- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Spiritual TV

“This year, not one or two but four new shows focus on angst-ridden young women in touch with spirits from the great beyond. In fact, Showtime’s ‘Dead Like Me,’ CBS’s ‘Joan of Arcadia’ and Fox’s ‘Tru Calling’ and ‘Wonderfalls’ have so much in common, it’s downright unnatural.

“Each of these shows features a lead character who is rebellious and unconventional, has strained relations with her family, and considers herself powerless to change the status quo — that is, until that fateful day when some spiritual force steps in and forces her to take action. Naturally (or supernaturally), her actions result in all sorts of miraculous, magical goodness, including improved family relations, the salvation of a wide selection of addicted, codependent or otherwise diagnosable strangers, and a rapidly developing crush on a supercute guy. …

“[T]he mixture of pessimism and dewy-eyed sentimentality, cynicism and faith in the unknown, and angst and happy endings certainly seems in keeping with post-9/11 America. … [E]verything that’s confusing and uncertain turns out to be warm and friendly in the end. And we’ll make it, too, we’re assured, if we can manage to nurture a blind faith in some power greater than ourselves. You know, like God, or the Dalai Lama, or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Whatever works for you.”

Heather Havrilesky, writing on “Smells like teen spirituality,” Monday in Salon at www.salon.com

Et tu, Latin?

“Latin is a dead language. No one speaks Latin as his native language, and this has been the case for more than a millennium. … Short of becoming a Latin teacher … there is not really anything you can do with Latin. So why bother with Latin? …

“But hold the postmortem. One curious phenomenon of contemporary school reform is that Latin is making a comeback. …

“English … owes about 60 percent of its words to Latin derivatives. Knowing Latin thereby gives the student a real command over the English language. The words ‘pulchritude’ and ‘pecuniary’ stump most of today’s high school and even college students, though they are the kinds of words that appear regularly on college admissions exams.”

Terrence Moore, principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins, Colo., writing on “The Latin Language: Dead or Alive?” for the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at www.ashbrook.org

Political mystery

“I believe that the great unappreciated aspect of [Agatha Christies] work is that she was an intensely and relentlessly political thinker. …

“Moral and political instruction is at the core of every Christie novel. …

“At a time of massive social transformations … Agatha offered the soothing balm of Burkean conservatism. She offers an eternal England, a natural order that will always act spontaneously against evil to restore its own rural sense of calm. There is a clear natural order to Christie’s world, and — in true Burkean style — it is only disrupted by greed, wickedness or misguided political ambition. The world is not — as it seems so often — chaotic and terrifying. No, as Poirot explains in ‘Appointment with Death,’ ‘the absolute logic of events is fascinating and orderly.’

“Her work conforms to Burkean conservatism in every respect: justice rarely comes from the state. Rather, it arises from within civil society — a private detective, a clever old spinster. Indeed, what is Miss Marple but the perfect embodiment of Burke’s thought?”

Johann Hari, writing on “Agatha Christie, radical conservative thinker,” at www.johannhari.com

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