Parenting, Hogwarts style

It’s official: my daughter is a Ravenclaw, and I couldn’t be prouder. She was Sorted at a nearby Harry Potter in the Park event, and an official certificate of her Ravenclaw status is now framed and residing on our mantle.

After mulling over my role in raising a Ravenclaw for a few days, I began to put together some ideas about raising children based on which Hogwarts House they most resemble.

For each House I’ve identified a primary value which drives its members. For Ravenclaws, it is the pursuit of Truth. Gryffindors require a noble purpose to serve, while Hufflepuffs need to be creating, building, and growing things in whatever realm they turn their hand to. Slytherins are destined to greatness, and their drive is so strong that they face great temptation to use devious means to achieve their goals. If they can overcome these temptations, however, they become capable of greater acts of heroism than members of any other house, Gryffindor included.

All four segments are a bit long taken together, so I’ll do one at a time. In honor of my little Ravenclaw, I’ll begin with her house.

Hogwarts_coat_of_arms_colored_with_shading
Hogwarts coat of arms: By Jakovche – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15920926

House: Ravenclaw

Value: Truth

A Ravenclaw requires two things: information, and enough space and time to synthesize that information into an elaborate web of theories according to which she understands the world. This is the task of the Ravenclaw’s life, and if it sounds intimidating, it also sets you and she up for a lifetime of wonder and exploration together.

Parenting a Ravenclaw is very rewarding. She will nearly always be up for anything (if given adequate advance notice). A chance to learn or experience something new, no matter what it is, will intrigue and exhilarate your Ravenclaw. That said, your Ravenclaw is not especially fond of either peril or discomfort, so don’t plan on the extreme types of adventures that Gryffindors thrive on.

Although the Ravenclaw child is often somewhat brusque in manner, she is unfailingly kind and helpful. It takes her a while to warm up to other children, but once she does she gets along well with them. Ravenclaws are typically reserved and are rarely social leaders. However, from an early age, they develop unusually long-lasting and mutually supportive friendships with a select few. Among their inner circle, they are loving, devoted, and loyal, and will display their precociously good and rather goofy sense of humor, which they keep a secret from everyone else.

Most Ravenclaws hate being corrected in any way. If you reprimand her, or even suggest that she change the way she is doing something, don’t be surprised at her extreme reaction. Ravenclaws rely on their intelligence in everything they do, and the merest suggestion that she’s misapprehended or is misapplying something knocks the scaffolding right out from under her. That’s not to say you shouldn’t reprimand your Ravenclaw. In fact, successfully growing up Ravenclaw means finding out that making mistakes is normal and essential for learning.

Ravenclaws are truthful and straightforward to a fault. To deliberately lie or even soften the truth goes entirely against the grain. As a result, your Ravenclaw will often seem rude, but from her point of view, she is merely being truthful. Although they rarely lie, they do withhold information, and value their privacy more than most. Do not poke at your Ravenclaw’s secrets unless there is a real need, or they will react with genuine distress and will shut you out more than ever.

Ravenclaws are uncomfortable with emotion, so that the ups and downs of adolescence comes as a real trial. They need from their parents unconditional love and support, and encouragement to return to their own true life mission from whatever follies they might stray into.

Adult Ravenclaws will come to respect your superior experience (although they will probably not let you know this), and will draw on it as much as they can. They prefer a loving relationship, but with clear boundaries, with their parents. If you treat them as an equal or even ask them to share their area of expertise with you, they will be overjoyed, although they will almost certainly not tell you so.

 

The good death of moral authority

I once heard a sermon which described the role of the church as a sort of cultural referee, meant to call society out whenever it steps over the line. I’ve never agreed with that sermon.

For one thing, I don’t think such a role for the church has Biblical support. As far as I know, secular authority (represented in the New Testament by the Roman empire, and in the Old Testament by a number of kingdoms outside of Israel and later by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires) is always treated as inherently evil: oppressive, destructive, and opposed to the God of Israel. However, no Biblical figure ever tries to reform these entities. Moses leads Israel away from Egypt, he doesn’t try to reform it, even though given his privileged position with Pharaoh perhaps he could have. Jesus speaks against the misdeeds of the Pharisees, not those of Pilate, Caesar, or even Herod the Great, as big a slimeball as he was.

