Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener is intrigued by problems. Not gigantic problems, such as asteroids hurtling toward Earth or the destruction of rain forests, but smallish personal problems: coping with a best buddy’s wedding, dealing with a pushy mother, realizing that you’re not as successful as your longtime friends.
Once there came a wolf so fierce he devoured not only lambs but goats and children.
The villagers armed themselves as if going to war but even their weapons could not save them from his teeth, so fear fell like a shadow upon Gubbio and sealed the village gates. Enter the saint: once a dandy, once a soldier, once a prisoner of war and war wounded, who embarked on the Fourth Crusade but on the way gave his sword and supplies to a beggar. Who can take you farther, the lord or the servant?
Saint whose father beat him and dragged him away in chains, saint who kissed a leper’s stinking hand and set out to embrace Syrian warriors, saint who negotiated an exchange with Sultan Melek-el-Kamel of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. That saint sought and found the wolf’s hiding place, and there said, Brother, do not hurt me. You have committed crimes. You deserve to die. This town hates you, but Brother, I want to make peace between you and them, so they won’t be harmed, and when they have forgiven you, men and dogs will never chase you again. Brother, I know the evil you have done came only from hunger. If the people feed you, will you pledge never to harm a living thing? The wolf put his paw in the saint’s hand, then curled at his feet like a hound.
O friends, if beasts hold us in such terror, how much more do we fear the fires of hell? Turn to the One who frees you from wolves in this world and flames in the next!
For two years, the wolf wandered from kitchen door to door. No dog barked. No hand rose against him. Not one child ran from his gaze. When he died of old age, the villagers of Gubbio missed his kind patience. Who can take you farther, the lord or the servant?
Welcome Sister Death, said the saint when his own time had come and taking her hand into his palm, he drew her famished fist to his lips and slowly kissed her knuckles one by one. O, who can take you farther?
Likely no culture has been so ignorant and contemptuous of place as is contemporary industrialized society. We may not even qualify as a culture, since that word generally connotes a form of social organization that connects people and places through time. By that criterion, industrialized society fails miserably.
From South and East, from West and North they gather, on foot, by car, in rickshaw, tram, and bus, health, in wheelchair, in joy, in sorrow, relaxed, uptight, disheveled, and fastidious. They come, O Christ, to you, to taste the body that once for all was slain, to sing and pray and take a cup whose balm brings life from dying— throughout the world and somewhere, somewhere every day.
The words they hear when they have come together are chanted, lisped, intoned, or simply said and tell in myriad tongues with every accent of body broken and of life’s blood shed. Mere words convey a gift of perfect freedom, a debt of love that no one can repay, a yoke of new and welcomed obligation— throughout the world and somewhere, somewhere every day.
The spaces where they meet are huge, resplendent, or huts and hovels all but falling down, on Sundays jammed but often solitary, both nowhere and on squares of world renown. Yet all are hewn from just one Rock unbroken in whose protection no one is betrayed, which lets itself be smashed to bits for sinners— throughout the world and somewhere, somewhere every day.
The hands that tender host and cup are youthful, emaciated, worn, and manicured. They take so little time, they bring so little, to do a work by which so much is cured. These hands that bring the Savior near are icons of hands once torn in order to display with lines of blood the names who come receiving— throughout the world and somewhere, somewhere every day.
These waters, I must trouble for myself, in an age of the absence of angels, as I plunge, first of the day to break the lambent surface of the pool, and commence my daily reaching after miracles, swimming laps at almost eighty-one. The miracle I seek these recent years has been defined, and then refined, by that old friendly temporizer, “yet”; no longer seeking not-to-die-at-all, just not-to-die-quite-yet, to win a couple bonus years, in which to pen another poem or two, to pile a few more chosen words onto this heap I have—for Oh so long—been working on. Any healing that might come will clearly have to be short term. Until, that is, I reach the final turn, take up my beggar’s bed, and walk.
Print books remain significantly more popular than digital books, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The bad news is that the number of people who reported reading a book in any format last year was 73 percent, down from 79 percent in 2011 when Pew first started gathering data on the reading habits of America (Publishers Weekly, September 16).