In Other’s Words: In Memory of Sir Roger Scruton

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I learned on Sunday morning that Sir Roger Scruton, the intelligent and insightful conservative British philosopher, passed away at the age of 75. After reading the headline, it occurred to me to post a few thoughts outlining some of the ways his writing and commentary made me think.  As it happens, a writer more articulate than I ever hope to be, beat me to the punch (a luxury of writing for a living I suppose), so I decided to simply share a bit of what he wrote with which I heartily agree.

Before I offer the thoughts of another, I’ll note that Scruton’s observations on the intersection of the decline of architectural beauty and death of community are what first spring to mind when I see his name, whatever else a particular article he wrote happens to be about.

His discourse of beauty on a macro scale was also worth examining, but he was most convincing, at least to me, on the subject of the ugly architecture which has become the template for our postmodern work and living spaces. That, however, is only a small part of how Scruton critiqued postmodern culture and thought. Joshua Gibbs offers his take on the legacy of his “hero”, Sir Roger Scruton:

I only discovered Roger Scruton five years ago, which means I’ve barely scratched the surface of his work; however, in these five years, no living intellectual explained beauty and tradition with greater lucidity than Scruton. My thesis that all human artifacts can be divided between common, uncommon, and mediocre is borrowed from a passage on the importance of neatly setting the dinner table in Scruton’s Beauty: A Very Short Introduction (2011). Anything reasonable I’ve ever said about tradition (and especially about the Canon) is downstream from Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism (1980). Scruton was by no means an original thinker, though I mean this as the highest praise. He was a hand pointing at the sky. Without him, the sky would nonetheless exist, but I would not know where to look. Roger Scruton explained important things simply. Why do people graffiti ugly buildings but not beautiful ones? Why have old churches lasted? Why do exciting things not last? Why is it impossible to create a new tradition from scratch, try as we may? Scruton not only anticipated the questions of a restless mind, he answered them. My students quote Scruton every day when performing their catechism: “The world of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious and dull.” Every time I say these words, they offer a fresh justification for what I do.

I completely agree. This is an image of Scruton’s home library, the room of my dreams:

That tells you almost everything you need to know, doesn’t it? At the very least, it should dispel any confusion about why I’ve taken the time to remember Sir Roger Scruton in this space.

Rest in Peace, Professor Scruton.

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Looking Backwards and Forwards

Happy New Year, y’all!

Since this is the first Friday of 2020, I decided to do a quick review of what was and preview of what I hope to see as the calendar has flipped. I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but swimming in the sea of new beginnings such as we all are, it’s impossible not to get splashed. Once splashed, it’s impossible to ignore the drops of water on my skirt, and so my mind was drawn into thoughts of things that have gone, and things to come. First up, a look back:

I reviewed 30 books on the blog this year. However, I also read several books that I didn’t review for various reasons. Some of those are:

  • Marriage for Moderns: I’m still sifting through this old textbook from the 1940s written by Dr. Henry Bowman. It’s not readily available, which is one of the reasons I’m not planning to review it. A quick perusal of the two reviews it garnered on Amazon offers a snapshot of how Bowman’s ideas play in 2020. I don’t find it nearly as objectionable as those reviewers. Perhaps I’ll review it this year, but probably not.
  • The Hormone Reset Diet by Dr. Sarah Gottfried: I’m not getting any younger, and I don’t have any qualms about acknowledging it.  I refuse to jump on the cultural bandwagon which asserts that continuing to live is somehow offensive or something to apologize for. The reason I didn’t review the book is that it’s niche-y, and I don’t suppose everyone is interested in the tweaks I have to make along the way to maintain optimal health, which I am grateful to enjoy, but it costs.
  • Julius Caesar: I read this in conjunction with some exquisite and delightful literary homeschool mothers over the summer. It was fun, but it’s a story everyone knows and most people have read, only if in high school, so I didn’t bother to review it.
  • The Father Brown Mysteries, by G.K. Chesterton. I love these stories, and I may pick a few to highlight some time during the first quarter of 2020, but I read them sporadically for my personal enjoyment in 2019, and never got around to offering reviews.

There are times when I want to read unimpeded, and writing reviews I’ll be satisfied with requires a level of distraction that necessarily precludes my ability to do that. Which is why I decide not to review certain books.

