Creating > Consuming | 61

‘Creator’ the noun can collapse on its own weight, especially on the internet — but this word doesn’t only apply to social media influencers, artists, or inventors. We’re all creators. And, as Seth and Tsh are joined around the table by their friend, Haley Stewart, the three talk about whether we just might all be hard-wired in our nature to join in the act of creation more than participating in our culture’s default of consumption.


Tsh: This is A Drink with a Friend, I’m Tsh Oxenreider.

Seth: And I’m Seth Haines.

Tsh: Seth, we are here with a friend who has pulled up a chair around the table with us. We are drinking with Haley Stewart. Hello, Haley.

Haley: Hello.

Tsh: Haley, what are you drinking? What’s in your cup right now?

Haley: I am drinking a passionfruit sparkling water, HEB brand, represent Texas. It’s the generic brand but they’re good.

Tsh: You know what? They are better than La Croix because they are so dang cheap.

Seth: And they’ve made an appearance on this show before.

Tsh: They have.

Haley. Oh, yeah. My toddler is really into them. She calls them sparky waters. Now, that’s what we all say. Put sparky water on the list! Everybody just calls them sparky waters.

Tsh: Finn is our only kid that likes them, so the three of us drink them but we go through them so fast we have to actually be careful, this is a bit ridiculous. We somehow justify it as it’s just water but really, it’s water that costs money so we have to be careful. Seth, what about you?

Seth: I am drinking, I could give you one guess and you’d nail it, but I’ll just tell you. I’m drinking Onyx’s Southern Weather and I actually brought a bag of beans so you can have some sound effects. I think we don’t have enough sound effects there. This is supposed to be Onxy’s version of dark chocolate, toasted walnuts, and plum. It just tastes like amazing coffee to me though. That’s the thing. It’s really good, it’s been really good this afternoon.

Tsh: I have to ask because you and I have talked about the blueberries and I can really taste blueberries when they’re there but for both of ya’ll, whenever a bag says hints of cherry and chocolate, do you actually taste that kind of stuff or do you feel like it’s whatever, it’s just good coffee.

Haley: I feel like I never have but I also feel like I’ve gotten better because my husband makes whiskey so I feel like I’ve learned how to taste things in whiskey and I wonder if now my pallet would be better at finding those things in coffee if I thought about it. I don’t know.

Seth: We should send you some Southern Weather and you can try it and let us know.

Tsh: There you go, I like it.

Seth: For me, I’ve always, if it’s not that strong blueberry note and I do get some of the cherry notes, I can get that. But if it’s a coffee that’s trending towards chocolate, I mostly just taste the side of a mountain.

Tsh: Really?

Seth: It just tastes like dirt to me. If I try to go one step beyond, oh, that tastes like coffee, I come up with, and dirt. What about you? Do you taste those nuanced flavors?

Tsh: Not as much as I wish I did but I want to be the type of person who does.

Seth: It’s apparent to me now that we can do an entire podcast on coffee, but before we do that, what are you drinking today?

Tsh: Well, apropos of nothing, I’m drinking coffee as well. The coffee behind our house, 309, they make a fantastic blend called Venom. I’m not quite sure what’s in the blend other than a little bit of Ethopia and something South American and I don’t remember what. But it’s dang good and we get it anytime it’s available. I put a splash of Kahlúa in it because it’s Monday at 4:15 while we’re recording and why not? I don’t know. I do have a tiny bit of a thing to celebrate, which I can’t announce yet on the air, but I will release soon because I signed something today. This is me kind of celebrating because I’m not very good at that. I don’t celebrate very well.

Seth: Can you just pretend like you’re telling us and then beep it out?

Tsh: Sure, actually I can.

[brief musical interlude]

I know we’re getting so sidetracked. Kyle is going to have to cut out two minutes.

[brief musical interlude, again]

As we were. That was a loooong beep. Haley, we wanted you on here because we’re going to, every few episodes, have a fellow friend on here to talk with us about what is on your mind you came to mind as someone we wanted to ask early on because you’re a friend to both of us and because you mean a lot to both of us in terms of our stories. We really want to emphasize things of beauty on this show but more than that, things of beauty that point us to something bigger than what’s there. Tell us a little bit about what’s on your mind in the broad topic.

