Creativity in STEM and Bill McLean

I am blessed to have received a classical liberal arts education. I was homeschooled through high school, and then graduated with a Bachelor’s in liberal arts from the Great Books program of Thomas Aquinas College. After that I found myself at a bit of a loss. My education did what it promised: it ignited wonder, vivified my imagination, and engaged my heart and emotions while at the same time developing my calculating mind. But, though I liked the philosophy I’d studied, I didn’t think that I was capable of doing it for the rest of my life while staying attached to reality. Moreover, I didn’t really like the idea of relying on the charity of others for my livelihood, as I would likely have to do at least indirectly in becoming a professor and taking a job at any school whose existence rests on the beneficence of its donors. Not that there’s anything the slightest bit wrong with doing so; we need great teachers, which is why successfully wealthy people are willing to donate to the institutions that foster them! But we need the donors too, and part of me wanted the challenge of seeing if I could be a provider in that way.

So academia was out. But then, how was I to bring the goods of my education into the rest of my life? This talk of joy and wonder and imagination sounds great, in theory, but the modern world is hard, scientific, competitive, complex, and process driven. Did a traditional education in the ways of wonder and imagination really prepare me as a young graduate to thrive in the 21st century world?

In hindsight, this question of how to integrate what’s wonderful with what’s practicable has been one of the central themes of the 33 years I’ve lived thus far. The liberal arts tradition of education might itself be to blame here. The “liberal arts” are often defined sharply in opposition to “servile arts” as those that befit free men versus the tasks given to slaves. Was I choosing mental servitude for the sake of material thriving? This left me wondering: could I pursue the so-called servile arts in a way that exercised my wonder and imagination, in a way which led towards freedom?

To express my dilemma more generally, does the student trained in the ways of wonder and imagination have the wherewithal to bountifully provide food, shelter, and security for himself, his family, and his countrymen, to be as free physically as he is intellectually? Ideally, should we not only be able to be free both practically and intellectually, but able to do so in a well-integrated way, without having to painfully wait it out through a boring workday while hoping for a precious little time afterwards with which to dwell on things which actually feel worth freely pursuing?

I decided to pursue a so-called STEM career, having some hope that it would not only allow me to support a family and be in a position to be generous, but also would involve interesting work. I had always liked math and science and airplanes, so I decided on aerospace engineering, this time starting with a second bachelor’s at a state school.

File:China lake.jpgUnfortunately, many of the things which I’d loved most about science and engineering up to that point were significantly lacking in the engineering schooling I experienced, things like exercising imaginative creativity, or the joy of seeing the incarnation of abstract theories in real physical devices. Much of what I actually found seemed to be a sort of advanced box-checking exercise. I hoped that this was an anomaly, perhaps due to the field of aerospace engineering being past its prime or to my having chosen a lackluster engineering program, and kept doggedly on, ultimately getting a job as an aerospace engineer at China Lake Naval Base, the U.S. Navy’s last remaining live fire test range, whose vast expanse stretches out at the southeast base of the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains. But there too I experienced a certain deadness, an acedia whose sources I couldn’t completely pin down. There were clearly embers of what had once been a fire of inspiration at China Lake; I could sense them in the glow in an old engineer’s eyes, or the cool artifacts around the base, or here or there in the pages of a dusty book in the library. But despite the many ostensibly cool projects and the billions of dollars of annual budget on the base, the original fire was clearly long since gone, burned out in a sea of red tape and wasted time and money. I was tempted to give up on engineering altogether. However, there was one particular ember which really stood out, giving me confidence that engineering had, in fact, existed at least at one time in something like the way I had always idealized it, and in turn giving me something to continue to strive for in the engineering world.

File:2008-12 mclean ship name01.jpgThat glowing remnant from a past age was found in the collected speeches of Dr. William B. McLean. The son of a Presbyterian minister, William Burdette McLean (1914–1976) was a civilian physicist at what was then known as the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) in the desert of China Lake, California, during the early Cold War. He led the development of the Sidewinder air-to-air missile, a brilliant and innovative piece of engineering, which was carried by aircraft defending the west from encroaching communism around the globe in greater numbers than any other missile before or since. After leading the Sidewinder team in the late '40s and early '50s, McLean was promoted to Technical Director at NOTS during which time he led what is remembered by those involved as a golden era of engineering and innovation on the station in the service of America's freedom, with the engineering output to prove it. In other words, he was neither a slave nor a mere dreamer; he was both a capable and inspiring leader and one of the true practical geniuses of American history.

While McLean didn't write books, he was often asked to speak, particularly after the success of the Sidewinder program, and we are fortunate enough to have the transcripts of many speeches. I found these typewritten transcripts fascinating; ultimately they renewed my belief that imagination and creativity should be an integral part of my career field.

One of the things which comes through most clearly in reading Bill McLean's speeches is the centrality of his regard for creativity.
“I believe if the United States is to be successful in either its military or economic competition, we will in the future need to learn to appreciate and to foster creative design capabilities.”

But he also saw that the typical formation of the young squelched creativity.

The number of people who start life with a high degree of creative ability and creative drive is unknown because the forces of society begin so rapidly to act to repress and restrain the curiosity and experimental operations of the young child.

He believed the central effort of the creative scientist is to see a good solution in his imagination.

The designer… needs to outline as many ways of accomplishing the design as he can imagine… Industrial laboratories are handicapped by a natural desire to improve on what exists, by military specifications that are unimaginative.

This means that managers must encourage the creative freedom of those on their teams.

As a man responsible to others for the function of managing research… I need to be in a position to understand and accept new ideas and eventually to judge the ability of people to carry out the work which they are interested in doing. In this type of judgment I would place first priority on the interest and enthusiasm which a man shows in the work which he is doing and, second, on his skill in visualizing and planning the crucial experiments which must be carried out in order to check new theories or hypotheses.

This visualization is so critical for effective and elegant design that McLean is willing to recommend a radically unconventional design methodology, namely design residing in the imagination of a single designer, along the lines of a wall mural.

