The Thinker

General Excellence: Zines Macaroni

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Macaroni is a modest endeavor, a tall, dignified zine filled with lyrical ruminations on culture, religion, travel, entertainment, and whatever else is on publisher John Toren’s mind. Since this year’s winner has been around for 20 years, we decided it was about time we had a chat with Toren about his utterly unique take on the universe. Here’s where his mind wandered when asked about some our favorite Macaroni moments of 2007.


On Science And Society:
Scientists can tell us, for example, what will happen to a bog if ATVs roll across it indiscriminately for a decade or two . . . What scientists cannot tell us is how to weigh the relative importance of mechanized joyrides through the bogs, a healthy water table, the preservation of bird habitat—and the will of the majority. For it may be that, given a choice, the majority of Americans would choose to have their fun now, and the future be damned. These are moral and political issues, not scientific ones. Thanksgiving 2007

There is a certain implicit conceit that if you attach the word scientific to something, then that makes
it more important or more valid. And that’s really metaphysically wrong; it’s not true. And by the way, I’m not in favor of having ATVs ruin the bogs, but I know that people value that, and it’s got to be part
of the equation.

On Reading:
I consider myself an Everyman in that respect. I get my books from the public library de-acquisition shops. I read at random. I’ve long since given up any pretense of “covering the field” or of “keeping up.” Spring 2007

The idea of keeping up—it would be impossible to know just a smidgen of all the things that are out there to know. So keeping up implies that you’ve already got the background under control, and I certainly don’t.

But on the other hand, I’d like to cover the field in terms of cultural references, without getting snooty about it. Culture is really available to everybody. I think everyone should read Plato, for example. Most people don’t know that the dialogues are easy to read and they’re kind of fun. But they’re kind of off-putting, just because they sound academic.

On God:
I sometimes wonder if we, as individuals, are God’s inner life. The pain we feel when we read the newspapers, contemplate our latest faux pas, or toss and turn in our efforts to give our lives a meaningful shape, are the burning shards of that primordial supernova which was God—and is. That’s a nice thought: a universe endowed, from the very beginning, with a conscience.  Summer 2007

I think that’s one of the things that I’m most convinced about, what might be called the imminent reality of divinity as opposed to the transcendental. It’s kind of a Hegelian idea, really, but the idea that history is like God’s autobiography, and we’re all kind of writing it ourselves. We’re not writing the whole book, but we’re contributing to it.

On Fargo, North Dakota:
We watched the light fade from the sky behind Moorhead, and as the white stream of smoke, or steam, continued to drift westward from that sugar-beet plant (or whatever it is), into the beautiful emptiness of rural North Dakota, I was thinking that small cities are just pretty neat. Summer 2007

You don’t have to go very far to come to these cool places. We got lucky with the movies in Fargo; if they had been showing Caddyshack II I don’t know if we would have liked it quite so well. But it’s true that if you just pay attention, all kinds of little delights will surface from places everywhere.