Anchored by the Classic Learning Test

Transcendent Themes That Confront Temporal Pain | Winston Brady

February 29, 2024 Classic Learning Test
Transcendent Themes That Confront Temporal Pain | Winston Brady
Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
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Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
Transcendent Themes That Confront Temporal Pain | Winston Brady
Feb 29, 2024
Classic Learning Test

On this episode of Anchored, Soren is joined by Winston Brady, Director of Curriculum and Thales Press at Thales Academy, and author of The Inferno: A Novel. They discuss the growth of Thales Academy, its unique logic curriculum, and Winston’s new book inspired by Dante, Tolkien, Bunyan, and his own mental health journey.

Get 20% off your copy of The Inferno: A Novel with code CLASSIC20 here:

Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Anchored, Soren is joined by Winston Brady, Director of Curriculum and Thales Press at Thales Academy, and author of The Inferno: A Novel. They discuss the growth of Thales Academy, its unique logic curriculum, and Winston’s new book inspired by Dante, Tolkien, Bunyan, and his own mental health journey.

Get 20% off your copy of The Inferno: A Novel with code CLASSIC20 here:

Soren Schwab (CLT) (00:01.92)
Welcome back to the Anchored Podcast, the official podcast of the Classic Learning Test. My name is Soren Schwab, VP of Partnerships here at CLT, and today we're joined by Winston Brady. Mr. Brady is the Director of Curriculum and Thales Press at Thales Academy, a network of classical schools with campuses in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and South Carolina. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Keenan Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Winston writes at the intersection of history, politics, and culture, as seen through the lens of classical wisdom and virtue. Winston is also the author of a recently published novel called Inferno. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Rachel, and their children. And we're so delighted to have him on Anchor today. Welcome, Winston.

Winston Brady (00:52.174)
So, Warren, thanks so much for having me.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (00:54.052)
Absolutely. It's always a pleasure to have a good friend on the show. We're going to talk about your work at Thales Academy. We're going to talk about your new book that I just finished a couple of days ago, and it's fantastic. But as we always do, we start the Anchored podcast by talking about our guests' own educational journey. So talk to us a little bit about your K-12 journey. Where did you go to school and when and how did you fall in love with kind of the classical liberal arts?

Winston Brady (01:20.91)
I was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in the suburbs of Northern Virginia, so, Vienna, Virginia, Fairfax County. My dad's an economics professor, and so for a short time he taught at Sweetbriar College. And so my formative years, like fourth through eighth, I got to spend on really a very beautiful part of the Virginia Piedmont. We moved back up to Northern Virginia when I was about eight years old, and then in middle school I transferred to a private all-boys school called the Landon School.

It's in Bethesda, Maryland. And there I was so blessed, I was so privileged to receive a classical education. So seventh grade, I started taking Latin. We read through really the kind of curriculum that they have is very similar to what you and I are really familiar with working with classical schools. So ninth grade, we read Shakespeare's Macbeth. We had...

Ninth grade reading like a survey of great literature. We read the Iliad, the Odyssey, the works of Shakespeare, Dante's Inferno, John Milton's Paradise Lost. I was just so, so blessed to have an education really founded on the great books of the Western canon and having really, really good teachers that could lead a really engaging and fascinating discussion about these works and why these works were so relevant. So I love...

I love reflecting back on these unique points in my own educational journey. We talk about in classical education, like a classical renewal movement, it's something that we're bringing back, something that was lost for a long time in mainstream American culture. You know, up until the 1920s, education really was classical education. Reading great books, discussing those things you read, civics tests from like the 1910s or even just like an eighth grade.

like exit exam, right? Or a high school entrance exam. And the questions on there are things that I don't think the vast majority of adults could answer these days. Like it's just so hard, like the rigor and the content that people were expected to master back at the turn of the 20th century is just astounding. But on the flip side of that, there are pockets in the United States, really great schools that still have this commitment to classical education. They tend to be some of those more

Soren Schwab (CLT) (03:17.776)
Right, yeah.

Winston Brady (03:45.722)
affluent and high-brow private schools, you know, New England boarding schools, schools in the New York area and the D.C. area. So the education that I got is something that, you know, people like you and me, teachers at Thales, other like-minded classical schools, it's an education we're trying to make available to as many people as we possibly can. But I just happened to go to a school that really valued those things.

