In the last episode, we talked about the benefits of slowing down our lives physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Ultimately, a huge benefit is to not burn out — so we can go farther. What does that look like physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? Seth and Tsh unpack the truth, goodness, and beauty of looking at life with a long-view lens.
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Tsh’s Rule of Life workshop
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Infinite Country, by Patricia Engel
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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 are you drinking today?
Tsh: Have we talked about your stance on decaf yet? Do you have a stance?
Seth: I do have a stance on decaf and it is not good.
Tsh: Right. Me, too. And I’m 43 and that has been my stance pretty much since I started drinking coffee which was maybe twenty-three years ago but here I am drinking decaf. It’s not because I love it but it’s because I, as you know, I’ve been on a quest for getting better sleep and rest. I am experimenting with my caffeine cutoff time. This week I’m experimenting with noon and yet I was really craving coffee and I have coffee in the freezer for when people come over and drink decaf. I brewed a bunch of beans and did a pour-over and it’s not bad but it’s not great. My answer is, average decaf coffee is what I’m drinking right now.
Seth: Well, that’s good. This week we found out that we accidentally bought a batch of coffee from a local roaster that was decaf. The local roaster is Airship. I think I’ve talked a little bit about Airship on this before.
Tsh: Yeah, you have.
Seth: My dear friend, Mark Bray, is the Airship guy and he does great things with coffee. One morning I got a bag of his coffee and I drank it and I thought, hmm, it’s not bad. It’s interesting but it doesn’t feel right. About 11:00 I had a massive headache and then I looked at the bag and realized that we had accidentally bought decaf. But, for decaf, it was actually pretty good.
Tsh: That’s a compliment. It really is. I get it.
Seth: It wasn’t terrible, anyway.
Tsh: We’ll see if I keep drinking this, I don’t know. It’s scratching the itch of just wanting coffee. We got a cool front this morning and I just wanted coffee. That’s why I’m drinking it. What are you drinking?
Seth: I’m drinking the devil’s brew, the elixir of death, poison in a bottle, all of the negative things. No, for those of you that are thinking, I have not fallen off the wagon. I’m not drinking whiskey at the time of recording which is almost 2:00. I am drinking Diet Coke.
Tsh: Oh, man. Why?
Seth: That came out of left field for you, didn’t it? I’m not a huge soda pop drinker but I’ve had so much water today and I’ve really gone after it with water and when I got my lunch, which we talked about beforehand sitting over here to the right, on the first episode of Eats With a Friend, when I got my lunch I thought, I just don’t want water. So, I got a Diet Coke and it’s everything that I remember about Diet Coke which is terrible and addictive. That’s really all I can tell you about this drink that I’m drinking is that it’s both terrible and addictive but it’s doing something for me at 2:00 in the afternoon.
Tsh: I don’t know this bodes well for this conversation we’re going to have. We’re both drinking beverages we don’t like.
Seth: Yeah, and I just took another drink and I’ll describe it. The mouthfeel of it is airy, velvety, but also it’s like having a thousand crabs pinching your tongue, miniature crabs, pinching your tongue at the same time. I would say that I get strong hints, even notes of chemicals probably from Monsanto, is what it tastes like.
Tsh: Most likely.
Seth: Then there is this gut-punch of sweet that is not sugar. That’s how this stuff tastes.
Tsh: It’s the fairness that I think kills.
Seth: It literally tastes like plastic. I’m fairly sure that after this episode, Coke will never reach out to us to endorse their products.
Tsh: Do you know the comedian James Acaster? We might have already talked about him.
Seth: I do not.
Tsh: He’s a British comedian. He’s fantastic. He’s very weird, he’s not for everyone. He talks about how Dr. Pepper tastes like a sexy battery.
Tsh: I’m trying to think of what’s the equivalent for Diet Coke but it’s in that range. I wouldn’t call it sexy, I would maybe call it a middle-aged or having a mid-life crisis battery. I can’t drink sodas either. I cannot. It’s been over a decade since I drank them regularly and I taste them it’s just instant liquid candy but carbonated the way my ten-year-old would. It’s just off to me.
Seth: At Easter, I did have a half of a Coca-Cola because I had to use it for cooking because obviously, we’re from the South and you pour that junk over meat and then you braise it forever. You do that instead of wine because then you feel less bad or something if you were raised evangelical, I don’t know. Anyway, I had a half of a Coke and it was delightful and when I was finished, I thought, I definitely couldn’t drink another half. I have reached my threshold.
