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Phono Sapiens

My friend J, a computer programmer, once convinced his former roommate—also a programmer—to watch the Japanese art film Asako I & II, about a woman who falls in love with two identical-looking but different men. J’s roommate sat patiently through this intricate, two-hour . . . . Continue Reading »

Hitler’s Second Coming

It was surreal. President Biden began his State of the Union speech by invoking the Nazi threat. More than eighty years ago, Biden reminded us, Franklin Roosevelt rallied the nation, as “Hitler was on the march,” and “freedom and democracy were under assault.” Today, the president warned, . . . . Continue Reading »

Coming and Going

Disappearance is usually felt as something bad. When things disappear, we sense the pull of death, the call of the dust, the loss of the palpable good. I have recently been moving house after many years in one place, with all its accumulations. Things, often intimate things, are left behind, given . . . . Continue Reading »

Briefly Noted

There was a time when the Church shaped Western high art, particularly art music, as distinct from folk or pop music. That era has been over for centuries, yet the impetus for composers to engage with spirituality has endured. There has been no shortage of scholars in recent decades endeavoring to . . . . Continue Reading »

Suicide of the Radical Right​

On May 21, 2013, the French writer Dominique Venner took his own life in front of the main altar of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Venner was seventy-eight years old when he put a handgun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. He left a note on the altar to explain his “gesture,” which took . . . . Continue Reading »

Results May Vary

When I was a teenager, it occurred to me that it would probably be virtuous to suicide bomb people who had just been to confession. After all, if you take the truths about eternal life seriously, the bomber would be launching the victims to heaven, and doing so in a maximally generous way, . . . . Continue Reading »

Spinoza in Full

Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down and cursed be he when he awakens. Cursed be he when he goes out and cursed be he when he comes in. . . . May the Lord blot out his name from under heaven. . . . Nobody may communicate with him, neither in writing nor . . . . Continue Reading »

Briefly Noted

There’s a poem by John Donne that makes a presence of an absence; his absent love becomes as real to the speaker and more fully his than if she were present. This could illustrate what Katherine Rundell wants us to see in the work of John Donne, seventeenth-century metaphysical poet and preacher, . . . . Continue Reading »

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