Thirteen Incoming

The BBC released a teaser clip for the upcoming 11th series of Doctor Who.  It’s a first in two ways: first female Doctor (Jodie Whitaker) and first season for a new show-runner (Chris Chibnall).  If the show is a smartly written as Broadchurch (which starred Whitaker and was headed by Chibnall)  . . . and if it’s as adventurously fun as Broadchurch was seriously depressing . . . then the show could be amazing.  Here’s the teaser, which gives little-to-nothing away about major storylines.

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Sunday’s Best: Ghost of a Chance

It’s been a long time since I played a game requiring ghosts.  Makes me wonder if that kind of thing ever happened in Harry Potter (not that I can remember, at least).  Here’s today’s classic Calvin and Hobbes with a chilling tale of ghosts, ghosts, and more ghosts.

ghost of a chance(image from gocomics.com)

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Nuts in the Park

This morning I sat down to read the actual comics page in an actual, print newspaper. It was a nice moment. It’s also why I read today’s Dilbert, which isn’t one of my regulars. But it was good, saying something very true about the way too many of us often operate.

I’ve been mostly WiFi-less for the second time on this trip. And while it hasn’t necessarily led to more reflective time, it has helped me exist in the moment a little more than usual.

(Image from dilbert.com)

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Media and More in Our Distracted Age

past and futureOne of the two speakers at my recent Laity Lodge weekend was Alan Jacobs.  I’m not quite sure how I first heard of him.  I know that I read his wonderful The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction a good while before I knew him as “Alan Jacobs,” if that makes any sense.  I did get to enjoy one group meal with him, dinner on the second day, I believe.  It was good to ask him about his Harry Potter reviews and to talk movies in general with the whole table.

Over the course of his two talks, Jacobs presented himself as something of the “bad cop” speaker when it came to technology.  His was more of a “nuts and bolts” approach to the issues of smartphones and media consumption, those things that often distract us from just about everything, it seems.  It was something of an odd twist for me, as he spoke more frequently of habitus than Jamie Smith did (because when I hear “habits,” I think Jamie Smith).  Jacobs spoke of two key things that popular media culture has honed in on that the church has also seen as a source for its approach to things media-centric: the idea that everything has a simple solution (which he calls ‘solutionism’) and that we should all embrace an “I am my own, I belong to me” mentality for living.  Both Jacobs and Smith returned to these two insidious ideas often. When he mentioned the “I am my own” mentality, Jacobs quickly pointed us to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism:

Q:What is your only comfort in life and death?

A: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

From there, Jacobs walked us through stories, Scripture, and trends/statistics to better understand “the mess that we’re in.”  He went from Genesis to Auden, from Calvin to Bonhoeffer to Lanier in his thinking.  What I appreciated about his concluding argument was that he attempted to point us to the way of wisdom and discernment, knowing that walking wisely through our distracted world would take both courage and renunciation.  Both would be necessary: we just need to know when to embrace each of them.

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A couple of weeks before the retreat, Jacobs posted an interesting essay to The Guardian titled “To survive our high-speed society, cultivate ‘temporal bandwidth.'”  It’s a good read that, as his talks, points us to the way of wisdom.  In the essay, which you can read here, he argues that one powerful way to combat our “instant” and “in the moment” society is to read from the past and think well about the future.  From the essay:

We cannot, from within [our current, in-the-moment] ecosystem, restore old behavioral norms or develop new and better ones. No, to find a healthier alternative, we must cultivate what the great American novelist Thomas Pynchon calls “temporal bandwidth” – an awareness of our experience as extending into the past and the future.

In Pynchon’s 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow, an engineer named Kurt Mondaugen explains that temporal bandwidth is “the width of your present, your now … The more you dwell in the past and future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.”

If we want to extend our bandwidth, we begin with the past, because exploring the past requires only willingness.

Reading well of the past, in turn, helps us consider the future.  Jacobs continues:

Another benefit of reflecting on the past is awareness of the ways that actions in one moment reverberate into the future. You see that some decisions that seemed trivial when they were made proved immensely important, while others which seemed world-transforming quickly sank into insignificance. The “tenuous” self, sensitive only to the needs of This Instant, always believes – often incorrectly – that the present is infinitely consequential.

