Recent Columns

An old story in modern languages

It’s April Fools’ Day so let’s talk about fools. And hippies. A fool is someone who can’t reason. The dictionary tells us. A fool is a simpleton. An idiot. We understand the idioms and usage. He made a fool of me. She played the fool. A fool and his money are easily parted.
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Making sense of the stuff of dreams

A dream is something imagined for the betterment of humanity. “I have a dream,” is what Martin Luther King said 60 years ago in a prophetic speech about justice and racial reconciliation. We remember because, as Solomon put it 3,000 years earlier, “Without a vision the people will
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What matters about Elvis’s legacy

The interesting thing about Elvis is that he crossed borders. With the Oscars approaching – “Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis has eight nominations – it’s something to think about. Not those sorts of borders. And not that I was really around. I was 12 when Elvis died. My mother-in-law
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Language lessons (of the heart) in Berlin

There are 60 stairs to Tante Eva’s third-floor apartment on Friedrichsruher. I reach them after walking from my hotel for 5 km, walking to see this city of my birth, flowers in hand. Earlier, Eva, 91 and living on her own, navigated these stairs, boarded, by herself, a bus, travelled to a
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Finding balance in an African sunrise

My eldest, a busy university student, mentioned balance before I flew away. “For balance,” she said to me, after I’d asked how I could pray for her in my absence. It’s a good request, like asking for a compass. Modern western life isn’t known for its tremendous balance.
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This time I’m keeping my New Year’s resolutions

I’m taking my New Year’s resolutions very seriously right now. Very seriously. This far into January. This is remarkable because I’ve usually broken them by lunch on New Year’s Day. This year is different, people. My resolutions are realistic. They’re attainable. Doable. Within grasp.
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Light of Christmas still shines even when you’re alone

We get things wrong. This is to be expected. Because the problem with the church, the global body of Jesus followers, is that, like the larger world, it’s filled with people. We’re not always our brother’s, or sister’s, keeper. We don’t
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Looking for peace in the world, and ourselves

Today is a good day to talk about peace, starting with Alfred Nobel. As the story goes, when Alfred’s rich brother Ludvig died, Europe’s newspapers mistakenly thought it was Alfred. So the Swedish scientist who’d invented, among other things, dynamite, awoke one day in 1888
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Don’t take any child for granted

“Don’t have children. For God’s sake. Don’t.” This is from the mother in Raymond Carver’s story “A Small Good Thing.” Her boy, hit by a car, is dying in the hospital. Who can blame her? Or anyone else?Years ago some friends of mine, not long married, said the same. “We’re not
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Taking the long view on democracy, and life

It’s a fall day in rural Illinois, near Chicago, and, as I often do, I’m reading aloud to my bride. We’re across the border briefly. It’s just the papers with us. USA Today is in-hand. The Detroit Free Press and Kalamazoo Gazette, in the car’s back seat. I’m looking for a Chicago Tribune.
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My own funeral? Imagine.

“Be well.” This is what I said to my students. It was after a recent class. Then they left for the various corners of their lives. We’d just unpacked “Cathedral,” a story by Raymond Carver. He often wrote about broken characters, broken in ways that Carver himself was broken. “Be well.” Then they were gone.
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Life lessons from Paul Henderson

I’m with Paul Henderson who’s telling me about unexpected things and the rest of the story. First, for my boy and hundreds of thousands of other young Canadians starting a new hockey season, Henderson offers some advice. He talks about pushing yourself, and teamwork, and the power of encouraging others. Then he says, “Because
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Riding to save mothers in Zimbabwe

Then there’s that boy on the beach. He’s the boy throwing starfish back into the ocean, one at a time. As far as the eye can see, starfish lay on the beach, dying. It’s overwhelming. People walk past. “There are too many,” a passerby tells the boy. “You can’t make a difference.” The boy bends down,
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Hey, Old Man (and the Sea), Happy Birthday!

If we were all old men we could do worse than land in Ernest Hemingway’s classic novella The Old Man and the Sea. The story, among the most loved of the 20th century, just turned 70. The old man – his name is Santiago – is an outsider. He’s impoverished. Has horrible luck. Hasn’t caught a
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Dogs, in the dog days of summer

From this corner, the only thing left to say about the dwindling dog days of summer is that the dog is somehow managing. The kids have been gone for large swaths of time. If I was a dog, or if you were, this would take something out of you. How could it not? You know the greeting a dog gives when you arrive home?
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