Monday, October 28th

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Hello, Front Porchers, and happy one hundred and twenty-seventh birthday to the Statue of Liberty. On a similarly grand scale, we want to invite everyone to another big anniversary: to celebrate hip-hop’s big fortieth birthday, we’re teaming up with Flow Story and the Victory Grill, among others, to produce A Loud Silence. While a celebration of forty years of hip-hop may not be the standard fare for some Front Porchers, we encourage everybody to head out for an evening that will get your bodies and minds moving.

Monday, October 21st

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Another Monday, another round of news on the Front Porch. This upcoming Sunday will mark the launch of Parable, our monthly (to start with) gospel brunch and discussion group at the Austin Ale House. You should check it out. We could say the same about A Loud Silence, an event we are co-producing with Flow Story at the Victory Grill. It’s going to be a celebration of forty years of hip hop, featuring classic songs, conversations about the ever-changing impact and role of hip hop in the community, and performances by some of Austin’s biggest stars. Speaking of Austin’s biggest stars, start making space on your calendar for the next Actually Unplugged, featuring the prodigiously gifted Mother Falcon. Yeah, we’re staying busy here.

Part of what’s keeping us so busy is partnering, which seems to go against the contemporary cultural and political climate. There’s a push, it seems, for self-reliance. Dependency is looked on as a weakness. Searching outside of oneself or one’s small group of like-minded allies is a no-no. The proliferation of superhero movies, starring an entirely self-reliant person, or the recent political brinksmanship, allowed to happen because our officials are too uncomfortable to see themselves be linked even slightly with “the other side,” demonstrate the urge to separate self from other, to fortify and defend against anyone and anything that smacks of a collective.

The Front Porch is going the opposite direction. We’re thrilled to work with the Austin Ale House, the Victory Grill, Flow Stories, All Saints, and the Live Music Capital Foundation, among others, to keep the ball rolling. We think that’s what the world needs: more unlikely partnerships, more surprising combinations. That’s where the creativity really happens.

The Endless Quest: on religious dissatisfaction and wide-open spiritual seeking

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endless quest blog picFront Porch aficionados are, if anything, seekers, endless seekers. That doesn’t mean being weak-willed, indecisive, or unable to commit. Quite the contrary. It means being attentively, thoughtfully, courageously in touch with the way thing are, the way things move and change, hopefully deepening and gaining in wisdom, endlessly. That’s just the way things seem to work in the human condition, unless one inauthentically tries to freeze the process or just gives up on the search.

 

One of the 20th century’s most distinguished philosophers Alasdair MacIntyre described this kind of seeking as a “quest.” It is a quest that is, “not at all a search for something already adequately characterized…but always an education both as to the character of that which is sought and in self-knowledge.”

 

Here is a particularly rich example of such a quest, I think, from Joe Klein, a well-known columnist and author. Currently, he writes a weekly column in Time magazine. He is a real favorite of mine, and I try not to miss any of his commentary. Klein has read widely and deeply in social and political theory. Recently he authored a Time cover story on the response of citizens and various organizations and churches to natural disasters in the US. He commented on the remarkable extent to which it seemed that religious organizations and people predominated in coming to the aid of devastated communities.

 

Apparently that elicited lots of protest from readers who insisted that plenty of non-religious or secular individuals were just as sensitive to human suffering and just as altruistic as religious folk. Of course, they’re right. But Klein still felt that his observations were correct, and that set him to thinking about what it all meant. In response, he wrote the following entry on the Time “Swampland” blog. I found it to be a fascinating example of questing or seeking in our postmodern times, marked by enormous dissatisfaction with established churches and religious dogma and yet a great deal of wide-open spiritual seeking.

Monday, October 14th

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ruby jane as girlGreetings, Front Porchers. While preparing for Ruby Jane to play Actually Unplugged–Thursday at 8:00 in the All Saints’ sanctuary–we’ve been thinking a lot about talent. Ruby Jane’s incredible ability was recognized when she was only four years old, which is obviously exceptional compared to most of us (at that age, I had difficulty in selecting outfits for myself which didn’t involve capes), but  even for those of us who aren’t prodigies, to what do we attribute talent?

Malcolm Gladwell has popularized the idea of the ten thousand hours required for expertise in any field, but that seems unlikely when applied to a four-year-old. Savants, young and old, can be found throughout history, from the toddler virtuoso Mozart to septuagenarian painting master Grandma Moses. How do we explain these phenomenal individuals, who possess abilities incommensurate with their experience? Are they granted their mastery by some divine agency? Are they born with a unique combination of genes that allows them to pick up a skill faster than seems possible?  Are they shaped by minute pressures, too small to measure, from their environments? Are they just lucky? Is it some combination of these things or something else?

We don’t have the answer here on the Front Porch. All we can do is talk about it with each other, maybe inching closer to a truth, and be thankful that these marvelous and unlikely people are around.ruby jane older

Monday, October 7th

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Happy Monday, everybody. We’ve got a few things coming up that we’d like you to know about. We’re going to be wrapping up our Elephant in the Room series on Apocalypse at 7:00 on Wednesday in the All Saints’ parish hall with a showing of Fresh, a documentary about the struggles of small agriculture in the modern world, and a discussion afterwards. And don’t forget that next week, Actually Unplugged returns to All Saints’ with Ruby Jane.

On a more somber note, it was twenty-three years ago today that Matthew Shepard was attacked and beaten in Laramie, Wyoming, leading to his death six days later. The growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the years since shows that we, as a society, are progressing, but that we have to travel a great distance yet to be a community that humbly accepts all its members, regardless of their differences. As this acceptance is one of the core values of the Front Porch, we ask that you remember the importance of dialogue, especially with people you disagree with, and that you keep on talking with one another and with us; it’s the only way we can make this crazy world work.

Monday, October 7th

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Happy Monday, everybody. We’ve got a few things coming up that we’d like you to know about. We’re going to be wrapping up our Elephant in the Room series on Apocalypse at 7:00 on Wednesday in the All Saints’ parish hall with a showing of Fresh, a documentary about the struggles of small agriculture in the modern world, and a discussion afterwards. And don’t forget that next week, Actually Unplugged returns to All Saints’ with Ruby Jane.

On a more somber note, it was twenty-three years ago today that Matthew Shepard was attacked and beaten in Laramie, Wyoming, leading to his death six days later. The growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the years since shows that we, as a society, are progressing, but that we have to travel a great distance yet to be a community that humbly accepts all its members, regardless of their differences. As this acceptance is one of the core values of the Front Porch, we ask that you remember the importance of dialogue, especially with people you disagree with, and that you keep on talking with one another and with us; it’s the only way we can make this crazy world work.