'This channel will not be seen today'

"'This channel will not be seen today'" Continued...

Issue: "9/11," Sept. 22, 2001

The old books, the classics of the human condition, become relevant again in the way the confections of the pop culture can never be. In my day job, I am an English professor. The morning of the attack, I had an English Lit class. The students were glued to the classroom TV when I came in, but I had no intention of letting the terrorists disrupt their education. I turned it off and we resumed our discussion of Beowulf.

That ancient epic depicts the construction of a great building called "Heorot," the biggest and most magnificent mead hall in the world, in which the tribe of the Shieldings feasted, celebrated, and enjoyed their prosperity. But for all of their joy, success, and security, they could not keep out the Monster. Grendel, a descendent of Cain, intrudes on their cultural complacency, breaks into their great mead hall, and ravenously murders scores of great warriors as they sleep.

The parallels of Heorot and the World Trade Center, as the class analyzed this ancient poem, were chilling. So was what happened next. Beowulf killed Grendel, but he and the Shieldings became caught up in a bloodbath of revenge and constantly escalating retributions.

Grendel and the rest of the monsters were symbols for the mystery of iniquity that has a way of interrupting every period of happiness and spoiling every civilization. Optimistic Americans tend to forget about the monsters lurking in the dark, something Christians and now the rest of America know are real.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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