Hands, Surveillance, and Church

Photo by George W. Ackerman

Angry Farmers Are Reshaping Europe.” While this New York Times article predictably frames European farmers’ frustrations through the lens of the “far right” and its rising political power, Roger Cohen provides a view of life on French farms: “if this farmer seemed passionate about his chickens, he is also drained by harsh realities. Mr. Sibelle, 59, is done. Squeezed by European Union and national environmental regulations, facing rising costs and unregulated competition, he sees no further point in laboring 70 hours a week. He and his wife, Maria, are about to sell a farm that has been in the family for over a century.”

James Rebanks: A Shepherd’s Sermon on the Eternal Joys of Spring.” James Rebanks weighs in on farm policy in Britain and on the profound challenges and joys that good farming entails: “I can’t help feeling there is a design flaw with modern life. We are now mostly too far from nature: we lose touch with what it is, and how it works, and what it needs from us. It happens to me, too. I spend too long at computers, in cars, or staring at screens. Spring can become almost meaningless. I’m trying to remember what it was like as a kid, when I was in awe of the world coming back to life. The spring was mine and the world was full of hope.”

Words, Words, Words.” Amit Majmudar ponders the bard and his audiences: “If I were a dramatist, I might have focused on how efficiently he portrays characters and tells stories. A historian might have studied how he transfigured Plutarch and Holinshed—or perhaps mapped the role of the British Empire in the global spread of Shakespeare’s reputation. Instead, because I am a practicing poet, I have focused on his use of language and his audience’s reception of it—all tinged with some anxiety about his work’s becoming incomprehensible in the future.”

Light and Hope.” William Tate praises the poetry of Jane Greer: “A listing of her themes and things would include apples and birds, desire and sin and pleasure, falling—into sin or in love or even “Falling Awake”)—but also redemption. The events in her poems occur in the chiaroscuro between darkness and light, between fidelity and adultery, between gain and loss, between judgment and mercy, and (as with Herrick) between heaven and hell.”

Working With Your Hands Is Good for Your Brain.” This shouldn’t be a surprising claim, but Markham Heid summarizes some of the reasons why manual work remains essential for embodied creatures like us humans: “the benefits of many hands-on activities aren’t in doubt. Along with gardening and handicrafts, research has found that pursuits like making art and playing a musical instrument also seem to do us some good.”

Surveilling Alone.” Christine Rosen wonders what effects pervasive surveillance has on us and on our relationships with other people: “Interpersonal surveillance technologies have rendered us far more visible to each other and given people a sense of security and safety when it comes to protecting their homes and loved ones. But they have not helped rebuild the one thing that human beings need to live together in peace: trust.”

The Last All Black Town in the West.” Lane Wendell Fischer describes the history and ongoing community of Nicodemus, KS, a town settled by Blacks in the decades after the Civil War. While the population has since waned, “for one week each summer, the population grows from around 25 to over 1,000, as descendants from across the country reunite with their cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends in the small Kansas town.” (Recommended by Dominic Garzonio.)

The True Cost of the Churchgoing Bust.” I’m not sure this is the true cost of not going to church, but Derek Thompson considers the links between the decline in American churchgoing and the rise of loneliness: “Did the decline of religion cut some people off from a crucial gateway to civic engagement, or is religion just one part of a broader retreat from associations and memberships in America? . . . Many people, having lost the scaffolding of organized religion, seem to have found no alternative method to build a sense of community.

Homeschooling, Luddite Style.” Nadya Williams points out that screens have overtaken education not because they help educate humans, but because they cut costs. There are better alternatives, however: “The big lie of the modern industrial complex is that we can transfer the same shortcuts that we employ for the creation of cheap goods to the formation of persons and to the cultivation of families. But what the sharp contrast between the tech-reliant schools and the luddite approach of my homeschooling (and the similarly labor-intensive approaches of the most expensive private schools) shows is that the shortcuts that technology affords do not create a comparable product—because people are not products.”

“‘The Small Press World is About to Fall Apart.’ On the Collapse of Small Press Distribution.” Adam Morgan details the sudden closure of a distributor that many small presses relied on, and what options they might have going forward: “Right now, the future is extremely uncertain for SPD’s former small presses—but they’re adapting as quickly as they can.”

The Work of Spring.” Hadden Turner writes a spring missive from his garden: “spring is a time of return: the return of light, the return of work, the return of life — but also of various perils. For risks always attend new life.”



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