There’s a diner perched on the cliffs of Ft Lee, NJ, overlooking the Hudson River, George Washington Bridge and the skyline of Manhattan. It’s an unassuming establishment, but the locals love it dearly.

They specialize in the fare of lunch; soups and salads and (especially) sandwiches.

Here Reubens and Clubs are both so simple and so savory as to be almost paradoxical.

Long before farm-to-table or artisan foods found their way into the popular vernacular, the proprietor of this diner understood the near sacred importance of provenance and preparation of meats, cheeses, vegetables, herbs and spices. Without fanfare he sought and found ingredients that gave their food a singularity of  character. And almost unawares, they calibrated perfect proportions and parts.

Call it happenstance, but the folks of Bergen County knew it was truly sublime.

One such item on the menu was their BLT. Down 4 from the top on their sandwich list, one could nearly fail to notice it whatsoever. But, having tasted the tang of sourdough and mayo awash in the sweet pop of tomato, crisp butter lettuce and etherial applewood bacon, one could not henceforth overlook it easily. If not a miracle, it was at least a phenomenon. Continue reading “BLT”

Worth | #Friday500

Cy Twombly (1928-2011) was an American painter and sculptor. In 2007 his painting Phaedrus was vandalized. Phaedrus is a 2 piece installment. The above painting is the left side. The right side is a canvas painted entirely white. It was the white canvas that was vandalized.

How was it vandalized? It was kissed.The perpetrator paid over €1,500 in fines.

The only way we can make sense of this crime is to realize that the paintings were valued at over $2 million. The restoration costs were nearly $50,000. It was a masterpiece by a master artist. Only then can such a kiss be deemed criminal.

When considering topics related to violence (see the violence and desperation posts), we can make little headway without an underlying basis for human worth. Continue reading “Worth | #Friday500”

Desperation | #Friday500

In his seminal book NightElie Wiesel recounts a horrifying event among a trainload of starving Jews locked in a train to Buchenwald. The Nazi guards throw food into the cars, and gawk while the prisoners fight to the death. A son kills his own father over a piece of bread.

I will never forget reading that. It is an excruciating glimpse into the human condition degraded by desperation. Of course it is an instance of violence, but one could hardly fault those who were deranged by deprivation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics was largely born from his own labors to faithfully live his Christian faith in fascist Nazi society. In it he writes of abortion calling it, “nothing but murder.” (In modern terms, he’d be described as “pro-life”.) However, training the focus on the issue of responsibility or culpability, he continues:

“… in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual.”

I’m not intending to address the issue of abortion here, but rather draw attention to Bonhoeffer’s application of guilt. In essence, he says that a woman’s society bears the blame for her choice made in despair and destitution.

We don’t often think of ethics that way—we want to situate blame on individuals. This is very Western, and is actually incongruent with the collective ethics of Scripture.  Continue reading “Desperation | #Friday500”

Violence | #Friday500

I live on the Southside of Chicago, and my city has become a placeholder for the topic of gun violence. Last year (2016) there were more than 700 homicides–over 4000 shooting victims. Just writing those numbers makes me feel heavy with grief.

Of course, this isn’t just a Chicago problem. Per capita, places like New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore and St Louis have 2-3x higher murder rates than our city.

It’s not a morbid competition, but when our president takes the issue to Twitter it begs so many questions.

Continue reading “Violence | #Friday500”