This will be the last Water Dipper for a few weeks. I’ll be taking some time off from email and the Internet. I plan to resume the Water Dipper in August, after, I hope, completing the penultimate chapter of my current book project. FPR will continue publishing new essays while I’m away under the able leadership of Matt Stewart.

Generations After Slavery, Georgia Neighbors Find Freedom and Repair in Christ.” Melissa Morgan Kelley describes how neighbors are working to repair relationships in their rural community: “In an age of pitched debate and hot takes, the Mosleys’ steadfast, loving engagement stands in sharp relief. . . . To this end, the Mosley and Scoggins (Marshall’s father’s side) families founded Hester’s Heritage Foundation in 2021 to support Black history preservation, education, and farming initiatives. The foundation hosts groups at the farm to preserve enslaved people’s unmarked graves, conduct discussions, and advocate for the prosperity of Black farmers, who currently make up only 1 percent of farmers nationwide.”

Some Farmers Are Skipping Tomatoes and Eggplants. Their Reasons May Surprise You.” Katherine Kornei reports on a fascinating trend among some small farmers: “rising summer temperatures, the realities of aging bodies, and financial considerations are driving some farmers like the Burgers to embrace the challenges of running a business centered more on celeriac than heirloom tomatoes. And there are plenty of benefits to shifting away from summertime crops, farmers say: They’re able to work fewer grueling hours and in less extreme temperatures, spend more time with their families, and sell their produce with less competition.” (Recommended by Brian Miller.)

How Do You Replace an Elite?” Ross Douthat has one of the more thoughtful responses to Patrick Deneen’s new book that I’ve yet seen: “In a sense, what Deneen wants is no more than what most American conservatives since at least William F. Buckley Jr. have desired — the replacement of America’s present elite caste, its post-Protestant Ivy League-educated liberal mandarins, with a ruling class that’s religious rather than secular, oriented toward conservation and tradition rather than a dream of constant progress, connected to the common good of ordinary Americans rather than imagining itself as a cosmopolitan and post-American elite.”

One Island in Time.” I review Eugene Vodolazkin’s new novel, A History of the Island, and suggest it provides the proper perspective from which to understand the significance of the news from Russia—and anywhere else, for that matter: “The events reported above the fold may not merit the weight we place on them. Rather, it’s the events that concern the least, the last, and the lost that resonate throughout the cosmos. Vodolazkin not only mocks the self-important foolishness of the people who think they shape history. He also points to the oft-hidden events that may matter more profoundly.”

The Last Mystery.” J.C. Scharl also commends Vodolazkin’s new novel: “how exactly does love change history? Vodolazkin knows better than to say, for that is really the last mystery, one that demands our whole lives to find out.”

The Paradox at the Grocery Store.” Adam Fleming Petty draws on Barry Schwartz’s classic The Paradox of Choice to praise Aldi: “It seems what we could really use at the grocery store is not more choice, but less. Not freedom to choose, but freedom from choice. I treasure a shopping experience that doesn’t demand that I make a complex decision at every step.”

American Animals.” Elizabeth Stice takes a tour to reflect on some of America’s iconic animals: “Wild animals can help us better understand our environment, and our relationships with them give us another lens for viewing our history.”

Big Isn’t Beautiful Either.” Joshua Bowman reviews Trevor Latimer’s Small Isn’t Beautiful: The Case Against Localism, critiques some of his arguments, and defends what he terms “non-ideological localism”: “Non-ideological localism is more about humility and less preoccupied with solving all human suffering. It is, in this sense, a struggle to be human where we are in the time we have. It’s a way to be more human without the pressure to be superhuman.”

AI Is a Lot of Work.” Josh Dzieza reports on the fascinating and disturbing human work needed to make AI functional: “Much of the public response to language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT has focused on all the jobs they appear poised to automate. But behind even the most impressive AI system are people — huge numbers of people labeling data to train it and clarifying data when it gets confused. Only the companies that can afford to buy this data can compete, and those that get it are highly motivated to keep it secret. The result is that, with few exceptions, little is known about the information shaping these systems’ behavior, and even less is known about the people doing the shaping.”

Montreal Shows What a City Can Be.” Addison Del Mastro reflects on a recent trip to Montreal and tries to put his finger on what makes it a humane city: “Montreal is important not because it is unique, but because it proves that—in North America, in the middle of a largely car-oriented, suburban country—a vibrant, pleasant, safe and truly urban big city can thrive.”

Down With Diversocracy—and Meritocracy.” Sohrab Ahmari puts the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action into a longer historical context: “It is true that ‘equality of opportunity’ ran through the early tradition. Yet as the heterodox historian Christopher Lasch showed, this wasn’t a rags-to-riches ideal. The mere possibility that a few of the poorest could attain grand wealth, including through education, wasn’t what bound Americans to their newborn nation. Rather, equality of opportunity, Lasch argued, meant that most Americans ‘owned a little property and worked for a living.’” (Recommended by Adam Smith.)

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture