The Empathy Exams

07book"The Empathy Exam" by Leslie Jamison.

 Leslie Jamison’s essays in The Empathy Exams ask – and begin to answer – an array of important questions about pain, healing, and empathy. To list just a few: When does empathy actually reinforce the pain it wants to console? Can pain be actual and constructed at the same time? And how do we represent female pain without producing a culture in which this pain has been fetishized to the point of fantasy or imperative?Jamison frames her writing as “a search for possibility,” which cou … [Read more...]

On “Drunken” Christianity

Today, many Americans will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo, a holiday celebrated in America and Mexico that commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory in the Battle of Pueblo. In America, most of the celebration is accompanied by copious amounts of partying. Unlike most Americans, I see today as a different sort of holiday: the 201st birthday of Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard’s thought offers an interesting reflection for us on this tequila-drenched holiday.For Kierkegaard, the Modern Age has ushe … [Read more...]

Un-sandwiching Holy Saturday: Reclaiming the Discipline of Waiting

Holy Saturday tends to gets sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter. I want to make the case that it is actually quite important.It is, at its essence, about waiting. Christ's disciples were awaiting persecution by the Romans and rabbis. We now are await the return of Christ. It is about waiting in limbo, in between stages, caught in the middle of the death of Good Friday and the life of Easter.It is, thus, an apt metaphor for this earthly life. As Christians we have died to our old … [Read more...]

When My Brother Was an Aztec

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 The title poem of Natalie Diaz’s first collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, introduces the book’s biggest subject: her eldest brother’s meth addiction and its impact on the family. “He lived in our basement and sacrificed my parents/every morning,” writes Diaz. “Neighbors were amazed my parents’ hearts kept/growing back – It said a lot about my parents, or parents’ hearts.”While some of Diaz’s poems confront their subjects straightforwardly, it’s her extended metaphors – which … [Read more...]

The Doomsday Machine

My wife and I did not see—and have no plans to see—R.I.P.D., The Lone Ranger, Olympus Has Fallen, and various other big budget movie offerings from 2013. However, not long ago, we sat in the comfort of our basement, which is like a home theater, and watched Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Frances Ha—a buzzed-about 2013 black-and-white American comedy-drama that had a semi-wide theatrical release beginning in May. No cars, skyscrapers, or people were destroyed in Frances Ha, but the scene in which Fr … [Read more...]

Why We Need Monks

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 Religious communities serve as icons of the Christian life. Today more than ever, we need their witness of poverty, chastity, and obedience to counteract our contemporary excesses.“Fathers and teachers, what is a monk?” asks the Elder Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov. “In the enlightened world of today,” he says, referring to Dostoyevsky’s Russia, “this word is uttered in mockery by some, and by others even as a term of abuse. And it gets worse and worse.”Though monasticism is s … [Read more...]

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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"The Grand Budapest Hotel" begins with a telescoping narrative device: a young girl—a poor, but kind man’s Lena Dunham—walks through a cemetery to pay tribute to the memory of an author who is buried there.  She is dressed in a pink Girl Scout uniform of sorts and carrying a copy of a book entitled The Grand Budapest Hotel which has a stencil drawing of the hotel façade on the cover, also in pink.  Think about the color pink.  Think of all the words it evokes: girlish, pretty, innocent, naïve, sw … [Read more...]


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