Book Club Channel
Choosing What Matters: An Interview with Arthur Boers
If you like life these days exactly the way that it already is, then this book is probably not for you. I'm not here to convince you otherwise.
But I've been teaching about these matters for years—in church settings and in more public places. When I talk about a sense of overwhelming busyness, people nod their heads in recognition. When I help analyze the factors of how our contemporary life contributes to these problems, it's as if lights go on for people. This is a way to give folks tools for living differently. I want to empower readers to know that it is within our grasp to make other choices, that God offers us abundant life here and now already.
Your inspiration—and indeed mentor—for this book was the Montana philosopher Albert Borgmann. What do you wish more people knew about Borgmann, and what about his work compelled you to write Living Into Focus?
Yes, Albert Borgmann has been a huge gift to me, both in my thinking and in my life. Many of my friends find one particular thinker who inspires them, who helps them make sense of the world. A priest who is important to me, likes the work of Rene Girard, for example, and mentions him in almost every sermon. A new friend often talks to me about Carl Jung. And my friends—new and old—know that any serious conversation with me sooner or later brings up Albert Borgmann.
Albert is a well-respected and well-known philosopher of technology. He has been thinking and carefully writing about these matters for decades. Before I read Albert, I knew that there was something important about my hiking and something significant about how vital the kitchen was in our family life but I could not exactly put my finger on what that was. He helped me identify their "focal" significance. And knowing why they were important then helped reinforce my commitment to keeping them as a priority.
I have also had the privilege of spending time with Albert and being able to count him as a friend. Not only does he have a sharp and incisive mind, he lives and practices what he preaches. He is a person of integrity, someone who shows me how to live.
What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
The hardest thing about writing this book is figuring out how to help people ask good questions about how we use technology without scaring them off or making them defensive. We all need technology. We cannot have culture or civilization without technology. And we are all grateful for technology—the benefits of safety and health, not to mention fun and entertainment. But sometimes we overlook the fact that technology can also cause us huge problems and headaches. Martin Luther King Jr. warned a long time ago that technology at times gets ahead of our theology.
Which chapter was the easiest to write?
The first and last chapters were easiest to write. My first chapter talks about the unexpected joys of becoming a hiker in middle age and about how a kitchen renovation (something I had put off because of the expense) transformed our family's life. It's fun to talk about choices that give us joy, make us feel alive.
And in the last chapter I discuss how in spite of many obstacles, I find that life is good and enjoyable, if I just pay attention to the good things around, and to prioritizing "the deepest things I know."
Did you experience any new epiphanies about the spiritual life while actually writing this book?
For too long, I thought that the "spiritual life" was disconnected, disembodied, ethereal, and abstract. In doing this work, I was reminded that God works with stuff, that God is active in our lives and circumstances, that matter matters to God. In some ways I find it easier to be in touch with God now. In many ways, my life feels more worshipful, too. At the same time, I have a much deeper appreciation for formal acts of worship—whether daily prayers or what we do together as Christians on Sundays.
So as we approach the season of Lent this year, how might your book be an aid to deepening our own Lenten journeys?
Lent is, as you show, a time of focusing and re-focusing.
Many Christians observe it as a time of fasting. Consider giving up something that regularly distracts you or keeps you off balance. I have a friend who gives up TV for Lent. Others put restrictions on their email.
And consider adding something in that gives you life or helps you achieve new perspectives. One of my friends committed herself to watching every sunrise and sunset for the entire season.
For more conversation on Living into Focus and focal practices, visit the Patheos Book Club here.
Deborah Arca joined the Patheos team in 2009, after serving as the Program Manager for the Programs in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of music and theatre programs for children, and a music minister.