2015 in Review

Although the dying days of 2015 are gone and 2016 is already a week underway, the New Year is still sufficiently new that I’d like to take a look back at the journey of jensul.ca so far and at what is next to come. I officially launched this website at the end of September and since then it has been up and running with approximately three to four weekly posts for 15 weeks.

I am so grateful to all of the people who have read any of the posts at jensul.ca and those who have subscribed to my weekly newsletter (if you haven’t done so and would like to, just enter your email address in the box at the top right of the site). All of the feedback I have received is so meaningful and encourages me to keep writing and sharing my thoughts in this forum.

Yet there have been challenges along the way throughout these 15 weeks, many of them to do with the time constraints of being a student while writing new material and managing this website, as well as working on my latest novel. There is also a difficulty embedded into the very medium, in that everything I share on jensul.ca is released into the vast teeming sea that is the Internet. If you have read some of my posts, you may have figured out that I have some reservations when it comes to the Internet and to the prominence of any sort of digital media (see especially The Lost Art of Letter-Writing). In many respects, these forms seem inescapable. I, for one, am certainly not advocating that we attempt to forge a path back to a time before these forms existed; such a retracing of steps would be impossible. And, of course, I do not think that these forms are without merit. The existence of the Internet is what enables me to share my writing with readers in an open and accessible way. But there is sometimes a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety that comes with releasing one’s writing (the contents of one’s heart and soul) into the Internet, which at times is reminiscent (at least to me) of a great anonymous abyss. Despite the benefits of these digital forms and their many, increasingly prevalent and perhaps necessary uses, I still believe that reading on a page is a more rewarding experience than reading on a screen.

I hope this comparison of pages and screens will not dissuade you from continuing to read my website, which is almost certainly coming to you from a white glowing screen (then again, if I have really convinced you of the power of the page, you could always print out one of my posts and enjoy the hard copy in peace). I raise this discussion not to discount digital media or to drain such experiences of all goodness or value, but to bring awareness (as well as my own unresolved concerns) into a realm with which we are becoming more and more familiar and might even have begun to take for granted. I don’t think we should necessarily stop reading things online; I often read articles on the Internet, such as the excellent pieces posted by First Things magazine. However, I think it is important that online reading does not replace the reading of a physical book.

Since September, I have written pieces for several different ongoing series. One of these was The Runner. The six posts in this series range from running as a contemplative pursuit and experience of “being,” to the body and the runner’s goals of physical self-improvement. I really enjoyed writing this series and reflecting on the ideas that arose to me while actually running or in the aftermath of a run. As I discussed, I am a relatively new runner, but I feel that there is so much insight and beauty to be mined from the activity of running, which combines the body, mind and soul in an inexplicable and amazing way.

The Lost Arts was another ongoing series on jensul.ca, in which I really wanted to look more closely at ordinary, day-to-day things, so that they could be seen and appreciated in a new way, from walking to eating to listening to music. I also wrote four Advent reflections to prepare for the coming of Christmas and many more reflections on themes of importance to me such as Beauty, Creativity and Dealing with Fear.

What is coming up in 2016 on jensul.ca? After a brief hiatus over the Christmas holidays, jensul.ca will be back up and running with about three to four posts per week. Movie reviews will continue on, including movies such as “The Imitation Game,” “Birdman” and “Casablanca.” Book reviews will also be released monthly. As always, if you have any suggestions for movies or books you would like me to review, I would love to hear them! You can contact me at [email protected]m or on Twitter @jensul16.

The New Year will see a shift from the series of 2015 (The Runner and The Lost Arts) to two new series. I will give more of an introduction to these series in the very near future, but the first series, “Made to Create,” will look at the ways in which we, as naturally creative beings, can exercise our creativity in small, ordinary and yet fulfilling ways. The other series will consist of very short stories that focus on a single character, giving a glimpse into the mind or soul or struggles of some ordinary or unseen individual. The intent behind this series is to reflect on how we see those around us and what we feel when we stand face to face with another human being and recognize the uniqueness and beauty of each person’s challenges and triumphs. While thinking of ideas for this series and how to go about it, I’ve been inspired by the poem “The Divine Image” by William Blake, and specifically the following lines:

“For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.”

Here, I’d like to finish off with another of my thoughts on the subject of personhood, compassion and dignity:

A person is always innocent until proven guilty. Yet what if a person’s guilt is confirmed? What then? There is far more that needs to be said concerning the nature and the rights of the human person.

A person’s life always has value, regardless of what they have done with it. A person is always deserving of love and of mercy. A person always has the potential for good and always possesses the seeds of beauty within them. A person always has the opportunity for growth and the hope of redemption, not from within but Without. A person always deserves to be treated with compassion. A person is always the unique bearer of some facet of the face of God.

I’m thankful to everyone who has spent time on jensul.ca during 2015, and I hope you will join me on this journey in 2016!