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Poetry Friday: “The Music before the Music”

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It is often hard to find the language to describe the sounds and impact of a piece of music. In “The Music before the Music” we encounter horns that “plow and plant Beethoven’s/great fields,” “the brash cymbal,” “the wigged-out chug of a bass viol.” In this loud and layered poem, Jeanne Murray Walker uses precisely…

On Monks, Conversion, and Radio Astronomy, Part 2

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On my second day at the abbey, I bounced around, trying to listen, to feel, to be in the moment like Carmen advised. It was a tough slog. “Waste time. Waste time,” I told myself, checking my watch. At lunch with the brothers, I casually mentioned that I was in the RCIA (Rite of Christian…

Of Monks, Conversion, and Radio Astronomy, Part 1

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In the middle of life, I fell in love. For my forty-ninth birthday, my wife Lauren gave me a three-day visit by myself at a monastery in South Texas. I went there simply to read for a while and relax. I wasn’t a believer in much of anything, I wasn’t religious, and while I was…

Wrestling

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My son has always been the smallest kid in his class, often mistaken for being much younger than he actually is. But it isn’t only his size. His voice is high. He loves stuffed animals. And when given the choice at recess, he’s one of the few boys who would still rather fight dragons and…

Race Relations: A Personal History

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It is Martin Luther King Day, and I muse about how my relation to African-Americans has been shaped over the years. When I was a child, my father would sometimes take me into work with him on Saturdays. He was a physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he ran a research lab (with…

Poetry Friday: “Sabbath”

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Sabbath as beloved bride and queen: familiar tropes in Jewish liturgy and thought. Now, thanks to Dan Bellm’s “Sabbath,” a subtle poem of loss and longing, a promise and a vow, we have another metaphor: Sabbath as mother. The Sabbath, a fixed period of time, stands outside of time. Jews are commanded to keep and…

Reynolds Price and Me: The Tale of Two Rhodes Scholars, Part 2

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I found myself returning to the work of Reynolds Price in 2011, the year he died. Price passed in January and that summer I served as hospital chaplain.  Within a week of starting at the hospital, I went looking for one of Price’s books. After A Palpable God, Price had mostly left religion alone, writing novels, stories,…

Reynolds Price and Me: The Tale of Two Rhodes Scholars, Part 1

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Reynolds Price slithered onto the American literary scene in 1962. “Just with his body and from inside like a snake,” Wesley Beavers drove his motorcycle and his girlfriend Rosacoke Mustian into the 189-word sentence that opens A Long and Happy Life. The title of Price’s first novel was prescient for an author whose career spanned five…

Invisible Man

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What made me pick up Ralph Ellison’s classic 1952 novel, Invisible Man? Had I ever even read it before? I don’t think so, and when I recently noticed a reference to it somewhere, I immediately thought: now is the time. To refresh your memories: the novel is narrated by a nameless protagonist, a young black…

The Crown and Victoria: Tales of Two Queens

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Over Christmas break, I was marshalled into watching two televisions series to which I wouldn’t have been drawn ordinarily—The Crown and Victoria. The former was something I would have been suspicious about, doubting the fairness and authenticity of any dramatic effort revolving around the life of a person—Elizabeth II—who, though not literally unable to defend…

Image’s Daily Blog

For the humanists of the Renaissance, literature mattered because it was concrete and experiential—it grounded ideas in people’s lives. Their name for this kind of writing was bonae litterae, a phrase we’ve borrowed as the title for our blog. Every weekday, one of the gifted writers on our blogging team will offer a personal essay that makes a fresh connection between the world of faith and the world of daily life, spanning the gap between theology and experience and giving language a human shape.

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