The Erasmus Lecture

“Christians, keep your proper stations;
Don’t mess around with kings and nations.”
–That melancholy long withdrawing roar
you heard last night was Russell Moore.

FPR 2016 Report

You guys, it’s ok, we figured it out, we have the plan to torpedo secular modernity & capitalism, details to follow.

Overall: basically a mashup of the best college seminar ever plus hanging out with my uncles & cousins at my mom’s family’s place in Connecticut. Theopolitical nerdiness, localist economics, barhopping with people whose books you like a whole lot, talking to everyone about everything.  Plus just incredibly convenient for research:  you have a question about something you think about on a regular basis–new urbanism or Georgist economics or the theology of the built environment or the inevitably disastrous trajectory of liberalism, and you don’t need to google it, you can just ask the guy who is drinking over there.

Followed by conterrevolutionary sleepover with Grace Potts at Elias’ house in Valparaiso.


  • Jason Peters is setting himself up to be the subject of the First Annual FPR Roast, to be (surely) spearheaded by Patrick Deneen in revenge.
  • Bill Kauffman’s love for all things seasonally pumpkin flavored continues unabated.
  • Mark Mitchell’s students have facial hair & dress sense that is strangely and charmingly reminiscent of Jules Verne characters.
  • Jeff Taylor accidentally sounds like a Marxist sometimes but is accident, is just populist really.


Keeping Cool with Moms

retro advice via my mother and stepmother to deal with this, guys.

Stepmother: “When we were growing up [Philadelphia, 60s] my mother would take up the carpets and put down cool rush matting every year.”

Mother: Growing up [New Delhi, 60s] they would have these zinc trays with ice blocks in them; punkah wallahs or electric fans would fan across the trays to get the cooler air circulating.



The Flying Writers’ Colony: The Directory

Read Me.


The Ace Hotel Lobby


20 W. 29th Street, Manhattan


Birch Coffee


21 E. 27th, Manhattan

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 1.53.20 PM

The Red Pipe

Forest Hills

71-60 Austin Street, Queens


Hudson Bar & Books

West Village

636 Hudson Street, Manhattan

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Irving Coffee Roasters


71 Irving Place, Manhattan


The Flying Writers’ Colony: an Invitation


Dear Friends,

We’ve all had that train of thought. As socially energetic but also half-introverted inhabitants of NYC nerdery, eager for adventure in the city and yet eager to get work done on a current writing project, wanting to hang out with friends and yet aware of our deadlines and the editing or writing that we owe… that train of thought is where we practically live.

You know what I’m talking about. “I wish I could hang out AND have an adventure AND play a game AND explore the City AND work on this piece about the theopolitical implications of Bill Bratton’s policing style and/or a how-to piece for a Toast tribute blog called ‘Ten Tips for Interpreting Sondheim Lyrics So That They Support Your Own Culturally Conservative Commitments’ at the SAME TIME.


“What is the nature of these conflicting desires? There’s something to be investigated here: I need to write a piece about how we all want to somehow live in our particular cities and yet also to live in some kind of meta-City.  But is that supposed to be the Church, or something else, and is it extremely far fetched to think that the appeal of the idea of the Republic of Letters to people in Enlightenment coffeehouses had something to do with a displaced desire for the New Jerusalem?  And also is this somehow related to the conflicting drives to know about and write about and participate in current debates, but also to read and respond to the whole history of political philosophy and theology and thus to exist in a kind of time-out-of-time?


“And what if one of the ways that God has planted eternity in our hearts is this desire not just to keep on writing in the New Jerusalem (which we fully plan to do) but also to write, when we write now, informed by the past, so that writing becomes a form of time travel or conversation across centuries; does that sound nuts? Who’d publish a piece like that?  And do they pay?”


Don’t worry– as I say, we’ve all been there; this train of thought is common, if somewhat rambling; your cries have been heard.  You are invited.

Welcome to the Flying Writers’ Colony.

Please feel free to make fun of the grammatical ambiguity.

The Colony is not so much something invented as discovered: surely hints of it have appeared before; you may have run in to some of them yourself; see the Bibliography at the end for further reading.

Here’s how this works:

This Directory Page will be a list of good places to write in public in the City.  Many of them have coffee, some have wine, all have wifi and outlets.  I’ve just gotten a start on it: please use comboxes to add your suggestions and I will add them to the page.

