Tuesday, April 30, 2013

be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love

It's 9:29 PM in Galilee, and I imagine that the sun is setting over the sea, because here the sun sets in the west, and because the sun sets later here, naturally. 
A small little courier pigeon dodges boys throwing rocks, and drops off a small epistle on the doorstep of a very old Peter. 
The small little scroll contains a tiny message from Paul.
It seems as though the Apostle to the Gentiles may resent and yet relies on his Foundation of Rock to keep him grounded throughout his travels to all the corners of the globe.

Keeping up a correspondence by carrier pigeon is not only anachronistic of Paul, it's borderline eccentric.
But Peter tolerates the younger set's strange whims with a smile. 
Some fads ebb and swell, just like the tides of the sea.

Peter is more concerned with things that last

He thinks of permanence and shadowlands as he cautiously watches the pigeon fly away.
He kneels down gingerly, and picks up the minuscule scroll.
The Oh-So-Verbose one has broken off a little piece of his heart and molded it into words.
Peter sits down in the dirt of the front door stoop and reads:

Depending on people is difficult for me in general, and so it's hard to be vulnerable in that way because it's a lot easier to detach and not care as much and so cut off the jealousy 
I think there's a certain level that everyone's comfortable letting people in, but letting people in past that comfort point is scary.
If someone worms their way into my heart enough for me to care very deeply about them, I depend on them. I depend upon them to understand me and love me and share my life with me which means I have to give of myself and be vulnerable and make an effort to share myself with them. 
And then I have to deal with all the insecurity of depending on people, and the fact that no one will ever live up to what you wish them to be. 

Peter sighs. 
He has left Jerusalem, with the crowds and the noise and the bustle and returned, for a day or two, to rest on the shore where he caught his first fish.
Paul was never a fisherman, but he seems, according to Peter's quick diagnosis, to think that fishing for men means an endless series of catch-and-release.
He sits down to write a quick response on the back of a spare scrap of scroll that has written on it: a people for God's own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Peter thought that was quite a nice line, and made a note to use it in something. Paul was sometimes rather obnoxious about how good at correspondence he was. And was being particularly insufferable about a particular letter he just wrote to the Corinthians.
You'd think he was the first person in the world to write a letter postmarked to Corinth, huffed Peter. But he smiled, because Paul's letters were usually something else. 
He had a gift for words, that one.

Peter writes:

“Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.” Norman MacLean is referring to fly-fishing. But I believe his words hold true for fishers of souls.
Cast out all fear, put out in the deep.
Don't believe for a second that the world, and the people in it, are perfect.
Don't love people because they are good. 
They're not--only your Father in Heaven is good.
Love them because they're human beings who will probably disappoint, betray, and deny you (Peter's eyes teared up a bit, and he bit his lip, paused for a moment, and collected himself before continuing), but all that's immaterial in the end, because they are human beings made in the image and likeness of God. If that's not reason enough to love someone, than nothing is.
And the deeper you grow in love, the more vulnerable you're asked to be, and that's going to hurt.
But love never fails 
(do you even read your own writing?)
Chesterton says it best, my son:
“The men of the East may spell the stars,
And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
Go gaily in the dark.”

Peter was not a believer in interacting with pigeons, so he left the scroll on the front doorstep, and whistled for one of the little "demon birds" (as he often referred to them) to come and fetch it.

The sun had just set, and the stars had come out.
When I see stars that's all they are, he hummed happily to himself.
He set out to walk for a bit along the shore, watching the heavens slip from iridescent sunset through misty dusk, into velvet night.

And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.” 
--Norman MacLean, A River Runs Through It

Monday, April 29, 2013

no one wants to hear your stomach

You and I, little magpie, are just hopping along the verge.
Instead of tapes of our failures playing in our heads,
you squawk scratchy, hoarse cries, 
and I sing hallelujah, in a whisper that matches.

Paying attention is so vitally important. 
 If you've lived for twenty summers, then you have the technical advantage of having seen twenty different kinds of summers. 
You know twenty different ways that summer can be. 
If a man has lived through fifty summers, then he has a great advantage over you, because he has experienced fifty different kinds of summer. 
But if he's only been paying attention for ten of them, then he perhaps hasn't learned as much as your older sister, who has lived through thirty summers and thirty winters, and was paying very rapt attention to all of them.
Age is immaterial, I think.
Attentiveness isn't, I'm sure.

Yesterday, in Church, a stout little elderly man turned his head to whisper something to his wife.
Unfortunately, he failed to pay attention to the priest, who was currently processing up and down the aisle, sprinkling holy water liberally on his flock.
As he turned his head away from the aisle, the priest flicked a holy water towards the side of the church where the man and his wife were standing.
Entranced, I watched as a large gloop of water flew off towards the man, and hit him squarely in the back of his head.
Surprised (by joy, I have no doubt), the man started and turned to see where exactly the source of the water was.
(And I thought, as I cackled schemingly to myself: you played right into my hands, Lord. That's essentially a pre-packaged blogpost right there.)
Grace tends to work that way.
Sneak attacks and surprising you into paying attention to it.

And then, of course, like all good ideas, it disappeared in the middle of the Consecration.
If an idea disappears in the middle of the Consecration, you just have to let it go.
You know it's good, of course, that's why it left. 
It wasn't yours to begin with.
Just leave it on the altar, and it'll come back to you one hundred-fold.

If you just pay attention, you'll find that it comes back to you.
A little word reminds you of the conversation you had with yourself rushing down Victoria Street, trying to tease out the mysteries of the world, and then you remember the shocked face of the man who wasn't paying attention to the grace that was flying straight towards him.
We are such stubborn things, and would rather drift off into daydreams than pay attention to the grace inundating the reality of now.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

let your words be anything but empty

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
-Sara Bareilles, "Brave"

I don't know if this is the product of reading Lord of the Rings at too young an age, or from eating too much alphabet soup, but words have enchanted me.
I am caught in their spell completely.
In fairy-tales, there is always a magic word that casts a spell or lifts an enchantment.
Words work magic in Real Life, too.
When your soul starts to make whimpering, soggy pancake sounds, sometimes you need a lift out of your gloominess, nothing does the trick like a kind word or an inside joke from a friend.

