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Death

The Struggle of Dying

The Struggle of Dying

This meditation on Lent and healing prayer comes to us from our friend Laurel Marr. 

In his book, The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane tells the story of Henry Fleming, a young soldier who enlists in the army in hopes of fulfilling his dream for glory. But, a long time goes by before his regiment is called forward to battle and the fear of dying begins to set in his mind. Henry wonders if he is really brave enough for battle. Then, upon seeing the enemy for the first time, Henry’s courage fails and he flees the battlefield.

Thank you, Stephen Crane…

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Empathy in Sorrow, Freedom in Truth: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Empathy in Sorrow, Freedom in Truth: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Here’s a look at George Saunders’ new and acclaimed book, Lincoln in the Bardo (appropriately released just in time for these days of Lenten journey). This review was written by Ethan Richardson & CJ Green.

…As in the land of darkness, yet in light,
To live a life half dead, a living death,
And buried; but, O yet more miserable!
Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave.

— Milton, Samson Agonistes

The first two pages of Lincoln in the Bardo detail a charming, Beauty-and-the-Beast kind of love story, albeit in a very George Saunders style: an older, overweight, lame-legged, toothless printer, a beautiful and young woman, their arranged marriage. The…

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The Magic in Magical Thinking

The Magic in Magical Thinking

“…conscious uncoupling…”

“…and Mexico will pay for it!”

“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

We cannot help it. Humans desperately need to square the circle. I want to find a cosmic thread or Special Sauce that allows the New York Football Giants to somehow, over about 6 coaching changes and zillions of players post-LT/Simms, to somehow get to the Super Bowl every year.

That is Magical Thinking.

But not every illogical extrapolation is as delusional as the Giants making the Super Bowl in the next few years. Not all desire-driven reality-bnding is magical. Heroin, smoking, and bacon have no objective merit: to…

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An Ash Wednesday Homily from JAZ

“For the first time in the history of humanity, many of us can live a life where our death might be the first death we see up close. We can die “neatly” in a hospital room with as much or as little family contact as our relationships demand. The cost of this is great: Death is no longer a part of life. Instead, it has become a devastating impossibility that always happens.” – Sarah Condon, Churchy

The Ash Wednesday Immortality Bus

The Ash Wednesday Immortality Bus

There was a dark horse in this year’s presidential campaign that you missed. And what a shame! This gentleman really promised to turn things around, in ways no one else was talking about. And I know several of us really liked the idea of bringing in a Washington “outsider,” someone who wasn’t going to go by the same old Washington rhetoric. Someone with something new to say, someone with answers to the questions no one had the guts to ask. Well, this guy had them. He wasn’t caught up in the same issues every other politician talks about, and I…

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Jesus Came to Save (Even) Leslie Charping

Jesus Came to Save (Even) Leslie Charping

Here’s something of a revised obituary, brought to us by Ben Maddison.

There is a train that goes past my house at 12:30 AM every night, which gives me a lot of opportunities to sleepily scroll through late-night Facebook: a weird and generally silent beast, driven by algorithms and insomnia. Tucked away in that late-night scroll fest—past the photos from yesterday and the hot new clickbait—was this Washington Post article on the obituary of a man named Leslie Charping.

I’m not sure if it falls under the “weird news” category or the “fluff at the end of the broadcast,” but it stopped me…

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Letter from a Hospice Chaplain in Las Vegas

Letter from a Hospice Chaplain in Las Vegas

Here’s one from Matthew Metevelis:

I work as a chaplain for a non-profit hospice in Las Vegas. Anyone who has served as a chaplain will tell you that the work can be routine but it is never dull. The problems and situations that you find yourself working through with people in hospice run the gamut from the touching to the tragic to the hilarious (“hospice humor” is a thing – next time you meet a hospice worker, ask). But one thing has never come up in seven years. Nobody has ever asked me if they’ve gotten their politics correct. I’ve never…

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Mary Oliver’s Scrambled Turtle Eggs

Mary Oliver’s Scrambled Turtle Eggs

Living in the country, there are some beautiful things you get to experience that you simply don’t experience elsewhere. Without sounding too much like a Kubota tractor ad, I will say that nothing quite beats an early morning walk down to the river with a hot thermos of coffee, except perhaps doing that and bringing your swimsuit. Or the thick racket of peepers and bullfrogs and cicadas in the night.

But it’s not all joy and romance. Sometimes I’ll step out into the night air and look up at the stars, do some deep breathing, hope to “have a moment,” appreciating…

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The Post-Millenials, or Generation X at the End of the World

The Post-Millenials, or Generation X at the End of the World

I do not read Revelation regularly. I’m scared of it. Not of the actual text, mind you — I’m scared of being overwhelmed by half-remembered theological positions and theories about eschatology. I’m skeptical that anything in the text is meant to be a prediction — thief in the night, etc. — but I’m neither biblically sophisticated nor spiritually courageous enough to actually read and contemplate what “the end of all things” does or should mean to me. Essentially, I’m stuck in a state of indecision and irony (i.e., my position is I don’t have one). My prophet clearing the way in…

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#Humbled on the High Horse

#Humbled on the High Horse

For our jail bible study this past week, we decided to do Sunday’s gospel reading, which just so happened to be the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12), the litany of blessings that Jesus bestows on the weak, the discouraged, the sad, and the lonely. I thought, in the jail of all places, that people would really be able to understand the pertinence of Jesus’ upside-down view of things. I thought, well, if anyone understands this passage…

The guys were definitely appreciative of the good news in those lines. The meek inheriting the earth? Comfort for those who weep? They said it sounded like…

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On “Omniscient” Narrators: W.C. Heinz’s “Death of a Racehorse”

On “Omniscient” Narrators: W.C. Heinz’s “Death of a Racehorse”

Sportswriters are not generally awarded the prestigious seats at writer’s guild meetings. But when the Library of America brings out a collection of your sportswriting, as they did for W.C. Heinz, the guild must make an exception. Imagine what Heinz’s reportorial eyes witnessed —  the right crosses of Rocky Marciano, the mercurial shouts of Vince Lombardi, and the sweet swing of Stan Musial (not to mention the Battle of the Bulge). Writing his best work at mid-20th century, Heinz bridged the golden era of sportswriters like Grantland Rice with the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe. His boxing novel (“The…

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Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

Fathers, Sons, Law, and Grace in August Wilson’s Fences

My mother and father always attempted to instill into me and my brothers an appreciation for culture. Mom was and remains extremely well-read in classic literature, hailing Steinbeck as her favorite; she enjoyed foreign cinema and took me (while in the womb) to an Ingmar Bergman film festival; she could reference renowned plays and decided to middle-name me after Neil Simon; and her record collection lined the living room perimeter containing everything from Funkadelic to Simon & Garfunkel, Temptations, Barbara Streisand, The Police, Rick James, etc…

But I think the most significant (though at the time not fully appreciated) exposure came…

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