Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Okay, let me be a little petulant, a little whiny. After all, when I started teaching American Literature at this college, enrollments went as high as seventy. Last year, I had twelve.

Times change, of course, and Am Lit hasn't been a general education requirement for years. What's cool, what's in, what's hot--all of that is as subject to time and place as the cut of your suit's lapels or the daring-do of your neckline. For years already, the people in the business department--even in the academy--ruled the roost (what roost there is to speak of in higher educuation). The biggest problem in business departments was finding business people dumb enough to turn down six-figures for a chance to correct term papers.

But maybe times are a'changin' again. Reading the business pages these days is a reminder that maybe, just maybe, Jesus wasn't wrong about money. "Global Economic Crisis Worsens as Stock Markets Plunge," one headline reads this morning. It seems that sales of private jets have fallen off for the first time in five years. How about this?--Donald Trump is in trouble, and one of his billionaire buddies from Texas is accused of "massive fraud." Hmmmm.

Some of it sort of feels good, but other headlines carry real pain. General Motors is going to need another 30 million in order to survive, and that's after cutting an additional 47,000 jobs. More horror for Michigan.

It's hard to imagine a mega-operation like General Motors, with its own storied history, actually buckling into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but the government (which is to say, me) can't afford to throw billions into a black hole.

Word has it that fewer incoming college students these days are declaring themselves business majors. Running businesses may seem less glamorous when fat cat CEOs get their pictures hung in post offices.

The thing about biblical truth is that it sneaks up and smacks you when you don't expect it. You know some of it your whole life--"the love of money is the root of all evil"--but cliches simply lose their tart and the sentiment becomes a convenient truth, spoken solemnly in the sanctuary on a sabbath morn, but put on and taken off with a Sunday-best wardrobe. "Of course, it's true, and of course we believe it--now, deal the cards. This is business, after all."

Really, it's hard to imagine the US without GM because an institution of its size was once almost as omniscient, as beneficient, and as sovereign as most gods claim to be.

But it isn't, wasn't, and never will be. Maybe there's some poetic justice in a shrinking business class, saith the envious teacher of Emerson and Thoreau.

Whether our idols are Melville and Hawthorne or Merrill Lynch and Citibank, the real lesson here is old as the hills: in our worship, we keep getting it wrong, keep messing up, even if and when we know better.

But then there's this: shockingly, He keeps taking us back. Really, He's the only one holding trump.

Amazing grace.


Billy Coffey said...

An excellent post.

Chris said...

You will even find economists agreeing with you. But in the present conditions we need holistically trained/countercultural economists and businessmen - particularly those who read beyond the Harvard Business Review and have a familiarity of authors beyond Adam Smith. Make some time to watch the webcast at link two beginning at minute 8. Watch at least 10 minutes, you may be tempted to listen to the rest despite some weak theology.

Link 1
Link 2