May 28, 2021 • 45M

Arguing > Quarreling

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Tsh Oxenreider
For subscribers of author Tsh Oxenreider's newsletter, The Commonplace.
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It’s a good thing to have disagreements, but we often forget to have a learner’s posture when we hear the “other side.” Are we surrounding ourselves only with sources and ThoughtLeaders™ that confirm our already-held biases? Or are we willing to genuinely learn? Seth and Tsh lean into GK Chesterton’s insight from almost a century ago: “People generally quarrel because they cannot argue. And it is extraordinary to notice how few people in the modern world can argue.”

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Seth: Welcome to A Drink With a Friend, I’m Seth Haines. 

Tsh: And I’m Tsh Oxenreider.

Seth: Tsh, tell me, what is it that you are drinking today?

Tsh: It has been raining incessantly today and all weekend and it’s going to rain this upcoming week so I am pretending like I live back in Oregon and I’m drinking tea that I usually drink in the fall. It’s that foxy tea I think I drank a few months ago. I call it foxy tea because there’s a fox on the box. I think it’s Harvest something. It’s their fall tea that only comes out in the fall and I buy twelve boxes because I’m weird like that. My caffeine-free foxy tea. That’s what I’m drinking.

Seth: Do you drink tea with a fox from a box in your socks? 

Tsh: I knew you were going to say something about that. I wanted to glide over the oh, no, I just accidentally rhymed.

Seth: Yep, you definitely Seussed yourself. 

Tsh: I did, I Seussed. Just me and tea. Shoot. [laugh]

Seth: You just keep doing it. Would you like to keep it rolling? 

Tsh: Let’s do this whole episode in rhyme. I’m done. I can’t do anymore. 

Seth: I think we’re out of time. Everybody stop it, I mean it. 

Tsh: Anyone want a peanut? Okay. We’re done. What are you drinking? 

Seth: I actually found this last pod, I hate Keurigs. You know this. We’ve talked about this. 

Tsh: I hate them, too, yep.

Seth: I think they’re completely un-sacramental. We talk about sacramental things and I think this is the most de-sacralized expression of coffee in the world. However, I do not hate Starbucks Holiday Blend. The two most de-sacralized things to me are both Starbucks and a Keurig and when you put those things together, you mind as well buy [inaudible] shoes, you know what I’m saying? The thing that redeems is on occasion when you find the holiday blend and I found a pod of holiday blend in the office. I didn’t know we had any and so I brewed it and I’m drinking it and it’s not awful.

Tsh: There you go. Way to redeem something that could be terrible, that typically is terrible and that’s a sacramental act, right? Redeeming?

Seth: Yeah, I think that’s true. Redeeming the time, redeeming the Keurig, redeeming the Starbucks. I will say that if I had another option and they were like, here, taste this, I would think this is awful. But because of what it is, I think this isn’t so bad. 

Tsh: You know what? I think there’s some real truth to that. The idea of limiting our choices on purpose breeds contentment. You’re content with that and that’s what matters. 

Seth: I’m very content. I’m more than content. It’s not a pop-y beverage. 

Tsh: Right. Tell me what’s on your mind. I know we were just chatting about the rabbit holes that Twitter brings us down and how we typically regret them, what was your latest regret and how can we redeem it? Speaking of redemption. 

