(Originally published in Volume 1, Issue 1 of Ramify.)

“Here something stubborn comes” is how Richard Wilbur’s “Seed Leaves” begins. The last word of this poem lends itself as the title of the journal you now hold in your hands, and since deciding on the title some months back it has retrospectively become clear that the poem is typical of the mode of becoming peculiar to Ramify. Early in the endeavor to make a Braniff graduate journal a reality there was a great deal of discussion about what shape it would take, what spirit it would embody, and what purpose it would serve. It was unclear then if it would even manage to “dislodg[e] the earth crumbs” and peek above ground, but with the help of the Braniff Graduate Student Association and many supportive faculty members, the journal moved past the fancy of being “vaguely vast” and began to take shape as a printed synecdoche of the intellectual life of the graduate community. The acquisition of many great essays by Braniff students, faculty, and friends of the school made us all pleased to be “self-defined” by such a wealth of multidisciplinary, intellectual exploration.

Ramify has therefore assumed a form characterized by connections, analogies, and themes echoed across disciplinary boundaries, with a general focus on a continual re-interpretation of our inherited traditions that promotes our quest for truths, both shared and personal. “No Nudes” by John Tutuska and “Storytelling in The Golden Ass” by Spencer Smith both point to the advantages of looking at images in order to see the self; such mediation, though, means that the image must be understood analogously, and thus both articles stress the importance of intelligent interpretation in order to make sense out of such images. “Analogy, Dialectic and Divine Transcendence” by William Desmond, which places Hegel into dialogue with Aquinas, takes analogy as onticly serious: analogy is a between, always found “between something and an other,” and the nature of this between is warped into “counterfeit identity”; but this warping can also provide “a catharsis to hubris, and a promising humility.” “Nietzsche and the Phenomenology of Prayer” by Robert Wood discusses the need to place our selves within the Whole, which also engenders humility; our tradition of prayer, mediated through our parents and our society, can help us to do this, but we need continually to renew that tradition, because a “tradition can be a support but also a prison.” “Philosophy and Its History” by Brian Garcia is another piece that keeps the tradition alive by creating a dialogue among the dead, in this case critiquing the neo-Thomist Étienne Gilson’s approach to the once-popular, but now unfairly neglected, spiritual writings of Pseudo-Dionysius. “That Mortal God” by Jennifer Bralick interprets Hobbes as a destructively “radical” thinker, a branch that would disclaim and subvert its roots in the tradition with wide-reaching practical implications for the health of society: Hobbes seeks to collapse the traditionally independent standards of judgment represented by moral wisdom and the church into what then become the arbitrary rulings of the state. Finally, Daniel Janeiro’s translation of Beowulf is an embodied re-interpretation of a great poem of the western tradition, which pushes and stretches the received form in order to revitalize it for the modern ear, while echoing patterns in the Anglo-Saxon original.

Upon reading these remarks on the pieces that follow one may begin to infer a larger meaning of the word “ramify,” which implied fecundity even before this first issue truly began taking shape. Wilbur’s seedling “bending double” but about to “take aim at all the sky” then recommended itself as a metaphor for the development of the great plant we call the western tradition, that singular object of study proposed to students of the Braniff school, and indeed to the undergraduate students of the University of Dallas as well. While the poem presents to us an embryonic seedling, the great tradition of the west is now, after nearly three thousand years, a great and massive tree. In Greece, the still-fragile plant, fertilized with wonder and love, sprouted wildflowers and sweet-smelling herbs before it was transported to Rome; in that city it became a thing hard and terrible, rising straight up like a rod; neglected for a time, the Church nurtured it across Europe until it almost seemed to become the thing prophesied, “greater than all herbs… so that the birds of the air come, and dwell in the branches thereof”; since then the world has alternately derided it, clung to it, and longed for its seedling days. Whatever differences of opinion we at the Braniff school express about our tradition, we all agree that interaction with it is an essential part of our education, now and throughout our entire lives. As students at a Catholic university, we also hope that by climbing this tree that “has the stars for fruit,” we may get a glimpse of the stars too often hidden to the modern world (like those stars which the ancients tied to the primary experience of wonder), and perhaps even a further glimpse of that “Love which moves the sun and the other stars.”

Jonathan McDonald
Editor in Chief
June 21, 2010
Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga

« Back to Volume 1