Tsh: Yeah. It’s funny, I think it’s a combination of when you’ve been off for so long the taste is overload saccharin and just age. I just can’t do that anymore. It hurts. Instant pain. You know, I teach high schoolers and we’re doing movie class because it’s the last week of school, watching Silence, and they just bring out these giant tubs of goldfish. How can your body sustain itself? Oh, that’s right, you’re 18, that’s how.
Seth: My son was talking yesterday about Swiss Rolls. Do you remember Swiss Rolls?
Tsh: Uh, huh. They’re terrible.
Seth: Again, first episode of Eats With a Friend, evidently. We were talking about Swiss Rolls and I thought, oh man, that sounds amazing but then the more I thought about it the more I thought, nope. There’s a reason I haven’t one since I was 21.
Tsh: That’s right. Sugar in general I can’t do anymore, it hurts too much. It’s not worth it. We sound old.
Seth: We do sound old and that’s fine. If there’s anyone out there that’s listening and has any of these guilty pleasures that you love, please tweet to us and tell us that one thing that you know is for 10-year-olds but that you just can’t quit.
Tsh: We all have it. We all have our version of gas station, drive-thru snacks of some sort that we are ashamed of.
Seth: It’s true. I will regularly find my way through the Sonic drive-thru in the summer for a cherry lime-aid.
Tsh: That I can support.
Seth: I do. I’ve been doing it since I was 14, 15, and I’ll probably do it until the day I die.
Tsh: I get it. This chat we’re having is just a continuation of last week’s chat because this is just round two. We’re pouring another round and talking about the idea of slower but piggybacking on to that with a little bit more about farther. Tell me a little bit about what’s on your mind in particular about this because I know it’s connected to what you’ve been doing with trail running but also you’ve had some deep thoughts on the internet lately why don’t you unpack them in front of us?
Seth: We’ve talked about this before, we live in a really instant society. Everything is instant. Everything is fast. We used to lament this when we were growing up when we would talk about macaroni and cheese. If you grew up in the 80s, 70s, 90s, you were probably old enough to remember the old ladies at church who made macaroni and cheese from scratch and that it was amazing. Then you would go home and you’d put the Kraft macaroni and cheese with the flavor packet, the cheese packet, and mix it all up and it’s never quite the same but you just voraciously ate that stuff. We used to lament instant back in the day when we were talking about food. Instant mashed potatoes, instant macaroni and cheese, the microwave effect, all of these things. But that’s only really exacerbated as time has gone on. Now we have instant communication. Anyone can text you at any time, immediately. You’re supposed to drop everything you’re doing and respond to them. We have instant community. If I said right now on this podcast that you and I were opening up a Facebook group, which we are not…
Tsh: I was just going to say, disclaimer…
Seth: Not happening.
Seth: But if we were, it would immediately be populated by some people. Maybe 2, maybe 20, who knows? It’s a pop-up, instant community. I can go start a new Twitter account and follow the right people and they’ll follow me back. It’s instant friends. Now more than ever we have this instant hot take. You can jump on and have a hot take about anything. Today, as we’re recording this, Liz Cheney was removed from leadership in the Republican Party and man, are the hot takes crazy right now. They’re just all over the place on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. I actually don’t know if they’re on Facebook, I assume they are but I don’t check that anymore.
Tsh: I don’t either.
Seth: I do know they’re on Twitter. I do know they’re on Instagram. Immediately watching the instant communication of her removal and the instant responses to that. We live in an instant spring society and long-term, I think it makes us neurotic. I’ve really been thinking about what does it take to do something that is not instant that is slow but it’s slow for the purpose of building something that is lasting, doing something that out kicks the cupboards, it goes a long, long, long way. That builds endurance and fortitude and lasts. To me, it’s inspiring to think that we can endeavor to do things slow so that we can go farther. So that things will last. Last comment and I’ll let you riff. I have a friend, we’ve talked about him on this podcast before, his name is Nicholas. Nicholas has an enormous spreadsheet for his grass. It is unbelievable. If this sounds like the most boring thing in the world to you, you are right. It is. It’s terribly boring. But when he talks about he just lights up. If you really were to dig underneath his why it really has nothing to do with getting beautiful grass next summer, it is so that he can create a landscape that is healthy, that is vibrant, that outlasts him and does it for decades and decades and decades. That creates a healthy environment and ecosystem for the rest of his plants, for the rest of his landscaping. He literally wants grass that looks like the evening of Tuscany in his front yard. How did they do it in Tuscany? They had a long mindset. We’re going to create something, slowly, that is going to last for decades and decades and decades and centuries. I think that’s got my wheels turning a lot lately, hence, trail running. We can talk about that more later.
