Really illuminating post by James Shelley (via @patrickrhone):

Whether papyrus or the internet, humans doggedly write for influence, status, wealth, conviction, and pleasure. But the so-called sanctity of “authorship” is only a very recent idea. These “rights” of authorship are only true if they are enforced. They are a kind of fiction that only make sense in occasional times, places, and cultures. For the next chapter of the human experiment, I wonder if “authorship” will again recede into the background, as it often seems to do in times of disruptive changes in communication technology.

But the banishment of the author doesn’t mean writing ends. Writers still write even when “authorship” functionally means nothing. And what they write still influences their world, with or without the universe dutifully paying homage to their bylines. In the long arcs of history, what is written typically goes on to mean much more than who wrote it. The future, like today, is built on ideas, not on the people who had them, because people die but ideas never stop evolving.

As we used to say, read the whole thing. I’m particularly struck by his invocation of ancient anonymous and pseudonymous works. It’s the ideas that matter, less so the author.

I’ve lived in different areas of Lawrence County for my entire life–but everything started in one particular town, Springville. That’s where my maternal grandparents lived their adult lives. Bud (real name Clarence but universally known as Bud) and Alta (pronounced AL-tee) were both born in the Kentucky counties of Wayne and Pulaski, respectively, but their families moved to the area for the limestone jobs. I plan to write more about them but first I’m working on getting the chronology of their early lives straight. In the meantime, suffice it to say that Springville is where their children were born and it is the place of my earliest memories.

Two buildings come to mind today.

First is the Trinity Pentecost Mission. (The Holiness people, bless them, weren’t always clear that their churches were Pentecostal, not Pentecost.)

Grandpa Strunk helped build this church and served as Sunday School Superintendent for thirty years. I have the bell he used on those Sunday mornings.

It’s possible that my great-grandpa Stunk was a preacher at this church but that is unconfirmed. I’m waiting to hear back from my uncle to see if he knows anything about that.

My earliest memories at this church:

  • Stacking hymnals up to make buildings for the action figures and cars I brought with me.
  • Dozing under the pews while people sang and danced and waved their arms.
  • Listening in rapt amazement as a preacher (not the pastor) described what would happen in the end times. I vaguely remember speaking up during the sermon and saying something like “really?” and the preacher responding in the affirmative.
  • Hearing the strange—almost distressing—way Brother Chet, the barrel-chested pastor, would catch his breath as he preached. Holiness preachers don’t talk, they yell. A preacher who didn’t yell for 90% of his sermon was a rarity. So it wasn’t that Chet was unusual in volume, only in the way he sucked in oxygen at the end of a sentence like a man having a heart attack.
  • The painting of damned souls dropping off a cliff into Hell, with a caption along the lines of “Eternity. How long?” I may visit the church again sometime just to get a picture of that painting.

Second is Springville Grocery. A picture as it is now:

My aunt started this store many years ago. Maybe in the 70s? I remember it especially from the time when my grandparents moved from their little house in which my mom and aunts and uncles grew up to a trailer on the lot next to the grocery store. My guess is that my aunt owned that lot and helped my grandparents move there so they would be close by.

I stayed with my grandparents a lot during childhood so I remember walking over to the store with a handful of pennies and nickels for candy. I don’t really have many specific memories about the store—just that it was a fixture and landmark during my childhood.

I’m very glad to see that it seems to have taken on new life. I hadn’t been there in many years until very recently and they’ve added booths and hot breakfast. It looks like the sort of place the local retirees might gather. And, more relevant to us, they have become Springville’s source for locally raised meat and dairy products. Seeing my aunt’s store turn into a market supporting local agriculture is gratifying.

Ted Goia’s “The State of the Culture, 2024” is grim but necessary reading—and it contains the image below. Reminder: if you like the idea of handwritten letters, send one to PO Box 110 Oolitic, IN 47451 and you’ll get a reply. Eventually. I’m not exactly a swift correspondent.

I always look forward to the spring ephemerals.

We’re expecting a bit of snow today but OFA says it’ll be an early spring. Warmer-than-average temperatures and lower-than-normal rainfall here in the Ohio Valley.

A friend and I were talking last year about our mutual need to over-intellectualize everything we do. “I need a theory to tie my shoes.” Now, mind you, I’m not saying that’s a good thing; quite the opposite, in fact. I think this friend and I do this because we both have similar sorts of brains that have suffered similar traumas.

All of which is to say I can really get into practical work once an idea has given it a framing.

Ever since I wrote about my experience with working from home, I’ve been thinking about households as workshops. I am 90% sure I derived this from Wendell Berry’s various discussions of productive households, as opposed to households as sites of consumption. (I’m a blogger, not an academic, so that’s the best you’re gonna get for source citation.) The preeminent example for Berry is of course the family farm, which is both the site of work and the source of goods that fulfill the needs of the family itself and contribute to the local economy.

Now, obviously, most of my work is for the benefit of an entity thirty miles away from here. But that work is done here, and that means it is in some real way situated within my household. This relativizes my “day job” in ways that wouldn’t be possible if I was sitting in the office, surrounded by co-workers, in an environment where The Institution is all. (This is, no doubt, behind some of the most insistent calls to return to the office by those who would have their employees devote their lives and bodies to their work.)

I grew up in a blue collar household and I’ve always had what you might call the blue-collar attitude toward work, that is, it’s just a job and its purpose is to give you money to do what you really want to do. Hustle culture, devotion to career, finding meaning in employment—these things have always been nonsensical to me. This attitude, combined with working from home, works well to remind me of the purpose and limitations of my day job. It places it within its proper context, i.e., the household.

People who read this blog know that I also garden and dabble in woodworking and DIY. Rachel gardens even more than I do and bakes bread and cooks and shovels seven hundred pounds of rock and many, many more things. We were discussing this the other day and we concluded that we really are making some progress on turning our household into a productive—not merely consumptive—place.

Reframing my household as my workshop has helped rid me of the nagging feeling that I should be doing something else. That repairing the stove, for example, is an annoying distraction from my “real work.” And, strangely, I was never quite able to articulate what that “real work” was meant to be. It was always just the vague feeling that it was something else, something more important. (Arrogance is a besetting sin of mine.) But if my household is my workshop, then my real work is here, now. My real work includes all of this, from accounting to building raised beds to helping my daughter navigate adult problems.

It’s obvious, isn’t it? I’m not sure why it took a certain idea clicking into place to make me see the union of all these things, but that’s the curse of my addled mind.

After our mishap last weekend, we got the new part in today and now we have a working stove.

New video: Green Man’s Grotto, February 2024. A tour of our backyard garden at its worst, with a few ideas for the upcoming growing season.

Adam Kotsko, “The Information Environment: Toward a Deeper Enshittification Thesis”:

The near-total context collapse we are now experiencing was already baked into the workings of the Mosaic web browser and the dream of the “information age” that it encapsulates. Information does want to be free, as it turns out — free of context, free of pleasure, free of empathy, even free of comprehension. The effort to just cut to the chase and give us the information has actively destroyed the conditions for understanding and using that information in an intelligent way.

New video: DIY gone wrong