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Issue No. 4 — Pascha Protocol

Luxury beliefs, Pablo Neruda's influence, the danger of phone usage among teens, Ghost is building ActivityPub integration, the culture of distraction and the origin of 90s band names.

Robert Rackley
Robert Rackley
6 min read

Welcome to another issue of Treasure Hoard. Around this time of year, I'm reminded especially often of my outsider status as an Orthodox Christian in the Eastern tradition. While colleagues in the UK and India get off for Good Friday as it appears on the Western calendar, I'm left saving my "floating holiday." When I try to type "Pascha" into a text chat, autocorrect thinks I meant "pasta," instead. Chocolate bunnies peer at me from grocery store shelves, hollow on the inside, but bursting with springtime cheeriness on the outside. At the same time, I'm fasting for Lent.

However, there is hope! The Eastern and Western churches are working on a way to align their calendars so that Easter is celebrated at the same time. Michael Warren Davis has an explanation for why the two churches date their Easter and Pascha celebrations differently. More than just the Julian vs. the Gregorian calendar, the split reveals much about the different attitudes of each ancient strand of the Christian faith.

So, here we have a major difference between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, perhaps the fundamental difference between our two churches, from which every other disagreement flows. The Orthodox Church believes that our duty as Christians is to preserve the faith (orthodoxy) and practices (orthopraxy) which Christ handed down to His Apostles, without addition or subtraction. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, believes it is possible for our faith and practices to evolve over time through the exercise of the human intellect, and is then ratified by the Church—both parties, of course, acting under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is essentially related to what John Henry Newman called the development of doctrine, though it applies to every aspect of Church life, not just dogma.

I would love to see steps made in the unification of the Christian Church.

I haven't been writing as much, but I continue to pay attention to media, especially in the areas of politics, religion, tech, music and popular culture.

Until next time…

Take care and blessed Pascha to those who celebrate,


Luxury Beliefs

Brad Vaughn explains the newly formulated notion of "luxury beliefs" for Patheos.

Furthermore, the phenomenon of luxury beliefs raises questions about authenticity and treating morality like a commodity. In a world where status is derived from the public endorsement of certain ideas, there is a temptation to adopt beliefs not because of conviction but as a means to an end; namely, gaining social recognition and prestige. Commodifying belief systems undermines honest discourse as ideas are championed for their status-enhancing properties rather than their intrinsic merit or truth.

Luxury beliefs are responsible for phenomena like people with more education and higher income lecturing you about your privilege on social media. They allow cushioned elitist suburbanites to condescendingly admonish others to "do the work."

Pablo Neruda

Nicholas Casey writes for the New York Times about the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's compositions.

Not all of his poetry is so somber. I’m thinking now of the line “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.” On the page, Neruda is always mixing intense landscape imagery and the emotions they evoke in him, using nature as a transcendent metaphor for the erotic. But I wanted to read these lines out loud — and did so, ill-advisedly, to a girl I liked in Spanish class. Maybe I was drawn to Neruda because then his simple, straightforward verses were the only poetry I could understand in Spanish. With “Selected Poems,” I was learning the language, but I was hoping Neruda could teach me to talk to women, too.

My son reveres a book we have of Pablo Neruda love poems. It's a book I bought for my wife years ago, but that she wanted to give away at one point and had to be stopped by yours truly. I've picked mixtape names and blog titles, among other things, out of those enchanted verses.

Teen Phone Usage Concerns

I understand the folks who consider the concerns about phone usage among teens and mental well-being to be overblown, but I've been impressed with Jon Haidt's research on the subject. The social psychologist has mountains of data on the subject. More admirable than that, though, is how he takes the time to respond to his critics and address their concerns.

For centuries, adults have worried about whatever “kids these days” are doing. From novels in the 18th century to the bicycle in the 19th and through comic books, rock and roll, marijuana, and violent video games in the 20th century, there are always those who ring alarms, and there are always those who are skeptics of those alarms. So far, the skeptics have been right more often than not, and when they are right, they earn the right to call the alarm ringers “alarmists” who have fomented a groundless moral panic, usually through sensational but rare (or non-existent) horror stories trumpeted by irresponsible media.

In the piece, Haidt responds to the skepticism around his research in general and specifically looks at the objections raised by fellow psychologist Candice Odgers.

Ghost Doing ActivityPub

I don't get excited about new technology in the same way that I used to. Even with the breathless coverage of large language models and some of the real benefits that come with them, I can't muster the enthusiasm that this kind of thing would have generated for me a decade or more ago.

One recent technology that continues to interest me, though, is ActivityPub. The idea of an open protocol used to share and communicate feels like another fulfillment of the promise that the web represents. I don't think I've been this excited about a protocol since the advent of RSS in the aughts. Back then, I bought just about every RSS reader that came out for the Mac (and there were a lot of them). I've tried most of the modern ones, as well, though I've ultimately stuck with Reeder by Silvio Rizzo for probably a decade or so.

After many requests, the publishing platform Ghost (which is used by this newsletter)has announced they are working on support for ActivityPub.

Building ActivityPub
Ghost is federating over ActivityPub to become part of the world’s largest publishing network.

Ultimately, this amounts to another way to distribute your writing, but also potentially a way to allow comments in a more open way than is currently permitted by Ghost. Ghost is hardly first to the party. Manton Reece has been supporting ActivityPub almost since its inception on his blogging platform, Even WordPress added support for it through a plugin recently. It's an exciting time for connectivity, and though I don't even think the Ghost team totally knows what their adaptation will look like, I'm hopeful that it will have a positive impact on blogging.

The State of Culture 2024

Ted Gioia has a word about the culture of distraction and addiction which the internet has spawned and nurtured in his state of the culture 2024 post.

Even the dumbest entertainment looks like Shakespeare compared to dopamine culture. You don’t need Hamlet, a photo of a hamburger will suffice. Or a video of somebody twerking, or a pet looking goofy.

This one was shared by just about everyone I follow on the internet, but it was so good I had to give it another boost.

The Origins of 90s Band Names

This piece by Kenneth Partridge details the surprising origins of the names of famous bands from the 90s. Of course, chart-toppers Nirvana are included.

After cycling through a bunch of scuzzy names like Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew, and Ted Ed Fred, Kurt Cobain and his crew settled on the kinder, gentler Nirvana, the Buddhist term for a state of peace and well-being devoid of suffering and desire. “I wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk name like the Angry Samoans,” Cobain once said.

Imagine how much less popular Nirvana would have been if they had been Pen Cap Chew.

I appreciated the fatherly affection conveyed in the selection of a name for Weezer.

Just for larfs, here's an incredibly well-conceived and executed imagining of what it would have sounded like if The Smashing Pumpkins had done "When I Come Around" by Green Day.


Robert Rackley

Orthodox Christian, aspiring minimalist, inveterate notetaker, software dev manager and paper airplane mechanic.

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