I’m back from vacation in the Florida Keys with Robert and the kids. The last time all five of us got away together for an entire week was summer 2015, when I was chaplain at the Presbyterian House in Chautauqua. Which was a bit of a busman’s holiday. This was a true vacation, and much needed. And as often happens during these getaways, I got tremendous clarity on some vocational things, including what my next book will be about. Sabbath time is powerful that way!
Ten for Tuesday was on hiatus last week, so I’ve been sitting on these links for a while. They’re still good though!
1. Turtles!! A highlight of last week’s trip to the Keys was touring the Turtle Hospital, which has been rescuing, rehabbing and returning sea turtles for decades. I’ve always loved turtles, and these animals were truly special. Some had survived being hit by boats AND being attacked by sharks. Most of them are returned to their natural habitats, but five turtles are permanent residents, one of which we “adopted” in honor of Easter and in lieu of big Easter baskets.
2. José M. Hernández’s journey to space lasted over two decades. The son of Mexican migrant workers was rejected 11 times by NASA before becoming a part of the 19th class of astronauts in 2004:
3. Teaching Our Children to ‘Stay Soft’ in a World that Wants to Toughen Them Up
This hits close to home. When I went to pick up our cats from boarding yesterday, James opted not to go with me, because it makes him sad to hear them meowing in their carriers on the way home.
Many quibbles with this list: What makes a book “famous”? Shouldn’t Texas’s choice be Terms of Endearment? And can’t North Carolina do better than a Nicholas Sparks novel? Still, lots to add to your reading list! A 50-states reading goal would be fun.
When I speak to groups about Sabbath, I sometimes include a module entitled “Why Sabbath is Good for Children.” This article is along those lines.
As a parent, I get it–unstructured play can be messy; there are conflicts; kids can get bumps and bruises. And with so many two-parent households, structured, supervised activities become a child-care necessity. Still–get out of your kids’ business as much as you can and let them play!
The Julie Dorrington winner: Intraocular lens ‘iris clip’ This image shows how an iris clip, also known as an artificial intraocular lens (IOL), is fitted onto the eye. An iris clip is used to treat conditions such as myopia (nearsightedness) and cataracts (cloudiness of the lens). This particular patient, a 70-year-old man, regained almost full vision following his surgery. Mark Bartley, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust/Wellcome Images
NPR: When you really want something, you start to focus on it obsessively. When you’re hungry, it’s hard to think of anything other than food, when you’re desperately poor, you constantly worry about making ends meet. Scarcity produces a kind of tunnel vision, and it explains why, when we’re in a hole, we often lose sight of long-term priorities and dig ourselves even deeper. Here’s Sendhil.
MULLAINATHAN: What if it’s not that poor people are somehow deficient but that poverty makes everyone less capable, that it’s the – that it’s you and I tomorrow, were we to become poor, would all of a sudden have the same effect, that poverty is in some sense changing our minds?
VEDANTAM: Of course, if this hypothesis is true, then…
MULLAINATHAN: The same person, when they’re poor, should have very different cognitive capacity than when they’re rich.
So critical for empathy. Also helpful to understand as we discuss policy solutions to poverty.
Several animals profiled here! I’d never given much thought to what happens when animals emerge from hibernation.
Arctic ground squirrels hibernate farther north than any other animal. They enter torpor in August or September, and stay in suspended animation underground for up to 270 days, reducing their metabolism by well over 90 percent to survive.
To achieve this, males shrink their testes and stop testosterone production, which means they must experience puberty every spring. When they awaken in mid-March, they live off a cache of seeds, berries, mushrooms and willow leaves while sexually maturing and bulking up.
The article profiles Marcus Bullock, the chief executive of Flikshop, an app that helps people in prison connect with friends and family. He also leads apprenticeship programs for former inmates through the nonprofit Free Minds Book Club.
He got the idea for the app when he himself was in prison. For me the key insight is here:
Do you have any regrets?
No. Because my failure has been my tutor my entire career. And the thing is, I never would be able to be in the markets I am, with this technology, had I never gone to prison. Obviously, I wouldn’t, you know, give anyone advice to go to prison so you can come home with a good idea. [Laughs.] But what I will say is I was able to somehow take the adversity of a situation and really build out the next steps of my life.
I think it’s OK for people to feel regret. But what he’s describing is improv, people. Yes-and.
You’ve probably picked up the fact that I love running. It has given so much to my life, mentally as much as physically. Click the link for a whole collection of articles to help you get started. I’d love to cheer you on!
Pro-tips (from me, but many of them echoed in the article)
get fitted for shoes at a running store
start slow and easy–slower and easier than you think you should
listen to your body–pain does not equal gain, especially in the beginning
don’t believe the hype that running ruins your knees–that’s been debunked.)
if running really doesn’t work for you after giving it a decent effort, move. Do something.
The article is poignant and important, but I especially want to highlight one of the comments on the article. (Side note: the reader- and NYT-curated comments are a worthy exception to the rule never to read the comments. They are frequently insightful.)
