Author: Michael

As In Writing, So in Life

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Course Ideas / Reflections

Writing fiction well is intractably difficult. You begin with maybe one or two bricks at the ready, stand facing an unruly forest that is neither for nor against you, but possesses all the density and might of any previously uncontested wilderness, and you are armed only with the vague feeling that a Taj Mahal-like structure of beauty and possibility is alive inside you. There really is no way to know where to place the first […]

The Same, Only Different

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Course Ideas / Creative / Flash Fiction

What do you think the future will be like, Hafiz? I was thinking about fusion-powered hovercrafts and molecular sequencing technologies that could produce cheeseburgers from a teaspoon of good dirt. Redrawn political borders, bullet trains that crossed the ocean, and ways to download skills and information directly into your brain. I was thinking about teleportation and glass condominiums floating in the clouds. Something you drank that allowed your body to look whatever age you desired. […]

Inspiration and Grace

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Book Reviews / Reflections

When I was in high school I underwent one of those sea changes that sweep through us. My mother was hospitalized for a time for treatment of Multiple Personality Disorder, my dad lost his job, we made weekly trips down to the church’s food pantry, and eventually my parents separated. The real weight of it occurred during my senior year. One of the interesting things that came out of this was the freedom to leave […]

A Review of Lincoln in the Bardo

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Book Reviews

This morning I finished George Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo, which I greatly enjoyed. I enjoyed it not only for the quick flecks of prose that struck like the tongue of a benevolent snake; not only for the scenes of the self-evinced departed rummaging through their own private psychoses, e.g. the Bardo; not only for the utterly imaginative mechanisms and rules of the in-between to which they clung; but for the manner in which […]

A Piece of Cosmic Literature

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Course Ideas / Science

An aspect of nature I love is its elegant ambiguity. Despite our best efforts and the amazing discoveries we’ve made in the past few centuries there are fundamental questions about the nature of the universe that may not ultimately be knowable through objective inquiry. It’s always too early to tell, of course, since we don’t know what we may learn next, but the pattern of ambiguity is fairly clear. The ambiguity goes all the way […]

A Meditation on Fear

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Course Ideas

When we are in a fearless state, the edges that delineate us as individuals blur. We flow into the world comfortably, and the world flows into us without resistance or hesitation. This is the primal form of giving and receiving on which I think all beings are nurtured and sustained. It is not a state of excitement or of euphoric abandon, but of peace and of enduring joy.  When this is our experience we respond […]

On Wholeness, Life and Awe

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Science

I like ideas that change the room completely and clap me numb as a board, and I have found that in both scientific and spiritual domains—in all encounters with genuine discovery—moments arise producing a sense of awe. This awe is like a resonance of my heart. I think conventional knowledge would suggest that the heart’s ways of knowing and intellectual ways of coming to understanding are unrelated, but I have to confess I don’t see […]

On Writing

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Course Ideas / Creative / Fiction

I could suggest I’m grappling with writing—with the idea of writing, perhaps, and how the idea crumbles when I sit down to write; how I pan in the dust for gold and will myself to proceed though a dense and peculiar metal, of itself, is meaningless; how I come up dry and uncertain, but then find a sparkle or two in the half-light just as I turn away, and suddenly am renewed—but the real grappling is […]

New Moon Gymnastics

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Poetry

I went for a swim. Now I am dripping with this stuff. The words are all one-sided. If you look at the wrong side it’s not even there. You hold one up to the sun and it looks like a translucent ash, because we’re all falling out. In my desire to move in a quiet circle, I can see: sometimes even the straightest shot is a broken one. Life is this thing, you catch yourself […]

The Arc of Being

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Course Ideas / Reflections

The other morning on the ride to work, I heard a story on Maine Public Radio about the various preachers that would be offering a prayer at the upcoming Presidential Inauguration. The report made it clear that several of the individuals were known for teaching the “Prosperity Gospel,” which apparently is the idea that earthly success may be interpreted as a symbol, or perhaps even an outcome, of divine favor. This idea is so pernicious […]