Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Methodist Blogger Profile: Mary Jacobs

Mary Jacobs of UM Reporter Blog

Why do you blog?
For health insurance. It’s part of my job. I blog every Wednesday. But it’s one of the best parts of my job. I’m a contrarian, so I love having a weekly chance to spout off.

What has been your best blogging experience?
No grand aha moment, but I do love getting comments. (In fact, this is one of the disappointments of my job at the Reporter: not enough angry comments from readers. Methodists, stop being so nice! I like getting comments – praise or criticism. Let’s mix up a little more here.) When I wrote for the Dallas Morning News, I was always amused when my stories were posted on ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative websites, and particularly gratified if the same story ended up on one of each.

What would be your main advice to a novice blogger?
Question conventional notions – the stuff that everybody “knows” is true. Take a risk now and then. Remember, you are just offering ideas, not making laws. You’re throwing out opinions for people to try on, like a jacket. If your idea is bad, nobody will die. Nobody will lose a limb.

If you could only read three blogs a day, what would they be?
My friend Sophia Dembling’s blog, www.sophiadembling.com. It’s funny and dry, like Sophie. And her dog cracks me up.

The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial page, with related blogs.

Dallas Morning News religion blog, for my daily dose of snark from Bruce Tomaso.

Who are your spiritual heroes?
A member of my church who has survived a string of terrible misfortunes and somehow maintained her faith and her kind and giving spirit. The Amish because they modeled forgiveness in the midst of truly horrible situation. And I like the Dalai Lama because he giggles. How cool is that?

What are you reading at the moment?
Just finished Earthy Mysticism by Tex Sample. (I have a review copy – it’s not out till April. It broke my heart into a million little pieces.)
Healing Breath by Ruben Habito.

What is your favorite hymn and why?
Wish I could be more original, but I love Amazing Grace. It has saved a wretch like me more than once in this lifetime. Not sure if it qualifies as a hymn, but I also love Carrie Underwood’s song, Jesus Take the Wheel. I’m skeptical about whether God really intervenes in our lives at our request but this song feel utterly “true” to me at some metaphorical level. It has helped through many bad days in the last six months, since I filed for divorce.

Can you name a major moral, political, or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind?
Reading Entertaining Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, about 20 years ago, changed my mind about almost everything.

My sense of what’s important is completely different than what I valued as a young person. I grew up thinking smart, ambitious women did important stuff like a job marketing consumer products or reading the news on a TV station. I fell into motherhood and discovered that it takes a lot more self-motivation and hard work than I ever imagined. Likely that job will have more lasting impact than any consumer product I could’ve ever marketed. I got cancer and realized that, while I’d been working in the media, breathlessly covering stuff like Michael Jackson’s Thriller tour, people in the field of oncology had been toiling quietly perfecting the treatment that would save my life, one incremental improvement at a time. That was humbling.

What philosophical thesis do you think is most important to combat?
1. “Whoever dies with the most toys wins”
1. The postmodern idea that says: “There is no truth. And THAT is the truth.”

I also have a secret wish: to cover up all those “S—t happens” bumper stickers with ones that say “Grace Happens”

If you could effect one major change in the governing of your country, what would it be?
I’m too apolitical to say much that’s intelligent on this. I just wish more average Americans understood what a fragile and rare thing our democracy is, what it takes to make it work, and how easily a society can fall into disrepair. I don’t mean to be too alarmist, but I think we are perilously ignorant.

If you could effect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?
Bring John Wesley back to life and have him rule General Conference with an iron hand again. It worked better when we had a dictator.

What would be your most important piece of advice about life?
Better to have a broken heart than a withered heart.

What, if anything, do you worry about?
What don’t I worry about? I’m a worrier.
My kids, my job, my finances, my future, my weight, my love life, my deadlines, my laundry, my tendency to worry too much….

If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything that you'd do differently?
Not if it would mean I wouldn’t end up with exactly the same two beautiful children that I now have. But if we can guarantee that, I’d take more risks. I would’ve spent more time talking to more people and less time talking to myself.

Where would you most like to live (other than where you do now)?
Boston. Except for the fact that I don’t believe in reincarnation, I’m certain I lived there in a previous life.

What do you like doing in your spare time?
Favorite thing in the world: good conversation with friends over a good bottle of wine.
Otherwise, watching movies and BBC costume dramas, reading, exercising and sleeping. Making food for 18-year-old son, a football player and the world’s most avid eater, and watching my 15-year-old daughter dance.

What is your most treasured possession?
Kahlil Gibran says I don’t possess my children. I’ll cheat and say photos of my kids. If I had to pick just one, it’d be the Christmas card photo of both of them in the bathtub wearing Santa hats when they were little. Two cute smiling faces and two red hats surrounded entirely by bubbles.

What talent would you most like to have?
Wish I could sing or play a musical instrument, or both.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner, who would they be?
Film director Peter Weir. Jesus. Michelangelo. Hopefully they’d all speak some common language, like Esperanto or something, so that we could have a really good conversation. I’d take notes. Better yet, I’d ask Peter to bring a camera.


Andrew C. Thompson said...

One aspect of Mary's work with the UM Reporter that I appreciate (in addition to her blogging, of course!) are the wonderful interviews that she conducts. They appear frequently and are done with writers, speakers, theologians, and others. They offer an in-depth insight into individuals' views and often appear in conjunction with newly published works. Good stuff.

Allan R. Bevere said...

I love Mary's response to the question, "If you could effect one major policy change in the United Methodist Church, what would it be?"

I second that motion!

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