Here are my favorite books reviewed here at Reading in Between the Life, by category:

  • Fiction: A Girl of the Liberlost. This is a beautiful, poignant story with a satisfying conclusion. It’s a middle-grade book but appeals to all ages.
  • Nonfiction: There’s a three-way tie for this one. That sounds like a lot until you consider that most of the books I read and review here are nonfiction. My three favorite nonfiction books of the year are Beauty Destroys the Beast, The Black Girl’s Guide to Being Blissfully Feminine, and Digital Minimalism. They each encouraged me in different but profound ways. Amy Fleming touches on things that Christian women need to think about, Candace Adewole taps into truths only black women can fully appreciate, and Cal Newport is a postmodern prophet crying out in the digital wilderness.
  • Christian: How to be Unlucky, by Joshua Gibbs. In reality, Beauty Destroys the Beast is also a Christian book so it could go here as well. Unlucky is more metaphysical, which is what I was originally thinking of as I considered this category.

Looking ahead to 2020, and addressing that New Year’s splash I mentioned at the beginning of the post, there are a few endeavors I’m looking forward to dipping my toe into. There are also other things I began last year but would like to dive deeper into as the year unfolds.

  • I need to write more, and by more, I mean more than just here and in my prayer journal. I often feel as if my vision of being published is slipping away. This could mean that my dream is not on the path God has for me, but it also could mean that I haven’t applied myself to the task as much as I should.
  • Improve my copyediting skills and build a resume. I went back to school. I put in the work. I got the piece of paper. The only thing left is to take advantage of it, which I didn’t work at in 2019.
  • Learn to sew the perfect skirt. I’m not a seamstress, and I don’t have any real desire to be one, but I love a great skirt, at just the right length, with usable pockets, in colors that flatter my caramel skin tone. Every now and again I run across one and if the price is right, I grab it. But as a 5’9″ pronounced hourglass, it’s in my interest, if I can manage it, to learn to make my own. So I’m going for it.
  • Lose weight. Spiritual weight, that is. I’m always working on strengthening my physical temple, but this year my focus is on Hebrews 12:1b let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

As far as reading and what you can expect around here? More great (and sometimes not so great) books, and more reviews so you’ll know which is which. We’ll have more discussions about education, language, and all of it interspersed with occasional snippets from my crazy, busy, blissfully mundane life.

Happy 2020!

Friday Faves: Thanksgiving Edition

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In less than a week, most of us will join our extended families and friends, break bread, and give thanks for all of the blessings we enjoy. In the interest of the spirit of the season, I decided to have a conversation about the best things about Thanksgiving Day, at least in my personal estimation.

  • Time with family: Our life is busy, and we are blessed to spend a lot of time with great people and awesome Christian friends, but we don’t spend as much time with our extended family. Family, even when things are hard, is still family. To spend a few hours eating good food and engaging in stimulating conversation is an opportunity that most of us don’t get to enjoy often enough.
  • Preparing good food: While turkeys and sweet potatoes are available year-round, it just never occurs to most people -at least not us- to smoke a turkey or bake a sweet potato pie in March. Our family cooks together pretty often, but cooking a Thanksgiving meal is a special meal preparation that’s not quite like any other. Everyone in our house has a particular specialty, and putting them all together is lots of fun.
  • Table settings: One of our kids has a God-given eye for beauty and a gift for design. I suspect her father bequeathed her his artistic eye, but hers has a particular feminine flair and she is wonderful at designing just the right look for the table.
  • A spectacularly clean house: We are constantly cleaning around here. Floors are mopped daily and all that good stuff. But when 12 or more people are visiting to sit around your table and hang out at your house for an afternoon, a deeper cleaning is in order; the kind of cleaning that gets relegated to seasonal scheduling when life is extremely busy, which ours usually is.
  • The crash afterward: The run-up to Thanksgiving can be kind of frantic. I started this afternoon with most of my shopping for the day. The next few days will be consumed with preparations and by Wednesday, I’m ready to get on with it. Thursday will be a lot of fun, laughter will rule the day, and after the clean up is done, I’ll be excited for the moment when I can shower, put on some comfy clothes, lay my head on my husband’s shoulder and play a Christmas movie. Of course, the chances that I’ll get 1/3 of the way through the movie without falling asleep is are pretty slim.

