the communities from which
we have received so much. Not only is
this effort of translation the learners
responsibility, it is beneficial to his own
intellectual honesty. The process of
transplanting our contained and wellwatered ideas into the great outdoors
challenges their solidity and hardiness
against valid threats they may have
been sheltered from, and only by
surviving this process can they reach
full maturity.
To rightly evaluate what we see
around us, we must be aware of our own
vantage point. To love others rightly,
we must know them, and to know
them rightly, we must know ourselves.
A small, isolated, richly developed
community is a beautifully effective
place for a person to learn, but the

things he learns are not complete until


he is able to take them out of the safety
of their nest and bring them to maturity
in translation. We need not lament,
then, the distance we feel from those
outside our communities as we grow
closer to those in our communities. We
must simply know that it will be our
task to lessen it. Most importantly, we
must not feel disdain or anger towards
those who, not having chosen to move
into the house next door to us and
follow us from moment to moment,
have not been trained in the precise
culture and language that has arisen
so particularly to our place. To do so
would be to choose a grave path of
isolation, absurdity, and arrogance.
This is the most serious pitfall of
such a community, and threatens
the destruction of the beauty and
goodness that the community offers.
Instead, thankful for the blessings we
have received from our community
of learning, we should count it a joy
to share in love what we have come to
know. F
Stacey Egger is a sophomore studying
English and history.

Human Beings,
Being Gendered
Understanding personhood in light of stereotypes
by JoAnna Kroeker and Colin Wilson

A truncated version of this piece appeared in the Hillsdale


Collegian, 17 March 2016.

ol
lowing a botched cir
cum
cision at seven
months, David Reimer, born Bruce Reimer,
underwent two sex reas
signment surgeries.
The first occurred at 22 months, when Bruce
became Brenda because doctors thought he
would be more likely to succeed as a woman
than as a man with a dis
figured penis. The
second reassignment took place at 15 years old,
when Brenda became David after the shocking
revelation that his female identity had been cul
tivated by psychologists, hormones, and dresses.
Throughout his life, doctors and psy
chol
ogists cut David Reimer to fit their definitions
of both masculinity and femininity. Our society
upholds these categories as mutually exclusive,
unconditional truths, and uses the manifest
differences in behavior, attributes, and roles to
obscure our universal personhood.
But what happens when these gender
constructions break down in the face of an
individual, like David, who does not fit the mold?
A proper understanding of the biological facts
of gender, sex, and of cultural path dependency
demand that we reevaluate the arbitrary,
behaviorist lines drawn around differing
expressions of personhood.
Gender sits at the crossroads of nature and
nurturea girl is identified as much by her

physical characteristics as she is by her toys,


clothing, and interests. Biologically speaking,
humans are (typically) identifiable as either a
male or a female by their chromosomes, and
in most cases, this distinction comes with a
certain spectrum of behavior. However, the
set of behaviors associated with one sex or the
other is not entirely inbornit is cultivated. It is
not natural in the way biological sex is natural.
Certainly, while estrogen and testosterone can
account for some of the differences typically
associated with masculine or feminine behavior,
in reality, the two overlap as much as they differ.
Exalting a product of nurture by equivocating
it with biological sex has the effect of bundling
the two into transcendent ideals of male and
female. However prevalent this belief may be,
it is, to a certain extent, nonsensical. Behavior
isnt static. It may be predictable, but in the
moment we begin predicting behavior based on
abstract ideals, we cease to understand people
as individuals. The moment we convert such an
abstraction into a normative set of acceptable
behaviors, we do injustice to those who may fall
outside of the norm.
The behaviors outside the traditional realm
of a persons biological sex are encouraged or
discouraged to varying degrees depending on
the cultural setting in which the individual
finds themself. But even in the strictest of
settings, there is natural overlap programmed
9

Our behavioral
categories cut the
human psyche even
more deeply than the
surgical tools cut the
human body because
they cut universally
and indiscriminately,
harming society in
the process.

into our very DNA. This is revealed


clearly during fatherhood, where men
have evolved a mechanism which
strategically lowers their testosterone
levels. It is believed that this mechanism
exists in order to limit aggressive
behaviors, promote nurturing instincts,
limit the males libido, and allow for a
more stable environment for the new
child, according to a 2014 study by the
University of Michigan in the American
Journal of Human Biology.
On the biological level, becoming
a father means that men must exhibit
less what our culture deems manly
behaviors. This seems counterintuitive,
given that, on a cultural level, becoming
a father is considered by many to be a
rite of passage into manhood. In order
to be protectors and nurturers, the male
body has adapted to be more sensitive
and nurturing, and less aggressive and
independent. In fact, what is required
both by every mans male DNA and his
perfection as a father is at odds with
a simplistic understanding of static

10

T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

gender roles. In light of these findings,


the idea of traditional masculinity as
a static concept is not even biologically
accurate, much less suitable to the
normal development of human life in
reproduction and caring for young. This
demonstrated variability in sexually
typical behaviors, even within the
same individuals over time, comes
into focus when turned to the question
of intersexuality that David Reimer
experienced so dramatically.
The term intersexual encompasses
people who biologically express the
internal and external genitalia of both
sexes in varying degrees. According
to the Intersex Society of North
America, medical experts report that
about 1 child in 1500 to 2000 births
is noticeably atypical in terms of
genitalia. Chromosomally, they have a
more complex expression than XX or
XY. Because our society emphasizes
perfection and idolizes the expression of
traditional masculinity and femininity,
it has the potential to marginalize
intersex children as biological and
social failures. The primacy of the
biological failure predicts childrens
inability to flourish as they are in the
social setting, and instead must be
cut to fit social standards. Certainly,
biological deformities represent an
aberration from the ideal dichotomy
required for reproduction. However,
it is important to draw lines between
what is a safe and necessary medical
procedure, and what is a fundamental
reconstitution of an already complete
person for our own benefit and for our
own mistaken assumptions about what
we need to be happy.
In her essay Undoing Gender,
theorist Judith Butler points out that
both the psy
chol
ogists and surgeons

