Rabbi Chaim Strauchler, Associate Editor, TRADITION
In Culture and Anarchy (1869), Matthew Arnold argues for the role of reading “the best that has been thought and said” as an antidote to the anarchy of materialism, industrialism and individualistic self-interest.
Arnold’s project influenced much of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s understanding of Western Culture and its usefulness to bnei Torah. The culture about which R. Lichtenstein addressed his vision was largely unified and contained many elements, which warranted Arnold’s idealism. The culture of today, in all its forms, has become Balkanized such that we can no longer speak of one culture that we all experience. Rarely does it contain “the best that has been thought and said.” However, droplets of Arnold’s antidote do remain.
In this regular feature of TraditionOnline.org we will seek to gather and share those droplets. We ask those who participate in this project to consider what things “out there” make you think and feel. What elements in our culture still inspire us to live better? We seek to share what we find that might still be described as “the best that has been thought and said.”
We will include short description of a wide variety of cultural material, how long it will take to consume, and cautionary instructions for making the best use of it.
We are not attempting to form a canon. We seek to offer directions to material that will add to our readers’ lives as thinkers and religious believers. Assuming a culture of entertainment and media consumption, we would like to help more people to consume the “good stuff.” We plan to curate a small piece of the best within our cultural universe, not to censor it. We will not tell you what is treif or, for that matter, what is kosher. We hope to share a little of what is “the best.”
Read the entries in the series at these links:
Column 4: “Masterpiece Comics” by R. Sikoryak
Column 8: Dead Poets Society
Column 9: Changing Lanes
Column 10: “The Life of Samuel Johnson”
Column 11: George Eliot, “Daniel Deronda”
Column 12: “The Power Broker”
Column 13: The Shawshank Redemption