Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad's Secret: We're Always Angry

If you're not locked in a cave you probably know that the show "Breaking Bad" concluded last night. (And if you have been locked in a cave, I'm flattered you're reading this, but seriously, go get cleaned up. We'll be here when you get back.) You probably also know that it's considered one of the great TV dramas of our time, on par with "The Wire" for its depth of character and storytelling.   

In case you haven't seen the finale -- or any of the show, really -- I'm not going to spoil it for you.  Go to Netflix, check the show out.  (And trust me, you won't be alone in doing it -- for the last two weeks, the most popular stream on Netflix has been new viewers catching the pilot.)

I just got asked to write a couple paragraphs for a reporter on what I thought the show was all about in the end. And for those who do like the show, I thought I might as well share them with you!

So here goes... (and there's a little language, too. Buyer beware.)

I'm always reluctant to assign much in the way of religious themes to a mainstream TV show, because it tends to reduce 'art' to doctrine. Which is basically the writer's equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. Hatewatch us all you want, tell us we've become a parody of ourselves, but please, don't tell us this, too, is a show about Jesus.

Breaking Bad could certainly be construed as a show about sin -- its seductiveness, the way it spreads to affect not just an individual but so many others; but somehow that word "sin" seems ill suited to this show, like taking a Pollock painting or great jazz and reducing it to "grace" or "mystery". Vince Gilligan is not doing his best Jimmy Swaggart, and Walter White is so, so much more than an object lesson.
Personally, I think down deep -- and the reason it has been so incredibly compelling for people -- Breaking Bad is a show about human nature. Inside each of us there is a Heisenberg, waiting for his or her moment to show the world that we are not the put-upon banana slugs (or snails) the world sees and takes such pleasure in stepping on, but gods in our own right, capable of lighting the whole world on fire for our pleasure, and fuck all who get in our way.

For me maybe watching Breaking Bad has been a way of living that possibility out, with all its euphoria and tragedy, without having to actually 'break bad'. (Or spend literally weeks of my life locked in a tiny claustrophobic trailer cooking meth with a dope who insists on ending every sentence with the word "bitch". #Jesus)
Maybe it's a sort of exorcism, too, a way of bringing the darkest parts of us out into the light, where they are weaker and their lies revealed.
I don't know. I think all of that is part of it. But fundamentally I just think it's like Bruce Banner says towards the end of The Avengers: "My secret, Cap? I'm always angry." And oh, how fascinating and destructive that anger can be.
I had one further thought, about Jesse. And this part is filled with spoilers, so look away if you don't know the show.
One of the things that fascinates me about the show is the way Jesse Pinkman grew from a total loser to the one I most cared about, the one I absolutely NEEDED to survive. (If Vince Gilligan wanted to rip my heart out once and for all, all he needed to do was kill Jesse. I can't tell you how glad I am that he didn't.)
For as brutalized as Jesse was in Breaking Bad -- and if you look back, I bet Jesse got beat up nearly 30 times in the show's 62 episodes, in addition to everything else he went through -- somehow he remained just a little bit innocent, still capable of a childlike sense of satisfaction, compassion and wonder. Jesse did eventually kill some people (and I have to say, in the case of Todd, I physically felt every moment of that struggle and thought only good riddance), yet he never lost his soul quite like Walter did. He was still on some level always the guy who finds the child living in the meth addicts' shithouse and tries to take care of him (in episode 206, "Peekaboo", one of my favorite episodes of this or any television show).
Maybe someday we'll call his arc a bit naive, I don't know. I must say, I'm so grateful for the show's quiet insistence that even in the darkness -- and oh, did we see dark -- there's still the possibility of a sliver, even just a thread of hope, of dawn.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hollywood Wishes the Society of Jesus a Happy Birthday

On this day, in 1540, the Society of Jesus (aka the Jesuits) was approved as an order. And a lot of celebrities are super excited about it.  Look at this video they put together:

The Role of Women in the Pope's Interview

I don't know if you saw this, but there was a little dust up this week over the section in the papal interview entitled "The Role of Women".  