Winston Brady (04:15.342)
you know, taking these tours through the Western canon. I think if I could put a moment on it, it would be my sophomore year, if I could put a moment on it, it would be my junior year of high school. I went with my mom to tour the College of William & Mary, which is the school I ended up going to, but I skipped the tour because on the way down, I decided to read the Iliad in its entirety. You know, a lot of high school English classes, you read excerpts, right? You skipped...

Book two of the Iliad and the Catalogue of Ships. Well, I reread it in its entirety and I was so fixated on Homer's poetry. It was the Fagel's translation. He does a marvelous job and how he brings Homer's poetry alive. But book five, when Diomedes is fighting Aphrodite in Aries, there was something about the imagery in the conflict, both in the wider

Trojan War and what I feel are kind of like the symbolism, what's going on there. A Greek warrior striking out against these personifications of vice and warfare, all these terrible things that afflict mankind and bring sorrow down upon us. There's just something amazing about that. So I actually skipped the tour and finished reading the book. I ended up going to William and Mary anyway, but it's kind of a funny story in that.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (05:33.845)
I'm like.

Winston Brady (05:39.594)
you know, this moment where I really was fixated by, captivated by a really, really good book. And as opposed to reading books like that, long story short, I really struggled with depression from like middle school onwards. And so reading works like, you know, Milton's Paradise Lost, Homer's Iliad, Dante's Inferno, and as a, when I became a Christian in my sophomore year of college, reading the Bible.

It's those sorts of works that really helped me to deal with my depression in a much more productive way than other ways that I had attempted to deal with it. It allowed me to get out of my circumstances, right? To not fixate on all the things that were seemingly wrong with my life and point me towards something transcendent and good and beautiful. And also that my own struggles were really not all that dissimilar to the struggles presented in such great works of literature.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (06:13.417)

Winston Brady (06:37.522)
Obviously I'm not a Greek warrior or a Florentine poet, but a lot of the struggles that those characters go through are eerily similar to struggles that I have on my own. So there was just something like comforting and epic about an education founded on the great books of the Western tradition. So I just kept going with it.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (06:48.82)

Soren Schwab (CLT) (06:56.56)
Yeah, amen. No, amen, brother, absolutely. And we'll talk a little bit more about kind of your own life and then how that inspired your writing of the Inferno. You know, I have a lot of guests on the podcast that are kind of more like first generation of the classical renewal movement that you alluded to. And what's interesting is that the vast majority of them did not receive a classical education themselves, right? And that it's something that they later on learned about and then looked back and said, oh, my god, I wish I had this.

education but now I feel like we're getting this next generation including yourself, right, that has themselves experienced the beauty of a classical education and is now working hard to make sure that is accessible to many students which leads me to your work at Thales Academies. And I cannot overstay just how impressed I've been with Thales. I remember I started at CLT in 2018 and one of my very first

trips as a CLT employee was actually down to Thales Academy. There was a professional development and I got to give a little talk and meet the teachers. And I think at that point you only had three or four schools, maybe if that. Yeah. If at that. And now on the K-12 side, I mean, you have so many different campuses in different states. So tell us a little bit about Thales Academy and then your work as curriculum director and of course, your work at Thales Press.

Winston Brady (08:03.499)
Yeah, yeah.

Winston Brady (08:21.142)
Oh yeah. Well, we'd love to have you back, Soren. I mean, the door is open at any one of our campuses for you to come back and visit. We'd love to have you. So Thales Academy, we're a network of private classical schools. We have around 12 campuses in the Raleigh area. So the small towns outside the city of Raleigh, we have campuses in many of them. We also have campuses outside of Richmond, Virginia, Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina, and more campuses coming on board each year.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (08:27.2)
That'd be awesome. Yeah.

Winston Brady (08:51.23)
As far as like the value proposition that we offer to parents, we emphasize a low-cost model. So it's a private school, but it's really geared towards individuals, parents that may otherwise send their students to the public school down the road. For those parents that want an education that's more in line with their values or they just love the content that they're going to get in a classical education, Thales Academy is here to provide that option.

