The philosopher Avital Ronell says that we have been having a ‘war on stupid.’ Stupidity, she says, has become the enemy in contemporary Western life. We want to be smart. As far as I understand Slavoj Žižek, that orientation to the world – the desire to look intelligent, if only in appearance – is the fastest way to be crabbed by ideology. As I’ve written before with respect to Sam Rocha’s work on Žižek, this faux intelligence is the moron’s way: we… Read more

When I wrote my ‘conversion to liberation theology’ series last December, Sam Rocha wrote to commend me. He said that he understood a little better where I was coming from, and then he said something interesting: It’s about process. I seldom think of myself as having a process. I remember hearing Ta-Nehisi Coates talking about his process of writing and trying to get John Legend to talk about his process with regard to music, and then I bought We Were Eight Years… Read more

Some former students of mine have joked recently that I am basically ‘Prof Yenta.’ I think they mean that I am one of those old-fashioned professor types who give out free dating and matchmaking advice to those who want it. Generally, I refrain from this practice when it comes to my current students, but somehow or another, the ones who become friends after they survive a class or two with me end up discovering this informal dimension of my teaching…. Read more

A few Sundays ago, I invited the group that I facetiously call the Kyivan Psychoanalysis Study Group to my apartment for a house blessing. It was a few weeks after Theophany, and we have a tradition in the Kyivan Church that the holy water that we bless to make present in our lives the baptism of Christ should be spread to our homes as well. Christ is baptized in the Jordan by John, sanctifying all the waters of creation by… Read more

Yesterday I wrote about how I recently read Tolstoy’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ during this Preparation period for the Great Fast. My comments were in the context of discovering that I practiced a habit from evangelical Protestantism of seeing the world, texts I was reading, and other people as mirrors. I had written a short story titled ‘The Goldberg Variations’ without ever reading Tolstoy’s story. The piece I wrote is an unredeemable disaster; I read it a few weeks ago, and it… Read more

I said in my last post that last year’s Great Fast helped me to discover how my immersion in evangelical Protestantism had given me a mirror. I always think this is ironic because evangelical Protestants pride themselves on exegesis, of being able to read out of the text what is there. Seeing yourself in the text is called eisegesis; it is also a no-no. During the Preparation period for this year’s Great Fast, I have been discovering just how powerfully paralyzing the… Read more

This is the week. Scrolling down my Facebook wall, I see the familiar ritual. I have had too much social media, evangelical friends across the ecclesial kaleidoscope say. I am getting off Facebook for Lent. By Wednesday, the frozen chosen will be gone. The rest of us, including those of us in the Byzantine churches who do not get to choose what we will give up for this season, will be left behind. I have not written for the last few weeks…. Read more

For those of us on the New Calendar, Zacchaeus Sunday has come too soon. Just a week after Theophany, the pre-preparation for the Great Fast has already begun. Next week, the Preparation period will officially begin with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. In three weeks, meat will be eliminated from our diet, and in a month, dairy too. If I were not so thankful that I get to celebrate ‘Christmas’ and ‘Easter’ with my friends in the… Read more

A few months ago, I got a message from someone who has been reading my blog and my academic work. She said that she had been very taken with the concept of jook sing, the ‘hollow bamboo’ that describes Chinese Americans born in North America who might look Chinese but have no sense of Chinese culture. Over the summer, I had worked through a series of posts on being Cantonese despite being a jook sing, as I rediscovered who I was through the prodemocracy… Read more

Eugenia Geisel is one of my former students at the University of Washington and is now a new colleague on the Catholic blogosphere. When I first told her about Orthodox icons having lipstick stains on them, she remarked that she’d be one to leave them. Given the Latin Church’s emphasis on the three-dimensional body as iconic, she imagined that she might leave them on her relics too. Thus was her new blog born. Lipstick on My Relics, she calls it. I suppose… Read more

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