“Though I’ve never been a full-on stoner, I’ve shared concerts and conversations and late-night sessions at the bar, and had Twitter wars with thousands of them. The long answer: I will share all of my experiences with pot and its culture, soon, in the pages of The Denver Post and denverpost.com. And you don’t need to be a heroin addict to write in-depth stories about heroin, its history, its science, its culture and its effects on people. I am absolutely expected to be entrenched in the community I’m covering, but of course that doesn’t mean I’ll be stoned all the time.”—Q&A with Ricardo Baca, The Post’s new marijuana editor — Editor’s Notes. Hey, if Texas Monthly needs a barbecue editor, then the Denver Post definitely needs a marijuana editor.
James Wright, I am tired of renting my life, and of the leaves I do not rake on the lawn I do not own. Though I have a magic phone that knows how to find my global position and contains 116 visions of my vivid, bright children and 7 recordings of the same Bach Suite for Cello I never tire of. I miss the home where my children live, though I’m glad of the mortgage I lack. When the hawk in the gray sky of my head dives at the prey scurrying out from my past, I slip hands (I once believed I controlled) over the lighted screen to call a free woman I love. Wraiths, I say, hovered, all night. Beneath her digital breath, so steady and audible she could be near, if she could, I hear: “No. They do not own your head.“ Which also I fail to possess. Nor do you, though I’ve kept you there for years. Your hammock, borrowed, lines strung slack across my memorial, unmown yard (also the dense brown thatch full of rabbits and voles in the medians of roads the dead men built for me to skitter down) forms God’s loose net to catch and release my lazy literal-minded ass while I text hundreds of letters to children and lovers, while I upload the thousands of pixels of color I keep taking on loan from the sky.
—for John Ballenger
First appeared on a postcard to John Ballenger, and then in Relief
“The critics point to the abuses of rights-talk. I concede the abuses. But rather than concluding that we should abolish rights-talk so as to eliminate the abuses, I hold that we should heal rights-talk of the abuses. Something of enormous worth would be lost if we could no longer bring rights, and the violation of rights, to speech. The critics focus entirely on the abuses of rights-talk; they do not ask what would be lost if we threw it all out. What would be lost is our ability to bring to speech one of the two fundamental dimensions of the moral order: the recipient-dimension, the patient-dimension. To the moral status of each of us there are two dimensions, that of moral agent and that of moral patient or recipient. When we speak of duty, obligation, guilt, benevolence, virtue, rational agency, and the like, we focus on the agent-dimension; when we speak of rights and of being wronged, we focus on the recipient-dimension. To eliminate rights-talk would be to make impossible the coming to speech of the recipient-dimension of the moral order.”—Nick Wiolterstorff, in Justice: Rights and Wrongs
“God is not hidden to us; He is revealed. But what and how we shall be in Christ, and what and how the World will be in Christ at the end of God’s road, at the breaking in of redemption and completion, that is not revealed to us; that is hidden. Let us be honest: we do not know what we are saying when we speak of Jesus Christ’s coming again in judgment, and of the resurrection of the dead, of eternal life and eternal death. That with all these there will be bound up a piercing revelation―a seeing, compared to which all our present vision will have been blindness―is too often testified in Scripture for us to feel we ought to prepare ourselves for it. For we do not know what will be revealed when the last covering is removed from our eyes, from all eyes: how we shall behold one another and what we shall be to one another―men of today and men of past centuries and millennia, ancestors and descendants, husbands and wives, wise and foolish, oppressors and oppressed, traitors and betrayed, murderers and murdered, West and East, Germans and others, Christians, Jews, and heathen, orthodox and heretics, Catholics and Protestants, Lutherans and Reformed; upon what divisions and unions, what confrontations and cross-connections the seals of all books will be opened; how much will seem small and unimportant to us then, how much will only then appear great and important; for what surprises of all kinds we must prepare ourselves. We also do not know what Nature, as the cosmos in which we have lived and still live here and now, will be for us then; what the constellations, the sea, the broad valleys and heights, which we see and know now, will say and mean then.”—Karl Barth
“The 2012 Greendex survey found that people in poorer countries feel, on average, much guiltier about their impacts on the natural world than people in rich countries. The places in which people feel least guilt are, in this order, Germany, the United States, Australia and Britain, while the people of India, China, Mexico and Brazil have the greatest concerns. Our guilt, the survey reported, exists in inverse proportion to the amount of damage our consumption does. This is the opposite of what a thousand editorials in the corporate press tell us: that people cannot afford to care until they become rich. The evidence suggests we cease to care only when we become rich.”—So you need that smart cuckoo clock for Christmas, do you?
