Figure Out What You Really Want

Rod Dreher, for some reason, inspires a strange sort of cultish devotion among young and youngish urban conservatives. Being a member of that target audience (I was 28 when Crunchy Cons came out,) I have sympathy for those seeking some kind of community in what seems to be an increasingly rootless society. That said…

[My family and I want] to move to a city, and be part of a local church community, that have certain specific characteristics (see below) and I was wondering if you or some of your friends might have some suggestions for us? Thanks for any help you can give.

A stand-alone city (not a suburb) with a population between 50,000 and 100,000: large enough where cultural and intellectual things are happening, and yet small enough where you feel like you’re part of a distinct, local community.

A city where there is some sort of institutional, Christian, intellectual presence: a seminary, Christian college/university, or Christian study center. This intellectual institution helps in giving (or potentially could give) orthodox, theological and historical ballast to the larger Christian community.

A city with at least some ethnic diversity.

A city where all four seasons are distinctly experienced (i.e. the year is neither 90% summer nor 90% winter).

First, ready-made communities don’t exist. They are created by individuals like the letter writer over time. Even if one finds the perfect place to live, it is very rare that he or she will drop into that place like a missing puzzle piece: chances are they were getting along fine without you. I’m surprised that conservative Christians of all people don’t get this.

Second, and more important, there’s a weird fantasy among right-leaning urbanites of living in a hip, cool city full of conservatives. It has “ethnic diversity,” but those fancy ethnic people spend all their time cooking exotic dishes that the conservative sophisticate ate while in Madison or Austin. The people in this mythical land ride the subway to work while discussing indie rock and literary theory, but they also worship Jesus with a down home (but oh-so-intellectual) fervor. You know, like San Francisco but without all those damn San Franciscans. 

Aside from inertia, one of the reasons I’ve stayed near Los Angeles is because I like, perhaps need, the sort of weird intellectual stimulation that comes with a very large city. Sure, it has its drawbacks: the place is crowded, dirty and expensive. I’m in an intellectual minority, and that’s annoying. I think about leaving all the time. 

That being said, I stopped looking for perfection a long time ago, and I’m definitely not going to look to Rod Dreher to provide it.


For Me but Not for Ze

I’m going back to school in a couple of days to finish my MA, and this article in the Spectator is not helping:

After a year on campus, on a course entitled ‘Cultural Reporting and Criticism’, I still feel unable to speak freely, let alone critically. Although it doesn’t apply to my own course, friends have told me about ‘trigger warnings’ that caution they are about to be exposed to certain ideas; the threat of micro-aggressions (i.e. unintended insults) makes frank discourse impossible. Then there is the infamous ‘safe space’ — a massage-circle, Play-Doh-making haven — where students are protected from offence (and, therefore, intellectual challenge). 

This is the kind of thing that even a liberal of the pushing-40 demographic who has been out in the world for a while would find stifling and more than a bit creepy. As a conservative, it’s quite alarming.

I keep telling myself that a challenge is a good thing, especially when it comes to overcoming the kind of dumb fear that keeps us from doing the things we know that we should do. That and a commuter school in Southern California is going to have a more diverse (in the sense of opinion) student body than NYU.

I think. Right?

On Google’s Shrunken Head

During my brief hiatus from this blog, the capital C Culture took another scalp in one James Damore at Google:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google has fired an employee who wrote an internal memo blasting the web company’s diversity policies, creating a firestorm across Silicon Valley. 

James Damore, the Google engineer who wrote the note, confirmed his dismissal in an email, saying that he had been fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” He said he’s “currently exploring all possible legal remedies.”

Hey, such is the price of having an unpopular opinion in Corporate America these days, it would seem.

I started this blog in part to get away from politics. It’s easy to write about politics, because there is always some new outrage happening, and there are thousands of bloggers out there saying witty and quotable things. It’s easy to get involved in the political blogging community, because mid-level bloggers are happy to link to your stuff, and their lower-level followers will also provide a few readers. This is true no matter what side one is on.

However, I consider it ultimately unhealthy and it’s not what I really care about.

I love literature, art, music, and obsolete technology. Those things satisfy me, and make life worth living. They teach me about how other people think, and I believe that they make me a more empathetic person. I find calm and repose in studying them and writing about them.

I get joy in writing dumb little pieces of fiction about robots and flawed but hopefully likable people who are just trying to survive like the rest of us.

And I am, politically, on the right. It’s not the whole of my being, and it never will be. Therein lies madness and despair.

