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 […]

How a Sufi Shrine Outperforms Western Medicine

    Poor, tragic India, with 1.4 billion people and only a handful of psychiatrists. Here in the enlightened West, we need only go online, choose an appointment time, answer questions from a checklist, and leave the gleaming white facility with an amber plastic cylinder of hope. If someone suffers from hallucinations, paranoia, depression, or […]

Can Gratitude Save Us?

    Gratitude is an acceptance letter, a winning number, the free lunch you were told was impossible. In the language of spirit, gratitude conjures grace: a gift you did nothing to earn. Gratitude lets you feel like you will have what you need to make your journey. And it spills over into appreciation—of the […]

David Brooks Wants Us to Take Our Conversations Deeper

    “You know how emotional and warm Jewish families can be?” David Brooks asked the crowd that packed Washington University’s Graham Chapel. “I came from the other sort of Jewish family.” The sort whose private motto is “Think Jewish, act British.” Parental conditioning took hold early on: a grade-school teacher wrote, “David doesn’t really […]

I Wish I Had the Discipline to Fast

    “Cereal?” I ask, monosyllabic in the early morning. Andrew shakes his head. “Yom Kippur.” Oh. He is fasting. He goes about it so quietly that the Day of Atonement always sneaks up on me, the shiksa. I used to fast, I think a little defensively. I was so scrupulous, for a time there, […]

Poor People Go to Hell

        Much has been said and done in the past decade (also, to be fair, the past millennium) that turned Christianity upside down. But now it is doing backflips. When I read that the Most Rev. Paul Ssemogerere, archbishop of Kampala’s Catholics, had declared that God did not love the poor, I […]