Shira Ovide: “This will sound weird coming from a professional tech writer: Technology will not end a pandemic. People will.” I’ve written about this a zillion times, but once more: this is the falsest of false dichotomies. If a successful vaccine is developed — and pray God that that happens — it will be a great benefit to humankind arising from people using technology.
Albert Camus once wrote that the attitude of the French intelligentsia towards the pieds noirs — the ethnic French in Algeria — was “You go ahead and die, that’s what we deserve.” That is now what French law is saying to France’s Jews — but even more bluntly.
Watching all these big sports clubs scrambling to appease the Chinese regime, and punish the coaches and players who don’t bow and scrape — Arsenal being the most recent of these — I find myself singing, “If Adolf Hitler flew in today / They’d send a limousine anyway.”
My preferred pronouns? None. You should use nouns only when referring to or addressing me.
If you had told me in January that the best article about Christianity I’d read all year would be in the New York Review of Books…. And if you don’t need to wipe away the tears after reading it, you’re stronger than I am.
My colleague Philip Jenkins asks: “What are the most influential Christian books of the past decade?” I think the answer to that question is: There aren’t any. In our moment Christians are not influenced by books, at all.
Just remember, I’m busting my hump reading and writing books so y’all can Netflix & chill. I’m not saying that anyone needs to thank me but I’m also not not saying it.
My beloved is in Prague right now and the evidence suggests that it is hard to take a bad photo there.
This is encouraging by Adam Silver. Maybe that NBA League Pass is not out of the question after all?
A couple of months ago I told my son that this year, for the first time, I would definitely be buying NBA League Pass. Now? No. I’m not standing on definitive principle; it’s simply that thinking about the league leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The two most important figures in the NBA, Adam Silver and LeBron James, have issued their warnings against the “consequences” of critiquing the Chinese regime. We now know that if Beijing rained bombs onto Hong Kong not one word of criticism would pass the lips of anyone in the NBA. And that’s not easy for me to forget.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Kevin Williamson before the whole Atlantic fiasco, but since he has returned to National Review he’s been writing one superb piece after another. Here’s the most recent example.
(Of course, the problem for me in all this is that I am as implicated in Apple’s ecosystem as Apple is implicated in the Chinese economy. If Apple’s policies don’t change, then I hope I will have the courage to buy no more Apple products. My current Apple devices are fairly new, so that leaves me with four years or so to find an alternative. Maybe my fifth time committing to Linux will be the one that finally sticks, but who knows.)
Another topic I’ve written about frequently here — though with less pleasure than I’ve had writing about Ruskin — is what evangelicalism was and is and (perhaps) shall be. I have a new short essay at theatlantic.com that doesn’t add a lot that’s new, but does have the virtue of calling attention to my friend Tommy Kidd’s new book.
Reading this story, I find myself remembering that a few years ago my wife sat next to Bart Starr on a Southwest flight. They chatted the whole trip, and several times he said, “I wish you could meet my wife. You’d love her. She’s so wonderful.”
Many of my friends find Donald Trump intolerable. I tell them, “He is a symptom, not a cause, of what you dislike and fear.” It’s past time for leaders of the conservative movement to acknowledge that they’re part of the problem, promoting a right-leaning liberalism that is cruel, soulless, and lacking in civic nobility. It is time for religious and social conservatives to speak up and take the lead.
Amen! So let’s get out there and demonstrate our commitment to true leadership by … attacking David French!
Quick addendum to my previous post: As much as I am convinced that hegemonic liberalism will never be fair to even vaguely traditionalist religious believers, I’m not convinced that I personally would be any better off in Ahmari’s Utopia of Enforced Orthodoxy. I joked to a friend today that I’ve been able to get my hands on the initial sketches by the staff of First Things for the social order they’ll impose when they take over and enforce [their] orthodoxy and it looks like this:
At least I think I’m joking. I’m truly not sure whether hegemonic liberalism or Orthodox Utopia would be more likely to let me keep my children. But hegemonic liberalism is happening now and Ahmari’s vision (like that of the Catholic integralists, if there’s a difference) hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in Hell.
I first saw this as “Biblical Safety Glasses” and now I’m thinking that there should definitely be such a thing: spectacles that protect readers from offensive or overly challenging passages in the Bible.
This essay by James Carroll arguing for the abolition of the Catholic priesthood — and, along the way, almost as an afterthought, the whole Magisterium — is a good reminder of why it can be so hard to have a productive debate with progressives (whether religious or political or both). In Carroll’s telling, the complete transformation of the Church along lines that he prefers is (a) absolutely necessary, (b) absolutely inevitable, and (c) cost-free — everything that he hates about there Church will disappear while everything that he likes will remain. To someone like Carroll, resistance to his plan is not only futile, it’s pointless at best and at worst wicked. What’s to debate?
Before you take seriously Bret Easton Ellis’s claim that millennials don’t read, look at the tag on this post and read the other posts with that tag. A consistent theme of this kind of discourse is that the people with the most confident opinions about millennials and Gen Z’ers don’t spend much time around the people they have such confident opinions about. Which is also true of every other person who likes to make summative judgments about vast cohorts.
Amazon’s Project Kuiper, with its plan to put thousands of satellites into low-earth orbit to provide internet access to people who don’t have it, reminds me of the scheme by the Bob and Ray Laboratories to build the Bob and Ray Orbiting Satellite and sell advertising space on it. To those who asked whether a satellite might be too far away for the billboards on it to be readable, Bob and Ray replied that they planned for it to orbit 28 feet above the earth’s surface.