Haley: I have been thinking a lot about our identity as creators over our identity as consumers. The idea that because we are made in the image of God and he is the creator, that it’s part of our calling and part of our deepest identity to create in whatever medium that might be. It doesn’t need to be something professional artistic but to create. That’s something we’re called to do and that makes us feel like human beings and yet we’re often so pulled by the need to consume. It’s just such a pull culturally for us that I think sometimes it overpowers our call to create.

Tsh: Yeah. I like when you said “our”. You’re not just meaning creators like the noun that’s now equal to those on the internet who put things out there. You’re talking about us as human beings.

Haley: Right. Exactly. I think part of the reason I’ve been thinking about this a lot is I’ve been reading a lot of Madeleine L’Engle’s non-fiction. I don’t know if you’re read her non-fiction. I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time. As a kid I’ve read all of her novels, but I just recently started picking up her journals and her essays and that’s something that she keeps coming back to. It’s just been on my mind.

Seth: When we talk about creation, I’m going to give you a little bit of a caveat. I work with a company that is a creative agency and we were talking about their archetype, their archetype in the world—who they present themselves to the client as—and they present themselves as a Creator, capital C, Creator. One of the difficulties that they’ve talked about internally owning that message is that they have a production department. They have a human resources department. They have all of these business related functions, account management. These people are constantly saying, but I’m not a creator. I don’t feel creative and I’m constantly saying, no, no, no—everybody here is a creator. I suss that out for one way for them but I would love to hear you talk a little bit about that idea, because we’re made in the image of God, because there is this sacramental reality in all of us. We are all creators. How does that express itself, or how do you see that in the world around you?

Haley: I think it, like you said, we often think of creator as meaning an artist or a writer or a musician, someone who is creating art of some kind. Or practically building something and creating. I think that if we instead look at things like hospitality, you’re creating an environment for friends, that’s a kind of creation. Or someone who can, their job has to do with organizing information or organizing spaces. They are creating order and they are creating spaces in a certain way. There are just so many ways that we can participate in God’s creating. We can be co-creators with him whether that means being parents or having friends over for dinner or deciding to write something out instead of consume all of the media and be scrolling and reacting to that, instead sending something out. Even if it’s just what we’re putting on our personal Facebook. Here’s what I was thinking. I’m going to share this instead of just “tweeting” someone else and reacting to them.

Tsh: Speaking of quote tweeting, I was just thinking of a quote as you were talking, I’ve heard it credited to C.S. Lewis but you never know with the internet. It could also be George McDonald. This idea that we as humans, our need to create is similar to the idea of a child going to their parent and saying, I want to buy you a gift, can I have some money? And the parent of course, gives the child the money and they go out and buy a gift and say here. The parent opens it up and expresses immense gratitude and the idea is you totally just use their own money to gift them something but you did it out of love. Their idea is that this is what it’s like for us to create. That whether it’s art or just some form of something less tangible, when we create we’re literally asking God, can I have some supplies and then basically mimic you a little bit and then give it back and say, here, look at what I did. I love that. I think that’s a much deeper way of putting things than I ever would have thought of when it comes to our meager offerings even when we’re not thinking about it.

Haley: I love that. I think that if we’re looking at everything that we have as gift, even our bodies, and our intellect and anything we would use like a painter creating their paints. They’re creating their paints out of natural, the bounty of God’s creation. Even what they’re using to make their art is all gift. Their hands that using to make their art is all gift. I don’t think I’d heard that illustration Tsh, but I really like that.

Tsh: Me, too.

Seth: Let’s talk a little bit about the thing that you naturally juxtaposed at the beginning, I don’t know that I, maybe I’ve heard this before? But I don’t know if I ever have. You were talking about the difference between, or maybe it’s the tension between creation and consumption? I’d love to hear how you personally balance, one, how you feel the tension of consumption and then how you balance that or maybe react or maybe pro-act against it with creation.

Haley: That is a struggle for me because I have zero self-control. Especially about media consumption. I have to actually do physical things like when I get up in the morning, to write before my kids get up. I have to put my phone charging in a room where I can’t reach it. Otherwise, I’ll spend that whole time just seeing what other people have written. Seeing the news, just consuming entertainment distraction and completely miss out on the opportunity to slow down and actually create something and send it out. I think that media consumption is one of the first things that comes to mind and our tendency to just react and I think Twitter, the mess that Twitter is, illustrates this well. When I think about what accounts do I want to follow. I want to follow people who are creating beautiful and interesting things. I don’t want to follow people who are quote tweeting and reacting with fury or outrage about various things. There’s a difference there, this reaction versus generating something.

