Plans for Brave(r) New(er) World

Through a strange set of circumstances, I came upon the following email which was addressed  to the Provost’s office. When I showed it to the editors of the Rover, they insisted it belonged in  the Humor section, despite the conviction with which its author seems to have written.

I write to you today with my application for the newly available Provost position.

When I heard your office had an opening, I was immediately eager to offer my services to your fine University. I began to research the most popular educational and pedagogical trends of  modern academia so that I could help keep Notre Dame abreast of its peers; I paid particular attention to our friends in the Ivy League. Below, I present just one of the many fruits of my findings.

The main principle of the modern University is progress. Now, you may be asking, “Progress to what end? In what direction?” … Onward, of course! My research concluded that progress in any direction is a good thing, so long as it aims away from the past. Accordingly, the modern University keeps Lady Progress as the figurehead of its ship, leading into foggy and uncharted waters. Have the students wander where they please, and may they follow the guiding star which the Greeks called Neotera, the Latins called Novior, and we (in our exquisitely modern tongue) call Newer.

This means we’ll have to do something about the antiquated remnants of religion which still lurk in your curricula. Of course, this will involve the removal of any sort of theology or philosophy requirements; how can we expect the next generation to make innovations in spirituality and self-discovery if they’re busy trying to be religious? How will they forge ahead with big new thoughts if they’re bogged down by what some old aristocratic Greek men thought? How will they make important discoveries in the humanities if they’re thinking about gods?

This kind of innovative thinking has been modeled brilliantly by some of our contemporaries. For example, I came across a recent psychological study which “explained” why humans hug. The psychologist proposed a theory in which the brain (not you yourself, of course) has been  trained “to like” hugs because the conservation of body heat was once necessary for our survival. The enjoyment of hugs is a chemical vestige of a survival strategy; the perception of pleasure is  nature’s incentive for us to live; love is a delusion.


If you had asked someone else this question (your grandmother, a priest, Cicero), you would have received an answer so time-tested, so traditional, so glaringly common-sense, it couldn’t have been true. Cicero would have given you a philosophical treatise on friendship and its  manifestations; a priest would have given you a sacramental explanation of the physical world  acting as an outward sign of an inward grace of charity; your grandmother would have told you that you hug simply because it is good.

How worse off we would have been. Thank Progress for progress.


J. N. Wormwood

Editor’s Note: “In diverse ways has the devil shown hostility to the Truth. At times he has tried to shake it by pretending to defend it.” — Tertullian (Against Praxeas)

James Whitaker is a graduate student in the theology department studying the history of Christianity. Turns out, a lot has happened in the history of Christianity. If you have recommendations to help him narrow his focus, you can email him at