So our tuition is around 6,000 to $6,500 a year. And we operate in states that are relatively friendly to school choice initiatives. So there are scholarships available in North Carolina to attend the Thales Academy. The low cost model is really, I feel like the differentiating factor between Thales Academy and a lot of other classical schools that are also doing really, really good work in this space.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (09:29.236)

Winston Brady (09:45.862)
Our founder, Bob Luddy, is the owner of a very successful kitchen equipment company called Cap de Ver. And ironically, none of the Thales Academy campuses have a cafeteria. None of them have a kitchen. It's one of the things that I love pointing out to parents on tours. You'd think that we would have an absolutely amazing kitchen, given the fact that the company that our founder...

owns produces very high quality, you know, HVAC, kitchen hoods, fire suppressing systems and the like. But a kitchen like that really isn't in the best interest of the parents who are providing the tuition to send their students to Thales. I mean, I think kitchens are wonderful, but there are a huge expense as far as the equipment and the personnel, the inputs, the insurance, and those sorts of costs are passed on to the parents.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (10:23.132)

Winston Brady (10:37.718)
So rather than just trying to bring education down to the bare bones essentials of what a student needs to learn and thrive in the world today, we wanna focus on everything that's going on in the classroom. So we do offer like an iPad initiative to students. We do offer like a range of like awesome clubs and activities like debates and robotics and Science Olympiad and the like. But we just try to look at everything as the value that we're offering to parents. We want them to get the...

highest quality education at the lowest possible price. Highest quality education for the students, lowest possible price for the parents who are sending their students here, and entrusting us with their most precious resource, their students.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (11:20.2)
Yeah. And just to interrupt you for one sec, for our listeners, Jeremy interviewed Bob Lutty on the Anchored podcast. It's a while ago, but if you kind of scroll through all the podcasts and kind of talking, you know, about Captivair and his general philosophy, I mean, he is such an incredible entrepreneur, but also understood in the business world, the need for more students that are classically and liberally educated. And so.

If you all can go back and listen to that, it was a really, really interesting episode. But yeah, Winston, talk to us a little bit about, I guess, you mentioned the bare bones, right? But maximizing kind of the education that the students are receiving. And they are receiving a classical, not a classical Christian model, right? But sorry, a classical Christian education, but a classical education in a private school. How would you say that does that maybe look different from some other schools?

you know, that utilized the classical model.

Winston Brady (12:18.634)
Yeah, well, in regards to our philosophy and our outlook, I would say that we're philosophically religious. We ground our instruction on the Mago Dei and the idea that people are made in God's image and from that relationship being created in God's image that endows human beings with an inherent value and dignity, something that can never be taken away, removed from them.

it is the same sort of language that's outlined in the Declaration of Independence. So we do make a great emphasis on the influence of that idea on the American experiments and self-government and how the uniqueness of the United States is really grounded on that same relationship, that same principle. So with that idea of being philosophically religious, I would say it's kind of like I haven't I've never set foot on Hillsdale's campus. I've met a lot of Hillsdale graduates.

And while Hillsdale is more overtly Christian than other institutions, I feel like they tried to present a very big, relatively large tent for students that are attending there. They emphasize philosophical inquiry, scholarly discussion, rigor, research, and towards answering the most important and pertinent questions of life. And we really emphasize that same thing, but the answers to...

those sorts of questions there often derive from a profoundly religious and faith-based context. And in my personal opinion, being a Christian, the answers to those questions are most profoundly and sublimely answered arising out of the quick Christian worldview. In that sense, though, we're not affiliated with a Christian church or a Protestant denomination. We're not a member of like the Diocese of Raleigh or anything like that. We are largely independent in that way.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (14:10.612)

Winston Brady (14:10.794)
we try to ground our instruction on this principle of man being created in God's image. And from that relationship, that's where we get our rights or dignities and our values from. I think a couple of ways that I try to bring this out in a unique fashion, director of curriculum, what my job is, is to write textbooks, readings, present PowerPoint lectures and things like that, as well as training and coaching and modeling for teachers.

For some of the classes that we have, I've written the textbooks for those classes. So my favorite one, my favorite one, logic and writing. So we have a logic class in 10th grade, and having taught logic for a number of years, you have to find meaningful primary sources to read alongside with the students. Something that pairs really well with whatever concepts and logic that they're covering. And with

Soren Schwab (CLT) (14:43.296)

Soren Schwab (CLT) (14:47.072)

Winston Brady (15:07.33)
This particular textbook that I put together, I paired readings from Aristotle, from Plato's Youth of Roe and the Republic, Descartes' Discourse on Method, as well as like John Locke, the Second Treatise on Government, Montesquieu and the Spirit of the Laws, the Federalist Papers, and it ends with Frederick Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. The kids start in the Allegory of the Cave and they end with The Road to Serfdom while getting a thorough grounding in the practice and study of logic.

