A Wild Christianity.” Paul Kingsnorth considers what we can learn from the cave Christians and their rich legacy: “In a time when the temptation is always toward culture war rather than inner war, I think we could learn something from our spiritual ancestors. What we might learn is not that the external battle is never necessary; sometimes it very much is. But a battle that is uninformed by inner transformation will soon eat itself, and those around it. Why, after all, were the cave Christians so sought after? Because they were not like other people. Something had been granted to them, something had been earned, in their long retreats from the world. They had touched the hem. After years in the tombs or the caverns or the woods, their very unworldliness became, paradoxically, just what the world needed.”

What Monks Can Teach Us About Paying Attention.” Casey Cep has a marvelous review essay pondering the riches found in Jamie Kreiner’s book The Wandering Mind: What Medieval Monks Tell Us About Distraction: “Such careful study of the mind yielded gorgeous writing about it, and Kreiner collects centuries’ worth of metaphors for concentration (fish swimming peaceably in the depths, helmsmen steering a ship through storms, potters perfecting their ware, hens sitting atop their eggs) and just as many metaphors for distraction (mice taking over your home, flies swarming your face, hair poking you in the eyes, horses breaking out of your barn).”

America Has Gone Too Far in Legalizing Vice.” Matthew Loftus ponders the nature of virtue and reflects on how our laws should respond to human propensities to vice: “Shouldn’t responsible, independent adults be able to make decisions for themselves about how they spend their money or use their body? This seems appealing, and there certainly are well-informed adults who gamble and use marijuana judiciously. But focusing on these ideal cases and basing our laws on them disregards millions of people who suffer because of their addictions—and it obscures the underhanded tactics of companies who make money off the misery of addicts.”

I Need to Tell You About My Interesting Brother.” Ted Gioia shares a bit about what it was like growing up as Dana Gioia’s younger brother: “Dana and I shared just one class at Stanford, an Italian language course. I was 18 years old, and was curious to see how my older brother operated in a classroom. One day, he brought a guest visitor to our class, Ezra Pound’s daughter, who was also an Italian princess. Our professor was astounded—and so was I, needless to say. What kind of student hangs out with princesses and brings them to class? Only my brother Dana.”

Words Are Holy. So Why Don’t We Talk Like They Are? Paul Pastor urges readers to cherish words even in a culture that treats them as disposable goods: “today, we live in a crisis of language. Not only is the sacred nature of our words largely forgotten, but language is becoming degraded. In a world of significant social, ecological, and spiritual crisis, this may seem like a low priority. But healthy language, like clean air or water, is something we take for granted until it is gone. And if language falls, so do uncountable other things upon which human well-being depends.” If this argument resonates, Marilyn McEntyre’s Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies makes an extended case for words as a common good that must be cared for.

Rail Companies Blocked Safety Rules Before Ohio Derailment.” In the most detailed analysis that I’ve seen yet, David Sirota, Julia Rock, Rebecca Burns, and Matthew Cunningham-Cook explain how regulatory capture, prioritizing short-term returns for stockholders, and a general indifference to safety contributed to the recent train disaster: “Though the company’s 150-car train in Ohio reportedly burst into 100-foot flames upon derailing — and was transporting materials that triggered a fireball when they were released and incinerated — it was not being regulated as a “high-hazard flammable train,” federal officials told The Lever.

A New Drug Switched Off My Appetite. What’s Left?” Paul Ford describes his experience of going on a new weight-loss drug after years of trying to control his appetite and weight: “How long is it before there’s an injection for your appetites, your vices? Maybe they’re not as visible as mine. Would you self-administer a weekly anti-avarice shot? Can Big Pharma cure your sloth, lust, wrath, envy, pride? Is this how humanity fixes climate change—by injecting harmony, instead of hoping for it at Davos? Certainly my carbon footprint is much smaller these days. Are we going to get our smartest scientists together, examine the hormonal pathways, and finally produce a cure for billionaires?”

Microsoft’s AI Chatbot is Going off the Rails.” Gerrit De Vynck, Rachel Lerman, and Nitasha Tiku report on the odd and disturbing things that Bing’s new AI search bot has been telling people. Part of the problem is that the designers don’t really know what it might say: “The way large language models work makes them difficult to fully understand, even by the people who built them.”

The Prompt Box is a Minefield: AI Chatbots and Power of Language.” L.M. Sacasas writes about the dangerous effects these kind of chatbots can have on people, particularly people who are lonely and in need of friendship. Sacasas wisely concludes that “I remain foolishly committed to the idea that our best hope lies still in the cultivation of friendship and community through the practice of hospitality. . . . I recognize that this seems wholly inadequate as a response to the challenges we face, but I also think it is, in the literal sense of getting at the root (or radix) of things, the most radical solution we can pursue.”

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture


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