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Posts tagged "Alan Jacobs"

Another Week Ends: Comparisonitis, Funk Apostles, Boring Adults, Coffee Wars,  Religious Radicalization, and the Ageless Persistence of Vision

Another Week Ends: Comparisonitis, Funk Apostles, Boring Adults, Coffee Wars, Religious Radicalization, and the Ageless Persistence of Vision

“It’s not quite reality. It’s like a totally filtered reality. It’s like you can pretend everything’s not quite the way it is.” – Joshua Leonard 1. Envy: according to Moya Sarner at The Guardian this deadly sin is more present in our everyday lives than ever before, thanks to social media. More than a mere […]

Another Week Ends: Startup Churches, Effortless Perfectionists, Food Tribes, Behavioral Economists, and Weak Men

Another Week Ends: Startup Churches, Effortless Perfectionists, Food Tribes, Behavioral Economists, and Weak Men

1. What says entrepreneurship like the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church? The subject of this season of Start Up, the popular podcast from the guys at Gimlet Media, is “church planting,” specifically one church plant in Philadelphia, its lead pastor, and the difficulties of getting such a church to self-sufficiency in a certain amount […]

Seeds of Renewal (According to Alan Jacobs)

Seeds of Renewal (According to Alan Jacobs)

We were so honored to have Alan Jacobs, esteemed author of How To Think (and many other books), speak at our 2018 New York Conference and are doubly grateful that he’s allowed us to post an excerpt from his second talk, delivered on Saturday, April 28th. The world really does seem different now; there are, in […]

How to Turn a Neighbor into an Other (According to Thomas More and Martin Luther)

How to Turn a Neighbor into an Other (According to Thomas More and Martin Luther)

Another incisive excerpt from How To Think, the fantastic little book by upcoming conference speaker Alan Jacobs, this time about the origins of cultural repulsion and “othering”—featuring none other than Martin Luther and Thomas More. There’s some choice language in the following, but the parallels to modern online discourse are too spot-on not to share.  […]

Training My Enemies

Training My Enemies

This one comes to us from Geoffrey Sheehy. When I pulled from the Greek treasury for bedtime stories, I frequently became a mythological revisionist. Zeus’s appropriation of any woman he desired? Excised, or, if necessary, declared legal marriages. Hera’s rage over Zeus’s infidelity? Simple quarrels. I knew they were important, but not to my three and […]

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

Tragic school shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida this week are becoming an all-too-common occurrence in our culture. Ubiquitous screens and news outlets surround us as we encounter these tragedies, in a second-handed fashion, in a strange collective way (only those directly affected can experience them). As with any repeated and communal form of […]

The Immensely Disconcerting Truth About Our Adversaries

I honestly cannot say enough good things about Alan Jacobs’ How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. And that’s not just cause he’s speaking for us in NYC this year (though that doesn’t hurt). He’s put together something that’s both simple and hopeful, gently prescriptive in a way that’s more matter-of-fact than guilt-inducing, grounded in humility and refreshingly non-rationalistic (despite what the title may imply). Indeed, this short book–really a guide to uncovering the ideological blindspots and biases that’ve allowed us to turn our neighbor into an “other”–oozes compassion for our fractured culture and selves. It has helped me immensely, and continues to do so. If I had to pick a favorite chapter, it would probably be the one on “Repulsions,” from which the following paragraphs are taken. Quick note is that Jacobs is riffing here on Roger Scruton’s understanding of “unscrupulous optimism” AKA the core belief, either stated or un-, that “the difficulties and disorders of humankind can be overcome by some large-scale adjustment”:

When you believe that the brokenness of this world can be not just ameliorated but fixed, once and for all, then people who don’t share your optimism, or who do share it but invest it in a different system, are adversaries of Utopia. (An “adversary” is literally one who has turned against you, one who blocks your path.) Whole classes of people can by this logic become expendable–indeed, it can become the optimist’s perceived duty to eliminate adversaries. As a nineteenth-century pope notoriously commented, “Error has not rights.” Caught up by the momentum of his or her cause, the Optimist can easily forget the vital addendum to the papal statement made by Orestes Brownson: “Error has no rights, but the man who errs has equal rights with him who errs not.”

Over the years, I’ve had to acknowledge that some of the people whose views on education appall me are more devoted to their students than I am to mine; and that some of the people whose theological positions strike me as immensely damaging to the health of the church are nevertheless more prayerful and charitable, more Christlike, than I will ever be. This is immensely disconcerting, even when it doesn’t mean that those people are right about those matters we disagree on. Being around those people forces me to confront certain truths about myself that I would rather avoid; and that alone is reason to seek every means possible to constrain the energies of animus.