Paul was rather more involved with the Roman world than Jesus was, given that he was a Roman citizen. He owns this status in Acts 22. Given that the Roman empire was far more corrupt and distant from Christian values than our own country, if it is the role of Christians to reform the culture, you would think he would have something to say about this–or perhaps renounce his secular citizenship in disgust, claiming citizenship in only God’s kingdom. In fact, he emphasizes that the “heavenly kingdom” is not an alternative to the secular political authority, or any kind of secular authority at all. (The Romans had poor self-confidence, and were awfully sensitive to that kind of thing.)

But what he does is pretty much the opposite. In addition to claiming his citizenship, he points out what is due to him as a citizen (Acts 22:25), although it is pretty obvious that he doesn’t expect his rights to be honored. In his letters, Paul advocates a rather passive approach for Christians in engagement with the culture. Roman officials, centurions and so forth, are not called upon to leave their posts, even though they are in service of a godless culture which existed unashamedly for the benefit of the powerful at the expense of everyone else. In his letters, Paul advises Christians to be peaceful, even passive; nonconfrontational, making a parade of their conformance to Roman expectations in everything that did not impinge upon their worship. He urged them to give the Romans no legitimate reason to persecute them. Further, he does not himself nor does he ask anyone else to speak out against the culture. He does this in full knowledge that the Christians (including himself) were being and would continue to be persecuted anyway.

Paul wasn’t concerned with reforming the culture, he was concerned with building the church. Is that also our concern–and if not, should it be?

The evangelical view of engagement with culture has, for the last few decades, has appeared to adhere to the “referee” point of view. Abortion is wrong, so outlaw it. Gay marriage is wrong, so keep it illegal. Seems simple enough, right?

The problem with the church as a moral authority, in my opinion, is that the church is only as good an authority as the church is moral. Here is an example. I knew a man who was a conservative Christian, and appeared to me (though perhaps I was perceiving incorrectly) to be representing that position in his work life. He behaved somewhat unfairly to at least one person I know,  with regards to leave from work to which they were entitled, but which he denied. A few decades later, I learned that he was guilty of sexual harassment of women in his workplace.

From a Christian point of view, was his failure evidence of the failure of Christianity’s moral code? No, it isn’t. We all acknowledge that humans are fallible, but this is not evidence of God’s fallibility; that is why we need God’s salvation. However, when it comes to presenting Christianity as a moral referee for the culture, does this theological point matter?

No, it doesn’t. Christians would like to think that they are pointing to God when they present themselves as moral authorities, but they’re not. They are representing themselves. As a result, what we have are people and institutions who are themselves riddled with sin and moral failings, who are presenting themselves as moral authorities over other people.

The culture at large is, to a greater and greater extent, ignoring them. And they are right to do so. Further, the culture is becoming more and more hostile to Christians, or at least to what they perceive as Christianity because that is how it has been represented to them by the Christians noted above. Perhaps they are not right to do so, but it is certainly predictable that they would; given the aspects of Paul’s letters discussed above.

When Christians are, predictably, ignored or treated badly, are we supposed to yell about persecution and wrap ourselves in first amendment religious freedom? Sure, we can call upon that stuff, those are our rights as citizens. But don’t be surprised, and be prepared to deal with it like a Christian, when those rights aren’t honored.

The church is not a moral authority in the sense that we are set above other people in (not until Jesus gets back, anyway). We are morally authoritative in terms of how we tend to ourselves. And how are we doing with that?

The prophets of the Old Testament speak over and over about two things: care for the orphans and widows, and worship of the one true God (nothing about seeking legal redress). Jesus drove the moneylenders out of the temple, and called the children to come to Him. Are we focusing our energies on making sure the helpless have what they need? Are we speaking out against greed and gluttony? Have we committed to being more holy than the scribes and Pharisees, giving back not only a tenth of everything we get, but all of it? Are we devoted to studying Scripture and regular prayer, individually and in groups, to enjoy the presence of God and determine His will? Are we supporting marriages and families within our churches? Are we doing what God has explicitly told us in His Word to do? If we, who have dedicated ourselves to God through Christ, aren’t (and I’m not) doing what we’re supposed to, how can we demand that those who have no relationship with Jesus do what we think they are supposed to do?

Church discipline has almost died out in most denominations. Where it still exists, at least in my experience it focuses on sexual sin, which only really gets ink in the Bible when it is in conjunction with the worship of pagan gods. Church discipline doesn’t touch on greed or the worship of other gods (celebrities, sports, wealth), which is all the prophets ever seem to want to talk about. This is, no doubt, partly out of a desire to not be judgey, but it is also because no one cares. If you get kicked out of church, that only means you don’t have to get up early on Sunday any more. It’s a get out of jail free card. You don’t even have to be a church member to get into Heaven, in most denominations’ points of view, so why bother?

