Daring A Little Bit

Photo by Gene Bakner on Unsplash

I’ve been reading Brené Brown recently–specifically, Rising Strong. But if you know her work, you know about the idea of “daring greatly”, an idea from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt, as cited on GoodReads

Brown, from her work on vulnerability, identifies being vulnerable with “daring greatly”: bringing your self, not some illusion of your self, to the arena, knowing that it’s the only real path forward. And knowing that if you do that often enough, you’re eventually going to find yourself, bloody and dirty, on the ground.

I’m not ready to dare greatly, especially in the capricious sadism of the online arena–but perhaps I can dare a little bit.

I like to process things for myself, considering them thoroughly–sometimes for minutes, sometimes for years, sometimes for decades–before bringing them out for others to inspect. Or, sometimes, leaving them locked in a storage room. I might, after all, be wrong about something. Others might disagree with me, whether I’m wrong or not. Or I might not have the appropriate caveats and nuances in places. Or I might leave out an important corollary that I’ll wish later I’d mentioned. And if I’d show others a piece of my work, of myself, that is flawed, that is not the finest it could be…how sad that would be; how embarrassing, and how damaging to my future prestige and influence!

Or, perhaps, not. Or maybe it doesn’t matter.

I love words. I love learning. I love thought. I love reading those writers who, with razor pens or evocative poetry, beautifully express powerful thoughts and change the world thereby. And in the meantime, I’m at best a journeyman writer, and probably still an apprentice. I love learning and wisdom, but I’m often intellectually lazy. I love the transcendent paths of faith and philosophy, and I often betray them. I marvel at the insights of scholars and philosophers…and realize I have nothing original of my own to offer. I delight in the beautiful ways others present timeless truths…and realize that any art of mine has already been far surpassed.

And yet…those who went before weren’t demigods. They sometimes saw more clearly than most, offering apocalypses of scientific or mystical insight. But all were humans. People who, universally, began their lives unable to write or think well. Scared people, arrogant people, brilliant people, people of deep common wisdom, people with impostor syndrome and people with god complexes. Prodigies, people who came late to the table, people from the best universities and from no university at all. And each, whatever their giftings of intellect or environment, worked to develop their craft. And along the way, they produced a lot of garbage, whether it’s been preserved for our eyes or not. And, if everything else was aligned and they worked well, they improved over time in their thought and expression.

So maybe there’s hope. And maybe it’s OK if I don’t change the world with my writing. And if I don’t get everything said that should be said. And if I’m wrong sometimes. And if I produce a lot of embarrassing, unoriginal, pedestrian garbage…as long as I’m thinking, processing, learning, and growing, and perhaps occasionally writing something worth reading. Maybe there is nothing new under the sun, but maybe my re-mixes aren’t worse than everyone else’s. Maybe, even if I’m not now an especially remarkable thinker or writer, I should think, and I should write.

If I can’t now “dare greatly” in heroic effort to change the world, perhaps I can dare a little, dare to drop what occasional pennies I may have into the temple offering.

Accessing Chrome’s “Add to Desktop” functionality

Chrome has had a brilliant feature that, at various times, has been called “Add to Desktop”, “Add to Taskbar”, and probably other things. Basically, it lets you open up a URL in a separate window that looks like an app, and shows up as a separate app in Windows. Chrome keeps on changing the interface–and just now, when I looked, I couldn’t even find a way to create such a shortcut.

Thanks to Tyler Whitehurst on this thread, I found a solution that works for me–and I’m recording it here so that it’s easy for me to find, and perhaps helpful to someone else sometime.

– Right click on desktop > new > shortcut
– Set location of item to: “{Path to Chrome}” –app=”{URL}”

E.g., my shortcut path is:

“C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe” –profile-directory=Default –app=”https://drive.google.com/”

You’re welcome.

 

 

The Two Best Horror Stories I Ever Read

The idea of horror has always captured my imagination much more than have actual attempts to use it in art. Most, it seems, appeal to gore, physical pain, weird supernatural stuff–it seems my definition of horror simply differs from that which most use, and others’ approach to it usually repulses me.

Real horror, I think, relates to surprise, and to awe. To the gradual (or sometimes sudden) realization that the world is not what it at first seems, and to the awareness of how little we understand of that world, and of ourselves. The best horror, it seems, is the truest–not about the psychotic killer, the ancient vengeful spirit, or the monster under the bed, but about the monster in your head,  in the society around you, or both. The best horror isn’t effective because the author pulls you into a world of fantasy–it’s effective because the author reaches into your world. Because she grants you a glimpse into the terrifying corners of your own psyche, or reveals for a moment the darkness that your community usually manages to ignore.

The two best horror stories I’ve yet read are both fairly short. M. Rickert’s Bread and Bombs is a relatively recent one, and published online with the author’s permission. Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery was published a few decades ago, and is available in various collections as well as in probably-copyright-violating online copies. Both are well worth reading.