It seems to me that the creation of a missile system would progress more effectively if it were recognized to have many of the same problems as the creation of a large mural painting. Many useful analogies might then result. The creation of a mural is obviously too large a job for one man and yet, at the same time, it must represent an integrated whole, rather than a collection of parts. In the case of the mural, we have adopted the practice of selecting a master artist whose responsibility is to conceive a picture in accord with the general message which is to be conveyed. He then uses his imagination, his understanding of the materials and tools available, and his knowledge of the abilities of his assistants to lay out an overall design. Committees can review his work and make suggestions, but they cannot take over his responsibility for it. Once the general concept has been sketched out, many people can begin to work using their own specific abilities to fill in the various parts of the picture. As a result, we have an integrated creation that reflects primarily the skill, ability, and experience of the master artist, but which also uses the individual skills of his assistants to a maximum.

McLean proposed that management strategy that aims to maximize imaginative creativity and enjoyment is the necessary way to both practice and preserve the freedom we so deeply treasure.

I hope that we as a Nation can choose in the management of our business and our military programs the type of management which maximizes enjoyment, participation, and the contributions of individual creativity, rather than the type of management whose goals and objectives are set from the top and which is budgeted, planned, and integrated to achieve objectives on schedule without consideration of possible creative inputs. One type of management will strengthen what we have variously called ‘The Free Competitive System,’ ‘The American Way of Life,’ or ‘Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’ The other type of management by overinsistence on the importance of budget and schedule, comes perilously close to conditioning us to the type of organization which believes that man's highest goal is to achieve and surpass through successive five and ten year plans.

What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?

Modern culture stands in awe of the pragmatic fruits of empirical science. However, many are content (as the central planners were) to extort these fruits by any means, leaving the wonder and gratitude which ought to accompany their uncovering (and which originally gave rise to scientific inquiry itself) as a relic of the past. Especially in large corporations and in government, technological development is often seen as the product of a vast machine, the result of a method, in which individual people are merely cogs; taken to its extreme, this view sees imagination, inspiration, and even freedom as no longer necessary. The classically educated liber, on the other hand, sees the wonder in the world, the necessity of a rightful ordering of technology, and the value of knowledge for its own sake as well as for its fruits, but may not always have a ready answer to the often earnestly asked question, “but what are you going to do with that education if not teach or become a priest?” After the initial shock of the encounter with this widening gulf between practicality and wonder, however, one discovers that it is not only possible but necessary that we bridge the gulf, both for the sustenance of wonder (and wonderers) and also for the fullest attainment of the pragmatic. And with the transformation offered by the Christian understanding of the redemptive power of suffering and the Cross, classical thought becomes capable of seeing the full truth, that man is called to imitate his Creator with smaller creations of his own, taking joyful hope not only in the fruits of his labors but also in loving acts of labor itself. But fully carrying this spirit of wonder filled creativity into the pragmatic world of modern technology is a difficult task, undertaken by few and done well by fewer. Those rare few who have really done so well are examples worth treasuring and learning from. Bill McLean is one such treasure.

From the President

Dear Reader,

As the new year approaches, those of us involved in the Arts of Liberty Project have much to be grateful for. January 6 will mark the first birthday of its new parent organization, the Boethius Institute for the Advancement of Liberal Education. We have had a solid first year and are ready to expand our efforts in 2024, including publishing our Introductory Geometry and Arithmetic text by Michael Augros, author of Who Designed the Designer? Dr. Augros does an excellent job re-presenting key content from all of Euclid’s Elements in a clear, accessible way for high school students and life-long learners. This volume has been downloaded for years by many around the world from the Arts of Liberty website; its new existence in a durable, easy-to-read printed volume will introduce the wonders of classic geometry to thousands more learners.

Returning the Quadrivium to its rightful place in liberal arts studies is high on the Boethius Institute priority list. Properly presented, mathematics introduces the young mind to the life of knowledge by arousing wonder through careful reasoning. As Dr. Augros writes,

Geometry is full of wonders. At every level of this science, from the most elementary to the most advanced, we are confronted with the unexpected. Often the seemingly possible turns out to be impossible, and conversely what at first seemed impossible turns out to be possible.

Our Quadrivium students at the Pascal Instituut experienced this in a recent discussion of Euclid’s treatment of incommensurable magnitudes. Said one, “It is not possible that two lines can be incommensurable! You can divide them into parts as small as you want. You must be able to find a common measure!” And yet, Euclid shows it is not so.

Classical mathematics is so formative because it occupies the sweet spot for human knowing by relying on both imagination and argumentation. For this reason among others, encouraging the development of the imagination in the young is crucial for learning ordered to knowledge, as elementary teacher Forest Barnette points out in her article “On Early Education in the Liberal Arts:”

Imagination is not an alternative to reality – it’s the key to reality. Imagination helps us to understand the most fundamental truths around us: it helps us to explore what is beyond the physical limitations of the moment; it helps us to explore what isn’t by showing us what is preventing it from being so; and it helps us to explore what could be by going beyond the is and isn’ts and into the unknown.

Nurturing the mathematical imagination is not only delightful in itself, but also immensely helpful in making science both practical and liberating, as aeronautics engineer Liam Collins witnesses in his article, “Dr. William McLean and Imaginative Creativity.” Albert Einstein shows us his creative imagination at work in using a magical space elevator to provide the fundamental insight for his theory of general relativity.

As Socrates and Plato experienced, classical mathematics can set ablaze the love of wisdom in a budding philosopher. We taste truth and yet cannot help but question existence. Working through the Elements was my first experience of learning indubitable truth. At the same time, doubts about the reality of points without parts and breadthless lengths were also present from the very beginning. And, as far as we can tell, regular 15-sided polygons inscribed in a circle exist nowhere in the natural world, much less inscribed dodecahedrons; probably we can't really make tangents to circles. But the delight in geometry and arithmetic does not depend upon being able to find their objects in physical reality; in some way it is enhanced because we are easily convinced that we cannot. We find them in our imagination. And yet they are true and objective -- the imagination is fed by and determined by our experience of sensible reality, as it is empowered by the intellect.

I am very grateful to announce that last month we received IRS approval of our tax-exempt status. We hope the publication of Dr. Augros’s volume will just be the beginning of our Library of Liberal Arts series. Several more volumes are ready to be edited, and we need to commission our volumes on grammar, rhetoric, and music. If you are able to make a financial contribution, we will be deeply grateful. Small gifts go a long way in a new organization like ours, and also help us to show potential major benefactors that we are serving a widely felt need.

We hope your hearts rejoice in the peace of this season. 

