The Purpose of Your Life Is to Change How Others Feel

    “It is so hard to make someone else feel anything other than pain,” Nilay Patel remarked. “Christ,” Ezra Klein exclaimed. “That’s the darkest thing I’ve ever heard you say.” Patel, co-founder and editor in chief of the tech news site The Verge, had been chatting breezily with him about AI and the internet. […]

Tell Those Angels to Stop Dancing!

    Scathing criticism never works for me. I listen to other people thrust and parry, demolishing arguments with rapier wit. Then I try—and fail to draw a single drop of blood. My dismissal of someone’s argument as “akin to Thomas Aquinas telling us how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” […]

The Biggest Push Yet to Make the U.S. a Theocracy

    Last week, Christians flooded D.C. The Faith & Family Coalition was hosting its annual Road to Majority Policy conference, the nation’s largest public policy gathering of conservative Christian activists. One stump speech after another urged them to vote, evangelize, and pass out some of the $62 million worth of political literature designed to […]

I Do Not Believe in the Tarot, But—

    “Have you ever done tarot cards?” I ask, tentative as a secret member of the Communist party in 1952. I brace for the blast; my friend trusts science, not woowoo. “I am not sure I believe in that,” she says carefully. “Oh, I don’t believe in it either,” I assure her. “I just […]

Diogenes Can Teach You How to Say No

    Diogenes—rumpled, rude, sure of his convictions—was nicknamed “the Dog.” The Greek word for dog was “cynic,” which gives his philosophy, Cynicism, a ludicrous etymology, given dogs’ willingness to trust anything we say or do. Diogenes would have welcomed the adjective “ludicrous,” though; it is rooted in the Latin term for a playful jest. […]

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Teach a Lesson

    If, like me, you were taught by nuns, and enjoyed the safe rebellion of mocking their strictness…if you watched The Trouble With Angels with a grin of recognition…if you were awed by stories of sisters nursing the enemy in the Civil War or building hospitals for Hansen’s patients when others refused to touch […]

Are You Flourishing?

    “How are you?” Could any question be paler, more flaccid? Your answer must either be terse—“Fine,” a breezy dismissal of every way in which you are not fine—or rambling and digressive, because the question spans your entire existence. Humans are, in many ways, all the time, until the body’s clock stops and we […]

Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Have Evolved Yet Again

    When my kids were little, we used to snuggle up to watch videos before their bedtime. I joked it was rock appreciation and theory class, but the music ranged beyond The Beatles, Creedence, and Talking Heads to Schumann’s “Träumerei,” Ray Charles’ “Heaven Help Us All,” and The Gregory Brothers’ political satires. Often we […]

How Esther Perel Figures People Out So Fast

    William of Ockham never met Esther Perel. After days of mainlining her latest podcasts on Where Should We Begin, I realize the medieval monk was wrong. Nothing is simple. Using a razor to cut away what feels irrelevant can set you up for a lifetime of confusion. Granted, Perel is an Olympic-caliber psychotherapist, […]

My Christmas Seasons in Ghana and the United States

1. I Wonder… Christmas in Ghana always began with a warm “It is Jesus’ birthday month” declaration at the end of church from my pastor and a card. My family traditionally wrote the first ones to our neighbors, the Datsas. Maame Datsa always greeted us at the gate. She was one and a half years […]