I haven’t been posting much on the site recently, for a number of different reasons. I’ve been very busy, and my family has been dealing with some health issues. We would appreciate your prayers!
Immediacy and the Insufficiency of Words
I’ve also been preparing for some changes to the site and some new projects. Blogs and podcasts, like social media in general, tend to prioritize new content; if creators don’t turn out a steady flow of new material, they lose influence and attention. In service to this demand for more content, two options present themselves; either constant repetition or “hot takes” on the latest viral controversy. The result is the overproduction of content and the distortion of intellectual activity. After all, very few worthwhile ideas are new or unique, and the latest controversies will be completely forgotten in a few years.
This modern problem is overlaid on a deeper, older problem; the insufficiency of words. Words by themselves are easily misunderstood; instead of acting as a bridge for human communication, they can form a barrier. They can only represent reality, and yet today they often replace it. They categorize and label, oftentimes obscuring the complexities of life.
Ideally, words are used between friends who know and understand one another and are searching together for the truth. This is difficult, however, in the digital age. While it is true that people have always misbehaved, divided into antagonistic cliques, and circulated gossip, it is also true that the internet seems to exacerbate all these problems. Technology isn’t neutral; to a large extent, it shapes the way we behave and perceive the world. As Peter Maurin said, we need to build a world in which it is easier to be good. Ideally, we’d get rid of the internet altogether. Since that isn’t possible for most of us, we should consider how our internet usage can be designed to minimize these problems.
Reconfiguring the Website
I plan to reconfigure this website to make it function more like a library of useful information rather than as a blog. All the podcast episodes and posts will be there, arranged by topic rather than by date, and the existing resource section will be expanded and reorganized. Over time, I will continue to add new content to the library, with a particular focus on book reviews and study suggestions.
I’d like to invite others to contribute to this project; I’m open to collaborating with anyone who strives for unity with the Church, values voluntary poverty, and is interested in discussing how Christians should live out the Faith in the modern world.
Introducing Sean Domencic
I’m happy to introduce Sean Domencic as the first such collaborator! Some of you may remember him from one of our podcast episodes. He founded the website Tradistae, a Catholic Worker website dedicated to discussing social justice through the lens of the Church’s Tradition. While he still believes in the importance of the Church’s Tradition, he no longer considers himself a traditionalist. If you are interested, I would encourage you to read his essay describing his reasons for renouncing this label. (As some of you know, I used to be a traditionalist. I left that movement six years ago, for many of the same reasons that Sean discusses in his recent essay. Among other things, I came to realize that traditionalism is exactly the kind of religious faction that St. Paul so strongly warned against.)
The “Tradistae” label no longer seemed appropriate, so Sean decided to archive his website. There was a lot of material on the site that still seemed useful, and so he asked me if I would be willing to host it on Happy Are You Poor. I’m happy to do so. I’ve learned a lot from my conversations with Sean and admire his zeal and intellectual integrity. While I don’t always agree with everything that Sean or his various guests and collaborators have to say, I think his work is valuable for many different reasons. I’ve certainly found his work helpful, and I hope others will as well.
As well as creating a resource library, I want to host more participatory discussions on radical Christian living. In a divided and distracted world, such discussions can help to build the shared background that is so important for successful communication. I’m currently considering different ways that this could be accomplished, including online book discussion courses or conferences. If you have any suggestions, please contact me! Thank you, and may God bless you all.