The Consolation of Philosophy Excerpt

This excerpt is taken from Book I of the Consolation of Philosophy (Ignatius Critical Editions Series: Goins, Scott, and Barbara H. Wyman, eds. & trans. 2012.) 

In just this way the clouds of my sorrow were dispelled. Now my eyes drank in the bright light of heaven, and I could recognize the face of the one who was healing me. When I cast my eyes upon her and fixed my gaze, I saw it was the one whose home I had visited since my youth—the Lady Philosophy, my nurse. “Why have you come down from on high to see me in the loneliness of my exile, O lady of all virtues? Do you wish to stand on trial with me and face the charges they have falsely laid against me?”
Would I desert you, my child?” she replied. “Wouldn’t I help you carry this burden of ours that has been laid upon your shoulders by those that hate me? It would not be right for Philosophy to let an innocent man walk his path alone. To think that I would be afraid to face an accusation or tremble in fear—as if such charges were new to me!
“Do you think this is the first time that wicked men have made assaults against the walls of wisdom?” she said. “Didn’t we often have to engage in battle against rash folly in the old days, before the time of my Plato? And while Plato lived, didn’t I stand beside his Socrates as he won victory by death, a death he did not deserve? And after that, the Epicurean and Stoic herds and all the rest tried to snatch his legacy, every man for himself. They grabbed me, too, as their prey while I shouted and struggled against them, and they ripped this garment of mine, which I had woven myself. As they went away with some little shreds torn from it, they thought that I had yielded myself completely to them. Since these men were seen with little bits of my clothing, they were foolishly assumed to be my friends. How many of them were destroyed by the errors of the crowd!
“But even if you don’t know about the older examples, like Anaxagoras’ flight, the poisoning of Socrates, or Zeno’s tortures, surely you could have thought about men like Seneca, Canius, or Soranus—such examples are hardly ancient or obscure. These men died simply because they were trained in my ways and had no taste for the pursuits of wicked men. So don’t be surprised if we’re tossed about by storms on the sea of life, when we ourselves have chosen to be displeasing to the wicked. Indeed, we must despise their army, even if it is a large one, since no general directs it. Instead, it rushes about, carried here and there by a flood of error. If this army should set itself into ranks and attack us fiercely, we have a leader who will draw us into her fortress, while our enemies spend their time searching for their little bags of plunder. Yet we, untouched by their mad confusion, look down and laugh as they grab at every worthless thing they can find. Their cunning folly cannot climb the walls that keep us safe.

The virtuous man,
calm in his orderly life,
stares Fortune in the face
and drives proud Fate beneath his feet.
He holds high his unconquerable head!
Nothing shall move that man—
not the madness and menace of the sea
disturbing the tide,
nor Vesuvius’ broken furnace
hurling rock,
nor the bolts of heaven’s fire
striking towers.
Why do miserable men wonder
at raging tyrants
with no true strength?

Machiavelli’s Idealism

“...Machiavelli exaggerates his praise of [Cesare] Borgia, whose actions, by those very same standards, ought to condemn him as a rather foolhardy failure”(1) – John McCormick

While serving in the Arizona legislature for the last ten years, I also taught Humane Letters at a classical school for several years where we read and held seminar discussions on The Prince. Reading and discussing this with seniors while seeing it unfold before me at the state capitol led to my abhorrence of Machiavelli and Machiavellianism. During my tenure I saw enough of Machiavellianism to last a lifetime. I was promised campaign cash and support if I “voted the right way.”(2) I regularly witnessed legislators berate members of the other party on the House Floor, yet joking and laughing with them immediately afterward  in the Member’s Lounge. On one occasion, I asked a Representative why he was so harsh towards the other legislator on the House Floor he said, “The camera was on.”

I rejected Machiavelli for many reasons. I despise his τελος – the acquiring and maintenance of power as the sine qua non concerning things of the public. Further, his view of human nature leads to misanthropy. I’m also offended by the idea that one cannot succeed in politics without perpetrating evil, since many have successfully passed good laws without resorting to the tactics he advised in his infamous work, myself included.

Yet modern man continues to idealize Niccolo Machiavelli and his ideal prince, Cesare Borgia, in spite of the fact that both were failures. The historical record along with the written work of The Prince paints a markedly different picture in reality than what’s commonly accepted about these two men. Niccolo Machiavelli, the 15th century Florentine secretary who has made no small impact on the divorce between morality and politics was himself a failure – in this life and the next. As was his ideal prince, Cesare Borgia. Thus, either Machiavelli has written ineffectual truth, or The Prince is a work of the same idealism that he notoriously criticizes.

One ought to approach Niccolo Machiavelli realistically – his life, his teaching, and his intellectual impact. Or so it seems. That is, unless one wishes to perceive reality as one wishes it to be rather than as it is. Looking past what is imagined about Niccolo’s life, his work, and his ideal prince, one notices a variance with what modern man considers him to be. Given Niccolo’s emphasis on history – real republics and principalities, one should examine the historical record to ensure one does not give unmerited justification where little is warranted.

On December 10, 1513 Niccolo wrote a well-known letter to papal ambassador Francesco Vettori. In it, he describes his exile, his failure to find a job suitable to his literary talent, and his imaginary dinners with the ancients. After lamenting his job as a day laborer and the vulgarity of the commoners, Machiavelli does what most men do not do. The author most known for realpolitik changed his clothes from a laborer into “regal and courtly garments.” It is here where he imagined ancient men – men who died thousands of years ago, who entertain him as their dinner guest. He writes that these long since dead men “receive him in affection,” where he imagines discussions with them for hours concerning the substance of what ultimately goes into The Prince – “what a princedom is, the kinds of princedoms, how one gains them, how they are kept, and why they are lost.”(3)  Niccolo writes,

I enter the courts of ancient men, where received by them with affection, I feed on that food which only is mine and which I was born for, where I am not ashamed to speak with them and to ask them the reason for their actions; and they in their kindness answer me; and for hours of time I do not feel boredom, I forget every trouble, I do not dread poverty, I am not frightened by death; entirely I give myself over to them.(4)

Of course, within today’s classical tradition, seminar participants read the ancients and have a qualitatively different kind of dialogue with them through the annotation of texts and discussion with other presently existing seminar participants. However, no one who lives in reality imagines one is actually present at dinner with no longer sentient men where one dresses up in the wardrobes found in the courts of the ancients and converses with dead men for hours. The former occurs frequently in seminar discussion, the latter more often at state-run hospitals. Niccolo himself is lucid enough to recognize he has written something fanciful in The Prince near the conclusion of this letter where he says to Vettori, “And if you ever can find any of my fantasies pleasing, this one should not displease you...”(5) While scholars continue to speculate on Machiavelli’s motivation for writing The Prince, he himself described his text as a flight of imagination, not reality.

