Monthly Archives February 2013

Sex and Other Happiness Pursuits: “The Sessions” and Disability Rights

Sex, eating, drinking and sleeping form a kind of Holy Quartet of what psychologists call “needs-based cognitions,” but the first of those is by far the most complicated in human life. For all its nearly non-stop saturation in our media, we remain profoundly conflicted about sex, not the least of those conflicts reflecting the vulnerability inherent to nakedness and our suspicion that surely other people—probably everyone else—gets more sex and is less conflicted about it than we are. (Aren’t you?)

These questions and conflicts (and their silliness) are brought into sharp relief with the issue of body image, that intense exposure of our “imperfections” to the gaze of another. (Halle Berry, you can stop reading now.) These imperfections, of course, involve more than just our physical selves but reach down to the core of our emotional imperfections as well...

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Editing the Buddha: (Musical) Notes on the Beautiful and Holy

It’s a hard life we lead, no one able to stand apart from or rise above the suffering that snags us—or at least snips at our heels—in one way or other at every turn. That said, beauty exists, too, as valid and true and eternal as the suffering we endure. So at the considerable risk of editing the Buddha, I am proposing a little add-on to the First Noble Truth—“Life is suffering”—that would go something like: “Life is suffering—and beauty.” (Indeed, we can even put the two together in noting that many people suffer intensely for beauty. Another name for these people: “artists.”)

True, the capacity to appreciate beauty can be suppressed or waylaid when one is in the throes of intense physical pain or depression, but the beautiful things of the world, their sense of sacramentality we discussed here several weeks ago, also act as a balm, a healing agent, a gateway to the holy...

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A Meditation on Meteors

It’s a day like most every other day. A Friday, to be exact. Early morning. Maybe you’re out for a stroll, or nursing a cup of coffee at the neighborhood café, or making oatmeal for your children before carting them off to daycare. Perhaps you’re making love, or just soaping up in your bath.

And then it hits. The meteor. The meteor that was nowhere just minutes ago. Or at least nowhere that could be seen by you here on this tiny planet in this immeasurably vast and dark universe. If you were outdoors at that hour, you likely saw it streak across the sky, at least had time to exclaim, “Look at that! What is it? Wow, look at that!!”

If you were indoors, there was no prelude, no blaze across the sky, no warning at all before it hit...

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Notes From a Newtown Memorial Service: Is God a Christian? A “None?”

True, most everything that is best about religion happens in the countless acts of kindness and service, charity and community that take place in everyday life far from microphones and the public eye. But sometimes public actions speak volumes about religious sensibilities, and only rarely have we seen as stark a contrast in those sensibilities as we recently did in actions by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod on one end and the Dalai Lama with his friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the other.

One situation confirms all that has been most divisive about the practice of religion over the eons, with its oppressive doctrinal disputes and claims of exclusive access to ultimate truth. The other points to possibilities—and actually, the necessity—of where religion must continue to evolve if it is to maintain widespread relevance in the future.

Out there in the Lutheran Missouri Synod, church authorities deci...

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T.S. Eliot, Classicist Rap King

It is not for nothing that the website, with its mission of elaborating the lyrics of modern rap music, dedicates space on its site to presenting the entire text of Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot, whose persona of buttoned-down English classicism would appear to be about as far removed from rap music as Othello is from modern television sitcoms. But appearances deceive, and to read this Eliot masterpiece some 75 years after its publication is to enter a zone of rhythmic drive and momentum that almost begs for interpretation by a rap artist.

Accompanying the sustained rhythm of the four poems that make up the Quartets is dead-serious imagery of the modern psyche under assault by time, the ravages of history, and the diminution of traditional religious faith. The result is a work of unparalleled power and enduring relevance for our age.

This relevance was also attested to just a week ago at Duke D...

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