Tsh: Does that happen on Twitter? I don’t know?

Seth: Haha.

Haley: Not in any accounts you want to follow.

Tsh: There are people who seem to make a living off of being angry.

Haley: It’s all this reaction to something else or trying to create a reaction that’s volatile. I’ve been thinking about that as well, especially over the past year. How much am I tempted to be just reacting and can I spin that energy creating instead?

Tsh: I’m curious what the two of you think since we’re on the topic of social media, what is that subtle difference between consuming and creating because I can hear a lot of us, not just the three of us but people listening in, justifying our time on social media as something we’re doing to create. Instagram is an easy example. I love photography or I love art and so I’m showing my art but then there’s this really subtle line that we all know is there that tips over into consuming. How do you know what’s what?

Haley: That’s a great question. Seth, were you going to respond to that?

Seth: No, go for it. Listen, if I had to account for creation versus consumption on Twitter, I might be in deep trouble. Because I do, I feel that tension a lot. I’ll go to post a photo because I do love photography and I love that as a primary source of creativity and then I find myself 20 minutes later scrolling photos for no reason. I was actually talking about this with a friend this weekend and we were talking about the golden age of photography back in the 20s and in that Golden Age you would take a photo, I think we’ve talked about this, Tsh, Henri-Cartier Bresson. He would take a photo and you have to go process it. You have to develop it. You have to put it out there. You have to sell it at a gallery. You have to display it at a gallery. Somebody has to get it and buy it. The whole process was so much longer and now you can take a photo and essentially the craft of photography is destroyed by Instagram. Maybe that’s hyperbole but I feel like it’s true. I’m not sure that I’m the best person to even answer that because I think a lot of times I find myself in the cycle of consumption versus creation.

Haley: That’s interesting what you were just saying about photography because as I was thinking, what are the distinctive of feeling like I’m creating something? I was thinking about my husband makes sourdough bread and he’s been baking bread for ages and he loves to do this and it’s an art to him. He knows so much about it and knowing about it makes him more excited about it and more excited to learn more and when he’s doing this process, he’s connected to what he’s doing. There’s nothing wrong with buying bread at the store. We’ve all bought bread at the store, there’s nothing wrong with that kind of consumption. It’s a different experience to be creating because it’s like you are participating. You are an active participant. You have this affection for the process that’s born from what you know about it and your experience with it.

Seth: I think that actually leads me to a question. Your husband makes this bread, as a result of having homemade bread, which again, it takes longer. You don’t just pop into the store to buy it. Are you more cognizant as a family of your consumption of bread because every slice is another 3, 5, 6, 7 hours I’ve got to go bake a loaf of bread. Is this a thing that you’re aware of when you’re in the creation mode?

Haley: Absolutely. It’s definitely something you are more aware of, you know that when this loaf is gone, you know what went into making it and when this loaf is gone, the process will begin again. There’s not just another loaf in the fridge ready or on the shelf in the pantry. I think that it is a different kind of experience of enjoying it and savoring it. There’s an affection. I’m trying to remember, in the Four Loves, C.S. Lewis talks about the affection kind of love or thing thing that’s so familiar to you. I think he uses the example of like your favorite slippers. You feel affectionate towards them because you know them. I think that that is something about the process of creation is you have this affection for the process and the materials and the whole experience that’s maybe really inconvenient but has a richness that isn’t there if you don’t participate in it.

Tsh: I wonder, this is really vague, but I wonder if maybe the subtle difference between creating and consuming or maybe even consuming in a way that doesn’t lead you to create is simply whether it makes your life better? I know that is the hardest thing to quantify but let’s say Daniel spends two hour deep-diving on YouTube about the history of bread and bread-making and unique, interesting ways to do it in different cultures. Well then he goes, and not only does he feel more knowledgeable about bread making but then maybe he tries a new recipe or technique and he experiments with it and overall it makes him a better human? That those two hours spent on YouTube was actually beneficial to him. This week in my Substack, I asked my subscribers, I ask them one question a week on Monday mornings, I asked them this random question, what are the weird deep-dives that you find yourself fascinated by? The topics that your friends or family might not know you’re into. It was so interesting to hear people, these are normal, sane adults who have named all kinds of cool things like domino maze tipping and cow milking and sheep shearing and Pompeii. All these topics. I would argue that these things probably, except for when we’ve suddenly spent 8 hours and we forgot to make dinner for our children, these probably made them better people because now they know more things. Consuming isn’t always a bad thing. Especially if it leads to then adding it to your life tangibly by creating something.

