"It’s important again to emphasize that Michael isn’t a human character, but a stand-in for evil. And so everyone who tries to understand Michael dies, from the British podcasters who cynically want to sell his story as clickbait without respecting his true and heinous nature to Dr. Sartain, the “new Loomis.” The case of Sartain is an important one because, having spent years analyzing Michael and formulating theories about his motivations, he falls in love with his own abstractions. One of the best moments of the film, and the scene where the mute power of evil is most powerfully on display, is when Sartain longs for Michael to speak to him, demands it, in fact. “Say something!” he screams at evil. Without missing a beat, evil smashes his head in."
My latest for The American Conservative, here.
"As the title of this new book suggests, the notion of “void” is a theme that runs through Weil’s work, but it’s not a negative term. On the contrary, the void is only the beginning of one’s spiritual life. Weil’s spiritual aim is for us to allow our minds and hearts to recognize grace: “Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void.” For us to live in fullness and to witness the light in this world, we have to allow ourselves to see darkness. Without darkness and death, illumination of the spirit would be inauthentic, if not impossible."
I wrote about Simone Wei's On the Abolition of All Political Parties for The American Conservative:
That sounds radical. And it is. Weil has a habit of overstating her case in order to prove a more profound point. And her point is this: truth is beyond political doctrine. As she writes, “One can speak, it is true, of Christian doctrine, Hindu doctrine, Pythagorean doctrine, etc.—but then what is meant by this word is neither individual or collective; it refers to something that is infinitely higher than these two realms. It is purely and simply the truth.” Truth is its own end. Justice and goodness, isomorphically related to truth, are their own ends as well. “The goal of a political party,” however, “is something vague and unreal. If it were real, it would demand a great effort of attention, for the mind does not easily encompass the concept of the public interest. Conversely, the existence of the party is something concrete and obvious; it is perceived without any effort. Therefore, unavoidably, the party becomes in fact its own end.”
"What could be more obvious? The game is plainly an attempt to figure forth the “heavenly dance” within the realm of mutability. When play is in its full flow, the diamond becomes a place where the dark, sullen surface of matter is temporarily transformed into a gently luminous mirror of the “supercelestial mysteries.” Baseball is an instance of what the later Neoplatonists called “theurgy”: a mimetic or prophetic rite that summons (or invites) the divine graciously to descend from eternity and grant a glimpse of itself within time.
"Cynthia L. Haven’s outstanding new biographical and critical study, Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard, is a brilliant survey of his life and thought, but also a document of high importance for understanding what has happened to the conception and teaching of the humanities in the United States and elsewhere since the 1960s, and why Lionel Trilling was right to worry about “the uncertain future of humanistic education,” the title of a 1975 essay. Starting out as a literary critic writing mainly about the 19th-century novel, Girard developed into a wide-ranging cultural critic and anthropologist at Johns Hopkins (1957–68, 1976–80) and then at Stanford (1981–2015). His thinking has had a vast effect throughout the Western world on literary studies, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, theology, and even the writing of history, influencing numerous scholars in these fields, as well as novelists (Milan Kundera, J. M. Coetzee), and leading to associations and journals for the study and application of his thought. Evolution of Desire is itself a distinguished, judicious work of interdisciplinary cultural analysis and synthesis in the current of Girard."
Felt like a plop, like a hiccup, Northwest edge of myself.
Ribbed feathers struggling in a crater of wet mud. Definitely a disease. Its tiny arched claw scrawling patterns into me. Asemic writing. Ur-texts. Incantatory code unbroken by modern minds, languages stripped of all obvious meaning and trailing shadows of unseen logic. Maybe the original language. Unbreathed.
About six feet South of a smashed and rusted Natty can. Crumpled under the tender foot of Jenny Barrington, October 17, 2007. So drunk she didn’t feel a thing, pointing her heel down to get her full weight over it and then picking up the wrinkled metal disc and arcing it across the waxing moon like just a glint caught in the ambient glow of headlights. It’ll the be the last thing the dying sparrow sees.
Two bird metaphors in Ortega Y Gasset’s “To The Reader”, delicious flesh before the meat of Meditations on Quixote. What were they? Metaphors for depth requiring surface in order to become visible.
Volunteers find me, their orange vests and spears stabbing at the trash on the dried curled mud skin of my periphery. Mostly cans. Domestic. A shoe. Athletic. A few condoms. Unused. Their own depth revealed to them in my diminished surface. The bric a brac of themselves contained within me. Sunlight refracted in sharp glimmers against the desolate...can’t call it detritus...the unified but lost substance of themselves.
Widow’s son finds a box, tin. Looks older than it is in the sheath of rust. A tiny coffin for time itself. Rocks inside older than me, but they came from me.
He finds a faded magazine warped and twisted. Almost pure white image of a mother staring intently at a prop baby and both of their eyes missing and next to them my mud in a streak, a miniature Ionic column.
A metal disc, could have been a coin. Could have been Caesar's image.
A hard leather glove and single yellow shoelace compressed into a knot.
He leaves with his mother in the car without having heard the voices broadcast from a house stilted and leaning on my Southern edge, almost collapsing into me. The dead coming in so quietly and clear.
“Drumming, falling back into the roiling wave. The world has forgotten itself.” Flitting in and out of the seance.
What was Jose’s first metaphor? Birds over over a swamp. Their shadows little freckles on the marshy skin. Singing, dropping into the miasma. “The past falls dead within our memory”. Was the surface the birds or the swamp? The Past or the memory? What was the depth it revealed? The second was St. Thomas, the truth coming to us like birds wounded in flight.
The sparrow now dead in me, having etched hieroglyphics in a final neurological spasm, marking me in some way permanently beyond my transformation.