Hannah Graham and a Silence too Loud

hannahgrahamweb_7f64e4c639e69df5491ce7a6c6354be9It was forty degrees this morning when I got into my car. The back window was spotted white with frost. As I drove to work, a new appeal came from news that had made me heartsick for weeks. It was a plea from the mother of Hannah Graham, the eighteen-year-old student who disappeared in September from the University of Virginia.

“Please, please, please,” the mother’s anguished voice came over the radio with a British accent. “Help us find our girl,” she cried out (to someone who knows something? Anyone? God?). “Please, please, please, help us bring Hannah home.”

The police are still looking, as are fire departments and federal agents and hundreds of volunteers. Hannah is out there somewhere these cold nights. No one is talking about whether or not she is still alive, but they are scouring the countryside for clues, “a cell phone, or a shoe,” as one searcher told reporters, “anything that will point us to Hannah.”

Jesse Matthew, the suspect arrested on charges of abduction “with intent to defile” has invoked his right not to speak. Hannah cannot speak right now. It is likely that no one else knows what happened. Will Hannah ever break her silence? [Read more...]

Pasternak: Artist and Holy Fool

tumblr_lz6uc9ddzz1r4t46jo1_500As I read the essay “The Writer and the Valet” in my latest issue of the London Review of Books, an image came to mind of a T-shirt I saw in one of the random catalogs that come in the mail. It was a simple black shirt with the sentence, “Artists make bad slaves” printed on it.

The essay by Frances Stoner Saunders is about how Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago came to publication, and it is a story filled with Cold War suspense and intrigue. It also parallels the novel itself—the story of an individual artist whose life and living are wrecked by revolution in his homeland.

Pasternak was born in 1890 into the home of an artist father and pianist mother. Artists and musicians frequented his parents’ home, including the likes of Sergei Rachmaninoff. Pasternak himself started his studies in music, switched to philosophy, and then found his calling with poetry. He was a poet who loved botany, and was, according to Alan Furst in his review of The Zhivago Affair, “above all else, a poet of the human spirit, a poet in love with a world of weather, landscapes, romance and the Russian soul.” [Read more...]

The Self and the Shadow

saudi-eid_2703921bGuest post by Holly LeCraw

Lately, I am drawn more and more to the thought of Carl Jung. I’ve been thinking a good deal about the stages of life (I’m approaching fifty); I’ve been having some pretty vivid dreams. Jung has plenty to say about both these things, and he’s always been especially appealing to me because he was a scientist who endorsed humankind’s need for the spiritual.

This past week, a friend with far more knowledge of Jungian thought than I brought up the fact that Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, will coincide this year—are coinciding as I write this, on October 3.

Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice (not to be confused with Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of the Fast-Breaking, which occurs at the end of Ramadan) is the second-biggest holiday on the Muslim calendar, commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. It’s a joyous celebration with a great deal of food, music, and family gatherings.

In contrast, Yom Kippur is, of course, the Day of Atonement, a solemn turning inward. While not central to Yom Kippur, the Binding of Isaac, or the akedah, is a vital story in Judaism in much the same way it is in Islam: a symbol of the willingness to martyr oneself for God and to submit completely to God’s will. The Temple Mount, in Jerusalem, is traditionally believed to be the site of the akedah, and the blowing of the shofar is a reminder of the ram who took Isaac’s place once he was spared. [Read more...]

Your Life Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

minecraft-chicken-hatchingOn the last night of Image’s Glen West Workshop earlier this month, after a moving concert by Over the Rhine and all manner of sniffling and hugging, Father Richard Rohr invited us to make spaces in our souls for worship.

“How you live this moment is how you live your life,” he said. “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

His words nailed my heart to the floor.

I like to think I am “good” at worship. I often prepare myself by opening my hands, a posture that helps me focus. But my mind has a way of hairline-cracking within seconds: Do these people like me? Have they noticed my discolored tooth? On a scale of one to ten, how much of an idiot have I made myself today?

I like to think I lose myself in the beauty of God, but as my mind splinters and my prayerful hands go numb, I have to acknowledge that this moment of unrest reflects a life of unrest.

[Read more...]

Christmas Past

20131222-200619.jpg I once watched a boy steal all my Christmas presents. I lay on my stomach and stared through a sweaty blur as he grabbed my box-full of gifts and scampered into the woods. I did not chase him; propped on one elbow staring as he ran, I did not even rise from my stomach. The presents were gone.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, I was camped out with my Marine unit in the woods at Cheat Lake, West Virginia, where we were setting 300 pounds of C-4 to blow a bridge. Four months later, I was camped off Green Beach, near Subic Bay, Philippines, training for desert warfare in the dense jungle—by Marine Corps logic it makes sense—on our way to Iraq.

[Read more...]


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