Living on the Threshold

Guest Post

By Elizabeth Kalman

My house sits on the edge of a salt marsh in Charleston, South Carolina. On one side of the house is the street, on the other, the marsh, teeming with life. I have a fence between my yard and the marsh, but the crabs, snakes, rats, and cockroaches all ignore it. The Night herons, in particular, use the fence as a perching place before they hop down and crap on my deck.

The bank is about to foreclose on this house, so I live on a threshold between homeownership and something else, something unknown. And that unknown place is where God keeps me. For better or for worse, here I am.

I got some insight into the meaning of thresholds last summer when I returned to Nantucket Island—my hometown—to help my son get his house in shape for the rental market. I pulled weeds and hauled stuff to the dump and painted, but every Tuesday evening I gathered up my notebook and scraps of poems and walked into town for a poetry workshop led by Greg Orr.

We met on the second floor of Mitchell’s Book Corner: Greg, a group of year-round islander poets, a smattering of summer visitors, and me. I began to learn how to write a poem. [Read more…]

A Baby Smaller Than Roosevelt’s Eye

Guest Post
By Lindsey DeLoach Jones

For most new parents, the first glimpse of the life they’ve created is a grainy ultrasound printout, when the baby resembles—if not a human being—at least a gummy bear.

In my daughter’s first photograph, three inches by five and black-and-white, she is microscopic in size. She is a five-day-old blastocyst, smaller—as one website puts it—than Roosevelt’s eye on the face of a US dime. She looks like a flaky-crusted apple pie.

Our sneak peek is not what I would call lucky; my husband and I sloughed through years of infertility before consenting to the medical interventions that made it possible for my daughter to grow in a dish for five days before being ushered to my warm insides. [Read more…]

Antisuperchrist: How the Man of Steel Saves, Part 2

Guest Post
By Lucas Kwong

Today I want to take up the question that ended yesterday’s post: Is Superman the Übermensch?

As a host of commentators have pointed out, Superman’s conventional morals have never positioned him as the destroyer of societal norms that Nietzsche championed. In Man of Steel, our hero’s forbearance toward his human antagonists make it clear he isn’t about to super-speed beyond good and evil anytime soon. Yet all the loving compassion in Henry Cavill’s baby blues can’t erase the fact that humanity doesn’t want a mangy drifter for a Messiah, or even a clean-scrubbed-but-nondescript farm boy: it wants a demigod.

It’s telling that, in this revision of comic book history, the “S” on his chest actually represents the Kryptonian symbol for hope. Misinterpreting this, the humans dub him Superman. What’s a self-effacing savior to do?

Indeed, the cosmos itself seems hell-bent on forging Kal-El into Nietzsche’s prototype. The collision between Kryptonian biology and Earth’s atmosphere produces Clark’s horrifically heightened sense of perception, such that his childhood memories involve seeing his teacher as a walking skeleton. In his all-encompassing sensorial receptivity, Clark recalls the Overman’s capacity to absorb life’s totality, incorporating Dionysian chaos and Apollonian order into his being without missing a (goose)step. [Read more…]

Antisuperchrist: How the Man of Steel Saves, Part 1

Guest Post
By Lucas Kwong

We may have taken Jesus out of our schools, but from May to September, you can find him at Regal Cinemas 13.

It’s hard to find a movie from the past few summers that isn’t an HD variation on the Passion, whether we’re dealing with Harry Potter’s death and resurrection, Bruce Wayne’s dalliance with the ultimate sacrifice, or Captain Kirk’s own saintly renunciation. Of late our boy wizards and starship captains have practically surged into battle with WWJD bracelets girdling their well-toned arms.

Into this pantheon of million-dollar Jungian archetypes careens the original Pop Messiah, faster than a speeding bullet. Man of Steel, the latest reinvention of Superman, eschews red underpants while preserving the character’s longstanding Christological subtext, thereby offering Warner Bros. an opportunity to pitch an ad campaign at evangelical pastors.

But closer inspection reveals a more complicated message than the Warner Bros. marketing department may want to admit. Piling still more philosophical and theological significance onto an already over-determined icon, Man of Steel winds up allegorizing Christianity’s agon with both its Classical predecessor and its Nietzschean inversion. By extension, this both aestheticizes and deconstructs America’s national mythology. [Read more…]