My review of Alan Jacob’s Breaking Bread with the Dead (Penguin Press, 2020) is online at Englewood Review of Books and is reproduced below:
Alan Jacobs, Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind (Penguin Press, 2020).
To read with intelligent charity.
Alan Jacobs, A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love (2001).
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.
C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books,” God in the Dock 217 (2014).
As a society we are reconsidering our relationship to the past.
We wonder whether statues, schools and flags should be removed, renamed or redesigned because of their association with causes, people and history which we now find evil, embarrassing or repugnant. We wonder about the past.
Andrew Peterson gave the (virtual?) commencement address at his daughter’s (virtual?) graduation. “The Certainty of Time in Uncertain Times,” The Rabbit Room (June 8, 2020) [link]:
Six months ago things (for me, at least) were kind of chugging along, and no one had ever heard of COVID-19. But in a flash, everything changed. Now our history has a new dividing line: before Coronavirus and after Coronavirus, kind of like 9/11. I used to have a pretty good idea what was coming, but now I haven’t a clue, from one day to the next. I watch the news with a desperate hope that they’ll tell us this pandemic is going to be over in a week, that systemic racism is finally banished from our hearts and our nation, that the world, at last, is at peace. I long for it. Everything feels so crazy that I just want to make some soup and get a blankie and let John Krasinski to tell me some good news.
But to say that these times are uncertain implies that the time before was certain. Graduates, these times aren’t any less certain than a year ago or 100 or 1,000 years ago. The times have always been uncertain.
This is, of course reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ “Learning in War-Time,” from The Weight of Glory (1949) (“The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.”).
Adrian Brandon has done a series of portraits in which the subject is sketched in pencil, but the portrait is only partially finished in color:
This series is dedicated to the many black people that were robbed of their lives at the hands of the police. In addition to using markers and pencil, I use time as a medium to define how long each portrait is colored in. 1 year of life = 1 minute of color. Tamir Rice was 12 when he was murdered, so I colored his portrait for 12 minutes. . . .
“Stolen,” adrianbrandon.com [link]. The artist helps us see these subjects as lives cut short. (The short video of the coloring of Marzues Scott is fascinating as an art lesson as well.)
Gary Sheffield describes two encounters with the police in “Do You Believe Me Now?” The Player’s Tribune (June 12, 2020) [link]. It is important, I think, for us to hear these stories from people we know personally, but many of us we “know” and have “relationships with” athletes and actors whom we have followed for years. Their experiences are worth listening to, and are all too consistent with what we hear from our friends. Sheffield writes:
The unfortunate reality is that my stories aren’t unique. They’re not special or extraordinary, and neither am I. What happened to George Floyd could have easily — and far too often — happened to me or others.
What has made George Floyd’s death a defining moment in this country — what distinguishes it from countless others who were murdered and remain anonymous — was that this otherwise desensitized country actually saw it happen.
Sam Allberry (@SamAllberry) has written a slender book called 7 Myths about Singleness (Crossway 2019) [amazon], and the only thing I didn’t like about it was the cover.
Allberry, a single pastor and speaker at RZIM, deals winsomely about the church’s various misconceptions about singleness (not all of which are consistent with each other): 1. Singleness is too hard; 2. Singleness requires a special calling; 3. Singleness means no intimacy; 4. Singleness means no family; 5. Singleness hinders ministry; 6. Singleness wastes your sexuality; and 7. Singleness is easy.
What I liked most about this book was that it wasn’t particularly directed at single people. The target audience is believers who want to think about biblical teaching on the subject and includes married and unmarried believers. It would seem to me that the topic is pretty relevant to readers of the New Testament given that Jesus (certainly) and Paul (probably) were single. How can we be so quick to see marriage as a virtual requirement for ministers and the “highest calling” for others?
Allberry says, in his conclusion:
When I started this project, my initial aim was to write about the goodness of singleness . . . . But through it all I have been increasingly preoccupied with something else – not the goodness of singleness but the goodness of God. The issue is not whether this path or that path is better, whether singleness or marriage would bring me more good. The issue is God and whether I will plunge myself into him, trusting him every day.
P. 149. If that’s not relevant to us all, I don’t know what is.
This is more like my day job as an attorney, but there is some good writing being done, especially by Tom Verducci.
Start with Verducci’s “‘Clean It Up. It Must Stop’: MLB Is in an Ethical Crisis” Sports Illustrated (Jan. 16-17, 2020) [link]. You can follow the links until you get tired of it.
But maybe this will burn out in a few weeks. Nah, probably not, but we can hope.
As Verducci says:
In one month we hope to be restored by the pictures from Arizona and Florida of youthful ballplayers under the winter sun lazily tossing baseballs to one another and giving us once again the beautiful sound of bat meeting baseball, which for us is what the chirp of a bird is to an ornithologist. This is why we watch. It’s the simplicity of the game that soothes us. Every game has a binary outcome. Every event is definable. Runs, hits and errors. Wins and losses. Its beauty is in its simplicity.
We don’t want championships that make us do mental gymnastics to decide whether they are inauthentic. We don’t want player analysis to be derivative valuation. We don’t want ethical dilemmas to test our fandom.
We want a clean game decided by fair competition. Clean it up.