I spent the bulk of this past week in Nashville for RubyConf. I arrived late Sunday night, and flew home Wednesday afternoon. Having attended RailsConf for two years, my coworkers and I decided to mix things up this year and check out RubyConf instead. As much as I’ve enjoyed RailsConf, RubyConf proved to be a refreshing experience. There was much discussion around the Ruby language with little reference to the Rails framework.
Given the fact that I flew to California and Texas for two separate trips AND bought a house in the time since the last post, I think the gap of nearly three months is perfectly acceptable, which yes I know is a very familiar refrain of mine. Of course, it’s not like anyone’s monitoring this space. So, hi. I may be taking a risk by assigning a frequency and sequence to this post’s title, but it’s also arguably a healthy motivator since it’ll create an artificial sense of shame if I miss an entry.
So, Jenoa and I moved. I’m writing this from Charlottesville, VA. We made it. We drove the whole way, taking a total of 5 days and logging more than 2000 miles and over 40 hours of drive time. We watched the landscape change from from high-desert, to mountains, to plains, to hills, to dense forests. We stayed in New Mexico, two nights in Texas, and one night in Tennessee before arriving in Cville.
It feels like periodically I write these “it’s been a while, but been really busy and all you know how it goes” posts. That said, I feel like there’s some justification for the silence over the last few months. If you haven’t heard, Jen and I will be moving to Charlottesville, VA, where she’s accepted a role as College Grounds Minister at Christ Episcopal Church. Excitement and anxiety and sadness and joy and wonder have ensued.
In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Avram Alpert writes, Ideals of greatness cut across the American political spectrum. Supporters of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and believers in Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” for instance, may find themselves at odds, but their differences lie in the vision of what constitutes greatness, not whether greatness itself is a worthy goal. In both cases — and in most any iteration of America’s idea of itself — it is.
For those who know me, it’s no secret that I’m averse to social media and its black-box network effects. I think that much of the web as we currently experience it falls far short of its potential for meaningful and thoughtful communication. But I’m not here to belabor that point either. Despite platforms that manipulate attention, monetize surveillance, and design addictive interfaces, the web is also host to a lot of great thought and creativity.
I read a number of books this year, and as seems customary, I’ll share a few highlights. Since I’m traveling and don’t have my reading journal on hand, I’m sure I’m overlooking some. Nonetheless, here are a few that immediately spring to mind. The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis — Alan Jacobs Alan Jacobs explores the works of Simone Weil, C. S. Lewis, T.
From Joseph Ellis’s Founding Brothers: The political dialogue within the highest echelon of the revolutionary generation was a decade-long shouting match. And, Politics, even at the highest level in the early republic, remained a face-to-face affair in which the contestants, even those who were locked in political battles to the death, were forced to negotiate the emotional affinities and shared intimacies produced by frequent personal interaction. I suppose there’s an odd comfort in knowing that our polarized political climate is not a complete novelty.
So I finished Fleming Rutledge’s The Crucifixion today, and, yeah. I felt like I should write something about it, but I fear it’s hard to do it justice. That said, I’ll take a stab at it. At the risk of hyperbole, Fleming Rutledge has written what might be the most important Christian text so far of the 21st century. It’s a substantial tome, clocking in at over 600 pages and dense with footnotes (surprisingly one of the best things about it).
Following up on the last post’s thoughts, I am finding myself more and more fascinated by the discipline of simplicity. I think it was in the most recent episode of the Renovare podcast that I heard it suggested that the discipline of simplicity isn’t so much a discipline we do as one we inhabit. Such a notion makes sense when I expand my understanding of simplicity to be both an active thing and passive thing.
Here are a few quotes/links from Alan Jacobs and Austin Kleon, who are frequently in dialogue with one another, that have set the tone for my thoughts this week about a few things — namely blogging, information, and thinking. re-setting my mental clock – Snakes and Ladders > Curiously, though in a way logically, my escape from Twitter’s endless cycles of intermittent reinforcement and its semi-regular tsunamis has made me significantly calmer about my own future as a writer, in large part because it has re-set my mental clock.
It’s been a hectic couple of weeks, and I’ve done/experienced/read/thought about a few things that warrant their own posts, but I’ll fill them in here. My friend Bryant started his own blog. Additionally, my wife, Jenoa, has been blogging with increased frequency and done an excellent job of chronicling both our life and her thoughts. I’ve been enjoying Austin Kleon’s blog. Virtue in the Wasteland’s recent series on the Church and the desire for power have been especially thought-provoking.
A piece my best friend wrote was recently posted over at Mockingbird. (Trigger warning: this story recounts sexual abuse) No words of mine can do it justice. Here’s a brief glimpse: Hope sought me out in that place. It clothed me and gave me water. It bade me to follow and find rest. Hope didn’t require me to be clean. It didn’t require me to be well-behaved. It wasn’t contingent on my political standing or sexual orientation.
