Jared Witt l August 31, 2017
My wife, Nikki, is absolutely in love with people. And I don’t just mean that she loves the people who feel most familiar and comfortable to her. We all love those people. My wife loves strange people, foreign people, difficult people specifically because they are strange, foreign, or difficult.
I first started noticing this about her while we were still in school, dating and barista-ing together at Starbucks (kind of a big no no except that everyone in the history of baristas has done it). The café where we worked is in an uncharacteristically diverse pocket of Columbus, Ohio, which has one of the highest Jewish population densities in the US and people from several different central African cultures. Watching her interact with the neighborhood, while I spilled cappuccino on the floor, was where I first learned that my wife was going to become my wife.
I’d watch her face soften into pure, self-forgetful tenderness when our Eritrean and Ethiopian customers would come in and make an order through broken English. I’d watch her become as patient as a mother to one of our regulars, who was mentally ill, and several others who were just plain mean. Her short, tight crop of brown curly hair created more than a couple conversation in-roads with the African American women (I’m not sure if the term “white girl afro” is politically correct, but you get the idea). If you were well-traveled, she would ask you about it with the fascination of a two year old but would take equal interest in your story if you’d never even been out of the state.
Jared Witt l August 24, 2017
Did the talking serpent in the story of Adam and Eve really exist? This question was once posed to Karl Barth, maybe the most influential theologian of the 21st century.
At the moment the question was asked, either a fundamentalist or a somewhat naïve critic of Christianity might expect the famous Christian to jump to a knee-jerk defense of scripture: “Ah, yes, well. It’s not for us to say what literally can and cannot happen, given that we ourselves cannot be present for every individual event.” A fellow academic might suppress an eye roll at the childishness of the question and wait for Barth to launch into an overview on the different types of literature that we find in scripture: “Well, you see, let us first understand the language of mythology and how it functioned in the ancient mind…”
But Barth, being neither a naïve nor an indifferent Bible reader, said something else: “I’m not interested in whether the talking serpent existed or not. I’m interested in what he said.”
Jared Witt l August 17, 2017
In ancient days, there existed a certain category of person who just isn't around anymore. All societies had them, and they went by many names. But we’ll just call them the wise people. Much of their “knowledge” was unsurprisingly folksy. But often times their charlatanism in one sphere was paired side by side with another in which they were as disciplined as any modern academic, albeit with access to far less source material. Specifically, the discrepancy in their expertise generally (though not always) ran along the same line that separates what we call “the humanities” and what we call “the sciences” in our universities.
So the same person who prescribed quack herbal remedies for headaches, which we know today to be unhelpul, might also have had complete mastery over six different languages and all of the major literature in each. The person who claimed to read the future based on the stars might also have discovered a brilliant geometric formula.
Jared Witt l August 10, 2017
Nice. An email from my Starbucks Rewards team – “Congratulations! The next one’s on us” – Score. Let’s see, 6:28pm. If I leave now I can grab a drink and still make my meeting at 7 – “Welcome to Starbucks. What can we make for you with today?” – One…uh…iced grande…Sorry, iced half-caf grande one pump vanilla breve iced coffee with milk – “Alright, one iced half-caf grande one pump vanilla breve iced coffee with milk. And you wanted that one pump vanilla in addition to the classic syrup?” – Oh, sorry, I meant ‘instead of’ – “Alright so…” – Oh, and I forgot to say, light ice. Really sorry – “Ohhh kaayyy, so, I have an iced half-caf grande one pump vanilla (instead of classic) breve light ice iced coffee…did you say with milk?” – That’s right – “Ok, sir, I’ll see you at the first window…Hi there. That’ll be $2.30” – K. My card is on my phone – “Alright. Here’s your receipt. Your drink will be right up” – Oh. Crap. I forgot to tell you I had a reward for a free drink – “Ohhh kaayyy. No problem. I can undo that, if I can just see your phone again.” – Aww. You know what? The app booted me for some reason. Just need to sign in – (Try the usual numeral and letter password) – “We’re sorry. Invalid username/password. Please try again. Forgot username? Forgot password?” – (Try the usual numeral and letter with one cap password) – “We’re sorry. Invalid username/password…” – (Try the usual numeral and letter with one cap and one symbol password) – “We’re sorry…” – You know what? I might just need to pull around and come inside. I don’t want to hold up the line –
Jared Witt l August 3, 2017
One universal rule of medieval art is that babies should always look ridiculous. Specifically, they should look like abominable, Benjamin Button-esque old men trapped in tiny bodies.
No, it’s not because the painters couldn’t paint or because they had never seen a baby before.
According to Matthew Averett, an art history professor at Creighton University, it’s because there was a pious notion that Jesus came out of the womb already bearing the fully formed likeness of adult Jesus. There was really no such thing in the medieval western world as non-religious art, and most of the babies you see are either direct depictions of baby Jesus or cherubic type beings modeled after Jesus. So the goal was not to depict what real human babies look like but rather to depict homunculi: “little men” whose disconcerting appearance matched some era's ideals.
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