"I don't have a ministry. I have a life" - Will D. Campbell

Good morning!

I am Hugh Hollowell, and this is Life is So Beautiful, a newsletter about finding the beautiful when it's hard to - and maybe especially when it's hard to.

I have been writing this newsletter for more than six years now, and it is my favorite project, hands down.  The benefits I have gained from it are numerous: The focus it brings to my world, the routine where I am forced to notice the beauty around me, the discipline of writing something for distribution each week, regardless of mood, perhaps most valuable of all are the friendships I have made with readers all around the world.

And yet, it’s still niche writing.

For the last decade or so, all of my writing has been niche - the newsletter, or when I was writing about faith, or poverty and homelessness, or other projects I have taken on and then abandoned.

As I review my work, I have identified a persistent thread that pervades it all, whether I am writing about self-care or beauty or walking or ecology or poverty or spirituality. For more than 20 years now, I’ve been seeking the answer to one single question: How do I live a good life?

I think it’s literally the most important question we can ask ourselves.

So I’ve started a new project.

The best critique of the bad is the doing of the good. I heard a priest say that once, and it has both haunted and held me ever since.

The world is a scary place right now. But what if we could create a life we don’t want to escape from? And what if we could work together to make sure everyone has the resources they need to do that?

I think we can build that life now, or at least move closer to it. We can critique the world as it is by building the world as it should be.

That is what my new project, called Humidity and Hope, is about: Building that new world. But it isn’t proscriptive, but rather descriptive, because this is a subject that I have been chasing myself, and I invite you to come along with me. 

On one hand, this is just an old-school blog – personal, wide-ranging, no niche, no targeted audience. On the other, it’s a manifesto of hope, of the sort of life I want to build, the sort of world I want to be part of.

I told my Patrons about it last week. Now I’m telling you. It’s still a soft launch. Poke around, press buttons, sign up to get the posts by email, if that is your thing. It will be unfolding in the days and weeks to come. I’m slowly also bringing some things from the archive, and be updating others that make sense to this new project.

If you have liked my writing in the past, you will probably like this, as this is a more integrated vision of what I have been writing around my whole adult life. As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for supporting my work.

Five Beautiful Things

  • I was unfamiliar with the sculptor of Camille Claudel, but I love Rodin’s work, and so it is unsurprising after seeing her work to learn that he was her lover and mentor.
  • Jason Kottke tipped me off to the Black Film archive, a collection of Black films from 1915 to 1979 that are currently streaming. This is so good, and so important. As he said, this is what the internet is for.
  • I heard about David Byrne’s Instagram account from Kevin Kelly (who is endlessly fascinating). Byrne just notices things, and he posts pictures of them. Which is I guess the most boring description ever of an amazing Instagram feed. Lovely colors, juxtapositions, and shapes, found in everyday life. There is so much beauty all around us, if we but look for it.
  • There is a new Vermeer! Well, sorta. Apparently, one of the canonical 35 – Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window – had been altered decades after it was created to hide a wall hanging of Cupid. A recent restoration returned it to the original composition. I love Vermeer so much – this makes me inordinately happy.
  • A podcast of Australian wilderness sounds. Frog sound, heavy rain, a bubbling brook. Great for ambient background, and incredibly soothing.

Reading for extra credit

I came across both of these this week about living in these “unprecedented times”– highly recommended.

Well, that is it for this week. I hope you have a great week, and that your life is filled with beautiful things. If you see something beautiful this week, I hope you will let me know about it, and if one of my five I shared today struck you in a special way, I hope you will let me know about that, too.

If you want to support this project, you can sign up to be a Patron or buy me a book or throw me some cash or, especially, forward this email to your friends. And if someone did forward this to you, you can get your own subscription here.

Take care of yourself. And each other. 

Hugh Hollowell Jr

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