But throughout that particular textbook there, I try to use syllogisms that hit in some of these big picture ideas, being philosophically religious. So you know what the famous syllogism is, right? Like all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is immortal. That works really well to illustrate the nature of a syllogism, three propositions, three terms, joined together in such a way that the two premises lead to the conclusion.

The one that I like using is all animals are creatures who rule by force. All people are animals. Therefore, all people are creatures who rule by force. And throwing that out there, there's something not quite right about that syllogism, right? Like, it doesn't seem to be like a meaningful conclusion. It's not that people, you know, are creatures who settled their disputes by force. If we look out in the natural world though,

Soren Schwab (CLT) (16:15.284)

Winston Brady (16:31.342)
I mean, isn't that the way that animals settle all of their disputes? Lions, gazelles, like who ends up winning that fight? Always the lion. Even squirrels that they come across the same acorn, they're gonna fight probably with their very fluffy tails. But with humans, we're really not at base animals. We have many characteristics in common with animals.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (16:34.58)

Winston Brady (16:56.202)
And indeed, when people are behaving very badly, we say that they're acting like animals. The Bible has a number of examples of people and their pride and arrogance that the Bible describes as acting more like animals. It's not like they transcend to some higher plane of being and said they really are just acting like beasts of the field and so on. So if you look at that syllogism there, one of the premises, all people are animals, that is a proposition that

many people in the United States accept perhaps without thinking that it's true, you know, that people are at heart animals, you know, there's nothing really special about us, you know, we're just primates at heart. But if you follow that proposition to its logical conclusion, then it really opens up to a world of difficulties, you know, settling our disputes by fighting and arguing just an endless series of power dynamics, strife and conflict. And I'm trying

you know, show students, you know, really the flip side, if human beings are not created in God's image, but, you know, they're, we came about through random processes, time and chance, you know, according to Darwinian evolution, some of the conclusions drawn out from that proposition are not good and aren't really the kind of world that we want the students to live in. So that's kind of some of the big picture ways that we deal with that particular issue there. Philosophically religious, the most profound questions in life.

arise from and are really answered by this broad Judeo-Christian tradition that we're trying to present to students. But we don't present like, you know, it's not, I should probably end it there, but You know, We're trying to present to students the great debates concerning what makes life worth meaningful and presenting them with options, arguments, you know, as to what is most conducive for human flourishing.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (18:43.71)

Winston Brady (18:50.354)
And really trusting that the results are going to work themselves out in the end, right? We're just trying to plant at seeds for students in order to figure out the best ways that they can organize their lives for themselves and, you know, trying to point them towards things that are transcendent, that are good, that are beautiful, and that are true. And, you know, me as a Christian leaving the results to God to do with what He will.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (19:13.04)
Yeah. Well, I mean, it's really, really beautifully said, Winston. And I'm just nodding and smiling the entire time. And but also wondering, you know, I mean, what students are receiving at Thales. You know, most college students are not receiving anymore, right? Because we've forsaken, you know, even the study of the study of logic. And it's this buzzword that keeps on coming back is critical thinking. But just listening to you and how you approach that class, like what better way for students to become critical thinkers?

right, than by studying logic, right, and studying the great books. And that's just something that, unfortunately, progressive education, they still talk about critical thinking, but they forsaken, forsaken everything else. And so I'm really, really grateful that, that Thales Academy is bringing that back. Um, and, uh, and really, um, I think that's even one of your taglines, right? It's like creating critical thinkers or forming critical thinkers. Um, that's your

Winston Brady (20:06.314)
Yeah, our mission, high quality education at the lowest possible price while cultivating people of excellence through the pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (20:14.844)
Wonderful, wonderful. We don't have as much time to talk about the YAS prize, but I want to congratulate Thales Academy because you were recognized as a semi-finalist for the really prestigious YAS prize, probably the most prestigious educational award that you can win. So just give us kind of a quick snapshot of what the prize is and how Thales was recognized there.