Haley: I think that is really key, Tsh, the idea of not just what makes you a better human being but I think what makes you feel like a human being. I think that we all, especially at the beginning of 2020 as we’re completely thrown by everything changing, I felt this pull to do normal human things. Learn how to cook certain things or take a walk outside and look around at nature. Different things that I felt like I feel like a human being when I’m doing this thing in a way that I did plenty of Netflix bingeing during 2020 but that didn’t necessarily make me feel like a human person right now as I binge the next season of who knows what.

Seth: That is a fascinating insight. Is there something there with this digital consumption, whether it’s Netflix or Twitter or Instagram or whatever, Reddit. Maybe you’re into the new Reddit/Game Stop controversy or something. Is there something there in the digital space that is more akin to numbing or giving into the machine or a consumption that, I don’t know, for me it doesn’t feel less human as much as it feels like numbing versus the alive ways of living. Counting every breath, every sound, every sight as something that’s meant to be savored and celebrated and exercised, so to speak.

Haley: I find that often if I don’t physically put my phone in a separate room, say, if it’s in arm’s reach, I find that when I pick it up is any dead space. Any moments where my kids don’t need help with homeschooling, I don’t have a task, or I’m waiting for the water to boil, or I had a thought and then I’ve lost my train of thought and I just reach for it. It’s a filler which is one, it’s not intentional, it’s habitual. I think that numbing is a really good description of that kind of behavior and then discomfort with reflecting. Instead of using that time to think about something, I’m deadening my thoughts. I think that that, I don’t know. There’s a difference between that and saying I’m going to go to the internet and learn about something. Or I’m interested in reading about this or seeing what so and so has to say about this and interacting. I think that’s really different from just I’m going to deaden this quiet space with some kind of distraction.

Tsh: I actually like that you used the word reflective because in my mind as I was hearing you talk and Seth, I would love to know what you think. For me, the difference is reactiveness. If people seem, if the stuff I’m consuming seems to be created with a motive of reacting to something else that was then created, it tears at my soul and has that numbing quality and perhaps it’s not a bad thing necessarily. We need to react to things that need reacting to, I think. We won’t get into that but we all know of examples. For example, there’s a YouTuber that I recently had to stop watching because his channel used to be about bringing up new topics and new ideas and over time his episodes just started being about reacting to certain hot topics that felt to me like he was doing it in order for the views. Because he knew if you use the keywords Covid or vaccine or whatever, Pope Francis, then suddenly, I don’t know, it just had that feel to me. To me, it’s also a lot of the motive of those creating and it’s also again a thing that is hard to quantify because there’s nuance there. Sometimes it’s okay to react, sometimes it’s not. What do you think, Seth?

Seth: I was watching, here’s my consumption. I was watching a YouTube video with an expert who was talking about the radicalization of America visa our social media structures. One of the things that he said was that very early on in the QAnon movement in particular, average people would post a political view that was maybe QAnon adjacent but not QAnon. They would accidentally use a certain hashtag like #holdtheline. Then all of the sudden, all of the people who are using the phrase for QAnon were coming over and watching their channel and so it was incentivizing them to continue to use that hashtag and to learn more about that particular movement and then to react to everything in coordination with that movement so that they could continue to build a following. He said it was kind of like, you guys are both from Texas, he said it was kind of like drilling and striking oil. Like the minute you strike oil, you’re like, oh, I’m going to keep drilling. I think that there’s a really fine line there. I’ve never been super good at Twitter. I use it, I love it. I’m not good at it because by the time that I have sussed out both sides and feel like I understand the nuance and feel like I have something to contribute, we’re on to the next outrage of the day already, right? It’s very rare that I’m able to contribute in a way that feels authentic and meaningful that’s not just a straight up reaction. As I look at the status of, particularly social media consumption, it’s actually hijacked creation. True, authentic creation that is good, and true, and beautiful, has been hijacked by the masses or a particular subset or what’s call it what it is, platform. It’s been hijacked by platform. If you want to build a platform, go talk about these seven things, use these ten hashtags and all of the sudden you can be Twitter famous. But it actually, in my view, it propagates this false creation, a faux creation.

