Two 12-year-old girls recently lured a classmate into the woods and stabbed her with a knife 19 times. They left her to die, but she survived. Those who attempted to take her life said they wanted to prove Slenderman exists. They planned to escape to his mansion in the woods.
During Lent, on the advice of a friend, I read my way slowly through the book of John. I had told her I wanted to meditate on the mystery of the cross. I found a short commentary — A Simple Guide to John by Paul J McCarren — and tucked it into my bag along with my Bible, and I read passages during my light rail commute to downtown Portland, where I work as a language teacher.
Is the purpose of writing to communicate something to readers, or to mystify them? It’s been almost fifteen years, and James Miller’s article in the now-defunct Lingua Franca pitting clear communication (personified by George Orwell) against mystification-as-profundity (poster boy: Theodor Adorno) has stuck with me.
A few years ago, when preparing notes for a class discussion on Terence Malick’s 2011 film, The Tree of Life, I began to feel very uncomfortable about typing notes and viewing the film simultaneously. I realized that Malick’s film, which pushes the viewer into a disorienting space where he or she must explore what the film’s opening voiceover calls the “two ways to live”—the way of nature and the way of grace—, demanded my complete attention.