No More ‘Normal.’ How to Live after the COVID Apocalypse.” I reflect on the themes of our upcoming conference and Chris Arnade’s book in an opinion piece for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Do make plans to join us next month in Grove City. We’re looking forward to a great day of learning and conversation and fellowship

Education as the Fullness of Life.” Jeff Polet offers a cutting critique of the state of American higher ed. But these are a dime a dozen these days—what sets this essay apart is its vision for an education rooted in beauty, relationships, and a love of learning: “It is now more important than ever that liberal arts colleges rethink what they are and what they are doing and work to create alternative modes of community.”

The Meaning of Happiness.” David Weinberger reviews How and How Not to Be Happy by J. Budziszewski. He concludes that “chasing [feelings] is no recipe for happiness. Rather, reversing the formula is closer to the truth: Pursuing what is good ends up bringing about positive feelings.”

The Compliant College Classroom.” Lee Trepanier delves into the reasons why his syllabus grows longer every year: “Without something like Aristotle’s virtue of prudence to link the situational reality of students with the theoretical thinking of knowledge, the college syllabus just becomes longer with every passing year, cramming in ever more therapeutic policies and standardized practices.”

Good Henry Co. Farmland Should Not be Sacrificed to Bourbon Tourism.” Wendell Berry speaks in opposition to a proposed industrial bourbon operation in Henry County: “We are asked, moreover, to abandon this farmland and the care of it to the absentee proprietorship of a large corporation dedicated to increasing the wealth of its already wealthy investors in distant places. We are asked also to prefer a too-large, absentee, nonessential enterprise to the homegrown, thriving small farm of the Monroe family and all that it means and promises for the longterm good health of our land and our economy.”

The C.D.C. Continues to Lead From Behind.” Ross Douthat articulates the crisis of confidence that public health officials have brought upon themselves: “Because speaking for myself, as a citizen with a personal interest in medical controversy, when I read the kind of blathering, newspeak-infused monkeypox advisories that Barro highlights, all I can think is: I can never trust anything these people say again.”

Careful How You Bring Trump Down.” Shadi Hamid responds to the commentary around the FBI seizing documents from Mar-a-Lago: “The liberal-left commentary and coverage of Mar-a-Lago-Gate has been predictably disappointing. They are so sure that they are right, and that certainty makes me nervous. There is no reason that Democrats should celebrate this recent turn of events, even if the FBI’s actions are entirely justified. Lamentation would be more appropriate.”

How to Fix Food Supply Chains? Make Them More Local.” Amy Yee reports on a promising program in Illinois: “the Farm to Food Bank project shores up local supply chains by creating another market for local growers, while also eliminating food waste and relieving hunger.”

Lawyers with Brain Chip Implants will be Better, Faster and Cheaper.” Jonathan Ames explains that some are looking into creating superlawyers by embedding chips into people’s brains: “No longer will teams of solicitors be required to pore over complicated merger contracts; one super-lawyer with an embedded chip will be able to scan years of precedents and acres of background material in a fraction of the time.” As I am wont to ask, what could go wrong? Unfortunately at least some of the people considering these technologies appear incapable of responding to such concerns: “Kion Ahadi, the society’s director of strategy, acknowledged that implanting chips would raise concerns. ‘Any such fusion poses interesting and complex ethical and legal issues,’ he said.” Sounds like the potential for more billable hours.

The Art of Choosing What to Do With Your Life.” Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey offer a diagnosis of and treatment plan for the false sense of limitless choice that colleges often present to their students: “Colleges today often operate as machines for putting ever-proliferating opportunities before already privileged people. Our educational system focuses obsessively on helping students take the next step. But it does not give them adequate assistance in thinking about the substance of the lives toward which they are advancing. Many institutions today have forgotten that liberal education itself was meant to teach the art of choosing, to train the young to use reason to decide which endeavors merit the investment of their lives.” (Recommended by Tom Bilbro.)

Living By Kairos Time in a Chronos World.” Joshua Pauling grapples with our flattened sense of time and considers what might be done to enrich it: a “Christian longing to unite kairos time and chronos time many centuries ago, unintentionally set in motion a trajectory that has come to overshadow kairos with nothing but chronos in our daily lives.”

California’s Giant Sequoias are Burning Up. Will Logging Save Them?” Joshua Partlow outlines the debate among ecologists and foresters over the best way to manage sequoia forests on the drying slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

Doubt Be Not Proud.” Justin Ariel Bailey tries to articulate the power of Frederick Buechner’s witness and writing: “I know of no writer other than Buechner who captures what I might call the incredulity of joy—a doubt-tinged hope that insists on ‘whistling in the dark,’ as he put it.”

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I won’t lie: this is something I regularly look forward to these days. Sent a good handful to my tablet to read offline.

    That said, Jeffrey, do you have any resources for people like me who feel trapped in this place of wanting to take thinkers like Berry, Kingsnorth, yourself, and others seriously regarding creation and technology, but also recognize… Holy crap, where do I even begin? I feel like there’s just so much to undo, I don’t even know where to start, which is overwhelming in itself.

    • Yes, I feel this often! But I also find wisdom in the small, grounded approach that, for instance, Berry articulates in “Think Little” or Kingsnorth advocates and practices. I had a good conversation about some of these tensions with some of the folks at the Doomer Optimism podcast a couple weeks ago; I think that podcast will be out in the next week or two, and it might be of interest as well. But “where to begin” is one of those questions to live out a little at a time rather than come up with a trite answer.

  2. “But “where to begin” is one of those questions to live out a little at a time rather than come up with a trite answer.”

    This is where I’ve landed for the time being, although I don’t find myself wanting to variate. If we can’t handle the small things, trying to go “big picture” === falling on our faces.

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