We enjoin each other to remember with frequently fraught if well-intentioned formulas, and too commonly imagine the results as inevitably healing. When things turn out otherwise, as they often do, there are those who quickly tell us that we’re just not doing it right — that we need another form of confessional practice, a better set of beliefs, an alternative mode of truth-telling, a different discourse of memory. And maybe we do. Yet when we need them most urgently, we understandably reach for whatever inherited or borrowed words we have at hand.
Read it here: Jonathan VanAntwerpen| What will survive of us is love.
When I first moved to New York City almost two decades ago, I would not have expected the annual New York City Marathon to become one of my favorite things about living in the city. But it is, in retrospect, among the most moving civic rituals I have ever witnessed.
The very first New York City Marathon was run the year that I was born. This coming fall — as New York Road Runners confirmed earlier in the week — the marathon’s 50th running will take place (last year’s race was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Bouncing back and forth between the curb appeal of life-changing magic and the disturbing durability of the current order of things, I find that I am disposed to overlook the small and seemingly inconsequential movements and happenings that end up remaking life as I know it. Whether or not it is true that our lives can only be understood backwards, the stories we tell about many such shifts often take on fresh meaning for us in retrospect. That’s been the case for me, at least.
Read the full piece here: Jonathan VanAntwerpen | Our Own Stories
Ten years ago this spring, we were laying plans to produce Frequencies, an experimental digital project that was the result of a partnership between The Immanent Frame and Killing the Buddha. Conceived in connection with the work of the Social Science Research Council’s program on Religion in the Public Sphere, Frequencies was the brainchild of Kathryn Lofton and John Lardas Modern, who served as its co-curators and executive editors. It was initially envisioned as “a collaborative genealogy of spirituality.”
Like The Immanent Frame and other digital projects at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the idea for Frequencies grew out…
“But if suffering is so hard, why should its expression be easy? Trauma and loss are not, in themselves, art: they are like half a metaphor. In fact, the kind of work I mean — however true its personal source — is tainted by a kind of preemptive avidity. It seems too ready to inhabit the most dramatic extremes; too ready to deny loss as continuity, as immutable fact. It proposes instead a narrative of personal triumph, a narrative filled with markers like ‘growth’ and ‘healing’ and ‘self-realization’ and culminating in the soul’s unqualified or comprehensive declaration of wholeness, as though loss were merely a catalyst for self-improvement. But as the power of loss is undermined or denied, so too does the speaker come to seem entirely constructed, inhuman.”
from Louise Glück’s “The Culture of Healing” in American Originality: Essays on Poetry
“The price of living with a writer was that eventually she would write about you. I was taking in every precious day. What Sooki gave me was a sense of order, a sense of God, the God of Sister Nena, the God of my childhood, a belief that I had gone into my study one night and picked up the right book from the hundred books that were there because I was meant to. I had a purpose to serve. The CA 19–9 had gone from 2,100 to 470. The tumor in her liver was shrinking. A hundred thousand people…
“One day while working in a DONE satellite office, located in one of the roughest and poorest parts of South LA, I decided to pay a visit to the Catholic church conveniently located right across the street. I met with the priest of this church and explained my research to him, which at the time was about black and Latino relations. He looked at me and said, ‘That sounds fantastic! This is the kind of thing that, as a pastor, I am trying to figure out. The church used to be predominantly African American and now it’s mostly Latino. We…
“California has long served as the nation’s rift zone between fantasy and reality. Along that tense fissure, creativity and commitment have welled up, together with the more newsworthy forces of violence and destruction. Those who have come to this remarkable strip of land along the Pacific are learning that they can no longer rely on the promises made by promoters to draw them here. They must learn to understand and appreciate, as Olmstead wrote in 1864, the fixed qualities of the place if they are to build something worth calling a civilization upon it. …
“One thing I have learned about attention is that certain forms of it are contagious. When you spend enough time with someone who pays close attention to something (if you were hanging out with me, it would be birds), you inevitably start to pay attention to some of the same things. I’ve also learned that patterns of attention — what we choose to notice and what we do not — are how we render reality for ourselves, and thus have a direct bearing on what we feel is possible at any given time. These aspects, taken together, suggest to me the revolutionary potential of taking back our attention.”
from Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
“How in the world would I at this stage know what ‘complete telling’ means here? Much more interesting is the felt need to tell, and the picture of completion that the need invokes. And haven’t I repeatedly discovered that the writing I care about most can be understood as letting death into the room? — in other words, letting each sentence bear what finitude can bring to it then and there, and await developments; not, that is, defer developments, as if all that writing required was the power of unfolding implication rather than that of inviting surprises, and not ones prepared by a future but ones creating the future.”
from Stanley Cavell’s Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory
Jonathan VanAntwerpen is a program director at the Henry Luce Foundation. Originally trained as a philosopher, he holds a Ph.D. in sociology from UC-Berkeley.