“Our comments on life and affairs were bright and amusing, but brittle… because there was no solid diagnosis of human nature underlying them. Bertie [Bertrand Russell] in particular sustained simultaneously a pair of opinions ludicrously incompatible. He held that in fact human affairs were carried on after a most irrational fashion, but that the remedy was quite simple and easy, since all we had to do was to carry them on rationally. A discussion of practical affairs on these lines was really very boring. And a discussion of the human heart which ignored so many of its deeper and blinder passions, both good and bad, was scarcely more interesting.”—John Maynard Keynes, Collected Writings vol X p449 (via unapologetic-book)
“The boys in the classroom were right to be scared of her irony. O’Connor’s was not the shifty, reactive, and merely local variety that passes for irony today: sitcom irony, skinny-jeans irony. It was vertical and biblical: the irony by which the mighty are lowered, the humble exalted, and the savior dies on a cross. And she would shortly be required to submit to it herself, in full. Within three years of leaving Iowa, where she had prayed for desire of the Lord to claim her like a disease, she was diagnosed with lupus. Stricken, she returned to her mother’s farm in Milledgeville, her base of production for the novels Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away, and the short-story collections A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge, the latter published posthumously. Health and sex and adventure had been taken from her, and in their place was a vision, her world, blast-lit and still reeling under the first shock of creation. “The air was so quiet,” she wrote in “The River,” “he could hear the broken pieces of the sun knocking in the water.” It was a gift. And we are left with a question: Without this terrible narrowing-down, would she have achieved the greatness she prayed for? This illness, this thing that confined her, that hauled her, crutches clanking, into a premature spinsterhood, and finally killed her at the age of 39, can we call it by the name of grace? Dare we?”—The Passion of Flannery O’Connor - James Parker - The Atlantic
But the event also demonstrated the seductiveness of digital elitism, which incorporates social consciousness and intellectual discussion. “If we’re going to achieve greatness in the twenty-first century,” Eric Schmidt said, “…we have to start with some Silicon Valley thinking.” He stated that “Ultimately, this world will be owned by an entrepreneur.”
Digital elitism is optimistic, in that technology is positioned as a solution to an array of difficult problems. At the same time, it inculcates an air of superiority and a universality of experience that truly only applies to a very small number of the world’s most privileged individuals.
Digital elitism does not reconfigure power; it entrenches it. It provides justification for enormous gaps between rich and poor, for huge differences between average people and highly sought-after engineers. It idealizes a “better class of rich people” (as Kara Swisher put it) who evangelize philanthropy and social entrepreneurship — but it also promotes the idea that entrepreneurship is a catch-all solution, and that a startup culture is the best way to solve any problem.
“The Google message-automation service promises to at last close the realtime loop: A computer running personalization algorithms will generate your personal messages. These computer-generated messages, once posted or otherwise transmitted, will be collected online by other computers and used to refine your personal profile. Your refined personal profile will then feed back into the personalization algorithms used to generate your messages, resulting in a closer fit between your computer-generated messages and your computer-generated persona. And around and around it goes until a perfect stasis between self and expression is achieved. The thing that you once called “you” will be entirely out of the loop at this point, of course, but that’s for the best. Face it: you were never really very good at any of this anyway.”—Nick Carr. And freed from these digital burdens, I can finally go play outside!
“Just as eyeglasses have shed their medical identity and become wholly identified with fashion, other prosthetics are getting new design attention. Abler will cover these prosthetics getting more beautiful engineering and more beautiful design. But you’ll also see the work of designers and engineers here that wouldn’t necessarily, at first glance, be identified as “assistive technology.” Making connections among such a wide range of devices and tools is the point here—to see unusual resonances, to welcome uncertainty about who’s using which prosthetics for what. Abler proceeds from a broad claim that all technology is assistive technology.”—Introducing Abler: All Technology is Assistive Technology. Sara Hendren’s remarkable Abler blog is now at Gizmodo. Please check it out.
