Death and the Absurdity of Heaven

image02I remember, as an undergraduate, reading Spinoza for the first time. I came across the sentence, “The free man thinks of nothing less than death.” Spinoza meant, of course, that a free man never thinks about death.

But I managed to read the sentence in the opposite way. I took the phrase “nothing less” in the way you might say, “I want nothing less than the best cheesecake in the state.” I thought Spinoza was saying that the free man demanded the very best to think about. Death, obviously, tops that list.

I took it for granted that everyone thinks about death almost all of the time. On becoming a Catholic in my adulthood, I was excited by the prospect of joining the morbid parade of suffering souls trudging stolidly toward the grave, fingering our rosaries and muttering under our breath about the veil of tears.

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Epic Tales: an Interview with Amit Majmudar, part 2

Claude_Lorrain_024Guest post by Sarah Arthur

Continued from yesterday. 

SA:  In your essay “Me and the Monotheists,” you say that even though you are a Hindu, many Christians seem to warmly welcome your poetry (e.g., I’ve included your poem “Incarnation” in the anthology Light Upon Light). You say this is primarily about “aesthetic resonance”—particularly with imagery—but you also point to the English language itself as being encoded with biblical influence.

And yet not every contemporary English-speaking poet writes this way. Can you elaborate?

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Wiman and Words

At “Good Letters,” words are what we work with.

Of course, this is true of all blogs, all writing. Yet consciousness of the craft of writing is key to our posts. No matter what our declared subject, our undeclared subject—our subtext—is always what are my words doing here? What can words do—anywhere?

Words Made Flesh: it’s on our “Good Letters” logo.

That short phrase reverberates with many meanings. The Christian connotation, yes: the Incarnation. But that’s a singular Word. Singular, unique. Whereas we spin out many words. To make them flesh, we try to immerse them in our personal experience. Or we immerse ourselves in our experience and seek for words there. [Read more...]

Varieties of Quiet: Christian Wiman’s Pensées

So profound are Christian Wiman’s pensées in the current issue of Image  that I feel impertinent even engaging them. But they are so deeply engaging that I can’t refrain.

Pensées is my term to describe these reflections, not Wiman’s. He calls the essay “Varieties of Quiet.” When I first read the title, I thought it would be about meditation.

But no, it’s about what language can’t say, especially the language of faith—and even the language of poetry. I say “even” because Wiman is a poet, and editor of Poetry magazine.

Wiman comes down hard on the language of Christianity—because it doesn’t speak to his soul’s experience. He writes that church, with its language of communal worship, “is the last place in the world where [people] are going to find God.” [Read more...]


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