Here's the original section, in full: 

Women in the Life of the Church
And what about the role of women in the church? The pope has made reference to this issue on several occasions. He took up the matter during the return trip from Rio de Janeiro, claiming that the church still lacks a profound theology of women. I ask: “What should be the role of women in the church? How do we make their role more visible today?”
 He answers: “I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”
I find it one of the more internally conflicted portions of the document.  On the one hand, Pope Francis is repeating his call for a renewed theology of the place of women in the Church. And at the same time he keeps using the strange term "the woman", which gives the sense of women as somehow 'other'.  And his opening volley about 'female machismo' seems to set an immediate tone of 'more maybe, but not too much'. 

Even his call for a renewed theology ignores the fact that there have been some 50 years or more of feminist reflection on issues of gender, power and authority in the Church. We don't need a renewed theology of women, we need Church leadership to actually take up the theology of women that is already present. 

But then, earlier this week, NCR uncovered that there was an error in the translation of this portion of the text. Two very key sentences were left out in the English translation, one from the interviewer and one from the Pope.  Here's the true translation of the text, with the cut sentences highlighted. 
Women in the Life of the Church
 And what about the role of women in the church? The pope has made reference to this issue on several occasions. In an interview he had affirmed that the feminine presence in the Church has not fully emerged, because the temptation of machismo has not left space to make visible the role women are entitled to within the community. He took up the matter during the return trip from Rio de Janeiro, claiming that the church still lacks a profound theology of women. I ask: “What should be the role of women in the church? How do we make their role more visible today?”
He answers: “It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church. I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.” 
It's quite a difference, no? The Pope's first comment is now a positive one, it's about broadening opportunities.  And the whole topic of female machismo (which is such a strange and problematic term, at least in the US context), turns out to be something initiated by the interviewer. It's still not a great term in that what it means lacks clarity, but the point is I think more clearly about machismo itself, how it as a way of being Church needs to be put aside entirely, rather than adopted by women as it has by some men.

So, if you read this section before and thought, "Well that's a bit off, isn't it", take heart! 

"I Said What?"

P.S. You might wonder how these sentences got cut. America Magazine editor Matt Malone, in a letter to NCR, explained that it was just an error; the document is over 12000 words, it was translated by a team of experts (not the America editors) and that piece got lost.  

Some have suggested there was some plot afoot, some attempt to keep women down. Anyone who has ever read America would know that's just plain ridiculous.  

Bring a Little Joy to Your Friday

I dare you to watch this and not get a little hop in your step.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

RIP Father Naus

Marquette University, my alma mater, announced that one of its great Jesuits, Father John Naus, passed away over the weekend.  John was an institution at Marquette, a man just as comfortable blowing up balloon animals or playing a little guitar and singing funny songs with students as saying Mass and hearing confessions.

He had a way of bringing out the childlike in people young and old, and his loss will be keenly felt even by those who haven't seen him in many years.

I notice that on Marquette's Tumblr they posted a little story about John with some great ideas on how to honor him. Ideas like: 

  • Mail a hand-written card to a friend 
  • Buy someone a cup of coffee
  • Ask your roommate about their day and genuinely listen
  • Walk someone home 
  • Tell a joke
  • Act like it’s Christmas in September 
  • See written on the forehead of everyone you meet today, ‘Make me feel important.’
He was a very good man.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake Hashtag

Last night late night funny men Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake did a hilarious bit about hashtags, the "#____" handles that people add to their tweets (and now Facebook posts).

At their best, these hashtags can offer hilarious commentary or additions to an initial post.  At their worst, they're just obnoxious -- as Fallon and Timberlake now demonstrate for you...