You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug

If you stop and think about what words are, you realize that they are little bits of divinity that invade even the most mundane of our day.
How did human beings managed to agree that mango meant a juicy orange fruit, and balsamic vinegar meant a dark, slightly gelatinous liquid that tastes delicious with bread and olive oil?
How did human beings decide the woman who gave birth to you and would give her life for you is called your mother?
And how did they string together four letters: l, o, v, and e to represent the idea/ideal/thought/word/person that lies at the core of our existence?

Even if you have an explanation for those questions, there is no answer.
We just have to say, along with C.S. Lewis' Orual,  "I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?
 Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words.”

Don’t run, stop holding your tongue 
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live 
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in 

Writing is simply painting a picture.
You know exactly what colors that you want to use, down to the finest gradations in shade.
You see the picture so sharply and vividly in your head, and then it’s just a matter of copying down what you see. But instead of paint, you just color with the words in the air; flashes of words and whispers of color from dreams that permeate the air.
You catch familiar phrases on the wind that make your ears perk up and pay closer attention.
As you hear familiar phrases from familiar books and friends peppered through Bible passages about rebirth and tears turning into laughter, your eyes and ears are more attuned to the symphony of chamber music that is being played by the sentences you read.

The greatest gift I have ever received from friends are words.
Anastomosis. Unclear. Strugglebus. Gotong-Royong.

These are like particular pigments given to a poor artist.
Conversation is like a great swap of vast swaths of colors.
The world would be so greatly impoverished if artists never shared paints with one another.

If Shakespeare never took it upon himself to create tens of thousands of words, or if Titian had never discovered azurite, then the world would be a somehow less bright.
Their prisms would not have been as finely cut, and perhaps not as clear and crisp.
The light, perhaps, would not have shone so clearly through these artists.

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out

Friday, April 26, 2013

may these memories break our fall

During the blitzkrieg, firefighters had to choose whether to save this hall or the House of Commons. 
History rests in the hands of firefighters. 

Yesterday was my half birthday.
And I thought of the six months since my birthday and how much older I had grown. 
Which sounds childish, perhaps.
But despite feeling sophisticated, as I wander through London, drinking wine by the Themes, and soaking in the smells and sights of a spring sunset on Waterloo Bridge, I am still a child.
And, like a child, I feel myself growing exponentially older by the second.

I walked into Westminster Hall, the oldest building in the Parliamentary Palace, and felt what true age meant.

This was the hall where Charles I was condemned and where Sir Thomas More was tried. This room.
Right there.
In 1097, William, the son of William the Conquerer, built the hall.
His father conquered England, and I guess William II had to do something to try to equal his father.
I pity the lad; there isn't an easy follow-up act to Conquering England.
(And just imagine how stellar "Recent Conquests: England" would look on a CV.
Talk about resumé-padding.)

As you walk through a building as old as Westminster Hall, the weight of time becomes as palpable as the weight of King's College fan vault.
As you look up at the wooden rafters or the delicate stone fans, crafted out of stony lace, you feel the weight of the stories those stones could tell pressing down on you.
Your own story, of thirty years or six months, or six days, begins to take on the weight of the thousands of years of stories you find seeping up from the stones.

People talk about "finding their roots" or "getting in touch with my roots" or "revisiting the homeland" or something of those natures. I'm never quite sure what they mean (and to be honest, I usually would roll my eyes at over-emotional declarations of transcendental experiences of the past), but I think revisiting a place is perhaps the most spiritual of exercises.
Our surroundings, of course, shape our stories. 
And our stories shape our surroundings. 

I don't think the stones of Westminster Hall have remained unchanged since Thomas More declared within their earshot: 
"And if this oath of yours, Master Rich, be true, then pray I that I may never see God in the face, which I would not say, were it otherwise to win the whole world."
Were it otherwise to win the the whole world.
Those words can prick tears from otherwise stony eyes.
And tears really cannot be made of such different stuff from stone.
If words have the power to make hearts skip a beat and make blood rush faster through veins, do they not also leave their marks on the stones that soak up their echoes?

And as you enter the room where great men and great women have spoken great words, your ears are tickled with the infinitesimally quiet whispers of the great echoes they have left.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

to snare the nimble marmoset

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
--Caliban, The Tempest Act 3, Scene 2.

Yesterday, instead of paying attention in class, I read a letter from my friend Mara, detailing her journey to academic victory. I would encourage you to read this blogpost, as it is a more condensed,  more polished version of the letter (which was written in the throes of late-night-early-morning-post-thesis-defense jubilation).
I don't know if it will make you weep, but while the rest of the class was watching the short film on Winston Churchill (see, I was kind of paying attention) her letter brought me to tears.

Yesterday, I was also brought to tears when I went to the Globe to see The Tempest.
Caliban, the ugly, savage monster, has two of the most beautiful speeches of the play.
To hear those lovely words formed by the mind of a crude creature is magic. 
And you wonder if words have the power to save a creature.

I was surprised, I think, by how often I laughed. 
How ridiculous and hectic, chaotic and goofy the bumbling antics of all these humans were, and then, all of a sudden, a holy hush would fall over the jostling crowd--from the families in the dress circle to the "groundlings"  on the ground floor--and they would stop and listen to the most masterful words fall out of the lips of mere mortals.

Something greater than ourselves was happening here.
Words written five hundred years ago were still somehow capturing the essence of what it meant to be human, transcending it, and lifting up an entire theatre of people with them.
We begin to believe that maybe we are such stuff that dreams are made of.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

our wall art is a fallout shelter

I no longer call you little dishrags, because a dishrag does not know the dishwasher's business. 
Instead, I have called you friends.

Sometimes, in our flat, ridiculous things happen.
I'm not just talking about the times my roommates performed their own rendition of this little ditty, with the empty Tesco Everyday Value butter tubs in our flat.

Nor am I talking about the many, many times my roommate's magic hugs have soothed tears and sparked smiles laughter.
Nor am I talking about the time my roommates arrived home from Easter in Rome, and literally the first thing they did was fall onto the floor of the common room laughing from exhaustion and relief.
Travel-giggles are a real thing.

