Four Articles and a Poem

9:21 AM

As customary, I post four articles that I found significant and a poem. Our lives are enriched by seeing better. Each week, one article comes from the world of photography, a discipline that is about seeing. Another article comes from the world of technology, hence seeing something of the future. Another article takes up an aspect of our life together, seeing more clearly the other. Another article refers to faith, seeing the unseen. Finally, the weekly post concludes with a poem, because poetry is about seeing words whose arrangement allows us to see anew.

Today is the Feast of St. James the Great, Apostle. I was privileged to be able to walk the Camino de Santiago twice with my father, in 2010 and 2014. It was just over a year ago that we completed our second pilgrimage. Santiago, Apóstol, ruega por nosotros.

This week, I recommend the following articles:
  1. The best camera is the one you have with you. Mike Moats daily provides insights into the world of macro photography on his blog. While a full-time professional macro photographer and photography educator, Moats, to illustrate the point of this post, ordinarily does not use the newest, shiniest, most expensive gear to make his images. As his post indicates, "the best camera is the one that you have with you." I suspect that we could use this wisdom to great benefit on multiple subjects in out lives.
  2. Is rudeness in the workplace contagious? Trevor Foulk, a doctoral student at the University of Florida, documents research that he and colleagues performed. The findings, published June 29 in the Journal of Applied Psychology, provide the first evidence that everyday impoliteness spreads in the workplace. Sadly, we know that rudeness is found not only in the workplace but also on social media. The band MAGIC!, in their song "Rude," ask us: "Why you gotta be so rude?" While the findings seem rather matter-of-fact, I do hope that we can advance with civility over the growing coarseness in our discourse and treatment of one another. Odds are against us, as the presidential election is 15 months away, but we can always pray.
  3. Does weaker democracy mean weaker technology? Hilary Sutcliffe, director of MATTER, a UK NGO/think tank, observed, "While the erosion of trust in political institutions and processes isn’t often directly associated with technology innovation, the two are inextricably interwoven." Her article examines this relationship with three negative scenarios and a proposed "golden scenario." Frankly, the article is too short. A weakened democracy opens us to all sort of Orwellian nightmares. Our hope, from technology, is that it is deployed by those who disrupt our descent. Unlike Peter Huber and his rock-solid faith in the free market, I believe that technology, deployed by those with ends other than simply profit, like the open-source movement, are more likely to break our fall. Nonetheless, the implications of weaker democracy, measured in decreased political participation (uninformed general public, declining voter participation, etc.) has enormous impact on every other aspect of our lives.
  4. The Everday Ascetic: Considering Food Waste in the US. In a post from Catholic Moral Theology, Professor Jana Bennett of the University of Dayton, addresses how Pope Francis' encyclical letter, Laudato Si', might be applied to everyday life with regard to the rampant waste of food in the U.S. Make sure that you watch the John Oliver clip at the end of her post. (In the post-Jon Stewart/Daily Show world that will soon arrive, I may well be directing more of my viewing to Oliver, who handles issues with depth, wit, and humor.) Also, make the Catholic Moral Theology blog part of your regular reading. It has great content!
And now for this week's poem. Returning to our introduction about the Feast of St. James and the Camino de Santiago, I recall all the changes that this year has wrought in my life. While I remain hopeful and encounter great signs of new life, I am aware also of the loss. T.S. Eliot's poem, "Journey of the Magi," tells a story of how the Magi traveled to Bethlehem and how the journey changed them.

Journey of the Magi
by T. S. Eliot

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed,refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped in away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

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