involved in the Reimer case imple


mented means that contradicted their
own purported beliefs about gender.
The psychologists claimed to believe in
gender malleability, but they imposed
their ideas of femininity on Brenda
so violently that she almost committed
suicide at the age of 13. Later, when the
surgeons transformed Brenda back to
Davidto an inner, natural truth about
his gendertheyhad to use unnatural
methods to do so. In each instance, the
medical professionals, and even Davids
own family, were so concerned about
cutting him to fit their ideas of what
gender norms he should conform to
that they neglected to approach him as a
human being with unique personhood.
In the end, the strain of conforming to
an arbitrary standard proved to be too
much, and David took his own life at
age 38.
Davids story embodies the debate
between malleability and an inner
truth of gender: however, both
assume that there are more differences
between men and women then there
are similarities. Malleability uses
the differences, manifested in toys,
clothing, and activities, to bring out
girlhood or boyhood. The inner truth
of gender takes up a dualistic, separated
understanding of body and identity.
Indeed, these archetypes seem to fit, for
the most part.
To make these archetypes fit, we use
labels to categorize people in order to
understand them within the context
of normalcy. We try to put people into
boxes based on average behavioral traits
and genitalia so that we can make sense
of and evaluate the behavior of others.
However, when our social standards
dont fit our children, especially our
intersex children, we automatically

assume something must be done,


physically or socially, to make them
fit, in order for them to succeed. Judith
Butlers characterization of the intersex
movement opposing coercive surgery
on sexually indeterminate children as
one that calls for an understanding
that infants with intersexed conditions
are part of the continuum of human
morphology and ought to be treated
with the presumption that their lives
are and will be not only livable, but also
occasions for flourishing. The norms
that govern idealized human anatomy
thus work to produce a differential
sense of who is human and who is not,
which lives are livable, and which are
not.
Our behavioral categories cut the
human psyche even more deeply
than the surgical tools cut the human
body because they cut universally and
indiscriminately, harming society in
the process. Cutting away a partially
formed penis is an injustice to the infant,
but nurturing an aggressive generation
of boys with the phrase boys will be
boys exalts one particular expression
of male behavior while excluding the
more passive boys from participating
in masculinity, despite the right
guaranteed by their biological identity
to be universally valid members of their
sex. Social conditioning robs boys of
the freedom for individual expression,
and society loses opportunities for
growth when it demands homogeneity.
However, there is a Christian
response to the cutting, one that exalts
heterogeneity and promotes loving
the personhood of every person. In
1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul
attributes wholeness in the church
body to the unique gifts every member
possesses. This definition of wholeness

is applicable in our discussion of per


sonhood: If the ear should say, Because
I am not an eye, I do not belong to the
body, it would not for that reason stop
being part of the body. If the whole
body were an eye, where would the
sense of hearing be? . . . But in fact God
has placed the parts in the body, every
one of them, just as he wanted them
to be. If they were all one part, where
would the body be? As it is, there are
many parts, but one body. . . . If one
part suffers, every part suffers with it; if
one part is honored, every part rejoices
with it (NIV).
Fol
lowing the botched cir
cum
cision, doctors may have used logic
similar to that of the ear, saying that
because David does not have a
func
tioning penis, he wont want to
belong to manhood. People mis
un
derstood David his whole life because
they prioritized the alignment of his
behaviors, hormones, and genitalia to
manhood or womanhood, instead of
prioritizing his whole and perfect per
sonhood as greater than his gender.
When we tell men or women that
their attributes and roles do not fit
our societys narrow understanding
of masculinity or femininity and
that they must act differently, we cut
them, psychologically. In doing so,
we do a great injustice to the fringes
of masculinity and femininity, all
for the sake of creating aggressive,
independent, manly men, and passive,
dependent, womanly women.
Just as the church body only
functions when all members uses their
distinct talents, and every member
rejoices in the variety of abilities,
so too does society excel when all
members appreciate each other for
their unrepeatable instantiations of

personhood. In Galatians 3, Paul claims


that all believers are children of Christ,
who inherit the promises of Abraham
through their faith alone: There is
neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave
nor free, nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If we
uphold masculinity and femininity as
transcendent truths that separate men
from women, we divide and oppose
people, when our faith in God should
unite us.
God created each of us with unique
gifts, passions, and personalities. We
are called to love one another as Christ
loved us, which applies just as much
to those who are different from us.
Abandoning strict gender stereotypes
may inhibit our ability to classify
people we dont know into boxes that
dont fully capture their complexity
as Gods creations, but perhaps this is
what we were supposed to be avoiding
all along. F
Colin Wilson is a senior studying economics.
JoAnna Kroeker is a sophomore studying
French and philosophy.

God created each


of us with unique
gifts, passions, and
personalities. We
are called to love one
another as Christ loved
us, which applies just
as much to those who
are different from us.

11

The Future Doesnt Exist


(And Why You Think It Does)
by

Emily Lehman

The beginning of Daylight Savings Time left me


meditating sleepily on what time means in modern
America. What does it mean to save daylight,
exactly? Do we have daylight to save? More
importantly, do we save any by a perverse
practice of waking up an hour earlier once
a year?
The answer to the last question is no. The answers to the
first two might become more clear if we think more carefully
about the answer to the last. We dont save any daylight
because (as our weary bodies and those irritating birds
outside make us acutely aware) the earth keeps on
turning. We remember to set our clocks, our
circadian rhythms eventually adjust, and life
goes on as usual. But the sun really sets at
the same timeat sunset. Traditionally,
its sunset that tells us what time it
is, rather than our dictating to
ourselves what time the sunset is.
Some farmers still get up when
the sun does and might work
as long as the light lasts.
But many of us dont think
that wayin our minds,
hours are like Lego blocks,
to be manipulated and
reconfigured at will. Why?

