It always appeared to me that athletics represent a microcosm of the qualities necessary to subsist in life. Athletes must develop and hone their skills, be prepared for sacrifice, dedication, self-discipline and exhibit a competitive spirit. Sports also have a communal quality. Coaches, trainers, teammates, family, friends, fans, and even fellow competitors are part of the athlete's overall community, support system and sphere of influence. Most sports also have time-honored traditions, rules, modes of behavior and conduct that the participants and officials hold in high esteem and are maintained as much as possible in consideration of changing times and events.The athlete also has a sense of humility and piety. They realize their gifts are special and more often than not express an appreciation to a higher power for their unique talent. And of course the ultimate goal of any athletic endeavor is the sweet sensation of victory. How many times have we heard the star player humbly declare that they would forego individual accolades for a team championship? This is the attitude of the dedicated competitor who places their team above personal gain, and their individual accomplishments are only fulfilled if their team earns the admiration of their peers as the best in class.The attributes of sports are analogous to the values of conservatism on many levels. If we dedicate ourselves to our missions in life, take advantage of our God given talents, respect our fellow man's person and place, appreciate our obligations to those truly in need, contribute to our community, have a sense of humility, pride and piety, learn lessons from our own decisions and those of other's, and in the course of life's journey accumulate some property then, whether we know it or not, we've lead of life of conservative values. Conservatism, like sports, is the anti-entitlement philosophy. We are only entitled to the spoils of that which we have earned, and respectful of those who endeavor toward greatness.
Americans want to stand on their own feet, and Republicans need to champion policies that enable us to do so: ownership, choice and individual responsibility.Opportunity conservatism is a powerful frame to explain conservative policies that work. It covers the gamut of issues. Republicans shouldn't just assail excessive financial and environmental regulations; we should explain how those regulations kill jobs and restrict Americans' ability to buy their first home.Don't just say no to new taxes -- fundamentally reform the tax code so that every American can file his taxes on a postcard. Eliminate the corporate welfare and complexity that enrich only accountants and lawyers.Don't just criticize union bosses; explain how closed shops confiscate wages and make it harder for low-skilled workers to get jobs.Don't talk generically about education; advocate school choice to empower parents and expand opportunity for children struggling to get ahead.Don't just dwell on the long-term solvency of Social Security; promote personal accounts to allow low-income Americans to accumulate wealth and pass it on to future generations.Republicans ought to view, and explain, every policy through the lens of economic mobility. Conservative policies help those struggling to climb the economic ladder, and liberal policies hurt them. If Republicans want to win, we need to champion opportunity.
Those two early revelations--Bach and Norman Cousins--go a long way toward explaining Myers's life work: the Mars Hill Audio Journal, which he writes, edits, and records at his home and studio in rural Virginia. The Journal celebrates its twentieth birthday this year. It's become indispensable to an audience of the kind that Cousins sought and encouraged and that often goes ignored nowadays. The Journal isn't identical to Saturday Review, of course. It arrives every two months, not every week, and it arrives not on paper but on a pair of handsomely packaged CDs--nearly two hours of essays and interviews to be listened to at leisure. (MP3 downloads are available too.) Another difference is that Myers is an orthodox Christian, and it shows.The Journal demonstrates how closely the interests and worries of a conservative Christian intellectual overlap those of any curious traditionalist or cultural conservative, believing or non. Myers's own curiosity is inexhaustible. On the website's topic index--choosing a letter at random--you'll find under "M" segments on Mondrian (Piet) and Moore (Michael), memory and money, Mendelssohn and Marsalis, masculinity and materialism. I popped in Issue 102 the other day and heard Myers's pleasant tenor saying, by way of preface: "Is creation meaningful, and if it is, is its meaning perceptible?" This rousing intro opened a series of ruminations and interviews with a variety of scholars and writers. A brief explanation of the split between nominalism and realism in the Middle Ages led to a discussion of Jacques Maritain's relationship with avant garde painters and musicians in 1920s Paris, then moved through the Fibonacci sequence and the mathematical value of Bach fugues as examples of inherent order, topped off with a tribute to the paintings of Makoto Fujimura by the philosopher Thomas Hibbs. The pace is unhurried, the discussions pretty easily comprehensible. Imagine NPR if NPR were as intelligent as NPR programmers think it is.Or better: Imagine NPR as it once was, from its founding in the early seventies into the early eighties, when the fateful decision was made to transform an eclectic and discursive ragbag of cultural programming into the fabulously wealthy, grimly professional all-news-almost-all-the-time media colossus we know today. Myers worked at NPR off and on for nearly a decade, spending several years as arts editor for Morning Edition before layoffs from the new regime gutted arts coverage in 1983.In its original conception, Myers reminded me, "NPR really was an institution devoted to preserving cultural treasures. By the time I left, that vision had vanished, a victim of multiculturalism, postculturalism, autoculturalism, and other fancies." Myers fondly recalls bygone NPR series like "A Sense of Place: Sound Portraits of Twentieth Century Humanists"--a dozen documentaries on longhairs like James Joyce, Igor Stravinsky, and W.E.B. Du Bois." 'A Sense of Place' would be unimaginable at NPR today," Myers says. Today at NPR, as elsewhere, culture means pop culture. With occasional gestures toward jazz, NPR music is the rock music of aging children; the visual arts begin and end with movies and TV, though stage plays will sometimes rouse attention if their themes are sufficiently progressive. This falling off isn't the fault of the programmers alone, needless to say. In its decline NPR has tumbled in tandem with the tastes of its target audience--affluent white people with meaningless college degrees who weren't educated into an appreciation for richer music and art and who, accordingly, find the whole cultural-patrimony thing intimidating, hence vaguely off-putting, and finally a snooze.
In 1959, Columbia Records released three discs poised to set the future course of jazz: Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue," Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" and "Mingus Ah Um" by bassist, bandleader and composer Charles Mingus. "Kind of Blue" has come to be considered the essential jazz record, and "Time Out" the essential Brubeck record. "Mingus Ah Um" deserves recognition not only as the essential Mingus disc, but as a compelling, enduring vision for jazz radically different from the other two.The Davis and Brubeck records were variations on the "cool" aesthetic. In reaction to the pyrotechnics of bebop, with its blizzards of notes and relentless complexities of harmony, Davis presented an ascetic simplicity, with spare melodic improvisations over modal harmonies so static they nearly drone. Brubeck took California's "West Coast Cool" school and with mathematical intellection removed it even further from the sweaty dance rhythms of jazz gone by: The album's compositions were in tricky, decidedly dance-averse time signatures.The self-conscious modernism of "Time Out" and "Mingus Ah Um" was announced on their covers, both of which featured abstract art by S. Neil Fujita. But the records were modern in very different ways. Cool was not the idiom for Mingus, an artist variously described as "mercurial," "volcanic," "volatile"--choose your euphemism. "Better Git It in Your Soul" opens "Mingus Ah Um" with an ecstatic fervor emphatically at odds with the cerebral style of the moment. "Boogie Stop Shuffle" has enough energy to be a Louis Prima side, if Prima had been prone to scowl.Perhaps most important, Mingus, who was born in 1922 and died in 1979, was not looking to divorce jazz's future from its past. "Ah Um" is explicit in its celebration of sounds predating the postwar bebop revolution.