(PS Little bit of bleeped language there at the end. FYI.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Louis CK on Offending People

I'm not saying you should start your day by setting out to tick someone else off. But if it happens...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pope Francis' Interview, Part 2: The Jesus of Our Youth

This weekend I had a couple Masses at the parish I help out.  And rather than talk the readings (and by the way, lectionary curators, thanks for the worst Gospel reading ever), I did a couple reflections on the Pope's interview.

Here's one that has really hit me since the Pope took over last spring:

I have this friend who is a shrink. And he was telling me that the real issue behind most of his patients' dilemmas is their inability or refusal to trust themselves.  Somewhere along the line they were taught or they began to believe, my two cents is no good.  And the more they applied that distrust, the more out of whack they became.

So I was thinking, a similar way of thinking applies when it comes to institutions. Like, take the Church:

When you were a kid, were you afraid of Jesus? In fact, did you know anyone that was like, that guy terrifies me?

I mean, this guy, maybe:

Maybe we need to reconsider this whole "Give my toddler to Santa" thing.

And this --whatever this is-- definitely:

Who ever thought a man-sized rabbit could be anything but terrifying??

(Definitely not these kids:)

Even God the Father -- storms, plagues, floods -- I'll give it to you.

But Jesus? Heck no. Jesus was the friend who loved us, who forgave us, who spent his time with the sick and the prisoners, the broken and the marginalized. He was the instrument of God's mercy.

But then you get towards adulthood, and all of a sudden the message has changed. "Jesus does love you, mostly...  but not so much if you date this person or behave in this way, challenge this authority..."

It's like you signed a contract as a kid, and then suddenly just when you need it, you're instructed to read the fine print, which amounts to "Jesus loves you when you do what we say."

And you're basically being asked to write off the instincts you gained early.  It's a lot like putting yourself in a closet -- you're not allowed to be messy or sinful, you're not allowed to ask tough questions, or to raise your voice when the priest does crazy stuff at Mass.

I think what's happened with Pope Francis is, he's basically wiped all that away and gone right back to the Jesus we knew, the Jesus who is all about forgiveness and mercy.  Which is incredibly liberating for us, and a relief.

And it's funny, too -- when our identity as Christians is framed in this way, you can't help but feel flawed and less than. Because when it comes to be merciful, we're just not doing it. Or I'm not anyway, not very well.

And yet, somehow Francis' words don't end up making me feeling guilty and ashamed anywhere near as much as the other approach has.  No, I feel strangely relieved. Like, yep, this is the truth, this is what it means to be Christian.  And the fact that I'm not living up -- well, I need to work on that, but it's a relief because it's the truth, too.  No use hiding.  Here I am.

I realize his approach is a pretty radical shift from the last 20 years. I can definitely appreciate if anyone feels whiplash. But there's a lot to learn here, too, about approach and substance. Hopefully we will.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Louis CK Might Be a Wise-Ass, but He's Also Wise

I am an enormous fan of Louis CK. In fact, I think he's a bit of a holy man -- no matter how raunchy his routines get, there's an underlying humanity that he's reaching for that just knocks my socks off.

He was on Conan O'Brien last night, and did a 5 minute bit on why he doesn't let his kids have cell phones, that led to some of the richest thoughts about life you're going to hear anywhere (other than Pope Francis) right now.

Pope Francis, Getting Us to Come Out of the Closet

I said I'd try to have some cogent thoughts on Pope Francis' interview this morning. Little did I realize his interview was a whopping twelve thousand words long, and has lovely sections much more ready for personal meditation than analysis.  

I'll have more to say in the coming weeks, but for now here are two little points I notice, and one personal reflection.

A Church Obsessed With Sex
The section that has gotten the most play, unsurprisingly, is the Pope's comments on Catholic sexual ethics. Let me quote the section, in a slightly fuller form than has been generally presented:
We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

For anyone that's followed the Pope the last six months, this statement is a summation of what he's been up to, namely putting Catholic sexual ethics back in its place. If you listen to some Church outlets -- or in some cases journalists reporting on the Church -- you'd think most of what Jesus spoke about was who to have sex with and under what guidelines.

