Monthly Archives May 2021

To a Fallen Comrade: Daniel Johnson’s “In the Absence of Sparrows”

Even in the Before times, Memorial Day always presented a slight collision of moods. A day set aside for honoring the memory of our war dead, inside of which we relish plans to finally get the speed boat out on the lake, root for the home team, and gather round the ritual barbecue with beers in hand and jokes flying.

But in this crawling-out-of-the-pandemic time of tearing off masks, hugging our long unhugged beloveds and trying to bust loose from the rule of an invisible virus, being held up yet another weekend by notes of loss and grief may seem all the more jarring.

This is when it is good to remember something else: that loss and grief across vast swaths of this world never take a holiday, and Memorial Day weekend is always a good time to remind ourselves of that elemental truth.

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I like many things about Daniel Johnson’s poem, “In the Absence of Sparrows.” Memorial Day and homage to the dead s...

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About Those Swimming Moroccan Migrants

I’ve been trying to picture plunging into the ocean off the Moroccan coast and swimming to Spain in search of a job and a new country. What would you wear? A bathing suit? Bermuda shorts? Long pants with a belt and some proper underwear? A long-sleeve shirt, a T-shirt, no shirt? Barefoot, I assume? Or maybe old tennis shoes or some kind of water shoe?

What else, if anything, would you try to take with you?

Would you maybe tie a small hiker’s belt to your waist,  into which you place…what? What extra does one think to take along when swimming to a new world?

A spare shirt? Some prized family jewelry you hope to sell for a few euros once you wash ashore and evade the waiting soldiers?

Some sealed nuts or candy? A good-luck amulet? A toothbrush?

What would you take, besides the shirt on your back, assuming you are wearing one?

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In its annual migration report of January, 2020, the World Economic Foru...

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The Ruination of Republicans Is a Disaster for America

So the Republican Party is fracturing into two camps. One, a distinct minority, sees Donald Trump as a dire, cancerous threat to our democracy and wants nothing so much as for him to go away, freeing the country at last from the grip of his sociopathic narcissism and cruelty.

In other words, they agree on this matter, if on few others, with Democrats, its obviousness there for all who have eyes to see.

The other, overwhelming majority camp has fully kowtowed to Trump’s obsessive, delusional claims of election fraud and has fully embraced him as their political and spiritual leader.

Polls of Republican voters and the actions and words of state and federal officials from across the country confirm this lamentable development, made all the more so by the quick retreat so many Republican officeholders made in the days following the January 6 insurrection.

With Cheney almost certainly gone next week, Romney mar...

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How (and Why) Do They Do That? Notes on the Murmuration of Starlings

One of my go-to lines whenever I behold some unbelievable scene of nature that I am compelled to believe because I am seeing it with my own eyes is, “That almost makes me believe in God.” In many ways, I have woven a whole theology around that sentiment, about God not as a being but as energy, not a noun but a verb, an expression, an animating essence of all things large and small, dark and light, a perfect marriage of the transcendence we strive for and the immanence that we are.

I think that may just about be it for my theologizing today. (Though I reserve the right to change my mind before I’m through turning things over here.)

It’s as if hundreds of different chamber orchestra septets were cuing only off each small group member playing the same dazzlingly fast Bach concerto, which then becomes a huge symphony orchestra spread across a vast landscape, all keeping perfect time using only an invisib...

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