Radical Reformation, or the Anabaptists

I recently came across a great, informative and interestingly-taught sermon series that provides a brief intro to my strand of the Christian Church, the Anabaptists. The Radical Reformation happened in the era of the Protestant Reformation, and the “Anabaptists”, or “re-baptizers” (so branded by other Christians) frequently found themselves tortured, drowned, burned, and otherwise killed or imprisoned by Catholics and Protestants alike. The pastor is Bruxy Cavey, of a Brethren in Christ church in Canada.

Two notes in advance:

  • The sermons are given with the expectation that further processing will happen in “home church” groups, with notes provided to aid discussion.
  • Don’t look at the notes before you listen to the sermons. That’s not what they’re for, and the sermons provide significant context. Just don’t.

The series

  • Radical Reformation #1 – Anabaptists & Us (audio, notes): “This episode kicks off our discussion of Anabaptist beliefs and behaviours with a magical mystery whirlwind tour of the history of the Radical Reformation.”
  • Radical Reformation #2 – Anabaptists & Scripture (audio, notes): “Anabaptists didn’t follow the Bible. They followed Jesus. And that’s why they studied the Bible.”
  • Radical Reformation #3 – Anabaptists & Church (audio, notes): “The Radical Reformers saw the church, not as an institution, but as a family. And that opened the door for more participation from all ages, stages, and statuses.”
  • Radical Reformation #4 – Anabaptists & Peace (audio, notes): “Anabaptists have always rejected the way of violence in favour of Jesus’ way of peace… except when they haven’t. This week we discuss the Munster Rebellion and other Anabaptist failures.”
  • Radical Reformation #5 – Anabaptists & Mission (audio, notes): “How did Anabaptists go from early evangelistic zeal to living in isolationist communities in the country? This week we address this and other challenging questions.”

As with anything, don’t consider posting to be unqualified endorsement or concurrence–but the series is worth your time.

Reflections welcome in blog comments. Or probably welcome. I reserve the right to play the “get off my lawn” card–or, since posts are moderated, to bar the gate. 🙂

Playing Your Own Music In The Cloud

If you don’t know me, my career has been in computer software. I started programming in my pre-teens, took a college programming class at 13, binary-edited executables in DOS for fun, etc.

I think I’m becoming a Luddite.

The cloud is great. Keep all your documents, all your photos, all your data on the cloud. Access it from anywhere. And don’t even worry about what you own–stream video from Netflix or Amazon, music from Spotify or its competitors, and gain access to the world’s library of media!

But you want to put your own music on the cloud? Woe to thee, for thou hast entered The Dead Zone! Amazon used to run a music locker. As did the “legitimate” side of that pirate site whose name I can’t remember. As did a number of others–most of which have folded. Google Music offers some storage, but if you want to set it up on all your family’s devices…woe to thee, for darkness, despair, and error messages await!

All of this is a long path to saying–doubleTwist’s CloudPlayer app is wonderful, a secret I discovered after spending far too many hours trying to solve a simple problem. Basically: put your MP3s in the cloud. Probably on a Google Drive account that you set up on all of the devices that your family uses. And then, install CloudPlayer, and point it to them. It will take a bit of time, but it will index your files, let you view them by album, artist, and all the other usual attributes (even storage location), show you album covers…and let you play them. Simply. Just like any music player. From anywhere with an Internet connection. Exactly as easy to set up and use as a cloud-music solution should be. The link above is to the ad-supported version–but buy the Pro version. They deserve some money for building this.

If you have other great solutions to this problem, I’d be glad to hear about them. I’m unlikely to use them, though, if they involve installing a server on my laptop or setting up a Raspberry Pi or a Linux box somewhere on my home network–or even renting a virtual server to install my personal media server.

The Singer

Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

G. K. Chesterton, “Tremendous Trifles”.

I recently stumbled upon a book that was on my parents’ shelves as I grew up: The Singer Trilogy:  The Mythic Retelling of the Story of the New Testament, by Calvin Miller. It’s an allegory of Christianity, written by a Southern Baptist, published in 1975 . Veeerry promising, right?

Actually, the book’s beautiful: a classic that seems undeservedly forgotten. There are parts, admittedly, that make me wince a bit, for one reason or another–and I haven’t even finished the trilogy in my current reading (the last one was in my teen years or earlier). But Miller knows the language of myth*, the power of story. In transposing into poetry and an alternate Earth the stories that have come to us from Palestine and the Roman Empire a couple of millennia ago, he brings alive the stories followers of Jesus believe: echoing them, reflecting them, illuminating them from new angles.

For a follower of the Singer, one who echoes the ancient star-song, there’s determination, there’s weariness, there’s grimness and tragedy, there’s death. But there’s awe, there’s warm affection, there’s meaning, there’s transcendence. In his allegory, Miller seems to catch, and to play for his readers, some true phrases from the song heard when “the morning stars sang together, and all the angels/[sons of God] shouted for joy”.

I found the audiobook a terrific way to experience this telling. Print would presumably be decent as well (Kindle seems less than optimal), but audio is superb.

* Regarding “myth”: the word as used here refers to the foundational stories by which a group of people define themselves. It includes nothing of the often-assumed “false story” connotation. See Wikipedia for an intro to the subject.