Auhtor Interview The Best of Jonathan’s Corner

24 Sep


Woohoo! Today I’m interviewing CJS Hayward, author of creative non-fiction / inspirational / religion and spirituality book “The Best of Jonathan’s Corner”. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my interview questions.

1.) First, tell us about yourself- where you live, your family and those sorts of details.

​I live in Wheaton, Illinois, about half an hour west of Chicago. My father, John, teaches computer science at Wheaton College; my mother, Linda, just retired from teaching English as a Second Language at Churchill Elementary School. ​I have three brothers, all younger than me; Matthew works with computers on the West Coast and is married to a recruiter, Kristen; Joe works with computers and two cranky ancient ATM’s (an ongoing source of stories), and is married to a former park ranger, Adrien, with one son, Jack; Kirk works at a local store and is involved, among other things, in Civil War re-enactment. As I write, I am waiting to go babysit Jack so Adrien can have both hands free in what I have called “staycation babysitting,” i.e. I offered to occupy Jack 90% of the time so Joe and/or Adrien can be mostly free. I am staying at my parent’s home while working on getting a regular job (which is a bit of a challenging proposition now).
​ I have studied mathematics before becoming involved in the more humanities side of things; as far as letters after my name goes, I have a Certificat Semestriel Niveau Supérieur I (​Semester Certificate, Advanced Level 1–I didn’t quite make the Diplôme), from the Sorbonne; ​Bachelor of Science in Mathematics​ from Calvin College, Master of Science in Applied Mathematics with Computational Science and Engineering Option and Thesis Option from UIUC, Diploma in Theology and Religious Studies and Master of Philosophy in Theology and Religious Studies from Cambridge, and washout after unsuccessful appeal from a theology Doctor of Philosophy program at Fordham. I wanted to be able to teach, preferably at an Orthodox seminary, and perhaps sometime I shall. In the meantime, what I am not doing as a theology professor is channeled into mystical theology I write.
2.) how long have you been writing?

​In high school, at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, I administered a student-use system that was something like a social network built with pre-web technologies. It included, besides email and a couple of instant messaging solutions, online forums, and for some time during and after IMSA, I was on the forums and wrote and wrote and wrote, totaling in the dozens of megabytes (several times the length of the Bible).

That is all or almost all lost, unless someone saved bits of it, and honestly, good riddance!

At the beginning my name was an emblem for impossibly complex writing that no one could understand; in the process, very slowly, I learned how to write so real people would have a fighting chance of understanding what I wrote. I didn’t nearly reach that goal, or even really recognize how important the goal of understandability was, when I entered college, and someone harsh could say I still have not learned the lesson in most of my writing now, but my writing after IMSA’s forums was less bad, less wrong, less incomprehensible. Brilliant, perhaps, but dubiously fit for human consumption.

​ The next two pieces I wrote, amidst post-high-school writing classes that did temporary damage until I recognized that what they were saying is not helpful (i.e. writing “this author” as a last resort because it is way off-limits to say “I” or “me”, or deliberately writing tersely and stripping out redundancy that serves the purpose of giving the reader a couple of chances to understand a slippery concept), were as follows:

The first piece was, Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Real Peace Through Real Strength.​ This was the earlier of the two pieces, and it was written by the process that I’ve been told, in terms of political correctness, that was the way to go. I wrote a first draft that was decent as far as first drafts go, then got help revising, revising, revising until at the end, with help, I had something presentable. And though that is not exactly where I’ve stayed (see The Most Politically Incorrect Sermon in History: A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount for the same kind of topic revisited 20 years later), it turned out to be a defense for the Christian pacifist position that gave people pause even if they (usually) didn’t agree.
The second piece was, Religion Within the Bounds of Amusement. There were things that fed into it, such as reading Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death and hearing of Immanuel Kant’s Religion Within the Bounds of Bare Reason, thinking about comments like, “I am not concerned about religion becoming the content of television. I am concerned about television becoming the content of religion.” and going a church service that was the definition of everything Postman critiqued. But that was what, in terms of being “politically correct” for writing process, is a fantasy that doesn’t exist in real writing: inspiration struck, and all I had to do was follow it.

The Best of Jonathan’s Corner has next to nothing written like Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Real Peace Through Real Strength, and while The Best of Jonathan’s Corner does not contain Religion Within the Bounds of Amusement specifically (other collections like The Luddite’s Guide to Technology do include it as significant), practically every of its many works was made by the “politically incorrect” writing process: inspiration strikes, you lay the reins on the horse’s neck, and editing is just what you do in your head while the work is simmering (or, perhaps, boiling over, as the case sometimes is).

3.)Do you have a favorite place to write?

​ When I was in school at UIUC, I wanted a laptop to be able to write from a coffeeshop. Now I have a laptop, but as much as I like to work from a coffeeshop, I usually write from a nice living room. I tried for a time to write outside in the sun, but the computer I have doesn’t really have a bright enough screen to be outside in summer sunlight, and it frequently got hotter than it should. So now I’m enjoying autumn and a computer in the living room.​

4.)Why did you decide to write The Best of Jonathan’s Corner?

​The Best of Jonathan’s Corner ​is an attempt to gather together between two covers the best of the works posted at Jonathan’s Corner (now migrated to

As far as length goes, it includes about 10% of the works posted at It’s also several hundred pages–but you don’t have to read all of it. It is an anthology of independent works, so you can read as little or as much as you want.

5.)Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you get someone else to do that for you?

​Um, back to “politically incorrect.”

I don’t either edit my work, or have someone else read it, except for heavy revising of things simmering or boiling over in my heart.