See, here’s a neat little toy I’ve been playing with lately:

It’s a mono sampler called a Microgranny, and it’s made by a Czech company called Bastl Instruments. I’m using it in conjunction with a synthesizer to try and express emotions that I just don’t know how to put into writing. That’s what music does. 

Do my political leanings mean that I have to find a group of people who not only share my musical tastes (70s and 80s industrial) but also my political leanings? We seem to be headed in that direction.

I’m going back to grad school in two weeks to finish my MA at the age of 39. I’m nervous but excited. In my experience, most professors are pretty cool when it comes to opposing viewpoints. They’ll certainly challenge those viewpoints, but they won’t actively seek to harm a student who disagrees with them.

In the current year, is that still the case? Can I be allowed into the club of people who love William Blake, William Faulkner, William Shakespeare, et al if I also don’t share that other part?

I really don’t know. And it really bothers me.

(H/T to Ace)

The Eyeball Has Become an Annoying TV Trope

My girlfriend and I have been binge-watching Daredevil; it’s a pretty fun show, and I’ve enjoyed the introduction of the Punisher, who’s my favorite character. However, by the 49th time someone was killed via a sharp object, thumb or other implement penetrating the eye, I started to complain.

Yes, I get that it’s a sensitive part of the body and the purpose is to make us cringe. There’s a point, though, at which any stops being disturbing and becomes cliche.

When it happened in The Walking Dead the scene was set up to make it necessary. It was already played out by the time it appeared in Game of Thrones. In Being Human, I was sick of it and irritated that the producers were trying so hard to elicit a disgust response.

Now I just want it to go away.

The Fall

One word prompt: Shallow

Grandpa had a fall on Wednesday morning. That’s always what they say when it’s over: he had a fall. It’s something that happens to all of us from time to time; not to long ago I fell when I tripped on a step in the dark. That’s different from having a fall, though. Having a fall means it’s bad.

He was diagnosed 18 years ago, and we thought he beat it. Then, just a year ago, he had a relapse and the cancer came back. In the last few months all he could do was watch TV. His dinner consisted of some bread and a gin and tonic. I laugh about it now.

I met my grandmother in the lobby at the hospital. “I just want to warn you, Grandpa looks very bad.” Her voice was shaking. “His heart just won’t stop.”

“Okay.” I hugged her.

“Do you want me to go in the room with you?”

“No. I’m okay.” I was 28 years old. I didn’t need an old woman’s help.

I entered the room. Grandpa looked like a skeleton with skin and a little hair. He was breathing fast, in shallow gasps.

I leaned in and touched his head. There used to be hair. “It’s okay to go. Stop being so stubborn,” I whispered.

That’s how we used to talk.

A Chance Meeting

One word prompt: Hidden

Meredith wasn’t sure what time it was, but she knew that someone was in the liquor store. She sat up on the cardboard mat and put her hand over Lily’s mouth before waking her. Lily’s body jumped and her eyes shot open.

Meredith leaned down and whispered, “Shh! There’s someone here. We have to be quiet.” Lily’s eyes assented.

Meredith reached out in the dark and found the Mossberg. This would have been a great time to have some ammunition, she thought.

Glass crunched to the rhythm of footsteps. Meredith stood and readied the shotgun the way her father had shown her. The back room was almost pitch dark; she was relying on sound.

“Hello?” A man’s voice. “Anyone here?”

Meredith’s body was trembling. She looked at Lily, who had crouched in a corner. Meredith tried to look reassuring.

The door to the back room opened, slowly.

Breakfast with Grandma

One word prompt: Tea

Grandma didn’t make coffee very often since Grandpa died, but I liked it black, so in that regard I was pretty easy. Grandma’s dad was from England, so she liked tea. Family lore had it that he had been stationed off the coast of Maryland with the Royal Navy and had jumped ship after throwing a shoe at an officer. It was a funny story.

She put the coffee next to my breakfast, which I had been picking at. I picked up the cup carefully, trying to hide my shaking hands.

“So. On Sunday I’m going to pick you up and we’re going to go to church,” she said.

I took a moment to think. “Grandma, I don’t think I’m ready.”

“Honey, it’s only an hour. We’ll go and I’ll take you out to breakfast afterward.”

“I-I’m just not ready.” I wasn’t. I had tried. Church always made me feel good for a few hours, but then life came back and I went to the store. I still owed them $6.50.

“Well,” she was trying not to cry. “I’m disappointed, but let me know when you’re ready.”