Apparently not even church members can take the church’s authority seriously any more, and the church tacitly doesn’t expect them to. So how can we be a moral authority for anybody else?

The real reason we can’t be a moral authority for the culture is because God has not called us to be. God has called us to tend to and grow the church: supporting each other in a Godly lifestyle, making sure everyone has food, clothing, and shelter, showing love to everyone, keeping a sharp eye out for apostasy, and calling others to join us.

Right now, the ultimate death of the church’s moral authority is taking the form of Donald Trump’s candidacy for President. It is impossible to consider him an exemplar of a Christian or any other recognizable code of morality. Trump’s defenders’ only response to this obvious truth is that, well, the other candidates can’t be either. But guess what: they’ve never pretended to be! Clinton, Obama, and their ilk do claim to be Christians and to behave morally, and you can call them out on that where they’ve failed, but unlike the exponents of the Christian right they have not justified the legitimacy of their leadership on the basis of their superior moral authority. Which is good, because like the man I discussed above, they would have failed.

Trump is like an undead version of the Christian right, a zombie or golem, himself unholy but brought to unnatural life in order to protect those who have abandoned attempts at living like Christians in favor of forcing others to behave according to their (not God’s) decrees, and protecting themselves from persecution by force (political and perhaps other means as well).

The “unchurched” might not have God’s guidance, but they aren’t always wrong (n.b. Balaam and Cyrus). Right now, they are absolutely correct to ignore the church as a moral authority, because that’s not what we’re for. Contrarily, as things with God so often go, if we did not seek moral authority by virtue of our status as Christians, but rather did what God told Christians to do, we might actually acquire a bit of moral legitimacy as we went along. Some people might actually want to join us. After all, Jesus told us to make disciples, not laws.

Summer Camp: Bible learning activities.

Have you ever decided you were going to read all the way through the Bible, from beginning to end? Did you actually manage to do it? Cool, then you are one up on me.

My attempt to go all the way through the Bible, beginning to end, with the kids, suffered a similar fate. I have a hard time keeping it simple. I thought I’d go all the way through Bible history, illustrated by a timeline, while differentiating between Biblical genres:  Pentateuch, historical books, prophets, writings, Gospels, and epistles. The result is children who I am not 100% sure would be able to tell you who came first, Moses or Jesus. Oh well, at least we spent time with the Biblical texts, that’s what counts, right?

Here a few resources we’ve used and liked in our attempts to grapple with the Bible as a family:

Books

We have a bunch of children’s books of Bible stories, devotions, and so forth. You can usually find a wide assortment of these at your local secondhand store for not much money invested. I’ve found most of them to be surprisingly good-quality, although you’ll want to look through them to ensure they are in line with your own theology.

The Jesus Storybook Bible. Last fall our church I helped organize an Adult Education series on Faith Formation, and this book was recommended as being kid-friendly and doing a good job of staying faithful to the meaning and intent of the Biblical text. This is an important text at our kids’ Christian school, too.

Listen to the Animals: Devotionals for Families with Young Children, by William L. Coleman. This link is for the actual book that we found in a thrift store, but it seems to have been superseded by the newer The Big Book of Animal Devotions by the same author. Each entry contains some interesting animal facts, then concludes with a reflection on Christian life. Kids like it, because it’s about animals! And it gets them engaged with thinking about life as a Christian.

Children of God Storybook Bible, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This book has beautiful art and children seem to really enjoy the stories. They aren’t very long, either, which can be very beneficial when it comes to children.

Printables

Ministry-to-Children.com has nice coloring pages to go along with many, many Bible verses, and lots of other ideas too.

Free printable Psalm 118:24 cards from Teachers Pay Teachers have many potential uses. We posted them around the house to remind ourselves to Rejoice!

Vacation Bible School

Remember Vacation Bible School? So fun. If I remember correctly, that’s where I learned that I am actually good at at least one playground game: Smaug’s Treasure. I’m sneaky.

These days, many if not most VBSes are scheduled for evenings. Our church hosted one of these a couple of years ago, this year we hit up a church down the street from us. VBS is usually open to neighborhood kids, as well as to members. TMy kids loved both of them and sang/are singing the songs weeks later.

To find a VBS, look for signs or check the websites of churches near you. Please do pay attention to the safety policies of the churches: how they control who kids are released to, and how they ensure kids are never alone with adults or teens. This is a huge priority for responsible churches these days, and a written policy should be in place and adhered to.