Illustrations by Forester McClatchey

12

T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

The answer is, not surprisingly,


complicated. But Ill propose a fairly
simple answer as an umbrella for all
that complexity: we think that the
future exists.
The future is what St. Thomas
Aquinas would call contingent. That
is, the future is full of things that
depend on other things. For example,
when they say in spy movies that they
want to be prepared for every possible
contingency, they mean they want to
be prepared for everything that might
happen, everything that could happen
in a way different from what is planned.
Human beings are, in an odd sense, one
of those things: they dont have to exist.
Since human beings have free will, their
actions are also contingent: they dont
have to happen. In explaining
how Gods foreknowledge
relates to the freedom of
human beings, St. Thomas
claims that contingency
still exists even though God
knows all things. In other
words, things follow from
one another; it is not exactly
as if God sees a giant timeline
on which all things exist,
even though He does know
everything. Things happen
because of other things,
though God knows that they
will happen; they are known
but not therefore necessary.
Thats what the entire future is
likefrom here on out, it doesnt exist.
Nothing in an imagined future has
to happen. It hasnt happened yet. Im
sitting here typing away at this article,
but the time that you are reading
this article, and the deadline for the
article itself, dont exist yet (even if the
deadlines a little too close for comfort).
Since contingency is an element of
human living, the future is not a reality
into which human beings can look like
settlers in a wagon on a long straight
road to Oregon.
The ancient Greeks had a completely
different image to describe their relation
to time (the whole future-doesnt-exist
thing comes from Aristotle, in fact).

The Greeks envisioned themselves as


always traveling forward in time but
looking backward (picture a train car
with backward seats from which you
can watch the scenery roll by). Their
way of looking at things may make
more sense than ours, even though
the Oregon Trail image of Americans
looking forward into the future has
appealed to our country for so much of
its short life. The Greeks realized that
if we look forward, theres nothing to
look at. If we look back, theres a lot to
seeand we dont have to search the
abysm of contingency for an outline
of what were heading for. We might,
paradoxically, see a great deal more of
reality by looking backwardperhaps
even to the point of knowing a little

and a rhinoceros . . . . at that point


weve strayed so far from the reality of
whats actually happening here that I
might have perverted my relationship
to the world that exists here and now.
If Im writing this article thinking that
it connects me in a meaningful way to
my future as an exotic animal collector,
not only will it not help me write the
article, itll probably harm the article.
The article might become in my mind
the key to getting me six cheetahs and a
rhinoceros. I might even start to forget
about all the hypotheticals between the
article and the rhinoceros. And in so
doing I might compromise my ability
to write well in relation to the real
situation in which I find myself, here
in Hillsdale, Michigan, looking out the
window at untimely snow.
You might claim that nobody
thinks like that, but lets look at
the narrative life of a typical
high schooler in America. You
need to take the SAT, because if
you do well on the SAT youll
get into a good college, and
if you get into a good college
youll get into a good grad
school, and if you get into a
good grad school youll get
a good job, and if you get a
good job you might become
the CEO, and if you become
the CEO you might get rich
enough to retire at 35 and if you retire
at 35 you might go live in Hawaii for the
rest of your life.
SAT to Hawaii. Article to rhinoceros.
Its all pretty far-fetched. And with our
delight in scheduling and rescheduling,
in five-year plans and preparation
for contingencies, in manipulating
the colored blocks of our alreadypresent future into beautiful castles
or spaceships that can be smashed up
and reconfigured into whatever shape
we choose, I think we forget a very
important aspect of being contingent
beings: we might not be there for that.
Medievals, unable to isolate themselves
from contingency the way we can, were
deeply aware of the reality of death.
Children died in infancy. Natural

In manipulating the colored blocks


of our already-present future into
beautiful castles or spaceships that
can be smashed up and reconfigured
into whatever shape we choose, I
think we forget a very important
aspect of being contingent beings:
we might not be there for that.
more about where we are headed.
I absolutely refuse to make any
statements about hypotheticals, said
one of my professors recently. They
dont exist. As soon as you say, If this
happens, then . . . youre in the realm of
unknowability. I dont want to make any
claims about absolute unknowability
(I dont know about that), but I do
make the claim that one can multiply
hypotheticals to the point that it
compromises ones relationship with
the truth. If I finish this article, and then
someone reads it in Washington, D.C.,
and then if they really like the article
and want to publish it in their famous
magazine, and then if I become a
famous journalist, and then if I become
a millionaire and own six cheetahs

13

disasters and disease destroyed members of the community


while others looked on. Wives died in childbirth. For
people who saw death more clearly, perhaps it was harder
to formulate a twenty-year plan, a five-year plan, or even a
nine-month plan. I might have fewer pie-in-the sky ideas
about wild animals in my basement if I thought more about
the fact that I might not even make it to dinner tonight.
And maybe thats not quite as dark as it sounds, since
thinking about the world that way could perhaps make dinner
itself (almost) as exciting as wild-animal collecting. Since the
future doesnt exist, the natural reaction should be wonder
that the present does. The fact that I can probably anticipate
sitting at this table in the library for another hour or two
might, if I thought about it the right way, be more exciting
than an imagined trip to Hawaiibecause I ought to marvel
at the fact that I am living at all, apart from any grasping for
the future. A real present is much more adventurous than
any imaginary future, if only because its real.
So how should we change our behavior? Delete the calendar
apps from our phones? Never plan another dinner date? Start
telling our professors that we didnt think about the paper
until the night before because we have such a robust sense
of the contingency of the world? Obviously not. Theres a
practical aspect to planning for the future as if it exists, and
if not taken too seriously its probably a helpful imaginative
exercise as well. All Im saying is that we shouldnt cling to our

14

T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

little chain of hypotheticals as if they connect us to something


real. Imagining that what we desire must necessarily follow
from our posited hypotheticals could be crippling if one of
them falls throughthe moment when I think Ill never get
a rhinoceros since The Forum isnt distributed in D.C. If I
havent locked myself into a plan that I think will necessarily
lead to my desired conclusion, I lose a great deal of perceived
control, but it also means that setbacks arent catastrophes.
Its probably worth it to let go of the control Ive constructed
for myself by imagining the future, since one of these days Ill
find that it didnt really give me any control anyway. Someday
a rhinoceros might just lumber its way into my life without
my lifting a finger to make it happen. We shouldnt forget
that, for good or for ill, something could happen within the
next three minutes that would transform our lives forever in
a way that we never anticipated or instigated. Just being alive
is adventure enough.
If we realized that, we might conduct life in the present
differently. Maybe we could even spend a day or two in
our lives without a color-blocked plan. We could take long
detours and occasionally miss a deadline. And we could
probably ditch Daylight Savings Time. F
Emily Lehman is a junior studying English.

SATIRE

THE BONE
TO TIGHTEN
FOOD SECURITY
by

Noah Weinrich

REYKJAVIK, ICELANDIn order to prevent


food pilfering, wastage, embezzlement, and other
felonious offenses in the dining hall, Budget OnCampus Nutrition Executives, the dining providers at
Iceland Community College, have announced a plan
to implement stricter controls on dining hall traffic.
The comprehensive security measures will be put
in place at the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester.
BONE has already announced their controversial
One-Cup Policy, which dictates strict adherence
to one drink and one fruit/dessert item. From now
on, according to a spokesman from BONE, all drinks
must be opened and all fruit peeled for inspection by
a Takeout Security Agent upon exit from the area.
In addition, the food reserves will be protected
from would-be burglars by an outside security force
with a security checkpoint at the exit. The force will
be instructed to discourage all food carry-outs: they
will replace Blue Hat coffee with lukewarm Folgers,
chocolate chip cookies with half-baked oatmeal
raisin, and apples with old tomatoes. When asked
for comment, BONE Chief of Security responded:
Food security is no joke. If we allowed students to
take out cereal or soup in one of our scarce to-go
containers, who knows what they would take out
next? A whole pineapple? It could be anything.
At other colleges, BONE has already implemented
similar measures. National controversy erupted last
March when students at Burr College organized
a sit-in to attempt to eat as much at their dining
hall as possible. BONE brought in a specialized
team to serve the students only milk steak and
raw jelly beans for the duration of their protest.
It remains unclear how these policies will affect
students, but several claims of profiling have already

emerged. Joshua Garber, defensive end on the ICC


football team, said he was accosted by a TSA when
he tried to exit. According to Garber, the TSA
demanded to check his socks for coffee stirrers and
napkins. Napkin nabbing and stirrer stealing is
our #1 expense here at the Bone, and it just makes
financial sense to employ me full time to prevent such
despicable behavior, explained the TSA, who would
prefer to remain anonymous for food security reasons.
In addition to these measures, several
agents will begin a mobile patrol during peak
hours of risk performing randomized stopand-frisk searches, patterned after New York
Citys successful law enforcement technique.
In some of these circumstances, representatives
from BONE have performed cavity searches to
prevent smuggling attempts. So far this month,
weve recovered thirteen grapes, two pounds of
pasta, a whole pizza, and several unauthorized togo cups of coffee concealed in patrons clothing
or on their persons, said a BONE spokesperson.
While most of the traffic control has been to stop
unlawful export of BONE's property (i.e. the food
on the students meal plans), there have been other
issues as well. According to several reports, one
student was detained after bringing in a freshly dead
muskrat (colloquially referred to as skrat) and
requesting an omelette chef to fry 'im up good.
Recent reports allege that full body scanners
and dental checks to prevent unnecessary
food waste are coming in future semesters.
BONE could not be reached for comment. F
Noah Weinrich is a sophomore studying politics.

15

The Forum reviews:


M U S I C

A Heartening

The Unrecognized Christian


Vision of Leon Bridges
by

Mark Naida

closed the hymnal. While the


parishioners around me sang
an unobjectionable hymn after
communion, I tried to pray. The
words came quietly as they slipped
through the interlaced fingers
that held my bowed headBeen
traveling these wide roads for so
long / my hearts been far from
you. I could feel my heart beating. I
could feel the baptismal font pulsing
blessed tap water, the musculature
of the Churchthe timbers, plaster,
and gold foilexhaling through the
pipes of the organ. Amid the smells of
incense and cheap Sunday perfume,
I felt guitar strings plucking at my
heart, the smoky tremolo of a voice
in my head beckoning to me.
I heard a voice singing Surrender
to the good Lord / and hell wipe your
slate clean. I heard a prayer. It was a
prayer written last year by a dishwasher
from Fort Worth, Texas, Leon Bridges;
it is a prayer I heard last year on MTV,
in a music video, shot cheaply on an
iPhone, of an old-fashioned young
man strutting about Fort Worth. It is a
prayer set to music from a boy whose
eyes are lifted both to the heavens and
to the past.
Leon Bridges has fertilized the
fallow musical landscape with his
heartbreaking vocal richness. His voice
is like a bears growl echoing from the
back of a cave, like bourbon mixed
with sweet tea. He is the epitome of
millennial aesthetic conservatism with

16

T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

glistening with the blood of his father.


