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Notes from a Small Place - Volume 0, Issue #3 (Affection)

When our three-year-old son was a baby he had a stuffed lamb that my wife and I, in a bit of imaginat
Notes from a Small Place - Volume 0, Issue #3 (Affection)
By Jake Meador • Issue #3 • View online
When our three-year-old son was a baby he had a stuffed lamb that my wife and I, in a bit of imagination, decided to call “Lamby.”
Wendell loved Lamby. He did not sleep without him. In fact, he would fall asleep sucking on the right ear. (Eventually Lamby became a biology experiment that no amount of washing on the deep sanitize setting could undo—Wendell was getting a rash on his chin where the lamb would rest as he slept. So Lamby “disappeared” and is now hiding in the master bedroom closet to be returned at a later date.)
One of my favorite things about parenting is seeing that first thing your child loves.
When Davy Joy was 18 months old someone gave us a Little Mermaid book that we would read to her sometimes. One night during her bath she laid down on her back, kicked her feet a little, and said, “I’m a mermaid.” (This may have been her first full sentence, actually.)
Part of the reason I love seeing that is because of how these little loves are so essential to what makes us human and can even work to preserve our humanity. Tolkien talks in The Return of the King about our loves begin small but they prepare us to love greater things:
“It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots, and the soil of the Shire is deep. Still there are things deeper and higher; and not a gaffer could tend his garden in what he calls peace but for them, whether he knows about them or not. I am glad that I know about them, a little.”
One of Tolkien’s great themes in The Lord of the Rings is how these seemingly small loves are essential to our ability to do great things because without them we either lack motivation or we are motivated by the wrong things and our actions come to ruin.
Virtually every prominent character in the book comes to places of significant moral choosing and it is not overstating the point to say that their choice nearly always comes back to the question of what they love.
We learn at one point that Faramir is unlike Boromir because Boromir has come to love battle for its own sake. He loves the glory and the spectacle. And when temptation comes, he falls because he doesn’t love anything more than glory—his love for the glory of Gondor is just enough to save him in the end. But it is a narrow thing and even his triumph comes after a cataclysmic failure. Faramir, in contrast, loves higher things and these higher loves save him.
Similarly, when the Nazgul descends to attack Theoden at the gates of Minas Tirith, Theoden’s knights fall to the ground with their head on their hands. But first one and then another of Theoden’s riders rise up to resist. Eowyn stands first—strengthened by love of Theoden. Merry follows her, strengthened by his love for Eowyn.
Then, of course, there’s the love of simple things that motivate both Sam and Frodo to continue the hardest part of the quest. It is their love for the Shire and for each other that carries them to the end of their task.

Do you remember the taste of strawberries and cream?
Do you remember the taste of strawberries and cream?
Berry has said, quoting Forster, that “it all turns on affection.”
As it concerns writers, which continues to be the general topic I’m thinking about right now in the newsletter, it means something like this: The thing that will save you from the bullshit, the opportunism, the headline chasing, and the social media spectacles that have all become ubiquitous in our writing economy, then you must love something more than you love yourself.
Here we should quickly add that ultimately you must love God more than you love yourself. But often it is that we love smaller things first and God uses those small loves to fit us for his work and teach us to love.
Eventually all lesser loves will be tested, of course, and the minds of those who attempt to consciously drive a wedge between the thing they love and the God who offered that thing to them will be broken. They will become idolaters, their love will be twisted toward perverse ends, and eventually it will consume them. Indeed, I think this is probably a not uncommon story in elite media circles, if I had to guess.
But that doesn’t change the more basic point: Good work begins in love. It begins in recognizing some good thing which exists outside ourselves and which we are not free to simply change to suit our tastes. And it continues in the delight and even the self-sacrifice required to enjoy that love.
The Food
Braised Short Ribs | The Pioneer Woman
The Reading (Magazines and Features)
A Hope Beyond Our Sight
How Tech Utopia Fostered Tyranny
Millennial Burnout Is Being Televised
The Reading (Books)
Still working through Bavinck and Calvin. I’m finding both to be deeply rewarding. I’m also chipping away at Quart’s Squeezed still and now Oren Cass’s The Once and Future Worker, which I have only started but already feel very good about enthusiastically recommending to anyone interested in political economy and, particularly, the contemporary economic life of the USA.
Miscellany
I do soccer writing on the side as a way to distract myself from more serious work and to just have a bit of fun. This post at Cartilage Free Captain is the most fun I’ve had on a soccer piece in a long time:
Tottenham’s 2018-19 season makes absolutely no sense
The Last Word
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
“I am not ashamed.” A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.
~Wendell Berry
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jake Meador

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Jake Meador, Lincoln NE