In a Sense All Things

The final reading of our summer reading program is called “In a Sense All Things” (CUA Primer, pages 60–61). That title, which is the same as the title of the whole primer itself, comes from the first passage, written by Aristotle, in his work De Anima. “De Anima” is Latin for “On the Soul.” (Even though…

On Our Parents

In the video below, various members of the CUA community at the time discuss their parents and how their parents and the work that their parents did influenced their own choices about their work. How have your parents or others in your life influenced your decision to go to college and your plans for the future?…

To Follow Men Like Them

There is a tendency to think of jobs emphasizing physical work and jobs emphasizing mental work as opposed to one another. However, in his poem “Digging” (“To Follow Men Like Them,” CUA Primer 58–59), Seamus Heaney draws a connection between his own work as a poet and the work of his father and grandfather digging….

On Seeing and Journeys

Dr. Nora Heimann is the chair of CUA’s Department of Art and an associate professor of art history in that department. In the video below she discusses yesterday’s primer selection, a photograph by Alfred Stieglitz called “The Steerage.” By the way, after Dr. Heimann made this video, an exhibit at the Jewish Museum about “The Steerage” revealed that Stieglitz took…

The Steerage

Today’s focus in our summer reading program is a photograph, “The Steerage” by Alfred Stieglitz (CUA Primer, page 57). Here is a digital image of the version in the primer (If you like, you can select it in order to see it by itself): There’s a lot going on here, but when you looked at it,…

Houses of God in the District of Columbia: A Photo Essay

Mr. Taylor Fayle is a doctoral candidate in CUA’s School of Philosophy, who, along with Mr. Philip de Mahy, Jr., made the videos for this summer reading program possible. He also shows his talent with images in the photo essay he made as a response to yesterday’s reading. You can look through the photos using the gallery below,…

The Little Light that Might Want to Shine

In today’s excerpt from Toni Morisson’s novel Beloved, “The Little Light that Might Want to Shine” (CUA Primer, page 56), John D. finds himself at a moment of self-confrontation. Through the novel, a rusted tobacco tin comes to represent John D.’s heart, where he tries to shut up his painful memories. But, in this scene, John…

On the Creator in Creation

Mr. Philip de Mahy, Jr., is a doctoral candidate in CUA’s School of Arts and Sciences who, along with Mr. Taylor Fayle, made the videos for this summer reading project possible. In the video below, he discusses Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur.” Hopkins’s poem says, “And for all this, nature is never spent.” He means that, despite all…

And for All This

Today’s reading, “All for All This” (CUA Primer, page 55), is the sonnet “God’s Grandeur” by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. It is a meditation on the idea that “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” It is to this grandeur of God inside his creation that Hopkins refers when he says, “There lives…

On Translating Descartes

Ms. Amanda Catanoso, an alumna of CUA’s School of Arts and Sciences sheds new light in the video below upon yesterday’s passage by Descartes by looking at how the passage reads in the original language in which Descartes wrote it, French. By the way, if anyone is interested in reading the passage in French or in following…

Masters and Possessors of Nature

“An infinity of devices.” René Descartes uses that strikingly prescient phrase writing in 1637 about the possibility of human beings using their scientific knowledge of the world to improve their lives (“Masters and Possessors of Nature,” CUA Primer, page 54).  Descartes talks about about this possibility as making ourselves “as it were, masters and possessors…

What is evil?

Dr. Kerstin Gaddy has served as Assistant Dean of CUA’s School of Arts and Sciences and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of German in CUA’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. (By the way,  she is Swedish, and in the Swedish language the letter k is sometimes pronounced in a way similar to the way that English-speakers pronounce the letter combination sh.) In…

It Barely Crossed His Mind

The narrator in “It Barely Crossed His Mind” (CUA Primer, 52–53), an excerpt from Haruki Murakami’s novel Kafka on the Shore, is looking through his friend Oshima’s bookshelf when he finds a book describing the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi SS-officer who was placed in charge of managing the logistics for carrying out the mass extermination of…