Morning devotions

Ideally, I would do this with the kids year-round. It seems to have a big effect on kids’ (and my) moods during the day, and is a good lifetime habit to instill. In reality, where unfortunately I’m still to be found, this happens when I happen to think of it.

During the first couple of years of Camp, devotions took a similar form to school’s Morning Message. We’d read a Bible story from one of the kids’ books (see above), and sing songs. Now, I’m pretty bad at these songs, somehow I missed out on them as a kid. Sometimes I’d have the kids teach me songs they knew, sometimes I’d fall back on songs I learned while teaching Sunday school.

For some reason, my son doesn’t like singing unless it’s his idea. So more recently, we’ve been doing the “reading” portion of devotions, and leave the singing for when it happens spontaneously.

In conclusion

Now that I’ve reminded myself of morning devotions, I’ll plan on doing it today! Thanks, blog.

Summer Camp road trip: Southeast NE, central KS

When you hear “southeast Nebraska” or “central Kansas” do you think “VACATION!!!” We do, and maybe you should too! After all, you have your nature, geological wonders, the Wild West, and lots and lots of sunshine.

Should you ever find yourself with a few days to while away in southeast Nebraska and/or central Kansas, here’s some cool stuff to do.

Cool meaning fun and awesome, not temperature. It is HOT in the plains in the summer.

Platte River State Park:

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outdoornebraska.gov/platteriver/

This place was dear to my heart even before we got married there over a decade ago. It’s about a half hour away from both Lincoln and Omaha, located away from the interstate in idyllic ruralness. In addition to air-conditioned modern cabins (which we opted for), there are teepees to camp in. Always a good time: the view of the Platte River from the Lincoln Journal Tower, the swimming pool, paddleboats, hiking trails, and summer activities for kids. Restaurants are not especially plentiful: the on-site one is hardly ever open, which is unfortunate because it used to be really good.

Across the interstate from Platte River SP are Eugene Mahoney State Park and the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. In addition to more cabins and hiking trails, Mahoney possesses a lodge with restaurant, miniature golf and a driving range, an aquatic center, and lots of other cool stuff. The SAC museum is a pretty cool facility, with lots of historic airplanes and other information and activities. Since the first Captain America I can never think of either Bucky Barnes or the SAC museum without thinking of the other.

There’s also an outlet mall, Nebraska Crossing, east on the interstate about 15 minutes or so. I’m not really a shopping person (see previous post), and those things are pretty much everywhere these days. But hey, it’s there if you need it.

In Lincoln this time, we visited Pioneers Park and nature center. Playgrounds, picnic areas, and walking trails abound, buffalo and elk graze behind fences for your observation, a nature center educates kids (and grownups) about the prairie ecosystem, and hiking trails travel through woods and prairie land. Be sure to traverse the swinging bridge, and keep an eye out for the Indian. You’ll know it when you see it.

I was very excited to re-visit the Lincoln Children’s Zoo with my kids, not having been there since I was a kid myself. A lot has changed, but luckily Leo the Paper-Eating Lion is still there. He doesn’t eat leaves or grass! Heeee eeaaaatssss papeeerrrrr! They’ve changed his voice, though. If you need to know what he originally sounded like, I can do a pretty good impression.

Okay, Leo isn’t the only cool thing at the zoo. There are also the animals, looking comfortable in beautiful exhibits, play areas, and of course the train. Plus, the zoo is well-treed and shady throughout, which is important in Nebraska in July.

Food in Lincoln: Lincoln probably has a lot of amazing cuisine. I’m not really familiar with that, though. What I can recommend is pizza and burgers:

Valentino’s: Best pizza anywhere, in quantities that will astound you.

Runza: You can get an actual Runza if you want to. It’s ground beef cooked with cabbage and encapsulated in bread. It tastes like it sounds! However, the burgers, chicken sandwiches, chili, cinnamon rolls (they’re Miller & Paine’s cinnamon rolls. Miller & Paine hasn’t existed for 30 years; it’ a Lincoln thing), and onion rings are all excellent.

Zesto: Burgers. Ice cream. Yum.

Post Rock Country, Kansas:

Post rock fences in Ellis County-500
legendsofkansas.com

Post rock country is named after the limestone fence posts you will see lining the pastures on all sides. The limestone is the result of an inland sea which once covered the land, and you will find shell impressions in the fence posts and random rocks strewn by the side of the road, left by ancient sea creatures.