Further, Niccolo never lived to see the reaction to The Prince nor its intellectual and immoral impact since he wrote it in 1513 but it was published posthumously in 1532, five years after his death.(6) Machiavelli was a frustrated literary genius whom fate had dealt a harsh hand. He thus needed an outlet to not only direct his talent towards, but more basically, he desired meaningful employment that didn’t consist of laboring on the family farm. In another letter to Vettori, Niccolo writes “There is my wish that our present Medici lords will make use of me, even if they begin by making me roll a stone...”(7) That is, Niccolo wanted something more than subsistence living and conversation with the plebians whose thoughts didn’t rise to the lofty heights of the ideal world he formerly immersed himself into. While in forced exile, Niccolo writes of his poverty and such interactions as following:

I speak with those who pass, ask news of their villages, learn various things, and note the various tastes and different fancies of men. In the course of these things comes the hour for dinner, where with my family I eat such food as this poor farm of mine and my tiny property allow. Having eaten, I go back to the inn; there is the host, usually a butcher, a miller, two furnace tenders. With these I sink into vulgarity for the whole day, playing at cricca and at trich-trach, and then these games bring on a thousand disputes and countless insults with offensive words, and usually we are fighting over a penny, and nevertheless we are heard shouting as far as San Casciano. So, involved in these trifles, I keep my brain from growing moldy, and satisfy the malice of this fate of mine, being glad to have her drive me along this road, to see if she will be ashamed of it.(8)

One can nearly hear lamentations from this literary talent who once rubbed shoulders with heads of state and other diplomats but has now fallen upon hard times. Yet such criticism goes well beyond Machiavelli and extends to the one historical character the author devotes more time to than any other – Cesare Borgia.(9) Like Machiavelli, he too was a failure in his life.

Cesare was born into a very promising name - Caesar in Italian, yet his life and early demise was of little importance. Niccolo gives Cesare the highest of accolades by calling him “prudent and virtuous” in addition to illustrating Cesare as the best example a prince who uses evil as necessary, conquers others through fear or fraud – the man who knew in practice how to maintain his grip on the levers of power (The Prince, VII). This is puzzling given Cesare’s continued reliance upon fortune, his dependence upon his father, and his untimely demise. Instead of having taken Machiavelli’s advice and beating Lady Fortune like a woman (The Prince, XXV), Pope Julius II forced Cesare to continue to depend upon the arms of others. At no time after his father’s death was Cesare self-sufficient as any successes he achieved solely depended upon his own father-patron. Renzo Sereno notes, “Caesar’s attempts at kingdom-building in Romagna fell very short of the most pessimistic expectations. His realm collapsed almost at once with the death of Alexander VI [Cesare’s father].”(10) Indeed, without his father to supply him with arms, he quickly fell out of power and lost everything. In contrasting Cesare with Agathocles, John McCormack notes that “Agathocles retained his principality much more successfully and with greater longevity than did the duke [Cesare], whose kingdom evaporated with his father’s death.”(11) When Alexander VI died of syphilis or poisoning, Pope Julius had Cesare arrested and deprived him of his arms and territories.(12) Thus, Cesare’s dependence upon his father became glaringly evident and one wonders why Niccolo continues to praise him in such a manner. Instead of depending upon his own military prowess as Machiavelli advises, Cesare died at the young age of thirty-two in poverty, with scurvy, and a significant case of syphilis that forced him to wear a mask due to the disfigurement it caused. Indeed, the men who killed him had no idea whom they had just killed. They stripped him of his clothes and left his naked body to lie in the dirt.(13) In summary, Machiavelli’s ideal prince was jailed, tortured, and died in poverty with a disease riddled body in a foreign country while in forced exile having been rejected by the Pope, Florence, and France. One would be hard pressed to find a better illustration of such a massive failure.

Neither Machiavelli himself, Cesare Borgia, nor any other mortal were able to live up to the embodiment of Machiavellian virtu. Yet the classical tradition does have a real life example of a successful and moral politician in reality, someone whom the American Founders held dear – Marcus Tullius Cicero. So it is of no small surprise that Machiavelli seeks to tear down Ciceronian ideas of just war, keeping faith, and natural law. So why is the classical tradition so willing to privilege such a man and replace Cicero for an idealized fantasy from the fanciful imagination of a failed secretary and his failure of a prince?

(1) The Enduring Ambiguity of Machiavellian Virtue, John McCormick (2014)
(2)  For this to be proven illegal in a court of law, the Arizona Statute governing bribery means the legislator must be promised a specific dollar amount for a specific vote – A.R.S. 13-2602
(3) Letter to Franceso Vettori, Dec. 10, 1513
(4) Ibid
(5) Ibid
(7)  Machiavelli’s “Prince”, Political Science or Political Satire? Garrett Mattingly Revisited
(8)  Letter to Franceso Vettori, Dec. 10, 1513
(9)  In case there was any doubt as to Machiavelli’s illustration of Cesare Borgia as the ideal prince of The Prince, he writes: "Thus if I summed up all the actions of the duke [Cesare Borgia], I would not know how to reproach him; on the contrary, it seems to me he should be put forward, as I have done, to be imitated by all those who have risen to empire through fortune and by the arms of others. For with his great spirit and high intention, he could not have conducted himself otherwise and the only things in the way of his plans were the brevity of Alexander's life and his own sickness. So whoever judges it in his new principality to secure himself against enemies, to gain friends to himself, to conquer either by force or by fraud, to make himself loved and feared by the people, and followed and revered by the soldiers, to eliminate those who can or might offend you, to renew old orders through new modes, to be severe and pleasant, magnanimous and liberal, to eliminate an unfaithful military, to create a new one, to maintain friendships with kings and princes so that they must either benefit you with favor or be hesitant to offend you - can find no fresher examples than the examples of that man" (The Prince, VII).
(10)  A falsification by Machiavelli, Renaissance News (1959), Renzo Sereno
(11)  The Enduring Ambiguity of Machiavellian Virtue, John McCormick (2014), Social Research journal, p 141
(12)  Niccolo’s Smile, a biography of Machiavelli, Maurizio, Viroli (2001), p 75
(13)  The Life of Cesare Borgia, Rafael Sabatini, p 449

Introducing the Boethius Institute

The Arts of Liberty Project began over twenty years ago as an idea Dr. Jeffrey Lehman had as a graduate student at the University of Dallas. He saw the wealth of wisdom in the Western tradition, but he also saw the dire need to recover that wisdom for the modern world. In 2008, Dr. Lehman launched the Arts of Liberty website, and built it up to become the leading provider of online materials for those desiring to teach and learn in the tradition of education based on the liberal arts of the Trivium and Quadrivium.