On Happiness

Today’s video on the passage by Amartya Sen features me. It packs in a lot of ideas from the philosophy of Aristotle but also reflects my attempt to imitate Plato’s style by being serious and funny at the same time. Here’s an outline of the video: First, because Sen says that the idea of a human being as entirely self-interested…

The Economic Theory of Utility

In “The Economic Theory of Utility” (CUA Primer, pages 50–51), Amartya Sen criticizes the view that the only thing that motivates people is self-interest. He calls this view the economic theory of utility. Sen here approaches the subject by emphasizing two themes: First, he says this mistaken view of people has held too much too prevalent in…

On Entitlement

Today’s video features Shakespeare talking to us about yesterday’s reading by Shakespeare. Um, wait, something seems wrong with saying that. Check out the video below to see for yourself. Oh, it’s actually Dr. Todd Lidh, a doctor of English at CUA and the former Director of CUA’s First-Year Experience, playing the role of Shakespeare! Dr. Lidh as Shakespeare…

Their Awful Duty

The speaker in today’s reading, “Their Awful Duty” (CUA Primer, page 49), is Shakespeare’s version of King Richard II of England. A couple of notes about language: “Bolingbroke” is someone challenging Richard for the throne. Also, Richard refers to himself here using such first-person plural words as “we” and “ourself.” This is the “royal we,” the…

Paradoxes of Fortune

Not only was Boethius a star in the political world, as we saw yesterday, but he was also a star in the academic world, as Dr. Marcel Brown, the former Program Coordinator for CUA’s Center for Academic Success, points out in the video below. Earlier, we discussed the liberal arts. Although we use the phrase more generally…

When Fortune Seems Kind

Centuries before the Wheel of Fortune was in a television game show, it was an image in medieval art. A woman personifying Fortune might be standing beside it as it stood on its side, like a Ferris wheel, with people shown in different positions on it, positions that would change once Fortune spun the wheel again. The…

Relationships and Identity

Dr. Sarah Spalding, an alumna of CUA’s School  of Arts and Sciences and a former Undergraduate Advisor at CUA, discusses yesterday’s passage by Sophocles in the video below. Dr. Spalding talks about the the human ability to create technology and the way that humans gain their identity from their community. In the ancient Greek world of…

None More Wondrous

The ancient Greek playwright Sophocles marvels at the distinctive abilities of human beings in today’s passage from his play Antigone, “None More Wondrous” (CUA Primer, page 46–47). How do you think other animals are similar to human beings? How do you think that human beings differ from other animals? What responsibilities do you think that human…

On Life and Letters

We take it for granted today that someone can write an essay on practically anything, but Michel de Montaigne was a true pioneer in showing the world that this was possible. Dr. Peter Shoemaker, former Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at CUA, gives a stimulating discussion of yesterday’s reading by Montaigne in the video below….

The Art that Liberates Us

“Free your mind,” Morpheus tells Neo in The Matrix. In “The Art that Liberates Us” (CUA Primer, pages 43–45), Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) discusses how education can do just that. We’re now over halfway through the summer reading, and today’s passage provides us with an opportunity to see where we’ve been and to take stock. Hang around colleges…

A Student of Love

Mr. Neil Sloan, a doctoral candidate in CUA’s School of Theology and a former Undergraduate Advisor, offers a stirring meditation on yesterday’s reading in the video below. Mr. Sloan’s meditation is filled with questions, but they convey wonder rather than simply a desire for information. In what ways is love filled with reason but also filled with…

To Teach Them Love

Saint John Paul II says that youth is a time when people naturally seek out a way to live life (“To Teach Them Love,” CUA Primer, page 42). In a related point, he goes on to say that young people are also searching for beauty in their love.  He says that even if young people…

On Origins

In the video below, the Dean Very Reverend Father Mark Morozowich, Dean of CUA’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, provides an additional perspective that you can combine with yesterday’s pair of passages about two different kinds of creator. The creature that Victor Frankenstein made had anger toward him, but as it turns out in the story, he…

Our Heart is Restless

The first passage in today’s reading, “Out Heart is Restless” (CUA Primer, pages 40–41), comes from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, and the second comes from the Confessions of Saint Augustine. This pair of passages might seem at first to be quite an odd couple, but together they turn out to tell a tale of two creators. In both passages, we…