Read the article, but here’s the comment:
A few years ago I inherited papers from some German relatives, whom I had come to know as gentle and lovely people. The elder relatives claimed they were never Nazis. I did not argue with them but also did not believe them. I assumed they were among the so-called ordinary Germans, who later re-wrote their own role. I asked a student of mine to please translate the papers, and that is how I made an incredibly moving discovery. Buried in those papers was a letter they had received from the Nazi party, upbraiding them for failing to do their duty and join the party. The letter was obviously a form letter sent to anyone who had not joined. The letter concluded with a line that chilled me to my center–it said something like this: “You will be judged in the future by what you fail to do today”. The letter’s intent, obviously, was to shame recipients into joining with a triumphant cause. Instead, a great granddaughter wept as she read a letter confirming the fact that some Germans indeed did refuse, as long as possible, to allow shame to shape their actions. Just as the courageous author of this op ed shows, our seemingly innocuous decisions in the midst of confusing times may haunt or profoundly influence our descendants. Today’s actions matter not just for today.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
Or for good people to gradually, incrementally, go along with terrible things.
I continue to appreciate Ana Marie Cox’s podcast about difficult conversations. A description of this week’s episode:
Disagreeing about facts is one thing, what if you disagree about reality? Adam Savage (“Mythbusters,” Tested.com) joins to help a WFLT listener whose sister has embraced right-wing conspiracy theories. MTV’s Ezekiel Kweku comes by to discuss how America’s dystopian future could be based on its dystopian past.
Our family looooooooves Adam Savage and misses Mythbusters every Sunday night during our basement pizza picnic when we watch a show together. He was very wise on this episode, and Kweku was also insightful in explaining the appeal of conspiracy theories–on both sides.
That church is St. Paul’s Episcopal in Richmond, where I am preaching all week as part of their mid-day Lenten series, a 120-year old tradition. (Wow!) It’s been lovely to get to know these people, and as it turns out, they are featured in Sojourners Magazine this very month about their efforts to come to terms with their past. Article link is above; below is a short video:
The alumni magazine of Rice University had a great story about how Rice professors and students have helped saved the lives of preemies in Malawi through a cheap, sturdy CPAP machine made from a simple aquarium pump. Improv at its life-saving best! Proud of my alma mater.
“Easter Sonata” — a complex four-movement piano composition from 19th century Germany — could only have been written by Felix Mendelssohn.
Or so thought many of the archivists, scholars and musicians who encountered it. The sonata was “masculine,” “violent” and “ambitious,” all the hallmarks of the celebrated Romantic era composer.
Written in 1829, the manuscript of “Easter Sonata” was considered “lost” for more than 140 years, until the original turned up in a French book shop bearing the signature “F Mendelssohn.” The collector who bought it concluded the “F” stood for Felix.
It took yet another four decades and a lot of clever musicological sleuthing, but in 2010 a Duke University graduate student revealed what some had suspected all along: “Easter Sonata” was not written by Felix Mendelssohn, but by his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn, herself a musical prodigy.
Fantastic! Now let’s work on identifying all those “Anonymous” works…
Last week’s NEXT Church National Gathering was as wonderful as it is every year. Many of us were captivated by one of the closing readings, a prayer that turned out to be written by a friend, Shelli Latham. So potent for these days:
Creator of All,
of the mountains that cut jagged and purple against an infinite sky,
of the forests that pulse like a heartbeat with an immeasurable collection
of wiggles and squiggles and colors and calls.
Creator of us – Imago Dei . . . made in the image of God.
And so we busy ourselves with creating too . . .
constructing, building, branding, barricading,
policing the sacred with a limited imagination for you unlimited grace.
And so we pray,
that you might overturn our misguided architecture.
For every barrier that should be a bridge,
for every wall that should be a table,
we pray, O God,
when we build them up,
won’t you knock them down?
Click the link above for the whole thing. Turns out confession really is good for the soul.
On this day, 74 years ago, three young adults placed their heads beneath a guillotine and prepared to die. Their crime? Speaking out against the Nazis with graffiti and hand-printed pamphlets. Their names? Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst. It was a violent end to a peaceful student movement known as the White Rose—one that used the power of language to resist the horrors of the Nazi regime.
4. This dude caught a baseball bat as it helicoptered toward him:
6. Every New York Times Cover Since 1852. This quick video shows how and when images began to appear in the paper of record. It’s arresting and oddly poignant, to think about all of the news that came and went. We survived all of the things reported there. Perhaps we will survive today’s challenges too.
The next round of edits for Improvising with Godis due on Friday, so I’ve got just a few to share this week in lightning-quick fashion:
1. This quote from George Saunders, shared by my friend Sharon Core on Facebook last week:
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
2. This image posted by Rachel Hackenberg on Instagram:
Ana will talk to liberals and conservatives, religious leaders, writers, activists, and people you should know for a show that’s about listening instead of arguing. And this isn’t just about figuring out why some dude in Michigan voted for Trump. Though that’s part of it. We should figure that out. It’s about actually exploring division instead of putting it in side-by-side boxes on television, whether it’s a conversation about politics or religion, race or gender, or belief itself. Ana has accrued a bunch of unlikely friends in politics, and she has strong disagreements with those friends, like this one guy whose name rhymes with “whoa far borough” for example.
The first episode is with a Wisconsin pastor who talks about how his community voted for Obama… before voting for Trump. Now doesn’t that sound interesting? And maybe even a little healing to listen to?
A little Lone Star braggin’, but this entry relates to the previous one, actually. Consider #5:
5. When New Hope’s mayor, Jess Herbst, came out as transgender and the extremely conservative town of 600 was like *shrug*.
I heard Ana Marie Cox interviewed about her new podcast, and she talked about the disconnect between how mean we can be to one another online v. how much we take care of one another in our physical communities, even across political divides. Certainly there are exceptions to this, but I’ve found it to be generally true. She said, if we were as nasty to one another face to face as we were online, maybe there’d be no hope for us. But we’re not. So there is hope.