The particular incident I am referring to is that one time our flat flooded.
And I use the term "flooding" loosely.
In this particular deluge (which I fondly call 'Deluge 2013'), I arrived home from a wonderful day out with friends visiting for the weekend, and as I stopped by my friend's room to collect the chairs we'd lent her for a dinner party the night before, she looked at my happy, calm, non-panicked face, and said:
"Oh, you haven't been back to your room yet, have you? It's flooded."
I turned on my heel and ran down the stairs, past our rector, and as I passed, I asked:
"Hey, Jamie, is our room flooded?"
"Eerrrr, yes," he said, sounding particularly distressed, but not distraught.
Shaken, yet not stirred.

Our room looked like a post-apocalyptic landscape, if post-apocalyptic landscapes had towels and stainless pots and pans scattered all over parquet floors to catch dripping sewage water, and all the lights had gone off.
In the midst of the smelly, damp chaos, our wall mural, featuring the beautiful Tate Modern Café, stood solid, strong and proud:
a beacon of Ikea-esque beauty amidst the ugly wreckage of failed plumbing.

An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.
-G.K. Chesterton
(quote it ad naseum, but that's cause it's true and worth remembering)
It was my friend Mara, who first introduced me to Chesterton's quote above.
And I quote it all the time, because if I didn't, I think every single inconvenience I ran into: whether it be an overly hot, muggy summer day, insatiable appetites, annoying questions, or sewage water raining in my room,  would paralyze me instead of becoming part of the grand adventure.

Words like that can become friends that remind us how to respond to life when our minds and hearts short-circuit, and we lack the ability to remember on our own.

The main inconvenience adventure was that this flood happened on the night of our river cruise.
Imagine eight girls trying to prep for prom in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Yesterday, as I wandered through Hyde Park, I thought about an exercise we did a very long time ago in a sunny dance studio in a theatre in Minnesota.
I wrote on a crisp sheet of notebook paper a list of "I am froms"
Where you're from, you find, isn't always related to where you live.

Nomads are those people who don't have a bit of turf to call their own.
They have their tents and their family, and that's where home is.
Home is wherever they pitch their tent, and wherever there are people they love with whom to share it.
I've always thought that nomads live a much more honest life than I.
Home can so quickly become a small dorm room, or a large apartment shared with nine other girls, or a house on a wooded cul-de-sac in Minnesota.
It's all about who you come home to.

Eating the snacks and tea and burritos that our beautiful rectors plied upon us, we spent a hectic-but-joyful hour or two curling one another's hair, complimenting each girl on how beautiful she looked, and comforting each other with a thousand and one jokes.

Inconveniences are easily turned into adventures when your traveling companions are unshakeable, unflappable and have hearts of gold to match.

"Don't you test these besties." Deluge 2013 Survivors

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

give me hope in silence

But I'll still believe, though there's cracks you'll see, 
When I'm on my knees I'll still believe, 
And when I've hit the ground, neither lost nor found, 
If you'll believe in me I'll still believe

In recent years Our Lady has been depicted frequently as a lonely young girl. Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Fatima stand alone. Our Lady of Walsingham emphasises her Motherhood and her continual effort to present her Son to the world.
--On Our Lady of Walsingham

Each red English rose blooming behind the iron fence seems to rustle in the rustic spring wind: tomorrow i will be in Walsingham

The surprising song of sparrows in the hedgerows provides a sweet draft of relief from the metallic screeching and scratching of the brakes.

The plaintive song of the protesting enemy, seeking to rid himself of heartbreak plaguing his soul, rises above the oppressive din of the traffic:
So why did you choose to lean on 
A man you knew was falling?
Like all of us, the beggar asks for money, or the shiny big-kid bicycle in the store window, and instead receives bread to eat.

One Monday night, the poet finds himself beleaguered, stranded in suspense between the sun and the moon.
The next week, he finds he has settled into the arms of the bus seat, speeding him away from a hellish night of unsettled angst, and with a grateful hello to a Holland Road he hasn't met, he speeds towards the home he makes wherever he goes.

Like all of us, he is a nomad; blindly navigating a cracked and broken path in darkness.
Inconsistently, we find our hearts moved.

The braver of us ford the swollen stream;
Those feet fitted with the Holy Spirit take the footbridge.

The picayune pilgrim follows the posted signage, and turns the iron ring.
Getting lost is easy; having the courage to open the door is granted only to those who have hit their low.

Little did Peter know that would not be the end.
The stone passage leads from a bright and cheerful Good Friday into the sunny Slipper Chapel that smells like Easter at Holy Family.

From the Holland Road: well, I rose and I rose
An inadvertent hymn rises to the psalmist's lips, born of the wide fields of sheep and grass, and a sky bluer than the tears that Jesus wept.
He lift his arms up to the endless, blessed skies and sings a jubilee, the greatest his tongue will remember for the rest of his days.
Like the groom who received Mary's Dowry with humbled hands, he trills the hushed and holy melody of the hedgerow sparrows:
tomorrow I will be in Walsingham.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Or: the School of Protein-Deficient Artistes 
 Looking at a vista of Rome, my darling friend Kelsie remarked that looking at beautiful things is physically relaxing. Beauty, to paraphrase a common saying, soothes the savage beast. Meaning, essentially, 
Beauty is to your eyes as tea is to your stomach. 

 Say what you will but I still believe It's a beautiful world 
And I know I'm not dreaming, 
I just choose to believe it -Dierks Bentley

Van Gogh's sketch of Streatham Common in London
"Life here is very expensive. I pay 4 18 shillings a week for my lodgings, not including the washing, and then I still have to eat in town."
--Vincent Van Gogh, on living in London. 
I feel you, Vinny.


Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility. 
  --Dana Gioia

Pieta, after Delacroix --Vincent van Gogh (1889)
We have a lot for which to thank Vincent van Gogh.
And I'm although I'm not talking about Starry Night and Sunflowers, I would definitely thank him for those.
Particularly, van Gogh was one of the school of artists that saw themselves as somehow on the margins of society.
He writes to his friend and fellow artist Emile Bernard: "Being exiled, a social outcast, as artists like you and I surely are, 'outcasts' too. And finding -in this position--of outcast--an independence that isn't without its advantages."
The idea of an artist being a struggling soul of a human being was relatively new. High renaissance court painters definitely weren't on the margins of society. And thanks to their generous royal patrons, were never without protein (their mothers were probably quite pleased).
But van Gogh saw himself as an aberration.
Which brings us to the picture above, in which the Christ-figure in the picture above has van Gogh's distinctive red hair and beard.
Apparently, van Gogh, in fits of mental instability, fancied that he was Christ.
There is a phenomenon that occurs in visitors to the Holy Land called “Jerusalem Syndrome,” where pilgrims sense their own religious importance too powerfully for their mind to handle, and they sometimes begin to imagine that they are the Second Coming of the Messiah (or John the Baptist, or Elijah, or another prophet).

The few psychologists who have studied this phenomenon posit that this is not, in fact, a hallucination or delusion. Rather, this is a bizarre reaction in the individual to the power of the holy place. Perhaps these pilgrims have realized almost too powerfully for their mind to handle the truth of the C.S. Lewis quote: “You have never met a mere mortal. […] the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.”
There are certain extraordinary places on Earth where we find that the things of heaven are most intimately and palpably “wedded to those of earth.” 

If you’ve ever visited the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, you will find the boardwalks lined with very comforting signs which read, in large red letters: “Dangerous Ground! Thin Crust! Stay on Walkways!” It is exhilarating and exciting to find yourself in a location where the earth’s crust is so thin that the mere weight of a human being can cut right through it. 
The veil of ordinariness wrapped around our earth is peeled away (almost literally), and you realize that the solid ground you call home is actually quite a thin layer of soil. 
It’s simply a gentle dusting on top of a whole other world of turbulent streams and boiling hot molten rock. 

 The realization that we are not mere mortals can be as scalding as the hot water boiling under the earth’s crust.
Visiting a place like Jerusalem,where Christ’s feet kissed the earth, where divinity physically touched our world, is perhaps as dangerous as stepping off the boardwalk at Yellowstone.

This idyll may yet come before our eyes again,
If you would have it so: are you not the master
Who re-created it after its first creator’s hand?

--Poesies d’Edmond Roche

Sunday, April 21, 2013

she takes it all for me

The tenderness of her love makes her soul so light, any occasion that kindles the fire makes the spirit soar.
-Teresa of Avila

If you've ever tried to punt a boat, you'll find that it's easier the less you think about it.
When I'm faced with a situation like so:
Hey, why don't you try to maneuver this literally 10 foot long heavy metal pole in a river while balancing on the back of a rather tipsy boat. Don't crash!
My natural reaction is to panic/overthink.
There's a magic moment, however, where you stop thinking, and you just respond.
Once your mind gets itself off of spin cycle, you find yourself a remarkably agile responder to the low-hanging trees and low-clearance bridges that are the obstacles in your course down the river.
In those moments, you find something mysteriously like peace.

punting/casually dodging trees.
If there is one thing that stresses me out, it's clocks. 
I don't wear a watch, which, on further reflection, is probably a deep-seated character flaw that should be remedied.
But the thought of carrying around a physical reminder of moments passing away seems grotesquely morbid.
Time should always be one of the those concepts easily put away when necessary.
Like, when I was going to Walsingham.
I found myself wandering around in circles outside the Norfolk village about Fakenham.
Two things about Fakenham:
1. I still don't know how to pronounce the name correctly [it's harder than you think].
2. It has many scenic paths that are very easy to get lost on.
2.b) None of them, sadly, lead to Walsingham.

unexpected bridges over unexpected rivers

As I wandered deeper into the countryside, feeling suspiciously more and more as though this was not the way to Walsingham, I found tears of frustration pricking my eyes.
This was not the way I wanted to go.
Five beautiful of daffodil patches later, I reminded myself to notice the countryside around me.
It's amazing how picky we are with gifts sometimes; and I almost let this one pass by me.
This may not have been the way I wanted to go; it may not have been the most expedient route to get to where I was going; but it was a detour I wouldn't have traded for anything.


I am a Joy-chaser.
I live for the moments that you stretch your hands to the sky, and a song you didn't expect bursts out of your lips, because some sort of noise had to burst out of your lungs.
I live for the moments you feel your heart will split in two; or your eyes will out-shine the sun from the Joy surging through them.

biking through Oxford

Near Oxford, there is a town called Headington. To get there, you can bike or drive or walk up a hill.
It's a rather large hill.
And to get back to Oxford, you bike or drive or walk down the hill.
If you drive down the hill, I suppose you concern yourself with putting on the brakes.
If you walk down the hill, I suppose you concern yourself with pushing up against gravity pushing down.
But if you bike down the hill, you don't concern yourself with either.
You rush down, the wind making your coat fly out, the world rushing past you.
You gulp in massive amounts of fresh air, and you feel the tips of your hair come alive.
It's moments like those, you become a creature of the sky, unshackled by mortal coil.
Those are the moments your soul gets a little bit lighter.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

bring on all the pretenders

Victory tastes of bread dipped in blood.
 A lone smile among the scribbles marks "grace was here."
Our Brave New World trembles with the nascent energy of an emerging butterfly,
It's wings dripping; quickly beating; discovering their new strength.
We have achieved I know not even what.

In our flat, we have a favorite addiction.
That addiction is to these strange-yet-wonderful "gummy" Smurf-shaped candies.
What do they taste like? pure rubberfied sugar.
Do they taste good? Absolutely Not.
Are they delicious? Yes.
Does this make logical sense? Not really, no.

Addictions are irrational things, folks. And they're mighty ugly.
Eating a Smurf-candy, we've come to realize, isn't a pleasant experience. It gets stuck in your teeth, it's difficult to chew, after you inevitably eat more than you bargained for, you end up with this painful knot in your stomach. 
In other words, these Smurfs would never be within five metres of a Whole Foods. 
 Think of the most natural, healthiest food item you've ever encountered. 
(For example: I'm thinking of carrots right now, fresh-picked from the garden.)
These Smurfs are essentially the polar opposite of that, and I'd just say pretty much the opposite of "food" as a concept in general.

