Creating a Public

I found Corey Robin’s article “How Intellectuals Create a Public” provocative. It addresses the activity of public intellectuals not merely to reinforce existing ways of thinking, but to compel people to reckon with new ideas. They break current conceptual molds and force you to think about matters in a new way. They do not merely feed the public the ideas and rhetoric they expect; they challenge them. Thus, they create a public.

They turn us into a public.

That’s . . . how public intellectuals work. By virtue of the demands they make upon the reader, they force a reckoning. They summon a public into being — if nothing else a public conjured out of opposition to their writing. Democratic publics are always formed in opposition and conflict: “to form itself,” wrote Dewey, “the public has to break existing political forms.” So are reading publics. Sometimes they are formed in opposition to the targets identified by the writer: Think of the readers of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Sometimes they are formed in opposition to the writer: Think of the readers of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem. Regardless of the fallout, the public intellectual forces a question, establishes a divide, and demands that her readers orient themselves around that divide.

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Profundity and Clarity

One may actually be led to wonder whether in philosophy there is an inverse proportion between profundity and importance on the one hand, and clarity and excellence of style on the other.

—Walter Kaufmann, “Introduction,” Basic Writings of Nietzsche

8 Things Every Person Should Do After 8pm

This article has some great tips for winding yourself down at night. I’ve been tweaking my morning routine lately to great effect. But this is a helpful reminder that many gains can be made in the evening as well.

Morning routines are all the buzz these days. Everyone has one, good or bad. Few people have considered a night routine. If you don’t have a night routine, you are missing out on the most rewarding and meaningful part of your day.

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Four Falls of Buffalo

Four Falls of Buffalo

I recently watched Four Falls of Buffalo, a documentary in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, on Netflix. As a 10–13 year old voraciously eating up everything sports at the time, I distinctly remember these teams. Who could forget The Comeback against the Houston Oilers in the 1992–1993 playoffs? Those Bills were something special.

Yet if you were anywhere near pro football in the early 90s, you’ve heard all the jokes. Although the Bills did something no NFL team has ever done—appear in four consecutive Superbowls—they became the punchline for any joke on failing to finish, flopping, or losing in general. While they had the greatest record of any NFL team in the early 90s, they were notorious for losing every one of those final games.

This documentary shows the side we haven’t always seen. Genuine emotion comes through with interviews with memorable characters like Jim Kelly, Marv Levy, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, and the white flash himself, Don Beebe.I’ve always had a soft spot for the men on these teams, and I wasn’t disappointed with this production. It’s a great film with moving lessons on disappointment, perseverance, and the public’s conception of what it means to be a “winner.”

Learning to Swim with the Total Immersion Method

I’ve tried to swim freestyle many times throughout my life. At one point, my wife and I even lived in an apartment over the indoor pool of my extremely generous “seminary patron.” If there ever was a convenient setup for swimming, that was it. Yet I could never get over the initial hump. I found that before I could finish one length in the pool, my heart rate would jump close to 200 bpm. I had trouble breathing, and I’d have to stop just as soon as I’d begun. This is a major roadblock for someone who would like to compete in a triathlon.

Fortunately, I stumbled into the Total Immersion swimming method from a recommendation by noted master-of-learning Tim Ferriss. This is precisely what I needed. Read Tim’s post and watch the video demonstration below. After just two pool workouts I’m now able to swim freestyle for hundreds of meters because of my rapid efficiency gains.

Every Strat Has a Story

I absolutely love Fender Stratocasters. Having two myself, I’ve put my share of time on their fretboards. While I especially admire the clean finish and shiny hardware of my 2004 50th anniversary American Deluxe Strat, there’s nothing quite like the vintage worn look.

I’ve always wanted to play a true 1950s Strat. The sound, the feel, and the look are like none other. They combine to tell a unique story of that guitar’s life. Last summer, I was able to check this item off my bucket list when I played a 1958 at Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville, TN. I may meet another 50s Strat in the future, but until then, I’ll browse Instagram.

A beautifully beat '58 #stratocaster #strat #vintageguitars

A post shared by Danocaster Guitars (@danocaster_guitars) on

Transitioning to Triathlon

This morning, I plan to continue my transition to triathlon training with a  swim and a run. I rode on the bike trainer yesterday morning. It’s time to work on my nascent Total Immersion freestyle skills and get a few miles in on the treadmill. It still feels a bit strange to me to have my running mileage down so low. I’m putting at least the same amount time into training—it’s just spread over three sports. Nonetheless, it feels like I’m not working hard enough without 30 miles on the road or trails. While it’s an adjustment, so far I’m enjoying the variety. And my body certainly appreciates the cross training as well.


My (Re-)Writing Process

I’ve been gaining momentum writing my book on Karl Rahner for P&R Publishing’s Great Thinkers series. At this stage, I have been reworking my dissertation for this format. It will be a much shorter work and targeted to a different audience. The bulk of my present labors are in editing—or better yet, rewriting. Apparently, Hemingway wrote in A Moveable Feast that “the only kind of writing is rewriting.” I haven’t verified the quotation, but I agree with it regardless of who said it first, where, or when.

Text generation is one thing, but in my case good writing is the fruit of many, many rewrites. I work over passages myriad times. I continue to be amazed at how many improvements can still be made on the tenth or even twentieth pass. While it would seem that this would be most conducive to the word process, I find great difficulty in focusing on the screen in this stage. During my dissertation work, I began printing my chapters and editing them by hand with colored Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.3mm gel tip pens (I’m particular about my writing implements.) I developed a system wherein I would encode my comments, make changes, write new sentences, etc. After working through the printed pages, I would open my word processor and begin making the changes to the electronic copy.

This worked extremely well for me, though the most annoying bit was working backwards. I found that if I made any substantial changes by adding significant amounts of text or rearranging passages, I would quickly lose my place; the updated electronic document became too far out of sync with the printed page. So I resorted to making the changes beginning with the end of the document and moving toward the beginning. While this would work most of the time, rearranging large passages would still sometimes still knock me out of whack. To solve this problem, I began marking insertion points on my document—both paper and electronic forms—with Greek letters. I would then highlight a passage and write a note to “move to alpha” or “move to beta,” etc.

Perhaps this process is inefficient; but it’s effective. And that’s the most important thing with intellectual work. Every writer—every thinker—must find his or her own process. At the end of the day, if something facilitates the formation, translation, and transition of deep and sustained thought from your mind to the page, that is where you must concentrate your energy.

Colossians 1:28–29

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.


No Uncertain Sound
Lamentations, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: A 12-Week Study