My September 11 Story, and Ours, Part II

1024px-010915-N-3995K-024_Old_Glory_at_ground_zeroFor Scott Simon, and for Bill Craven

Continued from yesterday.

In the back of my closet, inside a cellophane folder where I keep the rarest papers I own, there is a plain piece of unremarkable 8 ½ by 11 printer paper. At the top of the paper is the inscrutable coding “TC2001091307CD22AM.”

Just to look at this piece of paper makes me shiver, a bit, in recollection. Here’s why:

The first days after September 11 were just as bewildering as the one that had come before, though the daily schedule picked up again almost instantly—this was, you see, the circumstance for which the phrase “the new normal” was actually created. [Read more…]

Dead People: Leszek Kolakowski (1927-2009)

kolakowskiFor Gregory Wolfe 

The following is an excerpt from Meis’s new book Dead People, published June 24 by Zero Books.


Leszek Kolakowski died July 17, 2009. He was a philosopher, a man of letters, historian of ideas. He lived the twentieth century life. It sucked. But like many a Pole, he made the best of a bad situation. The opening lines of the Polish National Anthem are, after all, “Poland has not yet perished.” Poles know that everything will turn out for the worst. It always does. [Read more…]

More Incisive, More Powerful, More Permanent: Cast Your Vote for Image!

selfie2webA political season is upon us. I’m guessing that whatever your party affiliation or philosophical persuasion, right about now you are frustrated and anxious about the political process. Yes, democracy is messy, but the amount of anger, fear-mongering, and divisiveness out there is leading many to cynicism and despair.

Millions of votes have been cast, but have they moved us toward a better place?

Since I’m a writer, I got curious about the root of the word “vote” and was surprised by what I found. It comes from the Latin word meaning “to vow” or “to desire.” One of its earliest uses in the West was “to assign by a vow; to devote religiously.” Hence “devoted” and also “devout.” Maybe if we saw our votes as vows we’d cast them more wisely, not in anger or frustration. But now is the time to recall what some of us have been pointing out over the last thirty years:

Culture is upstream from politics.

Ultimately, the stories we tell and symbols we use to understand ourselves are what will shape the political debates.

Beauty, with its expression in art, is one of the most powerful shapers of culture. At last year’s MusicCares tribute to Bob Dylan, Jimmy Carter said, “There’s no doubt that his words of peace and human rights are much more incisive and much more powerful and much more permanent than the words of any president of the United States.”

Art teaches us to pay attention to the small quiet moments, the daily decisions, the seemingly insignificant gestures that make us human. Art is unafraid to look at the worst things about us—but it’s also able to show us the overlooked good in humanity. It gives us a language to speak and share these things.

And in an election year, this is refreshing news.

If you looked at the past few issues of Image for clues about our age, you’d come up with a pretty different picture than you’d get from this year’s election coverage:

• A young poet, who is also a pastor, reads the body language of his congregants and listens to the deeper desire for connection beneath every conversation.
• A six-year-old girl begins asking her father questions about the world that make him realize how much we can love a thing we don’t understand.
• A car crash victim, the daughter of immigrants, is mystically connected to the boy who receives her transplanted heart.
• An elderly Christian statesman visits a dying Jewish philosopher in Jerusalem.

The truth is that we are “voting” every day of our lives, by the way we live. At Image we believe that a life nourished by art, faith, and mystery does have an impact on our world.

Image’s approach to the world—ecumenical, interfaith, seeking out beauty, finding new ways to explore ancient faiths, inviting others to become attuned to the rhythms of slow culture, generating meaningful dialogue—stands in stark contrast to the current political climate, which is divisive, hyperbolic, and fearful, with an eye always on the next news cycle.

In the spirit of this mission, we now write with a request. In a very special way, we are asking you now to cast your vote for Image.

We are asking you to make that vow, show your devotion, and cast your vote with a financial contribution.

Image needs your financial support. The need is real! While our readers tell us that the quality of our magazine has never been better, our donations, which are used to fund operations beyond the subscription revenue, are not keeping up with our costs. This is especially true for the months of May through September.

I trust you know how hardworking the Image staff is, and how much programming we put out into the world: a world-class journal, a beloved summer workshop, a postgraduate fellowship and an undergraduate fellowship, an acclaimed blog, a gorgeous website, and an email newsletter that goes out to 8,000 subscribers.

We work our hearts out because we believe in Image, which you have voted for time and again. For that we are grateful beyond words.

Cast a vote today that you don’t have to feel ambivalent about.

Vote for art, faith, and mystery. Vote for slow culture and the space that imagination carves out where we can meet and come to a deeper understanding of our common humanity.

Thank you, now and always.


Click here to vote for Image! (US) | (Cananda)
Check out the current delegate map here!

GL banner

Image above by Aubrey Allison.

Choose Life, North Carolina

workersThis day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses: I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life, so that you and your offspring will live. —Duet. 30:19

Once again, my state, North Carolina, has chosen to refuse life. This time in a hastily called emergency session of the General Assembly, racing to beat the clock, the day when an ordinance to protect LGBT people from discrimination and to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify was scheduled to go into effect. Thus, the General Assembly passed House Bill 2, a bill that bans transgender people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with and nullifies local ordinances around the state that would have protected gay and transgender people from being fired because of their sexual identity or preference.

Once again, my state, North Carolina, has chosen to refuse life, while locally elected officials in cities and counties chose to protect life in all its complex, strong and tender and beautiful diversity.

Unlike the political leaders of my state, I choose life. Here are two places where, in the last couple of days, I have found myself opening to include more life in my awareness. [Read more…]

Changing Positions: A Meditation for Campaign Season

Mount Ranier photo(With help from Donovan, D. T. Suzuki, Qingyuan Weixin, Wallace Stevens, democracy, REM, Bonnie Raitt, David Bowie, Stanley Kunitz, neuroscience, Torah, Ben Bag Bag, The Rabbis, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, you.)

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain then there is. Donovan, are you flip-flopping? Or is it you, mountain?

It was snowing / And it was going to snow. Which is it, Mr. Stevens, the actual weather or the forecast? You want it both ways?


It’s primary season in America. I don’t know who to fear more, Trump or his supporters.

All the chest-pounding, bullying, demonizing, dissembling, threats: they’re going to pay for it; I’d like to punch that protester in the face.

Do you disavow?

And the crowds cheer, how they cheer.


That’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion. Choosing my confession.


A long time in the spotlight.

Someone stands on a stage in a field, a hall, an arena and feeds a crowd what they hunger for.

Someone’s been too long at the fair. Eating data. [Read more…]