Alex Watt

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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?


Bits & Bytes (July 18)

Elise Hilton at the Acton Institute asks if college has become a scam, citing John Stossel. Certainly it’s not a “scam” for all, but we must count the cost… which has increased tremendously.

And there is no doubt that high school students can do great things before college; just take a look at Joe Landolina, who invented a new way to stop bleeding at age 17.

99U has a great article on why and how to read books (which should be a significant part of continuing education, college or not). Perhaps my favorite takeaway: “If you see anything that remotely interests you, just buy it. If you don’t get to read it immediately and it piles up, that’s ok. It’s part of building your ‘anti-library,’ or the stack of unread books that will humble you and remind you just how much there is still to learn.”

On productivity, I am fortunate that email does not distract me (work or personal) as much as it once did, but the cost can still be terrible for creativity.

Finally, I am convicted and encouraged by this post from Tim Challies on keeping a journal. Imagine the gift it could be to future generations and the encouragement to oneself.

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

— Erasmus


Bits & Bytes (May 19)

Sometimes, it feels like staying on top of everything is impossible; at least staying on top of everything important is possible.

Speaking of what is important, for those of us who are students, here is encouragement to seize the summer. It’s definitely here now!

And as a second word on my generation, this is certainly not new, but I recently discovered Mark Bauerlein’s just complaints about members of my generation and how the digital world can make us stupid

One of the ways we can probably prevent technology from hurting us is to listen to learn creativity from someone like Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes fame).

But cartoons are not the only way to exercise creativity. Probably one of the most creative tasks is writing, and I was glad to read Tim Challies summary of the things we have learned from about writing well from William Zinnser, who died last week.

Finally, in a recent interview with the Washinton Post, David Brooks (author of The Road of Character) says some insightful things about the role of technology, particularly social media:

I’m not a technophobe. I think it helps augments our friendships and keep in touch with people. I don’t think there’s evidence that Facebook makes us lonely. If you have friends, you use Facebook to build friendships. If you’re lonely, you use Facebook to mask friendship. It’s not the technology, it’s the self.

There are two ways social media challenges us.

The first is, the idea of broadcasting yourself all the time where we create an avatar of ourselves that is the fake person of ourselves. . . .

The second is the distraction factor. I find it very hard to sit down and read books and read important things because I waste so much time answering e-mail and on Twitter. It’s like candy that’s always there, mental candy, and makes you shallower because you don’t carve out the time to read something that would make you spiritually enriched. [emphasis mine]