Every week I highlight three newsletters that are worth your time.
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1. The Pillar
Every once in a (long) while my Church does something right. Here’s Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas last week:
My buddies at the Pillar interviewed him—instead of just rewriting his tweet as a “breaking news story,” imagine that—and Flores unpacked this idea of sacralizing guns. Here’s Flores:
Well, I was referring to the fact that the discourse we’ve had now for decades, about any attempt to control weapons that can cause grave damage — some of which moves have been enacted into law and others which have been resisted — is countered with a description that [gun ownership] is basically an individual’s sacred right, that no matter what the cost, it must be preserved.
And when I say “sacralized,” I mean that we make it seem almost as if it detracts from human dignity, or the human good, simply to say that we need to have some reasonable limit on these things. To say something is sacralized is to say it’s almost taken out of any possibility for conversation.
It is a strong statement, but we do sometimes speak about things that way, and I must say that in some sense, we have kind of sacralized the whole idea of the individual right, such that it trumps any communal concern. It becomes an untouchable aspect in the discourse, that the common concern for the good of the vulnerable is not in any way sufficient to limit the individual right to determine whether or not I want to own this kind of a gun, or that kind of gun, or, you know, a hand grenade for that matter.
So when you sacralize it, you kind of make it basically closed for discussion, because we practically treat it as if it were sacred.
You can read the entire interview here.
Then my buddy Ed Condon penned this essay for the Pillar, which is absolutely worth your time:
I only returned to live in the United States as an adult in my mid-thirties, and I never feel more like a foreigner in my own country than after one of these horrible events.
I confess upfront that I have never felt drawn by a particular “side” in the gun debate, at least apart from in the immediate context of 19 children being murdered in their classroom.
I own no handguns or rifles, I have no desire to do so, and I’m mystified by the sine qua non significance often placed upon them in American discourse of rights. That said, as a lawyer and a journalist, I hear the concern about how the case against the Second Amendment — that its authors couldn’t conceive of modern firearms — might be applied to the First Amendment, which obviously did not foresee the internet either.
That all gives me pause, or it would, were it separable from the immediate context of 19 children being murdered in their classroom.
I also understand that, as all the statistics I have seen seem to show, there would appear to be no obvious evidence that cities and states with stricter firearms laws necessarily have less gun crime, and that legal gun owners are, statistically speaking, more law abiding than average.
And I am sensitive to the reality of a “gun culture” in many parts of this country which is not sinister, and indeed places a premium on responsibility, of which I have no personal experience and which I should refrain from judging in my ignorance.
Or I would be, outside of the immediate context of 19 children being murdered in their classroom.
The problem I have in all of this is the immediate context of 19 children being murdered in their classroom, barely a week after 10 people were gunned down in a supermarket because they were Black.
And that both of these atrocities were carried out by teenagers with obvious warning signs of mental instability who still had, so far as I can tell, legal access to firearms — one in a very loosely regulated state (Texas) and the other in one of the most strictly regulated (New York).
I simply do not know how to process this other than as an existential civilizational crisis. . . .
It boggles my mind that apparently otherwise sane people are prepared to propose that schools be secured and guarded like super-max prisons as the necessary condition of preserving a “free society.”
Read the whole thing and subscribe if you’re interested in what a consistent Catholic ethic of life looks like.
2. My Email Obsession
Conquering email has been one of my ongoing battles for the last several years. It’s my biggest productivity sink. Over the last few months I’ve made real progress thanks to a service called Mailman.
But Mailman also runs a pretty interesting blog/newsletter and last week they had a conversation with Laura Mae, who is a “productivity advisor” at Google. She helps Google employees maximize leverage over their work and she has some thoughts on making your inbox as productive as possible:
1. Block email notifications
Constant email notifications are the death of productivity. It dilutes our focused attention and robs us of deep work. Plus, it sets a reactive chain: Say, you’re working. In the middle of it, you get a notification. You check it. You then respond to the email. This triggers back and forth conversations. The end result is you don’t get your things done.
Laura recommends “checking your email proactively” instead of “bothering your brain with notifications” . . . You can fix the time when you’d like to receive emails: set hourly intervals or choose specific times.