My work might be better for more editing, but editing is a drain on energy that could feed new works. That is part of why, although I have genuinely tried to be traditionally published, and was actually published for one computer programming text, I’m glad none of my literature was accepted (though I did get a personalized rejection letter from Ace for Firestorm 2034; possibly if I knew what I was doing I could have revised according to the criticisms)​.

It’s common wisdom even among those who say traditional publication is the only way to go, that “editors will involve you in major rewrites of your work whether you want it or not.” For me, going through any serious form of traditional editing would mean destroying some works in formation in order to have energy and attention to respond to editors.

6.)Tell us what you’re working on at the moment.

​I’ve had a very energetic week. One musing, after a long time of quiet, was:
A common conception, among both religious and non-religious alike, is that Christians are fideists (stating that we must accept things on faith, a kind of position which serious thinkers should reject because… um… uh… don’t look there, just take my word that fideism is irresponsible thinking), having a low barrier to when they will accept things, while more rigorous and scientific thought has high standards for what will be accepted, being the camp with better thought.

But there is an argument, associated in this form with C.S. Lewis, that if you say religious experience and thought is, for evolutionary reasons the effect of a particular arrangement of matter caused by mindless natural forces, and it could not possibly be true for that reason (or, for that matter, false: such things are not right or wrong, they’re just arrangements of matter), you’ve cut off more than you want, because the same argument concludes that naturalist evolution, for instance, could not possibly be true (or, for that matter, even false). The same argument reaches both conclusions equally: if a naturalist evolutionary account of thought is true, then it could not possibly be true. The explanation explains away explanation, including all science.

This is a form of what in philosophy is called “self-referential incoherence”,  loosely meaning that a claim is sweeping enough to refer to itself (self-referential incoherence is not a factor in statements narrow enough that they don’t say anything interesting about themselves), and entails that the acceptance of a claim entails its rejection. Or, to quote a conversation at Calvin, I was asked, “How do you overcome the evidentialist objection to Christianity?” I asked, not just rhetorically, “What is evidentialism?” I was told, “Evidentialism is the thesis that we should only accept ideas if they have been convincingly demonstrated from evidence.” I answered, “How do you overcome the evidentialist objection to evidentialism?” There was no answer to that.

I have been told that retortion, looking if something problematic comes from an idea’s implications about itself. This, on the surface, is not clear as to why retortion would be associated with theism. It doesn’t relate to belief in God in any direct sense, and I am not aware of ancient sources in any world religion making such arguments, much less making a career out of them. But I remember discussions in IMSA forums where people came with different relativist propositions they were trying to convince me of, and I responded by showing how each claim I was asked to assent to was self-referentially incoherent; once I just said, “I play the self-referential incoherence card.” I got some nasty feedback on that, but I candidly said that none of the positions I were critiquing got on to necessarily being any more interesting to critique than pointing out self-referential incoherence in their claim as something I should be compelled by. I would have shifted to other grounds if my interlocutors shifted to other grounds, but they didn’t. Ever. Not once in years of conversation did an attempt to convince me of some relativism require moving past the self-referential incoherence card.

The theist camp(s) don’t specifically raise claims to be the rigorous camp or meet demanding standards, but it seems that something can get stomped on for being self-referentially incoherent. The more analytic or perhaps positivist camps do claim greater rigor, but they or the more continental or postmodern camps don’t seem to go there: there seems to be a gentleman’s agreement of “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” and so even analytic and continental opponents do not encourage examining the basic issue of self-referential incoherence even when a blow of self-referential incoherence would have significant effect on the other camp. People who tout themselves on stricter standards seem to have a gentleman’s agreement to lead people to look somewhere else than self-referential incoherence in those standards themselves. Meanwhile, theists throw stones because they do not live in glass houses, and are willing to play the self-referential incoherence card even when that card is not particularly important for theism as such.

(Bonus points if you read this and tried to see if my main argument had self-referentially incoherent implications.)
As to what else I’m trying to write, I would like to write something about how things are provided for us that make us happier than if we had everything we chose to dream. But that is slow in coming together. (If I am able to write what I hope, it will have a place in The Best of Jonathan’s Corner, which I invite you to read now.

About The Book

the-best-of-jonathans-corner-front-coverTitle: The Best of Jonathan’s Corner

Author: CJS Hayward

Genre: Creative non-fiction / many genres / religion and spirituality / Eastern Orthodox

The Best of Jonathan’s Corner, newly expanded ​ after getting five star reviews​, is a collection of varied works of Eastern Orthodox mystical theology. It spans many topics and many different genres of writing, but it keeps coming back to the biggest questions of all. It is inexhaustible: the works are independent, and you can read a few, many, or all of them to suit your taste. Fans of CS Lewis and GK Chesterton will love it.

Author Bio

wardrobe_full Christos Jonathan Seth Hayward wears many hats as a person: author, philosopher, theologian, artist, poet, wayfarer, philologist, inventor, web guru, teacher.

Some have asked, “If a much lesser C.S. Lewis were Orthodox, what would he be like?” And the answer may well be, “C.J.S. Hayward.”

Called “Jack of all trades and master of many” by one boss, he also wears many hats professionally: open source / IT generalist, front end developer, JavaScript programmer, back end web developer, Pythonista, PHP and Perl user, Django developer, end to end web developer, Unix/Linux/Mac wizard, LAMP guru, SQL generalist, Unix shell (both using existing shells and implementing a new shell), system administrator, researcher, technical writer, usability advocate, UI developer, UX/IA enthusiast, and more.

Hayward has lived in the U.S., Malaysia, England, and France, and holds master’s degrees bridging math and computers (UIUC), and philosophy and theology (Cambridge).



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