Nathaniel Martin sailed with his friend and fellow-naturalist Stephen Maturin on two long sea voyages in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, first as the ship's chaplain and later as Maturin's assistant surgeon. Never much of a fist at sermonizing, Martin took to writing and publishing impolitic tracts that offended the Royal Navy Board and prevented him from returning as a chaplain.
Martin lost an eye to an owl, and, as long as Martin's eye was single, O'Brian let him rival Captain Jack Aubrey for Maturin's time and friendship. Martin married between voyages, however, and his newfound obsession with providing for his family began to make him tedious company for Maturin. (Banality is the worst symptom a character can present with in these novels.) Martin's overheated conscience led him to an end straight out of Hawthorne, with whom he shared his first name.
These are the sermons he never wrote.
Jesus puts a riddle to the twenty-first century church: Among those born of women there has not arisen greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Where does this leave John? Could “the least in the kingdom of heaven” be his new rival? […]
“Death, thou shalt die.” My tenth graders are busy emulating conceits such as John Donne’s by writing their own Metaphysical poetry. Some of their poems examine life’s common paradoxes well. My students’ relative success makes me wonder if there’s room for Metaphysical poetry’s drama, argumentation, idealism, and tough artificiality today. Eliot learned a good deal from these poets. And many modern poets have been (maybe unknowingly) returning to their concision, uneven meter, and irony for decades.
To my Protestant ear, the title of John Anthony McGuckin’s collection of meditations sounds suspicious. I’ve had books with similar titles (and covers) thrust at me at airports. But a good deal of my suspicion was grounded in Protestantism’s general suspicion of mysticism. The Book of Mystical Chapters: Meditations of the Soul’s Ascent from the […]
This is my first “sentence,” modeled after the aphorisms of the Desert Fathers, which their followers collected in manuals of instruction. It is a “praktikos” — that is, it is intended to assist someone in her preparation for a life of prayer. The best and most approachable book I have found on the subject is The […]
I went into the Bose Outlet at the mall last week and tried on two pairs of noise-canceling headphones. One pair sat on my ears, and the other surrounded my ears like cups, like the fat headphones my uncle had with his hi-fidelity system and his reel-to-reel tape player when I was a child. The […]