That's not the case (thank goodness -- although what a hilarious gospel that would be).
Which is not to say -- and here many journalists yesterday seemed to be getting it wrong -- that the Pope is implying some sort of change of policy on the topics of gay marriage or abortion. He's just saying, these issues have grown to such a size that they obscure their broader context.

Begging You For Mercy
And that broader context is a broken, wounded world in need of God's love and mercy. Pope Francis is a master of the simple image that speaks volumes, and in this interview he speaks about the Church as a field hospital:
I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.
For me, this piece is the most important. Because it lays out a very clear and Christ-like mission for the Church: caring for those in need. Being instruments not of judgment or condemnation, but of forgiveness, healing, love.

Finger wagging about other stuff is fundamentally a luxury; it makes as much sense as asking a man bleeding to death whether they've really got enough fiber in their diet.

Come Out of Your Closets
The other big piece for me, and I think for a lot of people trained to work in the Church, is Pope Francis' style here, his openness to the world.

By and large I think Pope Benedict gets a bad rap. Right before he was elected he made that comment that we should be open to a smaller Church of people who are faithful to Church teaching -- a sort of "Get in line or get out". But in his papacy he was never that guy.

Unfortunately, many of the people he and Pope John Paul II before him appointed have spoken in such ways, at least in the United States. Even as the American Church has gone through the biggest crisis of confidence probably of its existence, it has responded less with contrition and humility than the shrill denouncement of things like gay adoption or abortion and the forced feeding of a new translation of the liturgy that reads less like poetry than word salad.

It is difficult to be a Catholic in such an environment. You find yourself caught in an Orwellian sort of nightmare where the common sensical -- the fundamental mission of the Church as kindness and mercy; the truth of the Church as human and therefore sinful, always in need of development; and the necessity for the Church of not only teaching the world but learning from it -- is now considered heretical.

And many ministers' primary experience is wrapped up in fear that their bishops or worse will, like the all-seeing eye of Sauron, look their way.

I've lived with very holy, very reasonable men who have been told they can no longer write or teach because someone in Rome didn't like (or understand) what they had written. In most cases those men were never allowed to meet their accusers and defend themselves, and their work was grounded in very basic concepts from Vatican II.

Likewise, I worked at America Magazine when editor-in-chief Tom Reese was removed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in large part for allowing a free intellectual discussion on issues that mattered.  (As Catholic journalist David Gibson pointed out yesterday, this Pope just went much farther than Tom Reese ever did, or ever would.)

It has been a strange and somewhat awful truth to realize that the Church would outright condemn countries for treating its people in the way that it sometimes treats its own.

And it is a terrible puzzle, after so many years of education meant to be shared with the People of God, to then be muzzled from actually sharing it. You feel like somewhere along the line the Pharisees won the day, and if Jesus came again our own people would be first in line to crucify him.

To suddenly have a Pope whose fundamental disposition is not "NO" or "DON'T" or "WRONG", who sees himself not as a judge but as a friend and speaks from a place of mercy and kindness and concern for the poor -- it's like the doors and windows finally being thrown open on the closets (or caskets) we've been locked in and light shining in.

It's dizzying, too, and I'm sure much moreso for those who have found comfort in the clarity and insistence of the Church's prior disposition. I hear a good deal of gloating these last six months from the progressive wing of the Church, and that is both unhelpful and wrong headed.  It's like a guy hearing Jesus say "You're a sinner" and then turning to the guy next to him and saying, "You hear that? You're a sinner." Don't worry about your neighbor's status, kiddo; you've got plenty to work on yourself.

