Quotations: On Pain and Suffering


“No, God does not give us explanations; we do not comprehend the world, and we are not going to. It is, and it remains for us, a confused mystery of bright and dark. God does not give us explanations; he gives us a Son. . . . A Son is better than an explanation.”

—Austin Farrer, “The Country Doctor”

“Every war movie, good or bad, is an antiwar movie.” —Steven Spielberg, “Of Guts and Glory”

“. . . after all, the manner in which a person dies, the little details of an autopsy, say, whether the corpse has spots on its liver or lungs, doesn’t in any way cancel the loss.”

—Ted Kooser, The Poetry Home Repair Manual

A high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace.”

—Tennessee Williams

Why Study a Foreign Language on Short Notice?


So here I am with eight weeks to go before I’m in Kiev, Ukraine, to spend a week teaching a philosophy course. Ukraine is divided linguistically. In the western half, Ukrainian is the language of choice. But in the east, including Kiev, it’s Russian. Some of the students will be proficient in English. For all of my presentations I’ll have an interpreter. My host has sent me a single page of “key words and phrases” he thinks I should know. So it’s obvious no one expects me to be able to speak Russian like a Cossack when I get there.

On the other hand, I genuinely enjoy studying foreign languages. It’s hard but rewarding work—especially if you have sufficient time and you have the opportunity to visit a country where the language is spoken “officially.” I could recount the many advantages to learning a foreign language. But here’s my question and I welcome your advice: Why study a foreign language on such short notice?

I’m looking for advice from people who believe it’s a good idea. In a separate post, I’ll beseech my readers for practical tips on learning a language in a hurry. But the first tip I would give myself is this: Have a good reason, and know what that reason is; the more reasons the better. That’s where you can help me. Load me up with the best reasons to go for it!

I have some ideas of my own, of course. And once I’ve had the chance to sort out the advice you send me, I’ll post it for all those in the same boat (there must be at least three or four out there).

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