Haley: That’s really insightful. I think that our mediums of creation and spreading, sharing what we are creating. Interesting that I said spreading because I think of that more as like a negative thing and maybe that’s the way it works. I was thinking about this recently because I got to do a week of radio show, everyday I did two hours of live radio. It was very, very fun but after that week was over, I was like wow, if this was a job, job, if this is my full-time job as there are many people who manage to do this, a daily show. I felt like I would not be quick enough to create something I was really proud of every day. That much content. I would be reacting to whatever was happening in the moment. There would be no time to develop any nuance. The medium itself doesn’t allow for that. It was interesting to see how the medium of creation can negatively or positively affect it. Not to say that people can’t create good radio shows, but personally, I don’t think I could create a good one every single day. There’s no slow creation. It’s all hot takes.

Seth: Yeah.

Tsh: I think if I were doing that job I would start feeling less and less human every day since we’re using that term. I think that would be so hard. You brought up the medium wasn’t created for that. Haley, have you seen the Social Dilemma? I know Seth, you have.

Haley: I haven’t seen it but I do know the gist.

Tsh: Okay. I do remember them talking about this. I knew this beforehand but it was good to have that confirmation that the mediums of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, they’re not created for slow reflective thoughts. They are created for hot takes and created for quick response. Algorithmically, Seth, that’s why feel behind because you “are”, you know?

Seth: Yeah.

Tsh: I mean just because by nature what it is. Not as an experiment, but on purpose, I took off Twitter and Instagram on my phone recently so that I could concentrate on my work better. I will show up on Twitter a couple times a week on my laptop and my engagement has tanked. I don’t really care but if were someone who cared, if my livelihood depended on it, I would realize, oh shoot, I guess I need to have it on my phone so it’s always in my pocket so I can always be responding and having something witty to say otherwise I’m useless according to the Twitter gods, you know?

Seth: I think what you’re feeling when you talk about less human, I think the idea that you’re feeling there, the sense that I get anyway, is one of being a commodity. We all three write in longer form and there’s something really beautiful about that to me. I finished editing some things this weekend that I’ve been working on for eight years. Nobody has really ever seen it. I don’t that anybody ever will see it but it’s completely beautiful to me because I’ve done it outside of any sort of feedback loop or reactionary mechanism. It’s not commodified work. I’m not a commodity and when I go onto Twitter, I really feel commodified. I feel consumed. I think that goes back to the Social Dilemma, we are the product. Product is not our hot take, it’s actually us. It’s not the ads, it’s actually us. Haley, I’d love to hear you talk about longer form work for you pulls you out of those feedback loops and what it does for you from a soul perspective.

Haley: It’s funny thinking about my long form work because I wrote a book in 2016 that was published, I guess 2016-2017, then it was published in 2018. Immediately, I was asked, “What’s your second book? What is your next book?” I was completely not in that space to have, to just jump into the next thing. I have to let things form and simmer and wait. I’m just now, years later, working on new book projects and it feels very, I feel very human doing it. It doesn’t feel rushed. It doesn’t feel like I’m chasing after an idea. These ideas have been bubbling and now they’re ready and it doesn’t have anything to do with what’s going on on social media today. Or having to respond to both current events and also current subcultures. I think that longer form, longer projects help you separate what you’re creating not necessarily from the person who’s going to be enjoying it but separates almost from the criticisms you have in your mind of what those people are going to say about it. I think that probably all of us are pretty good at judging what people’s reactions are going to be to our work. I feel like when I’m writing something, I know exactly what so-and-so would say about it and what so-and-so on Twitter would say about it and so-and-so on Twitter is really going hate this part. I can just hear that in my head as I’m writing it. But if it’s not just here’s something I’m tweeting out but here’s either a long piece or a book project that I’m writing, it helps quiet those voices so that I’m creating for human beings and not for, I’m trying to figure out the right word. Not for a tribalistic thing. Does that make sense?

