Photo by Brigid Mack
Human beings find their true freedom in response to certain limits imposed by nature and tradition, said a speaker in the Gentile Gallery Monday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m.
Journalist Sohrab Ahmari, op-ed editor of the New York Post, contributing editor of the Catholic Herald and a columnist for First Things, spoke about themes from his new book “The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos.”
Recounting his personal background, Ahmari said he once believed that the goal of society should be to liberate the individual from the bonds of tradition. His conversion to Christianity, sparked by “the discovery of his conscience,” changed his views, Ahmari said.
In the Catholic Church, Ahmari found an authoritative source that provided him with ordered continuity and tradition, “guardrails … stretching behind you and leading ahead,” Ahmari said.
Ahmari pointed to the sacrifice of Saint Maximilian Kolbe as largely influential in his life. He noted the “profound freedom” of Kolbe’s action.
“Our culture says to be free merely means to have maximal choice,” Ahmari said. He said that Kolbe’s sacrifice might eventually be rendered nonsensical in light of the prevailing conception of freedom.
Giving listeners a preview of a chapter from his book, Ahmari highlighted the loss of the American sabbath. He used the work of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a mid-century Jewish thinker, to examine the issue.
At the time Heschel was living, the idea of American liberty had crowded out the sabbath, Ahmari said. He explained that blue laws were already being removed and that Heschel was bothered by the lack of contemplative spirit in American society.
Senior Hadley Adair said, “Mr. Ahmari’s take on how we can truly celebrate the Sabbath was insightful through the ways he connected it to being a continuation of tradition.”
Ahmari explores other fundamental questions about tradition through the lives of great thinkers in “The Unbroken Thread.” The first 40 students to arrive at the talk received a free copy of the book, courtesy of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life, which sponsored the talk.