Winston Brady (20:40.906)
Yeah, so the Yass Prize delivers educational grants, prizes to schools, to schools that are producing really game changing outcomes for their students. Thales Academy, this year we're in the top 1% of all the organizations that submitted applications to be considered for the Yass Prize. We made it to the semi-finalist round and we are so grateful to be recognized amongst such a-

Soren Schwab (CLT) (20:51.476)
Thank you. Mm-hmm.

Winston Brady (21:05.962)
such a wonderful pool of really dedicated teachers and principals, administrators, educational professionals. And for one, it's really encouraging to be recognized, right, I think it's, you know, it's, our school was founded in 2007 and the corporate offices at Captive Air, and now we have over 6,500 students. And just to have that sort of national stage to be recognized for like all of this hard work that countless individuals have put in is wonderfully encouraging.

both to me and to the organization as a whole. But also it's encouraging to be on a stage with so many dedicated professionals that in their particular city, their particular context, their particular group of students, they're also doing that exact same thing, trying to fill the hearts and minds of students with good things. It's very easy to fixate on all the things that are bad out in the world. The news tends to bombard us with all of the problems that are afflicted in society, and those problems are great.

But there's also all those unsung heroes in classrooms across America that are doing their best to give students high quality education. And so just to be with those individuals, learn about their stories, their organizations, network like that, you know, Soren, we all need more friends. And so to be on a stage like that and make friends with teachers who have that same sort of heart for their students, like we have for ours, huge privilege. So my...

Soren Schwab (CLT) (22:31.293)

Winston Brady (22:33.094)
A hat goes off to Josh Herring, a friend of mine, friend of yours that represented our institution at the Yass Prize events, just blown away by all of the accolades, the praise for just all the good things that we're doing as a school and as an institution. So it's just huge.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (22:49.416)
Yeah, it's really a marvel. I mean, and it's in the Oz Prize recognizes innovation as well, right? And not only you were recognized, our friends at Optima Academy, Erica Donnes and her team for some of the innovation in classical education and virtual reality with the ER sets.

Winston Brady (22:54.838)

Soren Schwab (CLT) (23:15.412)
that they recognize just the genius behind. And I remember, Winston, you were at a CLT event. You were graciously joining us in West Palm Beach earlier this year. And I know, right? February, I know it was March, March in Palm Beach. I know you really had to twist your arm there. But afterwards, we were talking and saying, wow, there is so much innovation in classical education. And it's amazing.

Winston Brady (23:25.458)
Yeah, graciously joining West Palm Beach. Yes, that was so much fun. Yeah.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (23:42.944)
You know, when you look at all the stereotypes of classical education, they're just conservatives and this and that. And not really what we think about when it comes to innovation, right? It's usually like progressivism is all about innovation. But what's happening in this space, and we've had many, many podcasts with kind of leaders in that in classical education, that have been really, really innovative, whether it's bringing the costs down, right? Finding different ways to deliver classical education on the curriculum side. It just makes me really hopeful for the future of our nation.

I want to turn the page here and talk about your book. I want to talk about everything. We don't have time to do that. We don't want to give the whole book away. But I am so riveted. I just finished it a couple of days ago. Now my wife just started reading it because it is really, really good. Your first novel is called The Inferno. And a lot of our listeners are probably like, Inferno? That sounds like Dante. And that is not...

not accidental. And so, but it is a novel, not an epic poem, but kind of to start us off, give us, I know it's going to be hard, but give us like the 30 second like Spartanode version of the Inferno.

Winston Brady (24:55.542)
Well, and thank you so much for your kind remarks. I'm so humbled just as an author and all the, you know, there's, it was a work of quiet desperation, you know, very early in the morning, writing before I went off to work, you know, years of that, a long time in the process. So just to hear that somebody likes it is just very, very encouraging. So thank you so much, Soren. As far as a 30 second elevator pitch, the Inferno begins with the framework of Dante's Inferno.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (25:04.596)

Winston Brady (25:23.07)
integrated with J. R. O. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and John Bunyan's Pilgrim Progress to explore three themes, the problem of evil, the rise of big government statism, and man's need for a savior. So the story follows a college sophomore named Evan as he journeys through hell, through the inferno, and interviews people who are condemned in various realms and regions of the inferno.

through these conversations with various individuals who are there, Evan learns what it means to repent. And then at the end of the story, he gives his life to the Lord Jesus Christ, recognizing that that's really his only hope to escape from such a realm. So that's my 30 second elevator pitch.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (26:06.044)
Yeah, no, no that is a well, I mean if you're not excited to read this by now I don't know what's gonna grip you but You know, we mentioned you mentioned earlier, you know kind of your own your own Background and that you that you struggled with depression. So For the reader that starts kind of even in chapter one you meet Evan I Think it's fair to say that there are some semi autobiographical aspects of this so if you if you don't mind sharing kind of

some of your own story and kind of how that inspired you to write this book.