Today, as you know, everything is “innovation.” We have problems, and people are looking for fairy-tale solutions—innovation like manna from heaven falling on the Israelites and saving them from the desert. It’s like, “Let’s not reform the education system, the tax system. Let’s not improve our dysfunctional government. Just wait for this innovation manna from a little group of people in Silicon Valley, preferably of Indian origin.”
You people at WIRED—you’re the guilty ones! You support these people, you write about them, you elevate them onto the cover! You really messed it up. I tell you, you pushed this on the American public, right? And people believe it now.
“Does everything need to be assigned a specific value, or are there radically different ways of exchanging goods and services? Can our digital connections afford new ways of trucking, bartering, and exchanging such that huge numbers of people are not subject to the whims of powerful entities? I think its possible, but not with crypto-currencies.”—The Myth of Virtual Currency (via nathanjurgenson)
“But it is also important to recognize how much the themes of the Narnia books are interwoven with what he was thinking and writing in other contexts around the same time, and with material he had already published in the 1940s — as well as the fact that the first seeds of the actual Narnia narrative seem to have been sown as early as 1939. For example: his 1946 book, The Great Divorce, foreshadows many of the ideas in the Narnia stories — most particularly a theme that Lewis insists on more and more as his work develops, the impossibility of forcing any person to accept love and the monumental and excruciating difficulty of receiving love when you are wedded to a certain picture of yourself. It is this theme that emerges most clearly in his last (and greatest) imaginative work, the 1956 novel, Till We Have Faces. The issues we shall be looking at in the following pages are very much the issues that Lewis is trying to work out in a variety of imaginative idioms from the early 1940s onwards — the problems of self-deception above all, the lure of self-dramatizing, the pain and challenge of encounter with divine truthfulness. What Narnia seeks to do, very ambitiously, is to translate these into terms that children can understand. And as to why Lewis decided to address such an audience, there is probably no very decisive answer except that he had a high view of children’s literature, a passion for myth and fantasy and a plain desire to communicate as widely as possible.”—Rowan Williams on C.S. Lewis and the point of Narnia | OUPblog
If the reader will suspend his disbelief and exercise his imagination upon it even for a few minutes, I think he will become aware of the vast re-adjustment involved in a perceptive reading of the old poets. He will find his whole attitude to the universe inverted. In modern, that is, in evolutionary, thought Man stands at the top of a stair whose foot is lost in obscurity; in this, he stands at the bottom of a stair whose top is invisible with light.
You must go out on a starry night and walk about for half an hour trying to see the sky in terms of the old cosmology. Remember that you now have an absolute Up and Down. The Earth is really the centre, really the lowest place; movement to it from whatever direction is downward movement. As a modern, you located the stars at a great distance. For distance you must now substitute that very special, and far less abstract, sort of distance which we call height; height, which speaks immediately to our muscles and nerves. The Medieval Model is vertiginous.
Historically as well as cosmically, medieval man stood at the foot of a stairway; looking up, he felt delight. The backward, like the upward, glance exhilarated him with a majestic spectacle, and humility was rewarded with the pleasures of admiration…. There were friends, ancestors, patrons in every age. One had one’s place, however modest, in a great succession; one need be neither proud nor lonely.
And … as that vast (though finite) space is not dark, so neither is it silent. If our ears were opened we should perceive, as Henryson puts it, ‘every planet in his proper sphere / In moving mankand harmony and sound.’ The ‘silence’ which frightened Pascal was, according to the Model, wholly illusory; and the sky looks black only because we are seeing it through the dark glass of our own shadow. You must conceive yourself looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music.
”—I was thinking of these key passages from C. S. Lewis’s The DIscarded Image last night as I was conversing with my friend Matt Milliner. This is a condensed summary of Lewis’s whole imagination.
In this sense, it seems to me that the malaise that afflicts our public universities is not really about about dollars and cents. If this country can build the world’s largest military and fight open-ended wars in multiple theaters across the globe, it can find a way to pay for public education, as it once did in living memory. But doing so has ceased to be a real priority. Affordable public education is no longer something we expect, demand or take for granted; to argue that public education should be free makes you sound like an absurd and unrealistic utopian. Meanwhile, we take it for granted that roads should be free to drive on, a toll road here or there not withstanding. You provide the car and the gas; the state provides the road.
