reality is weirder than you think

Category: Book of Hours

St. Nick the badass

Urban legend or no, good ol’ Saint Nicholas certainly made the Council of Nicaea a more exciting place to be:

It happened that saint Nicholas, now an old man, was present at the Council of Nicaea,  and out of jealousy of faith struck a certain Arian in the jaw, on account of which it is recorded that he was deprived of his mitre and pallium; on account of which he is often depicted without a mitre.

Gotta love a guy who will follow in the footsteps of the Christ flipped tables in the temple.

In this age that conflates Christianity and pacifism, it’s refreshing to come across examples of Christians in history who were not hesitant to stand up for their faith, including a kiss with a fist.

It also occurs to me that saints are basically memes. In the link above, the evolution of the Nicholas story reminds me a lot of the evolution of a meme, and how they tend to get to become a taller and taller of a tale over time. I always dismissed the iconography of saints out of hand, being the headstrong protestant that I am, but this deserves further thought.

Stay tuned, and Merry Christmas Eve.

Arts and Habits

I’m liking this notion of developing “arts and habits:”

At school you are engaged not so much in acquiring knowledge as in making mental efforts under criticism.  A certain amount of knowledge you can indeed with average faculties acquire so as to retain; nor need you regret the hours you spent on much that is forgotten, for the shadow of lost knowledge at least protects you from many illusions.  But you go to a great school not so much for knowledge as for arts and habits; for the habit of attention, for the art of expression, for the art of assuming at a moment’s notice a new intellectual position, for the art of entering quickly into another person’s thoughts, for the habit of submitting to censure and refutation, for the art of indicating assent or dissent in graduated terms, for the habit of regarding minute points of accuracy, for the art of working out what is possible in a given time, for taste, for discrimination, for mental courage, and for mental soberness.

The art: how you do it.

The habit: what you do.

I feel like I’ve developed most of these during my worklife moreso than in school. Even though I was one of those stellar students that everyone liked, school (and by extension, my teachers( never pushed me hard enough to have to tackle the basic arts and habits that make up my day.

That said, it would be worth taking a look at my own daily practices to evaluate what arts are being developed, and what daily practices spring into being.

The art of getting faculty to do what you want.

The habit of tracking all expense reports.

The art of translating university bullshit.

The habit of examining the truth.


Why you need a routine

Or, “why I, your author, need a routine.”

One of my motivations for exploring the Book of Hours is the idea of the routine, or the daily practice, or whatever you want to call it. I’ve long felt that my own routine is suboptimal (although it is clearly enough to keep me as a functioning human being) and while I chafe at the idea of “rules” a more structured life has its allure.

I’m attracted to the idea of building prayer and spiritual practice into the daily routine as a matter of course. Rather than keeping it on the edges as an optional add-in, or a leisure activity, building it into the daily practice will keep it structurally sound. I believe this is one of the reasons that systemized religion will never really die out–it keeps the practice alive even when the burning desire isn’t there.

Daily habits are a way of getting things done–this has been quite the drumbeat in the self-help circles as of late–and certainly will help advance schemes and projects. I’ve typically approached routines in this way–that they’re for helping you better yourself. Get from 0 to 1.

What I’ve never really considered is that a daily routine is necessary for our brains to process the world. This isn’t just for self-improvement, but for baseline human life.

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson explains.

In an different video, Dr. Peterson remarked of building a daily routine: “Your brain will thank you for it — stabilize your nervous system.”

So not only are routines and micro-habits needed to propel you forward, they’re also needed to keep you stable and grounded as a human being. In order to set yourself up for success, and keep anxiety and other less-than-helpful brain handicaps at bay, a well-ordered routine is necessary.

This idea puts my inner libertine on edge, as it wants to do what it wants when it wants any day of the week…but let’s be real, few of us always listen to our inner libertine. We know better.

I like the idea of calling it a “daily structure.” Less focus on mundane and more focus on the scaffolding of life.

A book of hours of sorts

Continuing the journal series, we’ll move from the postmodern to the pre-modern. Books of Hours have long fascinated me, as they are largely visual yet instrumental to spiritual life in the medieval church. They were not diaries, per se, but did break the day up into pieces. 


