Well, folks, I have hit a professional career peak, and I am not exaggerating: Ken Myers interviewed me this past summer about my Dante book for the Mars Hill Audio Journal, and tells me that the segment is on the new, just-released Vol. 128 of the Journal. What a great surprise to discover that I share the venue with Carlo Lancellotti, a frequent commenter on this blog, as well as my friend and TAC publisher Jeremy Beer, and the philosopher Matthew Crawford, whose latest book I’m drawing on heavily for my upcoming Benedict Option book.
If you are a Journal fan, you know well what an honor it is to have been invited to be on it as a guest. I genuinely consider it one of the greatest things to have happened to me in my career, but I won’t be able to listen to it out of fear of stinking up the joint in which all those other guys will no doubt be brilliantly holding forth.
In related news, have you considered attending the Eighth Day Institute’s 2016 symposium next month (Jan 14-16) in Wichita? If not, oh, y’all, please think hard about it — and think fast, because December 31 is the last day you can get the early bird registration fee. This year’s theme is “Soil & Sacrament,” and the speakers include Vigen Guroian, Mike Aquilina, Hans Boersma, Russell Arben Fox, and others, including Your Working Boy, who will be giving two talks: one introducing The Benedict Option (with a particular focus on reclaiming sacramentalism as the heart of the project), and another on the novel Laurus and living sacramentally.
Here’s more information about what our lot will be discussing there. I spoke at last year’s Symposium, and it was a blast. It’s centered around Eighth Day Books, one of the happiest places on earth, and let me tell you, this is just about the best meeting of small-o orthodox Christians you could hope for. I intend to profile the bookstore and the Institute for the Ben Op book — and just today I corresponded with Dr. Boersma, the Reformed theologian whose great book Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry explores the metaphysics of Christian sacramentalism in the Great Tradition, and whose thought is important to my Ben Op project. I’ll be interviewing him for the book while in Wichita.
I really do hope to see you in Wichita. If you come, bring plenty of room in your suitcase, because you will discover books in Eighth Day that you didn’t even know you wanted or needed. It’s that kind of place. (Did you see The New York Times’s profile of the store and its owner, Warren Farha, back in May?) A professor friend of mine and his wife are currently en route from Maryland to Wichita, driving halfway across the country to make a “literary and theological pilgrimage” (his phrase) to the bookstore. Once you’ve been there, this gesture makes perfect sense.
The fact that Mars Hill Audio Journal and Eighth Day Books exist are clear signs that all is not lost, and that God loves us, and wants us to be happy. That, and the fact that Warren serves cold Boulevard beer at the opening night reception in the store. Come on, sign up for the Symposium. You know you want to be there. The Venn diagram between “Mars Hill Audio Journal subscribers” and “Eighth Day Institute Symposiumgoers” is a near-perfect circle. Read this James K. A. Smith interview with Erin Doom, who runs the Eighth Day Institute, explaining what they do and why they do it. Excerpt:
JKAS: How do you see all of these pieces serving the goal of cultural renewal?
ED: I think about that all the time. First, the church has to get over its divisions and stand as one beautiful body. Christ prayed for the church to have the same kind of unity he has with the Father. Why? So that the world might believe. So cultural renewal depends on our unity. And that’s why all of our work promotes an “Eighth Day Ecumenism” by bringing Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants together for a dialogue of love.
But I also think our ability to get over our divisions depends on a retrieval of our common heritage. The church has handed down particular ways of birthing and dying, of marrying and remaining single, of fasting and feasting, of praying and worshipping. These holy practices have proved effective in the past. And we have to implement them in our families. We have to make our homes into little churches.
Ross Douthat says we’ve become a nation of heretics. He’s right, and I think it’s because we’ve forgotten our heritage. So all of our work at EDI promotes the unity of the church through a retrieval of our common heritage.
The community around the Eighth Day Institute and the bookstore are fantastic examples of the Benedict Option. Come experience it for yourself. I can think of no better antidote to cultural gloom and doom than to be in Wichita at this symposium, among these good people, in this good place.
Now, if you come, be sure to rub Russell Arben Fox’s tummy for good luck. He loves it when you do that.