• The Industrial and Modernist Roots of Grading

    “Did Socrates ever have to decide to give Plato an A or A-? Would Plato ever have given an early draft of one of Aristotle’s essays on ethics a 93%? Did a young Tommaso d'Aquino ever have to appeal to Albertus Magnus to overturn a B+?” The answer to all of these is an obvious, “No.”

  • Two Moons

    The other thing that’s difficult about this way of encountering art, is that it takes trust. You are asked to trust the painting before you understand it, before you can see what it holds for you. You are asked to turn over your attention and your imagination to someone else, not knowing how they may chose to use them. To look at art in this way is vulnerable. 

  • The Perilous Joy of Book-Lending

    Like reading itself, book-lending ought to be demanding: it is a way of life fraught with danger and vulnerability. At its best, giving others books – to borrow, that is – can be a heroic act of trust and love.

  • Original Derivation

    For each of these, Dylan, Bach, jazz, Shakespeare, and chant—the bread and butter is something not made, but received. More than that, using this given material seems to have enhanced their originality. It gives them more room to think.

  • April: “Warrior with Shield”

    Though the surface of the statue was pockmarked, scratched and pitted–the limbs didn't seem severed or mangled, so much as ground down, worn away as wood or stone is worn away by water or weather or time. For that reason the statue seemed to occupy two time frames, one brief, one prolonged. Both the violent instant, the impact of a blinding light, an obliterating moment of force–but also the slow duration over which the supposedly permanent is steadily, patiently effaced.

  • March 25th: A Feast of Feasts

    Many Christians celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord on this day, and for years that was my only association with it. As it turns out, some combination of historical circumstances, fate, and tradition has placed a great deal of weight on this date, and the reason the Annunciation has been celebrated then is no mere coincidence but a participation in an older tradition preceding even the birth of Christ. 

  • Hammurabi the Humane

    While the ancient world was a world that may very well have been more violent than ours, the law codes of even the most ancient peoples (flawed though those laws were and as ours are) echo through the ages with a basic, humane instinct for justice, mercy and peace.