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Death


Ash Wednesday Morning – Catherine Abbey Hodges

ash wednesday morningFrom her collection Instead of Sadness:

The fat candle in the kitchen window burns down
like a rose spilling open. We light a scrap of paper
from the flame, and with the ashes, a little olive oil,
cross each other’s foreheads. Margo’s in the hospital
again. I stop to see her on my way to school,
go straight from there to class. My students have come
from their night shifts at the nursing home
and Wal-Mart, from Mass, from dropping off the baby
at daycare. They shuffle pages, share staplers.
We look into each other’s faces as they hand me their essays.
Who knows how long we’ve got inside these dusty skins.
We’re burning down together, ashes mingling already.

Studies Show…That Happiness Is a Waste of Time

Studies Show…That Happiness Is a Waste of Time

© sunlight cardigan CC-BY 2.0

For years, I lived with the nagging thought that my melancholy, pessimism, and cynicism were taking years off my life. I did not arrive at that conclusion based on research or conviction; I absorbed it from the assumption, endemic in American culture, that subjective positivity improves objective markers of healthfulness. Once my therapy regimen broke through the fog of clinical depression, I saw the difference between truly unhealthy behaviors and an intractable melancholy disposition. Even though I feel mentally healthier, will my lack of optimism or positive thinking kill me?

A recent study published in The…

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From the Archives: MLK’s Eulogy for Martyred Children

From the Archives: MLK’s Eulogy for Martyred Children

The following speech/sermon was given by Martin Luther King, Jr after the bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, just three weeks after the March on Washington.

This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes…

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Just Like That Bluebird: The Mortal Prayers of David Bowie, RIP

Just Like That Bluebird: The Mortal Prayers of David Bowie, RIP

Gutted by this morning’s tragic news about the death of David Bowie. His incredible new single “Lazarus” had actually been on repeat in our office the past couple weeks. By way of paltry tribute, here’s the reflection from the back of A Mess of Help, slightly embellished. The world will be a duller place without him:

Rumor has it that David Bowie lobbied for the role of grand elf Elrond in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of The Rings. As good as Hugo Weaving was, Bowie would have been better, and not just because he played more or less to type in…

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PZ’s Podcast: Five O’Clock World

PZ’s Podcast: Five O’Clock World

EPISODE 208

Now we think that reality, the “real world”, is what happens “between nine and five”, that is, what happens at work, in the office, at school, in career, and so forth. And a lot of people want to tell us this is true.

But not The Vogues. They were from Pittsburgh and they understood about shifts and hourly pay. Yet they understand more than that!

For the fact is, ‘as you lay dying’ (Faulkner), you won’t give your “nine-to-five” life a single second thought. Not one single second thought! You’ll forget it all, in the absolute blink of an eye. That’s just…

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Five Golden…Themes! What We Loved Writing about in 2015

Five Golden…Themes! What We Loved Writing about in 2015

As we blanket our house with nic-nacs and expensive toys, it’s the perfect time to look back at the things that matter—or the things that mattered—or the things that at least we thought mattered at the time—to us this year. Here are Five Golden Themes for 2015—repeated stories and obsessions that didn’t just creep into the collective cultural psyche, but seemed to define it, for better or worse.

Performancism and Suicide. I had to check and make sure this hadn’t been on one of our previous year-end roundups. I thought surely, with all the times we’ve written about “the epidemic,” this…

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WILD, Reese Witherspoon, 2014./ph: Anne Marie Fox/TM and Copyright ©Fox Searchlight. All rights reserved./Courtesy Everett Collection

A Voice of One Calling In The Wilderness: The Source of Power in Wild

In the film adaptation of Wild, Cheryl Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon) reads the final stanza of “Power,” a poem by Adrienne Rich, on her first night hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power

These words, referring to scientist Marie Curie, strike a chord with Strayed when she reads them, and they stayed with me as well. They became the lens through which I found myself making sense of this remarkable story.

Unfortunately, I can only discuss Wild from the perspective of the film, which is based closely on…

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Jungian Bandages and the Two Halves of Life We’re Still Living

Jungian Bandages and the Two Halves of Life We’re Still Living

Mary Karr’s new book on memoir begins with this epigraph from Thomas Merton. It is about the false self we all carry with us. It is amazing.

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. I wind my experiences around myself and cover myself with glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface. But there is no substance under the things with which I am clothed, I am hollow, and my…

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The Power of Grief and the Gift of the Present

The Power of Grief and the Gift of the Present

The proper definition of “grief” is (according to dictionary.com):

Keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret. 2. a cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow

While I wish it were otherwise, grief is something that most of us have felt at one time or another. Grief is one of those classic human experiences symptomatic of brokenness—ours and the world’s around us. Grief overwhelms the entire body; you can feel grief course through your veins, move through your joints, sound from your vocal chords, bear down on your mind, and burden your back.

The grief I’ve experienced…

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PZ’s Podcast: Unforeseen & The Rich Man and Lazarus

PZ’s Podcast: Unforeseen & The Rich Man and Lazarus

Episode 205: Unforeseen

It’s not an abstraction! It’s more than something just to talk about or consider. It could happen to you. In fact, it probably will.

I’m talking about unforeseen death. Some people hold on for a long time, even when they don’t really want to. Other people want to hold on, but illness intervenes and they go a dozen years earlier than they expected. (You never expect it.) Other people had a bad habit in youth and maybe adulthood, and it catches them later. They never thought they would be hooked up to a respirator personally.

“I Had Too Much To…

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A Soundtrack For All Hallow’s Eve, Pt. II

A Soundtrack For All Hallow’s Eve, Pt. II

In the second half of our short series on Halloween music, here are Ian Olson‘s selections with my commentary.

”Saignee/revelations” by Year of No Light

http://www.mbird.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/12-saignée-révélations.mp3

I: Year of No Light brought their blackened sludge to bear on Carl Theodor Dreyer’s classic film Vampyr (my favorite horror film, incidentally) in 2013 and succeeded in crafting a very peculiar and yet very fitting soundtrack to this unorthodox classic. Though separated by eighty years (!), this soundtrack succeeds in encapsulating the film’s aesthetic: the diffusion of darkness as light.

This song negotiates a difficult balancing act, poised at the juncture of three very disparate moods: stately, yet ethereal,…

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It Almost Kills You

It Almost Kills You

This amazing find in the world of Moth comes to us from Brooks Tate. 

Have you ever had this experience? You are driving, listening to talk radio, and you find yourself in the midst of the most remarkable story. Some voice is just talking and saying the most amazing things. You find that you’re being pulled into a trance…until, well, you arrive at the office or gym or wherever it was you were driving to, click off the ignition and keep going about your day.

I had this experience a few weeks ago. Twice. In the same weekend I heard the same…

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