Living the Questions

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

Currently I’m in a program of studies exploring Judaism and Jewish-Christian relations. Basically, we ask questions. Here are ONLY SOME examples from the first semester:

Continue reading “Living the Questions”

Meeting Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: A Spiritual Entrepreneur for Our Time

On May 26th, 2016, I walked to Central Hall Westminster at Storey’s Gate for the Templeton Prize Ceremony for which I had flown from Poland to London.

I had moved to Europe to study noble lives because, as George Weigel puts it, “The noble life is still the most compelling witness for the fundamental truths that are the basis for our common world.”

When I first discovered the list of Templeton Prize laureates, I considered this to be a sort of syllabus of noble lives and resolved to seek out these persons, taking to heart the wisdom of Ben Sira: “If you see an intelligent person, rise early to visit him; let your foot wear out his doorstep.”

Continue reading “Meeting Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: A Spiritual Entrepreneur for Our Time”

How to Request a Letter of Reference

When you plan to apply for an opportunity and need to request a letter of reference, here are the ingredients for making your request as straightforward and courteous as possible.

Subject Line: Request for a Letter of Reference (by [Date])

Hi [Name],

I’m applying for [Describe the Opportunity and Why It Matters to You Personally] at [Program, Institution, or Organization Hyperlinked].

Here is the About Us [OR] Mission Statement page [Hyperlinked] of [the Program, Institution, or Organization].

Please address the letter to [Name of Person] who may be addressed [Role within Organization or Professional Title]. The mailing address is: [Insert Complete Mailing Address Properly Formatted].

The main criteria for this [Opportunity, Scholarship, Internship, Program, Conference, Etc.] are: [Succinctly List Criteria].

Attached is a draft version of the reference letter to serve as a point of departure for you. [Attach Draft Letter in a Word Document].

You can send the letter by [Email, Mail, Online Form]. The email may be sent to [Name] at [Email Address] with the subject line [Proposed Subject Line].

Could you please confirm that you can submit this letter of reference for me by [A Deadline for Your Referee that is Slightly Sooner than the Official Deadline Written with the Day of Week, Calendar Date, and Time of Day].

Also attached is a copy of my CV. [Attach CV in a PDF document]

Thank you so much for your help as I pursue this opportunity.

I will be sure to let you know how it goes! [Actually Follow Up to Express Gratitude and Inform Referee of the Outcome]


[Your First Name]
[Your Phone Number]
[Your Personal Website or LinkedIn]

Confounding all distinctions

This is one of my favourite passages from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and it comes back to my mind a lot in these days:

On doctrinal points the Catholic faith places all human capacities upon the same level; it subjects the wise and ignorant, the man of genius and the vulgar crowd, to the details of the same creed; it imposes the same observances upon the rich and the needy, it inflicts the same austerities upon the strong and the weak; it listens to no compromise with mortal man, but, reducing all the human race to the same standard, it confounds all the distinctions of society at the foot of the same altar, even as they are confounded in the sight of God. If Catholicism predisposes the faithful to obedience, it certainly does not prepare them for inequality; but the contrary may be said of Protestantism, which generally tends to make men independent more than to render them equal. Catholicism is like an absolute monarchy; if the sovereign be removed, all the other classes of society are more equal than in republics.

I was so pleased to see that Peter Kwasniewski quoted it in his beautiful piece, “How the Traditional Liturgy Contributes to Racial and Ethnic Integration.”

There is much more to say on this, but it’s late and I wanted to post something quick, so enjoy Tocqueville and Peter’s piece.

Pathos and Sympathy

The other evening I attended a talk on Abraham Joshua Heschel. The speaker touched on his book The Prophets, which prompted me to reflect on this particular excerpt: 

The nature of man’s response to the divine corresponds to the content of his apprehension of the divine. When the divine is sensed as mysterious perfection, the response is one of fear and trembling; when sensed as absolute will, the response is one of unconditional obedience; when sensed as pathos, the response is one of sympathy.

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Existential Alphabet

Wrote this several years ago and was reminded of it today: 

Existential Alphabet

A is for Angst, that Dizzying Freedom
B is for Being, its Possibility and its Tedium
C is for the Character of Conscience as Call
D is for Dasein, almost Any Existence at All
E is for Existential, it’s What We Are 
And E is also for Experience –in the World, not as Brains Stuck in Jars 
F is for Flungness and Throwness, experienced by the Knower
And G is for God who just might be the Thrower 
H is for the Actual Historicity of Truth 
And I is for the Immanentizing Ideologies of Untruth
J is for Judgments, we make these by Thinking 
K is for Kenosis, when our own Will starts Shrinking
L is for Logos, we’re talking the Divine Ground 
And M is for Mystery, since it’s not just Lying Around
N is for Nihilism and No Objective Morality 
O is for Ontology and Openness to Reality 
P is for Problematizing, my least favourite Verb 
And Q is for Questioning, which is much less Absurd 
R is for Relationship to the Other Man
And R is also for Recognition that should be Reciprocal, if it can
S is for the Separateness in the Human Condition of Plurality
And T is for Transcendence Beyond Worldly Temporality 
U is for Utopia and All such Prideful Conceits 
V is for this Will replacing Vision Not even being Discreet
W is for World, with a Structure quite Complex 
X is for Xenophon, ’cause his Name starts with ‘X’
Y is for ‘Youth’ and ‘Old Age’, Historical Metaphors that have Misled
And Z is for Zoomorphism, ’cause that starts with ‘Zed’
Now I think I know my existential alphabet… Next time will this be a waste of time, in retrospect? 

The Art of Dying Well

A friend just shared this feature-length article in the New York Times, “A Reminder We Are Not Alone” about priests who have been celebrating the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick for patients with Covid-19.Continue reading “The Art of Dying Well”

Book: Letters to a Young Muslim

Today I finished reading Omar Saif Ghobash’s book Letters to a Young Muslim. Ghobash is the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to France and former U.A.E. Ambassador to Russia (2008-2017). Through this book of letters addressed to his sons, Ghobash explores his family history, upbringing, and experiences that have led him to “see the world through the prism of responsibility.” Ghobash was born in 1971, the year the UAE was founded. His father had become minister of state for foreign affairs for the country in 1974 and was killed in a terrorist attack three years after that. Ghobash’s mother is Russian and descended from Orthodox clergymen. Growing up, Gobash spoke Russian at home, English in school, and eventually learned Arabic and French, too. In light of all of this, he offers some unique perspective. Below is an excerpt I found particularly interesting: Continue reading “Book: Letters to a Young Muslim”