Sunday nuggets, 5/25/14

    1. How can I keep from singing?
    2. Rotation Risotto and other acts of integrity
    3. Port Huron platitudes, libertine realities
    4. Serfdom or Liberty?
    5. Gratuitous software swipe – Mohiomap


I often think that our modern world, despite all of its technology and science, fails to think of the world as it truly is. Everything is in motion. Nothing in all the universe actually reaches the state of non-motion, or “absolute zero” as it is called. We can approach it, but never arrive. But our imagination tends to think of the world in very static terms, as though it were a snapshot or a painting.

It is difficult to speak of things in motion. Not unusually, in the writings of the fathers, the language of motion is translated into the imagery of music or dance. Music is sound in motion just as dance is pure motion. But as all of creation is itself in motion, it is appropriate to speak of the music of creation and the dance of creation.

The music that is the song of creation moves towards a goal. Like a great composition, the many discordant moments, the counter-melodies and sounds that jar the ear still move inexorably towards a resolution, a final chord that no one has yet heard except the one who first began to sing. And that chord will resolve all sounds so that they will be seen to have always been part of the whole. It is the musical expression of Job’s vision.

One of my favorite American hymns, “My Life Flows On An Endless Song,” was written by the Baptist minister, Robert Wadsworth Lowry. A verse was added in 1950 that I have converted in my own thoughts to a Paschal hymn, the tyrants being our adversary and the prison, Hades. I gladly sing it with my friends.

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile,
Our thoughts to them go winging;
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?

(Fr. Stephen Freeman, The Song of a Good Universe)


When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.

(John Muir, quoted lovingly in How John Muir Is Revolutionizing the Farm-to-Table Food Movement) I’m going to take the liberty of an extended quote that doesn’t exhaust the article:

My revelation in the kitchen occurred 10 years ago, standing over a bag of all-purpose flour.

The flour-bin is parked outside my office window in the kitchen, so it’s constantly in view. I watch it being emptied and refilled, emptied and refilled, all day long. We use a ton of flour at Blue Hill—we’re not unusual in that regard. All-purpose flour is probably the most ubiquitous ingredient in my kitchen. But I realized one day that I knew nothing about this particular ingredient. I didn’t know where it came from, or how it was grown—I only knew that it had absolutely no flavor, and it was in everything.

There I was, running a farm-to-table restaurant—meticulously sourcing my produce, cheese, and meats—and I hadn’t given a thought to this basic facet of my cooking.

So I decided I wanted to get my hands some delicious flour, flour from wheat with a story, flour with presence you could taste. Like any farm-to-table chef, I figured I’d start by finding a local, organic grain farmer. I found a guy named Klaas Martens, from upstate New York, who grew emmer wheat. This particular variety of emmer was, at the time, nearly extinct—but Klaas was preserving it, and he started to supply Blue Hill. I bought a grinder for the restaurant, and we ground Klaas’s wheat, milled it into our own flour, and made this stunning whole wheat bread.

There I was walking the farm-to-table walk with my organic heirloom wheat, basically milled to order. But before long, things started to get more complicated.

To support a farmer like Klaas, I needed to change my cooking. I needed to cook with the idea of the whole farm in mind.

I went back to visit Klaas’s farm, thinking I’d write about him for my book, which was then in its earliest stages. On that visit, I had a second culinary epiphany—one that took place not in the kitchen, but in the field. Looking out from the middle of Klaas’s farm, about 2,000 acres, I realized there wasn’t any wheat—at least, not at that time of year. I was surrounded by millet, and oats, and barley, and buckwheat, some mustard greens, some kidney beans—but no wheat. All these crops, I learned from Klaas, had very specific functions. The beans gave the soil nitrogen, and the barley was there to build soil structure, the mustard plants helped cleanse the soil of pathogens and diseases. They were planted in this carefully timed sequence throughout the year. All of this was to prepare the soil, to create the best possible conditions for that great, amazingly flavored emmer wheat. Klaas couldn’t grow his healthy, vigorous, chemical-free wheat without those rotating those other crops in, too.

I remember thinking: Oh my god, Ive got this all wrong. I’d created a market for this local, heirloom emmer wheat, but I wasn’t doing anything to support the entire system that sustained it.

For the rest of the story, including the invention of “Rotation Risotto,” see the article at the Atlantic.


In 1962, a Boomer manifesto laid out its blueprint for doing away with old and crusty things.  The authors of the Port Huron Statement envisioned “a world where hunger, poverty, disease, ignorance, violence, and exploitation are replaced as central features by abundance, reason, love, and international cooperation.”  Ours was the generation that would repair a broken world.

