Culture



Hutchmoot Podcast: Pursuing Perfection

By The Rabbit Room

Michelangelo’s David is widely regarded as one of the most perfect works of art ever achieved. But the artist himself was neither the first nor the last to make his mark upon that famed piece of marble. In this episode, Russ Ramsey explores the story behind this magnificent sculpture and reveals how our longing to be in the presence of perfection can often weaken the very object we long to be near.

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Gardening 101: Good Work is Boring

By Adam Whipple

My friend Kirby and I were going to play a show in an upscale planned community, and I felt the need to prepare him. “Just be forewarned,” I said. “I’ve been here before. It’s a little weird.”

We pulled into the drive, puttering past a capacious barn that looked a more like a Colonial Inn than any working barn I knew. A dainty roadside sign proudly offered to direct us to “Goat Yoga.”

“I see what you mean,” said Kirby.

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A Path of Delight: Building the World of The Door on Half-Bald Hill

By Helena Sorensen

I’d forgotten how chaotic it feels in the midst of the research process. I look back at the path that brought me from an initial idea to a completed, printed copy of The Door on Half-Bald Hill and everything falls into sequence. The journey has a beautiful logic to it, as though I always knew where it would end and what it would become.

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Knowledge, Mystery & The Spiritual Frontier

By Matthew Cyr

For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

—Habakkuk 2:14

A while back I finished reading The Worst Journey in the World, the account of the British expedition to Antarctica made by Robert Falcon Scott and his men more than a century ago. We had a mild winter where I live, so I felt I could handle a stretch of living vicariously in bleakness and frigidity. (You must realize this was shortly before COVID-19 upended our lives, so l never suspected that soon we’d need not look to Antarctica to find isolation, privation, endurance, and danger.) During the polar exploration craze of the early twentieth century, to challenge adversity was one way to “win renown.” Men who braved the ice were cultural heroes, maybe the equivalent to the early astronauts of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

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Whilst the Cities Sleep: Quarantine Quatrains

By Malcolm Guite

It’s funny how forgotten, yet familiar books suddenly suggest themselves in lockdown! I have been re-reading a lovely old copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, in Edward Fitzgerald’s famous verse translation, and taking comfort, pleasure and fresh insight from it in this isolation. I’ve also been re-entranced by its elegant form. Fitzgerald cast his translation into a series of little quatrains: four line stanzas, each chiming sonorously on a single rhyming sound. They start with a couplet, and then he allows himself a free unrhymed line to gather energy and momentum before ringing the quatrain to a close as the final line returns to the first rhyme sound with renewed emphasis, and satisfying finality.

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Gardening 101: Fighting Racism in Practice

By Adam Whipple

We moved house in 2019, just at the springing of spring. There was untold renovation work to be done, but we managed to get a small garden into the ground. There were enough tomatoes and cucumbers to put back, although to my shame, I over-salted my bread-and-butter pickles to the point of inedibility. This year, though, was to be the year. My in-laws gifted us their old tiller, and my wife and I laid out ideas for the plot: six hundred square feet, well situated in the best sun, while leaving the kids plenty of yard to play in. We would array appropriate companion plants and multifarious heirloom varietals. We would work in herbs and well-timed cold-hardy vegetables in a potager able to withstand the soggy, chill winter. Yet, it was not to be so.

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Spirit & Sound, Part 2: The Breath Between Us

By Steve Guthrie

I have spent the past few months thinking about what it means to say the Holy Spirit is the Breath of God. (For more about this, you may want to have a look at the first post in this series.) I’ve been writing about this theme in connection with the arts, not current events. But the Spirit (as Jesus says) blows where it pleases, and it’s seemed almost impossible to think about breath without also thinking about the conversations going on all around me.

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Oh, Freedom: Words & Music on Juneteenth

By Ruth Naomi Floyd

“And are we yet alive to see each other’s face.”

—an African prisoner of the forced labor system of American Slavery

History would say that the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863 ended American chattel slavery, thereby changing the legal status of the African prisoners of that forced labor system for good. Yet what is actually true is that emancipation on that day only freed the African slaves in the Confederate states. Slavery remained alive and well in Texas, due to the lack of the presence of Union troops whose responsibility it was to enforce the proclamation. Because Texas held onto slavery, many slaveholders relocated there along with their slaves and the slave population in Texas increased by tens of thousands.

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The Certainty of Time in Uncertain Times: A 2020 Commencement Speech

By Andrew Peterson

[Editor’s note: What follows is the text of Andrew’s commencement speech, which he gave last week to celebrate his daughter, Skye, on her graduation day. We offer it here for all of 2020’s graduates, and all humans living in this calamitous year of 2020.]

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Making Peace: A Lament for Justice

By Chris Thiessen

I thought I was a peaceful person. I’ve been given titles like “Laid-Back, Chill, and Easy-To-Get-Along-With” all my life, and I thought that was peace. I thought keeping the peace meant being a level-headed bystander, one who doesn’t stir the pot or get involved in arguments, but instead avoids conflicts and keeps conversations lighthearted and surface-level. Because creating conflict or inviting others into my pain or the pain I see in the world would hinder peace, right?

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Hutchmoot Podcast: Music for the Broken

By The Rabbit Room

In this conversation from Hutchmoot 2019, acclaimed jazz musician Ruth Naomi Floyd and author Mark Meynell use African American spirituals and the works of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich to examine the power of music and its ability to carry us through the darkest of human experiences.

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The Lost Art of Listening, Part 7: Can I Get a Witness?

By Pete Peterson

[Editor’s note: click here to read Part 6: A Scarcity of Mind by Shigé Clark.]

Several weeks ago when we began this series on the “lost art of listening,” I don’t know that any of us knew exactly where it would end up. But it’s been a delight to watch the topic develop and gather steam.

Andrew, Chris, Drew, Jennifer, Shigé, and Leslie have all articulated valuable facets of why and how we listen to music and carry it with us. It’s my turn now, and I came into this weekend, challenged to write something but honestly having no idea what I might be able to add to such a rich conversation.

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