September 27, 2020

There is this idea of “Daily Devotions,” which typically refers to a Christian practice, but I want to extend into other areas of life. In my last post, I talked about a script I wrote that sent me a daily update email with news from 100 years ago via the Library of Congress newspaper archives. I wanted to add more to the email, and this week I read Austin Kleon’s blog post on the same theme and it inspired me. I really enjoy seeing something that was meant for today, in a different time, so I extended my daily email with a few more things. Now it includes the daily wikiquote, the wikipedia page for today, and a Calvin and Hobbes comic. Each of these give content meant for a date, but they all are from a different place, and are different kinds of devotions.

The wikiquote is chosen by a user of the website, and while interesting, quotations do not really have a place on a date. A good quotation is timeless, and so doesn’t belong tied down. It is a devotion to some philosophical notion, but usually a shallow one.

The wikipedia page for today contains a large historical perspective on a date. Everything “important” that has ever happened on a given day is recorded there: events, births, deaths. This gives some factual knowledge to the reader, but again I think it is a bit shallow. It is not insightful to know precisely what day an event happened on usually.

Comic strips are more interesting to me, since they are mundane. It is an artistic expression, and over time they piece together to form a more meaningful thought. They have stories and plots, and they serve as seasonal reminders. Calvin and Hobbes in specific is very nostalgic to me, and even more so are the winter time series, showing a joyful Calvin enjoying a dreary time of the year. Bill Watterson created something that is entertaining to kids, but with a lot of meaning for adults as well. While comic strips may be pulp, I can understand one in a devotional sense.

Daily news from 1920 is also mundane, but I would not classify it as artful as comics. Reading contemporary accounts of history helps me stay grounded. In my email, I specifically get “The Belding Banner,” which is the closest newspaper to my hometown the Library of Congress had. All the news that affected the people who lived in the same place as me has come and passed with little of it being remembered. It is important to still be able to look through it. It reminds me that so much of what I might be worried about will pass too.