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Work & Meaning
Episode #21of the Third Turn Podcast with guest Todd Hartch.
Our guest, Todd Hartch, professor at Eastern Kentucky University, is credentialed at the intersection of history, philosophy, and religion, but also informed by a family history in business. Todd started his studies early!--taking weekly economics lessons from his grandfather at age 10. And now, a student of Catholic social thought, Todd shares a faith-centered perspective on things like:
- Work and meaning
- Ownership and stewardship
- Reflection and action.
I hadn’t really thought about how our beliefs about the meaning of work get formed and informed by faith. For example, a Catholic perspective might more naturally see work as good given that God worked and we are created in God’s image, whereas Protestant perspective could tend to view work as a repercussion of--and perhaps even punishment for--“the fall”.
- The concept of hiddenness: That the work of laying foundations for the future is often work that is invisible and for which we might never get credit. Todd shares three compelling examples of individuals--sculptor Frederick Hart, Bible translator Artemisa Echegoyen Gleason, and 8th century missionary St. Boniface--whose work paved the way for significant “future value”, as we call it, but who received little to no awareness or appreciation, let alone accolades, over the course of their lives. For example, Frederick Hart’s work now adorns the National Cathedral in D.C.; but during his life Hart’s work garnered no attention. Which leads to this second concept…
- Creating something truly true, good, and beautiful. In Todd’s own words: ‘...one of the things I really encourage people to do is seek the true, the good, the beautiful…those three things have eternal value…if you seek and achieve those things you won’t be wasting your time…’ [whether you receive present day accolades or not]. His newly-released book, A Time to Build Anew: How to Find the True, Good, and Beautiful in America, elaborates on this invitational idea. Again, in his own words: ‘…my big thought at the moment is that it's time to build. The temptation (and my own inclination) is to focus on diagnosis and critique, as bad as the cultural and political situation is, but that's not really what people need today. They have a pretty good idea what's wrong--they're just not sure what to do about it. This leads to my second idea, which is that we are in desperate need of models, specifically models of the true, the good, and the beautiful. In a nutshell, today, building one small institution or making one beautiful work of art is worth far more than 100 volumes of critique.’
In our present “critique and tear down” and “get Insta-famous” cultural dynamics, what if we--especially those of us at the Third Turn--made a commitment to the contrary? A commitment to focus our energy and model what’s true, good, and beautiful in the places we live and lead? I believe that alone would be a refreshing counterpoint, and a contribution of both future and present value.
Todd’s books, for exploring further:
- A Time to Build Anew: How to Find the True, Good, and Beautiful in America
- Understanding World Christianity: Mexico
- The Rebirth of Latin Christianity
And a recent address Todd gave at Taylor University:
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