Chalk, Fungi, and Goldenrod

Photo by George W. Ackerman

We’ve posted videos of the conference talks. We’ll also release audio versions via the Brass Spittoon podcast in the coming weeks.

Porch Sittin’.” Nathaniel Marshall gives his recap of the FPR conference: “I’m a plumber and an autodidact. I read, but not for a living, so many of the references felt like deep cuts I couldn’t grasp. That said, I walked away understanding more than I didn’t and with a clarified sense of what it might look like for me to engage in a mode of living that is human and humanizing, a mode I’d be happy to learn with friends and leave with my children and their children and their children after them.”

Why So Many Rural Churches?” My colleague Charles E. Cotherman shows how the idol of efficiency saps the life out of rural churches and names, in its place, the humble yet essential work such churches can take up: “In a technological society, local churches that operate on a human scale rather than a corporate model are uniquely suited to be a prophetic voice for the goodness of geographic rootedness and relational presence. Members of local congregations bear a responsibility to place that goes beyond shopping local; they are called to live local, to pay attention to the stories, hopes, joys, and sorrows of the people and places that surround them.”

The Beauty of Chalk.” Roy Peachey reviews the delightfully strange book Do Not Erase: Mathematicians and Their Chalkboards by Jessica Wynne: “The educational world, quite as much as every other sector of society, has fallen prey to the vice of technological determinism. The latest must be the best. No matter the cost (in monetary or human terms) the newest technology demands to be bought. Jessica Wynne reminds us that there is another way, that some of the finest minds in the most prestigious institutions on the planet think differently. Beauty, physicality, and the slow dance of chalkboard mathematics all have their place in the modern world.”

Hundreds Turn Out for Pittsburgh’s Dirty Dozen Bike Ride, Conquering Some of City’s Steepest Hills.” Hanna Webster reports on a great local event. One of these years, I hope to participate: “Answering the question ‘water or beer’ from supporters passing out cups on hilly Suffolk Street to cyclists of Pittsburgh’s Dirty Dozen race on Saturday, the preferred drink of choice was beer. . . . Hundreds turned out in spandex and sunglasses for the race, which covers about 60 miles and goes up Pittsburgh’s 13 steepest hills. Some raced competitively, while others joined “casual” heats.”

Who Is The New Atlantis For.” Ari Schulman reflects on twenty years of The New Atlantis and the challenges of sustaining a vigorous debate about the role of technology in our culture: “beneath our anti-Promethean critique, we have offered a consistent suspicion of utopianism — a temptation not only for utopians but sometimes anti-utopians too.”

Chris Smaje Vs. George Monbiot and the Debate on the Future of Farming.” Rob Dietz weighs in on the rather intense debate between Monbiot and Smaje and tries to focus on the underlying stakes—what vision should orient a more sustainable agriculture? “Resilience is more aligned with Chris’s view. Resilience and Post Carbon Institute (my employer and the parent organization of Resilience) have become a hub for articles and reports that wrestle with how society can function in a pro-social, environmentally sound way after the fossil fuel bonanza subsides. Our take is that we will have to power down, derive most of our energy from daily flows of solar energy, and relocalize production, including in the food sector, which will mean a reversal of the modern trend of urbanization.”

The Universal Christ: Neither Imperialist nor Localist but Evangelists.” Terence Sweeney responds to Sohrab Ahmari’s call for an “apostolic empire” by parsing different kinds of universalisms and localisms: “To foster local communities of commitment is not to isolate but to radiate hope. This radiance cannot be merely incidental; it must be intentional. In ancient Rome, the Church radiated out to the lonely.” (Recommended by Paul Perrault.)

The Generous Goldenrod.” William Thomas Okie reflects on autumn and considers how we might approach middle age and our impending demise with the abundant generosity of the goldenrod: “Even if there are only two goldenrod plants per square foot, an acre of the stuff could contain a half-billion flowers. This is absurd prodigality. Why does a plant need so many flowers?”

What Do Fungi Have to Do with Athens?” Eve Tushnet reviews the wondrous and unsettling Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures: “[Merlin] Sheldrake is out to convince you not only that you’ve never really understood mushrooms, but that you’ve never really understood yourself. Halfway through this book, I found myself thinking, Wait—am I a lichen? Have I been a lichen this whole time?

Thinking Christianly about Disability: Is Melanie Howard’s Cultural Model the Answer?” Adam Smith parses how we should think about disability and human flourishing: “whatever judgments we make, when we disagree, we need to be clear about what we are doing. We are making judgments about what is objectively good and bad for human as created beings, judgments that we hope are faithful to Christ’s teaching and example. That is very different from declaring that the solution is to make no judgments at all – to redefine every ‘disability’ as mere ‘difference.’”

How a Robotaxi Crash got Cruise’s Self-Driving Cars Pulled from Californian Roads.” Trisha Thadani reports on how San Francisco is rethinking its embrace of driverless cars: “Now, following a horrendous Oct. 2 crash that critically injured a jaywalking pedestrian — and Cruise’s initial misrepresentation over what actually happened that night — officials here are rethinking whether self-driving cars are ready for the road, and experts are encouraging other states to do the same.”

Pandora, AI Girlfriends, and “Reborn” Babies.” Nadya Williams ponders the dangers of forming intimate “relationships” with AI machines: “We know that what we love shapes us. Loving replacements, replicas of reality, shapes us to embrace the lie as if it were truth, only leading us further from a life lived in real family, real community. Such is not a life of flourishing.”

The Civic Responsibilities of Liberal Education.” Lee Trepanier reviews a new book and explores the tensions it raises between civic and liberal education: “The contributors in Liberal Education and Citizenship in a Free Society demonstrate why liberal education is central to liberty but disagree with one another about whether it is central to civic education. Of course, the question about the relationship between liberal and civic education has been an enduring one since the time of the Greeks and will continue to be with us forever in the future.”

Exit mobile version