Beyond the rim of the seen

Jonathan VanAntwerpen
1 min readJan 15, 2024
California Coast | Photo: Jonathan VanAntwerpen

“My father has gone to join my mother and their elders just beyond the rim of the seen. And I am asking language to lead me to the bridge, the brink, the edge of what the great poet Lucille Clifton once called the lip of our understanding. Because I understand it is here that the hard work of my generation, the work of living together with others, must take place.

Have I learned anything from that once-ago season? Have I gathered any lesson from the selves that came to my aid as I raced back to California on the day my father would die? All the versions of me, the many moments from my life that made themselves available, like a dutiful procession? The obedient daughter, the jilted lover, even perhaps a future glimmer of the lovestruck mother. I ask because instinct leads me to suspect they’ll be necessary again, these selves and others. Not to say goodbye, but to hang on to what must not be permitted to die.”

from Tracy K. Smith’s To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul

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Jonathan VanAntwerpen

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.