Leon Bridges offers us the reality of
Christian lifeof love and baptism
translated into the commonplace.
His song begins with nods to family,
contrition, and tradition when he
prays:
Oh, I wanna come near and give ya
Every part of me
But theres blood on my hands
And my lips arent clean
In my darkness I remember
Mommas words reoccur to me
Surrender to the good Lord
And hell wipe your slate clean.

his high-waisted slacks, suit jackets,


and tight-trimmed moustache. His
style coincides with his subject matter:
he sings of his mother, of fifties maltshop love, and of God. Yet, despite all
his retro novelty, he was nominated for
the Grammy for best R&B album this
year.
The music video for his song River
shows Bridges intense humanistic
understanding of baptism, capturing
the tender moments where Gods love
blinks through. The video contains
stirring images: a tender embrace
between a mother and son, people
gathered under a bare-branched tree
softly sprayed by a fire hose, and a father
holding his baby to his chest after being
bloodied in a fight, the childs skin

The popularity of Leon Bridges


throwback
traditionalism
is
undeniable, but what is more
shocking is the lack of discussion
concerning the overt Christian
themes of his music. Music critics and
listeners alike would rather compare
him to Sam Cooke or speak about his
vintage recording style and sound.
This criticism cheapens an album
that bridges the gap between secular
and sacred music with a traditional,
meditative tenderness. Defined by
these voices, the album becomes an
oddity, a brief nostalgic snack to be
served on the same tarnished platter
as kitschy western towns and teased
hair. The only mention of Christianity
in reviews of his music was in an NPR
review that called his lyrics deeply
personal and connected to Golden
Era gospel in a way that goes beyond

mere posturing. That is all NPR and other critics have to


say about the Christian roots of a man who tweeted a picture
of a Bible open to the Gospel of John with the caption, We
eatin but our plates are empty. That is all they have to say
of the man who wrote My Love Stays, a song whose text
is a conversation between the sinner and his merciful God.
Bridges lyrics are poetry centered on Gods forgiveness and
mercy, possessing the timeless weight found in the poems of
Richard Rolle or John Lydgate, sung along with a steel guitar
in a living room in Fort Worth, Texas.

experience, looking at the world with new eyes. Art invites


us to meet the Otherwhether that be our neighbor or the
infinite otherness of Godand to achieve a new wholeness
of spirit.

This cultural confrontation with the Other illuminates


Bridges work as he works to reintegrate the sacred into
modern culture. He channels the current fascination with
the style of the fifties and sixties through his persona with
the historical truth that religion was a prominent cultural
element of the era. He has quietly reinvigorated a musical
tradition that speaks about traditional modes of morality
Father, Father look at these works that Ive done
and introspection. It can be a testament to itself and to
I send them to you in hopes of getting your attention
something greater. The lyrical and technical richness allows
Father, Father look at the mess that Ive made
Just a man with unclean hands from You I hide my face
the Christian elements to be delivered with coercive integrity;
critics simply cant resist such mastery. He is doing for R&B
My son, my love always here for you
music what Kendrick Lamar has done for rap music: making
You dont have to climb a ladder, bend over backwards
music so good, its message must be heard. They are Christian
To gain my love for you
Sirens, calling to hearts and souls from across a deep, dark
Cause, have you forgot, I love from the bottom to the top
sea of metaphysical malaise.
My love is steadfast, it never stops to you all and it never slows down
Leon Bridges reintroduces a Christian aesthetic into a
I know, I know the weight of your sin is heavier than a thousand tons.
metaphysically impoverished culture. Critics like to focus
The man who wrote these lyrics sells out stadiums, not on anything other than the prayerful nature of his music;
megachurches. He has performed at the White House however, that may be the point. Maybe Leon Bridges can
and on Saturday Night Live unhampered by a Christian connect to more people though his lyrics if he remains
label which would tarnish
unlabeled, an alluring aesthetic
him for many non-religious Prayer to Jesus
remnant. Maybe as they listen
listeners. Leon Bridges success in by Richard Rolle of Hampole
to Coming Home, people will
providing Christian music without
be able to hear themselves in the
cheapening it through simplicity or Jhesu, since thou me made and bought,
music, to feel themselves beloved,
sentimentality in his debut album Thou be my love and all my thought,
to hear a call to contrition. Whether
Coming Home is astonishing, And help that I may to Thee be brought;
they hear the message or not, it is
though not easily seen. But why? Withouten thee I may do nought.
there. It paws at them, snarling, not
Why are critics unwilling to
as an antiquated solecism, but as a
confront the Christian element in
living truth whose golden thread
Jhesu, since thou must do thy will,
his work, to either laud or belittle
laces society and history together.
his work because of its rarefied And naething is that thee may let;
It could be that Coming Home
With thy grace my heart fulfill,
cultural conversation?
can do nothing more than force
Hillsdale alumnus Gregory My love and my liking in thee set.
popular culture to acknowledge
Wolfe, in his book Beauty Will Save Jhesu, at thy will
Christianity as a recognition of
the World: Recovering the Human I pray that I might be;
an immense heritage. That would
in an Ideological Age, states:
All my heart fulfill
be enough. That would still be
heartening. F
With
perfect
love
to
thee.
Great art sneaks past our shallow
prejudices and brittle opinions
to remind us of the complexity
and mystery of human existence.
The imagination calls us to leave
our personalities behind and
temporarily to inhabit anothers

That I have done ill,


Jhesu, forgive thou me;
And suffer me never to spill,
Jhesu, for pity! Amen.

Mark Naida is a sophomore studying


French and English.

17

The Forum reviews:


M O V I E S

Finding a Home
in the
enchanted
Hayao Miyazakis Humane
Environmentalism
by

18

T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

Timothy Troutner

At least from ancient times up to


a certain time in the [Japanese]
medieval period, there was a boundary
beyond which humans should not
enter. Within this boundary was our
territory, so we ruled it as the humans
world with our rules, but beyond
this road, we couldnt do anything
even if a crime had been committed,
since it was no longer the humans
worldthere was a sanctum As
we gradually lost the awareness of
such holy things, humans somehow
lost their respect for nature. This film
[Princess Mononoke] deals with such
a process in its entirety.
Hayao Miyazaki
I am come in very truth leading you
to Nature with all her children to bind
her to your service and make her your
slave.
Francis Bacon

forest
W

ith these words from the


fittingly titled The Masculine
Birth of Time, the English philosopher
and politician ushered in the modern
age. For several hundred years,
Bacons call for the domination of
nature by mans new powers of science
and technology seemed prophetic as
human exploration spread across the
globe and into space. Man triumphed
over new diseases, harnessed the
powers of steam and petroleum,
and eventually split the atom itself,
symbolizing his mastery over the
elemental forces of Nature. Bacon
became one of the great heroes of
the Enlightenment, a spokesman for

