Las Madres: Art and Death in the Arizona Desert

pic“The artist is a beggar because she is empty, waiting to be filled. But the artist is also… someone who is driven to go out to the margins of society in order to learn what the margins can teach those at the center.”

When I’d read these words in Greg Wolfe’s editorial in the current issue of Image (#84), I immediately thought of fiber artist Valarie James. Living in the desert of southern Arizona, James hasn’t had to go far to get to society’s margins. When she walks her dog near her home, she finds objects left behind by Central American migrants who have risked their lives—and often lost them—as they traverse the harsh desert mountains seeking safety and the dignity of work in the United States. [Read more...]

Jesus and Legos in the Deep, Part 2

Continued from yesterday

2432400623_9081e8433d_m“Judas the transgressor,” we Eastern Orthodox sing during Holy Friday Matins,“was unwilling to understand.” If the story of God’s salvation is light shining in darkness, then man’s tragic journey is a turning away from that light toward lesser lights, imagining the flickerings within himself to be something more than dim reflection, and hence capable of illuminating all creation, with rational man at its pinnacle. But whereas Descartes reasoned: “I think, therefore I am,” we sing: “Come, therefore, let us also go with him, purified in mind. Let us be crucified with him, and die through him.”

Regarding that mind, Paul exhorted the Christians in Rome to be transformed by the renewing of it, but unlike it is to us modern Westerners, the mind was to earlier Christians, much more than Descartes’s construal. It was (and is, and ever shall be) the nous, the eye of the soul. [Read more...]

Jesus and Legos in the Deep, Part 1

1494590209_bdc1f95585_mI read about a shipping container holding five million Lego pieces that fell into the sea off Cornwall, England. An oceanographer requested samples of what was in the container, and tossed them into his bathtub. Based on his impromptu test and the ship’s manifest, he estimates about three million of the lost pieces can float. Only about 100,000, however, have washed ashore.

Other people have taken interest; there’s even a Facebook page devoted to beachcombers’ Lego finds. Nearly every piece traceable to this container has been recovered on Cornwall’s beaches, perhaps because the Lego search has become a pastime there. The relatively small quantity recovered leads the oceanographer to conclude that the container remains sealed, but for a hole through which small batches sometimes escape. The others are still down there somewhere, he says, “waiting for the doors to open.” [Read more...]

Sexist Assumptions and the Difficult, Dirty Work of Grace

IMG_7501My husband was deep into a bathroom remodeling project when he asked me to stop by the home improvement store to grab a faucet connector. He had purchased the wrong size on his previous trip, and I was out running errands anyway.

A young female employee met me in the plumbing section. I tried to decipher the details from my husband’s text but couldn’t figure out what the succession of measurements meant. The employee didn’t know either, so I called my husband to confirm.

After I hung up, the employee shook her head: “Don’t you love how men send their wives out to do their dirty work?” [Read more...]

Jesus: Here, There, and Everywhere

16764657475_2481ef80df_mGertrude Stein once said of her hometown, Oakland, California, where she was raised after having been born in Pittsburgh, that “there is no there there.” This is often taken as a knock on Oakland—a city that is not really a city, that has no center, that lacks an identifiable sense of place. This is how I felt about Los Angeles when I was teenager growing up there.

Looking out into the smog from a vantage point in the Hollywood Hills, I’d ask no one in particular, “Where is the damn city?” Los Angeles, to me, was an infinite sprawl of one-story structures stretching off into the desert and the scrub brush and the impossibly dry hills.

I moved to New York City as a young man partly to find a place that had a “there.” The density of Manhattan seemed the very antithesis of Californian spatio-temporal malaise. When you walked down the streets of Manhattan, I thought, you’d know you were unmistakably somewhere. [Read more...]


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