The Boethius Institute for the Advancement of Liberal Education is the natural outgrowth and completion of Arts of Liberty. The life of learning is not meant to be lived in isolation. As we long to learn, we long for teachers and fellow learners.

So Philip ran up to [the chariot] and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Acts 8:30-31

As we learn, we long to share what we learn with friends. Jeff and I have known the blessings of strong academic fellowship from our experiences at institutions such as Thomas Aquinas College and Hillsdale College, and we long to share this experience with others devoted to liberal education. In January of 2023, we founded the Boethius Institute to unite those devoted to serving the booming liberal arts renewal in collective learning and collaborative efforts.

On August 4th, over a dozen of  our Fellows of the Boethius Institute gathered at the Augustine Institute in Denver for our first colloquium. We spent the weekend discussing Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy as we learned more about the great figure whom we chose as our patron. Boethius grounded his love of philosophical and theological wisdom on a serious practice of the trivial and quadrivial arts, as witnessed by the mastery of poetry, logic, rhetoric, astronomy, and music shown by Lady Philosophy.

Though his own life’s work was cut short by his imprisonment and martyrdom at the age of 43, he had so absorbed the arts of liberal learning that they poured forth in a work of magnificent pathos, beauty, subtlety, and wisdom, which ensured that the nascent Christian West would reverence the gold to be found in ancient learning. We aspire to become modern-day Boethians, embodying the liberal arts in service to wisdom, and wisdom in service to Church and society. Our coat of arms expresses this aspiration. It emphasizes the importance of wisdom as the culmination of the life of learning and the lynch-pin of service through the Greek letters, pi and theta, which Boethius saw on Lady’s Philosophy’s garment, signifying the interconnection of the practical and theoretical branches of philosophy. The white cross on a red field signifies the arms of the city of Pavia, Italy, where Boethius was martyred and his cult developed. The illumination coming from the book being read symbolizes our life of learning and the fruit that comes from it.

Our central work right now is our formation program in the liberal arts for current and future leaders of education renewal. Over the next two years, our Fellows will go through brief but rich courses in each of the arts of the traditional Trivium and Quadrivium, with a culminating course on the ordering of the liberal arts to a life of wisdom. We have begun by entering into an analytical understanding of Latin as an inflected language, enabling even those new to the language to use online analytical tools to help understand a range of translation possibilities. We have also reflected on the structure of language generally through the principles of a stem method approach to Latin and the medieval account of parts of speech and sentence construction. We will wrap up our study of grammar with an introduction to Greek, before moving on to logic.

Our Fellows in formation come from a variety of backgrounds and states in life. We have several young teachers new to liberal education, experienced teachers ambitious to start their own institutions of learning, several with advanced degrees in theology, a former state senator, the head of a Costa Rican university, and a software product manager focused on building resources for educators. I have been edified by the fact they are doing this with no thought of getting an accredited degree, but simply to satisfy their own desire to grow in traditional learning and from a commitment to make themselves the best educators they can be.

Our Senior Fellows have been active in other ways. We have contributed to the establishment of Principia, a new journal devoted to classical education, whose first two issues have included three pieces by our Senior Fellows, and where Jeff serves as an associate editor. We have made presentations at education-related conferences around the country on themes such the educational philosophy of Christopher Dawson, Lady Philosophy as physician of the mind in the Consolation of Philosophy, the artist’s fantasy in Tolkien’s Leaf by Niggle, and Thomas More’s use of the rhetorical progymnasmata exercises. In every venue, we have been encouraged by the strong desire to grow in and promote a complete liberal education. 

At the beginning of October, Jeff and I traveled to the Netherlands to begin a two-year-long course on the Quadrivium for the Pascal Instituut in Leiden, as they prepare to launch their own Master’s program in the Great Books. October has also seen the official launch of the Master of Arts in Catholic Education, which was founded by Jeff at the Augustine Institute in Denver, and will include challenging courses on the Trivium and Quadrivium, as well a strong grounding in Christian anthropology and the history of education.

It is encouraging to review what we have accomplished so far, and yet we feel eager to do so much more. Our world desperately needs to benefit from the wisdom of our cultural inheritance. We look forward to playing a significant role in the growing movement to make wisdom possible once again.

From the Director

Dear Reader,

Over the past year, I have studied, written about, and found inspiration in The Consolation of Philosophy. One of the great dialogues of ancient times, it was written by Boethius, a Roman consul, senator, philosopher, and theologian, during his imprisonment on charges of treason.

The beginning of the work finds a fictional version of Boethius wallowing in sorrow because, forgetting the lessons he had learned from his youthful devotion to the study of philosophy, he feels overwhelmed at the thought of how God had let unjust and wicked men succeed in their plots against him. In the midst of his self-pity, Philosophy appears to him as a Lady, who tries to console him by recalling how she had strengthened her devotees to not only endure unjust suffering, but to laugh at their enemies while doing so.

I have been fortunate in that I have not suffered injustice because of my service to Philosophy. Like many of you, however, I suffer discouragement from time to time as I join in the struggle to bring wisdom back to the world of education. The forces of folly can seem so powerful. Being reminded of philosophical heroes like Socrates and Seneca is encouraging, as is the hope that Philosophy brings by proclaiming the rewards of a life devoted to wisdom.

We are already beginning to taste those rewards through the growing Fellowship of the Boethius Institute for the Advancement of Liberal Education, as I detail here. One of our Fellows, Paul Boyer, is a contemporary Boethian - a former State Senator currently running for mayor of Glendale, Arizona, who is struck by irony that the mastermind of realpolitik, Macchiavelli, was a real life political failure.