Seth: That’s true, I really regret about 96% of Twitter. 4% of the time it’s fun. 96% of the time it is just a conflagration of leftover opinions of the day. This morning, why did I even do this? I don’t even know. I never log on to Twitter in the morning because I always like to start my day off well and that doesn’t always ever really do it. But I did. I logged on and I saw an article and I’m going to keep it general because it wouldn’t matter what space it’s in, it really wouldn’t matter. A large institution had a leader, said large institution’s leader is under other leadership, right. This could be a COO, it could be a politician, it could be a religious figure, it doesn’t matter. This person was actually fired. The reason the person was fired because said person had all these opinions on anti-masking and vaxxing and closing the doors of said institution during the COVID pandemic and so forth and such as, on and on you go. Said individual refuses to step down. It was told, you’re done, you’re out, get out the door and wouldn’t get out and in fact, said, no, you need to get out because blah blah blah, opinion. That alone was enough to make me think that’s interesting, but then the comments. Holy crap, man. You would have thought that we were fighting World War II in the comments. You would have thought one side were the Nazis and the other side were the Nazis because that’s how the two sides were treating each other. It’s one of those things, we’ve talked about social media ad nauseam before but when we talking about the show for today we said if we were sitting in a coffee shop, this is the very thing I would want to talk about. In particularly this is the thing I would want to talk about because we both jumped into the Catholic Church in the last year and I knew this before I became Catholic but when I interned, I realized, this is a really divided family. It is a really opinionated family. It’s a lot like going to Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws from the other side of the aisle. It feels a lot the same way. I have this notion that we’ve actually forgotten that a lot of our opinions come from deep fear, deep insecurity, and deep pain. Instead of asking, what’s the fear underlying that opinion or what’s the insecurity or what’s the rationale behind it? Instead, now, these days we just take out our broadswords and just start hacking each other’s heads off. The more publicly the better. 

Tsh: Yeah. 

Seth: I’ve been thinking about that a lot and thinking we kind of agree on most stuff, I think, for the most part. 

Tsh: Probably.

Seth: But what it would it look like, or could it look like, what should it look like to begin to have drinks with friends that don’t think like us, talk like us, sound like us, and to really try to understand each other and reach some common ground instead of always hacking at each other? You know what I mean?

Tsh: I do. It comes to mind, there’s this G.K. Chesterton quote about arguing versus quarreling. Do you know what I’m talking about? I might look it up really fast. 

Seth: No. Yeah.

Tsh: Okay. He gets into this idea, a good argument actually makes better friendships. Arguing but never quarreling. Let me see, I’m pulling it up. G.K. Chesterton was referring to his brother, Cecil. He’s about five years younger than him and he said after a brief pause, meaning like when he was a baby, they began to argue. He continued to argue to the end. It says, “I’m glad to think that through all those years we never stopped arguing and because of that we never once quarreled.” Then he gets into this idea of people generally quarrel because they cannot argue. It’s like we’ve lost the craft of arguing. Even me saying this outlaid, argue sounds like a bad thing. It sounds like something I want to avoid at all costs. I wonder if there’s something about this running and hiding from any form of argument that’s caused us to be so vitriolic because we don’t like to argue. Instead, we just go and find our like-minded tribes and that causes us versus them mentality because then we broad brush the other side and we become people that have turned the other side into monsters. We’ve lost the ability to have nuance. Here’s the other thing. Because it’s on social media largely, social media actually benefits from quarreling. 

Seth: Totally. 

Tsh: It doesn’t work according to its native capabilities in how it’s coded. It doesn’t work if we’re not mad at each other and therefore it’s not going to appreciate nuance and it’s really going to lean into it. It’s going to pour lemon juice into the paper cut. It’s even worse online. If you think about how if you’ve ever had this time whenever you see somebody online and you’re like, oh gosh, I don’t think I’d want to meet them in a dark alley but then you meet them in person and you’re like, wow, they are considerably more pleasant in person. That’s probably a reason why. 

Seth: Even thinking through the dichotomy between arguing and quarreling and even thinking through why does social media work well when we are quarreling instead of when we are arguing. What is it that drives that engagement? You know this, I do a lot of work in the storytelling world, I do some of that work in books, I do some of that work with branding. I was talking with somebody last week about the story of their company and we were talking about the power of fear in moving a product and how the reptilian brain actually responds to fear. This is something I learned very early on in the practice of law. It’s something that’s used a lot by attorneys in the plaintiff’s bar, they try to create fear and move a jury to make a decision-based in fear. We all know that that works. Fear, anger, jealously, these things move, move, move. They move product, they move ideas, they move copy. Why is it? Because it’s impulsive. It brings you to your first impulse. That’s a beautiful thing, to some degree. If you’re out in the woods and you see a terrible paw print of a bear that you’ve come across before, a saber tooth tiger if you’re an old school caveman, it’s a good thing that your brain has that reptilian instinct of, oh crap, I’m afraid, I need to either stand up and fight or get out of here. 

Tsh: Right. 

