Red Dragonflies.” Steven Knepper offers a deeply informed consideration of Byung-Chul Han’s intellectual and spiritual trajectory. Knepper argues that Han’s emphasis on contemplation has much to offer: “The Church’s contemplative practices are still there too, even if they are too often neglected or poorly presented. They are spiritual medicine for the burnout society. Han recently said that he visits church daily to pray, though often at odd times: ‘When people leave the Church, I enter.’ Pessimistic or not, he is a son of the Church with wisdom to offer her.”

Authentic Humanity.” Eric Miller ponders what AI might mean for our quest to pursue good, human lives: “Artificial intelligence is just the latest manifestation of a political-economic leviathan that is fostering something far more troubling: artificial humanity—which is to say, exploited humanity. Against this we need a new Resistance, launched from places that exist to teach us how both to speak and live in ways that yield the scent of the real. The truest test of any intellectual tradition: Are its adherents entering the ancient flow of language in ways that lead to convincing instantiations of the meaning of human?”

Where the Buffalo Roamed.” Clare Coffey reviews Ken Burns’s new documentary on the Buffalo and draws several astute observations from the narrative. One concerns their unlikely rescue from extinction: “But if the buffalo hunters refused to consult their spreadsheets, so did Molly Goodnight, who persuaded her buffalo-hunter-turned-rancher husband to take in and nurture orphaned calves. Without, it seems, a long-term plan, without favorable conditions, without running cost-benefit analyses or lobbying resource allocation committees or consulting probabilities, they saw the possibilities open to them in their moment, and took them. . . . They did not ask, ‘Will this scale?’ They acted.”

The Ghosts of Black Appalachia Visit Her Kitchen.” Korsha Wilson visits Crystal Wilkinson’s kitchen and talks with her about her new book, Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks: “Ms. Wilkinson’s work encourages us all to reflect on our own family connections. ‘I want to make people think about their own kitchen ghosts,’ she said. ‘No matter who you are, you have them.’”

France Warns Farmers that Blocking Paris Market will be Red Line in Protest.” Kim Willsher reports on protests in France aimed at getting French and EU agricultural policies changed: “Farmers, particularly the country’s thousands of independent producers, say they are being strangled by EU and French bureaucracy and regulations and claim the traditional way of rural life is facing collapse. They are demanding fairer prices for produce, the continuation of subsidies on the agricultural diesel used to run their tractors and other vehicles, and financial aid for organic farmers.”

Preaching to the Converted: Anti-Trumpism in 2024.” Jon Schaff pens a remarkably reasonable essay on the industry of op-ed pieces about Trump: “Let’s ponder the motivation behind anti-Trump writing (realizing here that I am painting with a broad brush, therefore being somewhat unfair). You aren’t telling anti-Trump people anything they don’t already know. You aren’t persuading pro-Trump people, who likely aren’t reading you anyway. And we’ve established that there aren’t really any fence sitters. So who is the audience? It seems to me that a lot of anti-Trump writing represents anti-Trump folks posturing for their crowd.”

Is Journalism Ready?” The recent issue of the Atlantic is devoted to detailing why Donald Trump is unfit for office, and most of the pieces I read engage in precisely the kind of counterproductive posturing that Jon Schaff describes in his essay. But George Packer’s essay on the co-dependent relationship between Trump and the media is quite good: “The relationship between Donald Trump and the news media has always been a little disingenuous, like a pair of fighters trading insults and throwing air punches at a weigh-in. The hostility is real, but the performance benefits both sides.”

The Perverse Policies That Fuel Wildfires.” Elizabeth Kolbert describes the history of fires, particularly in North America, and tries to make sense of why last year was such a bad year for wildfires: “Gradually, it became clear that fire suppression was wrecking many of the forests it was intended to save. . . . These days, O’Connor writes, the Forest Service likes to boast that it oversees the country’s biggest prescribed-fire program, which burns almost 1.5 million acres a year. But this isn’t nearly enough to make up for what’s become known as the “fire deficit.” According to some estimates, this deficit amounts to more than three million acres just in the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona, and according to others it amounts to more than ten million acres across Washington and Oregon.”

Fred Chappell—North Carolina Poet Laureate, Writer and Beloved Professor—Dies at 87 Fred Chappell, a writer deeply rooted in North Carolina, has died, and the tributes and obituaries are coming in. Josh Shaffer writes this one for the Raleigh News & Observer. The New York Times also has a good tribute. Garret K. Woodward published an interview with Chappell just a couple of years ago tied to a PBS documentary of his life. (Thanks to Tim Wolter to pointing out some of these.)

In Defense of Broad Private Property Ownership.” James Vitali focuses on the situation in the UK to argue that there is an urgent need to give more people opportunity to own productive property: “Capitalism’s legitimacy partly hinges on the idea that acquiring property is an opportunity open to all. Ownership, as has been long recognized, breeds the sort of moral psychology that undergirds a responsible, participatory politics. . . . Once, property ownership was a unifying aspirational value. Today, it is a marker of privilege, unfairness, and division.” (Recommended by Adam Smith.)

Control Three Ways.” Peter Blair teases out the subtle differences among different ways of engaging or altering the world, and his conclusion draws on Augustine’s distinction between a curious desire for control and a studious desire to participate: “We must interact with the world as studious people, not as curious people—that is, as people who love the world, not as people who hate it. To love the world does not mean to cease from adaptive transformation, to reject new technologies, or to act only always with the grain of ecosystems as we find them.”

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  1. Jeff, thanks for sharing the piece on Byung-Chul Han. I’ve found his work to be more worthwhile and substantial than a large majority of what I read in seminary, to be frank. The ethical and formative dimensions of his philosophy are desperately needed, especially now. Before getting sick, I was actually going to deliver a lecture at a work conference over the Burnout Society; the irony of getting sick due to overwork is, of course, not lost on me.

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