On Thursday, September 14th, I attended the opening reception of the Fall 2017 Archives and Special Collections exhibit at the William H. Hannon Library, “Tales of Mystery and Imagination.” The reception also celebrated the launch of the new theme for the Academy of Catholic Thought and Imagination (ACTI), “The Idea of a Catholic University in the 21st Century.” Prior to the event, I spoke with a number of non-LMU affiliated attendees who had heard about the reception through friends. I also talked to a number of LMU students, many of whom were there due to a class requirement. Several graduate students and library employees were in the audience as well.
As the event began, I took a seat in the back of the room. After a brief introduction, Dr. Brian Treanor, LMU Professor of Philosophy and the director of ACTI, began his talk. A pillar of his presentation was the question of how a Catholic university is distinguishable from other universities. Treanor stated that Catholic universities are unique in that they distinguish a problem from a mystery and pursue mystery. A problem can be solved through a formulaic remedy. The problems of interstellar travel and climate change, for instance, can be solved through technological advances. A problem is solvable and the solution is of a technical nature. In a problem, the identity of the agent (who is involved) does not matter. A mystery on the other hand is unsolvable by universal techniques and solutions and it makes every bit of difference who is involved. There is not a formulaic way to answer questions such as whether or not we are in love. The answers to other questions, such as whether or not we are loved and what the meaning of life is evade us. Dr. Treanor ended his speech by emphasizing that Catholic universities must take mystery seriously in order to remain distinct.
After Dr. Treanor’s speech, Alison Hobbs, the Graduate English intern in Archives and Special Collections and the curator of the new exhibit, came up to the podium and began her talk by disclosing that since the dawn of civilization, mystery has existed. People have always wished to solve the mysteries of why they are here and whether or not there is an afterlife. Hobbs then explained several of the mysteries that were part of the new exhibit: from a pair of paintings that aroused suspicion as to whether or not they were painted by their alleged artist to a lock of hair with a story shrouded in uncertainty. She ended by stressing that the exhibit was intended to be fun and educational. The presentation then ended and a brief Q and A session ensued. I asked Hobbs whom she preferred between Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe. She chose Poe without hesitation, claiming Pennywise the Clown and other creations of Stephen King were outmatched by Poe’s dark tales and twisted mind.
After the session, I spoke with several attendees. A highlight for them was a picture of a killer orangutan shown during Hobb’s presentation that was from a Poe story called “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Additionally, several of the attendees had never thought of Treanor’s definitions and distinctions of problems and mysteries. Both Hobb’s and Treanor’s talks left the audience simultaneously pondering mystery and appreciating it. Students and professors who love and appreciate mystery literature and literary creativity would have enjoyed the presentation as would have individuals wanting to know how LMU stands out among other universities.
Today’s post was written by library student ambassador Fabio Cabezas. Fabio is a sophomore management major and a fifth-generation LMU student!