Reading Nietzsche

Today’s video is so much of a treat that you really have to experience for yourself, that I shall give it no other introduction. This is Mr. Erikk Geannikis, a Ph. D. candidate in CUA’s School of Philosophy. He is also, as you may have guessed, an excellent and dynamic teacher. After watching and listening…

A Shared Thirst

Nietzsche set himself against Christianity as perhaps only someone who is both a philosophical genius and a preacher’s kid gone rogue could possibly do. However, even though I am a Christian, I can’t help but love him. Nietzsche can become (through those interesting powers of the written word that we discussed earlier) a help to anyone who places…

The Art of Proof

Dr. Brooks Lampe, an alumnus of CUA’s School  of Arts and Sciences and a doctor of English, gives an elegant explanation in the video below of the value of elegant explanations, such as the one by Euclid in yesterday’s reading. Dr. Lampe mentions that assignments for school might sometimes appear to be of little value…

Q. E. D.

“Q. E. D.” is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase “quod erat demonstrandum.” In English, it means “which was to be demonstrated.” It’s an abbreviation that sometimes occurs at the end of logical or geometrical proofs. As the title of today’s reading (CUA Primer, pages, 36–37), it refers to a geometrical proof, in the first part…

On Recollection

Responding to yesterday’s reading in the video below, Ms. Julie Mullen, an administrative assistant in CUA’s Office of the Dean of Students, describes her memory of September 11, 2001 and contrasts it with things she learned about second-hand. How did you first learn about the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001? Ms. Mullen…

Failure of Language

As I was writing in my journal sitting outside a coffee shop a few years back, a woman came up to me and told me that writing in a journal had saved her life. She didn’t go into specifics, but she said that it allowed her to work through the things that she had been dealing…

On Justice

Dr. Omar Estrada Torres, former Associate Dean in CUA’s Office of the Dean of Students, talks about his experiences and his thoughts about yesterday’s readings in the video below. Although the video was made a while ago, Dr. Torres mentions things going in the area of civil rights. Such issues have become even more salient since he made…

Labor Faithfully

“Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living.” So wrote Jourdon Anderson in an August 1865 letter to Colonel Anderson, the man who once claimed ownership of him as a slave, after that man invited him…

On Conversations with Books

Mr. Colin Pears, the director of CUA’s Undergraduate Advising Center and of CUA’s Center for Academic Success, does an excellent job of drawing lessons from yesterday’s two contrasting views of the written word in order to articulate a vision of learning which transforms people for the better. What do you think makes the difference between something that purports…

Living, Breathing Discourse

Consider the following two interesting stories about the ancient Greek hero known as Cadmus: First, he is said to have introduced the alphabet to the Greeks. Second, and more fantastically, he is said to have planted dragon’s teeth in the ground which afterward became an army. John Milton draws from both stories in order to illustrate the power of…

On Mind and Body

Ms. Terry Brady Novak, Nurse Practitioner, formerly at CUA’s Student Health Services responds in the following video to “A Human Transaction” and connects it to her work with students at CUA: Ms. Brady Novak says that Student Health Services is “a judgment-free zone.” How might this affect the healing process in those who go there? Photo: “Arlington National Cemetery Nurse’s…

A Human Transaction

Monsignor Robert Sokolowski of CUA’s School of Philosophy reflects on the relationship between a doctor and a patient in “A Human Transaction” (CUA Primer, pages 25–26). What view does it express of the kind of beings human persons are? Photo: “Check-up” by Army Medicine (Marlon J. Martin) is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

On Unintended Consequences

Ms. Peggy Rendely, Former Undergraduate Advising Coordinator of CUA’s Busch School of Business and Economics discusses Rachel Carson and the regulation of the insecticide DDT in the following video: Ms. Rendely questions the United States putting pressure on other countries not to use the insecticide DDT when it has been effective in fighting malaria. Can you think of…

A Problem of Ecology

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring is given credit for helping to spawn today’s environmental movement. Our excerpt from it, “A Problem of Ecology” (CUA Primer, page 24) describes the complexity of systems like the habitats of animals and plants or the inside of our own bodies. Can you think of other examples of complex systems where a change in…