From Alan Jacobs’s essay, Reverting to Type: >In many respects, going back to the kinds of books I used to read has also meant going back to the kinds of reading habits I used to have. Just as there was a point in my life when I had to remind myself to grab that pencil, the time eventually came when I had to remind myself to leave it where it was and grasp the book (or the Kindle) in my two otherwise empty hands.
From Robert Farrar Capon’s recently republished marriage anti-advice book, Bed & Board: I became an old fogey young; I looked backward habitually and gladly. So, I think, did a good many of my generation. The real question therefore is: where did this love of the past come from? Well, I think it came from living just one age after the end of the modern era. I grew up reading ~Popular Science Monthly~ in the thirties.
So it’s been over a month. Hello again. That having been said, I suppose the fact that I travelled across the country and back twice in the same month more than accounts my silence here. Pittsburgh for RailsConf one week, NYC for Mockingbird the next. Two cities for two very different conferences. Both trips were a blast. I walked away from both with much to think about, and (hopefully) much to write about, especially Mockingbird.
From J.R.R. Tolkien’s, *The Hobbit*— ”If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” Those words are among the few spoken by Thorin Oakenshield as he lay on his deathbed. I recently finished re-reading The Hobbit and am currently working my way through The Lord of the Rings. It’s passages like that that make Tolkien’s more popular works resonate deeply with me.
So this “blogging consistently” thing is really hard. Anyway, hope you’ve had a good March. Mine was great, albeit hectic. Family visiting, friends getting married, wife starting new job at W+R Studios (yes, we work together now). All wonderful things, that sometimes mean neglecting other activities, like writing here. I was hoping to do some holy week reflections, but even then, the ideas aren’t necessarily restricted to holy week. I have a list of blog ideas, that will be related to things I read or thought about days or even weeks ago.
Seth Godin recently wrote, Role models are fine. But not when they get in the way of embracing our reality. The reality of not enough time, not enough information, not enough resources. The reality of imperfection and vulnerability. There are no movie stars. Merely people who portray them now and then. I always appreciate Seth Godin’s candor. Someone as successful and respected as he is could pitch their advice as a fool-proof framework for excellence and success in one’s work—indeed, many do.
Seven days in and March is proving to be a hectic month, full of good things, but full of things nonetheless. I haven’t allotted myself the time I normally do for ruminating. That said, I feel I ought to share/reflect on David Zahl’s reflection on Andrew Sullivan’s essay on America’s opioid epidemic. Admittedly, I haven’t read Sullivan’s piece in its entirety, but DZ’s thoughts on it are worth sharing nonetheless. There are lots of gems in there, but I thought this passage especially poignant.
I attempt to make a habit of blogging at least once per week, if not twice. Given that the last post was published nearly two weeks ago, it’s clear I did not meet last week’s goal. Oops. The last week was more hectic than normal, so I’m going to give myself some grace. I’ve brainstormed some what else I’d like to see on here. Given that I haven’t used Facebook in years, and that I recently left Twitter, I’m floating the idea of having a newsletter subscription that notifies you of a new post, or just sends the entire contents of the post straight to your inbox.
In Free of Charge, theologian Miroslav Volf writes, “Left unchecked, the slide away from generosity robs us of significant cultural achievements, on which our flourishing as individuals and communities depends” (15). The book was published back in ’05, before so many were aggressively thinkpiece-ing about political polarization, the deleterious effects of social media, fears of automation, etc. It was oddly prescient back then, and, having been written before the aforementioned hot topics were much of a thing, suggests that our current cultural malaise, real as it may be, is an issue of the human heart before all else; a spiritual problem that precedes a technological problem.
Andy Weir’s Artemis can best be described as an organized crime thriller on the moon. It’s quite a departure from his Mars-survival-blog, The Martian, but enjoyable nonetheless. Those who enjoyed his first book for its intricate technical aspects might find themselves wanting when reading Artemis. The details and descriptions are there, but the plot is what drives the narrative, not the engineering. Nonetheless, I enjoyed living in the head of protagonist Jazz Bashara.
I’m starting to become less patient with nostalgia. I get it. I enjoy playing Goldeneye and revisiting Nickelodeon cartoons. I remember when X-Men and Batman Begins were released, and they heralded exciting new possibilities that didn’t feel like they were being rehashed every summer. But at the same time, many of the people I know who thrive on nostalgia, seem hell-bent on just rehashing the past. A complaint I recently heard about Star Wars: The Last Jedi was that it was just Disney trying to make money on new characters that “no one cares about”.
Aside from blogging here, I’ve been trying to build my writing habit by working on a short story. I wrote some short stories while in college, and thoroughly enjoyed it. My best friend, Collin, writes quite a bit. He credits me with initially inspiring him to write, but he has since far surpassed me in quantity of output, and, I would argue, quality. Although he doesn’t code, he said he imagined storytelling and programming to be similar disciplines, or for there at least to be an overlap in skills and practice.