“What is Happening at Spring Arbor University?” I was informed this past week that this year will be my last at Spring Arbor University. I don’t have much to say about that for now, so I’ll let John Fea ask some pertinent questions and move on to other matters.
“Where Do Republicans Go From Here?” David Brooks surveys the post-Trump Republican landscape and sees some interesting trends. He also gives a shout-out to the “Front Porch Republicans [who celebrate] small towns and local communities.” (Recommended by Jeff Polet.)
“Race & Anti-fragility: Wendell Berry’s ‘The Hidden Wound’ at Fifty.” Joshua Hochschild reflects on Berry’s first book on race and puts it in conversation with the current crop of anti-racist books:
There are lessons here for today’s race-awareness advocates, as well as for their critics. Berry insists that racism is a serious problem, and that it must be discussed; but the abstract ministrations of pundits, sensitivity trainers, and fragility consultants, no matter how well-intentioned, often fail because, coming from outside, they do not participate in the ongoing life of a particular place. The healing steps Berry advocates can’t be captured in a campaign or a tweet, much less in a human-resources certification module.
“This Chef Is Buying Land To Help Black Farmers Preserve Their Foodways.” Stephanie Gravalese reports on the efforts of Adrian Lipscombe, the co-owner of a bakery in Wisconsin, to purchase land for Black farmers. As Lipscombe explains, “It was instilled in me that land equals security, freedom and ownership and part of the nation.”
“What Vermont and Its History Might Teach the Nation About Handling the Coronavirus.” Bill McKibben considers why Vermont has weathered the coronavirus so well: “Vermonters entered the pandemic with remarkably high levels of social trust. Only thirty-eight per cent of Americans say they mostly or completely trust their neighbors, but a 2018 Vermont survey found that seventy-eight per cent of residents think that “people in my neighborhood trust each other to be good neighbors”; sixty-nine per cent of Vermonters said that they knew most of their neighbors, compared with twenty-six per cent of Americans in general.”
“Want a Good Job? Major in Philosophy.” Kristina Grob notes that despite the myth of the unemployable philosophy major, philosophy actually prepares graduates for many professions. And its value extends beyond increasing one’s earning potential: “If more schools were more willing to live up to their mission statements, rather than rejecting them because in tough times ‘all bets are off,’ we would see a doubling-down on the fields that constitute the liberal arts—all of them.”
“Living Tree Bridges In A Land Of Clouds.” Prasenjeet Yadav traveled to northeast India to take remarkable photographs of “jing kieng jri,” bridges made out of living tree roots trained together over many years.
“Ammonium Nitrate—The Terrorist’s Bomb Ingredient.” Beirut’s tragic explosion is, among other things, a reminder of Fritz Haber’s fraught legacy: fertilizer and explosives are two sides of the same coin. Ryan Morrison quotes one expert who sees such accidents as the unavoidable cost of modern life: “We wouldn’t have this modern world without explosives, and we wouldn’t feed the population we have today without ammonium nitrate fertilizer.”
“Granola.” In this month’s edition of her newsletter, Gracy Olmstead explores the contours of nostalgia.
“Homegrown: How Small Food Processors are Building a More Resilient Montana Food System.” COVID-19 outbreaks have shut down large meat processing facilities and drawn attention to the dangerous centralization of our food supply. Emily Stifler Wolfe talks with ranchers and food processors in Montana who are trying to take advantage of this new awareness to build local processing capacity and markets.
“A Producerist Manifesto.” B. Duncan Moench draws on Christopher Lasch to outline a provocative alternative to a growth-based economy: “In order to move away from a growth-oriented economy, as they call for, we’ll need just two small things: an entirely new political philosophy and system of political economy to match it.”
“When the Other Has Wings.” Aarik Danielsen reviews Amy Alznauer’s The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor and ponders what he and his young son can learn from the Georgian author’s life and work: “O’Connor, unfazed by the blemishes she saw in other people, would be the first to admit that her own blemishes must be reckoned with as well. Like chickens, she seized us by the neck and trained us to stare – at our neighbors and ourselves in the mirror.”
“The ‘Cancelling’ of Flannery O’Connor?” Angela Alaimo O’Donnell attempts to answer a difficult question: “How is it possible that O’Connor, a devout Catholic who embraced her vocation as a Catholic as passionately as she embraced her vocation as a writer, could be ‘cancelled’ by a Catholic university, and, effectively, her own Church?”
“David Jones: The Mark of a Sacramentalist.” Scott Beauchamp meditates on time and sacrament in the work of Homer and David Jones: “Perhaps . . . one of the redemptive functions of literature [is] to return us to the life that slips away and give us a chance to recognize each other’s wounds.