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    The More Walt Whitman Strove for Perfection, the More It Eluded Him

    God comes a loving bed-fellow and sleeps at my side all night and close on the peep of the day, And leaves for me baskets covered with white towels bulging the house with their plenty … — Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855) One of the more interesting things I’ve read recently about the creative […]

    “Pacing the Cage” — Until Joy Breaks In

    There’s a beautiful Bruce Cockburn song on his 1996 album The Charity of Night that seems like it was ready-made for this year’s Covid-19 ordeal. It’s called “Pacing the Cage.” Here’s a taste of the lyrics: Sunset is an angel weeping Holding out a bloody sword No matter how I squint I cannot Make out […]

    Tim Kreider on the Pleasures and Perils of “Outrage Porn”

    Imagine if we had chosen the path of retribution and revenge. Our country would have been dust and ashes. – Desmond Tutu, on the end of Apartheid Look, I’m mad too. I’m scared too. I’m anxious and exhausted and finding it hard to be kind too. These are dark days. Some fear, some anger, some […]

    David Brooks on the Beauty of Jesus in the Raging Storm

    Political and cultural commentator David Brooks is a long-running Mockingbird favorite, and has shown up on the blog several times in the past few years due in part to his 2019 book The Second Mountain (about the deepening of his religious faith) and a related sermon he gave at the National Cathedral in 2017. Well, […]

    11 Beautiful Lesser-Known Hymns for Ordinary Time

    The Devotional Art I Need Right Now

    Summer in Omelas: What Are We to Do With All This (Climate) Grief? Part 2

    If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it … Scapegoating, exporting our unresolved hurt, is the most common storyline of human history. The Jesus Story is about radically transforming history and individuals so that we don’t just keep handing on the pain to the next generation. Richard Rohr, “Transforming Pain” […]

    Summer in Omelas: What Are We to Do With All This (Climate) Grief? Part 1

    Our present ecological crisis, the biggest single practical threat to our human existence … has, religious people would say, a great deal to do with our failure to think of the world as existing in relation to the mystery of God — not just as a huge warehouse of stuff to be used for our […]

    An Advent Lament for Burnt-Out Teachers (and Our Needy Students)

    He laughs. He kicks his bright spade in the earth and turns it over. – Andrew Hudgins, “Christ as a Gardener” Being a teacher is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Midway through my fourth year now at a high-poverty public middle school, I can say with gratitude that it has certainly gotten better—and […]

    At the Edge of Civilization, Part 3

    Here is the final installment of a three-part series about my recent retreat at Gethsemani Abbey in rural Kentucky. A tiny shrew was clinging to the inside of the novitiate screen doors, trapped in the house! I took her up and she ran a little onto my sleeve and then stayed fixed, trembling. I put […]

    At the Edge of Civilization, Part 2

    Here is Part 2 of a three-part series about my recent retreat at Gethsemani Abbey in rural Kentucky. The moon was beautiful, dimly red, like a globe of almost transparent amber, with a shapeless fetus of darkness curled in the midst of it. — Thomas Merton, The Other Side of the Mountain: The End of […]

    At the Edge of Civilization, Part 1

    In this wilderness I have learned how to sleep again. I am not alien… I close my eyes and instantly sink into the whole rainy world of which I am a part, and the world goes on with me in it. — Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable The Abbey of Gethsemani (alt. spelling) is […]

    40 Years in the Wilderness: God’s Search for Bruce Cockburn (in 27 Songs) – Part 3

    This is the third and final installment in a series on the music and spirituality of Bruce Cockburn. You can read Part One here, and Part Two here. Act III: Uncertainty and Spiritual Drift (1987-1999) In my mind, the first two “Acts” in this narrative arc of Cockburn’s career represent two different forms of certainty or […]