Those are a few of my favorite things about Thanksgiving.

What are some of yours?

 

Friday Faves: Seasonal Anticipations

Halloween is over and November has arrived, so it’s official: The high holiday season is upon us. With that, we all start preparing for that most wonderful, and most expensive, time of the year. For those of us who celebrate the Incarnation, however, there’s more to this time of year than wrapping paper, Scotch tape, and near-constant Amazon Prime deliveries. For many of us, this time of the year is about pausing to remember the most important things in life; the eternal things.

With that in mind, I thought we’d start November with a few things I most look forward to at this time of the year. Shopping is not on the list:

  • Cooler weather: We live in a very tropical climate; so much so that the temperature this Halloween was 90 degrees. The hot humid blanket has been hanging on to us for what seems like longer than normal this year. However suddenly, as if on cue, the projected high temperature for today, November 1st, is between 79 and 80 degrees. That may not sound like cool weather, but relatively speaking, it’s fabulous. Hopefully, from here we can settle down into our normal “wintery” mid-70s temperatures.
  • Outdoor fall festivals: This is the time of year for art festivals, free movies in local parks, charitable 5K races, and numerous other opportunities to get outside and soak up the weather that made Florida a favorite winter vacation spot from the late 19th century onward.
  • Thanksgiving: This is the holiday that we spend the most time with extended family, and because ours is a family full of women who not only can cook, but enjoy cooking together, preparing the meal is more fun time than a burden, as it should be. I am suddenly remembering this book, which I read to my kids:
sweet potato pie book

Those of us with Southern roots do enjoy our sweet potato pies!

  • Christmas Decorating: To be honest, this is not my favorite thing, but it’s included here because I love seeing the joy it brings my husband and kids to decorate for the Christmas season. And once it’s all done, the festive atmosphere is very uplifting. I do enjoy seeing the wreath on the door!
  • Advent Devotions: One of the things I have become increasingly wary about over the past ten years is the crass commercialization of Christmas that we excuse by slapping platitudes such as “Jesus is the Reason for the Season!” on things that have little to do with Christ’s Incarnation. Picking and reading a book devoted to reminding me of why we celebrate and how we should celebrate tempers a lot of that uneasiness in me. Jesus does indeed become the reason for the season.
  • Holiday movies: We kicked things off on Halloween with Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and every week I hope we’ll be enjoying an uplifting, family-friendly production that reminds of the angels’ greetings to the shepherds in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night: “And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).

Those are a few of the things I anticipate as we move into the most wonderful time of the year.

What are you looking forward to now that November is upon us, the holidays loom, and the year is speeding to a close?

Friday Faves: Auditory Enrichment

One of the things I have been doing over the past several months is listening to podcasts while I work. These are comprised of various types of listening; from sermons to news and politics, some informative broadcasts and also educational encouragement. Podcasts have evolved into my first option for engaging the mind and contemplating ideas. They are, for me, more cognitively enriching than reading articles online.

I still have a list of favorite, friendly blogs but overall, I find podcasts more enjoyable. I can listen to several while my kids are in school (they go to school a couple of days a week) and still get lots of household tasks accomplished.

I’ll confess that I’ve wondered if the trading of screen time for podcasts is tantamount to exchanging Cheetos for Smartfood, but decided that since I get a lot more done listening than while indulging other forms of distraction, the podcasts are here to stay for a bit. I listen to random podcasts on occasion but have subscribed to eight, in particular, and I listen to these regularly. This Friday Fave will highlight my current favorite podcasts. I installed the Castbox app on my phone, which makes it much easier for me to see when my favorites have a new episode as well as dig around for others that might be interesting.

Here, in no particular order, are the podcasts I subscribe to along with a little bit about why I enjoy each one.

Proverbial with Joshua Gibbs: This one is a part of the Circe podcast network. Unsurprisingly to anyone who has read here for any length of time, this is my favorite of the three Circe podcasts on the list.  In his podcast, Gibbs “explores the wisdom of the ages as it comes to us in proverbs, by which [he] means wise sayings a man may live by if he’s not so arrogant as to think himself special”.  He opens every weekly episode with that quote, and I have yet to tire of it.

