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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

God made me screw up

In my last post,below, I intended to post three articles, not two.

The opening of third piece, also about how Christianity intersects with the political realm, will not be unfamiliar to those who frequent this space with some regularity. I originally quoted an excerpt from it, here. At that time, an excerpt was all that was available. The whole thing is now at the call of your web-browser.

"The Christian Paradox", by Bill McKibbon, published in Harper's. It goes well beyond the original excerpt, and the extra length is just more of a good thing.

The three articles -- those posted yesterday, and this one -- make a good lunch hour.

But I warn you: You'll want to talk with someone about them after reading them.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A More Perfect Theological Union

I was struck deeply by both of these articles. Both are rich with insight: both moving in their different ways. It only occurred to me later that both grew from the spring of the Union Theological Seminary in New York.

If you appreciate the considered view, rather than a dogmatic one, of how spirituality -- especially Christian spirituality -- intersects with daily life, treat yourself to reading these.

Bill Moyers' remarks upon receiving the Union Medal.
(I never knew -- and never would have imagined, reading his work with Joseph Campbell -- that Moyers was an ordained Baptist minister.)

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Arthur Schlesinger Jr's recent piece remembering Reinhold Niebuhr, suggesting the rest of us have forgotten too much.

Lapham's Theater

An insightful review of a recent book by one of my favourite writers:

Lewis Lapham's Theatre of War

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Spreading faith by denying its power

I'm still dismayed by the whole "Intelligent Design" kerfuffle, even though I think it's largely a political distraction to issues that matter more.

This is the latest good piece I've read on the subject, from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Trying to advance the cause of faith by dishonestly disguising it as science does a profound injustice to both. But the greater harm is to religion. If you are trying to spread faith by denying its power, something's wrong.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Articles about which you won't feel dispassionate

Two links, here, two articles of unequal quality, but which I found useful to read together.

The first is long, and its topic is likely one that already exhausts you. I doubt you'll want to read it.

Do anyway.

It is the most intelligent analysis I have read about America's position in its war on terror. No writing on the topic can be fully dispassionate or apolitical, but this analysis comes closer than any other I've read. This level of clarity is a rare virtue.

"Taking Stock of the Forever War" by Mark Danner, originally in the New York Times.

The second is strident. At its worst, it descends into anti-American bluster and indulges in conspiracy theorizing. It is no match for the first article. Its virtue, however, is its trade in ideas about the United States' geo-political posture at a level that I wish more of us engaged. In other words, it provokes some interesting lines of thought even if, ultimately, I wouldn't care to spend an evening with its author.

"The Flagging Empire" by Paul William Roberts, originally in the Globe & Mail (Toronto).

Going around

It seems wrong to post a joke on the blog, but...

Q: What does Bush think of Roe v. Wade?
A: He really doesn't care how people evacuate New Orleans

(Hat tip to Joanne Gilbert)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Quickie: Just ruturned. Just finished.

Returned from a wonderful weekend in Cornwall, having witnessed how the Cornish wed, and, as a bonus, having finished two remarkable -- but remarkably different -- books:

The Saddlebag

Tuesdays With Morrie

Both, in their way, are about the discovery of meaning. Both will touch you. The former more unpredictably than the latter.

Friday, September 09, 2005

A Mass for those up too late

I am corresponding with a surprising new friend who is as much in love with words as am I. She is significantly more skilled in their deployment. It is like playing tennis with someone much better than me. Years since I played tennis, but I still remember that feeling: wanting more of the elated learning that comes from passing shot after passing shot, but worrying I'm boring my superior opponent.

This correspondence, and another, with an equally, though differently, word-fetishist friend, has gotten me thinking about the words that move me most.

I have had in mind, for some time, to record a reading of the most toweringly beautiful work of prose I have ever read: William Gibson's Mass For The Dead. It is out of print, again, now, after having briefly been revived. When I found that its Lazarus publisher had given up, I quickly got on Amazon and bought all the reasonably priced used copies I could find. I can think of no higher gift representing my esteem for someone's mind and sensitivity than to give them this book. My own copy is bound in deep burgundy cloth, with gold embossed titling on the cover and spine. It is handsome, exuding the air of a cherished relic. It is also insulted by all the little tissue place markers that sprout from its top like un-mowed grass.

Perhaps the copyright holders won't mind my recording and posting a work that is threatened with being forgotten. The only thing preventing me is the size of the task. It is just daunting enough to be worth the doing.

* * * * *

I miss Flame-Haired Angel desperately when she is away. I stay up too late and drink too much. I read silly things and write them, too. Still, I like being reminded of the sound made by the threads of love when they are stretched taught by distance, and plucked with mutual longing.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The web's version of performance art with words


Sunny Seat of the Scots

It has been a week since my last blog-fession. Pretty sure that's the longest I've been away from this vanity table since the get-go.

Partly, the gap has been due to a long weekend invented for the purpose of having Flame-Haired Angel introduce me to Edinburgh. Partly, it's been silence in the face of not having much to say that wasn't immediately overwhelmed by thoughts of what's going on in New Orleans. When words fail me, I prefer stunned silence to meaningless noise.

I feel no less speechless, now, about Katrina and her entourage of suffering and incompetence, but sitting glumly mute ain't helping anyone. So, here I sit feeling blessed, as I do every day, in my cozy study in Paris, listening to music and writing in what amounts to a diary. Perhaps there's un-funny irony in that I'm listening to a band called Dead Can Dance.

Yes, I'm sure there is.

As for the introduction to Edinburgh, I could fill screens with glowing tributes to the place. The only bad thing I've ever heard anyone say about Scotland is that the weather is abysmal. We had three sunny, warm days out of three. So, what wasn't to like?

Answer: nothing. Everything was delightful. Everything.

Most delightful of all were our hosts, the Fortunes, at whose behest we'd planned the trip. There are people in the world from whom you learn lessons of graciousness and magnanimity at every turn. Those people take classes from the Fortunes.

The trip was also notable for being a reunion with one of our closest friends from Shanghai: Shell Huang, who's just begun her MBA at Edinburgh University. (Less notable was the play we saw with Shell, called Three Thousand Tangled Threads, or some such. Part of the Edinburgh festival, it was more interesting than it was wonderful, upon hearing which Donald Fortune sighed, “Ah, so it was Festival drama, then.”

But much else was accomplished in the pursuit of pleasure and exploration, even if I didn't return home with a kilt in family's tartan. Yes, like most white boys in the world, I'm one quarter Scottish. Maternal Grandmother. Fraser tartan is even good looking stuff, and I've got darn nice legs. Ah, well. Maybe next year.

One theme throughout our short stay in Edinburgh was how much older Flame-Haired Angel is, today, than when she was 21: the last time she was in the city. This picture is a duplicate of one taken back then. She's sitting on the exact same rock, 17 years later. I wish I had the earlier pic to post beside it, but I'm afraid it's in Australia. What you'd see, comparing the two, is that she's gotten more beautiful.

The picture above is of the Fortunes' last perfect rose of summer on one of Edinburgh's perfect sunny days. And here's your lucky correspondent (below) with his arm around the beautiful bride of Chen Bin. (Chen Bin's pretty damn lucky, too, dontcha think?)