I’ve been thinking a lot lately about beauty. This is perhaps a strange thing to be thinking about in a year as ugly as 2020 has been and may yet be. I could catalogue all the ways that 2020 has under-performed but this is hardly necessary, right? You’re all sentient beings and have likely been tethered to your screens just like everyone else during this pandemic. And at any rate, one gets tired of obsessing and complaining about ugliness after a while. There is a seemingly limitless supply of it and the outrage/fear/anxiety machine of the internet keeps it ever before us. Perhaps some more pleasant fare will be welcome.
I don’t know much about Rachel Hollis. I haven’t read her books or listened to her marriage podcast or engaged with any of the other media she produces. I know very little about the Hollis brand and what I do know comes second hand. There was an article about her that made the rounds recently. And then she came up on a podcast that I listened to recently. My impression is that she’s built a quite significant following by offering a “get your act together” jolt of personal responsibility combined with an emphasis upon and commitment to vulnerability and authenticity. It certainly seems to be a winning combination in the digital age where we can’t seem to get enough of authenticity or advice. Read more
Some people don’t know how to respond to throwaway questions. You know, the kind of verbal ephemera that so many us daily traffic in to fill up social spaces? The classic example is, of course, “How are you?” We’re rarely really interested in the answer to the question. We mostly just pause long enough for the obligatory “fine, “good,” or “busy” before moving on to the next item on the agenda. But occasionally people forget their lines and do crazy things like actually tell you how they’re doing. Maybe this pandemic has opened up some time and space for reflection. Maybe we don’t have as many important things to rush off to. Maybe we’re finding more time to ponder the “normal” we’ve lost or are in the process of losing. Maybe we’re doing some re-evaluating of priorities and asking questions about what we’ve been doing and why we’ve been doing it. Read more
I’ve lately been surveying the simultaneously bewildering and utterly banal landscape that is middle age. It’s a natural thing to do because, well, this is the terrain that I am in the midst of personally traversing. But in addition to looking inward, I’ve been looking out, too. And I’ve been struck by what emerges out of the cracks of conversations and comments of people in the same stage of life. It’s hard. Perhaps not harder than other stages of life, but certainly hard in unique and uniquely challenging ways. Read more
I saw a couple standing in their driveway this morning on my way to work. They were young and clearly enraptured with one another in the way that young lovers are. They stood close together, their faces inches apart. They smiled and laughed and shuffled their feet. It was, in some ways, an ordinary moment surrounded by all kinds of ordinariness—winter jackets, half-melted snow, some gaudy Christmas lawn ornaments, an aging SUV, yesterday’s recycling. But it also struck me as extraordinary. Or, at the very least, heartwarming. A bit of romance at 8:30 on a Friday morning. Who would have thought? Just as they had almost receded from my view, I saw her lean in for a kiss. Read more
A few assorted scraps and fragments related to love and marriage for a Thursday morning…
My wife dragged me off to see… My wife and I went on a lovely date the other night to see the Oscar-winning film, The Shape of Water. I was underwhelmed. But then, I usually expect to be underwhelmed by films that the Academy pants after. It wasn’t terrible, just, well, as my kids would say, meh. I don’t seem to be constitutionally wired to appreciate a love story between a woman and a fish. Read more
I spent last week in Vancouver attending a conference at Regent College, the school that I was making my way through around a decade ago. It was a good opportunity to learn, to worship, to take a breath, to connect with some old friends and, as providence would have it, to drop in on the opening night of U2’s 30th Anniversary Joshua Tree tour (the concert was fantastic, if perhaps not as memorable as past shows… a highlight was being told by a couple of spectacularly drunk Irishmen in the concourse that I looked like The Edge 🙂 ). All in all, a nice few days away. Read more
In order to commemorate Valentines Day—a holiday I hold in only slightly higher esteem than World Turtle Day (May 23, apparently; mark your calendars)—I read a thoroughly depressing article about love and relationships. Naturally. The article was called “Unraveling Love Stories” and it reads as something like an apologia for the mid-life crisis and all the desperate and destructive flailings that it spawns. Read more
On the shelf beside my desk in my study sits a card with scuffed up edges and faded colours. It’s a rather plain and unassuming, artifact, on the whole. On the front, is a picture of two little kids dressed up as if on their wedding day on a dusty dirt road. The little boy seems to be barely suppressing an awkward grin as he tries to drag the girl along with him wherever he’s going. The little girl has a smile that could melt your heart or save the world, but it looks like she’s not entirely convinced about the entire enterprise. Inside the card, it says something to the effect of Naomi Jade Horii and Ryan Courtney Dueck (yes, Courtney…thanks mom and dad), together with their parents, invite you to a wedding… to share in their joy, on November 25… Read more
Pope Francis got himself in trouble today for suggesting that the “great majority” of Catholic marriages being celebrated today are “invalid” because couples do not fully appreciate that they are making a lifetime commitment. The fact that this statement would draw criticism is puzzling, on the face of it, because who would dispute this after even a cursory glance at the world we live in? Apparently conservative critics objected to his use of the word “invalid.” Perhaps they think that this word will provide a loophole for those seeking to escape loveless marriages. At any rate, canon lawyers and media spin artists quickly went to work on words like “invalid” and “great majority,” seeking to downplay or reframe or somehow mitigate the pope’s comments and the ways in which they might be misconstrued. Read more
A lot of interesting things happened in 1995.
