Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture by Anthony Esolen

  • Introduction

    • “We are incompetent in the ordinary things of life.” (10)



      • This really is the biggest take-away for me from this book. I want to strive for excellence in the ordinary things of fatherhood, work, relationships, faith, citizenship.



    • “Every single pagan philosopher of the ancient world said that if you wanted to be free, you had to learn the hard ways of virtue and that the worst form of slavery was slavery to your own appetites.” (10)

  • Truth

    • Clear your mind of smalltalk about big words (diversity, inclusivity, etc) and actually talk about your life:



      • “Here is a quick and generally reliable rule to follow. If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always basis it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.” (22)


      • …”For truly tolerant people are hard to offend.” (23)



    • Immerse yourself in nature



      • On the role of nature in seeking truth: “the truth we are seeking must not be merely abstract…Therefore we have to immerse ourselves in things: trees, stars, mud grouse…” (24)



    • Learn to speak and read



      • “If our language is inane and empty, our thoughts will be inane and empty too” (27)


      • Learn our language in all its riches by reading old books (28) ^34087e


      • “Poetry is the noblest of human arts”: Psalms, Job, Isaiah, Paradise Lost … “let the poets teach us how to read and speak and think” (30)



  • Beauty

    • “If you went to Chartres, you would not need to suppose, you would simply and readily receive that the most important thing was to sing with the Psalmist, ‘I rejoiced when I heard them say, Let us go up to the house of the Lord.’” (35)

    • Paroissien romain (French Canadian book specifying the chants for every feast in the Church year, from Out of the Ashes 45)

  • School

    • lots of talk about one room schoolhouses

    • “All human sciences are grammatical in structure” (61)

    • the reversal of power in the parent-teacher relationship: the parent “ought to be considered the teacher’s employer, or the one who delegates his authority to the teacher under certain conditions that he and his fellow parents stipulate” (63)

    • “Politics can come later. Aristotle said that young men-much older than our children in school-were not yet ready to study politics, because they had not yet amassed any great experience of human nature. That is what literature is for, and history also; a story of stories.” (67)

    • “There is little left in English literature if the religious is barred at the door…The great questions of human existence are and always will be religious…We may say also that in the whole history of man there is no education of a human soul unless the divine animates it” (70)

  • College

    • a list of strong liberal arts Catholic colleges bottom of 80-81

  • Manhood

    • “The seminal error of feminism…is the assumption that you cannot actually seek the good of woman without taking account of the good of man, as if the sexes were independent of one another, or forever antagonistic. Man and woman are for one another.” (93)

    • “The ways of men and women take different forms in different places and at different times, but they are always and immediately recognizable as the ways of men and the ways of women” (94-95)

    • Liberty can be judged by (104-105):



      • how far from your house you are comfortable letting your children play alone


      • the range of things you don’t vote on because people take care of them for themselves



  • Womanhood

    • “Abortion is a dagger twisted into the heart of a woman” (122)

    • home economics and money at the service of the family, lengthy discussion (125)

    • Sacred Art: one of his favorite paintings, The Holy Family with a Bird, 1645-1650, Madrid, Prado Museum by Bartolome Esteban Murillo: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Bartolom%C3%A9EstebanPerezMurillo008.jpg

  • Work

    • discussion against rent-seekers

  • Play

    • how healthy exercise has been turned into “working out”, removing the play and making it a chore (158)

    • our children need some ordered competition, but also freedom and unstructured time to make up their own things

  • Politics

    • political life: “a life involved in local affairs that bear upon the common good” (169) rather than focused on ourselves exclusively

    • voting is not enough in politics: we must work for the common good (170)

    • subsidiarity: “a neighborhood is best organized by neighbors” (173)

    • longer discussion of subsidiarity 174+

    • his discussion of parades and block parties make me particularly grateful for both Paso and Arlington as wonderful communities

    • Paradise Lost is the greatest poem ever written in the English language” (179)

  • Home

    • we must remember that we are pilgrims returning home

    • “Take away the devotion and you take away the soul” (190)

    • again, we end with doing the ordinary well (192-193)


Created: 2017-03-17
Updated: 2022-03-14-Mon