Why did the unicorn cross the road? To get to the rest of the herd! And this week’s herd is eclectic and fabulous.
Patrick Leech, Ph.D. student in History at Baylor, is spending this year as a Fulbright Fellow in Hungary! You can follow along and learn about the fascinating work he is doing at his website, where he posts periodic updates.
Ivana Greco is writing a book on homemakers, applying her training and previous career as a lawyer to analysis of history and policy-making, and I can’t wait to read it! You can read this interview with her at the Arena earlier this year to get a glimpse of her project, but more recently, she has started a series of interviews with homemakers—including this interview with Dixie Dillon Lane.
Matthew Milliner’s essay “Is Goddess Dead?” is powerful. It considers the contrast between the goddess movements of antiquity (and, well, the interest in them in modernity), to note the beautiful and consoling power of Mary in Christian theology. A taste:
This statue brought to mind the actual women in the societies that worshipped goddesses, not the goddesses themselves. Perhaps a woman similar to the one standing before me sacrificed her children to the goddess Astarte. Puzzlingly enough, in Did God Have a Wife?, the very same book that hails goddess images as liberating for us today, William Dever also indicates in passing that “[at Tophet] thousands and thousands of burial urns have been unearthed containing the burned bones of infants, a vow fulfilled to Tanit [the Phoenician form of Astarte] or Ba’al Hamon.” Evidence like this might intimate why the Bible is not terribly enthusiastic about Astarte…
Emboldened, I made my way to the Northern Renaissance rooms. In the Marian tradition, the unexpected moments when Aphrodite mourned Adonis or when Isis mourned Osiris were seized on and expanded; Mary’s human grief could be full-throated and unrestrained precisely because of its forthcoming consolation in her son’s resurrection, a moment tenderly visualized by Juan de Flandes. Jesus and his mother seem to return to a moment of unexpected childlike joy, as if they are playing patty cake again. But now with a mature and unconquerable joy, with full knowledge this time that no empire would ever rip them apart. How many mothers who have lost their own children, I thought to myself, had this painting quietly consoled?
But when it comes to the goddess, I remain a wistful unbeliever, and I am at a loss as to how to convey this to those who still worship this ahistorical amalgamation today. I exited the museum, exhausted. The sun was now high in the sky, and the crowds on the steps, men and women together, were thick. I thought of how the biblical God, in contrast to paganisms then and now, did not masturbate or copulate the world into existence but spoke it into being. This God is beyond gender, and all of the men and women together who I saw before me were made in this God’s mysterious, irreducible image.
In his Republic, Plato famously banned poetry in the ideal state. But in her essay in Plough, poet Janet Scharl argues that poetry’s proper—and best—place is in the home (so, anyway, take that, Plato!). A taste:
Poetry’s proper place is not, first and foremost, in academia, but in our homes. Poetry should be nourished beside the hearth, not in the lecture hall. When we invite poetry into our homes, we make our family life more abundant, but we also help poetry itself grow richer and more beautiful…
Human beings are defined by rhythms: from the beating of our hearts to the pulsing of our central nervous systems, from the lunar cycle (which can radically affect our sleep and our emotions) to the seasons of the year. We’re always receiving these rhythms. So, when we take our language and incorporate those rhythms into it, we’re offering up the heartbeat of creation to the God who made it. We’re joining the music of the universe.
Since moving to Ohio in July, Dan and I have enjoyed going on short day trips with the kids practically every Saturday, and I sometimes take the kids somewhere for a day as well—like to a botanical garden nearby this past Monday (it was free admissions day, and we’re cheap, so this was highly exciting). Over at Front Porch Republic, Elizabeth Stice has a lovely reflection/review of a television show, The Daytripper that sings the glories of just this very idea: explore where you live, and grow to love it! A taste:
Several things make Daytripper a special show. It really treats towns of all sizes as special. Sometimes they visit somewhere fairly famous with a lot of food options, sometimes they visit somewhere small with only one or two restaurants. You get to see barbecue places you’ve heard of and those you haven’t. They aren’t afraid to get off the beaten track or beyond the Texas stereotypes. Sure, you get an episode on the Texas State Fair, but the same season also features one on the town of Schulenberg. In the Schulenberg episode, “Chet explores the ‘Painted Churches of Texas’ and dives into the German and Czech history of Central Texas with stops to a sausage maker, polka museum and Texas dance hall serving hot schnitzel. He also visits the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum honoring the iconic company that made model planes right in town.” You’re just not going to see a polka museum or a model aircraft museum on a lot of other shows. And it’s all honoring, not ironic.
Daytripper reminds people that you don’t have to go far to see something new. Even small towns have a special local food or watering hole. Every place has history.
Earlier this week, Amanda McCrina reviewed Andrey Kurkov’s Diary of an Invasion, documenting his thoughts and reactions from the beginning—showing moments when an awareness of genocide in progress first dawned. On this related note, speaking of places with history, Haiane Avakian, who left Bakhmut, Ukraine, on the first day of the Russian invasion in February 2022, has a heartbreaking but necessary read about her now destroyed home city in The Atlantic: “Bakhmut: Before It Vanished.” A glimpse:
I carry my town inside me and mark it on Google Maps with a heart and the word home. Russia has physically erased it from the face of the Earth and made its name a byword for destruction, for street battles of a ferocity hardly seen since World War II.
In peacetime, I gave tours of Bakhmut when friends visited from other cities. But I’ve never tried to do this virtually, to walk someone through a city that effectively no longer exists. Few buildings survive here, only ashes, and tons of broken concrete that people once considered their homes. No life remains, or almost none: Visible in drone footage are chestnut, apricot, and cherry trees that miraculously withstood the Russian onslaught, although Bakhmut itself did not.
Let me take you to my Bakhmut.
The piece is worth reading in full and feels almost impossible, except we know it is true: this city that has stood for hundreds of years is gone.