Author: Michael

The Need For Better Questions

comments 23
Course Ideas / Reflections

Lately I’ve been listening to a few more podcasts and reading a few more op ed pieces in the media than I ever have before, and one really interesting observation has become clear to me. We are (all of us) biased in ways I think would surprise us were they actually understood. While it may seem obvious, nevertheless this had the feel of real discovery to me. And I think there is a reason for […]

The Round House, A Review

comments 7
Book Reviews

Louise Erdrich’s novel The Round House is first and foremost a good story. If I was to recount the basic narrative in less than a page—as you would if someone asked you, “what was that one about?”—I think you’d find it interesting even then, and for me it would be hard to do so without wandering off into some enticing narrative thicket. That’s not something we can say about every book that toys with literary […]

The Sellout, Satire At Its Finest

comments 13
Book Reviews

In his landmark paper “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” philosopher Thomas Nagel suggested that an organism is conscious when there is something that it is like to be that organism. It’s a beautiful definition, I think, and one that can be expanded to all sorts of questions of identity. What is it like to be American? To be a farmer? To be an art critic? To be a woman? To be Latino? […]

What It’s Like

comments 14
Poetry

Once I asked Hafiz what it was like to be God and Hafiz told me one night when he should have been sleeping he asked himself the very same question and when he imagined what it was like to be God he discovered God was imagining what it was like to be Hafiz. A psychic tremor occurred in the air of his breath like when you know your mother is calling right before the phone […]

The Life of Water, Part 2

comments 9
Science

Another one of those elementary-school-check-box characteristics of life that I remember is that organisms respond to their environment. In the archetypal example, plants bend their branches towards the light, but rocks do not—(at least on the scales of time over which we’re capable of keeping an eye on them.) What these characteristics don’t tell you is that life is a singular field of continuous transformation. There appear to be discrete organisms, but there are not. […]

Limbering Up

comments 29
Poetry

Hafiz with a pick axe. A coil of rope laid over his shoulder. This is a rare sight. He’s standing in a flood of holographic daylight which doesn’t cast any shadows whatsoever because somehow in my living room the light of three majestic stars has intersected, and I swear we only ever had one star in the area capable of this when I was growing up. Behind him a few angels are stretching out in […]

The Life of Water, Part 1

comments 20
Science

When I was a boy my elementary school science book offered a definition of life that was based on a collection of properties. It was like a checklist, and where there was the right sort of smoke, you could count on a certain fire. Life was marked by the ability to reproduce, the ability to move and/or respond to environmental stimuli, and the ability to maintain homeostasis. I don’t remember all of the characteristics now; […]

On Intellectual Unwillingness, the End, and the Beginning

comments 18
Christ / Course Ideas / Reflections / Science

When I began this series of posts I was frustrated by the particular combination of admiration and frustration I had been feeling—and still feel—listening to Sam Harris’s Waking Up podcast. While I appreciate Sam’s take on many things, what frustrated me was his unwillingness to engage with ideas about the nature of the universe that lay in the unexplored midlands between the polarities of fundamentalist theism and the same sort of scientific materialism. On multiple […]

On Intellectual Unwillingness, Part 4

comments 12
Reflections / Science

In an effort to simplify terms, I’m going to describe persons of religious affiliation as “Rafters” and persons of scientific/materialist affiliation as “Plancks.” Recognizing there is a broad spectrum of thought in both of these categories, I’m largely hoping to address certain fundamentalist, dogmatic positions that confound meaningful interaction between these two great pillars of human endeavor. These are the hardened geometries of thought that each side seems reluctant to soften in meaningful dialogue. I […]

On Intellectual Unwillingness, Part 3

comments 20
Course Ideas / Dialogues / Science

Genuine, transformative conversation hinges upon the willingness to understand and value the experiences and perspectives of another. An effort is made to take on board another’s ideas and listen for all the places where they intersect, both comfortably and uncomfortably, with our own. Where they don’t fit very well we have an opportunity for exploration, and for new understanding perhaps, but to explore this territory together we must resist the temptation to be rigid in […]