On Blessing and Redemption

Ms. Lisa Campbell, an alumna of Catholic University who has served as an Undergraduate Advisor here, fills us in more about what is happening in “Experience Beyond Need” in the following video: Ms. Campbell talks about the importance of cultivating an openness to receiving the gift of beautiful experiences from the world. What are ways…

Experience Beyond Need

Novelist Marilynne Robinson has a striking ability to draw out deep feelings and thoughts using plain words. In the reading “Experience Beyond Need” (CUA Primer, 22–23), from her novel Gilead, the narrator, named Ames, describes a time when he was twelve years old and he went with his father to bury his father’s father. Why do…

Two Truths and a Lie

CUA’s President James Garvey, who is also a lawyer  discusses the courtroom cartoon, “Never mind what I did, Your Honor…” in the following video: President Garvey talks both about human justice and God’s justice. How can an understanding of forgiveness in the eyes of God’s justice lead someone to live a life that is better according to…

“Never mind what I did, Your Honor…”

Today’s “reading” is a cartoon, “Never mind what I did, Your Honor…” (CUA Primer, page 21). What makes it funny? What are the advantages of conveying this message through a cartoon in one frame over writing an essay on the subject? Photo: “Giant Gavel” by Sam Howzit is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

On Romantic Naïveté

Mr. Brian Johnston, Associate Vice President of Financial Planning, Institutional Research and Assessment at CUA, does a nice job laying out the issues at stake in Keats’s poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” in the following video: Mr. Johnston enjoys Keats’s poem because it challenges us with the question of whether Keats is as naïve as he first…

Tease Us Out of Thought

One way to understand poetry is to think about Twitter. When someone writes a poem, that person tries to squeeze a lot of meaning into every few words, in a way similar to how someone writing a tweet tries to pack a lot into only 140 characters. For example, the second word of our reading “Tease…

Sculpture as Seeing

Mr. Patrick Beldio, a Ph. D. candidate in CUA’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, also makes sculptures. He draws on his experience portraying the human form in order to discuss “An Eye for Things Overlooked” by Joseph Pieper in the following video: Mr. Beldio says that art is not merely a luxury, but instead something…

An Eye for Things Overlooked

Listening to a famous piece of classical music, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, for a college course, I thought something like, “Okay, that’s pretty, and I recognize it.” However, my music appreciation professor, Dr. Michael Rose, later unraveled the piece in class, taking me on an exciting tour of it. Since that time, this piece of music has given me…

“More Weighty Matters”

Mr. Nick Kruckenberg, a former Director of the Undergraduate Advising Center, responds to the writings of the historians Plutarch and Thucydides featured in “What Concerns Antiquity” by examining the problem of how to sort through all of the information our society creates: Mr. Kruckenberg says that a good education can help us sort through information in…

What Concerns Antiquity

The names of the two writers whose pieces make up today’s reading, “What Concerns Antiquity” (CUA Primer, pages 15–16) are Plutarch and Thucydides. They are both historians who lived in ancient times but who discuss their slightly different approaches to history in the reading. Thucydides investigates a war between the Greek cities of Athens and Sparta, while…

On Reading Old Books

In the following video, Ms. Teri Gilmor, who previously worked for CUA’s First-Year Experience, gives a vibrant reading of the response written by CUA philosophy professor Dr. Michael Gorman to C. S. Lewis’s piece on the value of reading old books: What are some ways that listening to people from the past can benefit us even when the people from the…

Breeze of the Centuries

If you follow the news each day, it would seem that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a Democrat,  don’t agree with each other very often. However, C. S. Lewis makes the point, in “Breeze of the Centuries” (CUA Primer, page 14), that those of us who all live…

On Federer/Nadal

Tennis players Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have different styles of playing the game well. Dr. Michael Mack, English professor at CUA and Former Dean of Undergraduate Studies discusses the contrast in the video below, his response to our reading about Roger Federer.  Do you agree or disagree with his assessment of the reading as hyperbolic? Why or…

