Eric Clapton, Peyton Manning and Apollo 11

My friend Ashley Beauchamp (who blogs delightfully about fashion here) sent me this video the other day with the comment that Eric Clapton “looks like a mild-mannered accountant who wandered onto stage and decided to shred some guitar.” She’s absolutely right. 

And if that wasn’t an invitation for me to link to my favorite article about football (though not my favorite article about any sport), I don’t know what is. 

After all, it’s the article that says “It’s possible to imagine, say, Ben Roethlisberger, if a night took a weird swerve, actually wielding a torch in anger; Peyton Manning would spend that same night at home, in his sock-folding room, folding his socks.”

It’s the article that says “Manning makes being a midlevel IT manager look like a form of ruthless conquest. It’s as if he wrote a script to install automatic PC updates, and somehow it made him the god-emperor of hell.”

It’s the article that says “He goes out every week with a graphing calculator and a stack of forms, and he just audits teams to death.”

And then, in a final brilliant extended image, it compares Manning to the astronauts who landed on the moon.* Go read it.

Just a link on the Benedict Option

Well…. just a link and a tiny bit of commentary.

I haven’t read the book myself, but I found this review by Brad Littlejohn to be extremely helpful. He outlines the substance of Dreher’s proposal more clearly than I’ve heard it summarized before, and proceeds to what seem like pretty fair critiques of the system.

For example, my second- and third-hand understanding of the Benedict Option made it sound pretty retreatist, but he notes that

Dreher plays down the importance of politics in his book, and indeed has been read as advocating a total Christian withdrawal from politics. This is an unfair assessment; in his lament over the failures and idolatries of Religious Right politics, he says nothing but what many others, including Hunter, have acknowledged, and he is surely right that the Trump phenomenon will either prove a Pyrrhic victory for evangelicals, or, best case, a rearguard action that buys us a brief respite on certain fronts.

(Parenthetically: That “brief respite” is one of the reasons a professor I have come to regard quite highly decided she could not sign the #NeverTrump statement. I would have chosen differently, but I understand why she came to her conclusion)

Just a little later, Brad makes an incredibly salient point that I want to highlight so you don’t miss it:

Faithful Christians in positions of cultural and political influence in the West must work in an environment of growing hostility, and are even beginning to find doors closing in their faces. But most of the doors are still open, and although it may get harder and harder to push through them, Christians still have a duty to serve in these vocations—as lawmakers and lawyers, teachers and writers, police officers and governors, businessmen and philanthropists—as long as they have opportunity to do so.


As bad as things are, and they might be pretty bad, Christians still have lots of opportunities that we should not let slip while we lament how bad things have gotten.



Original source: The Benedict Mandate and the Need for Faithful Presence 

Crisis: opportunity + danger?

While I pursue my PhD at the University of Dallas, I still have bills to pay (surprise!), and so I also work on the leadership team at a fast food restaurant. As part of the leadership development programs we participate in, I come across lots of pretty cliche business-speak encouragements. I can’t recall ever hearing from this particular company that “In Chinese, the word for crisis is a combination of the signs for danger and opportunity“, but I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for the kinds of things that business training people say and it definitely sounds like something I could have heard.

Of course, I also have an interest in languages, and so I was intrigued when a friend shared a post debunking this particular etymological claim. Here’s the money paragraph:

The third, and fatal, misapprehension is the author’s definition of as “opportunity.” While it is true that wēijī does indeed mean “crisis” and that the wēi syllable of wēijī does convey the notion of “danger,” the syllable ofwēijī most definitely does not signify “opportunity.” Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines “opportunity” as:

  1. a favorable juncture of circumstances;
  2. a good chance for advancement or progress.

While that may be what our Pollyanaish advocates of “crisis” as “danger” plus “opportunity” desire to signify, it means something altogether different.

