I feel bad about my neck. Those are not my words; they’re the title of writer/comic Nora Ephron’s final book about the indignities of aging. And I did a double take when I looked the publication date up: I Feel Bad About My Neck is already ten years old. Such is the passage of time. But the truth is, ten years after the publication of the book, I now feel bad about my neck, too. On the gray June day… Read more

If I could have only one poet, I’d choose Yehuda Amichai. He’s the poet of the city where I came to life in my twenties: Jerusalem is a port city on the shore of eternity…. Jerusalem is the Venice of God.   Jerusalem stone is the only stone that can feel pain. It has a network of nerves.   The air over Jerusalem is saturated with prayers and dreams like the air over industrial cities.” It’s hard to breathe. He’s… Read more

With their white beards and deep lines in their faces, the older men stand out in our jail Bible study’s circle of usually-young men with either tattoos on the outsides of their arms or track marks on the insides. I’m always struck by the old men’s humility, how they don’t tell the whippersnappers to shut up. They listen. There is a sorrow about them. Take Merle. He’s only in his late fifties, but his questions speak to this sorrow. Someone… Read more

On a festive Sunday evening in what should have been spring (nearly sixty degrees at the zenith and sunny), as neighbors were crossing the road to feed apple cores to the cows, I left our house after dinner for a walk.   Our house is 150 years old. It needs work at all times. It’s made of orange clay brick with limey mortar, white gingerbread cutouts on the gables, and rotting soffits and sills. About a mile down the road… Read more

How You Know It’s Time for a New Phone   There was a moment when it became easier to walk downstairs and talk to my wife face-to-face than to wait for my phone to load messages. It was time for new phones. Soon we were at the T-Mobile store looking at a display of tiny machines with flashy screens and signs with large numbers posted next to them. Each had a different message, somehow.   I’m the newest. I’m the… Read more

The Americans, FX’s drama about Russian spies living in Washington, D.C., has ended its six season run. After season five, I wrote about how deception corrupts various kinds of bodies (national, personal, marital) because intimacy cannot abide it. In one plotline during this final season, spy Elizabeth Jennings goes undercover as Stephanie, a private nurse for an artist, Erica, who suffers from terminal cancer. Elizabeth wants information from Erica’s husband, Glenn—a U.S. weapons negotiator she wants to remain close to… Read more

Monks in the Orthodox tradition have long believed that God’s love is unchanging, constant, like the light of the sun. We do not need to appease a deity’s anger or perform well to turn the light of God’s affection and gaze upon us. It’s just there, divine mercy blazing away, pouring down all the time. The problem, these elders say is that our minds—our nouses, or the window to our hearts—have been darkened, like crusty basement windows. We can be… Read more

Fifteen years ago, there was no end to the noise. It took a cutting to get me to silence. I worked twelve-hour days and longer in an aircraft hangar on a flight line of hundreds of helicopters with the cacophony of auxiliary power units, the collision of metal, and rotor blades beating the air outside, sounds so loud earplugs and noise-canceling helmets were required. After my shift I would climb into my car and turn on the radio, classic rock… Read more

“It’s the End of the World as We Know It…and He Feels Fine”—that’s how the New York Times Magazine titled a profile of the writer Paul Kingsnorth. Kingsnorth is an essayist and novelist, an Englishman who lives on a small homestead in Northern Ireland. With his deep concerns about what he called the “ecocide” of the natural world one might be tempted to call him an environmentalist, but as his recent book Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays… Read more

I recognized the Orthodox monks’ prostrations I’d learned in the monastery in the “burpees” the guys showed me after they were home from prison—exercising alongside them in their driveways and garages, my heart thumping in my throat and a sweat in my shirt sooner than I expected. The homies in their tight tank tops and huge jeans began upright, then hit fists to their abs, bent down to a full bow, touching knees, then the ground, dropping to pushup position,… Read more

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