Odd to think that one of the best ways to understand Our Present Moment is by taking the time to revisit the past and imagine the future.  But I think Jacobs is right.  Without wisdom, though, such actions would look more like distractions.

(image from organizationsandmarkets.com)

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Dolly and Tammy Beyond Beauty School

Claire HolleyThis past weekend I spent some time on retreat at Laity Lodge outside of Leakey, TX.  On the final night of the retreat, the artist-in-residence for the weekend, Claire Holley, played a concert in the Cody Center.  Before the concert, though, we had our regular dinner (and by regular I mean consistently wonderful: that night it was steak and a bounty of delicious sides).  As can often happen at such a retreat, my friends and I actually got to eat with and talk to Claire.  It was a great time talking about music and influences and how the weekend had gone for each of us.  I asked her about the content of her upcoming concert, if we could expect any covers.  She quickly hinted at two: one with roots in jazz and another reggae song that would probably catch us by surprise.  She started with the reggae song: a bare and beautiful rendition of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”

Perhaps the highlight of her set, though, was “Beauty School,” which recounts something of the friendship between Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette.  She tells some of that story in the video below before going into the song.  It’s a nice, simple picture of what friendship over time can look like.

Claire is currently slated to work on a “20th anniversary” refresh of her hymns album, Sanctuary.  Her voice is exquisite (with of Dolly, too).  If you get a chance to see her live, take it.  She’s a great storyteller and a blessing of a person.

(image from arkansasonline.org)

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For the Day (of the Fourth)

Today’s Frazz by Jef Mallett takes another nice artistic turn while also pointing out something interesting about today as a holiday.

fz180704I’m a few days away from my time at Laity Lodge.  I’ve got some initial plans to unpack some of what I learned and experienced.  That it was a good retreat goes without saying.   I’ll try and post a couple of more times this week and then a couple of times next week before settling into the routine again.  It’s funny, this morning I went out for coffee and a bagel and the opportunity to get some much-needed reading and writing done.  Hopefully that will get some of my discipline back on track for good habits.

If you look to the right, in the picture column, you’ll probably see some of my shots from the Lodge.  A truly beautiful place, has hot and stark as the landscape was at any given moment.  I’ve got some artsy black-and-white photos that I’ll post eventually, too.

(image from gocomics.com)

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“Distill, and Know That I am God”

Let’s start with this recent classic Calvin and Hobbes strip recently posted to gocomics.com:

Calvin on Vacation

I’m about to board a plane that will take me to a place I’ve never been that’s also a place where there’s a lot of nothing to do.  Which both is and isn’t correct.  After spending a night in San Antonio, I’ll be spending three nights at Laity Lodge, a retreat center deep in the heart of Texas that I’ve heard about for years.  I’ll be off-the-grid and learning from the likes of James K. A. Smith and Alan Jacobs about “attending to God in an Age of Distraction.”  I’ve been looking forward to this for months now.

Next is this recent Frazz comic strip by Jef Mallett, also posted to gocomics.com:

What Frazz Learned

I booked the retreat at the beginning of the second semester, when I realized how tired I was feeling after a busy semester at school.  And so part of what I  hope to do, beyond a healthy chunk of nothing, is to decompress in light of the past year.  Clear the decks, perhaps, get things in order because the new school year is just under a month away for me.  That and I need to make a bigger space for God in my life, not just in the way that He weaves in and out of things, but in seeing Him as the Bigger Context for what’s going on around me.

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Not sure if I’ll be posting here much over the next few days.  I’ve posted at least one thing a day for the last two-and-a-half years.  And while it’s fun for me, it might also be nice to step away for a moment or two.  I’ll probably post some pictures to the Flickr sidebar, of course, since I’m traveling.  But I hope to do a lot of writing by hand over the next few days, too.  That and lots of walking and talking and, here and there, catching up with family and friends.

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