Marilynne Robinson
Book Excerpts

What Science Can’t Talk About: “the Tears in Things” – Marilynne Robinson

The standoff between science and religion, argues Idaho-born writer Marilynne Robinson, is often based on a 'selective or tendentious' reading of religious writing, which she frequently defends in her work. In this extract from an essay called 'Reclaiming a Sense of the Sacred', originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Robinson challenges the notion… Continue reading What Science Can’t Talk About: “the Tears in Things” – Marilynne Robinson

Book Excerpts

“If you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options.” – David Foster Wallace from This is Water

This now renowned commencement address given at Kenyon College back in 2005 has become one of David Foster Wallace's most impactful and widely shared essays. The core message - about waking ourselves up from our default modes and making choices about our lives and what we choose to pay attention to - is a crystallisation… Continue reading “If you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options.” – David Foster Wallace from This is Water

Book Excerpts

Practicing Behind Bars

Cuong Lu's book, The Buddha in Jail, is a collection of 52 stories and vignettes from his experiences working as a prison chaplain. The stories are meant to broaden our perspectives, not just about others but also about ourselves, and they get to the root of human goodness. This excerpt, the 18th story in the… Continue reading Practicing Behind Bars

Book Excerpts

Being Intimate with the Essence of the Teacher’s Practice

This biographical snippet, taken from the introduction of Tenshin Reb Anderson's book Being Upright, tells a bit of the story of how he met his teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, and what the first days of their teacher-student relationship were like. Anderson says of the drive he had to be near his teacher, "I would make myself… Continue reading Being Intimate with the Essence of the Teacher’s Practice

Book Excerpts

The Draw of the Dark Ages – Rachel Cusk

'Division is also an aspect of unification,' writer Rachel Cusk at the beginning of her memoir, Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation. Here she is talking about the Dark Ages and the nature of their fragmentation in contrast to the two civilizations that bookended them. It's a question, she says, of unity versus compartmentalization, of diversity and flourishing in… Continue reading The Draw of the Dark Ages – Rachel Cusk

American Poetry, Book Excerpts, Poetry

W.S. Merwin – Variation on a Theme

“I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry now that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world.” These were the words of former Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin whose work reflected his lifelong concern and respect for the natural world. Merwin moved to Hawaii in 1977 in order to study Zen Buddhism,… Continue reading W.S. Merwin – Variation on a Theme

Book Excerpts

There is No Bolt That You Can Set Upon the Freedom of My Mind – Virginia Woolf

"Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others," wrote Virginia Woolf in her essay on the role of women in literature, A Room of One's Own. Published in 1929 and based on two talks she gave at women's colleges at the University of Cambridge the previous… Continue reading There is No Bolt That You Can Set Upon the Freedom of My Mind – Virginia Woolf

Book Excerpts

Buddhism and the Agnostic Faith

Stephen Batchelor is a celebrated proponent of dharma practice stripped of ritual and other cultural trappings in order to reveal the power of the basic Buddhist teachings. His 1997 book, Buddhism Without Beliefs, is a manifesto in that direction. In it, he reminds us that Buddha himself was no mystic but rather a pragmatist with… Continue reading Buddhism and the Agnostic Faith

Book Excerpts

Infinities of Blue – Maggie Nelson

In a 2007 interview about her writing, Maggie Nelson said that the starting question for her book, Bluets, which is all about the color blue, was this: "can I contain all the information and feeling I have collected over the years about the color blue (my favorite color) and marry it to the form of Wittgensteinian… Continue reading Infinities of Blue – Maggie Nelson

American Poetry, Book Excerpts, Poetry

Dorianne Laux – Life is Beautiful

In her poem, Life is Beautiful, Dorianne Laux is literally making art from trash as she considers the wonder of a fly and its lifecycle through the things that we discard. That the miraculous can exist in the most pungent and fecund places, and that the birth of a maggot in such a world can… Continue reading Dorianne Laux – Life is Beautiful