Winston Brady (26:41.942)
Well, and so some of that may need to be like, added out my little verbal clutter there. Yeah, so there aren't a lot of biographical elements in the book, things taken from my own life, as well as efforts on my part to make the story more universal and accessible. The first chapter opens up, Evan wakes up in a dark wood, very similar to Dante, and the reader finds out very quickly that Evan has just attempted suicide.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (27:00.041)

Winston Brady (27:10.978)
And so having grown up outside of Washington, D.C., you find out a lot of details about his life. He talks about his struggles with alcohol addiction and drug use and just this incredible sorrow that he feels in his life because of structural problems in his personality, because of the way that alcohol just really continued to rob him of joy and to fill him with shame after bad things that he had done.

as well as struggling with the loss of his sister who had died from leukemia. Many of those elements, principally the alcoholism and the drug use are honestly things that I struggled with through high school. And this is no fault of my parents. This is no fault of the schools that I attended. I do wanna make that clear. This is all on me. But in high school, I did struggle with alcohol. So binge drinking on weekends that progressively got worse.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I felt this massive hole in my heart. I felt this massive loss of meaning and that things just don't really seem to be important. I really fell in with the kind of very common drinking culture that is pretty popular amongst high schoolers today. The binge drinking got progressively worse as my depression kind of...

led me to really trust in alcohol as some way of bringing me joy, which you can't find at the bottom of a bottle. The more that you feed the beast, the more that you feed your addictions and your vices, really the more control that they have over you. The more you feed the beast, the more food the beast demands. These sorts of self-destructive behaviors and tendencies tragically led to me attempting suicide in my sophomore year of college.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (28:44.34)

Winston Brady (29:07.262)
At that point in March of 2007, I felt as if there really wasn't any hope for me, and that if I continued down this path, I was just going to get worse. You know, like getting arrested more often, bringing more shame on my family, you know, getting in more trouble, and that there really wasn't any hope for me to change. I had some experience of Christianity, you know, going to church when I was very, very young. I had some semblance of like Bible stories.

In all sincerity though, the real experience of Christianity that I had came through my classical education and reading Dante's Inferno, reading Milton's Paradise Lost, and then just checking out the footnotes to various passages in the Bible that these poets were referring to. In my suicide attempt though, like having decided, resolved to go through with it, believing that the solution to my temporary problem was a permanent end to my life,

Soren Schwab (CLT) (29:42.973)

Winston Brady (30:04.11)
you know, believing that nothing would happen when I die, that I would just be bundled up into a void, that nothing would happen, I wouldn't have to face judgment for my sins. I decided to go through with this plan to fake a car accident. I drove well outside of William & Mary, where I attended school, and I was going to fake a car accident, crash my car in the woods. And you know, there too, like William & Mary, great private school, two parents still together today, you know, good family structure.

You know, it's just a tragedy the way that these sorts of harrowing depression just come upon a person and lead them to believe that the best thing that they can do is take their own lives. It's just, it's a tragedy. I think today, 132 people commit suicide each day, giving up on the hope for a better future in this way. It's just horrifying. In the car, though, I recognized that the non-existence of God was just too convenient for me. That...

you know, the little that I knew about Christianity, you know, I was really hoping that God didn't exist because in that way I wouldn't be judged for things that I had done. And to me, it just didn't seem like that was plausible. You know, it was just too convenient an idea. And so I tried to repent. And the opening lines of the Inferno where Evan says that, you know, God would be just in sending him to hell.

and that it's just too late for a sinner like him to repent. Those were the last words that I said before I crashed my car, before I swirred very sharply to the left in order to send my forerunner careening off into the woods in Charles City County, Virginia. The Lord graciously heard that prayer and gave me time to repent.