Tsh: I think the idea of farther and slower dovetail perfectly because I feel like you can’t have one without the other or you can’t have farther without the slower, without burning out, without being a maniac. We talked last week about this idea of the instant hot take and that not only do we feel pressured society to always have some kind of comment on the latest news be it Liz Cheney or whatever’s going to happen tomorrow. But we also wonder if silence=endorsement if somebody we feel like we can trust doesn’t say anything.
Tsh: I alluded to that one story of the one person who claimed that she unsubscribed from me because I didn’t comment on a news event that happened while I was in book written mode and I didn’t even know it happened. I think it’s a disservice both to those who feel compelled to have to say something and to expect that on the receiving end to ask of our people that really if we think about, we want them to do slow work because we want them to go farther. We want them to last a long time. We should not expect to hear from them about every single thing or even just the things that we think are important, we shouldn’t read into that. I don’t know what Stephen Colbert’s take is free-range eggs. But I don’t need to know. If I felt like it was a requirement for me that he commented on that for me to keep appreciating the other things he talks about, then that’s not a good place for me to be in as a consumer.
Seth: That’s where we are.
Seth: Where we are is everyone wants to know everything about what you think and they want to know it now. This bleeds into the rest of life. Everyone wants results and they want them now. Here’s a good example of that. I have been doing, you know this, we’ve talked about this, CrossFit now for almost a year. There are some things that I still just can’t get my head around. I just can’t do them. Part of that is that I’m 43, I’m not nearly as athletic as I used to be. The owner of the gym, Jess, she will say, that’s coming. Just keep doing these little things and you’ll get there. I’ll say, man, I feel like I’m never going to get there. She’ll say, dude, you’ve been doing this a year. She is one those women that uses the word dude which I really love. That was actual voicing. She’ll say, dude, you’ve been doing this a year. Give it five years. Just to think, I’m going to have to wait five years, be 48 before I can do xyz. She’s not saying you’re never going to get there because you’re too old or you can’t do this or whatever. She’s just saying this is a long, slow process of building the right technique, the right muscle, the right endurance so that you can do xy and z. I think this is one of the things that nature teaches us. Working out is physiology. It’s nature. There is a physiological truth that I can’t go into a gym and after six months do a ring muscle-up. It’s not going to happen. Again, not athletic enough, too old, but over time could I? Well, yeah. They tell me I can, I believe it. I’ve seen people my age do it. But the same is true in actual nature. Amber, today, unplugged a little bit and got out in the garden and she’s been planting flowers and planting stuff that’s going to come into season late in the summer. Arranging flowers and picking flowers and playing in the dirt, essentially. As all good southern girls do. But she’s been playing in the dirt for the purpose of creating something that is actually not going to come to fruition until later in the year. Nature tells us that this is the way and yet we are trying to beat that system and say, yeah, this is what nature tells us the right way, the long way, the slow way, and yet, we’re going to do it the instant way. Screw you, nature.
Tsh: Right. To piggyback onto that gardening analogy, every seven years you’re supposed to lay a plot of ground fallow for a farmer. You not only do crop rotation where one year you plant corn and the next year you plant something else, wheat, just so you don’t deplete soil all of one nutrient. But you’re also supposed to take time off or let the soil take time off. You think, gosh, you’re not going to yield however much that particular acreage would yield that year, you’re cutting yourself short. But the idea is longevity. It’s to not burn out your field altogether to where it won’t grow at all. It’s so that it can go another seven years after the year off. I think there are great analogies to that as well when it comes to Sabbaths and sabbaticals and that could probably be its own episode because I have a lot to say about that. Some of my longer-term listeners and readers know that I took a sabbatical for the first time in 2019 where I took a month off of work. I had been working for twelve years and hardly took time off and it showed in every way. I would take a couple of weeks off here and there but I did not take a good, long break and that scared me because I was not loving my work. I was very cynical about it and had a lot of thoughts about it and yet, I also loved it enough to where I wanted to keep doing it. When I think of my work, I mean writing. If I want to be a writer lifelong, if I want to be in my seventies and still working on a book, I can’t keep doing what I’ve been doing. What’s that phrase? What got you here won’t get you there. Working incessantly for twelve years is not going to get me there. I decided in summer 2018 to take a sabbatical the next summer. It took me a whole year to plan. I had to plan for basically making twelve months’ worth of income in eleven months. I had to work on having my assistant do things to protect me. I had to delete apps off my phone. I had to let my battery drain in my laptop, whatever it is. It was phenomenal. I had the best month ever and I came back to work so excited about what I did. I needed that. To me, there’s a lot with that as well.
Seth: I think that should be the goal. The goal should be to slow down from time to time. To go slower so that your life has real longevity. I’ve actually been fascinated by this thought. I’ve actually fallen down, and again, we’ve mentioned these in past shows, you can go back and look at the show notes and see the video recommendations I have about ultra-running. I’ve been very fascinated by watching these ultra-running videos. These are elite athletes and they’re running paces that seem like not elite paces. If you were to crunch some of these paces down, you’re looking at eighteen minutes a mile which sounds ridiculously slow. If you are saying it’s eighteen minutes a mile over two hundred miles, you begin to think, whoa, that’s something. That’s achievement. You’ve made your human body go two hundred miles on your feet and the only way you can do that is by slowing yourself down. By taking very intentional rest. Some of these people will lie down on the side of the trail and take a twenty-minute nap. They’ll get to aid stations and they’ll sit and they’ll eat a meal and they’ll have someone massage their feet. It’s the slow, intentional process of chipping away at the mileage so that you can go the complete distance. So that you can go farther. Some of these CrossFit workouts that we do, you do the strength portion of the day and then they start the clock and you do this workout of the day. The workout of the day may be eight minutes. Today it was twenty minutes. It may be eight minutes, but in that eight minutes, the idea is that you gash yourself to death. You go as hard as you can so that by the end of it, you’re lying on the floor crying for your mother. It’s a sprint. It’s not long and slow. One of the things that I’ve been trying to do to train myself to go long and slow is to say if I come up against one of these workouts where I have an eight-minute sprint, then I’m going to take about three to four minutes to catch my breath afterward and I’m just going to hop on a rower. I’m going to very slowly pull on that rower and push with my legs for 20-40 minutes. I’m going to do a 10K on the rower. Why do I do that? Do I do that because I want to be in incredible physical shape? Maybe that’s part of it, maybe the fear of death is knocking or something. I’m trying to train my body that the result that I want which is longevity, it’s fitness for life, it’s a long way of living. I’m trying to train my body to say this does not come and will not come through sprints. It comes through patient, dedicated, long, slow bouts of effort. That is what particularly I think inspires me as an American man growing up in a time when there seems to be a whole lot of loss and despair among my demographic because results don’t come as easily as they used to.
Tsh: It reminds me a little bit of that parenting phrase I’ve heard since I was a kid, the idea that the days are long but the years are short. Time goes by really quickly but in the thick of it, in the day-to-day, it’s a lot of ordinary nothing. It feels like you’re not getting anywhere and I wonder, when you say demographic, I presume you mean early middle-age somewhere in the late thirties to fifty, maybe? I wonder if there’s something to that where we’re halfway through life, we still have a long way to go and we feel like we should be somewhere and we’re not yet. We see these young people, I don’t know how you feel about this but it’s a weird feeling to have teenagers and to start not understanding slang or technology or humor and it makes you feel…it’s off-putting. I wonder if there’s something to that? I know what you’re talking about is much deeper but I wonder if there’s a lot of layers of feeling like I might be forgotten or my life might just be snuffed out with no meaning or purpose?
Seth: What’s fascinating about the demographic, yes, I do mean that late/early to middle-age season of life. What’s fascinating about the demographic when you look at things like addiction and deaths of despair, particularly, which are deaths by addiction, alcohol, drugs, suicide—when you look at that deaths of despair demographic, it’s actually creeping downward. I have some theories on this that are not scientific. I happened to spend some time last week with a group of eighteen to twenty-eight “influencers”. I was brought in for the sole purpose of being the old person to talk to the influencers about things to look out for as you influence away.
Tsh: Oh my gosh.