Furthermore, once the Smurfs have all disappeared, you're left with the nagging and inescapable question of: with what am I going to fill my stomach? [a question that, on the physical level, plagued me once I had--to my shame--helped in emptying out not one, but two tubs of that sugary rubber, but that moment, as empty stomachs are wont to do, led to some deeper reflections about life.]
A human being could be described as a cavity waiting to be filled (and if you eat too many Smurfs you will have about a billion cavities that will need to be filled).
"We are a living incompleteness," says Thomas Merton, "We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfillment.”
Which is why a human being's stomach is on of their most beautiful organs (bear with me).
Because every so often throughout the day, it will remind us (sometimes very loudly) that it is empty and it needs to be filled. 
Here comes the interesting part. 
It is fascinating to witness what people choose to fill their stomachs with.
When the world is filled with wonderful foods such as homemade mashed potatoes, Nutella crepes, Peanut-Butter-Chocolate-Chip Scones, Capezzoli di Venere, meat pies, fresh mozzarella di bufala and tomato soup, why you would you stuff your face with Smurfs that don't even truly fill up your stomach?
Even more fascinating that Christ does not leave that question unanswered.
With what are you going to fill your stomach ? 
He gave us the answer, today actually, in one of the more insane speeches the world has ever witnessed:

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world.” 

It is quite crazy to still be repeating the words of a man who told His followers to eat His flesh--that His flesh was true food, and His blood true drink. 

The life of the world.
If you think of all the food that it takes to sustain the life of this world, then the image is quite astounding.
What does this Flesh have that can sustain all those lives?
What He is is Love--Love that shines in the light of eternity, Love that is completely self-emptying, Love that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. 
An Eternal Love that sweeps up those who enter into it into Eternity with it. 

Not a Smurf-induced sugar rush that sweeps you up in a flush of evanescent rosy hues that vanish when the hard knot appears in your stomach.

You are on a sugar overload, and yet your stomach is not filled. 
It is still a yawning pit, desiring nourishment.
Fill that yearning cavity inside of you, He commands, with Love.
Why settle for anything less?

My Friends, you bow to no one.
-Return of the King

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

giver of immortal gladness

Great abilities, unless supported by virtues, are in danger, and seldom prove a blessing.
--Edward Sorin

Here's the thing: I love maps.
I love maps a lot.
The one thing (among the many things) I cherish about London-town is that there are maps everywhere, on every street corner.
These little map-stands win the title "The Most Delightful Appliances in the World" for two solid reasons.
Reason the First, or the more pragmatic reason:
They are a God-send when you are lost. Never have I felt relief more palpable then when I'm hopelessly lost in some god-forsaken neighborhood like Dalston, and I stumble upon a small little durable-plastic rectangular prism standing sentinel on the street corner, with a greyscale map of the immediate area (landmarks highlighted in yellow) to orient myself.
God-sends, I tell you.

Reason the Second, a reason born of whimsy:
Even when I'm not truly lost, I will sometimes stop and examine the map.
Sometimes, to cement the layout of a more unfamiliar borough into my memory.
Sometimes, just because examining where you are is absolutely delightful.
You stop, and take note of your surroundings.
You look on the map, and see where the cartographer placed them conscientiously.
You remember when you were but a callow young newcomer to London and didn't know which was was downstream or upstream.
You certainly didn't know that Mayfair was right across Piccadilly from Green Park.

Sometimes, maps are ineffectual for what you really want to do.
C.S. Lewis always said that it's one thing to look at a map of the Atlantic, and an entirely different thing to go down to the beach and encounter it.
Navigation via map is always an mentally exciting, intellectually thrilling sort of endeavor.
But it's another thing entirely to find yourself on a street corner with no map, and just walk in the direction to think must be right.
Better yet, you find yourself on a street corner with a map, but the street you seek isn't even on it.
Guided by Isaiah's still small wind of calm and the dim memories of maps seen before, you set out into the deep.
If you simply persevere with patience, and follow the streets just further than you think you need to, you'll find "Farm Street" marked in stylish letters on the street sign.
And you find that you've reached your destination, due to no merit or map of your own.

The world is a shade gentler and filled with more delight when each destination is not a new territory to conquer, but your own personal Narnia, that you find, without looking for, hidden in the place you least expect.

Farm Street Church--the Jesuit Church of London. Had to visit in honor of Papa Francesco, you see.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
"Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!"
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."
--M.L. Haskins

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

make a wish on the fireworks

On February 17th, 1901, Picasso's dear friend and colleague, Casagemas, who was also a rising artist in Paris, shot himself in the temple outside a cafe in Montmartre.

For the next four years, Picasso only painted the worlds in shades of blue.

Also in 1901, Picasso painted a ludicrously audacious self-portrait. 
He stares at us, his audience, over his bright, Transfiguration-white silk shirtsleeve, his thick black hair hastily parted over his head, his matador-style red tie contrasting with the midnight blue background of the portrait. 
His piercing eyes would fool you into thinking that he is a confident, confirmed master-artist, in the prime of his career. 
They issue a challenge to you, daring you to think otherwise.
But if you look closely, you will see that bound up in the bravado is a strain of timidity.
And amid the insouciance, there is a minuscule grain of uncertainty.
His eyes are so new to the world.

Critics, apparently, accused Picasso of copying other styles of current fashionable Parisian painters, of being a copy-cat of Degas and van Gogh; they accused him of the mortal sin of artists: of not being original.
But, in the top left corner, in smooth, raw strokes of paint, are written the two bold words:
"Yo Picasso."

In several brushstrokes, Picasso asserted that though he was young, he was bursting with every bit of the same talent as da Vinci and Degas. Even though he still didn't know exactly what he had to say about the world that differed from their point-of-view.
He claimed that though he, like Anis Mojgani's two year old, could not be understood, because he spoke half-human and half-God, he had a small but steady voice, and he was going to use it.
He acknowledged that being talented is an eternal struggle to pine for the regard of the world, and yet to endeavor to ignore it.
In several strokes of paint, Picasso announced what every yearning young person on the verge of discovering their own greatness has ever felt:
Bursting inside of me, there is something that might overpower even myself if I unleashed it.
But whatever blend I am of copy-cat, originality, bravado, talent, sweat, tears, and passion, I am a force with which to be reckoned.


