Carrying Her: Ann Patchett’s “Truth and Beauty”

Kafka has this great line, "A belief is like a guillotine: just as heavy, just as light." I could easily have titled a post about Ann Patchett's memoir of her friendship with poet and memoirist Lucy Grealy, "A Friend Is Like a Guillotine...." Lucy was light, literally--she had jaw cancer as a child, and the chemotherapy, radiation and endless surgeries she endured left her unable to chew and barely able to swallow, so she weighed very little. Ann carries her many times throughout this book. At … [Read more...]

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“Never Quite Free”: My series on portrayals of penitence concludes

with a look at the Mountain Goats, We Shall All Be Healed. This piece has a couple lines I really like: One way to mistell stories of penitence is to envision penance as a linear process of restoration. You do a bad thing, you feel bad, you make amends (often in a way which involves saying ritual words like “I’m sorry,” or doing something which offers an obvious symbolic parallel to your wrongdoing), status quo ante. There can be truly sublime portrayals of this kind of almost mathematical penit … [Read more...]

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“What’s So Bad About Casual Drug Use?”: Nick Gillespie

at Time: ...Nearly 50% of people have tried an illegal drug at least once, yet most don’t repeat the experience. With cocaine, most who have tried it not only don’t go on to became addicts under even the most expansive possible definition of the term, they don’t even go on to become regular users.According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.5% of Americans ages 12 and older have tried cocaine at least once, but just 1.8% report using the drug recreationally in the past … [Read more...]

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Yoda and the Giving Tree: The Leaf-Green Faces of the Enemy

Two points connected solely by my desire to use this title.First, I am not going to say much about the long exchange in the comments to the post I was just talking about. You'll know pretty quickly if it's the kind of thing you can read without wanting to throttle a swan. But I wanted to register my full-throated agreement with Gabriel's disapproval of the Yoda line, "Do or do not. There is no try."People. This is very close to the opposite of the truth! First of all, many people who … [Read more...]

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Fools, Drunks, And Americans

As much as I love the idea of a ballet about alcoholism, this article on "Why Russia's drinkers resist AA" seems to rely on unstated, wrong assumptions not only about addiction and recovery, but about the diversity of spirituality. Although the title is neutral--resistance can be heroic as well as bullheaded--the article itself seems pretty clearly slanted toward the conclusion that Russia needs to get with the Program.As you know, Dr. Bob, I have immense respect for the 12 Steps and my own … [Read more...]

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Enough Is Never Enough… Of “The Stuff”!

So here in the wacky land we call the Catholic Church, Halloween is the beginning of spooky death season, not the end. All of November is set aside to honor the dead, and while I may have some serious posts on that theme, I also plan to watch a ton of horror movies, because I'm the Halloween equivalent of the person who gets really intense about singing Christmas carols on December 26, apparently. I started off with The Stuff, a 1985 killer-yogurt flick.Well, the 1985 killer-yogurt flick, I … [Read more...]

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Seven Quick Takes… Almost Friday

Yo. Let's see if this is actually seven or not!"Bullying Prevention Programs May Have Negative Impact." To me the key thing here is the recommendation to focus on "systemic change within the schools," rather than turning bullying into a Thing which you've set aside and spotlit. If you're instilling students with respect for one another and for the teachers, and if teachers and other authority figures aren't tacitly approving of bullying, you are a lot less likely to get to the point where … [Read more...]

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