Matins: The wee hours

I’m sleeping.

Lauds: Dawn

6am. My bowels wake me up after an uninterrupted night’s sleep, before my alarm. This is a new development in my body’s inner workings, which I suspect benefited greatly when I finally quit coffee last week. This makes me sad, because I truly enjoy drinking coffee, not just the physiological effects of it. Ever since I went full carnivore, I’ve been slowly losing my taste for it and now it’s just…gone.

Prime: Mid-morning

Because I woke earlier that usual, I arrived at work in time to clock in like a civilized person before heading to a morning’s worth of presentations. It’s a beautiful morning, not quite hot yet but still sunny and full of promise. The view that’s normally part of my commute is obscured by the hazy, settled smoke from nearby wildfires. I love what it does to the low light, filtering it like a sieve, but I don’t love how hard it is to breathe.

Terce: Late morning

We take a break from presentations and I make sure to assert myself, to validate the very reason I went to these in the first place. My lack of coffee and still-too-little sleep schedule has led me to almost nod off in a few of the presentations, so I try to overcompensate by forcing myself to be extra outgoing. This is not my favorite thing in the world, but I think I do an okay job at it. I’m recruiting the presenters. We’ll see how the conversion rate is in a few years.

Sext: Noon

Still in presentations.

None: Mid-afternoon

I’m just now getting around to eating lunch. At work, I’ve perfected a pseudo-mac-n-cheese adapted for the carnivore: sliced grilled chicken off the salad bar, topped with a few bacon bits and some cheese, then microwaved until the cheese is melty. No doubt it’s fake cheese; no doubt I need to stop eating it; no doubt it’s delicious.

Vespers: Sundown

This week, I agreed to go on a date. We end up at an under-air conditioned dive that’s wallpapered for books and set for destruction in the next month. It’s a victim to a wave of rent hikes that have happened all across the city, forcing out the longtime businesses in favor of short term, capitaled-up disney-style establishments. All style, no soul. I’ve never been to this one before, but I’m a little nostalgic on its behalf anyway.

Compline: Late evening

Now I’m curled up on my bed, attempting to force words out of my head and onto this blog. Trying to understand the mind of men never works, but I try to anyway. My mind is still fixed on the date, on what I want (or don’t want) to happen next. I’m not sure. I do know that I’d rather be home learning about Books of Hours than out dancing. This blogging ritual is starting to grow on me, but sometimes I have very little to give. Perhaps I should move blogging from compline to lauds.

Postmodern Journaling

File this under “no such thing as coincidence.”

The very same day I posted yesterday’s post on a type of journal entry, Vox Day began ruthlessly examining postmodern literature. Essentially, the argument is that postmodern literature is void of information content or actual communication; instead, the writing is meant to be skimmed for an impression.

This holds true to what I know of modern MFA-style workshops in creative writing. They despise “genre fiction,” which tends to focus on such quaint, old-fashioned ideas like story and character, while being absolutely obsessed with sentence-level stylistics. If you never look past the WORDS to the MEANING, however, you don’t get a good story. (Hence why you never see any good stories coming out of MFA-style workshops.)

This can also apply to journals and diaries.

If I go back to my longhand journals, I can re-read entries and remember what was going on in my life at the time. There’s usually some sort of structure to what I wrote, and it reflected what was in my head. There’s content being communicated. And even though it’s to-myself from-myself, I can understand past entries even with the passage of time.

Now, the Keel’s Simple Diary, I don’t think I’ve ever gone through and re-read past entries.

[Press pause while I do so.]

Based our previous observation of words and content, I can validate the conclusion that you probably just leapt to that Keel’s postmodern approach to journaling does very little to retain the content of a day. Even in the entries that I specifically mentioned events, I have no idea what was going on. Nothing evokes a memory.

It’s fun to fill out, to make your brain stretch a little bit to fill in the random types of questions that are asked for each day, but because the questions are so random, there’s no comparison across time, or even space for a narrative or even just a data point or two.

You validate the action of updating a daily journal, but the purpose (to provide a document for daily life, thoughts, emotions, etc.) is completely obliterated.

Postmodernism strikes again.


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