On April 16th, 2013, Judi Dench performed in a West End show called Peter & Alice.

It is, as you might guess, about the beloved childhood stories Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland.
It's about their whimsical, possibly-troubled, overgrown children of creators--J.M. Barrie and Charles Dodgson. It's about the real-life children who were at the heart of those stories' creation, particularly Alice Liddell Hargreaves and Peter Llewelyn-Davies, and how they both loved and hated the stories that invaded their lives.
It's about growing up, and what exactly the mysterious boundary is between childhood and adulthood.

True love, as Mother Teresa insists, is surrender. 
You are allowing the other to shape the person you are becoming. 
It's silly in a very serious way to trust someone that much. 
To give yourself over to them so completely.
To hand them the match and say: 'burn this bridge. 
I've crossed it, and I'm not going back.

Maybe growing up is when you realize that your world crumbles when your heart is broken, but comes back together again in a few weeks or months, when you find that the world has kept turning.
Growing up, insists Judi Dench aka Alice Hargreaves is when you fall in love, and fall out of love. It's when your heart breaks and mends again.
It's when you look back and realize that something has changed you irreversibly, and that this moment is different from the last, and you can't go back to the person you were in the moment that just passed.
Maybe growing up is when you fall in love, choose an irreversible path, burn your first bridge, or cry your first tear, or the first time you feel lonely.
Maybe growing up is what you do from the moment you enter the world, and you never stop doing it.
Maybe growing up is simply the myth of children.
Only children who have never grown up are concerned with growing up.
Maybe "growing up" is just a child's nickname for living.

Monday, April 15, 2013

tea parties and twitter

We have to keep looking both ways to remain humble and confident, humorous and serious, playful and responsible.  Yes, the human person is very small and very tall.
--Henri Nouwen

The wooing moon whispers a sad and lonely love song
to the twinkling tear that rolled off its white blank face.

The tear crystallizes, and resolves itself into a dewey star.

The milky orb's inconstant paean to its unique status in the sky 
becomes a troubadour's ballad to his distant and beloved lady.

There sits a small poet on the edge of the moon.
Watching from his perch, he looks down on the fountains, sparkling in the night.
He alights on the balcony of the sun.
Being in the middle of a miracle is slightly disorienting. 

The wind, a sweet current from the distant regions of the stars, swirls softly around his feet.
He closes his eyes to shut out the vast fields of stars he sees.

His eyes see his baby son, flesh-and-blood that's yet-to-be.
His heart skips a beat as he catches a whiff of buckwheat pancakes.
Who knew such aromas could reach as far afield as the nethermost corners of the sun?
He is a takes out a piece of stale bread and leaves it to toast on the sun's rays.
He hears his sister playing the piano; and taking out his poet's sword, he begins to write--

An inconstant paean to his unique status in the sky.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

the habemus period

In which we find, unexpectedly, that the weekend jaunt to lake country serves as a hermeneutic for Pride & Prejudice, this Sunday's passage from John's Gospel, and Lord of the Rings, among others.

"You are charmingly group'd, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth."
--Elizabeth Bennet, sometime demi-goddess, expert on picturesque landscapes, and the most accomplished and charming of fictional women.

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
--J.R.R. Tolkein

Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to Him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
--John 21

Just do it, Peter. Feed the sheep. It's easy--I fed the sheep some crusty old bread.
It wasn't rocket science. Just feed the sheep, Peter.

"Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
--John 21

 Sometimes, you are not in the mood to climb a fell. 
But sometimes that's the only way to get home. So you adjust your backpack, eat some fortifying fudge or flapjacks and soldier forth.

“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

as garn yam

One time, over tea, sandwiches, and scones, we took my poor dear friend to task for her habit of reading the ending of books.
As literary types, born and bred, and great believers in the Power & Importance of Literature, we upbraided her passionately for spoiling the book by reading the ending.
But, in terms of The Story, I realized, we all know the ending anyways. 
We've all had a peek at that closing chapter, and we know what's in store at the end.
As we set out on all our journeys, bear all our daily toils, and undergo all our deaths, we already have read what the story ends with: 
And they all lived happily ever after.


One month ago [as of yesterday, to be absolutely precise], I stood in St. Peter's Square, and watched a curl of white smoke announce the election of Papa Francesco.
The real journey had actually started a month before that, as the news of Pope Benedict's resignation literally floored me.
I sometimes wish I could go back to that still, strange moment of calm, as I laid flat on the floor of my flat, my head reeling from the news, and my heart racing with excitement.
How was I, prostrate on the parquet floor, to know that a month later I would be under a rainforest canopy of umbrellas in St. Peter's square, watching a new Peter approach his flock?
If only my overly-excited self had known exactly where that road would have taken me.

You know your destination, which is either Heaven, Rome or Coniston Water (and Coniston Water looks suspiciously similar to the first on that list).
You can read the signs, which announce that you are (due to some great miracle) still on the right path, and only several miles from Coniston. Or alert you that you've taken a wrong turn, and have tragically ended up only 1 and a quarter miles from Chapel Stile, which sounds lovely, but isn't even on your map, and really doesn't interest you in the least, due to the fact that it is not the way to Coniston Water.
So you re-route yourself.
And, if you are as willfully prone to striking out on your own, and ignoring the signs pointing the way down the beaten trail, you will often have to re-route yourself several times.
You wander through the becks and hows; and stumble through gills and thwaites, you know that eventually you'll make it to Coniston.
Because that's the way the story was written, and you've caught a glimpse of the ending.
Spoiler Alert: We call that Easter.

“Home is behind, the world ahead,
and there are many paths to tread.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

find me an aspectabund judas' kiss

"Love calls forth Love"
--Fr. Edward Sorin

There is nothing more unfruitfully delightful than endlessly laughing at your own wit.
 If you've amused yourself with your own joke, you've basically achieved your goal.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you.

