DIY Monday: Notes of praise

DIY Week

This week I’ll be writing about a number of DIY exercises. Today my subject is the note of praise.

A Brief Caveat

In the past, I’ve been skeptical of DIY culture. I still am–not because DIY can’t put you on the path to self-understanding but because it’s insufficient for effecting genuine self-transformation. Understood properly, however, DIY can be useful; it is one exercise (or a small set of exercises) among others in an ongoing practice of living well.

Note of Praise Assignment

Send a short laudatory note to someone you don’t know. I’ve been sending these notes out frequently over the past 6 months. I love it.

The note should praise the work for its own sake or a life that is estimable. A short statement of how the work has affected you should also be included. Keep the latter short.

Usable Template

Header: Praise for X

Body of the Email:

  • Introductory sentence: Just a short note to say that I very much enjoyed reading Article or Book Q.
  • 2nd or so sentence: Brief summary of argument or work (etc.)
  • 3rd or so sentence: The work’s impact on you or yours or all of us.
  • Final paragraph: A short, direct (but not sentimental) thank you.


Header: Praise for “Varieties of Irreligious Experience”

Dear New Humanist Editor,

Just a short note to say that I very much enjoyed reading Jonathan Ree’s even-keeled essay on religion, “Varieties of Irreligious Experiences” (New Humanist, Sept/Oct 2011). In the piece, Ree ably explores the attractions of religion–the ethos, the mood, the practice of it all–as well as the problems associated with religious thinking–the problems of scale, soul, and morality. The principal aim of Ree’s essay, it seemed to me, was pedagogical. From first to last, Ree sought to soften the hubris of secular humanists, to quiet the insistence of dogged theists, and to maintain a certain openness to the questions that religions have persistently raised and that are not so easily put to rest. In this, he shows us something important about how to live.

Thanks again for publishing pieces such as this.

Andrew Taggart

Few Words of Caution

  1. Don’t think to expect a reply; instead, as you write, free your mind of all expectations, hopes, and resentments. These emotions have no place here. These notes are just seeds, meant only to be spread.
  2. Don’t take this as a backdoor form of introduction. This is not hustling by other means.
  3. Avoid the ill of talkativeness, particularly with regard to yourself. Be brief, honest, and accurate.

Further Reading

Andrew Taggart, “An Encomium for Richard Holloway,” Butterflies and Wheels