The of wēijī, in fact, means something like “incipient moment; crucial point (when something begins or changes).” Thus, a wēijī is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry. A wēijī indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. It is not a juncture when one goes looking for advantages and benefits. In a crisis, one wants above all to save one’s skin and neck! Any would-be guru who advocates opportunism in the face of crisis should be run out of town on a rail, for his / her advice will only compound the danger of the crisis.

And if you didn’t know, now you know.

Trump’s linguistic pedagogy(?!)

According to Wired, some beginning English students may find it helpful to listen to the speeches of Donald Trump: “listening to Trump and reading his subtitles can actually be a boon for people learning English as a second language, due to his low-level vocabulary, constant word repetition, and discussion of basic concepts.” It isn’t that his speeches easily translate (they don’t according to the article), it’s that the way they are structured with repetitive vocabulary and uncomplicated syntax makes them easier to follow in English.

It’s interesting that somebody who is regarded as hostile to outside ethnic groups is actually speaking in ways that are more accessible to ESL learners as long as they’re learning English.

Taking philosophers seriously

A while back (most of my blog posts start this way … let’s start taking it for granted that I’m probably not offering a hot take?) there was a disagreement on facebook (when isn’t there?) among my friends about whether we should “take philosophy seriously.” I think it was sparked by a homily or communion exhortation or such, but I can’t be sure now. Anyway, somebody said something to the effect of “You can read them without taking them seriously. After all, you can fight Rabadash without taking him seriously.”

I want to come out on the side of taking philosophy and philosophers seriously, while acknowledging that I and the friend whose identity is lost to time and my bad note-taking might still agree.

If by “take seriously” you mean believe, then of course we don’t have to take every philosopher seriously. But to even engage with someone requires, at a certain level, accepting that they are honestly attempting to make sense of what they observe. You have to honestly believe that they are not charlatans; that what they say is worth responding to; that they have considered their position and at some level have an intellectually honest reason for accepting it, even if the reasons are flawed; and those beliefs all amount to taking the philosopher and his philosophy “seriously.” And this seems the most charitable approach to take to another human being, even one who is dead and may have written some things you decide are silly.

Tocqueville on Democracy and Greatness

What do you ask of society and its government? We must understand one another.

Do you want to give the human spirit a certain nobility, a generous fashion of envisioning the things of this world? Do you want to inspire in men a sort of contempt for material goods? Do you desire to bring about or to maintain profound convictions and prepare great devotions?

Is it a matter for you of polishing mores, of elevating manners, of making the arts shine? Do you want poetry, fame, and glory?

Do you claim to organize a people in a way to act strongly on all others? Do you intend it to attempt great undertakings, and, whatever the result of its efforts, to leave an immense trace in history?

If such, in your view, is the principal object that men must propose for themselves in society, do not opt for the government of democracy; it would not lead you surely to the goal.

But if it seems useful to you to divert the intellectual and moral activity of man toward the necessities of material life, and to use it to produce well-being; if reason appears to you more profitable to men than genius; if your object is not to create heroic virtues, but peaceful habits; if you like to see vices more than crimes, and prefer to find fewer great actions, on the condition of encountering fewer cases of heinous crimes; if, instead of acting within the bosom of a brilliant society, it is enough for you to live in the midst of a prosperous society; if, finally, in your view, the principal object of a government is not to give the entire body of the nation the most strength or the most glory possible, but to provide for each of the individuals that make up the society the most well-being and to avoid the most misery; then equalize conditions and constitute the government of democracy

If there is no more time to make a choice, and a force superior to men is already carrying you, without consulting your desires, toward one of these two governments, seek at least to derive from it all the good that it can do; and knowing its good instincts, as well as its bad inclinations, endeavor to limit the effect of the second and to develop the first.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Historical-Critical Edition of De la démocratie en Amérique, ed. Eduardo Nolla, translated from the French by James T. Schleifer. A Bilingual French-English editions, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010). Vol. 2. 2/21/2017.