brief reflections on books I haven’t read in a while

I love weddings. I’ve always loved weddings. By the time I was able to drive, I’d already been to dozens of weddings (the result of being both the youngest of a large family and a dependable altar boy eager to work weekends) and had some very hard opinions about how to do it right. Most of that approach, though, was really about taste and selecting good music and readings, not overdoing it on the flowers, and always generously tipping your altar servers. Until my first courses on ritual in divinity school, though, I hadn’t thought about what all those selections…


“Did you really teach Katie Ledecky how to ride a bike?”

For a few years, I coordinated a high school social action program, and junior and senior students committed to volunteer at a single site for the entire year. While we’d been sending students to a handful of sites for decades, we frequently established new partnerships to respond to the changing needs of our community and to diversify offerings for our students. One of the partnerships I established is with Bikes for the World, which sends donated bicycles to locations all over the world to empower people with an accessible…


brief reflections on TV shows I can’t stop thinking about

Lately, my husband and I have been rewatching Buffy, Joss Whedon’s seven-season exploration of a teenager destined to slay vampires. The title character enrolls in Sunnydale High School when she and her recently divorced mother move from LA (the world of the movie from which the show spun off) to a town built on a hellmouth and therefore rife with demonic activity. As she navigates her nightly vampire hunting with the pressures of high school, Buffy finds herself surrounded and supported by two friends and Giles, her “Watcher” who trains and protects her while under the guise of school librarian…


“However we are, we don’t know how to be another way, that’s the way we are!”
David Byrne, on Here & Now

For the first of my four summers working on tour boats in Chicago, I was part of the crew. The early shift would arrive very, very early to hose down and scrub the two boats that would transport the tourists and local Chicago-geeks (and the people who love them too much to say no to a 90 minute cruise) for one or two routes through the city’s river and lakefront. The larger Fort Dearborn would meander up and…


brief reflections on books I haven’t read in a while

Judging by the number of underlining, circling, and notes throughout my copy of the book, Appleby’s study of religious-motivated violence made a big impact on my thinking during grad school. Appleby grapples with the phenomenon of religious violence by considering in multiple contexts, “why and under what conditions do some religious actors choose the path of violence while others seek justice through nonviolent means and work for reconciliation among combatants?” Appleby identifies and seeks to understand “religious militants” at both ends of the spectrum of violence: those whose militance is in the service of peacebuilding, and those whose militance veers…


“Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a goddamn difference! Now what about you?”

from Taylor Mali, “What Teachers Make”

Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make” is a response to the patronizing and degrading attitude too many people have about teachers, the attitude conveyed with clichés like “Those who can, do; those who can’t teach” and reinforced by the assumption that a salary is a good indicator of personal and societal value. I wish that the situation Mali captures in the poem were infrequent, but no day passes without teachers’…


brief reflections on books I haven’t read in a while

As an undergrad, I took a course titled The Problem of God, which juxtaposed dominant theological models with experiences and realities that exposed their limitations. Professor John Thiel remains in my mind one of the smartest people and best teachers I’ve encountered. Flipping through Hood’s Must God Remain Greek? Afro Cultures and God-Talk, I recalled teaching techniques that I very explicitly borrowed from him as a young teacher, like posting the outline of the class on the board so students knew where they were headed, like pausing to let the right words fall into place before responding to deep questions…


brief reflections on books I haven’t read in a while

As an undergrad, I declared a minor in philosophy partly because I was deeply interested in understanding how people constructed their worldviews but mostly because I wanted priority registration to courses with a particular instructor (#professorcrush). Whatever my motivation at the time, the impact was significant. …


brief reflections on books I haven’t read in a while

I first read The Sabbath as part of an undergrad course on modern Jewish theology. Perhaps responding to an increasingly techno-centric society, Heschel, a leading voice in Jewish theology in his time and a major figure in the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, presented the book as an extended meditation on the Sabbath, the weekly observance central to Jewish practice, but I also read it as an indictment and as a warning. …


Black & white photo of a section of the excavated Forum at Pompeii. A large, modern, winged male figure is tipped on its side in front of a facade with two levels of columns.

Lately, I’ve been listening to Stephen Fry narrate his 2017 book Mythos: The Greek Myths Reimagined. Like most things Fry touches, it’s gold. Fry dives deep into the stories that reflected, animated, and shaped the worldview, imagination, and practices of the ancient Greeks, stories that have survived millennia and continue to influence modern thought. Perhaps it’s too soon, but I’m ready to declare Mythos a masterpiece in three categories. First, as a piece of scholarship, it reflects a hefty foray into manuscripts, translations, and academic arguments with intellectual rigor and with a capacity to glean what’s fundamental and relevant. Second…

Bill Hulseman

Ritualist, educator, facilitator & consultant | billhulseman.com

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