Conversion, Catan, and Vinyl

Photo by George W. Ackerman

Arcs of Life.” Matthew Loftus considers the claim that all suffering is bad and should be eliminated: “Yet taking this dictum and making it into a law is at the root of many evils. What if the pain can’t be fixed? How does the Baconian project bring us to see the suffering it can’t relieve?” Instead of seeking to eliminate all suffering, Loftus enjoins us to seek ways to share the suffering of others and offer them our companionship in the midst of pain.

In Search of Social Justice for Women.” Josephine Bartosch reviews new books by Mary Harrington and Victoria Smith and concludes, “Both these incisive and thought-provoking books explore how society deals with infertile women — either those who arrest their fertility with hormones or those with the temerity to grow old. The flip side of the hellish progressive misogyny outlined in both books is love.”

Jewish and Christian.” Nadya Williams traces her Ukrainian-Jewish family’s roots, recounts her conversion to Christianity, and ponders the ways that past generations form the present: “Generations of Jewish belief and practice, stretching back in some form to antiquity, came to an end. But the sense of loss they experienced continues on with the generations that came after, including my own.”

Mars Hill Audio Journal.” As usual, Ken Myers has put together a rich issue of interviews. I’m drawing Porchers’ attention to this one in particular as it features several regulars around here: Allan Carlson, Steven Knepper, Norman Wirzba, and our very own Matt Stewart.

The Ends of Worlds: Living With the Inevitable in Paul Kingsnorth’s Buckmaster Trilogy.” Rhys Laverty explores Kingsnorth’s fiction at length, and he brilliantly probes the tensions that these novels dramatize: “If we were to cast Kingsnorth’s apocalyptic obsession in the form of a question, it may be this: what happens to people when they feel their world is ending? This question is a helpful rubric for Kingsnorth’s spiritual Buckmaster trilogy.”

Our Struggle to Concentrate is Nothing New.” Michael Ledger-Lomas reviews Caleb Smith’s Thoreau’s Axe: Distraction and Discipline in American Culture and considers the long human conversation over how we ought to attend: “These anxious souls seem to resemble us in their yearning to live in the moment, even if they never had to hide a Twitter password or shut up smartphones in a drawer. Yet these appearances are deceptive. This ‘genealogy of distraction’ is instructive precisely because its figures had different, perhaps deeper, worries than ours.”

As Black Educators, We Endorse Classical Studies.” Angel Adams Parham and Anika Prather argue that the classics are for everyone: “In this increasingly polarized debate, both sides reveal an astonishing lack of historical understanding combined with a lamentable lack of imagination. Have the classics and classical education at times been used to exclude and oppress? They certainly have. Is exclusion and oppression innate to an education steeped in the history and literature of the Mediterranean crossroads? Certainly not.”

What I Learned about America at 3 Miles per Hour.” Neil King Jr. describes his saunter from Washington D.C. to NYC through some of America’s storied countryside: “Our country’s history is best seen on foot, in its gritty specifics, day after day, in the contours of the canals and railways and cemeteries we have built going back to our earliest years. A walker can examine our past and present up close and come to some hazy conclusion over where we might be heading, not unlike Alexis de Tocqueville and Charles Dickens and so many others did when wandering similar byways during another uneasy patch of our history.”

Anatomy of a Multi-Million Dollar Colonial Carbon Project in Kenya.” Gatu wa Mbaria details how the international carbon economy is harming a local community in Kenya: “The entire project can be seen as one that exploits and grossly interferes with the lives of tens of thousands of pastoralists. As the project unfolded, the communities have been increasingly losing control of their lands and the power to determine how to use it.”

On Vinyl.” Rebecca Altman traces the history and production of plastics and the many ecological and human costs this industry exacts: “Plastics is a system held up by toxics. . . . The East Palestine disaster makes plain just how many communities are enveloped by plastics and have experienced both routine releases and environmental disasters linked to its production.”

We Settled for Catan.” Ian Bogost tries to articulate the significance of Klaus Teuber’s Settlers of Catan game in the wake of the game designer’s death: “Why did Catan become so popular? Not because the game is good. Look, Catan is fine, but both connoisseurs and amateurs tend to tolerate it more than love it. That’s the game’s secret: Teuber fell upon a design that every kind of player—geeks, kids, your mother—could stomach playing.”

Buried on the Homestead.” Ryan Hanning describes how living on a farm introduces children to the reality of death: “I buried my youngest daughter’s yearling goat this morning. Despite our best efforts, death always seems to find a way. It is an ever-present reminder that life is short and surprisingly fragile and that we can’t control as much as we would like.”

College is for Lovers.” Sarah Clark reviews Alex Sosler’s new book, Learning to Love, and commends its vision of liberal arts education: “At every point, Learning to Love strives to meet its readers where they are and offer them a hearty welcome to the world of learning, without making them feel the lack of what they don’t already know.”

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