“Entering his eightieth decade he hasn’t lost his taste for that whiff of adventure, either in his walking or his writing.” — from this profile of Ian MacEwan. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thought him a day over 600.
This reflection by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson makes me think that churches should regularly run Bible studies specifically on the parts of Scripture that never make it into the lectionary.
Reading this Vulture piece, I took a while to grasp that, for the musicians interviewed, touring — which used to be what bands had to do to make money their records didn’t make — is a net loser. These people are basically paying to go on tour.
What if the UMBC loss was Virginia’s last major letdown before the dawn of a dynasty, the fuel for a fire that burned brighter than any other in college basketball? What if that was the moment that freakishly bad things stopped happening to Virginia in March and freakishly good things started happening instead? What if the Book of Job ended with Job dunking while Satan wept during the “One Shining Moment” montage? (Job’s garbage friends, who argued that God would not punish an innocent man and therefore that Job must have sinned to deserve so much pain in life, wrote the original “Virginia’s system explains why they lost to UMBC” takes.)
I’m a big fan of using Biblical narrative to explain sports.
- The one central and indispensable axiom of metaphysical capitalism is “I am my own” — I am a commodity wholly owned and operated by myself in service to my own interests, as defined by me. I am my own store of capital.
- Therefore, the socio-political order is to be evaluated strictly in terms of whether it helps or hinders my autonomy.
- Also therefore, questions of political economy are empirical and pragmatic rather than dogmatic. Should I determine that the pursuit of metaphysical capitalism is best aided by economic socialism, then a socialist I shall become.
An addendum to the previous post: Not many people on the left seem to realize it, but the metaphysical capitalism I described in my previous post is fundamentally incompatible with a socialist political economy. According to the gospel of “I am my own,” everything around me — the social world and the material world, the whole shebang — is best described as a body of resources for me to exploit in my quest for self-realization. But “exploiting,” then, is precisely what I will do, and if we all do that then the world around us will be devastated — or rather, further devastated. This is why the details (such as they are) of the Green New Deal are so fanciful: its crafters have to imagine a future in which we save the planet without circumscribing our own liberties and possibilities. It’s a perfect illustration of something Paul Farmer said a long time ago now: that white liberals “think all the world’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves.” That hasn’t changed, and won’t change. But if the left can find a way to combine metaphysical capitalism with a socialist political economy it will sweep all before it.
ICYMI, I have a newsletter now.
I left Twitter because I watched people who spent a lot of time on Twitter get stupider and stupider, and it finally occurred to me that I was probably getting stupider too. And after some reflection I decided that I couldn’t afford to get any stupider.
A brief addendum to the previous post:
- It goes a long way towards explaining why in my writing I so often try to resurrect abandoned metaphors and neglected or forgotten terms. These are not necessarily better than the languages that are dominant today, but they are different and than in itself is valuable.
- Difference is valuable in itself because of a phenomenon that has never been described better than Kenneth Burke described it decades ago in his great essay on “Terministic Screens”: every vocabulary brings certain aspects of reality into clear view while simultaneously screening out others.
Re: the previous post, I often wonder whether the people who claim to reject proceduralism
(a) believe they can win and win forever;
(b) don’t have that confidence but are so miserable under the current regime that they’d rather blow it up than allow it to stay alive — like Tolkien’s Denethor, if they can’t have things the way they prefer they will have nought; or
(c) deep down inside, don’t think they can blow it up, don’t think they can even put a real dent in it, but love the posture of radicalism.
Just one more quick thought about yesterday’s post: I’ve done this kind of thing before, but usually by trying to delete Twitter altogether. This time I’m continuing to use Twitter to share links, but I am making it very difficult to look at Twitter. And that seems to work much better for me.
I’m already getting some emails in response to my earlier post, and they’re incredibly generous and kind. The message tends to be: Your writings do make a difference, so please write that book! Again, that’s amazingly kind, and God bless y’all for the support. But at the risk of sounding totally ungrateful and churlish, I have to admit that that’s just the response I was afraid I would get. Afraid, because that’s a message that encourages me to consider results and effect — the kinds of considerations that are always subject to counter-evidence, and to unhealthy externalizations of the motives for writing. What I need instead is to think — and to take plenty of time to think — of what I need to do, of what projects I myself most completely believe in. Simply put: I am past the point in my career at which I can write books because other people want them. So if you would like for me to keep writing books, and if you would I bow before you, then maybe instead of exhorting me you might pray for me? If you did I would be even more in your debt.
“We men have an important but-as-yet-unknown mission.” Can’t wait to find out what it is.
When a famous person commits suicide, there are roughly ten million words of sympathy and pity for that person to every one word of sympathy and pity for the family, friends, and lovers left behind. It would be nice if that proportion could be adjusted just a little. Even if you think (as I do not) that our lives are our own to dispose of as we wish, and even if you believe (as I do) that people who take their own lives are often in a state of horrific agony, suicide is very rarely a victimless act.
This morning after church we stopped at Milo All Day to pick up kolaches, a cinnamon roll, a pain au chocolat, and, of course, biscuits. I told Teri to try the biscuits first, and after about three bites she said, ‘That may be the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.” If not, it’s pretty darn close. (Also, we have now eaten our week’s quota of carbs.)
“I don’t like the present,” he said. “But I didn’t like the past, either.”