Any Colonist may at any time announce a Conclave.  (Don’t be pedantic: of course these gatherings do not involve physical keys, and indeed one of their features is the fact that they take place in public, but nevertheless the term Conclave has been found to be appropriate.) He or she should use the hashtag #flyingwriterscolony plus a city hashtag, so #flyingwriterscolony #nyc.

The tweet or facebook post should include the hashtag and a time and location, plus a link to this page or to the Directory page or to the venue’s page.  There are no restrictions on when such announcements can be sent.  If the location proposed is not already linked from the directory page, please include it in the comments.


Optional: include a single sentence from the piece you will be working on.

And then go to the place, and perhaps others will find you; but you’d better be writing when they do.

Note: there will be later phases of this project. This is how it starts.

This invitation may be extended to people who do not live in New York.  This is appropriate to the nature of the FWC: you will have to establish your own lists of venues and safehouses, of course; I’d be happy to host those lists on this blog, or to include links to your lists on your own blogs; let me know.

Existing Colonists may extend this invitation to others they suspect would benefit from or enjoy the FWC; please introduce me to new Colonists as you find them.

An interesting aspect of this project is that we will be able to continue it after the parousia, though with different hashtags.  It may be that even then, Ethika Politika will not pay its writers, but then again, after the parousia I suspect it will matter less.  If on the other hand we are talking about a sort of Postmillennial Good Society/Neo-Christendom, then yes, Ethika Politika will pay.  For one thing, in a Postmil Good Society, there will be more angel investors and possibly government funding for publishing projects.

Although of course many things depend on precisely whose Postmil Neochristendom we are talking about; certain versions would not in fact permit Ethika Politika to publish at all.  Although perhaps in those versions, even Ethika Politika has become Reformed.  So many things to think about, friends!  How WILL this all turn out?






The reading list dedicated to the prehistory of the FWC is considerable; I would appreciate links to any documentation that will help us all build an understanding of this enterprise of which we are a part. I will add more research as I come across it.


Chesterton, G.K.  The Flying Inn

Scruton, Roger. Notes from Underground

Day, Barbara. The Velvet Philosophers

Ellis, Markman.  The Coffee House: A Cultural History

Morgenstern, Erin.  The Night Circus

Augmented Reality

New game:

Alexander I

Downloadable iphone app gives players ability to “see,” interact with, and battle in-game characters in real-life settings, generally public areas such as historical monuments, parks, art installations etc.  For example, a player may see Philip II of Macedon on one of the horses at the Bryant Park carousel, or Augustus Caesar sitting on the steps of City Hall.  Alexander has been spotted on the branch of a tree near the Stonewall Inn (although the Boston version of the game has him just outside Peet’s Coffee in Harvard Square,) and Uthman, the third Umayyad Caliph, is reported to be somewhere in the neighborhood of the Whitney. Several people have posted pictures of Duke Huan of Qi on the upper deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

The game is called Hegémon GO.

No player has ever won.


Leisure and Existence and Specificity and Gratitude and Dangerous Games: a Birthday Post

Matthew Peterson on Facebook just now:

Sometimes I think the most sickening symptom of the disease of our era is boredom, especially among the young. As people get older they simply habituate themselves to addictive distractions or to the idol of work and thus they lose the symptom of boredom without curing the underlying disease. But young people haven’t fully corrupted themselves yet, and thus they still feel bored.

I can’t imagine ever being bored, and it breaks my heart to see young people who say they are. To the extent they are truly bored they are vulnerable to enslavement to addictive distraction or to lives of meaningless work for others. The whole point of education (never mind religion) is to develop a consistent interior life – to develop a mind that has woken to the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty on its own no matter what the “day job” or lack thereof, and therefore could never be bored.

And he quotes Josef Pieper:

The code of life in the High Middle Ages [held] that it was precisely lack of leisure, an inability to be at leisure, that went together with idleness; that the restlessness of work-for-work’s-sake arose from nothing other than idleness. There is a curious connection in the fact that the restlessness of a self-destructive work-fanaticism should take its rise from the absence of a will to accomplish something.