Both Flesh and, Somehow, Light

Going to professional hockey games as a young boy, I realized only later how different they looked on television. David Foster Wallace discusses a similar point in “Both Flesh and, Somehow, Light” (CUA Primer, page 13). He talks about what you can see in tennis matches only by watching tham live and about how watching the astounding…

On writing faith

Dr. Herbert Hartmann, present Director of the First-Year Experience at CUA and a professor in our School of Philosophy, talks about this morning’s reading in the video below.  He makes a distinction between two kinds of reading material: First, material like news stories that has a limited goal but is very clear and, second, material that…

Foolish Christians

It would be most unfortunate to lose sight of one’s spiritual life and ultimate destiny because of paying too much attention to affairs of this world. Even so, the opposite extreme is sad, too: People who, out of a noble desire to focus on their spiritual lives, make the mistake of unduly disdaining knowledge of the world….

On Hope as a Uniquely Human Emotion

CUA psychology professor, Dr. James Brennan gives some additional insight, in the video below, on the subjects of human emotion and this morning’s reading. By the way, he made it while Pope Benedict XVI was still pope, and also we’ve moved back the reading by Saint John Paul II that he mentions, “To Teach Them Love,” to…

Stirs Minds to Movement

Recently, we’ve been looking at joy, a powerful force that can touch our emotions and thereby motivate us. If we wanted to look, from a different angle, at the important role that our emotions play in motivating us, we might imagine people living without emotions and without desire. That’s what Anne Carson does in today’s…

Experiencing Joy

Dr. William Mattison, a former professor in CUA’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, expresses in the video below from the summer of 2015 his joy anticipating Pope Francis’s visit to Catholic University in the fall of 2015. Dr. Mattison also discusses what Pope Francis says about joy in yesterday’s reading, “A Joy Ever New.” Dr….

A Joy Ever New

In the crowded subway train at evening rush hour, the loud voice Metro train operator in Washington, DC, was trying to announce positive thoughts, distorted through the loudspeaker set too high, wishing us riders such things as peace, joy, and happiness, but as he kept talking and talking, I felt my joy draining away even as…

On Donne’s Use of the Siege Drama

In the video below, CUA professor of drama Dr. Patrick Tuite gives us an interesting piece of background information to this morning’s reading by poet John Donne: Donne was using imagery that his audience would recognize from stories about cities under siege. To learn more about John Donne (and about how to decorate your office in fun ways), watch the video below: In…

That I May Rise

John Donne is a poet who once compared two lovers to the legs of a drawing compass. He surprises his readers with interesting comparisons that make us think about something in a fresh way. Today’s reading, “That I May Rise” (page 6 in the CUA Primer), is John Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV. In it, Donne compares…

A Walk in the Woods

“A Walk in the Woods” is a piece of music that Jackie Ecle, Class of 2015 from CUA’s School of Music, wrote in response to this morning’s reading, “Unnerved to the Core.” Listen to the piece using the following audio source: Below Jackie discusses the piece in her own words: “A Walk in the Woods” is written in the key…

Unnerved to the Core

Being in the woods can stir up interesting things inside a person. In today’s reading, “Unnerved to the Core” (CUA Primer, page 5), Bill Bryson tries to capture in words what it is like to be in the woods. Can you describe a time that you experienced the kinds of things that Bryson talks about? Photo:…

Age-Old Questions

In the video below, Dr. Todd Lidh, a scholar of English literature and the former Director of CUA’s First-Year Experience, discusses this morning’s reading, “My Expectation.” This is one to watch on as big a screen as you can. Dr. Lidh mentions the opposite responses to the vastness of the universe of not trying hard and…

My Expectation

James Joyce was a genius with languages, the kind of person who, if he were alive today, would probably always win at Scrabble. He was one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, but even he learned a thing or two while in school. His novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man details the coming of age…

Introduction to the Summer Reading Program

In a Sense All Things: A CUA Primer is the book for a summer reading program that serves as a gradual introduction to what you’ll be doing as a student at CUA. By the way, one definition of the word primer  (pronounced like “PRIM-er”) is “any book of elementary principles,” according to Dictionary.com. In that…