Chris Duffel

Co-Host of The Beauty Ever New Podcast

Christopher Duffel is graduate of Rice University and Texas A&M. He is a parishioner of St. Vincent De Paul in Houston, where he lives with his wife and three children. Chris practices architecture with Jackson and Ryan Architects.

Hi. I am Chris the other host of this podcast. My childhood faith journey is distinct from Rafa’s in that I was born, grew up and was raised, basically, in one place. I was born in Southeast Texas, went to school in college station, lived in Dallas for a while and came back to Houston for grad school. With the brief exception of a stint studying abroad, I have lived in Texas my whole life. My experience of the church is seen through a Texan lens. One idiosyncratic part of my younger Faith life, was having our parish priest at Our Lady of Victory in Sour Lake, be a married priest. Father Martin would celebrate mass with his wife Sharon sitting in the front row and seemingly take every opportunity he could to either use theologically technical terms (We would take bets on how many time he would use the word “Theotokos” every January 1st mass… the number was high every time) or make marriage jokes. So for me having a priest crack jokes about his own marriage was sort of normal and I don’t know how many other people can say that. He was also the cannon lawyer for the Diocese and tended to be a bit philosophical, which both formed me that way, and helped me develop a taste for the academic or philosophical side of the church.

What gets me most interested about this project is investigating the questions that we ask, just as much if not more,as the solutions we propose. At the risk of overgeneralizing, I’d say I think most workers of a particular field do things very similarly, do their work similarly, and the work that gets produced any particular profession isn’t nearly as varied or interesting as the ways people think about that work, the sorts of questions to ask of themselves of their communities, of the culture in which they are contributing to and producing.

I’m interested in the project of Beauty because it something that effortlessly slips through the fingers of the empiricist worldview. How do you optimize beauty? What’s the formula? What do you measure? How do you know that’s the right thing to measure? And what increments? And what’s the control variable? And why? Why any of it? Beauty is one of these things that doesn’t need explanation. Beauty is one of those things just washes over you. It completely sidesteps the linguistic friction that you encounter when you hear someone’s words, when you try to make sense of them, interpret them and digest them. In that dialectic back-and-forth there is a sense in which you try to grab hold of what’s being spoken and you engage it with the mechanism of your intellect, but the aesthetic, music or visual, just sort of happens.

I’m particularly interested in the inability of most of us to really be in control of our subjectivities, to really understand them in holistic ways and in their discrete parts. Making sense of how we think about beauty, how we assess it’s worth, how we go about making more of it, and instigating the assumptions underlying all of it. This really matters because it’s a sort of the great equalizer. Not everyone can be a great philosopher or theologian but people can have a deep and simple faith, people can appreciate beauty. The barrier to entry is really low there, maybe about as low as it gets. Therefore beauty becomes the first point of entry for most people. You may not know much about what the church teaches after spending hours reading a document, but a building can arrest you in a moment. It can lead you to stillness and reflection. It can be a means of contemplating something greater than yourself.

So that’s the philosophical waxing, but a very real part of this effort is to get people out in their particular places and times, to go about thinking about their work, thinking about the things they’re going to be making, the ways they spend their money, the types of questions they ask themselves and the ways that they are building can be in service of their mission, to leave with that shared core value, their “Why”.

Chris Duffel has hosted 22 Episodes.