(This is one of the things I use Mailman for. It holds all of my email—except for certain white-listed notices—and delivers just three times a day, so that in between I can focus on deep work.)
3. Close your email tab
It’s tempting to check your emails often, especially if you keep the email tap open 24/7. An average person checks their email 15 times per day, or every 37 minutes. That’s a lot of time wasted.
Laura suggests “closing your email tab when you’re doing deep work” to fight this. . . .
6. Store emails that require clear action; archive or delete the rest
An average Gmail account holds 17,000 messages. Some even have 100,000+ (My brain spins just at the thought of it).
Getting my email to 0 unread messages has been key to my email productivity. It helps me remain sane and avoid missing important emails. Plus, a cluttered inbox gives you a “false sense of having too much to do.” It adds to your mental load.
So, delete, archive, or snooze your emails that “don’t require an immediate action.”
This is me. If I’m not at inbox zero, I feel like there’s a weight hanging over me and it makes it harder for me to focus on other tasks. I don’t feel truly free for the day until I’ve emptied my inbox.
Read the whole thing if this is one of your struggles, too.
3. The Athletic
The Athletic is subscriber only, so I’m going to excerpt this beautiful Ken Rosenthal piece on the sunset of Jason Kipnis pretty heavily. But I encourage you to subscribe, if you love great sports writing.
Kipnis, playing in his native Chicago, that night became the first visiting player since Babe Ruth to hit a three-run homer during the World Series at Wrigley Field. More important, Cleveland moved to within one victory of its first Series title since 1948, defeating the Cubs, 7-2, to take a three-games-to-one lead.
First, I asked Kipnis what it meant as a hometown kid to be linked like that with Ruth, and he laughed, saying, “Everything.” Then, after he talked about the homer, I popped the bigger question: “You grew up coming to games here. What would it be like to win the World Series at Wrigley Field?”
“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” Kipnis said.
“Can you imagine it?” I asked.
“I’m starting to. I’m starting to,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends and family here. To be able to do it in Chicago …”
He paused again, his eyes welling with emotion.
“It would mean a lot.”
Of course, Cleveland did not win the Series in Chicago. Cleveland did not win the Series at all. The Cubs reeled off three straight victories to win their first title since 1908, and Kipnis, his teammates and an entire city were left with a what-might-have-been emptiness that has yet to go away.
Kipnis, at least, was in position to get another crack at a championship last season. All 57 players who were on the Braves’ active roster for at least one day received a World Series ring. The list included bit contributors such as infielder Sean Kazmar Jr., and pitchers Jay Flaa and Ty Tice, and even Jasseel De La Cruz, who was active for one day but did not pitch. Such players received lower tiers of ring, but Kipnis did not qualify for even that much. He spent all season with the Braves’ Triple-A Gwinnett affiliate, waiting for a callup that never came.
And now, at age 35, his career might be over. . . .
So, what would it have been like for Kipnis to win the World Series at Wrigley Field? He remembers my question. He remembers our interview after Game 4.
“Trust me,” he said. “I remember it all.”
Subscribe to the Athletic if you can.
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At one level, the 'coastal elites' expressing similarity to non-Americans when it comes to guns, specifically, aversion to them, only strengthens the resolve of Americans in the middle of the country that the Coastals just aren't Americans.
This overstates the situation somewhat, but not completely. It also mischaracterizes it as coastal-middle. It's much more an urban-rural divide. And it's definitely the case that most urban and suburban dwellers don't hunt and don't have parents or grandparents who hunted. That said, no one hunts with AR-15s unless their goal is to leave dead animals for scavenging animals to eat.
If there's common ground to be found which gun non-owners and responsible gun owners could share, time to establish it, and FAR PAST TIME to ignore the gun fetishists and gun CONTROL absolutists who do poison any attempts at compromise. If serial incremental change is all that's possible, all-or-nothing types are a danger to society.
"I own no handguns or rifles, I have no desire to do so, and I’m mystified by the sine qua non significance often placed upon them in American discourse of rights."
My sentiments exactly, Ed. And I've lived here all my life.