If you want to find out more about our very busy summer and early fall, take a look at our Events calendar. I hope that we will be able to report more encouraging news in the coming months.

MacDonald on Effect of Science on an Adolescent

In “A Sketch of Individual Development” (1880), George MacDonald, best known for his works of fantasy such as A Princess and Curdie and Lilith, describes an imaginary boy coming to full consciousness, from infancy into adulthood. In this excerpt, he reflects on the impact that a serious encounter with science in late high school or college might have on the development of mind and heart.

The changelessness amid change, the law amid seeming disorder, the unity amid units, draws him again. He begins to descry the indwelling poetry of science. The untiring forces at work in measurable yet inconceivable spaces of time and room, fill his soul with an awe that threatens to uncreate him with a sense of littleness; while, on the other side, the grandeur of their operations fills him with such an informing glory, the mere presence of the mighty facts, that he no more thinks of himself, but in humility is great, and knows it not. Rapt spectator, seer entranced under the magic wand of Science, he beholds the billions of billions of miles of incandescent vapour begin a slow, scarce perceptible revolution, gradually grow swift, and gather an awful speed. He sees the vapour, as it whirls, condensing through slow eternities to a plastic fluidity. He notes ring after ring part from the circumference of the mass, break, rush together into a globe, and the glowing ball keep on through space with the speed of its parent bulk. It cools and still cools and condenses, but still fiercely glows. Presently--after tens of thousands of years is the creative presently--arises fierce contention betwixt the glowing heart and its accompanying atmosphere. The latter invades the former with antagonistic element. He listens in his soul, and hears the rush of ever descending torrent rains, with the continuous roaring shock of their evanishment in vapour--to turn again to water in the higher regions, and again rush to the attack upon the citadel of fire. He beholds the slow victory of the water at last, and the great globe, now glooming in a cloak of darkness, covered with a wildly boiling sea--not boiling by figure of speech, under contending forces of wind and tide, but boiling high as the hills to come, with veritable heat. He sees the rise of the wrinkles we call hills and mountains, and from their sides the avalanches of water to the lower levels. He sees race after race of living things appear, as the earth becomes, for each new and higher kind, a passing home; and he watches the succession of terrible convulsions dividing kind from kind, until at length the kind he calls his own arrives. Endless are the visions of material grandeur unfathomable, awaked in his soul by the bare facts of external existence.

But soon comes a change. So far as he can see or learn, all the motion, all the seeming dance, is but a rush for death, a panic flight into the moveless silence. The summer wind, the tropic tornado, the softest tide, the fiercest storm, are alike the tumultuous conflict of forces, rushing, and fighting as they rush, into the arms of eternal negation. On and on they hurry--down and down, to a cold stirless solidity, where wind blows not, water flows not, where the seas are not merely tideless and beat no shores, but frozen cleave with frozen roots to their gulfy basin. All things are on the steep-sloping path to final evanishment, uncreation, non-existence. He is filled with horror--not so much of the dreary end, as at the weary hopelessness of the path thitherward. Then a dim light breaks upon him, and with it a faint hope revives, for he seems to see in all the forms of life, innumerably varied, a spirit rushing upward from death--a something in escape from the terror of the downward cataract, of the rest that knows not peace. "Is it not," he asks, "the soaring of the silver dove of life from its potsherd-bed--the heavenward flight of some higher and incorruptible thing? Is not vitality, revealed in growth, itself an unending resurrection?"

The vision also of the oneness of the universe, ever reappearing through the vapours of question, helps to keep hope alive in him. To find, for instance, the law of the relation of the arrangements of the leaves on differing plants, correspond to the law of the relative distances of the planets in approach to their central sun, wakes in him that hope of a central Will, which alone can justify one ecstatic throb at any seeming loveliness of the universe. For without the hope of such a centre, delight is unreason--a mockery not such as the skeleton at the Egyptian feast, but such rather as a crowned corpse at a feast of skeletons. Life without the higher glory of the unspeakable, the atmosphere of a God, is not life, is not worth living. He would rather cease to be, than walk the dull level of the commonplace--than live the unideal of men in whose company he can take no pleasure--men who are as of a lower race, whom he fain would lift, who will not rise, but for whom as for himself he would cherish the hope they do their best to kill. Those who seem to him great, recognize the unseen--believe the roots of science to be therein hid--regard the bringing forth into sight of the things that are invisible as the end of all Art and every art--judge the true leader of men to be him who leads them closer to the essential facts of their being. Alas for his love and his hope, alas for himself, if the visible should exist for its own sake only!--if the face of a flower means nothing--appeals to no region beyond the scope of the science that would unveil its growth. He cannot believe that its structure exists for the sake of its laws; that would be to build for the sake of its joints a scaffold where no house was to stand. Those who put their faith in Science are trying to live in the scaffold of the house invisible.

On the Liberal Arts in Response to an Article in Principia

As we mentioned in our last bulletin, a group of classical educators and scholars has launched Principia, a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to advancing scholarship on classical education. As Brian Williams, General Editor, reports in his article introducing the journal, forty years of education renewal has spawned a growing body of scholarly research and writing. Principia provides a “venue for robust and vigorous dialogue and debate about classical education” that “will make substantive and positive impacts on the practical implementation of classical education in schools and homes around the world.” Williams' own summative expression and description of classical education provides a strong beginning.

The goal of classical education is to educate whole persons through the accumulated wisdom of the ages for a lifetime of flourishing regardless of their profession or place of employment. It attempts to recover the integrated ends, curricular materials, pedagogical methods, and formative culture that characterize the 2,500-year old tradition of liberal arts education, while remaining open to new works of profound insight, beautiful artistry, and genuine discovery. (p.2)

Christopher Schlect’s article, “What is a Liberal Art?”, highlights the need for common dialogue and debate. By all accounts, the idea of the liberal arts was central to pre-twentieth century Western education, and most current educators in the revival of that education embrace their importance. But as Schlect relates, confusion and disagreement over what the term liberal arts means is prevalent today, not only among universities with no particular interest in classical views, but even among those deeply interested in them. Schlecht emphasizes the need for each educational institution to reach clarity on its own understanding of the liberal arts, while he believes that historical disagreements about their nature will prevent any widespread consensus among classical educators as a whole.