The Commons: Part of the Circe Institute’s podcast network, The Commons is thoroughly focused on topics related to Christian classical education. It helps me to remember why we have chosen the education path we’ve chosen. Especially when the road seems hard.

Ask Andrew: Ask Andrew is also offered through the Circe Podcast network. In it, Andrew Kern asks specific educational questions that Circe readers submit. Again, Circe is dedicated to Christian classical education.

The Candace Owens Show: I really enjoy listening to this young commentator who covers a range of topics from a thoughtful, countercultural, unapologetically conservative perspective. She always has interesting guests, too.

Voddie Baucham via SermonAudio: I have always enjoyed Voddie Baucham’s scripturally systematic, intellectual approach to teaching. I always learn new things and am challenged in new way by listening to him.

Primal Blueprint: This is a podcast produced by Mark Sisson, author of Mark’s Daily Apple.  He doesn’t always host the podcast, but it’s still chock full of good information about health and nutrition.

The Ben Shapiro Show: I hardly think I need to get into a lengthy description of this one. Almost everyone knows who Ben Shapiro is. He is so smart and intellectually honest that he manages to produce a hugely popular video show and podcast in spite of his rather annoying voice.  It took some time, but I got used to it. For the uninformed, he discusses the hot political topics and headlines of the day from a libertarian perspective.

The World and Everything In It: This is a daily news and issues podcast that reports and analyzes from an explicitly Christian perspective. Somehow, they manage to do it in a way that doesn’t feel like proselytizing. They are thoughtful, honest, and balanced.

The Way I Heard It: Mike Rowe’s amazing voice and stellar storytelling ability combine to offer uncommonly known insights into people and events most of us are familiar with. His website describes it as “a series of short mysteries for the curious mind with a short attention span”. Yep. It sounds like a podcast for me!

Those are the eight podcasts I am subscribed to and listen to on a semi-regular basis. Some of these I listen to more consistently than others, of course. Now on to the important question:

What are some of your favorite podcasts and which ones do you think I might enjoy but haven’t yet heard about?

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves: Apple Season!

“Pumpkin spice” is advertised everywhere we look from September through Thanksgiving (and I’ll admit I made these “pumpkin spice” energy bites yesterday), but for me, the real treat of the fall season is a crisp, sweet, tart apple.

Sidebar: The quotes around the words pumpkin spice are because in reality, there is no such thing as “pumpkin spice”. Flip over any package of the stuff, which is ubiquitous on spice aisles this time of year, and you’ll find a list of ingredients that you already have in your pantry. Or at least you have them when you cook as much as we do: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and possibly allspice.

While these are indeed used to flavor pumpkin pie, they’re also used for sweet potato pie, some apple pies (minus the ginger, of course!), butternut squash recipes, and many more that I won’t bother to list. My point is that the pumpkin spice gimmick has been a cash cow for the food industry when most home cooks already have the stuff in their cabinets. You can even flavor your own coffee with it for a fraction of what Starbucks charges! But as usual, I’ve digressed from the topic at hand, which is the happiness apple season brings me!

For today, I was trying to decide how to list my favorite apple varieties. I concluded that I’ll list my top five -in no particular order- along with what I use them for. Not all apples shine best in the same ways!

Granny Smith: a great baking apple. These were cultivated in Australia in 1868 by a “granny” named Maria Ann Smith. Something about Granny Smiths makes just about anything you bake with them taste phenomenal. I suspect it’s that bit of tartness juxtaposed against the sweetness of the other ingredients it is baked into. I will occasionally eat a Granny Smith just because, and one of my daughters only ever wants to eat Granny Smith, but I consider it best as a baking apple.

Pink Lady: Cultivated and principally grown in Australia (in 1973), pink lady apples are a cross between tartness and sweetness. They are a little crunchier and a little sweeter than Granny Smiths, and they work well when making drinks such as apple lemonade. We’re big around our house about making eclectic drink combinations for Sunday dinners.

Gala: Cultivated in New Zealand during the 1930s, these are my favorite economical snacking apple. The perfect combination of crunchy and sweet makes them a favorite to slice and eat along with a salad for lunch.

Honeycrisp: Hands down, the apple I most look forward to this time of year! These apples, cultivated in the 1970s in Minneapolis, taste like a very decadent treat. They are more expensive than most other varieties of apples, but in my book, every bite is worth the added cost per pound. Cooking Light explains here why Honeycrisps are so expensive.

