Monthly Archives: May 2013

7 posts


I have known others dealing with tragedy who cope by focusing on their work, putting all their concentration into the various tasks at hand. That isn’t me. In many ways I wish it were, but as we move out of the semester and into the “research months” (as I call the summer) I am finding it harder than ever to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Aramaic grammar never held me in rapt attention, now? […]

Lilies of the Decking

Lilies of the Valley

Convallaria majalis. Wikipedia tells me that it “is also known as Our Lady’s tears or Mary’s tears from Christian legends that it sprang from the weeping of the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Jesus.” I did not know that. I knew, of course, that our English translations of Song of Songs 2:1 (שׁוֹשַׁנַּת הָעֲמָקִים) seem to refer to this plant (although it is likely referring to another plant and this name of this one […]

Being a/part

Last night Chelsea beat Benfico 2-1 in the UEFA Europa League Final. I watched it from a hotel room in Utrecht and the game was played just a short train ride away in Amsterdam Arena, where just 10 months ago Mack and I watched Ajax beat the Celtics 4-0. Needless to say, I got choked up, quite a bit. Not because I was rooting for Chelsea to win (I was, Torres scored the first goal […]

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

I don’t usually post the speech I give at the Medals Ceremony, but this time the message was a bit different.  Good afternoon scholars, Parents, and friends, trustees, President Erickson and Provost Pangborn. Congratulations to you all! Each one of you has played a significant role in getting to this moment. Mrs. Schreyer and DrueAnne it is a particular honor to have you with us. Thank you for being here and thank you for all […]

Term of the Day: “Agentless Injustice”

Today I was talking with a colleague about another tragic death of a young person. The runner collapsed and died during the Pittsburgh Marathon apparently with a “coronary artery abnormality.” No one was to blame for his death. He was born with this condition, although he was unaware of it. There was no person with a gun, a knife, or a bomb. It just happened. I called it “agentless injustice.” It is not “just” that […]

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? A lesson in argument

From Dorothy L. Sayers. Again, I am struck by how contemporary and relevant her decades old criticism is. (Does that make me a romantic or her a prescient thinker?) A glib speaker in the Brains Trust once entertained his audience (and reduced the late Charles Williams to helpless rage) by asserting that in the Middle Ages it was a matter of faith to know how many archangels could dance on the point of a needle. […]