Another stellar contribution from Emily Stubbs:
In regard to Patterson Hood—front man for the Drive-By Truckers—my friend Graham recently said, “As far as I am concerned, he’s right up there with Rudyard Kipling.” In my humble opinion, and I think it is obvious that at least Graham would agree with me here, Patterson Hood is the greatest storyteller of our generation (that is not to say that Mike Cooley and Jason Isbell, who is currently crushing it in his solo career, are not incredibly talented as well). Yes, maybe I am super biased because I am a Southerner and, moreover, I…
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I recently read Tim Keller’s book on work, Every Good Endeavor. One of the most important takeaways for me was learning more about John Coltrane, who is the inspiration for Keller’s title. Keller quotes the original liner notes to Coltrane’s most famous album, A Love Supreme, which use the words “every good endeavor.” This week I bought the album, something I should have done a long time ago. Here are those original liner notes, now in a CD booklet. Keller only excerpts the notes, but I feel the whole thing was worth sharing—”a love supreme” turns out to be Coltrane’s…
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For the rich possibilities of dialogue between 80s New Wave and the old, old story, look no further! This one comes to us from Tyler Beane:
This is a great Aimee Mann tune from the late ’80s when she was still heading the band ‘Til Tuesday. The song is about a gal experiencing what I read as depression following the loss of “a boy,” probably a boyfriend. The song has a lightness to it, a breeziness to the pop. However, when the song moves to the lyrics “This time” in “Why must I take it so hard this time” in the…
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From the “Chorale” section, which is part of “The Summons”:
Our Father, whose creative Will
Asked Being for us all,
Confirm it that Thy Primal Love
May weave in us the freedom of
The actually deficient on
The justly actual.
Though written by Thy children with
A smudged and crooked line,
The Word is ever legible,
Thy Meaning unequivocal,
And for Thy Goodness even sin
Is valid as a sign.
Inflict Thy promises with each
Occasion of distress,
That from our incoherence we
May learn to put our trust in Thee,
And brutal fact persuade us to
Adventure, Art, and Peace.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
at the foot of the universe
from this body
and pain (a condition
Clothed now in light
clothed in abyss, at the prow
of the desert
Mercy on us all
For as much burn as we’ve given David Foster Wallace on this site, I was surprised and a bit embarrassed to realize that we’ve never quoted from his opus Infinite Jest. Well, no longer! Here’s a favorite: the stunning passage where Wallace recounts one of his “protagonists”, Don Gately, praying for the first time. It doubles as a memorable description of what it looks like for a person to turn to God in a meaningful way (in something resembling our context). Gately spends much of the narrative as a resident and employee of Ennet House, a halfway house in Boston,…
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From the wonderful play The Cocktail Party, well into the poet’s Christian phase. A man’s wife leaves him and an Unidentified Guest – who is almost a bona fide theophany (Eliot’s God prefers gin) – gives the man, Edward, some advice on how to handle his crisis:
…to approach the stranger
Is to invite the unexpected, release a new force,
Or let the genie out of the bottle.
It is to start a train of events
Beyond your control…
Most of the time we take ourselves for granted,
As we have to, and live on a little knowledge
About ourselves as we were. Who are you now?
You don’t know any more than I do,
But rather less. You are nothing but a set
Of obsolete responses. The one thing to do
Is to do nothing. Wait.
But waiting is the one thing impossible.
Besides, don’t you see that it makes me look ridiculous?
Guest: It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
Resign yourself to be the fool you are.
That is the best advice I can give you.
“Waiting is the one thing impossible” – in Eliot’s spirituality, activity and self-righteousness and pretension must be cleared from the minds of those who know only “a heap of broken images”, who are only that, and cannot be otherwise. For a man as attuned to grace and broken on the wheels of life as he, the one genuine spiritual vocation is the desperate plea, “teach us to care and not to care/ teach us to sit still.”
Via The New Yorker, more profundity from Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal, which hits shelves in early November. One even detects a whiff of Louis CK in there (or vice versa):
Dear God, I am so discouraged about my work. I have the feeling of discouragement that is. I realize I don’t know what I realize. Please help me dear God to be a good writer and to get something else accepted. That is so far from what I deserve, of course, that I am naturally struck with the nerve of it. Contrition in me is largely imperfect. I don’t know if I’ve ever been sorry for a sin because it hurt You. That kind of contrition is better than none but it is selfish. To have the other kind, it is necessary to have knowledge, faith extraordinary. All boils down to grace, I suppose. Again asking God to help us be sorry for having hurt him. I am afraid of pain and I suppose that is what we have to have to get grace. Give me the courage to stand the pain to get the grace, Oh Lord. Help me with this life that seems so treacherous, so disappointing.
Francis Spufford on the horizontal power of prayer, known uniquely to Christianity (from Unapologetic):
Christians too, of course, draw consolation from the patterns faith makes as it repeats in time. For us too there’s an important wisdom in not leading a life whose only measure is the impulse of the moment. But our main comfort in the face of unjustifiable suffering is very different. It’s not an investment in order we’re asked to make; it’s a gamble on change. Our hope in not in time cycling on predictably and benevolently under an almighty hand. Our hope is in time interrupted, disrupted,…
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Anthropologist and author T. M. Luhrmann has written a guest column for The New York Times this week called “Addicted to Prayer.” Luhrmann, who has spent time studying the American evangelical community and written a book on “the evangelical relationship with God”, discusses the benefits of any kind of prayer (including secular meditation) on health. She also, however, distinguishes the idea of spiritual warfare from other forms of prayer, and warns that any practice too “imaginative” can actually be detrimental. Luhrmann describes her wariness like this:
I was most struck by the dangers of prayer when people got deeply involved with…
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I’ve written about my travails in community softball before, and here’s another dispatch from the front lines.
This year, I’ve been playing on church-league softball team (not my church…I’m a scab, a ringer, brought in for my ability to ensure that they have enough people to field a team), which is a different experience than the “town” league I played in last year. This league has prayers before and after the games and its players keep our anger and competitiveness jailed beneath our surfaces. So, you know, Christian.
The other day, as we all gathered at home plate…
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