Bless us o internet, for these gifts…

It’s not often you hear from anyone about the spiritual benefits of the Internet. I read and hear (and think, to be honest) a mostly the opposite.

So I appreciate the intellectual courage it takes to put out anything that ties prayer and social media together. But, hey, now that this guy’s got me thinking about it, I can appreciate what he’s saying. (“Bless Us O Instagram.” Theodore Gioia, American Scholar, July 15th)

My best mind’s approach to the internet is that it’s for encouragement, appreciation, and for facilitating relationships. That’s how I made my peace with keeping Facebook on my phone — I use it for encouragement and appreciation of people in my personal relato-sphere.

Meditating on it a bit, I can see that Instagram and prayer are both at their best in service of relationships, of community, of connection. And the best connections are based in gratitude. Gratitude is gratitude, but internet gratitude has the magnified potential of near global reach.

Of course, both internet and prayer can also serve to deepen one’s own self-absorption. Proper intention is necessary (but not sufficient, of course.)

Next time my youngest whips out her phone to snap and share what she’s about to eat, I have another way to view it other than to be generationally annoyed. She’s appreciating what she has received. She thinks it’s share-worthy.

One Direction

First of all, let me say that I love love the job title of “neurophilosopher” and am pretty jealous, being the boring old “product manager” that I am.

Some people might worry that, as interesting as this hypothesis is, it is some sort of  evidence against faith. The idea that morality evolved from the neurochemicals involved in our brains’ need for attachment does not have to be some sort of nature-based argument for relativism.

It needs context. So… brains evolved morality based on the neurochemical need for attachment. Well, where did brains come from? Or neurochemicals for that matter? And where did the source of that stuff come from? And the source’s source, et cetera, et cetera? Ultimately comes… from somewhere…

The Thomistic (e.g. Catholic) idea is that it’s not elephants all the way down. There is a ground somewhere, a primal source. It fits with our experience of the world.

And that source, outside of creation, outside of time, made our brains, our very selves to evolve in a particular way. Toward attachment, caring, morality, and love. Starting from a soup of molecules, to us now, to whatever we will become when we fully evolve to what we were created to be. Fully human the way God made us. Evolution in One Direction (Not a new idea, eh, Pierre?)

So, as a person of faith, I find such findings to be encouraging, not daunting. Sure, it could just be confirmation bias. But if I had to choose a bias to shape the way I encounter the world, this One Direction, towards Love, towards connection, towards caring, is a pretty satisfying one to choose.


DIY: Deodorant Recipe

I found the below sitting as a draft post in my much neglected but historical blog since 2014. And, wow, I’ve been using the same recipe for deodorant for over five years.

It works. I guess. I’m blessed with a wife who would tell me, fairly tactfully, if I smelled. I know my skin is happy. And it’s pretty refreshing. Well, there you go:

“I can’t wear regular deodorant. My skin rejects it

1 part, usually 2-3 oz, Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera — Witch Hazel tones skin and closes pores reducing sweat, and the Aloe Vera soothes skin

1 part Hydrogen Peroxide — Acts as a natural and gentle antibacterial cleansing agent

10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil — Antifungal, antibacterial

Essential oils for fragrance — Cedar, Lemongrass, and Bergamot are my favorite combination for skin. The first two are also said to have antiseptic qualities. Bergamot is citrusy. Myrhh is earthy. And I also like a touch of Black Pepper oil for spice.”

Stuff I Like

I like the way my youngest moves while she’s listening to music she likes (and she thinks nobody’s looking)

I like a stack of books fresh from the library.

I like it when my daughters play music for me that they think I’ll like. (Mostly they’re right)

I like little shops that are run like labors of love by folks who live near me. Especially independent book shops.

I like poets who can fit surprising depths of imagery onto one page. (In other words, they keep it shorter than my short attention span.)

I like finding a new place to get non-corporate coffee that’s fresh roasted and freshly ground.

And I like the inconvenient ritual of making and drinking that coffee with my pour over contraption.

I like dragging my kids downtown to see weird stuff. Like modern art.

I like graffiti that looks like it took love and planning to create.

I like making lines on paper. I can’t draw much, but I like lines.

Cardboard, pencils, duct tape. Simple, quotidian.

Sitting, thinking. Appreciating stuff.

And, as I get older, quiet afternoons.

Flaneur about H-Town: Harrisburg Arts Museum

I am not sophisticated enough to be a true flaneur, but I have flaneur-like tendencies. I find myself wandering neighborhoods I find on my path when I have no pressing reason to hurry. I am especially drawn to local color, art, and cultural interests. 