Yet several decades later progress toward fulfilling such grandiose aspirations remains fitful.  Boomer achievements have fallen well short of their own youthful expectations.  In practice, power harnessed to advance the common good took a backseat to power wielded to remove annoying curbs on personal behavior.  To navigate the path marked “liberation,” Boomers took their cues not from philosophers and priests, but from rockers, dopers, and other flouters of convention.

(Andrew Bacevich, Thoughts on a Graduation Weekend)


I didn’t have time to read something provocative from one of my favorite web mentors when it came out as it was “performance week” for a musical group I’m in (thus, added and longer rehearsals) and the next week was Holy Week, east and west, with at least two services per day.

But I finally got to it, and I’m very glad I marked it to go back. The author is Patrick J. Deneen, formerly of Georgetown University, now of Notre Dame, and the piece is The Case for Serfdom Rightly Understood. It was prepared for

the 50th anniversary meeting of the Philadelphia Society. The title of the meeting was “The Road Ahead—Serfdom or Liberty?” My remarks sought to suggest that conservatives should be more circumspect about their rote incantation of the word “liberty,” and that there may even be something to be said for “serfdom,” properly understood.

Deneen writes well, which means he’s hard further to distill, but here’s some evocative excerpts:

We begin to see this with ever-growing clarity in our own times—a new, kinder and gentler total State. It promises its citizenry liberty at every turn, and that liberty involves ever-greater freedom from the partial institutions of civil society, or ones remade in accordance with the aims of the State. The states as sovereign political units have been almost wholly eviscerated, and are now largely administrative units for the federal government. Satisfied with that victory, we now see extraordinary efforts to “break” two institutions that have always been most resistant to the total State: churches and family. We see an unprecedented efforts by the Federal government to abridge religious liberty by conscripting religious institutions like Little Sisters of the Poor (and my institution, Notre Dame) to be agents conscripted into providing abortifacients, sterilization and contraception—in the name of individual liberty. We can expect determined and even ferocious efforts to bend Churches to accept gay marriage as a norm, even to the point of forcing them entirely out of the civil realm. And we see increasing efforts of the government to “liberate” children from their families—represented perhaps most chillingly by the MSNBC clip[2] showing Melissa Harris-Perry explaining how the greatest obstacle to State education has been the pervasive notion that kids “belong” to families rather than belonging “collectively to all of us.”

I must admit that it’s not obvious to me what I’m supposed to favor—The Road to Liberty or Serfdom? Because, as thinkers like Nisbet recognized at the very beginning of the conservative movement in America, the rise of individual autonomy and centralized power would grow together—Leviathan would expand in the name of liberty. He understood that the most fundamental obstacle to the rise and expansion of the State was the “little platoons” praised by Edmund Burke—particular and real ties to private, religious, and civil institutions ….

Now, I’m not proposing that the conservative rallying cry should be, “Give me Serfdom or give me death!” I don’t think pushing serfdom is going to make conservatives more popular today. But I do think we need to recognize that conservatives haven’t cornered the market in promoting “liberty,” and if that is our totem, then the Progressives will win the debate, as on many fronts they are today. What distinguishes Conservatism is not that it believes merely in liberty—understood as autonomy—but that it has always understood that liberty is the necessary but not sufficient condition for living a human life in families, communities, religious institutions, and a whole range of relationships that encourage us to practice the arts of self-governance. 

(Emphasis added) I shouldn’t need to, but I’ll say it anyway: the point is not that it’s important for “conservatives” to “win,” but that it’s important for people to be empowered to thrive as more than just sexually autonomous dependents on Uncle Sugar Daddy.


I loved Dropbox, and I’ve probably become jaded as it just sits there and works flawlessly. Now I love Evernote, too, and store random thoughts in it that I formerly tried to fit into an Evernote folder hierarchy. So wouldn’t it be great to get something that connects the two?

Enter Mohiomap. Exit Mohiomap. This thing is so cryptic and so poorly documented that I feel as if someone’s pulling a giant prank to see how long people will beat their heads against the wall trying to capture what surely must be some kind of obscure genius to the thing. When I try to zoom in, the whole map slides off the right side of the screen instead. Grrrrr!

Someone said it’s mindmapping meets Evernote. I didn’t get into mind maps, either. If you did, maybe you’d like Mohimap. There’s no accounting for taste.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.