Dearest War,

Waking up this morning I felt that sick stone pressing on my lungs again. Breath a little short, metal spoon-like keeping me from inhaling the bright dawn. Throbbing pools held back just behind the shell of my face. Not enough power to let it down, to let them fall, to release.

Graduation season is upon us, and with schools closed, ceremonies cancelled, and celebrations postponed, we’re seeing a lot of talk about the Class of 2020 online. This includes many celebrities and political figures pulling out their video cameras to deliver virtual graduation addresses. The thing that all compelling graduation speeches contain is an emphasis on what you (the student) are capable of accomplishing in this world. We are all foundationally good people with the ability to do amazing things if we put our minds to it. But, are we?

Being a mother is wonderful and terrible at the same time.

This task is wrapped up in experiences and expectations not only passed down from her own mother, but from her ideals, friends, and mentors. Even in the Church, we have highlighted the vocation of mother, that this office is necessary and an important service to God and neighbor. There are plenty of blogs, books, and podcasts to guide one in the ways of being a great mother, secular, Christian and otherwise, but there is something critical they may not tell you about mothering. Because, if you considered this little piece of advice, the parenting paradigm may crumble.

A new story always begins with the spirits of hopes and dreams. Leaping and flying, spinning and whirling, the tale is bound to go anywhere. In a fictional world of no consequences, the story can take shape any way the spirits lead. Creative heights, unthinkable depths, there are no boundaries where she can go. Soaring away from reality, another world is unveiled where deepest desires and questions are allowed to surface. But silently driving the distant words of story, truth and reality press her upon unsuspecting souls.

Two weeks ago, when I wrote about The Seventh Seal, I had one kind of response to it. Kyle Smith (and his commenters) at National Review had a very different response. Over the past year, people have had strikingly opposite reviews of movies like Joker, The Irishman, A Hidden Life, and Parasite. No doubt preference and taste account for some of those differences. Probably the egalitarian and democratic nature of the internet accounts for a few more (as “reviewing” movies is not limited to experts). When it comes to classic movies—cult or otherwise—some of it is inevitably nostalgia. But in terms of my own feelings about movies, I am more and more convinced that current circumstances play a determinative role in the experience of watching something.

There’s something about pastors not acting the way people think pastors ought to act that attracts people—if not in real life, then at least on the screen. From Pale Rider to Machine Gun Preacher, people like to watch preachers pulled out of the regular ruts of how we imagine their lives and into some extraordinary action. Maybe pastors like to watch so they can live vicariously through the actions of guys in collars doing things we ourselves would never do!

Diving into the great sea of knowledge, I am drowning. Wave after wave of fact and fiction, feeling and experience crash over my head as I fight just to take a breath. Pummeling pressure keeps my eyes just below the surface, so that I can’t quite see clearly. Swell after swell, small and distant, grows deeper and more powerful the closer it gets to me. Endless fathoms of knowledge washing in and out, burying me deep below understanding.

[SOME SPOILERS]

Watching awards shows is all about having the right expectations going in: you know already that it’s going to be an orgy of self-congratulation. You know that people are going to use their acceptance speeches to highlight or push (depending on your perspective) their favorite causes—although I can’t say I was expecting someone to use the slogan “workers of the world unite.”

[MINOR SPOILERS]

From the first time I saw a trailer for Netflix’ Messiah, I wondered how they were going to bring it to a conclusion. It seemed that there were only two possibilities: either the main protagonist is the Messiah, or he is some kind of charlatan. Is he a fraud? Is he some kind of cult leader, or maybe a terrorist? Or is he actually the second coming of Jesus?

I have a complicated relationship with David Bazan’s music. I’ve probably seen Pedro the Lion/David Bazan in concert more than I’ve seen any other musician and I have nearly all his band and solo albums. I’ve followed his very public trajectory from conflicted “Christian” artist to denial of what he sees as the message of the Bible and of Christianity. In a very real way, I’ve grown up with his music (he’s about three years older than I am).