science and freedom who inaugurated


a golden age for the human race.
However, the dark side of the
Baconian project could only remain
hidden for so long. It was not until
the 20th century that man became fully
conscious of the toll this Baconian
project was taking on the earth and
the other species that share it with
man.
The horrific destruction of the
atomic bomb, massive oil spills, the
danger of catastrophic climate change,
and the extinction or endangerment
of countless species hammered home
the point that not even the Hillsdale
Bubble can obscure: Mans centurieslong project of technological
domination of nature has not only
alienated man from the natural world,
but has also unleashed forces that
threaten to engulf the project entirely.
The precious resources that fuel
industry, the ecosystems that make
agriculture viable, and the very air
man breathes bear the marks of their
enslavement to technological progress
and financial profit.
In light of this crisis, craftsmen of
the imagination have responded by
reexamining the relationship between
man and nature. One of the most
insightful and imaginative of these
interpreters is the Japanese director
Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is widely
considered to be the greatest master
of the anime genre, creating beloved
films for children and adults that have
been become internationally known
for their stunning visual beauty and
engrossing storytelling.
Miyazakis films and his public
statements bear witness to a consistent
moral vision which mines the resources
of Japanese tradition and culture to
fight the forces of greed, violence,

and
environmental
destruction
perpetrated by Western modernity.
In particular, the two films Princess
Mononoke (1997) and Nausicaa of the
Valley of the Wind (1984) point the way
toward a humane environmentalism
in which human beings must relearn
the ability to see nature as enchanted,
assuming the responsibility to speak
for her. However, his vision, while
not a Baconian dualism, is ultimately
tragic, and must be supplemented by
a Christian eschatology where nature
and man can take their places as coworkers in a cosmic liturgy of praise
to Godlooking forward to a new
heavens and new earth.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa begins 1000 years after the


collapse of industrial civilization.
While small kingdoms have been
reestablished, they are constantly
threatened by the ever-expanding
poisonous forest which has sprung
up since the Seven Days of Fire.
Our heroine Nausicaa is a courageous
and empathetic young princess who
lives in a village protected from the
poisonous fumes of the forest by
the wind from the sea. Along with
primitive windmills and agriculture,
the villagers possess remnants of the
technology of the preceding age
Nausicaas glider, a gunship or two,
and advanced materials they have
taken from the shells of the Ohmu,
the giant arachnid creatures that
guard the poisonous forests. Through
cooperation, Nausicaas village has
established a kind of fragile balance,
a communal steampunk neomedievalism.
This balance in the face of the forests
advance is disrupted when they make
contact with advanced civilizations
bent on destroying the forest once

19

and for all. An airship crashes near


their village, carrying a legendary
weapon from the Seven Days of Fire, a
bioengineered Giant Warrior they hope
will allow them to clear the earth of what
is not under mans control. Nausicaa,
gifted with empathy and an eerie
ability to influence the animal world,
must defend her village against the
ambition, acquisitiveness, and violence
of the civilizations clashing over this
ultimate weapon, while simultaneously
learning to calm the murderous rage of
the Ohmu, protectors of the forest. She
must discover the secret of the forest
and determine whether humans, the
forest, and Ohmu can ever coexist as a
final apocalyptic battle between mans
ultimate weapon and natures most
fearsome species looms.
Princess Mononoke
While Nausicaa takes place in the
distant future, Princess Mononoke is
set in medieval Japan. The story begins
as a demonic boar threatens a remote
village in a fit of rage. Through the
heroic efforts of Ashitaka, the local
prince, the boars attack is thwarted, but
in the process, the boar is killed. The
boar turns out to be a god who became
a demon when an iron ball became
embedded in his flesh. Ashitaka is
cursed to be consumed by the poison
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T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

that drove the boar insane, but this


poison seems to lend him a murderous
strength. As a result, Ashitaka must
leave his village and seek out those who
harmed the boar god. He must look
upon the source of this evil with eyes
unclouded by hate. Ashitaka journeys
far from his village and finds that the
boar was injured by the inhabitants of
Irontown, a mining town led by Lady
Eboshi. She and her soldiers are cutting
down trees and incurring the wrath
of the gods of the forest, especially
the wolf-gods. Their industrial project
has pitted them against the traditional
animal gods and a wild girl raised by the
wolf gods who seeks to kill Lady Eboshi
and punish the humans for their crimes
against the forest. The ripple effects of
this conflict now threaten villages as
distant as Ashitakas.
As he learns about both the good and
evil that dwell in Irontown, he forms an
unusual friendship with the wolf girl
San. Together they seek the Great Forest
Spirit, who can heal Ashitakas wounds.
Meanwhile, the conflict between
enraged gods, human industry, and
military power reaches a climax. The
animal gods are prepared to launch
a suicidal assault on the town just as
hunters plan to behead the Forest Spirit
and finally tame the wild. Combining

Ashitakas sympathy for the workers


of Irontown and Sans fierce respect for
the enchanted forest, they try to make
peace between man and the gods.
The Wild Otherness of Nature
Too often, environmentalism is
associated with naivet, a romantic
idealism portraying a peaceful,
beautiful, and harmonious world
suffering
silently
under
mans
oppression. Nature is presented so
that the sympathetic bourgeoisie can
appease their consciences by supporting
environmental causes without effort
or sacrifice. While the plight of
endangered species is sometimes
pitiable, Miyazaki recognizes that
nature is often frightening and violent.
Nausicaa begins as the peaceful serenity
of the forest is shattered by the mad
attack of an Ohmu, calmed only by the
charms of the princess. The monstrous
insectoids with furious red eyes inspire
fear, not nave sympathy. Similarly,
the first scene in Princess Mononoke
introduces nature in the form of the
demonically enraged boar god.
Nature presents a real danger to
human communities, and in both
films most people conclude that this
danger is so grave that nature must be
destroyed. Any realistic and humane
environmentalism must acknowledge