Seth: But they know that on social media and so they stoke those fires. Why? Because it pulls more eyeballs in, it drives more advertising, it goes straight to that reptilian mindset and hooks us. It connects us. It pulls us into the network. I think my ultimate fear though is that not whether or not, it’s not the argument that whether or not social media is good or bad. I think we both have our own ideas about that, it’s that somehow we have dehumanized each other enough on social media that it is spilling over into the real world. It used to be, at one time, really hard to yell at somebody and say, you are (insert phrase). I saw today, a news story about some protesters standing outside a Jewish temple saying, stop being Nazis, over the Israeli/Gaza conflict, flipping the script on them, you’re perpetuating the genocide…that used to be really hard to do to one another, to really colonize each other to the extent that we would stand outside places of worship and scream and yell at each other. It is not that way anymore. Whatever has happened in the last ten years has pulled us to the place where we have no problem going into the public forum and yelling and screaming and purveying conspiracy and doing it face to face in ways that we never used to do it before. I think, to me, that’s the thing that’s really troubling. 

Tsh: It reminds me again of another thought that I think sometimes is misattributed to Aristotle but it doesn’t matter because it rings true, this idea of it’s the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. I feel like we’ve lost the ability to do that. Maybe whether it’s social media or it doesn’t really matter why but somehow in our 2021 culture, we’ve lost the ability to entertain an idea without accepting it or without cloaking it in this and if this idea is true and you believe it and therefore it means all these things about you. That’s part of the us/them mindset. I think where it rubs us raw on this conversation particularly with the idea of sacramentality, is that Jesus seemed to make a really big deal about unity and that was his final word to everybody, hey, they’ll know who I am when you guys are unified and we haven’t done such a hot job of that in 2000 years but it feels like fever pitch right now among those who follow Christ and maybe that’s where it becomes so heartbreaking when we see it online. There’s no difference between those who say they follow Christ and those who don’t in this regard.

Seth: Growing up, I grew up in a conservative denomination, there was plenty of name-calling behind closed doors. The Catholics worshipped Mary, they were all going to hell. The Methodists, mind as well go to the lake. The Presbyterians, they didn’t know what was up or down except for that they were chosen. These are the things that were told to me growing up. There’s plenty of division behind the scenes but there was never that sort of division internally. We are our own freaks. We were together. We were our own people. By the way, if there are any, I hope there are Catholics listening because I’m one, so I’m talking, I’m at least one of them, or Methodists or Presbyterians, these are just bad tropes. I recognize this. 

Tsh: 100%.

Seth: You could make the same tropes about the denomination I was in but all that to say, there was still this internal sense that we were for each other. Then when you went out into the world and you worked with these people in other denominations, again, you’re in the same company, you’re for each other. You’re wanting to make each other stronger and better and more prosperous. Even internally, when you look politically, we were divided. But when our President went out into the world, he represented everyone. He was our President even if we disagreed with him. You wanted him to succeed because his success meant your success. There was all of this, you had internal opinions that were divisive, sure, but it wasn’t so loud externally over and against everybody. You talk about the fever pitch, I think there are some people who would say, you’re painting this with rose-colored glasses, it’s always been this divided. It’s always been like this. If I just go back twenty years, I can at least identify pockets of unity. Right now, I’m having a hard time doing any of that.

Tsh: I agree. Have you heard that quote from Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict? He said something in the 70s, something like he predicted that the church was going to get really, really small over the coming decades and people are commentating on the idea of wow, he is proving to be dead-on right. There’s a variety of reasons for that besides just disunity. But that comes to mind in some ways, this idea of, it’s in tandem with a recent research data that was released about how for the first time ever it’s under fifty percent of Americans claiming identity with a local church, or a local place of worship. That includes people of all faiths. We’re now under fifty percent. There’s just something about that that makes me wonder where is this going? There’s been the fall of Rome. There’s been cultures that are officially extinct. At what point are we, I don’t know, where is this going? We have seen in the New Testament that Christ says the gates of hell will not prevail against the church so I don’t think it’s officially going to snuff out but I don’t see us going uphill yet. It feels like we’re continuing to go downhill. That sounds like a Debbie Downer thing to say but I’m wondering if Ratzinger is onto something here that the church is in this downward trajectory right now getting smaller and smaller at the moment? Do you feel that way?

