For Today

Beware lest thou do like mad and foolish people who want to set themselves up to investigate and judge the deeds and habits of the servants of God. He who does this is entirely worthy of severe rebuke. Know that it would not be different from setting a law and rule to the Holy Spirit if we wished to make the servants of God all walk in our own way – a thing which could never be done.
   Catherine of Siena, “Letter to a Mantellata of St. Dominic” (Scudder, p. 91)

Like This

I’m not in a position to equip an office with typefaces at the moment — but if I were, I’d look very closely at Canada Type’s handsome revival of Ronaldson. For a modest $120 (Canadian, so USians will have to pay more, by a factor depending on the election campaign, Ben Bernanke’s ulcer, and the formation in which pigeons flock over Wall Street), a church or a school (for example) would have sturdy, readable serif face complete with small caps and an outlandish complement of ligatures. Ronaldson signals clearly that it’s not just another Times New Roman without looking archaic or noisy.
Plus, it’s a Scottish design. Now, what more could you ask?

Out, Performing, In, Processing

I read Dave Pollard’s report of Meg Tilly’s dismaying experience at the Northern Voice blogging conference with tremendous interest and sympathy. Among the many important dimensions of the situation, two particular constellations of points stand out to me.
First, neither the presenter nor Dave Pollard had the vaguest idea that someone was actually being hurt. Dave mentions hearing Meg interject a protest, but he only just registered the sound; he didn’t (as he notes) hae time to follow through and identify what was happening. Thing One: Well-intentioned People cause others profound (“devastating”) pain without even noticing it. Nancy and Dave were not egregiously careless — they were going with the program, a program that commendably advocates getting away from mere cognitive-verbal engagement with information. I want to emphasize that this purpose resonates deeply with my hermeneutical interests, and I vigorously endorse Nancy’s interest in getting people out of passive attendance into active participation. It’s all good, as they say; except that this particular day, this particular well-intentioned exercise was not good at all for an articulate, thoughtful participant.
The point is that no matter how purely commendable your intentions, no matter how apparently innocent your program, no matter how brilliantly successful its effects in the previous ten situations you tried it out, a presenter (or a preacher or a teacher) always stands under the likelihood that something they say or do will injure somebody. There’s no way to immunize yourself from that possibiliity, and the reflex to blame the person who suffered pain only aggravates the offense. In this situation, Nancy showed laudable concern and humility and extended herself to apologize and make amends (well done, Nancy). Nonetheless, anyone who ventures to take up that sort of position of public leadership runs the risk of causing unanticipated (and entirely unforeseeable) injury. If you want to be sure that you don’t hurt anyone, sit back and stay quiet. If you care enough to speak up and lead, begin by considering the chance that you’ll hit someone at a very vulnerable point, and from the very start resolve not to shrug it off, not to blame her or him, but to take responsibility for the injury that you could have chosen to avoid (even though you had no reason to expect it).
On the second point, I’m going to be less complimentary to Nancy. The exercise she led (and countless others like it) looks to me to be extraordinarily extrovert-centric. I’m very skeptical about the ethics of dragooning people into participating in a public exercise, then displaying the results of their participation for the whole conference (and in this case, for the whole world) to see. I heartily sympathize with the value of getting an audience (or a class or a congregation) involved in what’s going on, and as I said before, I emphatically support the particular concern that impelled Nancy to assign the drawing exercise. At the same time, I’m introverted enough myself to wince in pain when I hear Meg’s story. As a presenter/preacher/teacher, I try to avoid anything that puts people in so exposed a situation; where circumstances warrant an exercise such as this one, I try to make the justification explicit (“This is practice for times that you’ll be doing this in public once you graduate”) and to emphasize the limited publicity of the setting (“We’re the only ones who will see it”). If something must be done out in the big, wild public, I emphasize caution, patience, and preparation. None of that precludes hurting somebody, but it helps build mutuality in expectations and the understanding of the exercise. Please, though, please please please, don’t assume that everyone is extroverted.
(P.S. I’d never read Meg Tilly’s blog before — didn’t even know she wrote one — but she’s a charming blogger, just the sort of online correspondent who gave blogging a good name. And I’m not saying that because I had a mini-crush on her after seeing her in The Big Chill. That was so long ago, and so mini.)

Six Unimportant Things Before Breakfast

Jordon tagged me for a trivially revelatory meme, and since (by definition) it won’t touch on anything momentous, I’ll honor his request.
“Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.”
One, I became a (lifelong, so far) Baltimore Orioles fan when I was a kid growing up in Rochester, NY. My favorite players on the Redwings would be called up to play for the Orioles — so I became a fan of the O’s by virtue of being a fan of Mark Belanger (Crikey, I didn’t hear he had died! What a shame!), Wally Bunker, Fred Valentine, and Luke Easter (Luke Easter was batting coach for the Redwings in the day; somewhere my mom or dad has a photo of me perched in Luke Easter’s arms at Southtown Shopping Center).
Two, I’ve used varying forms of fountain pens since high school. During the summer before my sophomore year, I discovered Rapidographs, and I’ve been scrubbing inkstains off my fingertips ever since.
Three, one of these days I hope I’ll have time to take some drawing classes. That’s not a surprise, given my fascination with non-verbal communication, but maybe if I say it in public I’ll have the gumption to get around to doing it.
Four, I have worked as a general laborer in a fish cannery, a flyboy in the press room of a newspaper, and a waterbed installer before I settled into computer graphics.
Five, I began teaching myself Greek in high school. Allderdice offered Latin (I remember what the Latin teacher looked like, but I can’t recall her name), but I tried to learn Greek from a phrase book in study hall.
Six, since I’m foregrounding high school stories, I’ll note that in Student UN in high school, I served as a General Assembly delegate from Malaysia, as Ambassador from Malaysia, and as Chairman of the General Assembly. (Then there was the time I went to the North American Invitational Model UN at Georgetown as ambassador of the delegation from Guyana, and when we ran for co-bloc chairs with Fiji, the ambassador from Fiji turned out to be a distant cousin of mine, which neither of us knew until we got home.)
I hesitate to call out anyone else, but if you read this and no one else is tagging you, then consider yourself tagged from me.

No Suspense?

The Onion’s video segment on Diebold accidentally releasing the results of the 2008 election includes many terrific lines. “This country is based on the fantasy that the government is the voice of the people. Going through the motions of voting and keeping the kingmakers’ dealings secret are central to our culture.” “We at Diebold will see that we properly safeguard the illusion of democracy for all Americans.”