Category Personal Reflections

Taking a Knee

Just as we cannot truly love ourselves until we reckon with the whole of ourselves—our wounds, conflicts, vulnerabilities, aggressions both overt and passive—neither can we truly love our country until we have looked long and hard and beheld its shadows. This is where the “Love it or leave it” sensibility has always been so woefully off base, revealing a shallow patriotism, bathed in stagnant waters of denial.

To acknowledge faults is not weakness but strength and fortitude for the long haul, putting us in right relation with others and the world. This redounds ultimately back to ourselves, the circle of love, acceptance and forgiveness complete.

Yet here we are, 50+ years along, eight of them under a historic first black president—and the catalog of martyrs to the cause of liberation continues to expand.

Willie Brandt knew this, and he carried that knowledge into one of the historic moments in histo...

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The Longing for Normal

I have felt a longing these recent fine spring days for a wide variety of pre-virus pleasures, but perhaps none more so than Monut’s, a buzzy daytime eatery in Durham that makes distinctive New Agey donuts and sandwiches with perfectly balanced ratios of condiments to bread to fillings, along with a convivial, clattery atmosphere provided by young hipster servers, Duke students and professors, and friend pairs huddled intimately over tables trying to make themselves heard above the din.

Also: Ponysaurus, a local brewpub featuring my favorite crisp pilsner, where children and dogs romp across lawns dotted with picnic tables through the warm months, above which we climb metal stairs to a veranda, strategically parking ourselves to watch the sun set amidst the ever-changing cloudscape to the west.

These are among a host of local establishments whose “brands” have inculcated themselves into my life, reliable p...

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On the “Crowded Kindnesses of God”

This is the nut of it, yes? For those of us in the developed world living beyond all previously imagined luxury and comfort (even if we are far below the vaunted “1%”), we pause perhaps out of daily practice and most assuredly on this day that we celebrate in common tomorrow, trying to make room for the “crowded kindnesses of God.” I came across that line yesterday, noodling around for a quote for this blog’s Facebook page pre-Thanksgiving. Its unique expression of abundant blessings struck me as worthy of further reflection.

The quote is from Baptist minister Alexander Maclaren (1825-1905), reputed to be a powerful preacher of his time and denominational leader in his native United Kingdom. The full entry reads:

“Do not let the empty cup be your first teacher of the blessings you had when it was full. Do not let a hard place here and there in the bed destroy your rest...

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The Fires and Kindness This Time

We live on the edge of catastrophe. This is always the case, always has been. Born vulnerable and utterly helpless, we become, in the best of circumstances, less vulnerable only by degrees if we are fortunate enough to avoid early death.

Accident, illness and natural disaster perch on our shoulder, the uninvited intruder who never leaves but is mostly ignored through all our days.

This ignorance, this denial, is fundamental and necessary to our growth and flourishing as we move through life. Cowering in fear or wearing a permanent furrow on our brow is of no use whatsoever to our survival or our flourishing as conscious creatures with nearly limitless capacity for joy and fraternity.

We get up every morning expecting to see the night, with the next morning mostly the same.

Most of the time for a long time, we are lucky to be right. And sometimes, our luck runs out.

Worry, concern, even perfectly justified ...

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Fire, Rage and Hope 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
                                                —Rudyard Kipling 

We live in a time when meaningful commentary about the affairs of the day faces the challenge of being overrun by ever more head-shaking events—and by the 24-hour news cycle that barely has time to chronicle those events before a new one crashes in commanding our attention.

It’s like one of those diabolical amusement park rides that no sooner dumps you out from a screeching, white knuckle series of turns than it drops you and your stomach down a precipitous descent far speedier than gravity would seem to allow.

And then the speed and lurch build up much too quickly again and you find yourself praying for the end of the r...

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