Seth: I do, but even that language, we have to be really careful not to weaponize that language. Because I’ve seen some conservatives say yes, the reason why it’s getting smaller and smaller is because all of the liberals are falling away and the true church is us conservatives who stand over here in the left-wing of the sanctuary. On the other side, you have the more progressive people saying the church is getting smaller because we won’t make concessions on this or on that and so people are fleeing and running away. I think both sides can weaponize that language instead of treating it for what it is which is an observation. Again, to go back, an argument. It is an argument that if we don’t have something that looks like spirit and life and unity that there’s nothing attractive about who we are. Listen, I watch a variety of YouTube and listen to a variety of podcasters and I listen to conservatives, I listen to progressives, I listen to politics, I listen to faith and religion, I listen to writing, literary, whatever you want to call it in popular opinion and it’s all the same stuff. It’s all I am right, listen to me tell you why all of the people in my [inaudible] should be cast out. Listen, the church is no different. If I had a buck for every commenter who’s not ordained, not a priest, not a bishop, not a deacon, running around telling me why they are right and the Pope or the bishop is wrong, I’d be a really rich man. That kind of division, I said this to you before we got on the podcast, why would I want to enter into a church that’s like that? Why would I want any part of that? I wouldn’t want any part of that. I watch Bishop Barron and I say, I want a part of that. He’s talking about beauty and truth and goodness. He’s talking about the value of art, the value of the scriptures, the history and tradition of the church, the struggles, the challenges, but he’s doing it in a way that makes me say, that actually helps me make sense of the gospel story. Then I go and I listen to the commentators and I’m like, oh, you’re just perpetuating a war. I don’t want any part of that. It’s undoing the good work that good evangelists, evangelism that is rooted in this idea that out-kicks the issue of the day, it ruins that work. It’s terrifying. Frankly, it’s not much different than what’s happening in our political sphere. In my non-expert opinion, anytime you see people within a church structure, whether that’s the Catholic Church or any other church structure, or religious structure, whether you’re Jewish, Muslim or whatever—any time you see people within your religious sect using the weapons and the tools that are currently being used in our political sphere to amass followers or to gain power, money, assuage ego or prop up ego, whenever you see somebody doing that, run.

Tsh: Yeah. It reminds me of a few weeks ago, I was telling Kyle, we got to talking about something related to social media, he was probably hearing me complain and moan about the vile that it is, I made some comment saying, this is the biggest “duh” statement of all time but I think this vying for attention on social media and trying to gain followers and amass attention as a thought leader is sort of antithetical to the gospel, maybe? Then we had a good laugh about it because it seems so obvious when you say it out loud but literally trying to gain your own followers, trying to make a name for yourself, trying to be right in a world that you believe is wrong is kind of exactly what Jesus said not to do. I don’t know. 

Seth: Kind of exactly. Also, this is an argument only in Catholic Church, but within the Catholic system, if you want to do that and prop up your own ego and make your own arguments and tell me why all the bishops are wrong and why the Pope is wrong and why all the priests are wrong, just go be Protestant. Just take off. It’s totally cool. It’s not going to hurt my feelings. Go do your own thing. 

Tsh: Right. 

Seth: I know that sounds a little bit haughty but again, when I look of the work of the good evangelists out there in any denomination, in any structure, when I look at the good evangelists who are saying there is something beautiful here, there is something true here, be drawn to the truth through the beauty, I don’t want that to be undercut by some cheap divisive reptilian argument.

Tsh: Sometimes my shorthand for answering the question, why did you become Catholic after a lifetime of being Protestant, is because I was tired of being my own Pope. I only say that in a joking way or whenever I don’t have time to really unpack that because that’s a loaded statement. We’ll probably unpack that at some point in the future on this show. What I mean by that there is some relief and rest in the idea of being part of something so much bigger than myself where I can humbly submit that maybe I don’t know everything after 2000 years of really smart people wrestling with all the stuff. I truly don’t say that to be dismissive of those who have decided otherwise, but that’s where I’ve landed but it does make me think of that where I look at my fellow brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church and I think, guys, you don’t know what you have that I have been looking for my whole life. This idea of not having to decide what does XY and Z mean because it turns out Christ left us the Church. Let’s be part of that Church. Maybe this is just the rose-colored glasses of a convert but that’s what I see whenever I look at the Catholic Church these days and it just makes me feel like this is why I was tired of being Protestant. 