So coming back from my class at TXRX Labs last Saturday afternoon, I came out of one of my neighborhood detours and realized that I was across the street from Harrisburg Art Museum. The “HAM” is an “Art Museum” in a very unconventional sense, but is one of the roomier and impressive venues for urban mural art and graffiti in Houston. I’ve been there about six times and it is always in flux, evolving. I prefer it at sunset when the light is warm and reddish.

Recommend you visit if you have an extra 20 minutes and are in the East End.

My Phenomenological Turn

It’s been a while since I have written on my neglected blog site. Facebook and Pinterest have satisfied my needs for the kinds of “snack-sized” sharing and diverse idea hoarding that made up a lot of my old blog called Overflow. And life has been such that I have not been making time for the deeper kinds of thought required for more substantial writing.

Maybe that’s not fair to me. I do deep thinking all the time. But I rarely have my thoughts organized enough to write it down nowadays unless it’s for work, or a research project, or prep to teach a class. I don’t do much intellectual dallying nowadays. And, well, that’s a shame.

But now something has kindled both my intellectual and spiritual interest, with just enough of a fig leaf of practicality that I can  persuade my “responsible brain” to take time to organize and write my thoughts down.

I am becoming an indirect fan of French Catholic philosopher Jean-Luc Marion and the apparent revolution in theological and philosophical thought happening in France. It piqued my interest to hear that a student of Jacques Derrida has made theology “hip” in contemporary French philosophy, the “Theological Turn” in Phenomenology as it is called. What grabbed and held my attention is the provocative title of Marion’s seminal work, “God Without Being.”

God without being. That struck me and stuck with me. I have always said to myself and others unfortunate enough to ask me that I truly do not care whether God exists and find all such discussions basically useless to my faith and how I live it out. In fact, I have been wary all my life of concepts of God that seem so inherently limited that they can end up being roadblocks to faith, especially as we grow more mature.

And now , in what passes as “breaking news” in the seemingly glacial world of theology, it looked like there were some authoritative kindred spirits out there who could help me develop my own “phenomenological turn.”

So I longed to get my hands on that book. I had a peek once, I did, but two pages hurt my head. It was like staring at the sun and I couldn’t squint hard enough to make heads or tails of what I was looking at. I don’t have the intellect and the requisite background on Rene Descartes, French Phenomenology, Jacques Derrida and postmodern “deconstructionism” to approach his writing, yet alone gain insight from it.

Luckily, I found a way to approach Marion indirectly, letting others do the heavy lifting. I got a bunch of articles about Marion’s ideas from the EBSCO database at my library. I decided to approach the mountain by stomping around the foothills. I found other authors, like Bruce Ellis Benson, who could summarize for me Marion’s key concepts and help me interpret them.

So, article by article, I am reading Jean-Luc Marion indirectly. Even indirectly, Marion’s concepts of “idol,” “distance,” “saturated phenomenon,” and “givenness” defy my cranial capacity. So this blog is where I will set down my marginal crib notes, starting with Dr. Benson’s article, “Love is a Given.

The teaser idea so far. What excites me, draws me in, is that Catholic Jean-Luc Marion agrees with Nietzche’s proclamation that “God is dead.” And that, it turns out, is a good thing. A  God “without Being”  paradoxically enables us to be closer and more intimate with him where it really counts.

More later, I promise…



Book of Clark, Chapter 14: The Pie of the Lord

Somebody at work suggested “Pie-o-rama” for the next theme at our team meeting. (We’ve had “Dip-o-rama,” “Stick-o-rama,” and “Choc-o-rama” already.) That made me think about the Pie Of The Lord. I tried googling it and it didn’t come up. It was in 2003. So I’m reblogging just to resurface it to the search engine crawlers because such stories should remain as part of Clark tribal lore…


In the land of the Suburbanites, in the tribe of Clark, there was a High Priestess named Heidi who served God and ruled justly, slow to wrath and abounding in kindness. And in her reign the people were happy, for the land flowed with home cooking and every domestic goodness.

It was on the feast day of Saint Patrick that the Lord came to his priestess Heidi and said unto her: “Heidi, my good and faithful servant, you are chosen this day to do my work.” Heidi, though she was shaken with astonishment, replied, “Whatever you will, my Lord, I shall do.”

And the Lord spake unto her: “You shall bring forth a pie such as none in this land has seen, that my name be praised. There shall be a homemade crust, not store-bought as the law does permit, but made by your hand from scratch so that all…

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Poem: we are not hens’ eggs

We are not hens’ eggs, or bananas, or clothespins,

to be counted off by the dozen.

Down to the last detail we are all different.

Everyone has his own fingerprints.

Recognize and rejoice in that endless variety.

The white light of the divine purpose streams down from heaven

to be broken up by these human prisms

into all the colors of the rainbow.

Take your own color in the pattern

and be just that.

— Charles R. Brown