It’s 1989. At age fifty I’m reading a New Yorker story by Jamaica Kincaid. The unnamed protagonist wonders about someone else, “How does a person get to be that way?”1 I realize instantly: this is what drives my curiosity. How does the person, virus, cosmos, institution, treatise, society, poem, language, statue, statute—whatever it is I am pondering—get to be the way it is? There are patterns, but mostly I end up where Dr. Seuss does at the conclusion of my all-time favorite book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (published the year before I was born): “But neither Bartholomew Cubbins, nor King Derwin himself, nor anyone else in the Kingdom of Didd, could ever explain how the strange thing had happened. They only could say it just ‘happened to happen’ and was not very likely to happen again.”2
One of my conclusions, both long before that New Yorker moment and right up to today: There is no one “way” that anybody or anything is. There are many options. In the effort to understand, I toggle between anecdote and analysis, between incidents and influences.
This website is populated with instances of what I’ve discovered.
- What are new directions in New Testament study, and how are old directions still dependable?
- What does it mean these days to confess faith in God, when, as one profound person I knew put it, “God’s not our kind of folks”?
- Study of dead Christians makes clear that not all the wise are among the living.
- When Buddhist and Christian monastics come to know one another, meetings are like a particle accelerator in which their interactions reveal fundamental components of human nature.
- One explanation of current pathologies in Western Christianity (the parts with a Latin genealogy) is that we have lost effective touch with Eastern varieties (the parts with Greek, Syriac, Ethiopian, Armenian, Russian, and more genealogies) and their more positive assessment of the world.
- And I have learned that grace truly abounds—now and then I find it, then and now I encounter it—but, however it happens, grace is seldom easy, never cheap, sometimes challenging, occasionally consoling, nearly always surprising. God can be trusted. God cannot be taken for granted.
This website is designed to give you access to some of what I’ve found out, and by means of the blog and current articles you can eavesdrop on what I’m still discovering, stumbling on, getting mired in, being exhilarated by. There's a way to get in touch with me. You can even follow me on Facebook.
I'm eighty-two, long retired, but I like to think I have thus far evaded the fate of an exhibit I saw years ago in the National History Museum in Budapest: “Unknown provenance. Belongs to the old collection of the museum.”
1 Jamaica Kincaid, “Mariah,” New Yorker, June 26, 1989, 32.
2 New York: The Vanguard Press, 1965; orig. published 1938. No page numbering.