He gave me this, you know, he allowed me to live. He allowed me to continue walking and breathing. And in the next couple of weeks after my accident, I was taken to a hospital outside of Richmond, Virginia, the VCU Teaching Hospital. I started reading the Bible in the psych ward. It was the King James version only of the Bible. It was really hard to get through, but I tried. And I just, you know, I had this really profound insight realization.

Winston Brady (32:27.446)
that regardless of what the culture wants me to believe concerning Christianity, the existence of God, God does exist. There was something in the way that I survived this accident that for me personally was profound proof, profound truth, that God exists and that he's good and that he can be trusted.

I do have some injuries from my accident. I fractured five vertebrae in my lower back and I have a pretty scary scar across the top of my head. It's a good 13 inches. When I shaved my head two or three years ago, my students thought that I had brain surgery because it's kind of big, but those are the visible demonstrations of this, terrible thing that I did to myself in attempting suicide, but this wonderful gift of grace and mercy that God gave to me.

and allowing me to survive that attempt. This summer after the accident, I wandered into a Baptist church, heard the gospel preach, gave my life to Jesus, and started reading the Bible, a translation that was a little bit easier to read than the King James Version. And King James Version is beautiful poetry, beautiful poetry. But I just kept reading the Bible, asking people to read with me. And in all sincerity, that summer, when just really taking...

great stock of my life and what I want to do with it. I picked up old books that I had read, you know, junior year of high school, my humanities one class with my teachers at Landon. And I picked up the Inferno and I love the poetry in the imagery, but there was something profound about what Dante was doing, right? To interview people that had made this choice to not repent and to ask them questions about why they did that. And I started thinking about where would Stalin be?

if Stalin was in the Inferno, where would Hitler be if Hitler was in the Inferno? Where would he be in these circles here? And then I started thinking, where would I be if God didn't listen to that prayer and give me time to repent? And from there, the idea just drew, I'm sorry, from there, the idea just grew. Continual rewrites, writing chapters, researching, writing outlines, you know, in notebooks or in closets and old townhouses, like a...

Soren Schwab (CLT) (34:25.939)

Winston Brady (34:46.978)
and the old house where we used to live, but just allowing this idea to grow as far as what would be the best thing that I could do out of so harrowing a circumstance. And I think it would be to write a novel that would, Lord willing, encourage people to see the profound goodness of God, even in the midst of profound human struggles.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (35:08.752)
Well, thank you for sharing Winston and being so vulnerable there and praise be. But it. And I didn't know all the backstory, right. But when you read the book, I mean, it's. It shows that there's a lot of personal, spiritual, psychological, mental investment in the character of Evan. It shows. And we don't want to we don't want to give it away. But but I encourage you all to read it is not only beautifully written, but kind of given the current cultural moment in America.

versus, of course, the Florence of Dante's time period. And so the sins might be universal, but the application of those sins are a little bit different and certainly more applicable to a 21st century reader. So I'm not gonna give it away, even though I really want to. And can you believe in the 4th chapter of Who He Interviews? But you have to find out for yourself by reading the book. But one quick question that I want to ask you...

Winston Brady (35:40.865)

Soren Schwab (CLT) (36:07.444)
Dante of course had his Virgil. Talk to us about who Evans Virgil is and why you chose that literary character.

Winston Brady (36:18.286)
Well, so as you mentioned, Dante has Virgil lead him through the circles of the inferno. And Virgil was the preeminent poet of the Roman Empire. He writes that great epic, the Aeneid, and Dante really cut his teeth on reading poetry, reading Virgil's Aeneid. And so I think for Dante, he had a profound respect for Virgil. And he also saw himself perhaps in that grand literary tradition.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (36:37.256)

Winston Brady (36:47.266)
that went from Homer to Virgil, that Dante, I think, you know, in my estimation, it goes from Virgil to Dante, Dante to Milton, as far as like those really big preeminent poets that write books that really typify the age that they're written in, right? You can almost learn everything about the high middle ages and the early Renaissance in Italy by reading Dante's Inferno.

The same with reading verses in Eid or Homer's Iliad in the Odyssey. With my guide, I thought about this for a long time, but it has to be, it had to be Ernest Hemingway. So he, if for any listeners who aren't familiar, Ernest Hemingway is a giant of American literature. His short stories and novels are profound. He's known for inventing a style that's more like journalism, more like newspaper articles.

