Reading the Internet

We have a lot of time in the winter for reading, crafting, and generally being homebodies. I spend a lot of that time reading articles online, and do not approve of my reading choices most of the time. I’m only on page 20 of Jane Eyre, page 0 of Plaku dhe Deti, but probably page 2,800 of io9.

Also not on the reading list, but read anyway:

Lifehacker, because it’s somehow reassuring to know that someone, somewhere (probably in California) is getting up at 5 am to the soothing artificial sunlight of his alarm, practices some yoga, and reviews his super mindful daily activities with intentionality, while I poke my nose out from beneath my three blankets and wish I were in Africa.

Watchmen is arguably the best graphic novel ever produced, in its own weird, distressing way.

Darcy, a homeschool graduate, who’s family was heavily involved in some of the more problematic parts of conservative homeschooling culture, has some beautiful reflections on her experiences growing up, and eventually away from that sub-culture. I grew up somewhere between mainstream America and Darcy’s homeschooling “cohort,” and probably knew some girls like her. I remember some of the same things, but presented much more mildly. It’s interesting hearing her perspective as an “insider” on some of the stricter manifestations of gender essentialism, “clean romances” of dubious quality, practical but frumpy clothing, and so on. Moderately conservative Muslims may actually have better clothing options than many very conservative protestants, because their hijabs and long fitted coats are mostly pretty beautiful. I hope it’s presented that way to teenage girls, and not primarily as a defense against the lustfulness of men. Perhaps I have some of those girls in my classes even now, since I’m living in a conservative village where fewer than half the girls graduate from high school.

I was recently lured back to Donald Miller’s blog with an email and attractive e-booklet of things he has learned about living better these past few years. It was predictably mediocre. At one point he recounted an exchange with someone who “missed the old Don,” the one who wrote Blue Like Jazz. I’m assuming this was a reader, not a personal friend. Don used this to make some point about how change is good, and it’s good that things are better for him personally now than they were back then. Now he’s happily married, a successful businessman and conference organizer, has some employees, and so on. He seemed to think there was some contradiction there. There isn’t. He really was a better writer when he was less successful and more confused. He rocks naive confusion. Self help, not so much. Not that he’s exceptionally bad at self-help. That would almost (almost) be better, because at least it would give the reader something to latch onto. There are no latches in saying generic stuff like that it’s helpful to think of life as a story, people change throughout their lives, and if your friend is a bad influence, perhaps you oughtn’t spend so much time with that friend. I wish I could say his nicely maintained website and attractive PDF are fooling no one, but obviously people keep taking the bait even when we should know better.

Through some progression of links I ended up reading this, and enjoyed Glennon’s cheerleader attitude, and how she flirts with over cutsiness, while still remaining mostly fresh and charming. Perspecticles. Hehe. Her TEDx talk is also quite good in its way. And posts like this. She has a very distinct authorial voice. In fact, her writing is almost entirely voice. I can’t read or listen to her too much, or all her idiosyncrasies kind of overwhelm me (and I really don’t care very much how she’s raising her children, which is 2/3 of her posts). The most interesting thing about Glennon’s writing, for me, is getting a window into someone with a completely different temperament than I have, and what it might be like to go through life as a sensitive feeler. When I was a teen I would regularly go to Christian events where people were invited to get up in front of the group, and tell us what they were thinking, and — mostly — feeling. There were some little Glennons at most of them, with their tumultuous feelings, spiritual/emotional highs and lows, experiments with drugs, alcohol, and sex, tears, attention seeking, and whatever else. Because it’s not hard to find messages from both sides, while she was trying to pretend she felt less than she did, I was frustrated because I felt like I was supposed to be much more emotional than I was. I would have found her threatening, like her problems and feelings were this huge thing that was taking up all the emotional space, and I should become as small as possible to make room. There’s one point in the video where she’s talking about how in high school it seemed impossible to think about ancient Romans or geometry when it was so overwhelming just to make a friend or deal with feeling oily and vulnerable all the time. Meanwhile, I relied on those Romans and other dead white guys to provide something to talk about, so that I could try making some friends, with mixed success.

Speaking of people who absorb all the emotional energy they can, The Depressed Person is an excellent, insightful, and… depressing… essay by David Foster Wallace.

One thought on “Reading the Internet

  1. Bravo!! You are not only a Pollyana–I mean that in a good way–God bless Father John for saying that–you are also a good critic, and of course I mean that in a good way–succinct, strong, with good sensibility, biting sometimes but also generous.

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