Saturday, August 02, 2014

Orthodox Localism

The following advice is transcripted from Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick's The Transfiguration of Place: An Orthodox Christian Vision of Localism (Part 1  & Part 2).

In this two-part talk, Fr. Andrew describes how consumer-oriented society is at odds with traditional Christian faith. Orthodox localism, then, is a kind of corrective, an ascetic practice which though prayer and stewardship can sanctify a place. (See Fr. Andrew's series "The Transfiguration of Place," as well as his discussion of "thin places").

In the second part I this talk, Fr. Andrew provides some concrete suggestions for Orthodox Localism:

1. Buy local, especially food
2. Attend the (canonical Orthodox) church closest to you
3. Don't worry about having to "maintain" friendships 
4. Walk around your neighborhood and town
5. Take pictures of your town
6. Try to do all of your shopping and banking within two miles of your house
7. Move out of the suburbs or make your suburban area more of an urban center
8. Try to make new buildings reminiscent of the historical architecture in the area
9. Put a front porch on your house
10. Learn how to garden
11. Think up a name for your house
12. Give up the idea that privacy is an inherent good
13. Learn the history of your town
14. Get involved in local politics
15. Figure out ways to involve your parish in the immediate neighborhood and town
16. Give to local charities and help local people in need
17. Have your parish start a non-profit small business

If you are interested in discussing ideas like localism (not necessarily Orthodox) and the related economic concept of Distributism, check out the "Party of the Shires" group on Facebook. 

Curators of the Particular

This was originally posted to the "The Best Thing This Year" (TBTTY) list, but I wanted to share it more broadly, too. There's a nice write-up on the TBTTY project at Mother Jones ( and you can sign up for the list at

Since being introduced to TBTTY by Dan Shapiro (through the Robot Turtles Kickstarter), I've wondered what I might use this virtual soapbox to talk about. 

I thought about using it to promote the work done by my friend Brad Blauser, who provides pediatric wheelchairs for children in poor an war-torn regions. Brad was a finalist for the 2009 CNN Heroes program, and has provided wheelchairs for children in Iraq, Haiti*, and South America (

I've also thought about using TBTTY to promote Mercy Project (, a program started by my friend Chris Field to help rescue children from slavery in Ghana and help address the underlying economic problems that contribute to a culture of child slavery. Chris is a runner and started a marathon in my hometown to benefit Mercy Project. This proved pivotal I. My life because--while I am not naturally a runner--running for a cause has helped me learn discipline and improve my health. Chris is currently in the running (pun intended) to be featured on the cover of Runner's World and share the work of Mercy Project with the 3 million readers of the magazine (if you'd like to help, vote at

Instead of focusing on either friend (see what I did there?), I decided to talk about something they've both helped me to realize: true success and making a difference in the world depends on figuring out my unique set of interests and abilities, and focusing my time, energy, and resources in that space. 

This advice comports with what I've heard from successful entrepreneurs so all stripes. Find what you love and pursue it. 

The way I think about it is that we're each curators of the particular. We all have an overlapping set of interests and abilities that lend themselves
To a niche product. The trick is to become an expert in that niche and learn how to talk about it intelligibly to the rest of the world. And, it helps to remember that you don't have to catch everyone's interest. Roughly paraphrasing Derek Sivers, even if you only capture 1% of the population, that's still a huge number of people (

My own intersecting set of interests and abilities seems to deal with art, food, and education at human-scale. That is, supporting local artists, farmers and restauranteurs, and figuring out how best to engage learners' curiosity to ignite a life-long love of learning. 

I'm not in the same league as the friends I mentioned, but I'm still working on curating my cause. If be interested I hearing about your cause. Hit me up on Twitter @jkotinek. 

* My original post to TBTTY incorrectly listed Cuba instead of Haiti.