The iceberg theory, he tried to keep his prose relatively simple and stark, but each word is still imbued with profound meaning as to what Ernest is trying to get at. I think as far as American authors, like he's, you know, he may not be the best, but he's definitely in that top five of great American literary figures. Beyond that, Ernest Hemingway has profound significance to my own life. I can think of

visiting any number of bars that Ernest Hemingway frequented. In Terra Mina, Sicily, I got to go there when I was in college. There's a number of bars there in Terra Mina. And in Venice that I visited, there are photos of Ernest there having conversations with guests. I went on a really wonderful family trip in high school to Key West. And Ernest Hemingway lived there for a time. And his house is still there. And it's inhabited by just

dozens upon dozens of cats that have now taken over the property. And so that personal significance to me, I feel like has that same sort of carryover with Dante and Virgil. On the other hand, there are three things about his life personally that I feel like makes him the ideal guide. Um, one, he was very adventurous. He loved going on safari, fishing trips, getting as close to death as he possibly could, indeed studying it in a way that a few other individuals would dare to do.

Winston Brady (39:09.742)
Two, he struggled with alcohol addiction in the same way that I did. He drank pretty copiously throughout the whole of his life. And like me as well, he committed suicide. And so Ernest, as far as the struggles that I have, the struggles that he had are eerily similar. And in the years where I was struggling with alcohol, I was also reading his books and really enjoying the prose that he was able to put together.

the efforts that he could take a hospital stay or a fishing trip and just spin it into literary gold. Beyond that too, there's a profound sadness with his life that I think if he were to tell you on the other side, he would tell you that all the things that he really gave his life for, like his writing, are ultimately not worth it. His, you know, I think wishing that he was a better father, you know, that he spent more time with his kids.

that he spent more time pouring into them instead of perhaps chasing literary ambition or honestly the sort of hedonism that we see running through his life and in my own. If Ernest Hemingway could tell you all the things that he's learned down in the Inferno, and this is so many of the conversations in the book, he wrote books about staying in Spain, but he was far away from Spain. He wrote books about growing up.

in Michigan, but he was in Paris. And so perhaps, like he could see the significance of his life and perhaps the emptiness of a lot of the pursuits he gave his life to now that he's on the other side and he's given an insight and a perspective that tragically he can't make any use of, but the reader can if the reader really imbibes those sorts of lessons and seeks to act on them.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (41:01.396)
Wow, amazing. I visited Ketchum, Idaho not too long ago and I believe that's where he passed, where he committed suicide. So yeah, so again, everyone read the book, order the book. You can order it. Is it Fidelis Publishing, I believe, right?

Winston Brady (41:06.371)

Winston Brady (41:10.226)
Yeah, yeah.

Winston Brady (41:22.178)
Yeah, so it's discounted at Fidelis and that's just Right now there's a, actually no, the promo code will probably be gone, but you can, it's available at online retailers everywhere and discounted at

Soren Schwab (CLT) (41:24.596)

Soren Schwab (CLT) (41:38.56)
Wonderful, fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Winston. This was such a delightful and just raw and beautiful conversation. I do, of course, have one last question. We talked a lot about books already, but as you know, as a listener of Anchored, I'm gonna ask you about the one text or the one book that has been most impactful in your life. And I'm always saying it almost has to be the Inferno, I guess, but feel free to choose a different one.

Winston Brady (42:05.646)
I do have to go with the Inferno just for the beauty of Dante's imagery and poetry and the influence it's had on my own life. I've read a number of different translations of the book and I tried to learn medieval Italian so that I could read it in Dante's original language, but I just couldn't do it. But it would have to be that for the impact that it's had on my own life and I think just the wisdom that still carries through as you read it. You know.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (42:07.54)

Winston Brady (42:33.73)
Dante really had the same sorts of struggles that you and I have had. You know, like I know our struggles are very different, but there's something very universal in the way that a really great poet like Dante is able to put those down into language so that those words really stretch across the ages. So Dante, I have to go with Milton too for the same reasons, just because there's so many great lines from Paradise Lost that I still think about and chew over day to day.

Soren Schwab (CLT) (42:52.478)

Soren Schwab (CLT) (43:02.016)
Amazing. Well, thank you so much. Again, we're here with Winston Brady, the director of curriculum and Thales Press at Thales Academy and the author of Inferno. Winston, thank you so much for joining today. This was wonderful.

Winston Brady (43:15.938)
Thank you so much, Soren. It's been a pleasure.