Generous Orthodoxy  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A heroic defender of the Western tradition

The recent death of the great classics scholar Bernard Knox prompts reflections about the multiculturalists' unrelenting assault on the canonical works of Western literature. Knox, an authentic war hero who fought alongside both the Free French and the Italian partisans during World War II, returned to the Greek classics of his student days after he found a copy of Virgil while he was under siege with his partisan companions in an Italian villa. His obituary explains:

The O.S.S. later sent him into northern Italy for an equally dangerous mission with the Italian underground, and it was there that he rekindled his passion for the classics. Holed up in an abandoned villa, he discovered a bound copy of Virgil and opened it to a section of the first Georgic that begins, “Here right and wrong are reversed; so many wars in the world, so many faces of evil.”
Professor Knox recalled, in Essays Ancient and Modern, “These lines, written some 30 years before the birth of Christ, expressed, more directly and passionately than any modern statement I knew of, the reality of the world I was living in: the shell-pocked, mine-infested fields, the shattered cities and the starving population of that Italy Virgil so loved, the misery of the whole world at war.”
He continued, “As we ran and crawled through the rubble I thought to myself: ‘If I ever get out of this, I’m going back to the classics and study them seriously.’ ”

In Professor Knox's later years, he took arms against the widespread, "politically correct" attack on the humanities from the multiculturalists :

“There is a sort of general feeling among radicals that the whole of the Western tradition — and the Greeks are the heart of that tradition — is something that has to be repudiated,” he told The Washington Post in 1992. “I feel appalled. God knows what the world would be like if we were all brought up on the stuff they’d like us to read.”

The entire obituary can be found at

Monday, August 09, 2010

Death, dying, and hospice care

The best article I've ever read on the subject of death, dying, and hospice care was in last week's New Yorker. There are so many misunderstandings about hospice: it shortens life, it means giving up the "battle," it signifies lack of strength and purpose--even cowardice--in the face of death. These misapprehensions should be cleared up before the time arrives for decisions. Every thinking person needs to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" this article. As a member of the clergy I can testify that hospice care can mean the difference between a distressing, painful, even agonizing death (not only for the patient but also for the family), often in a hospital, and a tranquil, comfortable, humane passage, usually at home, surrounded not by tubes and beeping monitors but by warmly caring, yet unobtrusive, helpers who are highly skilled in ministering not only to the patient but also to the family and friends.

One of the greatest laments of hospice workers is that families tend to wait too long. If hospice care does not begin until a few days before death, its benefits are largely cancelled out. In order to benefit from its quiet, calming, beneficent ways, a family should consider engaging hospice many weeks or even months before death is anticipated. In one unusual recent case, known to me personally, the patient and her family benefitted from hospice care for two months and then--against all predictions--the patient did not die, but returned to a relatively normal life during a long remission. In another case, a hospice patient was able to go out--even to the theatre--during the period that he had hospice care before his death.

The wonderful article can be found at