Richard Bishop, ‘70
He talks about a piano composition he’s about to play
Cultural Pessimism


“If there is anything in the life of any culture or period that gives good grounds for alarm, it is the rise of cultural pessimism, whose major passion is bitter hostility toward many or most of the people within the very culture the pessimists always feel they are intent on rescuing. When panic on one side is creating alarm on another, it is easy to forget there are always as good grounds for optimism as for pessimism, exactly the same grounds, in fact. That is because we are human. We still have every potential for good as we ever had, and the same presumptive claim to respect, our own respect in one another. We are still creatures of singular interest and value, agile of soul as we have always been and as we will continue to be even despite our errors and degradations for as long as we abide on this earth. To value one another is our greatest safety, and to indulge in fear and contempt is our gravest error.”


Marilynne Robinson, The Givenness of Things: Essays, page 29. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. 2015. 

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Marilynne Summers Robinson is an American novelist and essayist. She is the author of the bestselling novels "Lila," "Home" (winner of the Orange Prize), "Gilead" (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), and "Housekeeping" ( winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award). She has also written four books of nonfiction, "When I Was a Child I Read Books," "Absence of Mind," "Mother Country" and "The Death of Adam." She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

She has been given honorary degrees from Brown University, the University of the South, Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Amherst, Skidmore, and Oxford University. She was also elected a fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford University.

She was born in Sandpoint, Idaho, U.S. on November 26, 1943.