Dr. Sherwin Nuland died this week at the age of 83. He became well-known for his first book, How We Die, which won the National Book Award in 1994. For him, pondering death was a way of wondering at life — and the infinite variety of processes that maintain human life moment to moment. He reflects on the meaning of life by way of scrupulous and elegant detail about human physiology:
“Wonder is something I share with people of deep faith. They wonder at the universe that God has created, and I wonder at the universe that nature has created. This is a sense of awe that motivates the faithful, motivates me. And when I say motivates, it provides an energy for seeking. Just as the faithful will always say, ‘We are seeking,’ I am seeking.”
We remixed this interview and present it in his honor.
“In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop with them farther over the world’s rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. It is not learned.”—~Annie Dillard, from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters
“As a Catholic, you think, `Is this really my religion? It sounds just so wonderfully strange and powerful. I never realized there were such depths to this thing that I observed by going to church every Sunday.’”
Have you ever read Paul Elie? His books Reinventing Bach and The Life You Save May Be Your Own offer brilliant perspectives on people and history most people think they know. In this podcast, "Faith Fired by Literature," Paul Elie takes us on a kind of literary pilgrimage through a Catholic imagination that still resonates in our time with Flannery O’Connor + Walker Percy, social activist Dorothy Day, and the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. A magical listen.
Each person is born with an unencumbered spot, free of expectation and regret, free of ambition and embarrassment, free of fear and worry; an umbilical spot of grace where we were each first touched by God. It is this spot of grace that issues peace. Psychologists call this spot the Psyche, Theologians call it the Soul, Jung calls it the Seat of the Unconscious, Hindu masters call it Atman, Buddhists call it Dharma, Rilke calls it Inwardness, Sufis call it Qalb, and Jesus calls it the Center of our Love.
To know this spot of Inwardness is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it. This is a hard lifelong task, for the nature of becoming is a constant filming over of where we begin, while the nature of being is a constant erosion of what is not essential. Each of us lives in the midst of this ongoing tension, growing tarnished or covered over, only to be worn back to that incorruptible spot of grace at our core.
“The problem with taking offense is that it’s really hard to figure out what to do with it after you’re done using it. Better to just leave it on the table and walk away. Umbrage untaken quietly disappears.”—
Golden Days, a track by Brisbane, Australia based SoundClouder of the Day Jonathan Snoswell, is a gorgeous acoustic guitar instrumental. It sounds hopeful. Perfect listening as we start to get glimpses of Spring here and there.
“Like it or not, we come to life in the middle of stories that are not ours. The way to knowledge, and self-knowledge, is through pilgrimage. We imitate our way to the truth, finding our lives — saving them — in the process. Then we pass it on.”—
~Paul Elie (from The Life you Save Might Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage)
Mesmerized by this meditation on history and our place in it tonight.
“There is something beautiful about a disarmed stranger. We usually only get to witness that kind of vulnerability with friends or family, when something — sympathy or apology — is expected of us. Public criers ask nothing; they don’t need anyone to take care of them.”—
Reminded of Brené Brown with this great reflection in the Times’ Opinionator blog.
I’m issuing a rule. You are not allowed to kill yourself. You are going to like this, stay with me. When a person kills himself, he does wrenching damage to the community. One of the best predictors of suicide is knowing a suicide. That means that every suicide may be a delayed homicide. You have to stay.
The reason I say you are going to like this is twofold. First of all, next time you are seriously considering suicide you can dismiss it quickly. Second, and this one’s a little harder to describe, if you are even a tiny bit staying alive for the sake of the community, as a favor to the rest of us, I need to make it clear to you that we are grateful that you stay. I am grateful that you stay alive.
“The rhythm and breath of someone reading out loud takes us to a world far away. As a child, I could spend hours pressed against the warmth of my grandmother’s body listening to her read, the rustling of her hand turning the page, watching the birds and the weather outside, transported by the intimacy of a shared side by side.”—Love this story artist Ann Hamilton tells about her grandmother. (~Artists statement, the event of a thread)
Hendric Bünck is a young soundtrack composer from Berlin. His track Leaving is a dramatic string based adagio. It breaks down in the middle, only to come back with a strong orchestral swell, ending with an epic drama that sounds like yearning. Hendric is our SoundClouder of the Day.
“I see my identity as deeply tied to a family. I’m very deeply Jewish. My mannerisms, whatever it may be, I mean, I was brought up with Jewish music, my father, he was very poor, but he celebrated the Shabbat with joy. So I have deep memories, Jewishly. So I have never had the desire to leave. I had the desire that it should be better, so my criticism grows from love. It’s like I was once told, don’t be critical as your mother-in-law who enjoys to find out things that are lacking in you [laughs], but be critical out of compassion, out of real love for what you think the people could be. And as I suffered that, because on one level I want to feel empathy, intimacy, with these people with its history, with its longing, and I know its vulnerabilities, its weaknesses, its psychological problems of wanting to be loved.”—~Rabbi David Hartman from "Hope in a Hopeless God"
This album, Virgo Indigo, is currently up on Bandcamp as a listen or name your price download (although I think Bandcamp is down for maintenance until 1am), please check it out if you haven’t and check out Orchid Tapes as well if you haven’t done that either xxx
This is one of the best album closers I’ve heard in a really long time.