My Days of Awe, 5776

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImpatience. Anger. Wastefulness. Restlessness. Desire. Haughtiness. Greed. Judgement. Pride.


I’ve been paying attention, especially the last few days. Now it’s getting serious. It’s the morning of the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.


Yesterday, just after I walked into the house after ten-and-a-half hours at the university, before I dropped my heavy book bag on the floor, I spotted a bowl of chips and an open container of my favorite salsa. But before I was able to crack the first of forty chips in my mouth, my wife said, it arrived crushed.

She was on hold, forty-five minutes waiting for a customer service rep. The post office. How to file a claim. A box of wedding gifts. [Read more...]

Original Sin and the Warp Effect

Fleeing_bayeux_tapestryOne of the great writers—to my recollection, Flannery O’Connor—said something to the effect that everything we touch is warped by original sin, even our greatest virtues. If I am interpreting her correctly, this means that any display of a moral act is polluted somehow, flecked with impurity, however slight, simply by way of being performed by a human agent.

Of course, in a very simplified definition, original sin is the concept that a human being, through some primordial dissociation from God’s will—is by nature a creature morally flawed and faulted. This dissociation riddles his existence with tendencies, penchants, bents that are as innate to him as the desires of a lion to eat meat, a plant to seek sunshine.

More precise yet, they are as entwined with his makeup as a leopard is with his spots, a giraffe with her height, a gazelle with his speed. Indeed, the lower animals act by instinct and there is some rough barometer to their need. They may lay waste to field or to another population, but in doing so, there is a level of satiety that they are aiming for, and it is directly associated with their appetites.

Man, on the other hand, has no cap to his desires; they are boundless. Further, unlike animals, humans are not necessarily motivated by physical want. Pride is a metaphor applied to the lion; it is a deadly reality when applied to a human, as much a part of a man as his blood type. [Read more...]

Having Enough: Jacob, Esau, and the Great Books

Tissot_The_Meeting_of_Esau_and_JacobGuest post by Jonathan Hiskes

It feels silly to say I studied the classics because of slick marketing copy, but that’s what happened. When I was seventeen, I had no idea what to do with the glossy college viewbooks that began showing up in the mail. They offered up images of interchangeable gothic lecture halls, sunlit quads, and cheering, face-painted football crowds. They offered up equally sunny portrayals of happy, high-earning alumni in successful careers.

Amid that flurry came a flyer bearing names like Homer, Plato, Machiavelli, Descartes, Nietzsche, and Locke—names I knew nothing about, beyond some vague sense of their importance. It advertised a yearlong honors seminar on “Developments in the History of Western Thought” at Loyola University Chicago. The flyer had a message about asking big questions or thinking deep thoughts or some such language calibrated to appeal to pretentious high-school seniors. It probably had more gothic spires or Greek columns. [Read more...]

Bullets in My House

Eyes II (2)By Paul Luikart

Last Wednesday I settled down on the couch to do something I’d been meaning to do for months: Watch True Detective. My kids were asleep. My wife was asleep. I was all set to binge watch until my eyes bled.

Season one, episode one cued up on my laptop. Play. Woody Harrelson in a suit. A naked dead woman tied up in a field, deer antlers stuck to her skull. Stringy-haired Matthew McConaughey lighting a cig in the interrogation room.

How can I say what happened next without sounding fake? Our house was shot. Hit by bullets. The noise of gunfire was suddenly present, live, loud, in my living room. Instinctively I rolled off the couch onto the floor and nearly crushed my computer. My wife appeared from the hall. [Read more...]

His Murderer and His Keeper

326044514_cedf60b870_mSome days I can’t remember: Am I Abel or Cain?

Blackberry soda in the afternoon sun. I talk with a friend who recounts her anger and, before she meets with those who aroused it, it’s softening. Blue heart of flame, her eyes purify the avenue, its commerce, its air. I am alive. I must be Cain.

Once, I was a shepherd. Now I am reduced to this: a symbol. My brother discovered his black heart when he heard me in the field, singing, offering the best of my flock. God loves my poetry. In response, my brother stoned me. Because back then no one knew when the soul leaves the body, he pummeled me beyond necessity. Even to this hour he continues, pelting me with rubble, rockets—whatever’s at hand. An innocent man, dead. I must be Abel. [Read more...]