Seth: 100%. I think that’s one of the things that I feel so much right now on social media. I think, Tsh, you hit on this and maybe you can elaborate on it a little bit. When our platforms are rewarded by particular topics then all it does is actually feed tribalism and division. Is that what you were saying earlier instead of this long-form creation when we moved into the consumption mode we actually fuel this tribalism?

Tsh: Yeah. I think too, there’s just topics that make these owners of these platforms more money and so they’re naturally going to steer people’s attentions that way. I don’t know if you guys notice on the Twitter app, and probably Instagram too, I just haven’t noticed as much. There will be literal tabs with certain topics. It only recently went away, the one with “election” on it. It was interesting to me, months and months after the election they were still wanting to make sure you were up to speed on the news about the election probably because those things will get people angry. To me, practically I follow lists on Twitter and not my feed. I’ve got a list of favorite people, writers, whatever it is, and I find that whenever I go to there, it sounds like a different place because people are talking about fairy stories and knitting and what their favorite tea is but if I go to the feed people are yelling at each other. I think the tribalism is real and is probably, not probably, is a huge reason why some many of the things out there in the world are the way they are right now because of what’s being said.

Haley: I think as a creator it’s easy to be catering to that without even consciously realizing it. You don’t go into blogging being like, I’m just going to get into this market of creating straw men that this group is really going to like hearing about how awful they are. You don’t go into it like that but if you’re rewarded for certain things, it’s really hard not to make that your habit of how you’re writing or how you’re creating content. I don’t write on my blog very much anymore, not because I’m ashamed of what I’ve written in the past but just because I notice how loud the voices of the consumer of the blog are in my head when I’m writing there, if that makes sense. As opposed to writing a longer article for a publication, for an online publication or writing a book. It just feels different.

Tsh: It does.

Seth: I think the truth is you’re more than what you write on your blog. I feel like we get into these niches. You fall into these little holes and those holes have to be filled and then you know that if you deviate from that course or that pattern you’re going to lose followers or people aren’t going to read you anymore or people are going to unsubscribe. This weekend, Amber has been doing a little bit of keto/paleo run and we were talking about it and somebody, her brother, I think, sent her an Instagrammer who was “keto famous”. I laughed so hard about being “keto famous” because I thought how miserable is that dude? Every day he has to wake up and produce and create something about keto on Instagram? He can’t do something that is beautiful that is not keto? Or he can’t stretch his legs and share an opinion about whatever the issue of the day is because he’s got to be “keto famous”? Talk about hijacking your creation. I know there have been times in my own writing life where I’ve fallen into that, where I’ve fallen into if I write this thing I’m going to lose 10% of my followers. But I think the older I get the more it’s worth it. It’s worth it to get rid of the people who are just there for tribalistic reasons.

Tsh: That’s right. I’m curious with the two of you guys, since you brought up having nuance and depth in our life that that poor guy for sure has other interests.

Haley: Right. He’s more than the keto guy.

Tsh: Bless him. Our listeners right now are thinking I’m not Twitter or Instagram famous or I’m not a podcaster or a writer, same as us. We are not just these people as well. I am curious if you guys could think of an example where this is true and your non-career world? Is there something more tangible offline where you have experienced joy from creating over consuming, like Daniel’s example of baking bread even though you could buy it at the store? For me, I’ve really gotten into gardening and I guess you could call it urban homesteading. We have chickens and that whole bit. Not because I also don’t have HEB, our grocery store, a mile away. But because there is joy in growing my own food. What are examples in y’all’s life?

Haley: This is a funny example because in some ways it’s still consuming but a couple of months ago I bought a turntable so I could play records because I noticed that I would get on my phone to do Spotify or find music and it was just overwhelming. I felt like I was scrolling through different albums and I just wanted to listen to music and be more a part of it. It wasn’t just going to play forever with the playlist, it was going to play a few songs and then that side is over and then I had to go over there and flip it over. I only have 12 albums. Actually listening to them and appreciating them, not just picking a song or two and putting it on a playlist but listening to it as a whole album. In some ways, it still consuming but it is a kind of consuming that makes me feel more human. I hope this doesn’t make me sound like I’m not a music, I’m not a sound snob at all. I mostly just wanted to, my older brother is the sound guy so he has to have everything set up a certain way and he knows how it should sound when it’s on. For me, I just wanted it not to be digital and to make me feel more human. I feel more human with my record player, I don’t know. Maybe that’s weird.