Schlecht expresses the consensus that guides his institution, New Saint Andrews College in Idaho:

The liberal arts teach us how to learn—how to freely gain knowledge and understanding. Insofar as they are arts, they produce something, in this case, the ability to learn. Because they are liberal arts, they liberate us not only from ignorance, prejudice, and provincialism but also from servile dependence on the tutelage of others. 

Schlect goes to clarify the significance of “servile”:

This notion of liberality does not exclude teachers, and it certainly does not suggest any radical notion of independence. Indeed, a liberally educated person continues to learn from teachers, and even relies on them. But he no longer depends upon any one teacher, nor upon a particular school of teachers, to initiate and direct his learning for him. A liberally educated person becomes the master over his own progress in learning. 

With deep respect for fellow laborers in the field, I think this is not only wrong, but dangerously wrong, especially as applied to pre-collegiate learning. A recipient of a serious liberal arts education has received a tremendous blessing. But he is certainly not ready to be set loose in a library, as Schlect suggests, inhabited by the likes of Plato, Aquinas, Hobbes, Kant, and Einstein, and press them into his service. Add Marx and Nietzsche, and our liberal arts graduate should be in terror of opening the books at all. As Aristotle and Aquinas say, to order belongs to the wise man. A young person trained in the liberal arts, but who has not been schooled in philosophy and theology, is far from being wise. He is capable of being taught by the wise man, but not of making wise judgments in the midst of powerful minds compellingly advocating for contrary answers to the fundamental questions of reality.

To understand the minds of any one of those authors takes a great deal of time and effort. The general mastery of words and quantities given by the traditional liberal arts makes understanding the authors possible but not easy. It takes docility and receptiveness, which are dangerously given to the sophistical and brilliant. Plato’s dialogue, The Protagoras, begins with the question of how a young man desiring to become really well educated can judge a teacher. Socrates warns him emphatically about the dangers of learning from just any teacher:

Now, if you are knowledgeable as to which of these wares are beneficial or harmful, you may
purchase learning, in safety, from Protagoras or anyone else at all. Otherwise beware, blessed
man, lest you take chances and imperil your most precious possessions; for there is
surely an even greater danger in the purchase of learning, than in the purchase of food….Learning, by contrast, cannot be borne away in a separate vessel. No, once the fee has been proffered, it is necessary to take that learning into the soul itself, and once you have learned something, you must go your way, having been either harmed or benefited thereby.

[313e] (Platonic Foundation translation)

What do the liberal arts produce in those who become proficient? In answer, Schlect is guided by the claim of Hugh of St. Victor  “that anyone who had been thoroughly schooled in them might afterward come to a knowledge of the others by his own inquiry and effort rather than by listening to a teacher” (Didascalicon. 3.3). As Schlect suggests, Hugh meant that the liberal arts opened up the world of books to the learner, so he could learn directly from the best minds of all time. But at that time, the world of books consisted of the Scriptures, the Fathers, monastic authors, along with the best moralists among the ancient Romans. The learner was expected to trust that all these authors were wise, not to judge among competing worldviews presented by powerful sophists. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning witnessed, even in the 19th century libraries were dangerous places.

Sublimest danger, over which none weeps,
When any young wayfaring soul goes forth
Alone, unconscious of the perilous road,
The day-sun dazzling in his limpid eyes,
To thrust his own way, he an alien, through
The world of books! Ah, you!—you think it fine,
You clap hands—‘A fair day!’—you cheer him on,
As if the worst, could happen, were to rest
Too long beside a fountain. Yet, behold,
Behold!—the world of books is still the world;
And worldlings in it are less merciful
And more puissant. For the wicked there
Are winged like angels. Every knife that strikes,
Is edged from elemental fire to assail
A spiritual life. The beautiful seems right
By force of beauty, and the feeble wrong
Because of weakness. Aurora Leigh

Too often high school graduates from liberal arts schools, although very grateful for what they have received, feel they are done with liberal education, and head to college to take on the serious business of preparing for a career. Often high school educators underestimate the crucial importance of their influence on inspiring a love of serious learning, and of directing their students towards the authors, programs, and professors that will guide them towards wisdom. For training in the liberal arts is only the beginning of a complete liberal education. As Newman wrote in the Preface to his Discourses on University Education, being well-grounded in grammar and mathematics will “make them feel nothing but impatience and disgust at the random theories and imposing sophistries and dashing paradoxes, which carry away half-formed and superficial intellects,” and will prepare them to be “gradually initiated into the largest and truest philosophical views.” But Newman warned it could also make them powerful proponents of error:

In all it will be a faculty of entering with comparative ease into any subject of thought, and of taking up with aptitude any science or profession. All this it will be and will do in a measure, even when the mental formation be made after a model but partially true; for, as far as effectiveness goes, even false views of things have more influence and inspire more respect than no views at all. Men who fancy they see what is not are more energetic, and make their way better, than those who see nothing; and so the undoubting infidel, the fanatic, the heresiarch, are able to do much, while the mere hereditary Christian, who has never realized the truths which he holds, is unable to do anything. 

As we think through together what is being accomplished in our times by the many different efforts to renew education in the light of (but not limited by) the successes of the past, the liberal arts should be differentiated from – while finding their role within – our understanding of liberal education as a whole. The liberal arts are to be treasured for the role they play in awakening and forming the mind, but they must not be considered to complete education to the point of making their possessors masters of their own learning. Rather, their most important role is to open the ways to begin to profit from the wisdom presented by authentic guides.

Only the Lover Sings: The Secret to Teaching Literature

I have spent my twenty-five years as a teacher further and further refining my purpose, to its present obsessive focus. My animating ambition, the one I live, sleep, and breathe, is to help people learn to love – to love – great literature.

In the span of that time, the task has become only tougher, primarily because of the omnipresence of technology. The quick and ready entertainment, meme and soundbite style content, and constant din of calls for our attention that come with a smartphone in every hand mean it has become increasingly difficult to get anyone to read.

Nevertheless, when my students are in the classroom, held as a captive audience, their devices all turned off and set aside, and we have in our hands one of the beloved books of my carefully chosen curriculum, I still feel an almost infallible power to turn them into thoughtful, eager, and passionate lovers of books.

While I myself am always learning more about what it takes to teach literature well – whether that means conceptualizing techniques that come to me as instinct, or gaining new insights from the world’s great teachers, present and past – I am confident I can name the fundamental principle behind my (perhaps immodest) boast of infallibility.

To be an effective guide and mentor, you must be in love with literature yourself. 