Seth: There’s plenty of life. I shared a little bit last week about the older couple in our local congregation how when I’m in my eighties, I want to be like them. There’s so much beauty and so much goodness and so much life there, too. We have some very dear friends who, my guess is they’re on different sides of us politically and yet we always still hang out. We still talk about the things of faith, we still go to church together, we still worship together and love it. In person we can still poke fun at each other about it and it’s okay. It doesn’t have to be this over and against thing. I was talking with the guy, the man in this couple, about two years ago. It was before we had really decided to enter the church and one of the things that he said, again, different political ideology and affiliation maybe than I have and different views on some things, and he said, don’t let this squabbling run you away. He said, I’ll let you know man, even when I watch some of this stuff I feel like when I’m finished I need to go take a shower. He’s like, it’s just gross, it’s slimy and don’t let that run you away from the good work that the church is doing. I thought that was a really wise statement from somebody who has recognizing that there is good work. There is work that he might politically agree with but he’s recognizing that that division and that vitriol is actually doing something that’s the opposite of good evangelism. It’s actually drawing lines and going over and against and creating more division in the church which, again, to go back to John 17 as you said, it’s pretty clear the last call of Christ which was to have unity. Today we’re a day away from Pentecost, right? That’s the thing that I keep thinking about. If we believe in this idea of the Pentecost, that the Spirit of God has come with and for and into us and around us, exists around us and wants to unify us together, then there ought to be no place for that kind of awful division certainly within the church and probably not in the political sphere and you know what, I’ve probably been guilty of that. 

Tsh: That was going to be my next question. Where’s the hope, then? For people listening, I’m guessing they have a vested interest like we do in finding the sacramental, finding what’s really there beneath all things. We’re searching for beauty here. Where’s the beauty then? If Ratzinger is right, that we’re continuing to go downhill, what’s up? Where do we go up? What’s the next step for those of us who genuinely care about this? What do you think?

Seth: I think a lot of it has to do with more conversations. We just have to have more conversations. Opening ourselves up to the pain of the other and more conversations. This is not to say that you don’t ever have an outspoken opinion against things that are evil. 

Tsh: Yeah.

Seth: It’s not to say that at all. If one of the divisive opinions is racist, you call that out. Again, if you go back to the life of Jesus, then there was certainly times when he very clearly called unjust things out. I’m not saying that you never always just try to understand the person on the other side with the racist opinion—no. You don’t have to do that, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But what I am saying is that maybe a lot of what we need to do is have harder conversations. To use a trope-y example of the day, in this vaccine/anti-vaccine milieu, maybe instead of castigating those who made the other decision that you have, maybe you sit down and say, hey, tell me about that. Why did you make this decision? Or masking/anti-masking, why do you make the decision to be not vaxxed and to not wear a mask? Let me understand what is going on in your head. Have that conversation in a way that’s very even-keeled and maybe even argumentative but not quarreling, as you said. Again, why are you arguing? You’re arguing to try to refine your ideas and get people to the right place and their ideas, too. We can all admit that we might be wrong and you’re trying to get to the truth. Trying to get to the center place. That’s a big part of it. I think, too, the sitting down and saying do you realize that when you say XY or Z, that might sound racist? Or hearing, you realize that when you say XY or Z, referring to yourself, that might sound elitist. Or that might sound a little too progressive for my taste or it may sound like it’s undercutting the scriptures. Not taking that in as an offense but as an opportunity to refine your thinking and to ask yourselves, is that true? Is there a curl of truth there that I need to consider because again if we’re trying to pursue something that’s truer, we always have to be open to refining ourselves to the truth that’s presented. I just think dialog conversation and being open to being wrong. To me, those are the big ones but I’m sure you have your own thoughts. 