Seth: No, I don’t think that’s weird at all. I think what you’re talking about there is actually, it is an act of creation. It is creating space to feel more human. I do think that’s an act of creation. I’m a huge proponent of listening to an album all the way through. It drives me bonkers when I get in the car and we’re doing musical roulette and skipping through songs. Maybe that’s on me, not anyone else. I think you’re talking about creating space to feel human. That’s a wonderful thing. For me, it’s anything that does not, I can’t make money at it. You can’t make money listening to records, unless you become a music reviewer. Maybe in the future?

Haley: I’m going to be the record girl on Instagram. That’s all I want to talk about.

Tsh: That’s all you’re allowed to talk about though.

Seth: Haley is “record famous”, “vinyl famous”. I’m sure there’s plenty of “vinyl famous” people out there. For me, it’s fly fishing. Again, it’s in a sense, it’s not creation other than you’re reading the water and creating the right lines and the right runs and in a sense it’s consumption because you’re pulling fish out of the water. But I do it with my son, mostly. It’s creating memory, it’s creating space, it’s creating time. For me, those acts of creation, I don’t sell those. I can’t sell those. Who’s going to buy my fishing experience with my son? Like Haley said, I think that act of creation, if we use the word more broadly, it makes me feel more human.

Tsh: I think what we’re talking about with all of these is participation in the beauty of a thing. Like Haley, you can listen to something on Spotify and maybe appreciate that it’s a well done piece of music or the person can sing really well or wow, they’ve composed that song, but by listening to it on a record, you’re somehow participating in the beauty of it, the nature of it. Seth, I would say, maybe you’re not necessarily creating the fish in the water and you’re not inventing the art of fishing but you are participating in the beauty of it. That is a form of creating, weirdly, maybe.

Haley: Really I think like a form of worship, in a way. As you were talking, Seth, I was thinking about how my husband and my son keep bees. They get their bee suits on and go out there and feed the bees and care for the hive and check on the hive and then harvest the honey. We get enough honey to last us through to the next harvest, not enough to have a business or sell honey. It’s just participating in this miraculous process. Thousands and thousands of little bees make this. It’s just wild. The more that they learn, they’re always reading books about bees it’s just extraordinary, so intricate. Because they’re participating in it, they care about it and the more that they know the more fascinating this participation is so I think it does become a kind of worship. When you’re participating in that and you look at it as something that fills you with awe and something that fills you with wonder then it’s something that points you to the transcendent, it points you towards God. To be in grateful of these bees that he’s created.

Seth: When we talk about sacramentality and we talk about the ways that God breaks through the ordinary, the every day of our lives and shows himself, that’s what I think about. I think of what are the ways that we co-create with him in everyday life. The truth is, Amber, my wife, does that way better than I do. She’s already getting seeds for the garden for the summer. It’s not bees, she does want bees so maybe I’ll have her call Daniel. It’s just that idea that she’s going to do something, she’s going to plant a seed, she’s going water it, she’s going to go out there every day and weed. She’s going mulch. She’s going to do something long-form that is never going to pay, because she’s not going to go sell it at the farmer’s market. It’s just for us. It’s long-form. It’s like her knitting. It’s interacting with wool, something natural, something from the natural world, and recognizing the goodness of God in the land of the living, so to speak, through this natural act of creation. I think we can all do that regardless of if, to your point Tsh, we’re writers or Instagrammers or accountants or doctors or whatever the thing is, we can all clear out space to do some act of creation that doesn’t make us the product.

Tsh: It reminds me of that John Updike quote about giving the mundane its beautiful due. It’s the idea of these small things giving them credit, to me, that is what worship is in a way. Maybe not the small things, maybe it’s giving God his beautiful due. We do that in small ways when we participate in creation, we’re giving these mundane things its beautiful due.

Haley: That’s beautiful. I like that a lot.

Tsh: Along that note, Haley, we always bring up something that’s making our lives a little lovelier, maybe adding more beauty to our everyday ordinary by way of something we are reading, watching, or listening to. I’m curious, Haley, what are you reading, watching, or listening to these days?

