Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Wendell Berry on Agrarianism

As usual, Wendell Berry says it more concisely and effectively than I did (in my previous post), in his essay, "The Agrarian Standard":
"In any consideration of agrarianism, this issue of limitation is critical. Agrarian farmers see, accept, and live within their limits. They understand and agree to the proposition that there is 'this much and no more.' Everything that happens on an agrarian farm is determined or conditioned by the understanding that there is only so much land, so much water in the cistern, so much hay in the barn, so much corn in the crib, so much firewood in the shed, so much food in the cellar or freezer, so much strength in the back and arms—and no more. This is the understanding that induces thrift, family coherence, neighborliness, local economies. Within accepted limits, these virtues become necessities. The agrarian sense of abundance comes from the experienced possibility of frugality and renewal within limits.
"This is exactly opposite to the industrial idea that abundance comes from the violation of limits by personal mobility, extractive machinery, long-distance transport, and scientific or technological breakthroughs. If we use up the good possibilities in this place, we will import goods from some other place, or we will go to some other place. If nature releases her wealth too slowly, we will take it by force. If we make the world too toxic for honeybees, some compound brain, Monsanto perhaps, will invent tiny robots that will fly about, pollinating flowers and making honey."
As usual, Berry, with candor and rigor uncommonly found among many politicians or corporate spokespersons, helps us see the world not as we wish it would be or as powerful interests wish it to be seen, but as it is.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Global Down-turn

A few months ago, I attended a lecture from Miroslav Volf, a very well-known theologian from Yale. The title of the lecture was, "The Intersection of Faith and Globalization," a lecture he's given a number of times in many places (see here as one example). The basic assumption of the lecture was something like this: globalization is here to stay, so we have to adapt to it. Now, I like where he goes on the basis of this assumption, but that's not where my problem lies. 

My problem lies in the widespread belief that we should embrace a globalized world. 

Globalization, as it currently stands, doesn't exactly resemble the democratic, egalitarian utopia that many proponents of globalization want us to believe. More importantly, even should every country and culture in the world get on board with living in a global community, even then we wouldn't live in a world governed by mutual consent and characterized by mutual prosperity. The reason for this isn't an outright cynicism on my part regarding human nature; it has to do with my cynicism regarding the forces that are leading to our increasingly globalized world.

Let's reflect for a moment on these forces (after the jump...)

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Bob Loblaw Law Blog

I just finished watching, for the second time through, the entire series of Arrested Development (watch it over at Hulu if you haven't ever had a chance or made the time—you'll thank me later). The title of this post is one of the hundreds of gems in the prematurely-cancelled show. 

In the last few weeks, a lot of these have suddenly exploded in my mind (while I'm doing dishes, writing my dissertation, watching another episode of Arrested Development). Some of the more frequent ones include: 

"It's not a trick, Michael, it's an illusion. A trick is what a whore does for money."
"Hey, brother."
"That's what you do when life hands you a chance to be with someone special. You just grab that brownish area by its points and you don't let go no matter what your mom says."
"Take that back! If I wanted something your thumb touched, I'd eat the inside of your ear!"

"Who'd like a banger in the mouth?"

If you've seen it, do you have any favorite quotes or scenes?

Alas. I'll miss the show. Hopefully there's something to the rumors that a movie is still in the works.

*BTW: There actually is a Bob Loblaw Law Blog over at—get ready for it— (though there aren't any actual posts. Points for creating the damn thing, though).

Monday, July 11, 2011

A New Spirituality?

Friday afternoon, I sat down with my spiritual director to talk about the future of our relationship. We had been meeting for over a year when I decided to walk away from the Christian faith, and I wanted to let him know about what had taken place. I knew things wouldn't really be the same, and had pretty much decided that participating in spiritual direction wasn't really a live option any more. But, at his request, I decided to see whether it was something I could still incorporate into my life.

Prior to the meeting, I understood "spirituality" as referring to one of two things: 1) dependence upon some variety of supernatural being(s) who give meaning and purpose to life, and the cultivating of that relationship; or 2) glorified navel-gazing and positive self-talk (à la Oprah). Since I'm not terribly interested in either of these—I no longer believe in the existence of a supernatural being, and I'm already battling enough self-interested thinking in my life—I assumed that spiritual direction would be out of the picture. After all, if I called the game of the spiritual journey a hoax, then why would I want someone to guide me on it?

The result of the conversation, however, surprised me. (More after the jump...)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Hard Part

The letter to friends, family, and professional contacts (who need to know, at least) has gone out; the awkward personal conversations have, for the most part, taken place. That was by no means an easy thing to do, but the hard part, I've just realized, lies ahead of me.

See, the hardest part of leaving Christianity wasn't telling my closest friends and my family. Truth be told, I'm coming to see how challenging it is to discovering a new normal. My relationships with friends and family members now has to find a new center of gravity. If it's not our shared faith and worldview, then what is it? I've only had a few chats with friends and family who know, and I could feel the strangeness of it all. The camaraderie of being co-religionists ran much deeper than I realized. No longer can we absent-mindedly maintain our common assumptions about what's important in life. It's only just becoming clear how often faith and church life came up in conversations, and now that this is gone, what then?

Sure, over the next few weeks and months, I'll probably still talk a good deal with folks about my deconversion. Eventually, though, it will become an issue with which both my friends and family grow weary of discussing—and, no doubt, I will too. And that's the rub: what then? How will we understand our relationship? What things will people choose to share or withhold from me? What will I decide to talk about?

Add on top of this all the fact that, major changes aside, I'm still working hard to figure myself out. I'm trying to process through a wide range of my own insecurities and dysfunctions, while trying to become more aware of those of others (so I can better understand people). Plus, there's the whole business of rearranging my metaphysics and a priori assumptions from the ground up, which, I gather, will take a bit of time.

I never imagined, though, that the long-term effects of coming out would require so much mental energy. The challenging part, it seems, is still to come.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Rationalizing v. Rationality

Most people know, intuitively or explicitly, the difference between rationality and rationalizing: The first implies a careful consideration of as many likely possibilities as one can manage, and determining the best option for overall success and well-being. The second has to do more with justifying a pre-determined course of action, or (more simply put) giving reasons to do what we really want to do. There are a number of well-written posts on these two themes over at Less Wrong, so I won't add much more on the distinction between these two.

What I will note, however, is an observation regarding the presuppositions that are at work in our cultural conscientiousness (at least as I perceive it). By and large, we work with the assumption that the majority of people, especially people in power, are more or less rational. Sure, we recognize the ideologically-driven component of partisan politics (see, for example, the impasse on spending and debt at the national and state levels). When it comes to making decisions (even within a particular ideology), we assume that most people function day-to-day as rational beings. What's more, we take for granted that those whose job it is to think rationally and clearly—academics or judges, for example—actually do so.

Sooner or later, though, we're going to have to come to grips with this false assumption, this vestigial remainder of Enlightenment principles.