I say “be in love with” rather than “love” to give emphasis to the personal and passionate form the attachment has to take. If familiarity with great books feels to you like some duty of cultural literacy, if the experience of reading is more cerebral than it is of the soul, if the books you teach do not reverberate in the very core of your being, then you are not “in love with” literature.

Most of my memories of studying books in school involve, at best, dry discussions of literary devices, and, at worst, no discussion at all, but only multiple-choice tests to prove I’d done the reading. Almost never do I recall a teacher modeling an earnest emotional investment in the work, and rarely did I myself come to feel that kind of intense and personal connection.

By contrast, someone recently described to me how, as a boy, reading Lord of the Rings had made him desire to be good. He found himself unable to abide the thought of doing anything that, in his mind, would make him a disappointment to heroes like Frodo and Gandalf. That is what it means to be in love with a book. He saw the novel’s theme, he felt its import, and he made it a part of himself.

One of the problems endemic to education is that this love of literature has been lost. We cannot teach that which we are not capable of ourselves. So, if our capacity for that love has atrophied, or was never properly developed, what are we to do?

It is important for me to note here that I myself did not learn to love books until I was in my mid-twenties, and already working as a teacher. I have a vivid memory from my youth of watching a performance of The Miracle Worker and finding it painfully dull. Today, it is painful for me to confess that, because this play has come to stand in my mind for what it means to awaken a child’s soul to “a consciousness of her immortal nature” – to be a teacher, in the truest sense of the word. And after teaching this play every year for two decades, I still cannot read the climactic scene without crying.

My own eyes were first opened when I read Victor Hugo’s novel Ninety-Three aloud to my little group of homeschooled students so many years ago. We were wholly absorbed and focused. We were riveted by the plot. We gasped in chorus at the sudden twists and sighed over sentimental passages. We discussed our reactions as we read, and we worked to decipher Hugo’s message. The experience was as much a life-altering one for me as it was for them.

The point is, even if a passionate approach to literature does not now come naturally to you, it is a skill that can be revived or learned afresh.

  • Connect again with that classic that really made you feel – in love with the aloof Mr. Darcy, awed by the integrity of Atticus, pitying of poor Jane Eyre.
  • Find a mentor. When I discovered a great literature teacher, I consumed every word of his I could, and, afterward, strove to emulate his process. I am now trying to offer mentorship myself through a program called Read With Me, whose mission is “to help people connect emotionally with the classics.”
  • Take a close look at Mark Edmundson’s Why Read? or Arnold Bennett’s Literary Taste. Hear the former tell you in impassioned tones why “real reading is reincarnation,” and let the latter explain how literature helps us raise the plane of our existence “to the top level of the peaks.”
  • Recall that reading great books is meant to be a pleasure – not an idle one, but the profoundest kind we can know. Don’t consider a book part of your personal repertoire or eligible for your curriculum until you are able to consume it as a life-enhancing pleasure yourself.

Now, in one sense, a love of literature is only the precondition of effective teaching; it doesn’t give you a process. But it another sense, it is necessary and sufficient.

If you yourself have mastered a book’s meaning, felt its import, and made it a part of yourself, then you will know that all your efforts must be integrated around helping your students do the same. You won’t allow yourself to be distracted by too much talk of literary devices, you won’t be content for your students to prove only a rudimentary grasp of the content, and your discussions won’t be soulless and cerebral. You will be better able to trust your instincts, because you will know, deeply, the purpose you hope to achieve.

With my own faithful repertoire of books I dearly love, I can now be sure that every year a student will, for example, beg to keep her copy of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House so she can share it with a sister, or create a year-long calligraphic log of favorite literary quotes, or declare indignantly that I have ruined her for romance because no man will ever be a Cyrano de Bergerac, or weep with me more than once over scenes in Les Misèrables, or ask for keepsake versions of the books we read for Christmas.

I am in love with these books, and they learn to love them too.

From the Director

Dear Reader,

Easter weekend has definitively proclaimed the arrival of Spring, at least in northern Iowa on the border of Minnesota. Two weeks ago, though Canadian geese filling the sky and fat robins returning to their territories spoke of spring as imminent, the deep snow cover made it hard to believe in new life. Trees produced buds in vain. But Nature is wise. This weekend brought our first days of 50, 60, and 70 degree weather, and the snow quickly melted away, revealing grass eager to make the earth green again. Soon green shoots will completely cover last year’s corn stalks in the fields.

In this mood of the joy of new life, I am delighted to announce a great step forward in the work of the Arts of Liberty Project. Taking inspiration from the great work in the preservation, development, and promotion of the liberal arts done by Boethius, the last great Roman statesman, Jeff Lehman and I have decided to found the Boethius Institute for the Advancement of Liberal Education. For over a decade, has provided a wealth of materials that foster the understanding and practice of the traditional trivium and quadrivium as the proper foundation for a life devoted to wisdom. The Boethius Institute will follow in the footsteps of its patron by publicly defending the crucial role the liberal arts play in liberal education, adapting them to current circumstances and opportunities, and providing leaders of the growing liberal arts renewal with deeper formation in them.

Questions abound about the place and nature of the liberal arts today in what is often referred to as classical education. How should we understand and practice grammar, logic, and rhetoric? Do geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music have any role? How do the physical sciences, which are so important in modern education, fit into an education of which they have historically been a rival? In an excerpt from a fascinating essay on the rise to consciousness of an imaginary boy, George MacDonald imagined the effect of this rivalry on a serious young man. Scholarly discussion about these questions is revealing significant disagreements among practitioners. I express one of these disagreements in response to a recent article tackling the difficult question of defining what the expression “liberal art” means.

Opportunities also abound. Students who have received a strong liberal arts foundation are ready to achieve great heights in areas such as Latin, Greek, rhetoric, history, mathematics, philosophy, and theology. Teachers who have been successful in their particular classrooms and schools are ready to share how they have fed the natural hunger of the young for learning. When I met Lisa Vandamme at her school in Orange County, California, she was proud to introduce me to her eighth grade class, who impressed me with the passion and penetration of their answers to her question, “What has been your favorite work of literature during your time here?” She shares her fundamental secret in this issue of our bulletin.

To learn more about the Boethius Institute, visit our new website. We will keep you up-to-date on our various activities, such as our visit to the University of John Paul II in San Jose, Costa Rica.