Seth: It was really fascinating. Some of these people in the room, one of them in particular, is highly influential behind an influencer. He’s not really on Instagram or Twitter. He had some really wise things to say. A lot of these people are nineteen, twenty years old, and have massive platforms. What we see even in these deaths of despair is that the demographic is actually creeping downward. It’s creeping down into the twenties. I think a lot of that is because now people expect, more than ever, that they are clever enough to be just as famous as Influencer X and I’m twenty-five years old and that hasn’t happened for me yet and my options are limited and it’s a Covid year and I can’t really go out and work the same way and I can’t get any traction on my “platform”…people just feel really purposeless and pointless and hopeless and it’s because, I think, they don’t have this idea of slower and farther. Build slowly. Build the right way. Go farther. If we could have the hope of going the distance instead of the hope of being instantly famous, I think that would change a lot of things.
Tsh: That’s so interesting. I was talking to my kids this week about the idea of internet and screen addiction and I was telling them, for me, it’s not so much that I’m concerned that you guys are necessarily looking at all sorts of evil things. There’s always that. I’m not naive. To me, what really I think about in the day-to-day is the shallows. It’s just really dumb stuff that keeps your brain on the surface and not going deep. My daughter, God bless her, said, I hear what you mean but I follow political stuff and I listen to that. I dug a little deeper and asked her where she got her info from and long story short, it’s just from people that are at most, ten years older than her. It’s “thought leaders”. I think she thinks that because it’s about social justice issues or things that are about dance moves and makeup then it’s deep. What she’s missing out on is the wisdom from elders and from those who have gone farther. I know I sound like, get off my lawn, old man yells at you, but there is something to be said about people that have earned the right to know more because they’ve been through more.
Seth: We have a couple at our church that I love and I don’t know exactly how old they are but they have to be in their late eighties. He definitely has to be in his late eighties. Every time he opens his mouth, which is pretty rare, whatever he says, it just rings your bell every time. We were in this little prayer group with them and he hadn’t really said anything for two or three weeks and finally, the leader said, would you feel free to share your prayer for the week? As he did, everyone starts crying because this guy has learned how to write patient, slow, simple prayers that really ring true. I think that is a really important facet of life is the longer and the farther we go, the more wisdom we have to speak to others along the way. To go back again to the trail running analogy, I’ve been really trying to hit the trails and try to learn how to go farther and farther and farther and it is not easy. It is incremental. Every day is reminding yourself that this is for the purpose of something that isn’t going to be here for another three months or six months or eight months. My ultimate goal won’t be here for years. There is a guy in the building where I work and he’s run a 100 miler and I’m constantly going to him and saying, look, what do I need to think about with this or what kind of shoes do I need to think about or what kind of vest do I need to use and how often do I hydrate and when do I need to put calories in and how should I approach these aid stations? I’m asking him all of these questions because he has proven that he can go the distance. He has proven that he can go farther because he goes slower. In fact, he ran what was called the Leadville 100. He told me it’s a 100 miler in Colorado. It’s above altitude, it’s a brutal race. He told me there was a point where he intentionally backed off on his pace because he was afraid he was going to gas himself. As a result of that, he reached one of the cut-off points and he was a minute behind and should have not been allowed to go on. The gatekeeper there at that cut-off point looked at him and said, no, you actually look really strong, keep going, and pushed him through. He took a risk, right? Because he knew that slowing down meant that he might miss the cut-off but he also saved his strength because he slowed down and he was able to go farther and as a result of that, he ended up finishing the race under the cut-off. Again, there’s all this wisdom to be learned from others who have gone the distance and from those who have gone slower and farther. I think often about the way that plays out in social media, there’s no guarantee that the algorithms won’t change tomorrow. Listening to a twenty-six-year-old influencer talk to me about whatever, it might not even be there tomorrow. We have to do as people is just begin to slow down, think, and listen to the people who have proven that they can go the distance and then become people who are able to go the distance.
Tsh: I’m wondering if you have thoughts for listeners who are maybe in career fields that are not ours. We’re writers and I think an easy takeaway for us is write the book. Right? Don’t spend so much time writing tweets and Instagram captions, actually make sure you also write long-form. What about perhaps stay-at-home parents or those who work office jobs or teachers or lawyers, naming our other two professions, or just other types of work. What’s a takeaway for all of us in having a posture of going farther and not quicker do you think?
Seth: I would hate to try to give advice and counsel for every profession because every profession moves at a different pace. While we’ve been sitting here I’ve gotten two text messages from clients. It’s just going to happen. The pace of things is so fast in some professions and it’s just not in others and that’s okay. Instead of looking at particular advice in a particular job field, I like to bring it back to embodiment, always. This is something that I’ve learned from Amber. This is not something that is in me, it should be because I believe so much in the sacramental reality and the major sacrament of creation is the human expression. Embodiment should be in me innately. Amber has really taught me this. One of the things that she says all the time is you got to get in your body. You got to get out of your head, you’ve got to get in your body. As a person who is in his head a lot, I can run that risk. I try as hard as I can to constantly put myself in my body. What does that mean? When I’m thinking about slower, farther, then I want to do things in my body that cultivate a mindset of slower, farther. Again, on a day when I’m doing a sprint workout, I’m going to spend twenty to thirty minutes going slower and farther afterward. I know it’s going to take some time, it’s going to eat some time out of my day but I’m going to make the time to do that because it’s important to cultivate the mindset of going the distance. To the listener, if you’re not cultivating practices of going the distance that doesn’t mean you have to go prepare for a 100 miler. That’s not what I’m saying. That doesn’t mean that you necessarily that you have to do any sort of particular workout. Although, you can begin to walk, like you talked about last week.
Tsh: I was just going to talk about walking, yeah.
Seth: Yeah, you can walk and say today I can only walk thirty minutes but my goal is to be able to walk for an hour and a half. You can also translate that bodily experience to other things. Again, Nicholas, my friend, spends a lot of time in his body working on his grass. Something to go a long way out in the future. Grass may not be your deal. Cool. Get it. Not my deal. Never going to do it. Amber spends a lot of time in her body tending to the garden so that something comes of it much further down the road. I think one of the things that we really need to work on is getting in our bodies and cultivating practices of going farther. Maybe for some of you that does mean, you know what, I’m going to run a 25K or 50K or 100K or a 100 miler. If that’s your bag, if you enjoy it, try it. Try training for it and see what happens as you cultivate that mindset of slower and farther.
Tsh: I really like that idea and I hadn’t connected the dots but I think Amber and you both are so right and that speaks into why I’ve gotten so into gardening during the pandemic and also walking because walking is not, honestly, it’s not productive. You don’t get to the store faster. You get there much slower but that’s not the point. I can think of other examples. Caroline, my assistant, who I thank at the end of every episode, she’s been doing a paint by number for weeks and weeks now. I have one as well. She’s inspired me to pick it back up. It sounds tacky. It’s not the kind that you used to get at craft stores that are bad paint and pictures. It’s beautiful and she’s painting it. I am sure she could do something much faster, create something on a photo editing app, add a few pixels and make it look paint like but it’s not the actual work of dipping a paintbrush in and painting. I love that she’s doing it for the act of creating a painting. There’s all sorts of examples. Kyle is a woodworker. He has never once created something because it’s faster than going to Target and getting it there. He never does woodworking for efficiency. We’re not renovating this house because it’s faster, at all, but he finds great satisfaction in knowing the ends and outs of every nook and cranny of this house. There is something to be said all of us, no matter what profession we’re in, to find some form of slowing down in our daily life for the purpose of it taking longer so that we can go farther. It’s a really smart idea.
Seth: That’s my charge. Figure out ways to cultivate the mindset of going slower so that you can go farther. If you’ve enjoyed this and have additional thoughts then you should let us know on Twitter or let Tsh know on her Instagram because that’s always a fun place to talk or at the little coffee shop that we run which we can talk about later. Let us know. How do you go slower and farther? I’d like to know because there have got to be other ways.
Tsh: I’m sure there are.
Seth: Tsh, tell me, what is one thing that you are reading, watching, or listening to that is making your life a little bit truer, more beautiful, more gooder? Can I just use the word gooder?
Tsh: No, you cannot. Speaking of doing something slowly, on Mother’s Day weekend, one of my gifts from Kyle was time to sew which is nearly something I always ask for because I love to sew but I almost never do it. He asked me what I wanted to listen to while I sewed. I love music. I’m always making playlists. I love music. For the past few months, I hadn’t been listening to a lot of music just because I’ve been listening to audiobooks and podcasts and I was getting burned out on people telling me what they think. I need to listen to some music! I remembered finding this artist name John Van Deusen. I found him while I was working on my Lent book earlier this year and bookmarked him and thought, I really want to listen to him more. I’ve been listening to John Van Deusen. He is, this sounds weird, sometimes he sounds like Sufjan Stevens, sometimes he sounds like Paul Simon, sometimes he sounds like the lead singer of Broken Bells who I cannot remember. He’s also with The Shins. He’s really eclectic but he’s really good. I especially like his trilogy of albums called Origami. I think Volume One came out in 2017 and Volume Three came out late last year. It’s all recent stuff. I don’t like every song but I like most of them. It was really nice to have him on in the background. I like his words, I like his sound. I ended up putting him in a playlist that I have, an ongoing playlist on Spotify that I’ve titled, “Actually Good Christian Songs” with the description: you know what I mean. Because you know what I mean. There’s not a lot out there that’s good just for its inherent beauty as music. His fits that bill. It’s really about good stuff and it sounds really good. It doesn’t sound Christian and I mean that in the best way possible.
Seth: I understand exactly what you mean. As someone who was raised on the other.
Tsh: The other stuff.
Seth: I definitely want to listen in because you said The Shins, and boy, do I love The Shins.
Tsh: I do, too. It’s really good stuff. Alright, Seth, what are you reading, watching, or listening to that’s adding more truth, beauty, or goodness to your life?
Seth: I picked up a copy of Infinite Country. It’s a novel by Patricia Engel. I just started it yesterday, I only read five pages because I was cooking dinner. I’m so excited about this novel and cannot wait to finish it. I want to read to you the first sentence if I may?
Tsh: Please do.
Seth: “It was her idea to tie up the nun.”
Seth: Such a good first sentence, doesn’t that make you want to keep reading?
Tsh: It does and it almost makes me mad because dang it, you came up with a good story, I bet. That’s fantastic because I’ve been reading up lately as I’ve been working on my fiction about good first lines. That’s solid.
Seth: That’s a killer first line. It’s a standalone sentence opening and then it moves into the second paragraph. It’s was so right and I don’t know if that’s the way that she originally wrote it or if there was a hell of an editor behind her that said you need to cut everything else out of this paragraph or move it into the second paragraph. Whoever made that decision is brilliant. I love that first line. It was so good. I opened it up last night and I just immediately cackled out loud and read it to Amber who cackled out loud and then I set down and read for twenty minutes. I don’t know how far I am in but it delivers, line after line. It’s such a good story so far, it pulls you through. When you finish reading a sentence you want to read the next sentence. Have you read that George Saunders book about the Russian short stories?
Tsh: No, but you’ve told me about it and it’s on my list. I actually am planning to read it this summer. I have so many books I’m going to read.
Seth: It’s so good. One of the things that he says is, I don’t remember if this is based on his work or someone else’s but I think an editor read some of his short stories or some of his work or something, and he was looking for some feedback. The editor wouldn’t really give him any feedback. He said, why did you like the story? Why are you publishing it? You’ve given me nothing. Well, when I got to the end of one sentence I just wanted to read the next one. That was the whole rationale for why the guy liked the story. It had nothing to do with arc or character or anything like that. This is one of those books where when you finish a sentence, you want to read the next sentence.
Tsh: That to me is a good review. I get that reasoning.
Seth: I’m excited to see where it goes and I’ll report back.
Tsh: I wonder if we should do because we’re coming up on the summer in the northern hemisphere and it’s a time when people start digging into more fiction and get to that list of books that they keep meaning to read, I wonder if we should do a rundown of here’s some good stories we’ve enjoyed lately?
Seth: Yes, let’s.
Tsh: That’d be good because, to me, this sounds like a really good summer book. Not in a shallow beach read way but in a good, get lost in a good story.
Seth: I won’t give any spoilers. If you want to know what the story is about you can go look at the jacket cover. There’s definitely some justice issues there. It’s an immigration story. It’s definitely literary fiction but it’s only 185 pages. It’s a shorter novel which you know how I’m a fan of that. I think Bears in the Yard is probably only 185 pages. I just like fiction that straddles that line between novella and novel.
Tsh: I do, too.
Seth: This seems to be there.
Tsh: Nice, I just added it to my cart. I’m going to read it.
Seth: So far it’s good.
Tsh: Cool. It’s time to wrap it up. You can find this episode, as well as all episodes, at adrinkwithafriend.com. It is where you can support the show for just a few bucks, it’s where you can find the show notes so if you want to look at this book, if you want to look at anything we mention or talk about, we will link to it there. Again, that’s adrinkwithafriend.com. You can find me and all my work, especially my newsletter and books, at tshoxenreider.com — Seth, where can people find you?
Seth: They can find me at sethhaines.com. Everything’s there. My Instagram handle, my Twitter handle, all of it is right there.
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 and I will be back here with you soon. Thanks for listening.