There's a lot more to say -- and forgive me for going on the length that I have. I'm just grateful for this leader whose words make me feel less crazy and less alone.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Breaking News: Pope Francis' Amazing Interview in Full

So first thing this morning I was looking online and saw quotes -- which you might have seen, too -- about the Pope speaking on abortion, gay marriage.  Quotes where he said the Church had become "obsessed" with sexual ethics, and that it needed to change.

I know.  My head exploded, too.

It turns out America Magazine, where I worked for 4 years, and La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit magazine in Italy, approached Pope Francis for an interview.  The results of that interview went live this morning.

Here is the link. The piece is quite long -- I encourage you to take your time with it. Yes, it's got some hot button stuff that the papers are already buzzing with. But there's more than that in the piece.

Once I've digested it a bit, I'll try to write something, probably for tomorrow.

These are certainly interesting times....

Papal Humor: Bumper Stickers for His New Car

Saw another great cartoon about the papal car last night, had to share:

I just think it needs a "Last Rides, anyone?"

(He loves that one.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How God Sees Us?

Mass Shootings in the US since Newtown

The Huffington Post published this graphic in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting Monday. I don't know about you, but I certainly hadn't heard about all of these other mass shootings. It's pretty shocking. 

How can we get our country to change? 

Jon Stewart is the Newest Convert to Catholicism (Pope Francis Style)

On The Daily Show last night Jon Stewart did a segment singing the praises of Pope Francis. Pretty hilarious. Take a look.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Riveted: A Poem for Tuesday


It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.
It is possible that we are past the middle now.
It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.
Yes: I think that we have crossed it. Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of,
but to a different show, clearly inferior.

Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.
The tickets are to that other show.

It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened hall
without waiting for the last act: people do.
Some people do.  But it is probably
that we will stay seated in our narrow seats
all through the tedious denouement
to the unsurprising end-riveted, as it were;
spellbound by our imperfect lives
because they are lives,
and because they are ours.

Robyn Sarah

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Best Sorkin Parody Ever

HBO's The Newsroom ended its second season last night. I'm a pretty big fan of its attempt to imagine a better version of cable news.

Someone recently sent me this little parody/ode to it -- and all great TV writing.  A good way to start the week.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Punning about the Pope's New Car

So first thing this morning I found this hilarious story about the guys from Car Talk discussing the Pope's new car (which is 20 years old and has 190,000 miles on it). There's a link to their comments, and also a list of very funny tweets from their audience. Such as:

I always thought the Pope would drive a Christ-ler.

If you see a lot of white smoke, it's time to get a new car.

Look, the Vatican has acquired a new relic.

And my personal favorite: If they can cram 6 or 7 parishioners in there to drive to St. Peter's on Sunday, is it considered Mass transit?

Comic gold.

The Best TGIF Earworm Ever

If you need a little joy today, help you get ready for the weekend, this is for you.

(Just be prepared to spend a lot of time rewatching it. So addictive.)

(Also, tell me you don't want a toy xylophone now.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Perfect Day

Someone sent me a link to this wonderful 2 minute student short film. Enjoy.
Perfect Day from Jay Roxas | 3D Animator on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Best Flow Chart Ever

How many times a day do I need this chart? Many times. 

Should You Eat That Bacon? Flow Chart

It's gotta be breakfast time somewhere in the world. 

A Chart for Moms & Dads

I guess I'm doing charts today. (Is a 5 fingered prayer a chart? Maybe kind of sort of ish?)

Here's one my sister-in-law posted on Facebook yesterday.

I've suggested it needs to also include: "Will you take me for ice cream?"----Uncle Jim

A Pope Francis Prayer

This week, the US Congress is debating whether to agree to attack Syria. And tonight, President Obama will speak to the country and supposedly try to explain why he wants us to bomb Syria. (Or, he will continue fooling the world into getting rid of Syria's chemical weapons, if you believe this article.)

Pope Francis has been doing some great work for nonviolence this last week.  And in light of the President's speech, here's a little prayer the Pope uses.  Might be something for all of us to try this week. 

