Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday Good Reads

It’s the end of the year, a rather tumultuous year, and people are writing about all of what happened, the causes, and the implications. Victor Tan Chen, an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, considers the modern economy in a spiritual crisis. Pankaj Mishra at The Guardian sees the Age of Anger. A young woman who served with Rex Tillerson, nominated for Secretary of State, in a horrible jury trial reminds us to look past superficial reporting and political bias. And Giles Fraser, the religion columnist at The Guardian, suggests that the only way to defeat terrorism is true extremism.

Several interesting stories on art and some exhibitions were posted – art in the Russian Revolution, the disasters of war, and putting art (back) in its place. And Tim Good has some some wonderful photographs of koi that look like paintings.

Billy Dyer explains ad hominem attacks. Aaron Earls issues a plea for stopping the rush past Christmas. Jake Lee exegetes “O Holy Night.” And some impressive poetry.

Life and Culture

The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern Economy – Victor Tan Chen at The Atlantic.

Welcome to the age of anger – Pankaj Mishra at The Guardian.

Advent in the Deathworks – R.J. Snell at First Things.

How to defeat terrorism? True extremism – Giles Fraser at The Guardian (Hat Tip: J of India).

Art and Photography

The story of art in the Russian Revolution – Martin Sixsmith at The Royal Academy of Arts.

Putting Art (back) in Its Place – Alex Miller Jr. at Curator Magazine.

Dance of Koi – Tim Good at Pics, Poems, and Ponderings.

Goya’s “The Disasters of War” at the St. Louis Art Museum – Chris Naffziger at St. Louis Magazine.


Other than white – B.K. MacKenzie at Signed…BKM.

Love’s Demands – Ana Lisa de Jong.

For Yonder Breaks – Heather Eure at The Consolation of Mirth.

How Christian Wiman made poetry matter – Jason Guriel at Slate.

No more Facebook – Aaron Belz.


The Ad Hominem Fallacy – Billy Dyer at Dyer Thoughts.

Stop Rushing Past Christmas – Aaron Earls at The Wardrobe Door.


5 Lessons Content Marketing Can Learn from Journalism – Cameron Conaway at the Content Marketing Institute.

England in the Edwardian Era – Vintage Everyday

Painting: Traveling Companions, oil on canvas by Augustus Leopold Egg (1862).

Friday, December 30, 2016

A choice

After Galatians 5:16-26

A choice, or is it:
which path to follow
which walk to take
one way or another
only two, and it may
or may not be that road
not taken, a human decision
with human ends
and consequences.
There is a direction to choose
which, if right, means
the road chosen is actually
of no consequence, in the terms
that matter.

Photograph by Linnaea Mallette via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

“All Shall Be Well:” A Spiritual Journal

Three years ago, I started keeping a journal. I had been given one as a gift (one done by Levenger with a beautiful tan leather cover) quite a few years ago. It had been unused, until, for some forgotten reason, started writing in it. I use it (and its various successors) for just about everything – notes on interesting books, draft articles and reviews, sermon notes, draft poems, notes from online lectures, planning schedules – it’s a real hodgepodge.

Paraclete Press has published a spiritual journal, compiled by Hilda St. Clair, that’s devoted entirely to one’s journey in faith. All Shall Be Well: A Spiritual Journal for Hope and Encouragement is a simple journal to use – and filled with beautiful artwork designed around sayings of well-known historical church figures.

The journal entries are actually exercises, such as “write your fears in these boxes,” write the lyrics to the song your soul is singing, list five things you’re truly grateful for and five things you’re anxious about. They are meant as prompts, and you can write as much or as little as you desire.

The quotations accompanying each of the approximately 60 exercises are by Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, Francois Fenelon, Thomas a’ Kempis, Catherine of Siena, and John of the Cross (the book contains multiple quotations by each). The journal also includes a list of works by them for further reading.

St. Clair is also the author of the forthcoming Love Never Fails: A Journal to be Inspired by the Power of Love.

Simply sitting and examining each of the quotations within the artworks is an exercise in stillness and quieting of the soul. All Shall Be Well is a beautiful way to reflect and record one's journey in faith.

Top illustration: one of the quotations from All Shall Be Well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Love Story That Ends Badly

Later, people would ask him if he loved working for his company. The question was not surprising; it was the only place he worked his entire career. He had come as a young man right out of college, full of hope and ambition and self-assured that he knew everything worth knowing. Somehow, he had lasted for the next four decades. The people he’d been hired with were long gone; he wasn’t sure if that spoke well of them or him.

It wasn’t a question of whether he had loved the company. He really couldn’t answer it. Instead, he had engaged with its soul, and it did have a soul, sometimes full of light and often full of unexpected shadows.

This engagement with the company’s soul brought him, eventually, to the corporate archives. The rooms housing the archives smelled like archives – old paper, old books, old company newsreels and magazines. What he learned there was both a history of the company and the history of industry, for the company’s rise, fall, and change mirrored 20th century industrial history.

What he liked more than the documents were the artifacts, including the silver teething ring of the founder’s son and heir, the one who had propelled the company to a zenith of success. And the founder’s roll top desk and chair, which he had personally ensured were restored after decades of neglect in a back room. That room was filled with the paintings, statues, and other decorations the founder has adorned his office with. Looking at them never diminished the sense that the founder had atrocious taste in art.

The archives included photography files. More than once he had looked through the scenes of segregated company picnics where white and black employees ate separately and posed together but separately for the photographer. And advertisements, like for detergents long off the market and artificial sweeteners that had flourished, died, and been resurrected when the regulators discovered their science had been wrong.

Dust, old and new, was plentiful. Once a month and after business hours, he would oversee the housekeeping team contracted to clean the archive rooms.

He researched, he catalogued, he wrote articles for corporate history magazines, he sent 16mm films for digital reproduction, he preserved newspaper articles, he entertained descendants of old company executives and visitors interested in the company’s history, he responded to inquiries from researchers, professors, reporters, and even the occasional corporate executive. One CEO had even made a regular practice of spending time in the archives, reading old annual reports, minutes of Board meetings, and speeches. The CEO’s research had led to an executive decision almost fatal for the company, for he had learned too much of the wrong lessons.

Through all his work over four decades, he saw the change coming. The paternal gradually gave way to the expedient. The good of the long term was often sacrificed for the gain in the short term. Executives had less interest in stewarding than in receiving.

And so he was not surprised that day when the email arrived from HR, the one that the archives were being “consolidated with other operations” and that he could retire with a generous severance package or look for a position in another part of the company. And the expected last day of work, should he accept the severance package which included the requirement of not to sue the company.

On that day, he made sure the archives were left in perfect order, because it was still his job, on that last day. He locked his desk and the office door, and left his keys with the security guard. As he walked to the parking lot, he pretended not to see the men lined up with dollies and boxes, and the special trash dumpsters, waiting.

Top photograph by David Wagner, and middle photograph by Linnaea Mallette, both via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

(I was substitute teaching, and the lesson plan for the classes that day included a 30-minute exercise – to write “a love story that ends badly.” I decided to do the exercise myself.)