All posts filed under: The Times We Live In

Addressing the challenges of our polarized times

Saturday Music: Mavis Staples

There is no better musical artist to celebrate during The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend than American icon and national treasure Mavis Staples. Her reach and impact as a once-in-a-generation artist has been astounding. Staples is a member of both the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Award winner, a Kennedy Center honoree, and a recipient of the National Arts Lifetime Achievement Award. As someone who began singing during the civil rights movement and marched with Dr. King, her longevity in the spotlight is a testament to her magnificent talent. Mavis Staples performed at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration and sang at President Barack Obama’s White House. And she’s still going strong. “At a time when most artists begin to wind down, Staples ramped things up, releasing a trio of critically acclaimed albums in her 70’s with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy that prompted Pitchfork to rave that ‘her voice has only gained texture and power over the years’ and People to proclaim that she ‘provides the comfort …

Uplifting Preservation

There are times when the personal takes on global implications. Last week was one of those times. It began when I discovered that a former National Trust colleague, Raina Regan, has begun a fascinating self-help project for preservationists. Here is Raina’s description of this work: One of my goals for 2019 was to be more intentional with my free time, which resulted in a rekindled love of reading. I was really drawn to self-help books, and according to my count, I’ve read two dozen of them in 2019. As I read each one, I considered how they would apply to me and my work in historic preservation. At some point, I decided I wanted to take what I’ve learned and share it more broadly with the world—and Uplifting Preservation was born. Uplifting Preservation is a once-a-month newsletter on the Tiny Letter platform where Raina shares her perspective on a specific book, such as Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, and its relevant concepts …

More to Consider

I’ve long been a fan of the pithy proverb that contains truth in 20 words or less. Perhaps my love for the short and to-the-point adage came from my Grandmother Brown, who was known to say things such as, “The graveyard is full of people who thought the world couldn’t get along without them.” I admit I might have heard that particular one when she thought I was getting too big for my britches. To capture some of my favorite sayings without having to write an entire blog post about them, I created a feature on More to Come that I labeled More to Consider. (Clever, huh?) Every other week or so I update these quick bursts of truth. This section of the website is easiest to see on a laptop, where it resides near the top of the right hand column. But most people read my posts from their phones, where you have to scroll almost to the bottom before finding the saying for the week. With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the more …

Seeking Hope

Regrets and grief can plague us at any time of the year. But for some individuals, the holidays are a time when regrets are easy to recall and often hard to dismiss. At this time when people around us appear happy and full of joy, grief can suddenly arise in our souls. For too many, the darkness of the coming winter takes on personal overtones. We may have lost a loved one and feel that emptiness deep in our being. Broken relationships or health challenges can be exacerbated in a season when society calls out for gaiety. Those seeking employment see the over-the-top consumerism of the holidays while they wonder where they’ll find next month’s rent. Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can lead to an increase in suffering and grief because of the dissonance between one’s life and what one sees out in community. I’ll be the first to admit that I can struggle to get past the regrets in my life. Likewise, I find that grief is an all-too-familiar response to the sorrows …

My 2019 Year-End Reading List

As 2019 draws to a close, I’m sharing my annual list of the books I’ve read over the past twelve months. As regular readers of More to Come know, since returning from sabbatical early in 2016 I’ve committed to reading more, and to seeking out a wider range of works beyond my favored histories and biographies. With that in mind, here—in the order I read them—are the treasures I found on my reading shelf this past year. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations (2006)—Craig Nelson’s excellent biography of Paine captures the relevance today of the man who wrote three of the bestsellers of the eighteenth century, topped only by the Bible. Paine’s famous opening to The American Crisis—“These are the times that try men’s souls”—was written in the winter of 1776, yet it resonates today as much as it did when Washington’s small army was fighting for its life at Trenton and Princeton. The coalition that controls America today repudiates much of Paine in following the John Adams/Alexander Hamilton approach of …

Remembering the Innocents

Last evening a sold-out Georgetown crowd was treated to a sumptuous musical feast of the season by the English-based VOCES8 ensemble. The “impeccable quality of tone and balance” that has been recognized by Gramophone and many others was on full display in the splendid acoustics of historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. The program was varied, reaching back to the music of Tómas Luis de Victoria, Michael Praetorius, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and Benjamin Britten, while also reaching forward to contemporary composers Jonathan Rathbone, Jonathan Dove, and David Pickthall, among others. For me, the evening’s highlight was the moving Philip Stopford setting of the Coventry Carol, the traditional English carol dating from the 16th century. Stopford’s Lully, Lulla, Lullay—filmed by VOCES8 earlier this year in St. Stephen’s Walbrook Church, London—is as haunting and beautiful on film as it was in the live performance last evening. Soprano Eleonore Cockerham’s soft, clear, yet ethereal voice is a treasure. The subject of the carol—the massacre of the innocent male children of Bethlehem by King Herod’s army following the birth …

The Chosen One

Quick quiz: Which recent news story generated the following online comments? God must have a wicked sense of humor. God also chose to use locusts, plague, and floods in the past to make a point. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the whole “omniscient” thing. God set this up as a test for the American people. Are we as smart, honest and ethical as God hopes we are? The answer of course, was many, many people did not pass that test. God is really disappointed and pretty well flabbergasted that the test went so spectacularly wrong. After the break: God sues Rick Perry for slander. “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8. Perhaps Rick Perry didn’t read that far in his Bible. Asked for a response, God said “oops.” Does God have a return address? The smart glasses. They do nothing. If you guessed that these comments were in response to recent news reports of outgoing Energy Secretary Rick …