The Evidence of Things Not Seen

Egyptian StatuesSince I’ve been blogging here at Good Letters I have been contacted by several friends who knew me back when I was a Baptist. My friend Heidi asked, “Are you a universalist now?” Cliff wondered if I was, “denying or seriously doubting Jesus’ claim to be God.” Another asked if I was “still a believer,” and yet another frankly labeled me agnostic.

These friends are seeing my musings after many years away—thanks to social media. Their own journeys seem to be keeping closer to their original faith, and mine not so much. There’s no doubt that it’s been a long road from my strict fundamentalist childhood to where I am now. [Read more…]

Science and the Death of Philosophy

original_2640_oboi_nochnoj_kanon_2048x1367My boy is a bit of a science geek. He subscribes to Discover and Popular Science. They are both styled after the fashion of other pop magazines in an attempt to appeal to non-scientists (“Cold Fusion: A Special Investigation”).

Popular Science focuses on technology. The past year’s issues have featured an invisible, invincible war ship, faster racecars, the ultimate scuba system, elevators with speeds of forty miles an hour.

And there’s the new no-pulse mechanical heart that has revolutionized heart replacement by running steadily at 10,000 rpm instead of trying to pulse like a heart made of muscle. This advance is making the old heart “that mimics nature’s lub-dub… as comically shortsighted as Leonardo Da Vinci designing a flying machine with flapping wings.” People are now walking around, living comfortably, with no pulse whatsoever. [Read more…]

The Boy Who Lived Large

3295985119_346ac2aed1_zFriday we took the kids and hit the road for Aiken, South Carolina. We were going down to attend a memorial service for my sister’s stepson Tyler. Tyler was sixteen years old.

The service was nice. The pastor had lost a six-year-old daughter to asthma, and was particularly tuned in to the family’s pain.

My nephew Jesse wrote a letter to Tyler, which one of his friends stood and read for him. He wrote to Tyler, “You were so warm, so happy, so loving, and as wonderful as those words are they still don’t seem to do you justice.” He wrote, “Tyler, you were the embodiment of unconditional love…”

The pastor spoke of everyone’s memories of Tyler. He loved to sing, and he had a specific song he attached to each significant person in his life, singing it when he saw that person.

His favorites: Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Night”; The Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight,” which he changed to party tonight; “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands,” which he sometimes changed to I’ve got the whole world in my hands. [Read more…]

While My Pen Gently Weeps

6742625959_af858306f8_mMy daughter Gracie was helping me prepare dinner one evening. We were doing the bœuf bourguignon from Virginia Willis’s amazing cookbook Bon Appetit, Y’all, which puts a southern spin on every recipe—this one, by adding bacon.

As Gracie stood on her cooking stool and crisped the bacon at the stovetop, the aroma filled the kitchen and mixed with the onions I was cutting at the counter. She talked over the bacon’s hiss and sizzle about being a chef someday, quitting cross country, girls at school she liked and didn’t like, boys.

I drifted as she chattered, but snapped back to attention when she said, “And if you’re going to be a writer—”

“I am a writer,” I cut in. I wasn’t sure how we’d come to this. [Read more…]

Who Needs to Read Anymore?

High pile of hardcover booksAt the community college where I teach—actually in the state capitol two hours away—a massive overhaul of the English curriculum is underway. As I understand it right now, a diagnostic test will determine student placement, and three levels of developmental reading and writing are being added for those with low scores. Those students will be taking nine credit hours, almost two hours a day five days a week, of developmental reading and writing.

Faculty members are groaning—two retired the week the changes were announced—but what I haven’t heard is anyone saying there isn’t a problem with student proficiency. I remember the essay, “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower” in The Atlantic some years ago, in which a professor claimed many of his students were close to being functionally illiterate. [Read more…]


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