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Milton’s Apple and Ours

Why did Eve bite the apple? Milton puts this question at the center of Paradise Lost, the greatest long poem in English. Why did Eve listen to Satan, pluck the apple from the tree, and take a bite? This temptation bears on us now. Satan always hides in plain sight. So it’s no surprise . . . . Continue Reading »

Angel of New York

On days when the world to me is desolation; when I cannot sit in my seat, or do any productive labor; when I have a terrible desire to be free, and my responsibilities seem not worth the effort, I console myself by walking in Central Park. As I enter by the Lagoon at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue and . . . . Continue Reading »

Among the Rootless

In a speech delivered in October 2014, David Brooks offered a fanciful contrast devised by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik between the external and internal Adams. External Adam, or “Adam One,” pursues an “external résumé” of career advancement, rising status, and financial success. Adam Two cultivates “eulogy virtues,” his motto is “Charity. Love. Redemption,” and he values a “serene inner character” and a “quiet but solid sense of right and wrong” more than his portfolio. Assertive Adam One wants to “venture forth,” while virtuous Adam Two desires to “return to roots.” Continue Reading »

Faith, Fatalism, and Freddie Gray

One recent day at the Baltimore clinic where I care for the homeless, I spoke with a patient about the death of Freddie Gray. He prefaced his thoughts—as many people do when they discuss police brutality—with the caveat that there are good police officers, those who honor the law as they work diligently to enforce it in neighborhoods like Sandtown-Winchester, where Gray was injured. He then showed me scars on his body from his encounters with the police over the years— some of which had occurred after he was already in custody. He described how officers would raid his home and take half of his drugs and his money, then charge and arrest him for the remainder. “They’re a necessary evil,” he said. “If they weren’t out there, it would be total chaos.” Continue Reading »


Up and down the oneway streets of houses huddled deep and close together, sycamores, live oaks brace up to the concrete, break through, their dark roots surfacing, disrupting the order of a New Orleans neighborhood. A block away the laughter, the games belong to black . . . . Continue Reading »

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