- Forrest Gump won Academy Award for best picture. Run Forrest, run!
- The New Jersey Devils swept the heavily favoured Detroit Red Wings to win their first Stanley Cup. I don’t think anyone watched as this was quite likely the dullest period in hockey history.
- 168 people were killed and 680 wounded in the Oklahoma City bombing.
- Quebec separatists narrowly lost a referendum for a mandate to negotiate independence from Canada.
- The Dalai Lama proclaimed 6-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. Apparently the poor kid was later kidnapped by the Chinese and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
- Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally in Tel Aviv.
- There was a really bad flood in southern Alberta. Apparently it caused $100 million in damage. I remember seeing tractors in the field with water over the wheel wells.
- Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest.
- eBay was founded. Shopping with computers. Hooray.
- Srebrenica and Rwanda happened. And the world still convulses with hatred and violence.
- Microsoft released Windows 95. From what I understand, things pretty much went downhill from there.
- O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of double murder for the deaths of former wife Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Justice prevails again.
- The Republic of Texas group claimed to have formed a provisional government in Texas. And they didn’t even need a wall!
- Groups like TLC and Boyz II Men were topping the Billboard charts. Apparently. I wouldn’t know as I was listening to Pearl Jam and Metallica.
- The first-ever full length computer animated feature film, Toy Story, was released by Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. To infinity and beyond!
Many of these things I don’t remember very well. And it’s not just because I was a mostly inattentive and culturally clueless twenty year old, true as that undoubtedly was. My mind was on other things in 1995.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I spent a lot of time on the road this past weekend. Twenty-six hours in a car on one’s own affords plenty of time for listening to things, and when I wasn’t preparing for the concert by going through U2’s entire catalogue, I listened to a number of podcasts. One of these podcasts, in particular, stood out to me. It was an episode of q—a Canadian culture/current affairs radio program—and the topic under discussion was whether or not love should be part of the sex education curriculum in public schools. Read more
Sappy post alert! Avert your gaze, as appropriate…
I don’t write much about marriage and relationships on this blog. This is because, a) I don’t think I have any particularly unique insight or expertise to offer when it comes to these matters; and b) I don’t really want to :). I find much of what is written on love and marriage (especially by Christians) to be either formulaic and fluffy or interminably doctrinaire and rigid. Or just boring. I’m very interested in marriage (particularly my own, you’ll be happy to know!), but I have rarely felt like writing about it.
Until this morning, evidently. Read more
One of the things my daughter was looking forward to when we moved from the west coast back to the prairies was the opportunity to join 4H and have her own sheep. For those who don’t know, 4H is a kind of farm club where kids learn how to raise calves, sheep, etc. And so, this past weekend I found myself at my daughter’s 4H sale. Saturday was the big day when her sheep was paraded before the judges and then auctioned off. Read more
Our text for the sermon in church this morning was Luke 12:13-21 (“The Parable of the Rich Fool”). One of the verses in this passage has me thinking this evening. In verse 21, after condemning as folly a life of hoarding possessions, Jesus offers a typically elusive phrase: “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” So what does it mean to be “rich toward God?” Read more
A little later this month, my wonderful wife and I will mark our 15th wedding anniversary. In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago that a fresh-faced 19 and 20 year old walked down the aisle of a church in small-town southern Alberta to make a commitment that we scarcely understood, but have grown into together. We’ve spent over half our lives together now, which is a marvelous thing. I doubt and second-guess many things in life, but the decision to spend my life with Naomi is not among them. She is one of God’s best gifts to me. Read more
This is henceforth going to be required reading for any and all pre-marital sessions I am a part of.
I don’t necessarily agree with every aspect of how the author diagnoses the problem, and I might have some questions about her “decision” not to suffer, but what a breath of fresh-air in the divorce-happy, narcissistic culture we live in!