Tsh: I think you are spot on, the only other thing I would add is the truth of what you just said about consider that you might be wrong, remember your boundaries. Remember where you end and someone else begins aka you as a human being cannot change someone else but you can change yourself. To consider perhaps the focus on changing other people maybe needs to be repositioned to turning inward and looking at maybe what you need to continue to learn. I mean that for every single one of us. If you find yourself really and truly only listening to one political side of the news maybe open yourself up to listening to a podcast that skews the other direction. Or if you find yourself feeling your blood boil about a particular topic that you just don’t understand how anyone can see anything otherwise, be it religion or something else, consider opening yourself up to the other side and not straw-manning that, actually, steel-manning that, look for the best argument on the other side so that you could possibly learn. Then I would say along with the idea of knowing your boundaries, consider what it looks like to take care of yourself and I don’t mean that in a self-care, woo-woo, take a bubble bath way, I mean that in a, are you getting enough beauty in your life? We talk about the sacramentality of beauty as something to just uncover but sometimes we have to really seek it out and it can lead us in despair when we don’t anything but ugly around us. If you find yourself continually angry maybe you need to do things like go outside or seek out good music or art. These things aren’t shallow and these things aren’t extra, they are necessary. They make us better people, better humans, more who we’re made to be in. Maybe we need a little bit more, this sounds so trite to say, we need more flowers in the world. I don’t mean it in a trite way. I mean it sincerely. We need more beauty in our lives.

Seth: I agree. I think we 100% need more flowers. We also need more words, more literature, and when I say literature I don’t mean Christian living books, exclusively. 

Tsh: Please, Lord, no.

Seth: I mean like actual, good literature. We need actual good art. Actual good music. Maybe even sometimes art and music and literature that doesn’t 1000% go down the line with what we agree with because again, opening yourself up to something because it’s beautiful at least allows you to appreciate God created us to create beauty. I can disagree with it, it can still be beautiful.

Tsh: I would add to that perhaps something, if you’re not drawn to classics, perhaps looking at something slightly older. If anything, it helps you remember that there’s nothing new under the sun. I know I need that sometimes especially now when I just think, gosh, how can things get any worse? It might be good, I don’t mean ancient, I’m not talking about Plato, I’m talking about maybe something from 100 years ago. Read C.S. Lewis and Screwtape Letters, that will remind you of the fallen nature of man and this has been going on for a long time. Stuff like that. Don’t just listen to whoever’s the newest and flashiest and latest and greatest. There’s a lot of smart, dead people. 

Seth: There are a lot of smart, dead people. I prefer smart, dead people. 

Tsh: I kind of do, too. 

Seth: They’re great.

Tsh: I would enjoy their company these days.

Seth: Yeah. Tsh, speaking of all of this, as you’re speaking about beauty, the impact of beauty in your own life. Tell me, what is bringing a little bit of truth, beauty, or goodness to your life right now?

Tsh: It’s pretty much the opposite of a dead person because this person is really young. I’m not just ageist, I’m not only about C.S. Lewis and Plato. There is a kid, more or less, and I say kid because I’m forty-three and he’s probably at most in his mid-twenties, probably even younger than that. His name is Nathaniel Drew. He’s on YouTube. Have you ever seen him?

Seth: Don’t know him.

Tsh: Me neither. I ran into his channel less than a week ago. I have been so drawn to the beauty of both what he talks about, his cinematography, his ability to tell a really good story. That kind of stuff to me matters so much these days when there’s just so much garbage on the internet, to really appreciate some wholesome beauty is maybe an easy way to say it. This kid is so great at creating video content about stuff that really matters. You could it personal development but I don’t think it’s about that. Where he really shines is on the subject of language learning. I think he has learned five or six languages by now and he talks about how he does it in a way that makes a lot of sense to the everyday person. He travels a lot so he just shows really footage of different places and in particular, I’ll make sure we have this in the show notes, there’s a video of when he’s talking to his grandma. His grandma speaks six or seven languages and it’s this conversation where they are flowing in and out of all their different languages with subtitles so you can understand. They’re talking about how language learning has affected the way they view the world. It’s really gotten me thinking about the beauty of language learning and how I used to be really into it, super-duper into it, then kids and life and work and stuff. I want to dust that off, that idea a little bit, and learn another language for the sake of learning it. Not because I need to get a good grade on anything but because it makes me a better human. His channel has inspired me to think about doing that. I did write about it this week in my Substack so if you are subscribed to The Commonplace you saw that. I’m looking forward to digging into that idea a little bit more this summer. 

