Out of the Ashes: Anthony Esolen’s Clarion Call to Restore Culture, Faith, and Sanity
article sent by Mark Waldeland:
“Anthony Esolen’s new book offers a bracing diagnosis and prescription for contemporary American culture.
Anthony Esolen is the contemporary incarnation of GK Chesterton. The simple and beautiful prose, the acute diagnostic precision, the commonsense appeal to and on behalf of everyday things, the recipe for renewal—all these things Esolen shares with Chesterton, the preeminent cultural physician of the early twentieth century. Like Chesterton, Esolen bluntly identifies our problems. And like him, Esolen’s solution centers on God and faith, learning and virtue, and a robust sense of human nature.
“I shall decry the decay of civilization,” Esolen announces at the outset of his newest book, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. And decry he most certainly does. His diagnosis of American culture is almost shocking in its candor—“pungent,” as the book’s dust jacket describes Esolen—but it is all the more sound for that.
The form of Esolen’s criticism fits its content. Chapter One, subtitled “The Restoration of Truth-Telling,” inaugurates a book-length, withering critique of the web of lies pulsating at the heart of American culture. This web is spun and maintained by the “mass” institutions: media, business, entertainment, and government. The most impressive obstacle to restoration of culture is the persistent insistence that unreality is real: that boys can be girls, that men and women are the same, that the unborn child is not a person, that divorce is okay for ourselves and the kids, that literature (especially poetry) and culture are fungible subjects of inquiry, and so on. And we aren’t simply mistaken about such things, according to Esolen. “Children lie to hide the bad things they have done,” he says. “So does everyone else.”
The necessary remedy for such cant and for the political paradigms and correctness that bolster it is a total rejection of their terms and conditions—a rejection that Esolen boldly models. We must learn anew to read and speak, to sing and work and dance and pray, and to build and cherish beautiful things. If Esolen’s envisaged culture strikes us as quaint, as something only even desirable before the Industrial Revolution or the invention of the television, so much the worse for us. “If tradition is the handing on of cultural and artisanal knowledge, and if we have taught ourselves in our smugness that we can dispense with it, then we will become cultural and artisanal incompetents.” This prophecy embraces the skeptic along with the smug. . . .”