If you think about just how many laughs and stories the world has seen, it strikes you just how very old she must be.

The pharisees refused to take my blood money.
So I ate the thirty pieces of silver, the sickening sweetness lined my gums, filling every pore like chloroform. 
My teeth were stuck together, barely able to chew the hardening lump of saccharine sadness that threatened to choke me.
I tried to wash it down with the tears I carried in my waterskin.
But it kept catching on the lump of guilt in my throat.

You wonder how the world can manage to hold itself together, so cracked and damaged with so many sad and dangerous stories.

Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
--Leonard Cohen

This is where the importance of rain comes in.
All rain, of course, is not created equally.

There is, of course, the kind of rain which really should be snow.
This is the strange, slushy waterfall of daggers that arrives in November.
There's nothing to do with this rain, except stay inside by a fireplace and a blanket.

Then there is the jubilant, fierce rain in March whose main objective is to soak your clothes straight through and to permeate everything you own with water.
When I arrived in Rome on Sunday-exactly-one-month-ago, I walked right into such a rain with all my luggage.
Some of my books are still drying.
This is the kind of rain in which you need to have friends with umbrellas, or else you become waterlogged.

Then there is the gentle rain of April nights.
This is the kind of rain that draws you out into the city by yourself, to splash in puddles and get your hair wet.
This is the kind of rain which fills the darkness with light.
It's seems to wash away all the dirty pains and uglinesses of the world.
This is the kind of rain that baptizes the world again, that heals all its wounds, that fills the cracks and scars with dazzling water droplet prisms of light.

This is the kind of rain in which it is completely appropriate and logical to fall in love.

This is the sort of Easter rain that pulls you out of the Agony in the Garden.
After you've seen things that make your heart want to bleed, just softly lift up your eyes to the cloudy night and feel the heavens kiss your face.
All you can see is rain falling on your face, but the stars aren't hidden by the clouds.
Rather, the stars have descended into the puddles on the sidewalk, the street lamps sparkling in the curtain of rain, and the lights of warm windows shining into the night.
You in fact, may already be part of a constellation, shining eternally like the stars of the heavens.
We walk amid the stars.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

if you’re fortunate like the Son of God

 Pray do not mock me,
I am a very foolish fond old man. 
And to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
--King Lear, Act IV, Scene 7

When you approach a Caravaggio, you enter into his painted world, a play of light and shadow.
The stuff of the world, of human existence: the men talking in the corner, the food on the table, the pilgrims kneeling in the darkness, etc., etc. is all the shadowland.
Everything happens there in shades and dark colors, walking shadows that strut and fret their hour upon the stage of the canvas.
You can only see the action because of the light breaking into the painting.
The light, usually, is from Somewhere Else.


If you read Kant, you think, first off that he will drive you completely mad with his talk of judgments of perception and judgements of experience; experiences and essences; analytics and synthetics.
Kant is attempting to turn reason inward to understand exactly how it works. It's like a child giving himself cross-eyes to try to see inside his eye.
An eye can't see itself, sadly, except in a mirror.
But if you pay attention to Kant long enough (and that's a Herculean effort in itself. It's like he's trying to confuse you), you begin to sense something familiar in his moanings.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
--Psalm 139

Just like the Psalmist, Kant is trying to understand the way the world works, and an even more difficult question, why he himself works the way he does.
He just has a different way of going about it.

Teach me your way, Lord,
    that I may rely on your faithfulness
-Psalm 86

Some people use poetry to understand their world; some use metaphysics.

Some, like Lear, let their world fall into pieces, and don't attempt to understand.
One of the most illuminating pieces of theatre I have seen in London was last night when I saw My Perfect Mind at the Young Vic.
Like a brilliant prism, the piece captured the fancies of the audience with a delightful rainbow of story.
A man enters the space.
We have been told that he is actually King Lear, although he is under the delusion he is the famous English actor Edward Petherbridge.
We laugh, because we know who Edward Petherbridge is, and we have a program which tells us that this is Edward Petherbridge.
And Edward Petherbridge seems to think that he is Edward Petherbridge; so the harlequin that told us he is actually Lear must be mistaken.
But, as the story of Edward Petherbridge trying to play Lear is lightly sketched out by two elderly, dryly hilarious British Gentlemen, we see that maybe Petherbridge has more in common with Lear than we think.
The story of the old king and the gentle actor have beautiful parallels that are teased out and drawn together.

This man who desired so desperately to play Lear already is Lear.
He is Lear, who is under the delusion he is Edward Petherbridge.
He is Edward Petherbridge, under the delusion that he is Lear.
His world is slanted at an alarmingly disorienting rake, just like the stage.
It's a very pretentious set-up, as the actors admit.
“It is either very careless or very pretentious. Two sides of the same coin, perhaps.”
We need stories to understand our own lives, sometimes.

The light that illuminates the Shadowland of Mr. Petherbridge's story is the text of King Lear.
Incredible, you see, that the stories we tell can help detangle the tangled web of story that we live.

Monday, April 8, 2013

elle fut le souffre-douleur des deux autres enfants

There is a prospect greater than the sea, and it is the sky; there is a prospect greater than the sky, and it is the human soul.
--Victor Hugo

One day, a very long time ago, my mother told me to come to the back door and see what my dog had left there for me.
Kobus, our black lab, was a rather dim-witted little pup.
But I loved him anyway.
But that particular day, he sat waiting at the back door, sitting very cheerfully over a tiny little baby bunny he had just set down at the door.
Its nose bruised and bleeding, the poor baby rabbit was shivering, barely breathing.
On a sunny day, our wooded backyard becomes a shimmering, sunny forest of green.
Kobus' coat was shining in the sun. There was never a more grotesque contrast between the sweet warmth of the summer day, and that poor little creature, shivering and bleeding.
Watching small creatures in pain awakens every motherly instinct within me.
Poor Kobus, so ignorantly proud of his find, was in disgrace for the rest of the afternoon.
I wrapped up the tiny little creature in a dishtowel to keep it warm and proceeded to cradle it in my arms for a solid hour, while I wept like Rachel for her children.