Seth: That’s awesome.

Tsh: It is. How about you? What’s adding more beauty to your life these days?

Seth: Mine is from a dead person, although recently deceased. It’s real sad. I just made this whole podcast get really sad. I am reading Anthony Bourdain’s World Travel.

Tsh: I saw you were. 

Seth: An Irreverent Guide, is the subtitle. Boy, is he irreverent. It’s interesting because whenever you say beauty, I’m sure that Bourdain and I would share very little in the world in the way of worldview as far as religious world beauty goes. That’s just my guess. He was such a deep, thoughtful soul. He was so human. This book is so human. Of course, Bourdain being Bourdain, he gets away with all the things the ought not get away with. It was compiled post-mortem so he didn’t sit down and pen this, it was compiled from writings and show transcripts and these sorts of things. It is just a reminder of how truly human you can be with your pen, in your own writing process. I’ve always said, in fact, I think I’m about to start a short film series for my Substack people, my subscribers, about good writing. One of the things that I think is important in really great writing is that it is firmly fixed in a place. I think a lot about East of Eden, the opening of East of Eden. If you don’t cry when you read the first two pages of East of Eden, you’re not human. 

Tsh: Sure, right.

Seth: It’s beautiful, it’s wonderful. He has a way of setting things firmly in place. He does that with humans in a way that I’m not sure a lot of people are really able to do, especially in non-fiction. I’ve really enjoyed it. I will say, it is quite irreverent. The subtitle definitely fits it. It really is bringing an awareness of my life about how to even be a better writer. I really like it a lot. 

Tsh: That’s cool. I can’t imagine anyone picking up a book by Bourdain and assuming it would not be irreverent. That fits well and I’ve really appreciated, and I think a lot of people appreciate from him how human he was and how honest he was. That’s maybe what drew us to him and his work. Not that it was classically beautiful but that it was humanly beautiful and he said what most people think.

Seth: He was also able in his life, you watch any of his series, he was able to always say the truth about a culture. Not shading around it while also being able to draw out the best parts of that culture. It is such an odd talent, I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone else who could do it quite the same way that he could of saying here are the things that are really screwed up about it but underneath that is this really intense, deep layer of beautiful humanity. There’s flashes of that in this book. 

Tsh: He was the master at that. I think our two things here, that are adding more beauty dovetail really well because that’s what I see this sweet, otherwise somewhat innocent kid, at least compared to Bourdain, doing is that it’s showing us the realness of what’s beautiful in the world. I think that’s why we both love to travel and explore new places and that to me, is one of the most sacramental acts on earth is this idea of having meaningful conversations in meaningful places. He did that well. Good choice. I like it. 

Alright, it’s time to wrap this up. You can find this episode, as well as all episodes, at And hey, I haven’t asked this in forever — if you like what we’re bringing to your day, would you help support the show and go leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts (Apple, etc.)? The internet algorithm gods make it so the better a show is reviewed, the more they show it to potential new listeners. If you’d like us to keep doing what we’re doing, we need it to grow, and you can help it grow by leaving a quick review. I would say a review if you like the show. If you don’t really like the show then you can just skip on this to-do item. We super-duper appreciate it. You can find me and all my work, especially my newsletter and books, at — Seth, where can people find you?

Seth: They can find me at and I am going to put a plug this week. Follow me at because the monthly subscribers, the people that drop a little coin into the Substack, will very soon start to receive this video series that I’ve been talking about of what I think makes for really good writing. 

Tsh: Very cool. Can’t wait to read it because I pay for your Substack as well. 

Seth: Maybe I’ll have you as a little member, we can have a video chat about it. 

Tsh: There you go. I’m up for it. That would be fun. 

Seth: Come on!

Tsh: Alright, we’ll do it. Music for the show is by Kevin MacLeod, editing is by Kyle Oxenreider, and Caroline TeSelle is our transcriber and assistant extraordinaire. I’m Tsh Oxenreider, and Seth and I will be back here with you soon. Thanks for listening.

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