Allow me to wax poetic for a moment.

This landscape is unlike anywhere else I’ve been. First of all, it’s huge. Your view stretches off to the horizon in every direction. The sky is immense. You have a God-like view of the weather for miles around: a thunderstorm coming a couple of hours away; a rainstorm off to the north. The land is almost treeless, and neither flat nor hilly but a shape all its own. It’s kind of jagged, with sudden hills with flat tops, relics of the ancient inland sea.

On this trip we did some fossil-gathering. If you don’t have permission (and sturdy shoes) for wandering around in someone’s pasture, just look alongside any gravel road:

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On the left, limestone with shell impression. On the right, a mastodon tooth collected years ago by my dad.

 

If you’re into geology, or want your kids to be, check out the mushroom-shaped rocks at Mushroom Rock State ParkMushroom-Rock-State-Park_gallery.png

And if you want to conduct some historical investigations into the Old West, Dodge City is nearby. But if you’d prefer to take the road less traveled, look at all this info compiled about the odd characters who frequented Ellsworth in the Kansas Cowboy.

If you do stop by Ellsworth, get some ice cream or espresso drinks

Looking for food? I used to go to the Ellsworth Steak House when it was a diner named Macatee’s. It has changed quite a bit since then. I miss the rotating advertisements that I used to stare at during breakfast, but I think the food is even better than then. But if you just need some ice cream or espresso, or want to do some antiques shopping, visit the Ellsworth Village Mall downtown. While there, go upstairs to see an 1887 organ in a vintage Masonic Temple. Ever wonder what those guys used to do in there?

If you happen to find yourself in little Lincoln, KS, try out the Sunrise Cafe–yum.

That was our trip to Nebraska and Kansas! America is an amazing place–you should see it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sense of style (lol)

Every once in a while, it comes to my attention that “fashion” is still a thing. Then I realize that that has nothing to do with me, and I feel happy again. I feel about fashion like Marge Simpson feels about music: it’s none of my business.

Nevertheless, over the years I have developed my own personal style, of sorts. Should you want to copy my style, here are some tips:

Ironing is almost never necessary. If you do have some wrinkles that need pressing, wet your fingers with water and push them out while the clothing is on your body (you won’t have noticed the wrinkles until then). Air dry.

Blow drying is, likewise, rarely needed. That’s what air is for. If you do need to dry your hair faster and are driving somewhere, the car’s fan, with vents pointed at your head, works a treat.

Buttons are optional. If you’ve had to remove a garment’s buttons for use in an urgent craft project, it is still fine to wear, as long as you’re decent.

Your favorite pieces of clothing are worth fighting for: against time, against wear, against changing fashions, against all the dark forces of the world. Wear your favorite clothes until they develop holes, then wear them until they are shredded. Then store them away in a closet for a couple of years, and when you run across them enjoy the sensations of delight you feel when you realize you didn’t throw them away after all. Then wear them some more.

Makeup: You don’t have time for makeup. Your face looks fine the way it is.

Hand wash and/or lay flat to dry garments: Can you hear me laughing from where you are, cause I feel like you can.

That’s all for now. You don’t want to go overboard when trying out a new style. I should know, I haven’t tried a new one since 1997.

Summer Camp: STEM at home and more

Camp has been less scheduled this year than in the past–and that’s a good thing! My kids have been entertaining themselves, spending time with Grandma and Grandpa, plus we spent a week on vacation. Nevertheless, I have discovered some sure-fire kid-pleasing activities which carried us through week 2. Here they are:

Taking Things Apart: It’s so easy to overlook the obvious. What does any kid enjoy more than destroying things? Make the destroying things a little more educational, and you have a full-fledged Activity on your hands.

Last summer my daughter attended Camp Invention. She couldn’t go this year because it went on while she was still in school, but it’s highly recommendable. Anyway, her favorite activity was taking apart an old motherboard that her dad had in the basement.

Remembering this, and coming across an old baby monitor that stopped working even before the baby stopped being a baby, I thought it would be fun to take it apart. Even though I don’t really know what all the different components were, it was good hands on STEM stuff. Plus, the kids have been doing Snap Circuits with their engineer grandfather, so hopefully they’re building up kind of a framework for how electronics work.

Old electronics aren’t the only thing it’s fun to take apart. Flashlights and ballpoint pens are both good too. Anything that isn’t dangerous and is already broken or that you’re pretty confident you can get back together again–kids will have fun taking them apart. It’s in their nature to be destructive, might as well harness that.

