Only the Pop Remains

“Alienation breeds a distrust that corrodes any collective effort. To be “woke” in the alienated culture is to embrace the most cynical interpretation of every situation, to assume bad intent in every actor, to imagine the conspiratorial malevolence of your foes.” (David Brooks​,

Both political sides have experienced alienation over the past couple years: the ‘right’ in the months leading up the election; the ‘left,’ in its aftermath; the right again, in dealing with the reactions to Trump’s election. Both have used it to their advantage. Both continue to use it to fuel their speech and actions.

But I’m not sure one can do much with alienation after it’s spent–usually in acquiring some kind of power. Or whether one can unite a coalition, much less a country, powered by alienation.

It’s like the ‘fuel’ in bottle rockets. After the flight, only the ‘pop’ remains.


Streaming Video and McLuhan’s 4 Laws

After reading about the tragedy of a 12-year-old Georgia girl, who streamed her suicide, I have to wonder about streaming technology’s ubiquity. What criteria should we use to evaluate such technologies, which have great capacity for good and evil? Marshall McLuhan, the father of media ecology studies, suggested a Media tetrad, 4 “Laws of Media.” Continue reading “Streaming Video and McLuhan’s 4 Laws”

Goodreads and the Quantified Self

That trackability—that ability to have a quantified self of the mind—proved to be a draw for many of Goodreads’ 50 million users. Sharing a well-lit photo of a sandwich on Insta doesn’t say much except whether you prefer white or wheat; posting about our reading choices allows people to see the worlds we conjure up in our quiet moments. Is it oversharing? Maybe, but at least we’re reading, right?

On Reality

I made the following comment on a blog post at Circe Institute. I reread it today and thought it could stand on its own.

We tend to grant “realness” to tangible things and “metaphorical reality” to intangible things. In doing so, we wrest the status of ultimate reality from God, whom “no man has seen” according to Christ.

Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word seems apropos here. Caldecott writes that imagination is the proper tool for thinking about the future, as memory is the proper tool for thinking about the past. If that is so, we dare not fall prey to the tyrannical eye. Ultimate reality, after all, is beyond our eyes but not our imagination.

The Lord of the Rings illustrates this, it seems to me, in Sauron’s great and burning lidless Eye, roving over Mordor (and beyond) seeking the one thing that will assure his future victory and enthronement as lord of Middle Earth. Despite Sauron’s vast knowledge, despite his expansive vision, Gandalf says the Dark Lord has lost the power to imagine anyone refusing, much less destroying the Ring. And it is this “folly” that Gandalf suggests may be a “cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy!”

Some (Peter Jackson included, I think) read our times into the Eye, perhaps seeing in it the 21st century’s constant surveillance. But might it not instead or also represent a slavery to what may be seen, that which St. Paul writes is temporal?

What Gandalf suggests of the heroes of Middle Earth is true of us: our enchantment with the “invisible” Ultimate Reality leaves our materialist foes befuddled and frustrated by our apparent folly. Why, they say, can we not admit the lack of tangible evidence and admit that God is a metaphor? In fact, the veil that once blinded our eyes is torn and the Glory it once hid is on full display, as we realize God is not merely a metaphor but the metaphor, literally carrying over the “unreal” into the “real” world.