“Escape from Enlightenment”: I’m at First Things

reviewin': For over twenty years Will Allen was the in-house videographer for the Buddhafield—a religious group, eventually numbering over a hundred members, that mixed meditation, ecstatic experience, and ballet. In 2007 the group shattered amid accusations of emotional and sexual abuse. The title of Allen's new documentary shows which side he ended up on: It's called Holy Hell.Holy Hell confirms some stereotypes of cults and challenges others. The Buddhafield offered much that our c … [Read more...]

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“Divine Disco: The beatific sub-genre that delivered sermons on the dance floor”: The Guardian

grauniading: With its reputation for sex, drugs and unbridled hedonism, disco doesn’t have a reputation as the most god-fearing genre. But, as every clubber knows, on a great night you can have something akin to a spiritual experience on the dancefloor, putting your hands in the air and giving yourself over to a higher power: music itself.A new compilation, put together by DJ and inveterate crate-digger Greg Belson, confirms that the cultures of Saturday night and Sunday morning aren’t so di … [Read more...]

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For There’s Nothing Original in Me/Except Original Sin: A Birthday Book Meme

I really enjoyed Melinda Selmys's list of the twenty books that have shaped her. It's my birthday (totally unrelated link, you guys) so it seemed like a good time to do my own list. Herein, fifteen books I blame, with commentary.In chronological order; when I can't remember (e.g. the first three books), in order from greatest impact to least. And keeping in mind that we are unknown to ourselves, we knowers, so probably like Carbonel, The King of the Cats should be #1 here, but the only … [Read more...]

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“Ecstatic Dance”: I review “The Fits,” A Stunning Film

review at First Things: Anna Rose Holmer's extraordinary new film The Fits begins with a young girl whose body obeys her will implicitly. “One,” eleven-year-old Toni (Royal Hightower) counts, as she pulls herself into a sit-up in the very center of the frame. “Two.”She works her body, grunting and gasping and twisting just a little with the effort, all the way past twenty. Then it's time to box. She spars with her older brother (Da'Sean Minor): She is a child, a disciple. She helps him clean … [Read more...]

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“Some Possibilities for Narratives of Friendship”: I’m at Spiritual Friendship

readin' books: I loved Wes’s post on writing about friendship, and figured I’d throw some specific examples out there to see what actual novels and movies suggest about the nature of friendship. These are very much first-draft thoughts, as I hope you guys will riff on them.“The Body” & Stand By Me–friendship as childhood. This heartbreaking Stephen King novella, which was turned into probably the best adaptation of his work for the screen, tells the story of a group of boys who go on a j … [Read more...]

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If You Don’t Honor Celibacy…

This is a more tentative section of my "three false gods" presentation. It's about what we lose when marriage crowds out the practice of celibacy.Catholics have marriage as an image of Heaven--the wedding feast of the Lamb. But we also have celibacy as an image of the life of Heaven, where there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage. Putting marriage in its proper place means not only renewing other forms of "horizontal" love, but also a rediscovery of the beauty and passion of … [Read more...]

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“One Nation, Under the Influence”: I review a National Archives show on US Boozin’

for The American Interest: “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History,” on exhibit at the National Archives through January 10, is a lot like a 2 a.m. barroom yarn: rambling, studded with odd and fascinating moments, but lacking the one thing that might make it all make sense. ...“Spirited Republic” is organized mostly-chronologically. The opening sections make creative use of the archival material to tell the story of alcohol’s role in early American civic history: A reproduction of Ge … [Read more...]

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