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Blog

That Time Does Not Run Backward

Jean Hoefling

Particle physicist Brian Cox claims that actual time travel is now pretty much a sure thing. To simplify, it seems all we have to do is tinker a bit with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and it’s a relative cinch to play time forward. The past is a different story; apparently the theory doesn’t work so well in reverse, which implies you can’t journey back to your senior prom and be even cooler than you already were that night.

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The End of the Story

William Coleman

Eliot said the truth is that the end's in our beginning. A hundred years before he said so, a handful of paragraphs into Dickens' most enduring Christmas story, the narrator plants a seed that holds the whole of Dickens's book. Scrooge, it's said, is "solitary as an oyster." Time's sand famously intrudes. By stave two, Scrooge is undergoing "the strangest agitation." By stave five, The End of It, the pearl is made complete.

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The Grammar of Complicity

Howard Schaap

Silence is complicity, I realize that. Sometimes, however, as a white man, silence is all you feel you can manage.  (I don’t mean to use the language of management, it just seems to happen; and by “you,” the presumptive collective, I mean “I”). Silence, I tell myself, is better than __________.  Better than “I don’t know” or “I’m sorry,” both lines containing politics: “I.” Maybe “I am the problem,” but even that—.

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Book Review: Wendell Berry and the Given Life

Guest Blogger

Conventional wisdom suggests that reading to your children benefits them in myriad ways: it stimulates language and learning centers of the brain, creates a bond between parents and children, and emphasizes the value of books and reading. I recently learned that this practice is beneficial from birth, even before the infant can truly discriminate sounds. Further, it doesn't matter so much what you read, because just the act of reading aloud works on the areas of bonding and stimulates brain development. Given this, I made an unconventional choice while reading to my three-week old son, choosing portions of Wendell Berry and the Given Life, the recent book by Ragan Sutterfield. Choosing to read aloud forced me, as one might expect, to go a little slower, but I'm not sure that Berry (or Sutterfield) would recommend anything less.

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Give Me One Day

Jean Hoefling

Give me this one warm, sappy, Thomas Kinkade kind of day; one moment of respite from the bombardment of strident media voices that blast endlessly about everything that’s apparently wrong with this country, and instead, let me ponder the outdated notion that there might be something right with it. Let me relish the unassuming arrival and the fragrant, cinnamon-scented lingering of this very special American day, and do it without guilt. Give me Thanksgiving Day. 

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Majuscule and Minuscule

Jayne English

When Walt Whitman sauntered through the streets of New York City, enjoying a conversation and drink at Pfaff’s, talking to omnibus drivers on Broadway, or attending an opera at the Park Theater, the sights, sounds, and multitude of experiences found expression in his collection of poems, Leaves of Grass. He published the first edition in 1855 with his own money and set much of the type himself at the print shop of some friends. To order the words of its poems, he chose letters from two wooden cases, one above the other. This process of typesetting gives us the words lowercase and uppercase letters, more formally known as minuscule and majuscule letters.

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Anne with an E

Jayne English

“I’m gonna tell you plain, you’re doing a mighty foolish thing, a risky thing, that’s what.”
      — Rachel Lynde

I deliberated for a few weeks about watching Anne with an E. I’m usually disappointed with the 2-dimensional feel of most adaptations. I enjoyed reading the series so much, I was reluctant to watch something that would spoil the essence of Anne that had me pulling each book off the bookstore shelves as eagerly as any eleven-year old with a story crush. Only, I was in my 30’s when I first read the series. Anne’s enthusiasm was irresistible. Adaptations miss the essence of character that books uniquely develop. What stayed with me, years after I read the books, was Anne’s irrepressible love of life. I wasn’t prepared to have those memories forever ruined. But on the off chance that I’d find something more, I plunged in.

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The Woman Who Was Chesterton: Where Did the Spouses Go?

Joy and Matthew Steem

I have been an avid fan of G. K Chesterton for a number of years. I have read numerous biographies, perused through his essays, novels, short stories, and poems, and found them all bright and useful. I had no complaints with the biographies—until now. Enter Nancy Carpentier Brown’s The Woman Who Was Chesterton (2015). Suddenly, I realized that my knowledge of Chesterton was lacking, and in a big way: I didn’t know much about his wife, Frances.

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Through the Ruins of the World  

Jean Hoefling

Icons are created for the sole purpose of offering access, through the gate of the visible, to the mystery of the invisible.  
     —Henri Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons

In his book of meditations on the icons of 15th-century Russian artist Andrei Rublev's, theologian Henri Nouwen says this about the iconographer’s famous “Christ the Redeemer:”

When I first saw… I had the distinct sense that the face of Christ appears in the midst of great chaos. A sad but beautiful face looks at us through the ruins of the world.

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The Companionship of Loss

Jayne English

You are frightened
when you first realize something
is gone, when the strings that hold now
to then are snapped, leaving you
somewhere above ground with nowhere to land,
nothing to hold onto.
 —James Langlas

From my desk in the laundry room, I can watch the sunset as it stretches across the sky toward my north-facing door. Each sunset is the waning of a day, just one of the repeated patterns of loss in our lives. Loss is a near constant companion to us all. Even in a newborn’s first moments he begins to lose time. From then on, loss shadows us. The turtle dies, whose tiny movements we watched from above his plastic island and tap-water bay; the bird we rescued from a parking lot never unfolds his wings again; we lose our first grandparent; and one day we walk out the door of our childhood home into the beckoning world.

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Above Earth's Lamentation

Laurie Granieri

“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. / Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
  
 —Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours, translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

I administer these words to my body like a balm as I heave and weave, clambering up mountains, hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail, the Rockies, the Adirondack High Peaks.

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Wearing Narrative

Joy and Matthew Steem

“The body interacts and changes places with apparel as we wear it, changing ruffle to ankle, in the vision of one motion. We let it affect the way we move, the way we interact, the way we shape affection, the means by which we negotiate other’s opinions of our social standing, the way we cognize our own body.”
        —Daneen Wordrop,

As one who doesn’t typically pay a great deal of attention to the act of dressing, I have an ambiguous relationship with clothing. In fact, I often catch myself contemplating the necessity of clothing in negative terms, partly because over the years I have become increasingly aware of the class distinctions and identity communicating elements inherent in clothing choices. My mindset has been slowly changing though, in large part thanks to a generous benefactor of luxurious hand-me-downs.

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Gyroscope

Jayne English

One thought can produce millions of vibrations and they all go back to God ... everything does. 
John Coltrane

Do you remember playing with a gyroscope as a kid? You’d snap the string, lean down eye level with the table, and watch it spin on its axis until the momentum slowed and it wobbled to a stop. The gyroscope’s movements are the same ones that weave through our lives. It appears balanced enough, but the view from the axis can look like a lot of frantic spinning.

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The Shape of Humility

Jean Hoefling

I know well enough that very few people who are supposedly interested in writing are interested in writing well.
Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners

A few years ago, in the interest of honing a short story that I considered decent (which it turned out not to be, particularly), I attended the legendary Glen Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico—that annual summer gathering at St. John’s College of Christian (or not) poets, painters, musicians, and budding screenplay and fiction writers. That year, prolific novelist Bret Lott facilitated the fiction workshop. Every morning before our class began the round of shock therapy euphemistically called “peer critique,” Professor Lott offered short, helpful lectures on writing while we all drank coffee and breathed in the signature Santa Fe scent of burnt brick and piñon that wafted through the open windows of our classroom. All his teaching was good, but these years later I don’t remember much of what the good professor said.  

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