Allegorical Readings of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

7ac78a6837587-560b93258816dWhat if the world of The Road isn’t a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but is just the same world around us? What if, morally and spiritually, we’re already living in the nightmarish hellscape of that novel?

The Man’s and the Boy’s journey isn’t archetypal, then, so much as it’s symbolic for each of us, trying to make our way through life in a society that in many ways is falling apart. McCarthy’s rapacious marauders are actually just the neighbors in our own communities. The devastated environment is the poisonously corrosive culture in which we all now live.

The Road could simply be about life in America in the early 21st century. Our protagonists are in the same position as many who try to preserve the heritage of civilization today.

Or, if we want a more specific application, maybe the wife-and-mother’s suicide was the major catastrophe that soured the world, and wasn’t due to it. The world only changed for these two men. Because of her loss, the world becomes this twisted, broken shell of its former self. The Man’s and the Boy’s journey is just them trying to soldier on in the wake of a lingering grief that they can’t escape. The novel proceeds from their vantage point, and everything else in the world is seen through the soiled lenses they now wear.

And you thought this book couldn’t get any sadder!

When Will Future Historians Say The American Republic Fell?

tumblr_o3fs9v9VQj1qevpymo1_500Most textbooks simplify the fall of the Roman Empire by saying it was in 476, when the last emperor was deposed, though they also tend to admit that many events led up to that point, and that a shell of that civilization lingered on long afterwards.

This election year has me in a frame of mind to ask when will future historians say that the American Republic fell? Let’s say that some history textbook being written 5000 years from now has to simplify our inevitable end and pinpoint a single year for it. What year would that be?

By “fall” here I primarily mean the end of constitutional standards for government, and perhaps secondarily the standard of living–economically and morally–that those defined limits helped prosper.

Right off the bat, I might opt for 2012, the year when the Supreme Court upheld the obviously awful “Affordable Care Act” on the flimsiest of corrupt excuses, and the year in which America chose to retain a failure of a president despite having a reasonable, even a compelling, alternative, purely to advertise their own social righteousness.

You might think that saying “The year of our fall is still far in the future” is a mark of optimism, but I’m inclined to say the opposite–that’s only a feeling that things can still get much, much worse.

Still, I think most of us will agree by now that the year we tipped over past the point of no return can’t be any later than 2016.

Please leave your pick for the last good American year and your reasoning in the comments.


9 Book of Mormon Insights Into Human Nature

One of my favorite things about the Book of Mormon is its pragmatic view of human nature. Undoubtedly, its authors knew the best and worst of the human experience, and weren’t pulling any punches.

An example of this is the honest depiction of missionary work here, namely its tediously frustrating reality. Though the Book of Mormon does have some more neutral general observations about how people are (such as here and here), most of the time the text is pessimistic.

Here are nine such passages:


1. People tend to resent the truth when it corrects them

1 Nephi 16:2

…the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

2. People tend to think that they know all that is necessary

2 Nephi 9:28

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
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Think Negatively, Act Positively

There’s a slogan that goes, “think globally, act locally.”  The idea is that we should orient ourselves based on big-picture priorites–even planning to be a small part of a larger movement or community–but be sure to behave and perform with a pragmatic focus on our immediate surroundings.  It’s not a bad motto for keeping your heart in the clouds rather than your head, and your feet on the ground instead of in your mouth. 

As I start a new chapter in life in a position at a different school, I’ve been working on tempering my pessimism with charity.  I like that I’m skeptical, even cynical at times; I think it insulates me from deception and ineffective actions.  However, it also makes me slow to charity and compassion.  As I noted in an analysis of the Book of Mormon once, we’re not supposed to become emotionally calloused. 

Excessive negativity also has another down side: it doesn’t help.  It might be comfortable, but it does little to actually produce results. 

So this week I’ve developed a new philosophy that I want to guide me this year: think negatively, act positively. 

I think this is how the strong people I know must operate.  I’ve known plenty who are ruthessly realistic about the nature of life, but who face every situation with the sunniest disposition possible.  I still want the tools of cold, hard reason to rule my thinking, but I also want to be an agent of more happiness in the world.  I’ve been practicing this, and I think I’m getting better.  And best of all: unflagging, energetic optimism does something.  You can see it in how instantly it improves things.  Positivity get results.  And for a cranky, old-fashioned curmudgeon, isn’t that what matters most?

Recent Reactionary Readings

Perhaps I’m so taken with conservative thought not only because it’s the most rational political philosophy, but also because it’s being articulated by some of the most talented sculptors of felicitous prose out there today.  The only things I like more than quality products in an area of my inetrest are quality products that combine multiple areas of interest.  Mark Steyn, for example, is conservative, a talented writer, and funnier than that satirical farce written by Lewis Carroll’s and Dave Barry’s genetically enhanced clone. 

Three things I’ve read in the last couple of days are prime examples of this elementally effective commingling of content and style with which I’m so gleefully taken, like a passive-aggressive, effeminate egomaniac with Twilight

First, screenwriter Burt Prelutsky’s essays in WorldNetDaily have been a staple of my intellectual intake for years.  He keeps within a fairly narrow range of topics, but his anecdotes and quick, witty disarming of liberal bloviating are so refreshing that they function as my morning pick-me-up each midweek morning. 

The money quote from this week’s essay:

Liberals are in favor of open borders because they feel sorry for those people sneaking across. It doesn’t occur to liberals that American citizens suffer from the influx of millions of impoverished illiterates. They are not concerned with the drain on schools, hospitals, jobs and prisons, because what’s important for liberals is that they feel good about themselves. It’s a unique type of selfishness because it’s disguised as an altruistic concern for others. It’s the same reason they oppose capital punishment. They don’t care about the victims or their loved ones. Any schmuck, after all, can sympathize with innocent people. But it takes a very special kind of individual to hold a candlelight vigil for a monster who had raped and murdered a child. A very special kind, indeed.

Next, the inestimable Mr. Steyn himself, who returns from his sabbatical with essays such as this one, typically full of caustic insights somehow so good-natured that they vivisect current events like a surgical laser but leave a fresh, pine-tree scent afterwards. 

Example, on the long-term value implications of last month’s election, namely, that a majority of Americans appear to be enamored of increasingly imitating a European-style socialist state:

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