Mysteries Sherlock Holmes Can’t Solve

shot of a person writing in a journal with a pen. the journal is resting on the person's knees and they are sitting on a couch. you can't see their face.“No, you should definitely major in English,” I told our babysitter, a high-school senior from our church who is considering an English or Communications degree. “Fiction is just like faith,” I said, “it’s its own kind of knowledge that makes our lives richer.”

I really believe that, though I have to renew my conviction from time to time. I also believe faith is a kind of fiction. The kind that apprehends necessary truths. Not the truths we call science or philosophy, but the truths we call mysteries.

Growing up, mystery meant Sherlock Holmes and The Hardy Boys. It meant a problem of insufficient information, a puzzle of the material world that required careful reasoning and a little courage to sort out.

The Hardy Boys solved pretty ordinary problems, though. They were adventures as much as mysteries. In Sherlock Holmes, by contrast, mystery took on a cosmic significance.

Holmes’s ability to reason in linear fashion from observation to conclusion indicates his mastery of the basic machinations of the world. The largest mystery, in many ways, has been solved for him. He may have moments of reflection on the tragedy of misplaced love or foolish ambition, but he lives in a more or less mechanical world whose workings can be known and understood.

I used to love the clarity with which Holmes sees the world. I loved the precision with which a sign leads to an inevitable conclusion. A dirty hat means a problem with the wife. A man’s abnormal interest in geese means he’s a jewel thief.

This is a reassuring view of the world, and I was drawn to it because I never experienced the world as so certain, myself. I still do. The world is made, perhaps, for those who feel confident they understand it, and not so much for me. [Read more…]

A Rabbi, a Priest, and a Wedding: Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

By Danielle Leshaw 

Water DrippingJudaism tells us how to leave.

Leaving the Sabbath. Leaving Israel. Leaving a marriage. Leaving life. We have rituals and words of prayer and entire theologies and words of wisdom about departure. Sometimes we leave with candles and sweet smells. Other times we depart with a divine request for safety as we journey. When leaving our spouse, we sign legal documents and ritualize the end just as we ritualized the beginning. And other times, at death, for instance, we depart with confessing all our sins. It’s only then that we’re ready to enter the next world.

But we have no ritual for leaving Judaism itself. There is no escort. There are no words of blessing. Nobody holds your hand and wishes you well, bestowing you with gifts for the next phase of life.

Sitting in church, I prayed. I stared long and hard at the enormous Jesus with his leg bent ever so slightly, with the white linen loincloth, with his head hung and his eyes closed, blood dripping, draped on the cross. Dear Jesus, please show me what to do right now. I just need some clarity. [Read more…]

A Rabbi, a Priest, and a Wedding: Part 1

By Danielle Leshaw

JudaismFather Bill offered a set of instructions. “Walk beside me, never on my left, but always on my right.”

I nodded.

“And we’re walking towards Jesus.” He pointed across the church. “Shall we practice?”

“Yes, please,” I answered.

We processed up the aisle, an elderly priest and a young, female rabbi. I matched his steps. His brown frock went swish-swish while the long, braided belt knocked against his knees. It was a long path, from the entrance doors of the church up the aisle to the ornate dais. This gave me time to look around. The Stations of the Cross were divided up around the big room, white pedestals with hammered copper sculptures of Jesus during his final moments. It was a sunny morning. The skylights streamed light beams. Every Jesus, big or small, hanging or standing or crouching or sitting, was illuminated. And as if by divine command, there were little specs of glitter dust in each ray of light. [Read more…]

Honey, I Want a Tattoo

By Brad Fruhauff

Matching TattoosIf Katie had had a tattoo when we met, I probably would have married her thinking it quirky or even, perhaps, kind of cool. But when we married her only unusual body mod was a tasteful nose ring.

Fast forward twenty years. Out of the blue she says to me: “I want a tattoo.”

My first response was not, “Oh, that would be quirky and even, perhaps, kind of cool,” but something more like, “What, aren’t you happy in our marriage?”

The response in my head, at any rate. Out loud, I did what I usually do when I’m uncomfortable: grunted noncommittally and changed the subject.

My reaction surprised me. When I thought about it, I didn’t have moral objections, and I wasn’t convinced myself by the social objections. Why was I so uncomfortable?

Working out the answer took me on an unexpected psycho-spiritual and theological journey. [Read more…]

The Affair and the End of It

SHOW_42_34_35_1.epsThe second season of Showtime’s The Affair premiered at the beginning of October. In the show, Noah, a forty-something apparently-happily-married novelist, goes to Montauk for the summer with his wife and kids. He meets Alison, who is also married, about ten years his junior, and still grieving the tragic death of her young son years earlier.

You can gather from the title where it goes from there.

Nothing innovative about this plot, but each episode is split into two halves—one from Noah’s perspective and one from Alison’s. Often both halves retell the same events but with subtle changes to account for differing recollections. In Noah’s memory, Alison is seductive and playful: In Alison’s, Noah is swaggeringly confident. Noah’s wife is much more attractive in Alison’s memory than in Noah’s. Events happen in different orders; people speak with different tones of voice. And so it goes. [Read more…]