Charlie Hebdo and the Inner Soul of Humor

16246547072_48798fd8a5_m (1)My friend Justin Smith recently wrote a piece for Harper’s Magazine. Justin is a brilliant guy, a philosopher and historian of ideas who also happens to write well and think clearly. Those things do not come together all that often. He’s been teaching for the last couple of years in Paris, at Université Paris Diderot-Paris VII.

This put him at Ground Zero, more or less, on January seventh of this year when the Kouachi brothers entered the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. [Read more...]

Triple Scoop

By Jessica Mesman Griffith

3714575165_05a6e53752_mMy best friend died suddenly almost two years ago. She’d lived across the country from me for almost ten years by then, and since our relationship mostly happened over the phone and email, it’s easy to sink into the feeling that we just haven’t spoken in a while. The phone will ring and I’ll catch myself hoping it’s her.

Then I have to face it: never again.

I’ve thought of her often in these last weeks of pregnancy. Maybe it’s the sleeplessness. I lie in the dark, feeling the twists and stretches of my growing child, struggling to recall the last conversations we had. We had a fight before she died—not unusual for us—and we weren’t speaking. [Read more...]

Monasticism in Lockdown America, Part 9: Psalms, In the End

Continued from yesterday

 

11826685814_171e060196_mThinking of the psalms as a way to cycle through the entire range of human experience, I recently brought them with me into juvenile detention.

The kids there, on Sunday afternoons, shuffle through automated doors wearing orange jumpsuits and pink booties and take their seats shyly around bolted-down steel tables with me.

These are boys and girls who have likely seen, and felt on their bodies, and heard, what no child should have to see or feel or hear. And after absorbing all they’ve endured and trying to maintain composure, they have probably been kicked out of classrooms for not watching their tongues. For small outbursts, foul language, bad attitudes. Now, in detention, they spend most of their time in lockdown, in cells of their own, alone. [Read more...]

Monasticism in Lockdown America, Part 8: Psalms, In the Beginning

4591112088_e1c7fb17da_mI always privately hated the psalms.

Most of them, anyway. As a teenager, I’d leaf through the Bible’s songbook quite often and feel it was full of self-pity and self-righteousness, often launching into bombastic praise of God and two lines later wishing curses on enemies. I didn’t understand why Christians still used the psalms, and so often.

As I got older, it was the worst part of visiting a monastery for me: hearing monks or nuns fill up so much of their time together chanting through these oft-sub-merciful prayers. The sentiments throughout the ancient songbook seemed so far from the heart Jesus teaches us to inhabit. They felt human, as Nietzsche said, all too human. Yet monasteries cycle through the entire Psalter month after month, year after year. [Read more...]

Facing Calvary

12820770544_c702bd9450_mThere’s a line from last year’s thought-provoking film, Calvary, that’s uttered by a young French woman. She has just lost her husband in a senseless car wreck somewhere along an Irish country road. After Father James (Brendan Gleeson) gives the last rites, he goes to sit with the woman for a time. Their subsequent discussion is the difficult one that follows all such traumatic events, when the comforting banality of the world has imploded, and the unmoored psyche bobs about in a world without physics.

Except there is a difference here, as the woman proves unlike any of the other people in the priest’s life. Instead of being enraged, vindictive, and accusatory, she remarks upon the good marriage that she’d had with her husband. She speaks with a marvelous repose.

I loved him, and he loved me. We were happy together. And now it’s over. It’s not unfair. It’s just what happened. [Read more...]


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