the fact that natures ways often seem


wild and othernatural disasters
and carnivorous predators prevent a
simplistic embrace of nature as pure
goodness. Its beauty also harbors
death and its power can break out into
hostility. In fact, at first glance man and
nature appear to be at war.
Coexistance and the
Potential For Despair
Confronted with the wild otherness
of nature, the human communities
in both films are tempted by despair.
As Lord Yupa puts it in Nausicaa: I
want to know if mankind is truly fated
to be swallowed up by [the forest], or
if there is still some hope that we may
survive. I want to know the truth.
On the one hand, many believe that
only the elimination of natures wild
otherness can allow for humans to
flourish. As Nausicaa is told in a
flashback to her childhood, Insects
and humans cannot live in the same
world. Those who seek to destroy the
forest think they are taking the only
step possible for human survival. In
our world, many are convinced that
the domination of nature by man is the
only way for man to flourish, and that
the answer to the negative effects of
industry and technology on the natural
world is more industry and technology,
domesticating and destroying wildness
and otherness, subjecting the planet
to mans comfort and prosperity. In its
extreme form, these advocates suggest
that climate engineering may one day
bring the domination of nature to
completion.
On the other hand, others who
recognize the costs of this domination
are often led to a fatalism of the opposite
varietyhumanity is so tied up with
exploitation of nature that he deserves
to go extinct. As the old woman laments
near the end of Nausicaa, The Earth
knows its wrong for us to survive.
Thats the way it should be. This
pessimism echoes the dark view taken
by certain radical environmentalists
today. Miyazaki has the honesty to face
both forms of this fatalistic despair, and
while he sees the potential for tragic

conflict, he does not fall into the easy


solution of either form of despair.
Blinded by Rage: Learning to See
With Eyes Unclouded
Miyazakis heroes see the world
differently, choosing to live with
the reality of tragic conflict while
recognizing mans complicity through
human evil and his failure to recognize
his limits. Miyazaki knows that whoever
is poisoned by evil turns into a demon,
blindly destroying everything in his
path. Truly opening ones eyes to the
effects of ones actions brings a change
of perspective. Where others despair,
Ashitaka must learn to see with eyes
unclouded with rage. Marked by the
boars curse, he sees wickedness within
himself and learns to reject it. When he
does, he finds that mans greed, lust for
power, and rage have blinded him to
the harm he has inflicted on the forest,
just as the forest gods are in danger of
giving in to rage. Similarly, Nausicaas
extraordinary ability to sympathize
with and calm animals allows her to
see the purposes of the Ohmu and the
beauty present even in the poisonous
forest spreading across the globe.
She realizes that the Ohmu and the
forest have actually evolved to cleanse
the world of mans pollution, just as
Ashitaka discovers that the hostility of
the forest is rooted in the defense of
animal life and the ecosystem that is
their home.
A major element in the conflict
between man and nature is mans
original sinhis greed, ambition
and self-centeredness and the rage
that blinds him when the natural
consequences of his actions come back
to bite him. In an interview, Miyazaki
interprets this perspective on human
arrogance, saying, I think that in the
essence of human civilization, we have
the desire to become rich without limit,
by taking the lives of other creatures.
This deeply embedded evil distorts all
relationships with the natural world.
Instead of a dualistic struggle, human
beings confront a world where both
man and nature are good, even if those
goods occasionally come into tragic

conflicts that mankind cannot resolve.


Instead of doing his best to reconcile
these goods in the tragic situations in
which he finds himself, man becomes
arrogant, thereby distorting nature
and turning it towards destruction.
Miyazaki can help to expose the
Baconian project for what it is
human evil writ large into systems and
structures of domination rooted in the
darkness of his own heart.
The Reenchantment of Nature
Miyazaki had to resort to traditional
Japanese myth and religion to
remind modern people blinded by
anthropocentricism that the world is
not just raw material for humans to
consume and reshape. Instead, nature
is full of creatures with their own
plans who are worthy of respect and
protection. Miyazakis gods, monsters,
and forest spirits symbolize the fact that
nature has its own integrity that goes
beyond its utility for human projects.
In Princess Mononoke, the focus is upon
the animal species that share mans
world and that have their own dignity
and purposes. Similarly, in Nausicaa,
the larger ecosystems have purposes
and serve functions that man cannot
always see and that he ignores at his
peril. When man does not take nature
for granted but allows her to manifest

In our world, many are


convinced that the answer
to the negative effects of
industry and technology
on the natural world
is more industry and
technology, domesticating
and destroying wildness
and otherness, subjecting
the planet to mans
comfort and prosperity.
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her beauty in her own context, he is


surprised at the inexhaustible richness
of her flora and fauna. Nausicaas people
are shocked to discover that the Ohmu
are not monsters; the old woman weeps
when she realizes that they could
actually be beautiful creatures.
A Humane Environmentalism:
Mans Role As Mediator
Perhaps most fascinating, however, is
the role human beings play in Miyazakis
environmentalism. Nausicaa, Ashitaka,

deforestation wrought by mechanized


industry upon the trees of Fangorn
Forest, and peopling the forest with
Ents whose wisdom and patience
enabled them to steward and protect
the natural world. Similarly, Nausicaa
and Ashitaka are both gifted with the
empathy to become shepherds of the
forestthey learn to see through the
eyes of others, including the eyes of
nature herself. Ashitaka speaks for the
gods of nature when with the villagers,
but he speaks for the
villagers when among the
gods. Ashitakas position
confuses the villagers.
When he says What I
want is for the humans and
the forest to live in peace!
they respond, Just whose
side is he on anyway? The
answer is that when man
is fulfilling his purpose,
he is on both sides
which is to say there are
no sides. Man reconciles
the divide between nature
and himself by the act of
imagination only he is capable of.
Not only that, but Miyazakis heroes
are curious and use the human drive to
discover in order to promote harmony.
Nausicaas version of scientific inquiry
does not lead her to domination, but
to understanding and acceptance of
the processes of nature. Once she
understands the processes of the forest,
she can teach man to change his ways
to allow the forest to continue purging
the earth of pollution.
The ambiguous ending to Princess
Mononoke opens up the possibility of
an even deeper mediatorial role for
man. When the Great Forest Spirit
receives back its head, it collapses into
the landscape, restoring the natural
world, but seemingly dissolving back
into the world for good. San declares
that The Great Forest Spirit is dead.
Ashitaka responds, Never. The Forest
Spirit is life itself. The Forest Spirit is

