Weekend Reading: the art of maintenance, funiculars, and what Advent is really about

Weekend Reading is a weekly collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. Hail the Maintainers (aeon.co)

First, it is crucial to understand that technology is not innovation. Innovation is only a small piece of what happens with technology. This preoccupation with novelty is unfortunate because it fails to account for technologies in widespread use, and it obscures how many of the things around us are quite old. In his book, Shock of the Old (2007), the historian David Edgerton examines technology-in-use. He finds that common objects, like the electric fan and many parts of the automobile, have been virtually unchanged for a century or more. When we take this broader perspective, we can tell different stories with drastically different geographical, chronological, and sociological emphases. The stalest innovation stories focus on well-to-do white guys sitting in garages in a small region of California, but human beings in the Global South live with technologies too. Which ones? Where do they come from? How are they produced, used, repaired? Yes, novel objects preoccupy the privileged, and can generate huge profits. But the most remarkable tales of cunning, effort, and care that people direct toward technologies exist far beyond the same old anecdotes about invention and innovation.

2. That Escalated Quickly: Putting the Fun in Funiculars (The Atlantic)

I had no idea that the up-the-mountain-trolley-thingy in Pittsburgh was called a funicular — I would have made a point to ride it if I had! Enjoy these pictures of funiculars around the world.

3. What Advent is really about (LikeMotherLikeDaughter.org)

I’ve noticed that Catholics and many other Christians have begun to remember the liturgical, as opposed to commercial, celebration of the seasons — much more than when I was searching for how to live my faith. That is awesome.

Yet the general tendency, greatly aggravated by our modern mindset and its hold over us, to emphasize how we feel threatens to derail what could be a good trend. Even if we don’t think of ourselves as particularly modern, we retain modernism’s imprint, thinking that our reaction to things, measured by our emotions, is the only sign we can trust.

Are we spending a lot of time and energy (and, actually, money*)  watching ourselves feel something about Advent? Are we busily monitoring how we are doing with our religious efforts? Are we taking note of whether we are taking note? Very importantly, are we experiencing defeat when we don’t have what we consider the right feelings — the ones that the (well intentioned) people want us to feel?