About the Blog
This site takes its cue from an essay by Alan Jacobs, “A Commonplace Book,” in which Jacobs parallels the evolution of early modern commonplace books to the rise of blogs. Early modern readers began to find themselves overwhelmed by the volume of reading material suddenly made available by the advent of cheap paper:
… in the sixteenth century, the relatively wealthy and those who lived in large cities found themselves with access to more books than they could read, or at any rate read with care. Thus the need to select the best and wisest passages from those books—passages that were commonplace in an etymological sense, from locus communis, the “communal place,” the thing of general use and value—in short, the kind of writing that you expect will repay repeated consideration.
A commonplace book would be “a means of mastering or at least fighting off this multitude of books,” and it is not too hard to guess where Jacobs goes with this. The flood of information generated on the Internet each day threatens to overwhelms us; a blog, like the commonplace book, can be a tool for managing the flow, a place to make note of the “things of general use and value.” What you have stumbled on, then, is my digital commonplace book.
But it is a bit more than that, too. It’s also a place to try out ideas and think through issues by writing about them. Few things clarify as relentlessly as the effort to put thoughts into words.
The name of this blog, by the way, comes from one of Blaise Pascal’s Pensées: ”Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.”
About the Author
Currently, I’m a working through a PhD program vaguely titled “Texts and Technology,” so much of what will pass through these pages will relate in some way or another to the interaction between technology and culture. My aim in thinking and writing about technology is, so far as it is possible, to achieve the critical distance necessary to make wise and humane use of technology. I would add that neither unbridled optimism nor thoughtless pessimism regarding technology fosters the sort of critical distance required to live wisely with technology.
Before beginning my present track of study, I earned an MA in Theological Studies. And so another theme you will find running through this blog is the exploration of technology’s influence on communities of faith, particularly within the Christian tradition. Ultimately, I am interested not only in living wisely with technology but also in living faithfully with technology.
What to Expect
Andrew Sullivan, a prolific and pioneering blogger, claimed that if you are not posting at the very least twice a day, and really more like four times a day, you are not really blogging. By that standard, I am not really blogging. But that’s okay since I am not really being paid to blog. I do try to post at least two to three times a week; sometimes I post more often, more recently less so.
If you leave a comment, I’ll do my best to respond as quickly as possible. But sometimes other commitments get in the way and it may take me a while to check in. Don’t worry, you are most likely not being ignored.
That said, I do very much appreciate reader’s comments. Interacting with readers is one of the more enjoyable aspects of maintaining a blog. “Truth,” as philosopher Josef Pieper has noted, “lives in conversation.” I’m especially interested in hearing from you if you have a different angle on something I’ve written about.
You may also want to take a look at the pages gathered under the “Themes” tab above. Under each theme you will find links to a few representative posts. These posts will give you a good feel for prominent themes and how I approach them. Of course, an education is a lifelong, ramshackle project and I would expect and hope that while these perspectives are likely to remain grounded in certain basic commitments, they will not therefore remain static and unchanging.
If you appreciate what you read here, you may want to consider picking up a copy of The Tourist and The Pilgrim, a collection of the best of what I’ve written here and elsewhere. Copies are available through Gumroad and Amazon.
Finally, I should note that I agree with G. K. Chesterton when he wrote that, “There is no such thing as an uninteresting subject – only uninterested people.” In other words, I am also a stubborn generalist and that too will be reflected.
So, welcome and thanks for reading.