It is mans role to discover the


purpose and beauty hidden
within nature and to learn
to accommodate himself to
those purposes and to restore
a context in which the
purposes of the creature can
lead to the good of all.
and San play a critical mediatorial
role, reconciling human civilization
and the natural world. The ends and
the purposes of the creatures and the
forest are not initially reconciled with
those of human communities, and it
is mans role to discover the purpose
and beauty hidden within nature and
to learn to accommodate himself to
those purposes and to restore a context
in which the purposes of the creature
can lead to the good of all. Just as it
was human failure to recognize limits
and the human vices of greed, lust
for power, and rage that threw nature
into disarray, it is human empathy
and discovery that can show the path
toward harmony and coexistence.
The heroes in Miyazakis world play
a role similar to that of the Ents in
The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien railed
against the ravages of industrial
capitalism, symbolically portraying the
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T h e H i l l s d a l e F o r u m April 2016

life itself. Hes not dead, San. Hes here


right now. Trying to tell us something.
That its time for both of us to live.
Whether the spirit is literally dead is
entirely beside the pointone could
argue that the significance of the end
of Princess Mononoke is that it is now
the responsibility of human beings to
interpret the natural world, to listen
to what it is trying to say and to give it
the voice that it does not possess. The
gods may have left medieval Japan, but
man can still give voice to what they
represented.
The Limits of This Optimism
The picture I have been painting of
Miyazakis films is a shade or two
more optimistic than Miyazakis own
perspective. For Miyazaki, even our
attempts to restore nature fall short:
After Shishi Gamis [the Forest Spirits]
head was returned, nature regenerated.
But it has become a tame, nonfrightening forest of the kind that we
are accustomed to seeing. Miyazaki
sees man as condemned to try tragically
to balance two goods that, while not
involved in a dualistic struggle, cannot
be completely reconciled. Miyazaki
does not think there are any easy
solutionsthe divide between man
and nature cannot entirely be resolved.
He believes that man is often placed in
tragic situations where every course
will cause some harmeither to nature
or to his fellow men. In these instances,
man has the dreadful responsibility of
dealing with this tragedy. As Miyazaki
himself says: In our daily lives, things
that humans can do to protect nature
are limited. . . Ashitaka has no choice
but to suffer and live, while being torn
between such conflicts. Thats the only
path human beings can take from now
on. Mans role is to assume this double
responsibility, tragic though it may be.
He goes on: Its not like we can coexist
with nature as long as we live humbly,
and we destroy it because we become
greedy. When we recognize that even
living humbly destroys nature, we dont

Man has a responsibility to lovingly lead all of creation towards


the fulfillment of its purposepresenting God not only with
praise but also with the world God gave him stewardship over,
restored, flourishing, and teeming with life.
know what to do. When our gaze reaches only as far
as the present, Miyazakis tragic vision is unavoidable.
Environment and the Eschaton
From the Christian perspective, this ultimately tragic
view takes on a different hue. While man and nature
may never be fully reconciled in this life, man is called
to speak for nature and offer creation as a whole to God.
In the Christian vision, man and nature are not involved
in an ultimately tragic relationship but were made for
each other and will be perfected together. The tragedy
Hayao Miyazaki sees cannot yet be eliminated, but it
can be contextualized in light of a final reconciliation
in the eschaton. While man will be confronted with
tragic choices when trying to live in a fallen world,
those choices have meaning because man is not just
another creature but Gods covenant partner. Nature
has always been teleologically oriented towards man
as the highest manifestation of created life, and when
mans good must take precedence over other natural
goods, this sacrifice is meaningful and not a foreign
imposition upon a nature indifferent toward man. The
deaths of animals over the course of human evolution
are not tragic in the grand scheme of things, for they
have meaning as part of natures striving toward God, a
striving which God ultimately answered gratuitously by
endowing man with his image.
However, if this were the end of the story, we might
arrive once more at a Baconian subjection of nature to
man, one that could justify oppression of nature based
on mans greater dignity as Gods image. The fact is that
natures gift of itself to man must be answered by mans
giving nature back to God, serving nature and allowing
it to reach its fulfillment, even if that fulfillment will
only be complete in the kingdom of God.
In Genesis 1, man is given the responsibility of
naming the animals, and in Romans 8, Paul writes that
the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for
the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was
subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him

who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also


will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the
freedom of the glory of the children of God. Mans
true dominion consists not in subjecting the natural
world to his own whims as the top of the food chain or
metaphysical hierarchy. Instead, he has a responsibility
to lovingly lead all of creation towards the fulfillment of
its purposepresenting God not only with praise but
also with the world God gave him stewardship over,
restored, flourishing, and teeming with life. While this
takes the entirety of cosmic history to unfold, in the
end, mans freedom and the well-being of creation are
intimately connected. Mans uniqueness in the natural
world becomes an occasion for service. Creation is
made subject to man, but only in light of its final
freedom and perfection, which man brings about by
exercising his God-given freedom to help nature reach
its fulfillment.
Hayao Miyazakis films, when supplemented with
a Christian eschatology, provide a framework for
reconciling mans uniqueness with his responsibility
toward the enchanted natural world. Mans refusal to
recognize his limits and his tendencies toward evil
distort nature and turn it against himself. However,
when he learns to see anew and to speak for nature,
he can guide it back to harmony, building a civilization
that not only respects nature, but leads it toward greater
fullnessa foretaste of the new heavens and earth, the
cosmic liturgy where all of creation joins in the worship
of God in its own unique way. F
Timothy Troutner is a senior studying philosophy and history.

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