Exploding stick bomb, aka Cobra: When it comes to kids, you really can’t miss with making things explode. At least if it’s not dangerous. And the Exploding Stick Bomb, while perhaps not entirely risk free (my kids enjoyed the chance to get to wear safety goggles. I don’t know where they get that from, certainly not me), it’s about as close as you can get. Observe:

If you trust your kids with this, you can (and should) also make Exploding Ninja Stars:

Age-wise, my 8 year old kind of got the Cobra and mastered the simplest Ninja Star. The 5 year old preferred setting them off🙂

Picking strawberries: A classic summer activity. Find a farm at pickyourown.org. In the southwest MI area, we like Krupp Farms, Sandy Bottom Berries, Bowerman’s Blueberries, and I’m sure we’ll have more recommendations before the summer is over.

Never-fail kids’ toys: You know what my kids never seem to tire of playing with? Laundry baskets. Along with tape, paper, and maybe some cardboard boxes, there probably isn’t any real need for actual toys. As far as outside toys though, the hose never gets old. I purchased  a nozzle shaped like a hippo’s head on clearance at Target, and also invested in some sprinklers for the kids to run through (I never actually water my lawn for the sole purpose of watering my lawn). Honestly, with those things plus TV they’re probably set for the summer. I’ll try to schedule some activities as well, though, if only to have something to write about on the blog.

 

The victory of commodification (go small, stay home)

Everyone is a celebrity. All of our lives are public. We put them out on social media and are gratified when they get likes. Our personal opinions are not personal: it is incumbent on us, if we believe something, to try to convince others to believe like us. Our efforts to do so are significantly more important than the integrity of the beliefs themselves.

I was sitting in church today, where I often get these ideas, and for some reason the image of my closet swam up in my mind. What could be more personal than my own closet? No one would want to see in there, and I wouldn’t want anyone to. Yet along with the image of my closet came a flash of pride, satisfaction, remembrance, and love.

Perhaps it’s ironic that I’m about to describe in this publicly-available blog post what is in there, but then I’m not inviting you over to have a look. I’m not including a photo of the closet in this post. I do, however, want to explain what I mean.

Up at the top are a bunch of books, including some abandoned journals from old travels and my foolish younger years. There are also some boxes up there, containing odds and ends from the past that the kids and I sometimes rummage through on rainy days. There are a few toys, waiting to be doled out to my kids or somebody else’s. My clothes are arranged from bottom right to top left, per KonMari, and include some dresses that I really enjoy wearing on the rare occasion that there is call to wear them. Down on the floor are some shoes and a crate stuffed full of old dress-up clothes, because I couldn’t figure out where else to store them. Once in a while my kids haul these out and appear in some random mask, hat, or other garment.

When the thought of my closet floated randomly into my head today, I was thinking about my life. When I look back on my life, it won’t be what was I was most successful at that will mean most to me–it won’t be what the most people know about. It will be the things that only I know about, that I’ve shared only with my family, with God, or maybe with nobody.

There is a very old-fashioned idea that working hard and contentedly in the place you find yourself is virtuous, and that one’s energy is better spent becoming a better person rather than a better-known person. Oh sure, these ideas play into classism and keeping everyone in one’s place and not disturbing the status quo. But how can we be sure that our current obsessions are really better?

When I was coming through the idealistic teen and college years, commodification was considered a bad thing. Now, we are all building our “personal brands,” as if we were Kraft. For example, if I want a “successful” blog, I must focus on a narrow section of my interests, thoughts, and personality. Writing a blog like a person–someone who is a mother and a thinker, reader, writer, traveler, researcher, worker, and so forth–is diluting my brand.

And why wouldn’t I want a successful blog? The worth of what I write is determined by how many people read it. If nobody does, or only a few people do, then I haven’t had an impact. I’ve wasted my energy. My blog–and I–might as well not exist.

In my opinion, a brand is less than a person. It’s less good than a person. Writing about whatever I happen to be thinking may be diluting my “brand,” but writing only on-brand dilutes me. Maybe more people would read my writing (maybe not), but certainly my writing would have minimum impact. If some of my contextless thoughts on child discipline or what-have-you were to go viral, they would be just another depersonalized will-of-the-wisp piece of “content” roaming the internet like a ghost.

It’s okay if I don’t have an impact. It’s not required. A world full of people vying for attention is not better than one in which people stay home and take care of the the tiny little things they’re given to do for the tiny number of people they’re given to take care of.