Archives For Meaning


[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1594632588″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”188″ alt=”Anne Lamott” ]Stitching Together Meaning in the Midst of Hopelessness.

A Review of

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair

Anne Lamott

Hardback: Riverhead, 2013
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Reviewed by Jasmine Smart


In an article in GQ magazine, Andrew Corsello wrote on comedian Louis C.K., identifying C.K.’s genius as being the ability to say the things his audience isn’t even aware they’re thinking until Louis says them for us. This same sentiment, it seems to me, applies to Anne Lamott. Her writings speak to universal concerns, and yet she writes in such a way that whatever sorrow I am bringing with me seems to be directly addressed. She recently celebrated her sixtieth birthday, and she seems to be approaching this new decade in her life with the same artful connection to the world around her that she has exhibited time and time again in her writing. In her most recently published book, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, she approaches the question of how to make sense out of a world of chaos: “One rarely knows where to begin the search for meaning, though by necessity, we can only start where we are. That would be fine, when where we find ourselves turns out to be bearable. What about when it isn’t—after 9/11, for instance, or a suicide in the family? I really don’t have a clue” (2).

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“Making the Claims of
Truth and Goodness Meaningful

A review of
Beauty Will Save the World:
Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age

by Gregory Wolfe

Review by Jonathan Master.

BEAUTY WILL SAVE THE WORLD - Gregory WolfeBeauty Will Save the World:
Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age

by Gregory Wolfe
Hardback: ISI Books, 2011.
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There never was a golden age for art and the church.  Not one in which the church fully understood and supported her artists, or where the artists, for their part, practiced their work in constant service to the greater glory of God. But there have been better and worse times.  Our age, by anyone’s reckoning, is not one of the better ones. In general, the church is concerned, confused, or downright hostile to high art; and artists return the favor, often scorning traditional norms of decency, order, and Christian transcendence. Some have ventured into this breach, but few as successfully as Gregory Wolfe, writer, critic, and founder of the journal Image.  Wolfe’s work is a gift to us, deserving of our gratitude.

This ambitiously titled book, Beauty Will Save the World (“tell us what you really think, Mr. Wolfe”), is a hybrid of sorts.  It contains elements of autobiography, and sections which can best be described as intellectual match-making, introducing readers to important voices in contemporary art and literature. Along the way, Wolfe employs his incisive critical skills, showing once again why he is such a valuable resource in the efforts at rapprochement between art and the church.

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“What Tigers and Tales Can Teach”

A review of

The Tiger’s Wife:
A Novel
By Téa Obreht.

Review by Alex Joyner.

The Tigers' Wife - Tea ObrehtThe Tiger’s Wife: A Novel.
Téa Obreht.
Hardback: Random House, 2011.
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On bright moonlit nights I sometimes catch myself looking out the window for a headless dog running through the fields.  My father is responsible for this behavior.  Traveling through the tidewater plains of Virginia to visit my grandparents, he would tell me stories about his life growing up in these loamy lands.  Tales of Saturday matinees shown in tents during the Depression, of his father slowly dying from tuberculosis, and of a mysterious, headless dog who ran through peanut fields under a full moon to warn of an impending death.

To this day the county where he grew up remains the most fully-realized place I have ever been.  It has history, texture, memory, and wonder all woven together in equal measure.  These family stories delivered this land to me.  They also gave birth to my sense of self and my place in the world.

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“Aesthetics and Social Transformation”

An Excerpt from

Poetic Theology:
God and the Poetics of Everyday Life
William Dyrness.
Paperback: Eerdmans, 2011.
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“Becoming What One Is”

A review of
Examined Lives: from Socrates to Nietzsche

By James Miller

Reviewed by Michael Kallenberg

Examined Lives: from Socrates to Nietzsche.
James Miller.
Hardback: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
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EXAMINED LIVES - James MillerPhilosophy is defined in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy as the “study of the most general and abstract features of the world and categories with which we think.” As James Miller (professor of political science and liberal studies at the New School for Social Research) notes, this definition exposes the contemporary understanding of philosophy as an academic discipline of technical inquiry and theory for what it really is: a truncation of the classical ideal of a true philosopher as a lover of wisdom who practiced self-examination as a way of life. In his sagacious collection of twelve short biographies of various ancient and modern philosophers entitled Examined Lives: from Socrates to Nietzsche, Miller seeks to redress this modern neglect of the considered life and consequent diminution of philosophy. Or to put it another way, he shows his readers that character really matters by illustrating how the details of the lives of philosophers are pertinent to understanding and appraising their professed views. Continue Reading…


“Wonder, Gratitude and Guilt”

A Review of
The Pleasures and Sorrows Of Work.
by Alain de Botton.

 Reviewed by Ragan Sutterfield.


The Pleasures and Sorrows Of Work.
Alain de Botton.
Hardback: Pantheon, 2009.
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The odd thing about the modern world is how little of it we think about.  We wake up under sheets manufactured in some unknown place like Mauritius, we drink coffee shipped from Latin America or Africa or Asia, we sit down to work using hundreds of bits of software and hardware that someone, somewhere created, marketed, sold, transported, bought, placed, and sold again.  And yet we think very little about who created these things and all of the people and places involved in bringing them to us.

Our own work is often a part of this same vast system in which we play one small part in a process that is far bigger than any one of us.  Unlike the workers of generation ago we usually never meet the people who made what we sell or buy what we made.  This reality has created an extremely efficient economy, creating wealth and commerce on levels never seen before, but at the same time our work has increasingly become disconnected from the very realities and interactions that make work meaningful and fulfilling.

In his new book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work Alain de Botton delves deeply into the realities of modern labor and the complex and often alienating economy we find ourselves in.  His approach is one of unveiling the hidden undercurrents of our society and that exploration works not unlike Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time in the way in which it opens up the mind to the deeper realities of our everyday lives.  The book is accompanied with excellent photographs throughout by Richard Baker that help to punctuate and illustrate the exploration.

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“Of Philosophy and Motorcycles”

A Review of
Shop Class as Soulcraft:
An Inquiry into the Value of Work.

by Matthew Crawford.

 Reviewed by Debra Dean Murphy.


Shop Class as Soulcraft:
An Inquiry into the Value of Work.

Matthew Crawford
Hardback: The Penguin Press, 2009.
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If you were in high school any time before the early 1990’s you remember shop class. Or vo-ag, or industrial arts, or whatever it might have been called back in the day. You may or may not have participated in shop class but you were vaguely aware (and probably wholly uncritical) of the fact that, because of shop class, an intellectual, social, and economic divide was created, one with all sorts of implications for what kind of achievement was valued and rewarded.


When the promise of an information economy dawned those two decades ago, most shop classes were turned into computer labs. The nagging concern of liberal pedagogues had always been that sorting students into “college prep” or “vocational ed” tracks created and fostered a kind of educational apartheid. But this worry gave way to sunny predictions that everyone—all students everywhere—could become “knowledge workers” in the fast-approaching high-tech world of work.


In his new book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew Crawford narrates this history and, more importantly, its fallout for our contemporary understandings of work and the value of work. While “college prep” and “vocational ed” denoted and perpetuated a troubling form of occupational determinism, college, Crawford notes, was (and is) thought to be the “ticket to an open future.”  Craftsmanship, he says, “entails learning to do one thing really well,” while the new information-based economy celebrates “potential rather than achievement.”

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Robert Frost


THERE was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound–
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.