Promising Forward

A few weeks ago Andy Crouch and the folks at Praxis wrote about the importance of promises moving forward from Our Current Moment.  I wrote about it here.  Alan Jacobs recently picked up on the same thread for a piece over at The Hedgehog Review.  The title says a lot: “Against Projects; For Promise.”  Jacobs has been concerned for some time about our obsession with projection when so much of the future is uncertain.  He reflects on the thoughts of Wendell Berry and writes:

Our moment is dominated by such Projectors. In my own field of higher education, I find every morning in my RSS reader essays, articles, and blog posts appearing prophesying the dismantling of universities—this is sometimes called “unbundling,” as though a university is a cable TV service—or at the very least the elimination of academic departments, indeed whole fields of inquiry, that don’t rake in sufficient cash . . .

Such projection is easy and cost-free: No one will remember if you’re wrong, and whenever you turn out to be right you can crow about it on Twitter. This is why Berry says of the language of Projection, “It is not language that the user will very likely be required to stand by or to act on, for it does not define any personal ground for standing or acting. Its only practical utility is to support with ‘expert opinion’ a vast, impersonal technological action already begun.”

To the cheap talk of the Projectors Berry contrasts the more solemn and more responsible language of Promise: “The ‘projecting’ of ‘futurologists’ uses the future as the safest possible context for whatever is desired; it binds one only to selfish interest. But making a promise binds one to someone else’s future.” To make a promise is to utter words that you pledge to stand by.

There is much to be said for promise-making and promise-keeping, something that we have largely left unarticulated in our “terms of agreement” culture where we sign off on things in a moment so we can get on with things.  Beyond that, the language of promise is mostly regulated to marriage, where a whole ceremony solemnizes deep promises.  The language of promise is present in other religious contexts, but I’d argue that often they get washed out by all of the technicalities and practicalities of “running a church.”  Jacobs concludes:

Here’s my suggestion for, my plea to, our habitual Projectors: For every projection you make—I know it would be fruitless to ask you to forswear the projective temptation altogether—make a promise. Tell us not just what will happen but what you plan to do to bring about a better world, or a better university, or just a better neighborhood. Utter some words you will need to stand by . . .

Definitely something to think about moving forward.  It’s something smaller and denser, more personal and more powerful, I think.  And it’s not part of our language, which means it can be something both ancient and fresh for us.

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Summer’s Start

Without a new movie from Marvel to mark the occasion, the responsibility falls back to Memorial Day weekend to unofficially “kick off” the summer season.  On some level, it’s a very different Memorial Day for many, as this Frazz strip hints at:

Frazz Memorial DayThe day was mostly normal for me.  We’ve had cool mornings and evenings still, which has been great.  Did some school work, got some reading and writing done, and spent some time with the neighbors.  Beyond today, like is slowly returning to something like pre-Covid life.  Sushi a couple of times a week, some of my favorite shops opening back up, catching a quick ride in still-mostly-empty buses.  Two weeks until the school year officially ends and restaurants open back up for sit-in service.  I wonder if the next two weeks will go by as quickly as the last quarter of school.

In preparation for this week’s final season premiere of Agents of SHIELD, I’ve been watching Agent Carter on Disney+.  I tried watching the show years ago when it aired on network TV, but it was just different enough that I couldn’t quite get into the flow.  It works much better over a shorter period of time.  And since it was a mid-season series to give SHIELD a break for two seasons, the stories move at a nice pace.  Rumor has it that at least one character from the show will appear in SHIELD‘s final season, which will be a nice nod to the MCU’s bigger story (even if there are no nods to recent movies).

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Sunday’s Best: Q to 12

Because Calvinball.

Calvinball“Olly-wolly polliwoggy ump-bumpfizz!” indeed.

(image from

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Ten Years Moved On

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the series finale of LOST.  It’s been a few years since I watched the show the whole way through, but I drop in to particular episodes or moments from time to time.  In honor of the day, the folks at The Ringer put together a list of things to learn from the finale, which has been quite the controversial episode since it aired (my own viewing group was definitely mixed on how the show ended).  It’s still one of my favorite endings to a series.  My favorite scene no longer has a clear clip to show (It’s the one where Desmond tells Jack that what happens in one world doesn’t really matter because there’s another, better world.  Jack retorts: everything matters, there are no do-overs.)  But here’s a clip with two of the central figures, Jack and Locke, in the flash sideways after Jack performs surgery on Locke.

If nothing else, the finale does a masterful job of working flashbacks into the story, something that often feels contrived in other shows that have tried.

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“You’re Catching It”

I’m one of many looking forward to the day that we can walk back into a movie theater and be entranced by big stories told on large screens.  One movie that could kick things off for the season is Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.  A second trailer was just released.  It’s looks to be visually amazing and narratively challenging in a way that movies can do best.  Here’s that trailer, shared with hope.

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Not the Butterfly Effect

The semester is coming to an end.  My classes are done.  I’ve got some make-up assignments to grade and get it by Friday afternoon.  And then there’s the planning for the fall, which is both exciting and daunting given Our Current Moment.

The folks at ABC have released another preview of next week’s Agents of SHIELD premiere.  It’s a fun conversation about time travel and the Butterfly Effect.  We learned in Avengers: Endgame that everything we know about time travel (thanks to the movies, ironically) is wrong.  It’s a fun clip.

Rumor has it we might see some ties to Agent Carter, so I’ve decided to spend some time (re)watching that series as prep for what will likely be the end of the MCU on ABC.

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A Song for the Moment

Benjamin Gibbard is one of the many musicians who have taken to a more consistent online presence during Our Current Moment.  Discovering his “at home” show a few weeks ago was one of the highlights of early lockdown, actually (it was the day he was doing songs from around the time of Plans).  Gibbard recently went on Stephen Colbert’s show to play “Life in Quarantine.”  Definitely some good lyrical moments in the song as it attempts to capture what life has been like for may people these days.

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