The Grace of Nothingness

“Pray as if everything depends on the Lord. Act as if everything depends on you.” Mormons recognize this as Brigham Young. Catholics as St. Augustine. In either case, I have never heard commentary on the strange duality of mind this “as-if” theology requires, as if true faith requires remaining open to both possibilities simultaneously. To act as if everything depends on us is to assume ultimate responsibility for the world, to accept the fact that we live in a universe… Read more

On Politics, Ambivalence, and Left and Right Wings

I have always been profoundly ambivalent about politics, but not because I don’t have political convictions. And while I am no expert on political matters, my ambivalence is certainly not a function of being uninformed about things generally. I am serious about my citizenship. I read the news religiously. I vote in all elections, local and national, and I volunteer in my local party. What I find difficult is the way in which politics tends to divide and conquer knowledge,… Read more

On Music

Every night I hear piano practicing in the house—my son, Sam, and my daughter, Camilla, working tirelessly. Sometimes Chopin, sometimes popular songs my daughter likes to learn and quietly sing to. And over the last few months, almost nightly I hear the sound of the small plying voice of my boy, exploring old Beatles classics on his not always perfectly tuned guitar. Just last week I was in Nashville for a conference and a friend and I made it into… Read more

On Beauty

The older I get, the less I understand the meaning of beauty, even though it is also true that I more desperately depend on it than ever. I think it used to mean that the world was friendly, that if I could capture a beautiful sunset or the angle of the sun illuminating the leaves of a tree, that somehow I had found meaning and grace because I was known by someone, somewhere. But as I have gotten older, beauty… Read more

Ecospirituality Workshop

I am very excited to offer an ecospirituality workshop with Rev. Tom Goldsmith in Montana this summer. You can learn more about the center and the workshop at I hope you will consider joining us! Read more

On Loving Enemies, Fictional and Real, or Marilynne Robinson 2.0

According to the essays of Octavio Paz, finding unity not despite but in our differences is the ultimate quest of a democracy. And it is also the ultimate quest of literature, which practices this work of communion in language. A metaphor builds a bridge between two unlike things and holds them together in relationship to produce a new meaning or a new unity, without, paradoxically, destroying or diminishing their differences. What generates new meanings is precisely a metaphor’s refusal to… Read more

A Visit From Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson is at it again, having just published a new book of essays entitled When I Was A Child I Read Books. Before I write some commentary directly about the book (which I am still finishing), I thought I would describe my encounter with her back in October of 2011 when she came to Utah for the Utah Humanities Council Book Festival. This was not the first time we had met, but it was for me unprecedented access to… Read more

Restoration of All Things 2.0

You can hear a recent interview about the previous post on BYU Radio at: Read more

Restoration of All Things

(This essay appears, with beautiful graphics, in the Provo Orem Word online at In 2004, my colleague Lance Larsen and I found ourselves across the table from the novelist Marilynne Robinson who had agreed to an interview while visiting the campus of Brigham Young University. Her novel about her home in northern Idaho, Housekeeping, exemplifies as well as any novel I know how indispensable great art and a home landscape are to each other. Lance asked her about the… Read more

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