Bitter Discontent

I’m reading Augustine’s Confessions right now and was stuck by the following words, from when he is recounting the dissolute lifestyle of his youth.

“Thou wast always by me, mercifully angry and flavoring all my unlawful pleasures with bitter discontent, in order that I might seek pleasures free from discontent. But where could I find such pleasure save in thee, O Lord — save in thee, who dost teach us by sorrow, who woundest us to heal us, and dost kill us that we may not die apart from thee.”

The Robin & Boom Show #14 – Interview with William Kabasenche on Virtue Ethics

Robin interviews Dr. William Kabasenche, professor of philosophy at Washington State University. They discussed virtue ethics, and how this differs from other common approaches to ethical decision-making. In this podcast you will learn why the ethical life should not start with questions like, “What should you do?”, but instead should seek to ask questions such as “what type of person do I want to become?” Dr. Kabasenche explained how this approach lends insight into questions of genetic screening and end of life issues.

 

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An Angry Bumble Bee, a Strange Phone Call, and Another Day at Work

Things were slow earlier today, as I sat behind the reference desk at the Whitworth library.

Shortly before my lunch break, a few patrons came into the building. One of our visitors was a previous professor at the university who is now writing a book on the history of music ministry in the United States. I had the opportunity to help him access a database of unpublished PhD theses.

When I wasn’t answering questions or helping patrons with research, I worked on an extended research project for one of the faculty members. He had asked the librarians to dig into the university archives to gather information for a history of the history department.

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Confessions of a Recovering Gnostic

Having grown up as a Christian, I would always have said I believed in the resurrection of the body. However, my primary concern was focused on the immortality of the soul. Without giving it much thought, I simply assumed that the doctrine of resurrection was a shorthand way of referring to going to heaven when you die. Even though I had read the Gospel accounts of Christ’s resurrection many times, and even though I had read Paul’s lengthy discussion of bodily resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, I still unthinkingly assumed that the resurrection of believers would be non-physical.

My belief in a non-physical resurrection was part of a larger perspective that deemphasized the importance of the physical world. In some of my earliest writings I argued that during the Old Covenant the Lord’s work had been focused on the material world, whereas in the era of the New Covenant His work was purely spiritual (read: non-physical). Accordingly, what happens in the material world is unimportant to God. The best we can hope to do, I thought, is prepare for the next life. In the next life, the soul will be liberated from the body that now imprisons it.

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Identity Politics and Mob Madness

When controversy erupted last weekend over President Trump’s incendiary tweets, the ensuing furor focused on the issue of racism. This has been unfortunate since it has obscured the real elephant in the room, which is identity politics. The Left cannot offer a substantive critique of Trump’s use of identity politics, seeing that identity politics forms such an integral part of their own ideology. Hence, all they can do is just keep repeating the charge of racism.

But it doesn’t really work. After all, if the president had told a white person of Russian ancestry to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” few would imagine that this revealed an incipient racism against whites. However, because the congresswomen that Trump singled out happened to be non-whites, everyone is ready to assume that he must have been motivated by racist impulses.

This is not to excuse the President. Something far more sinister and subtle than racism is happening here. Trump’s use of identity politics is truly demonic and threatens the integrity of our nation.

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Sanitizing Death

In the podcast below, Fr. John Behr observed that the greatest change in the modern world (greater even than electricity and the internet) is that we no longer have to deal with death in an immediate way. Until the last fifty years, ordinary people had constantly to deal with the process of dying and with dead bodies. But in the modern world we no longer see death or have to deal with dead bodies. We have sanitized death. A practical result of this shift is that we have no practical horizon for understanding finiteness, vulnerability and transcendence, or even for fully grasping the mystery of the incarnation when God embraced death in order to trample it down.

Brit on the Backroads

“Snarfflewood Meadow” by David Yapp

I just learned that my friend, David Yapp, has been writing a column for a California newspaper about his experiences painting in the Sierra foothills. Today while I was at work I got my phone to “read” me his various articles, and found them truly a delight. My only disappointment was when I exhausted all his articles and didn’t have any more left to read.

David’s writing, like his paintings, have a way of drawing the reader into a world that is both ordinary and wonderful. Moreover, his articles give a transparent, if sometimes unflattering, glimpse into the quirks and oddities of California people and animals, from a mysterious killer goose to a Merlot-loving bear.

Check it out David’s column at The Mountain Democrat, as well as his beautiful array of oil paintings.

Posted in Art

2-Part Podcast Series on EQ

Last month, my friend Mark Weisman came over to my office to discuss empathy, emotional intelligence and technology. We looped Jason Boom into the conversation through Skype. It was a fascinating conversation about some of the ways digital technology is eroding skills in empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ). In a follow-up conversation, we discussed specific techniques people can practice for increasing their EQ skills.

During these discussions, Mark Weisman was able to contribute valuable insights from his perspective working for years in the tech industry, as well as from his experience as a husband. We explored what the latest brain science is showing about the corrosive effect of too much screen-time, particularly in brain regions associated with emotional maturity, introspection, expression recognition and emotional regulation. 

We syndicated these two conversations to The Robin & Boom Show  which you can listen to below.

 

The Robin & Boom Show #13 – Attentiveness, Technology, Empathy and Stillness (Part 2 of series with Mark Weisman)

Mark Weisman

Robin Phillips and Jason Van Boom continue the discussion with Mark Weisman on technology, empathy, attention and EQ. In this podcast you will learn what Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica and the Great Tradition tell us about bringing attentiveness into our relationships. You will also learn the importance of slowing down to take a reflective turn, how to leverage neuroplasticity for good, and the relationship between the brain, body and emotions. Questions discussed include:
  • What tools and  best practices are available for families who want to push back against the culture of distraction?
  • Is empathetic listening an ability that some people simply have while others do not, or is it a skill that can be developed with practice?
  • How does awareness of one’s own feelings relate to sensitivity towards the emotions of others?
  • How can we develop the intellectual virtue of contemplation, and how does this affect our relationships?
  • How does the Sabbath commandment reflect natural law?
From the podcast:
“…be aware of what other people are feeling, and listen to the emotions behind what they are saying rather than just being quick to respond to surface issues. Go deeper and really try to listen with your heart and with empathy. Often we get into fights and arguments about issues that are really just proxies for deeper emotional issues, and these deeper emotional issues, when they’re not being adequately addressed or listened to, can cause problems abort issues that are not really the issue.”