When the Diagnosis Is the Treatment

We’re slowly but surely rolling out the list of confirmed speakers for this year’s NYC Conference (4/26-28) and somewhere very close to the top of the pile sits Alan Jacobs, a writer, teacher, and thinker who has been an invaluable influence on–and help to–our work these past couple years. Alan’s How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds dropped this past Fall, i.e. not a moment too soon, and the book is as short as it is essential. (NY Times readers may remember it inspiring a particularly strong Brooks column back in October.) Here’s a small taste of the intro:

Everyone today seems to have an RCO [Repugnant Cultural Other], and everyone’s RCO is on social media somewhere. We may be able to avoid listening to our RCO, but we can’t avoid the realization that he or she is there, shouting from two rooms away.

This is a profoundly unhealthy situation. It’s unhealthy because it prevents us from recognizing others as our neighbors–even when they are quite literally our neighbors. If I’m consumed by this belief that that person over there is both Other and Repugnant, I may never discover that my favorite television program is also his favorite television program; that we like some of the same books, though not precisely for the same reasons; that we both know what it’s like to nurse a loved one through a long illness. All of which is to say that I may all too easily forget that political and social and religious differences are not the whole of human experience. The cold divisive logic of the RCO impoverishes us, all of us, and brings us closer to that primitive state that the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes called “the war of every man against every man.”…

Once, years ago, I started having chest pains, and my doctors couldn’t isolate the problem: I exercised regularly, my heart seemed healthy, nothing was evidently wrong. But the pains kept coming back, and that scared me. Finally, one doctor asked some probing questions and discovered that I had had, before the pains began, a lingering heavy cough. It seemed that coughing had strained a muscle in my chest, and that was the source of the pain; and when I started worrying about it, the resulting anxiety tensed the muscle and increased the pain–which then led to more anxiety. It was the classic vicious circle of reinforcement. When I asked the doctor what treatment he thought best, he replied, “The diagnosis is the treatment. Now that you know you don’t have a life-threatening illness, you won’t worry so much, and less stress in your mind will mean less stress on your chest muscles. That’ll give them a chance to heal.”

p.s. Click here to pre-register for the NYC Conference (4/26-28)!

Another Week Ends: Bootleg Bob Dylan, Converted Morticians, Your True Self, Anxious Teens, and Earning Points in The Good Place

Another Week Ends: Bootleg Bob Dylan, Converted Morticians, Your True Self, Anxious Teens, and Earning Points in The Good Place

1. This week brought some fantastic revelations, not the least of which was Bob Dylan’s bootleg (gospel-infused) song, “Making A Liar Out of Me”: Needless to say, we’re eagerly awaiting this collection’s release. From Andy Greene at Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan began writing gospel songs at such a furious rate in late 1978 that there was […]

Another Week Ends: Humane Prisons, <i>Stranger Things 2</i>, U.F.O.s, Venmo FOMO, Heretical Statistics, and Always Being Wrong

Another Week Ends: Humane Prisons, Stranger Things 2, U.F.O.s, Venmo FOMO, Heretical Statistics, and Always Being Wrong

1. Another week, another opportunity to get jealous of Norway. In Mother Jones’ July/August Issue, Dashka Slater reports that North Dakota is experimenting with Norway’s “humane” prison system (which has been mentioned on our site before, here and here. Also, don’t forget the interview Ethan did with Norwegian prison warden Arne Nilsen for The Forgiveness Issue. Amazing stuff.) Needless […]

Another Week Ends: Prosecutors of Play, Video Gamers, Harvard Helicopters, Mimamoru, Starbucks Therapists, and Going <i>To the Bone</i>

Another Week Ends: Prosecutors of Play, Video Gamers, Harvard Helicopters, Mimamoru, Starbucks Therapists, and Going To the Bone

1. A very timely, and heartwarming, little essay from our friend Mark Galli entitled “A Theology of Play,” which has a lot to say about the inner-critics and scorekeepers that can trouble the summer frame of mind. Galli, who is a golfer and fisherman, describes the litany of moral reasons, practical reasons, and theological reasons […]

Champions She Shall Never Want

Champions She Shall Never Want

I recently decided to leave Mockingbird. I do not mean that I was convinced over a bourbon-fueled colloquy with a recent Catholic convert that Sylvester Prierias was unimpeachably correct to respond to Luther’s attack on indulgences by defending papal authority. Nor do I mean that I brushed up on recent Pauline scholarship and determined that […]