Haley: I mentioned at the beginning of the episode that I’ve been reading Madeleine L’Engle’s non-fiction. I picked up one of her, she has a series of journals that she published from when she’s living at Crosswicks, which is this old farmhouse that her family restored and lived in and if you’ve read A Wrinkle in Time it definitely is the inspiration for the house that the Murray’s live in. I picked up this journal, it was at the used bookstore, and I just fell in love with this book and kept bingeing on her non-fiction. The Crosswalk Journals, I’ve read the first three and the second one which is called The Summer of the Great-Grandmother is my favorite. It’s her thoughts and experiences particularly about her mother the summer that she was caring for her, the summer that she was dying. It is extraordinary. It’s so beautiful. She dives into her parents’ history and goes through all these family stories and just also the experience of wrestling with losing a parent and being a caretaker of a parent instead of just the child. It’s just beautiful. All woven through it is her ideas about writing and art and faith. I highly recommend that and just as beautiful as Walking on Water which is her reflections on faith and art and it’s extraordinary as well. That’s what I’ve been really into.

Tsh: Nice. I’ve only heard of the last one. I’ve never even heard of the other two.

Haley: I’ve got the first three ones. I’ll bring them to you the next time I see you.

Tsh: Sounds good. Seth, how about you?

Seth: I bought a present for my friend. It is a book of photography and I’ve already mentioned Henri-Cartier Bresson and I actually gave it to him this weekend. He is my favorite photographer. I spent a good long while flipping through the pages of this over the last week before I gave it to him. I sort of pre-used it, is that okay? I don’t know what the etiquette for that is. His idea was the capture the decisive moment. Have we talked about this, Tsh?

Tsh: What?

Seth: I’m glad that you asked that question because that means no. He liked to capture the decisive moment with his camera. Every photograph in this book is that middle moment, the climax of the moment between the tension and the resolution. Every one of these photos conjure imagination of what was happening in the moment. You can tell a story just by looking at the photo. I love it. I love his work. I’ve always loved his work. I discovered it when I was eighteen and I have not shaken it all these years later. I’ve seen all these photographs before and some of them still make me cry. They’re so well done and beautiful. That’s what I’m reading or watching, looking at, I’m not sure how you couch that. But that’s what I’m doing to make my life a little bit better and more beautiful.

Tsh: I love it.

Seth: Tsh, what about you?

Tsh: It’s funny, all three of us have books. For me, I very rarely re-read books simply because I have too many books I still haven’t read that I want to read. I started rereading one that I haven’t read in about a decade. It is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Have either of ya’ll read it?

Haley: Yes, I love that one.

Tsh: Seth, you would like it. Amber would love it so I don’t know if Amber’s read it. This is a memoir of hers when her family decided for one year they would only buy food raised in their own neighborhood or grow it themselves or just learn to live without it. I thought of it somewhat tying in with the topic that we have all talked about today but this is just a really great story of a novice gardener learning how to live off the land. It is fascinating. She’s not precious about it. She’s really honest. It’s funny. She really goes through a hero’s journal almost of learning what it means to know where your food came from and then to eat it and then if it can’t come from right there just say, oh well for a year. I love it. I remember reading it back at a time that I really, really needed to read when we were living overseas. I thought I’d pick it up and dust it off. There you go.

Haley: I love that one. That’s so good.

Tsh: It’s fantastic. It is time to wrap it up. Thank you so much, Haley, for joining us. You listening, thank you for tuning in. We’d love to hear from you, so leave us a short voicemail at 401-684-GOOD sharing one thing that’s pointing you to more beauty, goodness, or truth these days — you can also find a link for this, as well as episode show notes and transcripts, at Also — you can always support our individual work via our newsletters, but if you’d like to support this show, you can do so at — this is where you can pick up the next round of drinks for just a few bucks, which helps keep the lights on around here (the link is also in the show notes). You can find all my things at Haley, where can people find you?

Haley: You can find me, I’m @haleycarrots on Instagram and Twitter. You can also find me on the Fountains of Carrots Podcast.

Tsh: Seth, how about you?

Seth: You can find me at Seth blueberries, no, that’s not true. You can’t. Anywhere you use an @ sign, I am @sethhaines. You can find me on Substack, Seth Haines, and

Tsh: 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 Haines and I will be back here with you soon. Thank you again for listening.

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