After a bit, there was a squirm.
And then a wriggle.
And the irregular gasps of breath became a steady fall and swell.
So I put the twitchy little creature back under the swing set where the rabbits' nest was, with some carrots and lettuce.

Sometimes, it's the little cruelties of life that shock.
For some bizarre reason, war and international conflicts are part of our assumed experience of humanity.
But seems horrendous that a small baby rabbit could be happily wounded by a puppy.
It seems inhumanly cruel for a young child to be neglected on their birthday.
It's not the vast injustices that hurt the most, its the paper-cut variety injustices.

We are called to try to deepen our faith by overcoming our fears. Doubt is normal and regular and faith can live with doubt. We believe despite our doubts. It is fear rather that is the killer of faith.
--Frank Quinlivan, C.S.C.

I've never read Atlas Shrugged.
But I think I should, if only because the title image is highly poetic.
What if Atlas, in a fit of ennui, or boredom, or pure self-interest, just didn't care about his task anymore, and shrugged the globe off his shoulders?
It's a mesmerizing thought.
The Ancient Greeks were really onto something with the titan Atlas.
Your world, your home, rests on good grace of a complete stranger.
You are trusting him every single day not to shrug.

If you walk across Hungerford foot-bridge at rush hour traffic, you (literally) run into this truth.
Your task, to get from one end of the bridge to the other, is turned from a commonplace journey into a ridiculously complicated adventure. People become obstacles to dodge, and competitors to out-speed-walk. If there weren't other people, the crossing would be quite easy.
But then you try to imagine yourself building a structure like Hungerford foot-bridge.
And you realize you couldn't make the journey in the fist place without other people.
If you simply notice the strangers jostling one another on Hungerford foot bridge, you find they all have a name.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

when I see stars that's [not] all they are

No temas. Yo so el primero y el último; yo soy el que vive. Yo tengo las llaves de la muerte y del más allá.

Confession: My name is Renée and I'm a hopeless Romantic. Romantic as in Romanticism. As in: I believe in moments. I believe in signs. I believe that there is a deeper poetry revealed through the tiniest, ordinariest day-to-day coincidences and occurrences.

I very much sympathize with our pal Thomas. For, I too, would want to put my hand into His side before I could believe.
In the absence of more tangible evidence, I've latched onto a pretty mundane exhibition of Divine Providence: cello players.

Good things come in threes, and cello players are no exception.
Earlier this semester, I discovered a man playing the cello in the underpass of my favorite bridge.

That one taught me to take each moment, and receive it as a gift.
That this was the moment I was supposed to be soaking up; not longing for other moments in other countries.
Four for you, Mr. Cello Man. Four for you.

The next time I heard a cello was in my favorite piazza in Rome, under the bright Italian sun.
I heard the sweet, sweet cello music sailing over the fountain.
I watched the man's nimble fingers move back and forth with the dexterity of a virtuoso.
He taught me to calm my fears; to remember that I was not alone.
And then, I could not help but feel that I was right where I was supposed to be.
When you travel, you often become disoriented. You need signs to point yourself in the right direction.
I have never seen a mile-marker that filled me with such joy as that cello man.

Finally, this morning, I caught the eye of a small man playing the cello on Portobello Road.
Exhausted, somewhat drained, flustered, and highly inconvenienced, I adventured down Portobello Road.

And when I heard the strains of cello music, I groaned the way you groan when your dad or uncle makes an awful pun.

Exiles, I realized then, are always more dreaded than they ought to be.
They inevitably end up being more like Octobers than Novembers.

So I stopped and paid attention (sometimes I deign to pay attention to those who are trying to speak with me), and listened to the strains of the cello music.
I have never heard music more comforting.
I don't know if that's because of the merits of the music itself or of the Player.

I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 
Anne of Green Gables

Thursday, April 4, 2013

it will confuse the audience

"You hit your mark, you look the other guy in the eye, and you tell the truth."

--James Cagney, on how to act

There's an exercise in theatre called Viewpoints, which I once tried to explain to a priest, with rather botched results.
Essentially, Viewpoints is the art of letting go of control, and simply responding to the world around you.
You begin Viewpoints by putting your hands over your heart, reminding yourself to work with an open heart. 
I'd argue that that may be the only way to live.


Ever since I was a young girl, one of the staples of our front living room coffee table book collection was a large, glossy picture biography. From simple, grainy, black-and-white pictures of the young Karol Wojtyla as a boy growing up in Wadowice, to splendid color panoramas of the new pope in white vestments, parting the surrounding waves of the red sea of cardinals that surged around him, the book detailed the life of Pope John Paul II.
Within this book were photos and short little poetic pieces of text about losing his mother, working as a theatre artist, living in Poland, secretly defying Nazi occupation, entering into the seminary on the sly. The high romance of Karol Wojtyla’s youth struck a chord in my seven-year-old heart.
This man captured my imagination.

 People who can't pay attention should not go to the theatre…their imagination will be challenged and trained…a play should make you understand something new. If it tells you what you already know, you leave it as ignorant as you went in
--Our Country's Good

I grew up spinning stories in my head. I've never known what boredom was, because there are always words and daydreams and stories floating in the air.
This particular pope he had a whole section of this particular biography devoted to his work in the theatre.
He’d written a play that theatre companies around the world were still performing, he even had his own particular style of theatre, which sounded like a magic spell: "Rhapsodic".
Growing up with Pope John Paul II on my coffee table, I never knew that there was a divide between the theatre world and the theology world.
They both seemed to me to be the art of saving your soul by telling stories.
Both seem to have at their center the pursuit of poetry, of understanding the secrets at the heart of the world and painting pictures of them.
Both, by introducing you to the lives of others, teach you how to live.
Or perhaps, show you what life can be.
That the world is a bit more glorious and grand than we give it credit for being.
That we can be glorious and grand, if we only dare to be.

The convicts will be speaking a refined, literate language and expressing sentiments of a delicacy they are not used to. It will remind them that there is more to life than crime, punishment. And we, this colony of a few hundred will be watching together, for a few hours, we will no longer be despised prisoners and hated gaolers. 
We will laugh, we may be moved, we may even think a little.
--Our Country's Good