Boredom is the biggest struggle for Sherlock Holmes. He craves like an addiction the thrill of unwrapping a difficult case. While Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and novels do include details about all of the things Holmes does to escape the dullness of not having a case—opium, cocaine (both legal when the books were published), destruction of property—the theme of his agonizing bouts with utter boredom is front and center in the BBC’s recent retelling, Sherlock, set in twenty-first century London.
The soldier motioned for us to roll down the window—the first military checkpoint of my first road trip through the jungles of Chiapas. I sat in the back seat a bit anxious, one of six friends cramped into the five seats of an old four-door sedan. Handling his semi-automatic, a federale stepped out of the group of sentries and asked for identificación. There was a moment of tense silence. My friend Carlos, the driver, rummaged through his pockets. He knew, though I didn’t, that his search would be futile. Finally, he confessed to the sentry that he did not possess a license.
I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;
New Year’s Day always struck me as something of an odd holiday. Why do we humans find it necessary to set aside a day to mark yet another full trip around the sun? Different cultures have celebrated the new year at different times: the Jewish people celebrate the new year in their liturgy on Rosh Hashanah in the early fall; for many Christians the new liturgical year begins with Advent; the Chinese celebrate between late January and late February; and the ancient Romans celebrated the new year in March. Whatever the month or the day, people of all cultures and religious traditions seem to have an innate desire, if not a need, to mark a new beginning each year.
It’s that time of year—the end is nigh. The airwaves are choked with nostalgic retrospectives for the year that was, and the newspapers print long lists of the great and the good who have gone to meet their Maker (Margaret Thatcher, RIP). I take down my Chick-fil-A 2013 calendar (farewell, Tsar Nikoloin Roastanov), and think back to the year that was. A disappointing dénouement in the culture wars, the resignation of Pope Benedict, the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage . . . well, let’s hope the 2014 cows leave happier memories.
Baptist pastor John Piper recently composed a poem entitled The Calvinist, in order “to capture a glimpse of God’s sovereign intersection with the life of a sinful man.” In his verses, Dr. Piper touches on quintessentially Calvinist themes of reading the Scriptures: God’s absolute sovereignty, his transcendent radiance, and his great mercy to sinners. Inspired by Dr. Piper’s example, I offer my own poem entitled The Thomist, which strives to capture the beauty of a Thomistic approach to the Gospel.
Is Advent still possible in our culture? It’s supposed to be a time to prepare for Christ’s coming—past, present, and future—but our Decembers are quickly filled with deadlines, gift lists, and get-togethers. The rush to Christmas seems anything but prayerful: we crash into the 25th just wanting it to be over. And through it all, the culture wars wage tiresome battles: Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays.
I have come to realize that I have a somewhat unusual name. One question I receive with some regularity upon meeting new acquaintances is “Did you choose your name?” For those of us who have not grown up in Africa or the Caribbean, where the name is still bestowed with some regularity, to hear that someone is called “Innocent” is surprising. Naturally enough, people are curious as to whether some cruel parent bestowed this adjective upon me, or if I merely have myself to blame.
Recently I read an article on the technology of ebooks and the future of print books. Like most Dominican friars, I’m an avid reader of books, so I think that new technology about books is very important. In some parts of the article, the author contrasted “physical” books with “electronic” books. It seemed so obviously wrong to me—how are electronic books not “physical”? They can’t possibly mean that electronic books are “spiritual.” Matter and energy are both “physical.”
Damien Hirst’s Battle Between Good and Evil (2007) consists of two beach balls, one black and one white, suspended in the air by an air blower above a surface geometrically divided into white and black spaces. Occasionally the balls bounce into each other.