When Tyler Blanski ’06 was a student at Hillsdale, Matthew Gaetano, professor of history and fellow student, said that Blanski probably didn’t see himself writing multiple books, including his latest, “An Immovable Feast: How I Gave Up Spirituality for a Life of Religious Abundance.”
“Believe me, I was extremely unremarkable,” Blanski said.
But Blanski said he remembers Gaetano’s words that he had a truly “liberal mind” and would go places. As a slow learner, Blanski said the praise from an accomplished student whom he respected had a profound effect.
“It changed my life,” Blanski said “It gave me the fuel I needed to keep going.”
Arriving at Hillsdale as a freshman, Blanski was a self-proclaimed hipster who sported dreadlocks, had a job at an organic food co-op, and had recently graduated from a progressive school for artists in Minneapolis. He said that on his college visit, he was instantly enchanted, having never seen anything like it. The idea of a Western heritage, something inherited, was completely new to him.
As was Catholicism.
When he was in Professor of History Bradley Birzer’s Western Heritage course, Blanski said he noticed that Birzer talked about Catholics as if they were common, drawing from Blanski an uneducated response that Catholicism was a thing of the past. Birzer leaned against his desk and engaged Blanski in conversation.
“He so patiently listened to me in my ignorance,” he said. “Dr. Birzer changed my life.”
Birzer said he remembers that Blanski had courage and engaged well in class.
“When I needed someone to discuss something, he would take chances,” Birzer said. “That’s the mark of a good person.”
Blanski records his time at Hillsdale in “An Immovable Feast,” which recounts his conversion from an Evangelical to a Catholic, a journey influenced by his education as a religion major and the exposure to different facets of Christianity at Hillsdale.
“I think Tyler exemplifies this sort of neoplatonic ascent,” Gaetano said, “Where he’s always looking for something, falling in love with books, with girls — and then, of course he is now married with children, so that had its own trajectory. But that led him to this deep understanding of union with God, and he never gave up on not just educating himself and on a lifetime of learning but on a search for wisdom.”
This insatiability shows in his many creative endeavors. Not just a writer, Blanski has founded a record label and recorded a folk album. He wrote most of the songs alongside fellow student Patrick Whalen while still at Hillsdale. After college, he helped publish a couple magazines in Minneapolis.
“Without Hillsdale, I would never have been able to write the books I’ve written, the music I’ve produced, none of it would have happened without Hillsdale,” he said.
Post-graduation, when Blanski was a hipster in tight jeans (when they were still cool, he adds), Blanski started dating Brittany, to whom he is now married. Though Tyler was “a product of Hillsdale” while Brittany was a politically-active liberal and not a Christian,
Blanski told his sister he needed to date a girl and found that his whole family thought he and Brittany would be perfect for each other. He called her. They made dinner and read poetry.
“It was common and weird and beautiful,” he said.
Now a mother of two, and expecting the couple’s third child, Brittany Blanski is “wonderfully conservative” and still engaged with politics, Blanski said.
Before they were together, Blanski discovered Anglicanism after “stumbling into Dr. Wilson’s Anglo-Catholic church.”
“I was blown away,” he said. “It was so beautiful.”
Learning more about the Anglican church, Blanski studied for ordination as an Anglican priest, learning about the church fathers and the Christian tradition, when, just as he was about to be ordained as a diaconate, he and Brittany chose to convert to Catholicism, leaving him with no career plan. Now he’s “entrenched in business,” he said.
With his writing, he said he didn’t wonder about how well it would be received, and, while he’s honored by the success, he didn’t anticipate it. He said that all that matters when writing is whether it communicates clearly and encourages people who are suffering.
“When I was writing “An Immovable Feast,” I had this dream that someone at Hillsdale is cozying up with it in their dorm room,” he said. “If it changes the way they go to Mass, drink a beer, or even the kind of highlighter they use, I would die happy. But I think I would want to make a few more babies first.”
Gaetano said while he was personally studying in graduate school to be a writer and scholar, Blanski wrote a couple books, making intellectual developments outside of school.
“That the kind of courage that it took for him to think out loud in public is something that I didn’t have,” he said, “and I don’t think I have now.”
He expressed appreciation for the way Blanski has led his life since Hillsdale.
“I can see that kind of restless, boundless spirit seeking rest,” he said, “this kind of spirit of a lover, can only find at least a taste of that rest in the deepening of his faith.”