(Also, yes, I did note that the Pope gives world leaders the middle finger. 
I'm sure it's totally unintentional. )

Monday, September 9, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cookie Monster Delays His Gratification

And now for something completely different... (or maybe it isn't?)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Syria -- Toward A Keener Vision of Reality

In the last 24 hours three very different takes on the ethics of action in Syria have crossed my desk, each of them very thoughtful, with much to consider.

As my own attempt to think about the issue, I've laid out the basic principles of each articles in a couple paragraphs each. Then at the bottom I put together the question that seems to me at the heart of it all.

Use it if it's helpful. Click away if it's not.

A Case For Action
In the New York Times, American writer Nicholas Kristof urges that military intervention is necessary.  To a large extent, his argument turns on what happens if we don't intervene -- more people die, and the already unstable region grows all that more unstable. He notes that while in some cases, such as Iraq, military intervention has only caused further damage, in others, such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Mali and Sierra Leone, such intervention saved lives.

Vehement Opposition to Action
In Rome, the Jesuit Superior General Father Adolfo Nicolas issued a fierce cry of opposition to any Western military action in an interview released Wednesday. The US and France, he says, have no right to act against a country in a way that will increase the suffering of its citizens. His criteria for action is encapsulated halfway through the article: "The means considered adequate to punish abuse", he argues, should not "harm the very Victims of the original abuse."

A striking part of Nicolas' comments is his sense that the world is furious at France and the US for threatening action. One of the great dangers of living in the United States is our relative isolation from the rest of the world. For as large and influential as our country is, it is also a massive echo chamber, our own varying perspectives bouncing around within it, without many foreign perspectives getting in. That someone outside the States, with such standing, would speak in such strong terms against American action should give us pause.

More Questions Than Answers
Lastly, Ivor Roberts writing in the Tablet asks many good questions, starting with the West's criteria for action. Why should the kind of weapon being used serve as proper criteria for a country to act against another? Why not the number who have been injured or killed (some 100,000 according to the UN), or some other fact?

Also, seeing the West's true goal as regime change, he wonders, regime change to what? There is no clear alternate body to take up leadership; opposition forces have indeed been fighting amongst themselves. The very idea of a unified Syria may in fact be an outdated Western construct. It was the West after World War I that drew borders around these very different clans and factions and called it a country.

Looking at the possibility of military intervention, on Sunday the Pope said that "Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence."  Conversation, rather than confrontation, is the only means to achieve real change, real peace.

A Keener Vision of Reality
For me, what stands out from these articles is the need for a keener perception of reality. The tragedy before us goes without saying, but to acknowledge that is not to say we truly understand what we're seeing.

What is it that we're looking at? What are the facts and history of the situation before us? Are we sure we understand?

Along the same lines, are we aware of our own assumptions? For instance, if we say the verified use of chemical weapons justifies American intervention, how would we explain why? Does it seem self-evident? If so, beware -- if it were that obvious to us, it'd be obvious to everyone else, too.

In his great essay on 9/11 Writing in the Dust, Rowan Williams ponders why, when Jesus is persecuted for not condemning the adulterous woman in John 7, his first reaction is to write in the dust.  "What on earth is he doing?" Williams wonders.

Here's his take: "He hesitates. He does not draw a line, fix an interpretation, tell the woman who she is and what her fate should be. He allows a moment, a longish moment, in which people are given time to see themselves precisely..."

Writing in the dust, hesitation, he explains, can be a virtue. "It tries to hold that moment for a little longer, long enough for some of our demons to walk away."

Pedro Arrupe, a former superior general of the Society, once heard his men explain they were going to figure out an issue, then pray for confirmation.  Arrupe, a gentle, warm man came down hard on them. "NO." he said. "WE DO NOT PRAY AT THE END. WE PRAY AT THE BEGINNING."

Pray, hesitate, try to see -- it seems to me these are important goals for me these days.