Last fall, as a part of an independent study in which I participated alongside the now diceased Sam Snow, I was given the monumental task of imitating, at intervals, Rudyard Kipling, Hilaire Belloc, and G.K. Chesterton. I have posted my first two imitations on this site here and here (not here) but have felt a reluctance to post the third. This reluctance stems from a certain acid tone in the Chesterton imitation that the author himself might have taken toward modern ideals were he alive today.
I have decided, however, after very little thought, to post the imitation, trusting to my readers' sophistication and their and understanding that sometimes (perhaps always) content and style conflate. I exaggerate for effect because Chesterton exaggerated for effect. I over-simplify for effect because my subject utilized the same tactic. Now, to the imitation:
It is true, the universe is the largest thing we know, but we know so little, really. We have placed our mustard seed faith in the universe as something vast beyond measure, but it could be that the universe itself is the mustard seed to some other colossal object. We believe our universe to be gigantic, romantic and hauntingly cold and beautiful, but, as universes go, it could be a rather medium-sized, homely one. Maybe in a cosmic perspective its great galaxies are mere clouds of sediment suspended in the flowing tides of space and its fiery nuclear orbs are but fireflies to some invisible galactic race of giants. In other words, we feel we are small because the universe is large, but perhaps the only reason the universe seems large is that we are so small.
The weak-eyed, shortsighted modern is reluctant to address is this all-important question of the firmament, but the question remains: Why is our universe so unfathomably large, so spread out, so maddeningly outside our ability to explore it? Space may be the final frontier, but in it we have finally found a frontier we cannot explore as Shakleton did the arctic or Livingston did the Congo. Our pride in our pathetic attempts at going to the moon and mars are like swimming a couple meters off the coast of California and claiming we have explored the Oceans of the earth or reading Sartre’s “No Exit” and claiming we know drama. We are like a colony of ants in Texas calling Siberia our “last frontier” or a snail in Seattle setting his sights on Singapore—a fine sentiment but a weak demonstration of sentience. The theist and the atheist alike are faced with answering the question of meaning behind this unexplorable size of our cosmos, this elephantine girth so incredible to us. The theist, faced with this question, can and does answer the “who” and “how”; the atheist does not have the luxury of the “who,” and, because of this, generally ignores the how. The atheist even goes out of his way to avoid the giant “why” question behind the universe in one of the most natural places in the world for discussing it—the university. One would expect every class at a university to begin by speaking about that university’s namesake; that every history class would begin with the history of the universe, that every algebra class would not proceed without outlining the numbers and formulae dictating all motion in the cosmos, that every writing class would start by tracing the primal and universal language written boldly in the stars, that students of art would not place brush on canvas before they looked into that most venerated and ancient portrait of the man in the moon.
But this is the modern trend. Just as the universe has no place in the modern university, so subjects modern professors profess to teach have strayed from their real subjects. Take, for instance, the new, vogue, and progressive new field of study, Children’s Literature. Now, there is one group of individuals unwelcome in the modern study of Children’s Literature, and happens to be the one group most naturally associated with it. I speak, of course, of real children. Introduce a real child into the modern academy’s study of Children’s Literature, and it would crumble under the sheer rationality of that child. For the child knows far more than the academic how to read Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast. The child knows Cinderella’s gender identity is far less important to the story than the fairy godmother’s strict rules or Cinderella’s shoe size, but the academic will write of jargon on the first and hardly mention the second two. The child knows the beast is transformed into the prince through the good graces of the beauty, but the academic seems to believe the beauty need become the beast in order to be a female worthy enough to subvert the male beast.
It should be a requirement for every Children’s Literature department to have daycare attached, in whose playroom scholars must write every word of their criticism, surrounded by rollicking hoards of those they claim to represent. Let that scholar read his prose aloud to a company of seven-year-old-kids and let them be the judges of its acuity and cogency. Let him defend his dissertation before a dissident panel of hungry toddlers. Let him be dragged before a tribunal of eager kindergarteners and let them decide whether his attempts to prove the presence of phallic symbols in Winnie the Pooh make him worthy to take the name of children’s scholar. Let him find out that “serious Children’s Literature scholar” is an oxymoron to the real child and that his jargon-packed work serves only one practical purpose in the nursery—to put any child to sleep.
But in the universe of the university all things are topsy-turvy. Children’s Literature has little-to-nothing to do with real children; cultural studies celebrates everything but good culture; philosophy departments no more love wisdom than they believe they can prove the word wisdom has meaning at all; rhetoric and composition take only scant and scoffing glances at classical rhetoric and the tools of composition; communication scholars have made it their job to end any and all communication of unsafe ideas coming from those less open minded than themselves. Yes, it is only natural that the universe is ignored in the university. And why should it not be? It screams for answers and the modern is too busy screaming for questions. It declares the glory of God and they declare the irrelevancy of God. It makes man feel insignificant; they make man the measure of all things. It declares that there are constructs beyond social ones. They declare the social ones are the only true constructs. It threatens to cool man’s pleasure in time. They worship man’s pleasure wildly like pagans did Baal. It preaches a singular reality behind the university. They can preach nothing but diversity.
R. Eric Tippin
In "The Catacombs," Kansas State University
October 22, 2014
Oil on Canvas - Date Unknown
 Careful readers of this blog will recognize this sentence (and the title of this imitation) as self-plagarism. I care little.