Alex Watt

About Photos Recommended Books

Taking Off and Landing

As I left Pittsburgh for New York not three weeks ago, and New York for Boston, I got to experience the joy of flying again: The takeoff, the exhilaration of launching a ship into space, the views of the city when every skyscraper becomes a doll house.

Photo credit: Noah Silliman

On the flight to New York, I had the privilege of sitting by a window in front of a little girl also sitting by a window. Takeoff was, for her, one of the greatest things in the world. I knew it by what she said. And when we left the city behind, we traded that view for literally golden clouds, shining in the glory of the new day.

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Book Review: Leisure, the Basis of Culture (Josef Pieper)

Author’s Note: This review was originally written for a seminar class, hence the academic tone.

Photo credit: Steve Richey

Leisure may seem to be the defining fruit of Western affluence: Free time is more abundant than ever, as are the diversions with which to fill it. The availability of movies, music, games, and all kinds of hobbies, combined with a general lack of concern over the most basic needs in life, would seem to crown the typical Westerner a veritable king of leisure. Yet, according to Josef Pieper, leisure “is a mental and spiritual attitude — it is not simply the result of external factors.” It requires a man to be at one with himself, something rarely needed for many activities considered leisure today. By Pieper’s understanding of leisure, the modern world is in trouble.

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Keeping the Sabbath

I never thought much about keeping the Sabbath until high school. While I went to church, and enjoyed two large meals with my family (breakfast and dinner), I didn’t necessarily seek ways to rest. In fact, I remember studying for AP exams in the afternoon.

But at some point, I had two friends who shared how they didn’t study on Sunday. The idea was quite foreign to me, and I was concerned that if I took a day off every week, I would never be able to get everything done. Nonetheless, I decided I should.

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Pick Something New

Early this summer, one of my new Maryland friends introduced me to the world of guitars. Yes, I knew what a guitar was before… but no one had ever showed me the basics: This is a string, and that’s a fret. Here’s a chord, and you can play.

After a few weeks of practicing on my friend’s guitar, I bought my own acoustic — a Seagull S6 “Original” — so that I can continue to learn and play back at school. At first, I was intimidated by the guitar; I wanted to jump in and play something impressive and difficult, but that’s impossible without understanding the basics. Eventually, I realized I would be wiser (and learn faster) to begin at the beginning, learn two chords, and go from there.

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Not for Sale

Many glorious things in life are free, and it is no coincidence that none of them have obnoxious labels with all capital letters. Take a flower, for instance; stop and smell it, and remember the words of Chesterton.

Nearly all the best and most precious things in the universe you can get for a halfpenny.

I make an exception, of course, of the sun, the moon, the earth, people, stars, thunderstorms, and such trifles. You can get them for nothing.

— G. K. Chesterton

An attitude of wonder for these free and best things in the universe should not be underestimated. Is it possible to learn or live well without such a perspective?