Category: State of the World

On being a neighbor

Today’s Gospel is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Everybody knows it, and if you’re a Christian and happened to go to church today, you most likely also heard a sermon on the subject. And chances are, that sermon included some sort of reference—direct or obscure, scholarly or passionate, reflection on conciliation or call to …

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On telling me how you feel

Hello, my friends. I’ve been absent, and I’m back. I don’t know how often I’ll appear, but I will do my best. I’ve been through the most hellish years of my life, the last few years (not that they are over), and I’ve learned a few lessons. In no particular order, here’s my lesson one: …

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On four years of Christian hope.

After 18 months of the most divisive presidential campaign in recent history, it’s been 18 days since the most bizarre election—possibly, in all of American history—upended our reality and shattered our country’s social landscape. No matter whose supporters, it’s all anybody still talks about. Some are triumphant, others terrified, but everyone is stunned, and everyone’s …

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On feeling the truth.

A couple of weeks ago I read an article that, should I have taken it literally and all the way, would have pushed me into a depression. The article was political in nature but addressed a larger concern of our mental and cultural state—certainly in this country, maybe in the world. The author attempted to …

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On what I think of the Wool Rule.

How to be good to people has been on my mind for a long time, but especially lately. I’ve engaged in a political debate about treating illegal immigrants and atheists with respect. I had to write for a scholarly journal a review of a book I found lacking in merit, and I was torn between …

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On good and good enough.

I had to get a new car. I loved my old car. She was a Toyota Echo, and I’d had her since she was born in 2000. She was perfect, as though made for me—cheap and basic, reliable, little and economical, built for a short person, with a soft comfy seat and lots of storage …

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On humility, again.

I return to this subject years after I wrote about it, briefly, as a “thought of the day” on June 11, 2012. (You can find the passage now on the “Older Thoughts of the Day” page.) I return to it because I had thought of it on and off for years, and never stopped after …

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On why I brush my teeth in the morning.

I have begun work on a very interesting, long-term translation project with a historian of literature, who is writing a book about Dostoevsky. For this project, I am translating hundreds of pages of obscure notes and reminiscences about Dostoevsky, some of his own writing, and comparing existing translations. Not only have I re-immersed myself in …

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On peace with us.

We are uncertain. Much of the time we are afraid. We endure pain and grieve, mourning for lives unlived. We huddle in rooms that feel safe with our loved ones, and there we thread through our fingers the most precious of our memories and the most fragile of questions. Sometimes we are desperate, sometimes hopeful. …

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On who is to blame and what is to be done.

What does a three-thousand-year-old murder have to do with a 20th-century revolution? What does a queen of ancient Israel have to do with Stalinism, slavery, or internment camps? The interplay of two eternal questions humanity has asked, nurtured, abused, distorted, ignored, and bounced off each other since the dawn of its consciousness: When something goes …

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