… there is no real teacher who in practice does not believe in the existence of the soul …

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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Bloom had a teaching career in philosophy and social thought at the University of Chicago and a number of other universities here and overseas.  He was versed in literature, history and philosophy – a learned men, one who knows the Ancients and the long trajectory of man’s search for truth.

As you can tell from the above he lived as a man of faith.  Likewise, you can tell he identified his task as one of faith.

What he says about teachers can be said about any profession and applies to parents and surely to those who would be leaders.

Bloom also says “no real teacher can doubt that his task is to assist his pupil to fulfill human nature against all the deforming forces of convention and prejudice.”

His words show us the link between the mundane and the divine, between the material world and the spirit – life before and life beyond mortal existence.  His words speak of meaning, our ultimate context and purpose – to shepherd others into full humanity, full existence.

Why do I write about this?

Well, it applies to life.  But, I am immediately stimulated to do so because of the recent extraordinary testimony from three distinguished former Secretaries of State and several former high-ranking military men which was unlike anything I heard during my time on Capital Hill.

Former Secretaries Albright, Kissinger and Schultz painted a very disturbing picture of executive failure and the implicit risk it imposes on us.   Their military counterparts were no less critical.

Among the criticisms are these: the White House is consumed by daily events and reactions to them as if each was isolated and unconnected, they tip their hand by declaring what policy options will not be employed, they are inert and fail to meet the serious challenges we face and do not attend to the fundamental shifts in the state system and allied partnerships that has governed international relations and given us relative peace for the last seven decades, that civilian executive leadership is “paralyzed” by the complexity of the problems that visit us today, that the small circle of White House players are inexperienced and too political and they distrust the military and fear conflict.

Further, they testify that our apparent disengagement from the world only makes it a more dangerous place and increases the turmoil and violence that we witness today.  They say as well that we think about things, study them – look for “options” but do little.  They say we do not make decisions and that we do not stand by what we assert or claim to hold as our view, that we fail to maintain military strength, that we have no strategic view.

It is harder to imagine a harsher critique of executive foreign policy performance.

How did we get here?

In part because we do not think like Professor Bloom.  He had a sense that his job was the growth and protection of the souls who he taught or read his writing or listened to his speech.  He had a higher purpose.  He was anchored in faith, not self – and he knew his trade.

We run a significant and dangerous risk when our political system presents candidates for high office with little experience and who adhere to that which deforms culture – for that diminishes culture and the person.

Without faith we are less informed, less educated, wisdom wanes and risk increases.  We could learn from Bloom.

We are all made to be shepherds of souls.  A little faith would be of great benefit now.

Your faith is what you believe, not what you know.

John Lancaster Spalding

Shalom.

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