The House Where Beauty Lives

Rosenthal artwork 137“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Art collector Roberta Ahmanson quotes this famous challenge by the late nineteenth century British artist William in her interview with Greg Wolfe in the current issue of Image (issue 83). Morris’s imperative naturally moves me to make a mental inventory of the stuff in my house.

In my clothes closets, I instantly fail his test; too much there is no longer useful. The hand-woven blouse that I bought in Guatemala and don’t wear passes because of its beauty.

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Is My Truth Your Truth?

meditationI do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

—Wallace Stevens

 

Jewish Mindfulness Teacher Training Program instructions for this month:

“Choose a phrase from Psalm 30 or Hallel to begin and/or end your sitting practice every day. Use the same blessing every day. Memorize it. Notice if it changes your practice, if you recall it during the day, if it inspires awe or connection to life.”

How to choose?

Psalm 30: it’s shorter than Hallel, a section of the Jewish worship service, included on particularly joyous days such as the three pilgrimage festivals, in which all the psalms include the word hallel or the concept of praise. I can read Psalm 30 quickly and see if any verse calls out to me, and, if it does, I can work with that verse this month.

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God’s Voice: An Exploration of Vocation, Part 2

stContinued from yesterday. 

While many desires prompt goodness, others trigger evil and thus can’t be signs of our vocation to love. Ignatius called these desires disordered, meaning that a God-given longing—a holy desire—has become perverted.

If you’re a contestant on American Idol, you may have the holy desires to uplift your fans through your singing and to earn a living for your family. But if you sabotage another entrant to better your chances of prevailing, your holy desires have become warped.

When Ignatius was a young man, he happened upon a system for distinguishing holy from disordered desires. At the time, he was pulled by two strong yearnings, one to be a womanizer, the other to become a monk, and when he pondered these conflicting urges he noticed a difference in the feelings each aroused.

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God’s Voice: An Exploration of Vocation, Part 1

american idolI love American Idol and could hardly wait until this month when the fourteenth season began. I’ve watched it all through the years: those judged by Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson; those when Kara DioGuardi stepped in; the stints of Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj; the reigns of Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban.

This penchant isn’t easy to admit. My friends are mostly highbrows—educators, writers, and lawyers whose favorite resting pastimes are reading The New York Times or the latest Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, going to the opera or the theatre, listening to NPR or jazz, and watching PBS. I’ve never had the courage to confess to them that I’m an Idol fan.

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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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