Things that cheer me up

It’s no secret that in many ways I’m less than sanguine about the direction of the country and the world. As a guy who by long habit (I’ll not make a virtue of the habit) sees the glass half empty, it probably behooves me to mention things that cheer me up. Although I open with an explicitly religious one, they’re not all religious by any means. One of them may even have anti-religious undertones. And not even one is political; where’s the good news in that wasteland?

  1. Romans 8:38-39.
  2. People voting with their feet.
  3. Beauty.
  4. Steven Pinker.
  5. Front Porch Republic.
  6. Craftsmanship.


For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (King James version). This could be twisted into insouciance, but if I were insouciant, I wouldn’t be habitually pessimistic and thus need this picker-upper for balance. I could cite other scriptures or snippets from the Orthodox church texts, but this is a longstanding favorite, predating my Orthodox faith.

And I almost never forget it, which is why I think, whether alive or martyred, I’ll weather the new dark age tolerably and why I think something good may rise from the ashes, if I live to see that.


Our rulers seem utterly clueless about most things. Some hoi polloi exult in stupidity, such as “I get really high mileage in my insane, unsustainable commute!” or “think of all the carbon emissions they’re saving by illuminating the empty big box parking lot all night with light-emitting diodes instead of halogens or indandescents!”

But many “get it,” philosophically or viscerally. Many things don’t require our rulers’ permission, or are worthy of defying prohibition. People – at least some of them – are doing sensible things like moving into densely-populated, walkable city centers and Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA).

National sources: Better Cities and Towns; Community Matters; Handpicked Nation; Resilient Communities; Slow Money; Still Made in the U.S.A.; Bill’s Khakis; Strong Towns; The Land Institute; Tactical Urbanism; Thoughts on the Urban Environment;

Local sources: Cityfoods; Polyface Farms (not my locality); This Old Farm; Silverthorn Farm (f/k/a Tranquil Ridge Farm);


I’ve probably oversubscribed to arts and literary journals for a guy who still practices a profession daily. I’m really quite clueless about the ins and outs of visual arts, and am less well-tutored in poetry and literature than I wish. But I can read, and I know what’s beautifully written.

National sources: On Being; Orthodox Arts Journal; Road to Emmaus (dubiously classified, but I love it); Poetry; Image; anything ever written, thought, or gleamed in the eye of Wendell Berry; Walker Percy; Flannery O’Connor (I used to think her writing amiably grotesque; now I think it’s realistic).


Maybe this is just a passing fancy, but I took a good long listen to Steven Pinker during a long bike ride on a cheery Saturday afternoon recently. His theory is one that I reflexively resist, as do many, but he makes a powerful case that violence is diminishing by orders of magnitude. I particularly resist the idea that Leviathan has been a violence-reducer, or that if it has been, it was worth it.

Yet to be worked out by me (and I think Pinker would agree, though he has some suggestions that I really resist) are the reasons why, and how we can reduce violence further.


Speaking of Pinker, one of the dubious correlations he alludes to is the “back to nature” impulses of some of the 20th Century’s most violent tyrants, including Hitler (Poland was Lebensraum for Germans), Mao and Pol Pot.

I cannot think of our American agrarians in the past, or our localists in the present, as budding Führers. Au contraire. I admire and am uplifted by them. But it will be better if the suburbanites who vote with their feet to go urban vote with their feet instead for small, sustainable farms. I think the market will handle that if we don’t subsidize suburbia.

In this general cosmos are Distributist Review and especially Front Porch Republic.


My wife and I, after nearly 35 years of marriage, decided it was time to replace our bedroom furniture. We were astonished at how chintzy furniture was in the mainstream furniture stores, including Kittles. It was the furniture equivalent of leisure suits, patent leather or Corfam

Then we remembered Trilogy Gallery (no website) from our occasional visits to Nashville, Indiana, and got (from the Indianapolis store in the Castleton area) some wonderful made-to-order (but not custom-made) furniture worthy of passing down through generations.

There are rumors of craftsmen homebuilders. Fine Homebuilding features some of them, but I don’t know any locals. There may be some – Downham, maybe – but I have no personal experience.

Remember when “beer” meant “lager” or maybe “pilsner”? No more. Craft brewers are craftsmen worthy of the name, among whom I number Peoples Brewing Company in my hometown and the insanely creative Right Brain Brewery in my favorite vacation spot.

Some of my former co-religionists may consider craft beer a sign of the end times. I consider it a cheery example of localism I could have put in category 2.

* * * * *

I’ll try to remember others as they occur to me.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.