Those are my favorite apples along with some random trivia about when and where they were cultivated. We don’t experience much resembling a change of seasons down here, so we have to take our bits of fall however we can get them. For many Southerners, that’s pumpkin spice. For me, it’s all about the apples.

Do you enjoy the apple season? If so, which are among your favorite varieties? There are so many, after all!

My Reading Life

I pilfered this idea from Rod Dreher, who posted his answers to these questions after reading Clive James’ answers to them at The Guardian. I thought it was an excellent idea, and contemplating the answers made me think deeply about my own reading life, so here goes:

The Books I Am Currently Reading:

I’m currently reading three books. The first is Dorothy Sayer’s Mind of the Maker. The second is Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley. The third is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I’ll probably finish them in that order, so stay tuned.

A Book That Changed My Life:

Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one that immediately springs to mind. It was an excellent opportunity to be reminded that as Christians, we would do well to be thankful for our mutual fellowship. We should be looking for common ground rather than reasons to bite and devour one another over minutiae. It really is a classic exploration of Christian community. A second one might be The  Heart of the Five Love languages by Gary Chapman. It really helped me reconsider how I interact in my marriage and personal relationships.

A Book I Wish I’d Written:

I can’t really think of a book I wish I’d written, although the books that I immediately thought of when I read the question are the ones by authors who drew on their local culture: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Lion’s Paw by Robb White, and  Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, all set in Florida during overlapping periods, are the kinds of books I wish I could write. I am not inclined, however, towards fiction writing so I can’t say definitively that I wish I’d written any of them.

A Book That Had the Greatest Influence on My Writing:

For right now, I’m thinking it’s probably How to Be Unlucky by Joshua Gibbs. I’m sure this is partly because it’s still relatively fresh in my mind, but it’s also because I really appreciate his ability to write about faith in a genuine way without over spiritualizing every facet of life.

I haven’t yet determined whether or not this speaks well of my spiritual state, but I want to be called higher (and to call others higher), from down here among the wrestling rabble, not from the pretense of on a lofty plane, of having arrived. I hope, when I can sort my thoughts enough to produce an entire volume, I can find the sweet spot Gibbs hits in his writing.

A Book I Think Is Most Over/Underrated:

Persuasion, by Jane Austen, hands down. Unless I’m in a conversation among die hard literature types, I never hear any mention of this novel of hers. And it is among my favorite Austen books, second only to Emma which I love for its humor.

A Book That Changed My Mind:

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell was the first book I read that made me think completely differently about economic policy and politics as an integrated subject. It was partially the beginning of my abandonment of liberalism and the discarding of incongruent thinking on the subject of, well…basic economics.

The Last Book That Made Me Cry:

Books don’t generally make me cry. While I can’t think of one which fits that specific bill, I can think of one that moved me emotionally as I read it. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis is a book that lays bare the stages of grief in a way that almost anyone can appreciate.

The Last Book That Made me Laugh:

My Man Jeeves and Other Stories, by P.G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse is among the best humorist writers and reading his books are guaranteed to make me chuckle.

A Book I Couldn’t Finish:

Fierce Angels was the latest one. I just couldn’t swallow all the intersectionality and oppression talk. Sometimes even I, who can wade through quite a lot of muck for the sake of information, have to throw in the towel.

The Book I’m Most Ashamed Not to Have Read:

I tend to think that if I haven’t read a book yet, it’s okay. It’s even okay if I never read it. However, I used to feel kind of icky that I’ve never read The Odyssey. Oh, well. Maybe one day.

My Earliest Reading Memory:

The Dick and Jane books in first grade. I could already read when I got there, so it was a drag reading these.

My Comfort Read:

The Bible, followed by almost any Jane Austen novel.

The Book I Give As a Gift:

I recently gave How to be Unlucky as a gift to a friend, and a Frog and Toad collection to an expectant mother. I don’t have a go-to book that I give as a gift. I’m a gift card kind of gal and a gift card to Barnes and Noble frees the giftee to choose whatever they want to read.

The Book I’d Most Like to Be Remembered For:

I don’t have an answer for this one as I haven’t published a book yet. Time will tell either way…

Now to the important part: Tell me all about YOUR reading life by answering some of these questions in the comments!