7 Summer Takes

7 Summer Takes August 28, 2020

Me in my covid/camping hair, contemplating spending more time online in the future.

Well, August is basically over, so I guess I will crack open ye olde computer and see if there is anything interesting out there.

One

I wasn’t blogging, and totally missed when it came out, but I wrote a piece for CRI about Cancel Culture. Here is the podcast I did with Melanie, and here is a bit of what I said:

“Civilized” discourse swings one way and then another between two truths, unable, in human intellectual terms, to hold the two together. On one side of the pendulum, we are encouraged to accept the human reality of other frail people — of kindness and compassion not just for the weak but for the wrong. The virtue of tolerance is a good one, especially when recast as grace, or better yet mercy. On the other side is the question of pure truth, especially when considered in objective terms. To be passionately enjoined to a righteous love of what is good, beautiful, and true is one of the characteristics that separates humanity from the rest of the animal kingdom. Indeed, the thirst for righteousness is the foundation of human civilization, and the reason why shame plays such a critical role in both intimate and communal relationships. Unmoored from divine revelation or even from objectively verified scientific study, however, the pursuit of purity under the guise of righteousness is dangerous, a troubling fact to which the past may be called as witness.

The only way back from the brink is to hold tolerance (though I would rather call it love) together with purity (though I would rather call it truth).

Go read the whole thing!

Two

The yearly month off, I try to always remind myself, is just exchanging one kind of work for another. In ordinary life, the drumbeat of school work and church stuff and running here and there keeps me flying along, shoving odds and ends (both emotionally and practically) into dark cupboards, not willing to take the time to put everything away or deal with those big projects that eventually cry out for attention. Like cleaning the children’s rooms. Or pulling down the kitchen ceiling to see where the water is coming from.

Or dealing with the garage. The list is really long, actually, and I won’t lie and say I enjoyed any of it. Other than having it finally done, instead of it always weighing at the back of my mind—that’s not so bad.

Three

And the whole month wasn’t “work.” I celebrated my birthday (someone needs to pressure my mother into writing a food memoir/cookbook)…

And we went camping a bit—again with exchanging one kind of work for another—

and I read some books. I indulged in a whole lot of Agatha Christie and finally finished listening to almost twenty hours of The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh. I’m not sure why I kept at it, because every single story was so bleak—bleak beyond the usual point of bleakness that I can endure. The ones he wrote when he was very young were all sort of gruesome, packed full of murder, and people hating each other intensely. I caught glimpses of the genius that produced Brideshead, but gosh, it made me want to go back and burn every scrap of everything I’ve ever written. This book is a testimony to the truth that you have to write a lot to get good. On the other hand, if you like darkness in your literature, you’ll probably like this. Sometimes he reminded me of an English Edgar Allen Poe.

And I read Anxious by Amy Simpson, which is really good, and more pertinent for the entire world than ever. It’s not long, and she well marshals the fact—why you are anxious, why you shouldn’t be anxious, and how thinking more carefully about who God is will make you not be so anxious. I practiced all month, and as long as I stayed away from the news, it worked beautifully. Actually, the very last part of Job, where God tells Job to cheese it, is really good for anxiety. I read it several times over the month and saw how it was, if you know what I mean. I’m reading Laura Baxter’s The Passion of Job right now and for real, God being God is a good thing for everyone.

I also read some more current books which I will try to review this coming week. I know I always say that and then I never do—well, perhaps “never” is too strong a word. Life goes by me and I forget and stuff. But hopefully not.

Four

I did try to stay away from the news. I mean, it’s impossible to remain completely in the dark when everyone else around the luncheon table is updating you about what bad thing happened during the night. The only way to really “unplug” I think, is to actually go away from all your friends and family and live in the woods with no electricity. Camping, if you will, and even then some passerby will wander up and say, “Can you believe what’s happening at Liberty University?” And then you can nod because all the people in your tent (who you thought had stayed at home) already told you.

Five

I mean, I can totally believe everything about Mr. Falwell and all the stuff that’s going on everywhere. If you believe, as I do, that human beings are wicked—like really really wicked—then you can totally believe it. It makes lots of sense. Wicked people are gonna be wicked. Even me. I tried being really good for a few days this month. I tried not to hate people I don’t even know on the internet, and I failed. I had to confess my sins for like a whole day. It was awful.

Six

I also tried to “workout” more and get into a “routine” that could carry me through the fall and into the winter. One of those things where I do it so often that I just do it without thinking, without having to make an emotionally laden decision—will I take a walk today or not? Maybe not—so that I have to wrestle with my own interior horror all the time. Here is a visual representation of how that went:


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