This is just right.  Being bored=a kind of lack of appetite. The intellectual hunger is in my experience a distinctive thing that wants to eat books– not just single interesting-at-the-moment books, but books that taken together help you master a body of knowledge, help you start to see the overall pattern of the world.  This is something specific.

But for me it’s somehow related to and combined in a nearly indistinguishable way with the insatiable hunger to write and to explore my own city and to travel and explore other cities and to make things and to plan parties and to have people stay at my house and to have conversations with friends and to find out their stories and to do all the “leisured” things that one wants to do– this is just a hunger to be human, I think– to DO human; to learn and to make and to do projects and to explore.  The good of work is something else, and it is good; and there are aspects of non-work life that don’t really fall in to what I’m talking about above: family obligation that is obligation, and is good for being so; following through on commitments even when you’re not really in the mood, which is also a good.

But I’m talking about something else here: the appetite for the varied world– for the whole city, the appetite for finding out; the appetite for short- and long-term projects; the appetite for delight.

And it is an appetite that, like others, grows by what it feeds on. This is a birthday post and I am feeling grandiose because I am on my way to Boston and traveling, even just to Boston,  is one of those things that both satisfies and feeds this desire, and so, in my expansiveness and grandiosity I invite everyone to follow these instructions– this is my hobbit-like birthday gift to all of you.

Here it is: if your life feels flat or closed off or you feel as though you are missing something– you are. Pay attention to that! It’s good news– it’s a feeling like pain that motivates action; like a cramp that comes from sitting still for too long; it is your body and your soul telling you to be human, to do human.  So start.

Read something– not something to distract you but something that will take all of your commitment to understand.

Or read something that is so well done and beautiful that it makes you astonished and grateful that you are at the right time in history to be able to read it, and that you speak the right language to be able to understand it.

Write something that comes easily and fluently but that you had never given yourself time to write before: The fairy tale about a pair of children whose mother is sick, and while she is at New York Presbyterian with the doctor, they take a walk in Central Park and find that there is a wood there that is not on any of the park maps, and that that wood is in fact part of the Forest of Rhetoric, and in order to get back home they have to find the Tree of Porphyry, which is a real tree, and pick a single leaf from it which is their mother’s leaf, and which cannot be subdivided because she is an individual and not a species or genus…and that this somehow saves her; they bring her the leaf and she eats it and it saves her from non-being; it re-instantiates her in the world.

Tree of Porphyry

Or write something that is hard and that you are worried about getting wrong and while you are doing it, enjoy the fact that you’ve found out that there are things you can be wrong about, that your opinion is not as good as anyone else’s, that there are things to find out that take work and care.

Go walk to a new place in your city and stop in a non-chain store and find someone who has lived in that neighborhood for his or her whole life, or at least for fifty years, and ask that person to tell you a piece of neighborhood gossip that is at least fifty years old.

Participate in a new game that members of your family and their friends have invented called Red Hot Chain in which you take a chain attached to a hollow metal tube and heat it in a bonfire and then dip it in the lake to see what happens. (This game complements other games which my family has invented, the details of which I’d be happy to share, called Open Chest and Under the Raft) (Not clear what Josef Pieper would say about this.)


Find out the back story behind an old family photograph.


Help out with a friend’s birthday.


Meet some French sailors.


Play Giant Jenga.


Find buskers, or become one.



Text a friend to set a date for a party you will plan together, in which you will play victorian parlor games and invent new ones and make sure that your friends with kids are invited too, and that the kids have something to do; if they are old enough they can join in the tableax vivants and if they are homeschooled they will want to.

Identify, with the help of a friend, pro-Vladimir Putin graffiti in the loo of a restaurant in Gramercy.

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Walk out your door and find out where your feet can take you.


And then take all the good and all the joy from everything you’ve done from the list above, and start a magazine, and write about it all, and I’ll write for you too, and what are you going to do with the gratitude you have for the world?  You’ve got to thank God; he’s the one who made it and made you and made you “capable of” him, and of the world, and who bought you back so that you could do your humanness right and not miss out, and if you don’t believe that, find out whether it’s true– because it might be, it might be, it might be… find out.

What is the thing you say when it is your birthday but you want to say happy birthday to everyone else?  Happy existence day to you all.  Happy haecceity. L’chaim.