This used to be how we thought about our public universities, before they became exorbitant toll roads. If you had the grades and the ambition, there was a classroom open to you. But if every road were a toll road, no one would expect to drive for free. If every road were a toll road, the very idea that the government would build and maintain a massive system of roads and highways — and then let anyone use it (for free!) — would seem fantastical, ridiculous, even perverse. People expecting the right to drive anywhere they pleased, for free, would be branded utopian, socialist and deluded, soft-hearted liberals demanding a free lunch. That’s the world we live in when it comes to highways. When the roads that drive our economy and make modern life possible get too crowded or too congested, we expect the state to build new roads. When the old roads wear out, they are repaved. When a tree or a landslide obstructs a thoroughfare, the state clears the way. When there are not enough classrooms, on the other hand, the state no longer builds new universities; it simply charges more.
We all tend to assume that young people are on the technological vanguard, that they somehow have got an inside scoop on what’s next. If today’s kids are Snapchatting instead of Facebooking, the thinking goes, tomorrow we’ll all be Snapchatting, too, because tech habits, like hairstyles, flow only one way: young to old.
There is only one problem with elevating young people’s tastes this way: Kids are often wrong. There is little evidence to support the idea that the youth have any closer insight on the future than the rest of us do. Sometimes they are first to flock to technologies that turn out to be huge; other times, the young pick products and services that go nowhere. They can even be late adopters, embracing innovations that older people understood first. To butcher another song: The kids could be all wrong.
Here’s a thought exercise. How many of the products and services that you use every day were created or first used primarily by people under 25?
“The city that “willed the death of the president”? What the hell does that mean? That the city of Dallas used its eerie mental powers to direct a radical weirdo to shoot JFK, like Uri Geller bending a spoon? It is a disgusting calumny. Yes, Dallas was home to more than a few far-right wingers who said and believed and did reprehensible things back then. But one thing they did not do was murder President Kennedy. That was accomplished by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was a communist and a crackpot. I agree with James McAuley that many of the things the 1960s-era right-wing radicals of Dallas stood for were terrible, but to object to it by pinning the assassination on those people and that city is false and low-down.”—It’s Always Dallas’s Fault | The American Conservative. Rod Dreher gives a ridiculous essay in the NYT a proper fisking.
If string theory turns out to be right, string theorists will turn out to be the greatest heroes in the history of science. On the basis of a handful of clues—none of which has an unambiguous reading—they will have discovered that reality is far more vast than previously imagined. Columbus discovered a new continent unknown to the king and queen of Spain (as the Spanish royals were unknown to the residents of the New World). Galileo discovered new stars and moons, and later astronomers discovered new planets. All this would pale in the face of the discovery of new dimensions. Moreover, many string theorists believe that the myriad worlds described by the huge number of string theories really do exist—as other universes impossible for us to see directly. If they are right, we see far less of reality than any group of cave dwellers saw of the earth. No one in human history has ever guessed correctly about such a large expansion of the known world.
On the other hand, if string theorists are wrong, they can’t be just a little wrong. If the new dimensions and symmetries do not exist, then we will count string theorists among science’s greatest failures, like those who continued to work on Ptolemaic epicycles while Kepler and Galileo forged ahead. Theirs will be a cautionary tale of how not to do science, how not to let theoretical conjecture get so far beyond the limits of what can rationally be argued that one starts engaging in fantasy.
”—Lee Smolin, from The Trouble with Physics (2006)
“However, even if Lacan’s version [“If there is no God, then nothing is permitted”] appears an empty paradox, a quick look at our moral landscape confirms that it is much more appropriate to describe the universe of atheist liberal hedonists: they dedicate their life to the pursuit of pleasures, but since there is no external authority guaranteeing them the space for this pursuit, they become entangled in a thick web of self-imposed Politically Correct regulations, as if a superego much more severe than that of traditional morality is controlling them. They become obsessed by the idea that, in pursuing their pleasures, they may humiliate or violate others’ space, so they regulate their behavior with detailed prescriptions of how to avoid “harassing” others, not to mention the no less complex regulation of their own care of the self (bodily fitness, health food, spiritual relaxation …). Indeed, nothing is more oppressive and regulated than being a simple hedonist.”—Slavoj Žižek, from God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse