Jack N. Fenner
For reasons unknown, you have wandered into Jack Fenner's home page.
While you're welcome here, there's little that I have to say. My
personal life is probably none of your business, and in any case isn't
exactly the stuff of legends. Regarding my business life, for 15 years
I was a computer geek working for several US defense contractors. In
January 2000 I chucked all that and enrolled in the Master of Arts
program at Eastern
New Mexico University, hoping to one day become an
archaeologist/computer geek (is there such a thing?). After
graduating with the MA, I tried to be a computer geek again, but
couldn't make it stick. So after about a year of being a regular
grownup, I went back to being a student, in the anthropology PhD program
at the University of Wyoming.
I then came to Australia as a postdoc in the
Department of Archaeology and Natural History
at The Australian National University, and a combination of Aussie
hospitality and lack of American archaeological opportunity has
convinced me to stay.
While you're here, I have a few recommendations which you might
want to consider.
In my opinion, the Man of the Twentieth Century was Dr. Albert
Schweitzer. Not because of his impact on the century; in fact, the
century was in large part a dismal sequence of collective violence and
individual moral collapse in direct opposition to Schweitzer's life and
ethics. Rather he is to be admired as a man who discovered, or
perhaps revealed, an immensely ethical approach to life, and then lived
it as well as a human is able. I have posted an Albert Schweitzer web
page with a collection of quotes and book reviews, as well as links
to related pages. I encourage you to visit it.
My other twentieth-century hero is Father Thomas Merton, a Trappist
monk who lived in Gethsemani, Kentucky. I have read only a few of
his many writings, but am struck by his ability to communicate the joys
and anguish of religious contemplation. This is a man who made
monks understandable to the twentieth century. But more
importantly, he draws upon the wisdom and insight of an established
religious tradition (Catholicism) and uses it to further his
contemplation and understanding of God, and then communicates this
understanding within the traditional framework. In an era when the
established religious institutions seem either impotent or dangerous,
Merton demonstrates the value of their long history of religious
thought and dialog. For those interested, I recommend starting with
either his autobiographical The Seven Storey Mountain or his
historical review of Trappists titled The
Waters of Siloe, followed by his masterpiece of religious
contemplation, New Seeds of Contemplation.
Finally, here in no particular order are some other books which are
not to be missed:
For the record, my favorite movies are probably Joe Vs. The Volcano,
Serenity, The Dish (a great Australian film) and
Wag the Dog. And I like Mamma Mia! a lot, although I wouldn't
admit to it in public.
- Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright
Wright reminds us that the Christian hope is not about going to heaven. Once you are dead, you're dead. But
God, as shown by Jesus, is able and promises to resurrect the dead in God's
new Kingdom on Earth. God
is going to renew and remake the Earth, and it is duty of Christians to work for the coming Kingdom
by spreading hope and justice as best we can on the current Earth.
(Schweitzer had a similar vision; see
Barsam's book about it for instance.)
- Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
A novel in which a Socratic gorilla explains Western culture to a
Western man. The book shows how things we take as givens are actually
choices made by our culture, and that other choices are possible.
- The Jellyfish Generation by Mary Wirth Fenner
A novel about the struggles and joys of an American Midwest couple
raising a family and trying to Amount to Something without being snared
by Fame or Fortune. Turns out the Jellyfish Generation--caught between
the Greatest and the Boomer Generations--has a backbone after all.
Okay, I might be a little biased since my Mom is the author, but I do
think it's a good book.
- A Match to the Heart by Gretel Ehrlich
A beautifully written account of a woman's experiences after being
struck by lightning. As with most of Ehrlich's works, it is
autobiographical, spiritual, intense, and fun.
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
A story of a closely observed creek. Dillard describes the beauty
of nature, but doesn't ignore the incredible cruelty and basic
randomness. Wonderfully written and inspiring.
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The masterpiece of American individualism. Anyone who feels life
is going too fast and who is living a life of "quiet desperation" must
read this book. You'll find out that you're right, it is going
too fast, but only because you let it.
- Video Night in Kathmandu by Pico Iyer
A collection of the author's experiences in the Far East. It is
rare to find a travel book that deals with the way people in the
visited area live and think today, without a lot of sentimentality
about the past. Particularly one so well written.
- The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
The cover says it is "the great classic novel of the Civil War's Battle
of Gettysburg." But this is a novel only in the broadest sense of
the term. This is more like living history.
- The Bible
I feel rather presumptuous recommending the Bible. I'm sure
you've already formed an opinion of it. But no list of great
books can be without it.
Send me mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
/ revised May 2012