About A. G. Harmon

A.G. Harmon teaches Shakespeare, Law and Literature, Jurisprudence, and Writing at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His novel, A House All Stilled, won the 2001 Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel.

Brooklyn: A Drama of Discernment

BrooklynOne of the hardest things in life is having two good choices that are completely exclusive of each other. It’s not a matter of picking a major in college, regretting it, and changing to another track; not a matter of taking a job at the wrong place and eventually finding your way to another one. Many choices—perhaps most choices—can be undone, however long and laborious the undoing.

But those decisions that are irreversible, unalterable, and unavoidable are the ones that cause the most anguish, especially when there’s much to recommend both of the alternatives (of course, at times we’re cursed with an array of good options, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll keep it to two). In these dilemmas, we have an embarrassment of riches. The stakes are high: Pick one and lose the other forever.

Arguably, in this day and age, such dire consequences are less often the case than they used to be. What were historically lifelong commitments are now temporary engagements; wherever you are, you can get out pretty quickly. Affiliations, careers, and faiths are imminently interchangeable now.

Even marriage, which was once a permanent choice, has hardly the strength of a hair anymore, let alone a chain. You can divorce several times without stigma, though with somewhat more financial burden. And to our eternal shame, even children can be opted out of now, with the backing of a vast secular orthodoxy and the many huge industries that make a profit from it.

But that was not always so. There was a time when choosing meant you made a promise that honor and decency demanded you keep. In one of the loveliest movies to come along in a while, one of the loveliest characters to come along in an equally long while has to make such a choice—between two good things that she could never have predicted would present themselves. [Read more...]

Eden’s Border: Where Objects Have Stories

IMG_8506We’ll have to go back to the gun shop today. There’s no way around it. It seems that the barrel with the modified choke got left there when my mother placed the twenty-gauge up for sale sometime before Christmas. But since there weren’t any takers, we went back to the shop to retrieve it when I got home in December. Unfortunately, the owner forgot to give us the other barrel, so we’ll have to go back. My brother has decided he wants it.

The only reason she was selling this shotgun out of the many others we have is because nobody could remember how we came to own it or whose it was in the first place. Coming from a long line of hunters, our family has stories behind these weapons. Among them, there’s a rifle with a scope my grandfather deer hunted with (we used to have two buck heads that he kept mounted on his wall in the study), an A.H. Fox with an engraved plate that my other grandfather traded a man for during the Depression, a 410 that my own father began to hunt with, and an Ithaca with a sawed-off stock that I was given as a boy because the gun was originally too long for me. [Read more...]

God is Sacrificial Love

Titian_1558_Ancona_CrucifixionIf God is love, as we’re told, then what kind of love is he? In the quest to know that which is beyond all knowing—another one of those oxymorons so characteristic of religion—we find a set of pictures that for any serious adult proves ultimately unsatisfying.

Brotherly love, fatherly love, even passionate love have all been employed to express God’s essence through platitudes and poetry, paintings and precepts. God with his hand on our shoulders; God carrying us in his arms; God pining away below our windows, vexing tarts that we are. Speaking for myself, these images long ago began to cloy. To the limited extent that they can voice the truth about the transcendent, any effect they take is all worn out. The fuzz is off the velvet.

And yet, there is one image that does not lose its appeal—that beckons the beholder further in rather than tires him with what only settles and sates. One image is always fresh, with the power of pulsing blood, of throbbing lesion; and therein seems to lie the answer to what kind of love God is. [Read more...]

Cry Melodies

15315927305_b92c26cd0b_zThis post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.           — Jeremiah 1:5

The role of music in life is so great that to make a point about it is to risk staleness. In fact, it’s one of the best indicators of a priori awareness. “We all know that,” silently remarks the hearer, when some correlation between melody and mind, song and soul, is pointed out.

But most of the things we know about music tend to be related to the reactions it elicits. Music enlivens us, calms us, inspires us, undoes us—we react to it; it sets our feet going. Our lives are set to a metronome. Marches, waltzes, head thrashes, mosh pit jumps, whatever its mode, music plays us as much as we play it. Physically, we become the wind chime, the Aeolian harp, as the notes blow past and cascade through the pipes and strings of our bodies. [Read more...]

A Good Fight: Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night)

Two_days,_one_nightIf a pair of writer/directors exists that can rival Joel and Ethan Coen for a body of work with profound depictions of humanity, it is another set of brothers. The films of the Dardennes, Jean-Pierre and Luc, have consistently been among the best of modern offerings and were a main feature in an essay I wrote on European film for Image a few years back (“Portraits of the Sonata: Desire and Transformation in Modern European Cinema,” No. 61, Spring 2009).

La PromesseL’Enfant, and especially Le Fils, match any expectations one could have with regard to artistic portrayals of humanity’s struggle for decency and dignity, and one of the Dardennes’ latest works, Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night) proves that their touch has not waned in the thirty-odd years they’ve written and directed for the screen.

The film features the magnificent Marion Cotillard. In an Oscar-nominated performance, she plays Sandra, a Belgian mother of two children who has just learned that while she was absent, her employer offered her co-workers a choice: they could either have a one thousand euro bonus, or Sandra could keep her job. [Read more...]


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