Popular Culture

Viruses: Evil Suffered vs. Evil Done

The virus is cruel, but not evil. Because it sickens and can kill, it is natural for us to experience it as malevolent. Yet how could it be? A virus is as much a tribute to God’s handiwork as the dogwood blossoming by my neighbor’s mailbox, or the blue heron standing below the waterfall on our local pond. Viruses have endured longer than the sandstone cliffs on the Jurassic coast of Devon. They are older than the ferns, conifers, and butterflies of the Cretaceous Period. Continue Reading
A Plea For No Christmas Letters

The holiday has been put away. The wreath is turning brown. Town Christmas tree pick-up began last week. It is time to head to the Met to buy next year’s cards at half-price in the museum store. The general run of  contemporary Christmas mailings ranks low on any measure of cultural exchange. It is not nostalgia that sends me hunting for cards with older images. It is the clear, transparent fact that the graphics of a previous generation addressed themselves to the eye—and the spirit—with an intelligence that is fast disappearing from our sensibilities. Continue Reading
Amuse-Bouche For August

It is August. This is the time of year to loll in a hammock, take bribes, and be fanned by eunuchs. But I have no hammock. No one is coming forward with a bribe. And all the eunuchs are clustered where they have always been—in high places, far from here and out of reach. Still, I can dream. In reality, there is no alternative to getting on with the job. This time, though, hot weather gives me a plausible excuse to put aside a proper essay and just . Continue Reading
Keeping It Lite

It was a gift from the Sixties, our user-friendly funeral Mass. Every time I attend one, I come away convinced that resurrection is in the bag. In keeping with the confident, self-affirming modern cosmology that animates our memorials, it is as if the dead were already risen. So why not just strike a commemorative medallion and be done with it? I remember the service arranged for . . . call him Stan. Friends and family stepped to the lectern with smiling eulogies. Continue Reading
In Morte Sumus

I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write: From henceforth blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. —Book of Common Prayer Can we stay awhile with death? This is November, month of the Holy Souls. Poor Souls, in the wording of my childhood. It is the season to remember that “in the midst of life, we are in death.” The Church gives us a full month to consider what the culture around us strains to obscure. Let us not rush. Continue Reading