“What is truth?”
That was Pilate’s question to Jesus, after Jesus told him that he had come into the world “to testify to the truth.” The question was a good one, but Pilate didn’t wait for the answer. Probably it was less of a genuine question and more of a cynical—possibly bitter?—statement of the shifting realities of political life and Pilate’s role in it. This was a man who had given up on the idea of firm principles. He had seen how changeable the crowds could be, and how precarious his position and power were. He could not afford to care about what was really, foundationally, true—he could only respond to the immediate situation in front of him and try to make the best of it for himself. Or so he thought.
Continue reading The Truth Is Not Mine
For my whole life I have lived in free societies, from growing up in America to now living in Ireland. In the long span of human history, and even in the world today, I know that I am in the minority to be able to live with this level of freedom. I also know that the freedoms I enjoy (and so often take for granted) did not come easily. Freedom is a gift, not a given. It is won and maintained only with effort and care. That’s what this poem is about:
Continue reading Freedom
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but as someone pointed out to me recently—can you draw a picture that effectively communicates that concept? Maybe you’re a good artist and you have an idea of how you could do that well, but I’ve never seen anyone try, and isn’t it interesting that the phrase always comes to us in words, not pictures? The whole point is that pictures are more powerful, but to make that powerful point we use words, not pictures.
Continue reading A Thousand Words Are Worth A Picture
I’m not quite over the hill yet, but in a lot of ways I’m already old-fashioned. I like old music and old manners and old standards for grammar, and I still don’t get the new trend of using emoji skulls in the place of laughing faces. More seriously, I don’t think that the modern trend of commitment-free relationships has been good for children. Or relationships.
On the other hand, there are some old fashions that I don’t like. I don’t like wearing neckties—who decided that tying a rope around your own neck was a good idea? I also don’t like old systems of religious rules that measure love for God by obedience to commands he never gave. And I don’t like being measured by my social connections or income level instead of the content of my character—an age-old fashion that is still circulating today. So I guess I’m not completely old-fashioned.
Continue reading Don’t Measure Fashions By Their Age
I took a walk on someone else’s street, someone else’s everyday avenue, in someone else’s city. To me, it was all new. I’d never seen the buildings before, or the trees, and the next corner was a complete mystery that drew me on to look and discover. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, or who their cousins were, or what church they were baptised in. But they knew.
Continue reading Someone Else’s City
I don’t know who does the dishes at the Avengers HQ. I don’t know when they eat, or what. I’m also not sure how many bathrooms the Millennium Falcon has, but if I had to guess, it’s probably one small one with drain clogging issues and I bet Han Solo has to wait a long time for Chewbacca to wash his hair. I guess we’ll never know, though, because the movies don’t tell us. Those moments are too ordinary, and we like our movies packed with action. Even the documentaries and true life stories fast forward through most of the ordinary stuff of life, either ignoring it altogether or flashing back to highlights or giving us a few glimpses set to inspiring montage-music.
Continue reading The Scenes They Leave Out
You don’t have to look far on the internet to find a mobile phone horror film. A terrible accident, a crime, a fight – any tragedy will do, from crying children to actual murders, and it’s all captured and posted online for the world to see. There will be plenty more, as well, as long as we live in a world saturated with cameras.
The thing is, mobile phone cameras don’t operate themselves. The real world has camera operators just as much as Hollywood does. Actually, the real world has more of them than Hollywood could ever dream of.
But Hollywood has trained us to ignore the people behind the cameras. They don’t exist, in the story. They’re invisible, along with the smoke machines and microphones and make-up artists and all the rest. If a fight breaks out on screen, we never think of yelling for the cameraman to jump in and help – he doesn’t exist.
But in real life, he does exist.
Continue reading Cameraman, Lend A Hand!
Notre Dame burned yesterday.
I haven’t heard an official story as to why, but accident or arson, the result is the same: A beautiful landmark destroyed, and the world in mourning.
I’m in mourning, too, even though I’m not French, not Catholic, and have never even seen the Cathedral except in pictures. It’s still awful to think of more than eight centuries of history going up in smoke, awful to see a masterwork of our ancestors so terribly damaged, awful to see one of the irreplaceable treasures of Europe’s cultural inheritance consumed in ash and flame.
Continue reading Farewell, Notre Dame
When groups of people live together on the same piece of earth, we have to learn how to get along. Granted, we’re often not very good at it, but even if we spend a lot of time arguing, we still need each other and depend on each other quite a bit more than we’d usually like to admit. And that’s not all: we also influence each other quite a bit more than we’d usually like to admit. Oddly enough, you can even see this in what we choose to argue about and the arguments that we use.
Continue reading Don’t Assume You Don’t Assume
Ten years ago today, I got on an airplane in Washington DC with my pregnant wife and one year old son, and we all left the only country we’d ever lived in. The airport was busy with people heading the other direction: it was Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day, 2009. A couple of meals and movies later, we landed in Ireland. We were met at the airport by coworkers, and on the way home we stopped at Pizza Hut. During the meal, my wife noticed that we had left the diaper bag in the trunk. No problem, our coworker was happy to get the nappy bag out of the boot. We looked at each other and knew: it might be Pizza Hut, but it was definitely not America!
Continue reading How Ireland Has Changed Me