Writer | Translator | Copy Editor
"These pieces defined generations of children’s imaginations, and they raise many questions about what it means to be a child and to what extent a child can or ought to be shielded from the problem of suffering. To what extent, they ask, should we justify suffering to children, encouraging them to endure for the promise of a better life? To what extent are we even capable of making the world a better place? Is it worth it to try?"
"In sharp contrast to their Muslim counterparts, [the intricacy of Meenakshi temple's gopura] serves not to obscure the material world but to celebrate it. From afar, a gopuram might seem almost gray, especially against a cloudy sky. But as one draws nearer, one finds that it is only an illusion, much like a prism: Where everything seemed to be one dull hue, there is an infinite multiplicity of shape and color. Every figure has his or her own personality, but they all serve as part of a broader whole. Far from iconoclastic, these vivid celebrations of the Hindu way of life are overwhelmed with imagery, affirming with vigor their perception of the immanent divinity of the world."
"Where once this privilege [of artistic expression] had been a luxury reserved for the few who devoted their lives to such pursuits, now, as with writing, the world had expanded. Alongside the democratization of knowledge had come a democratization of beauty – both of beautiful things and of the means to know and to love them. We are the happy beneficiaries of this process, and as we continue to reinvent art in the digital age, we carry the torch forward. How will our artistic heritage be reinvented next? How will the new generation of artists breathe life again into its ancient forms?"
"There is little trace to be found of ego or rivalry between the two artists – Brueghel would begin a piece and leave space for Rubens to fill in the figures later, and the products of their friendly collaboration were as sought-after as either of their own, only contributing to each artist’s prominence. Their friendship is a heartwarming historical detail. But in the context of their work, it becomes almost an art in itself, adding another layer of significance to Counter-Reformation’s desire for unity. As they strove to promote the Church they loved, they themselves were drawn closer together."
"In the Dome of the Rock, the inherent sanctity of the words is punctuated by the otherworldly array of patterns and motifs, which prepare the mind to see the abstract truths that are beyond our material sight. The inscriptions create a meditative experience for the reader; one is encouraged to circle the room and contemplate them. As a Muslim, it is a piece of architecture that demands active participation."
"This is the core of the Romantic’s vision of the sea. It was a place whose very existence was a poem and a treatise, always reminding man that, no matter how high or far he could travel or how often he tried to escape, he would always and forever be a contingent being .... But this was not a reality to be feared or ignored; in fact, the Romantics instinctively sought out this sensation of smallness and oneness with the world. They saw in this path of littleness a way to approach the fullness of being itself. Many went so far as to deem it an immanent manifestation of God."
"But as impossible as the dream of an ordered family haven may have been, it was “impossible” in the way of myth rather than of fantasy. It expressed something true about what it meant to live well, even if only dimly. For all their flaws, the Victorians did recognize the pivotal role that stable relationships play in helping both children and adults become happier and less stressed – a role that modern psychological research has only reaffirmed."
"Memento mori, goes the ancient phrase. Remember you will die. In his quest for domination – of himself, of others, of the world, of God – Faust’s greatest failure was to forget that he himself was mortal. No matter how powerful he may have been in a given moment, the very next moment he could be dust."
"We sense, however vaguely, that there was a reason that the subject must have been depicted in a tangible form – that this soul or thought or idea was captured in color and shape rather than in pen and ink. In Christian art, the medium reflects the idea, and the idea in turn elevates the medium. The two are inseparable and cannot be reduced to one or the other without losing something intrinsic in the process. Art becomes, at least by analogy, incarnate."
"However, as [the decadents'] journey with Japonisme finally ended and they continued elsewhere their hunt for the keys to heaven, it remained – and in many ways still remains – for ukiyo-e and Japanese aesthetics to recover from the spiritual turmoil to which they were subjected. Conflated with decadent temptation and sin, the West quickly deemed them incapable of aspiring to the heights to which European artists had long soared."
"By transposing the pivotal moment of Jesus’ birth to their own time and place, everyone in Greccio could find a place in that little stable, could truly be present in the Biblical moment. Through art, Francis had made his lofty techniques for contemplation accessible to all."
"Art is not for its own sake; rather, the journey of artistic encounter is a symbol of the journey each one of us must take to become more fully ourselves. It is a daunting path, threading the needle between aestheticism and asceticism. It is uncharted territory for everyone who traverses it. But for Wilde, it was the only way to regain his individuality in the face of self-annihilating pleasure."
Chasing Paradise: Oscar Wilde and the Art of Self-Annihilation (series)
"Paradoxically, then, it is one of the Victorian era’s most hedonistic figures who most fully illuminates the ontological risks inherent in Japonisme’s decadent influence on the West ... the “pure invention” of Japan that had simply nudged the West in the wrong direction – which unfortunately happened to be right off a cliff. The problem remained: Wilde knew .... [he] had allowed himself to walk right up to the edge of self-annihilation. How was he to save himself?"
Chasing Paradise: Trouble in the Garden (series)
"Yet, while Japanese Buddhists, including proponents of the “floating world,” had long since come to peace with the prospect of self-annihilation, the decadents were operating under the centuries of cultural assumptions imparted by Christian metaphysics. To them, therefore, ukiyo-e must have seemed a devil’s bargain that Mephistopheles himself would have envied. It was guiltless sensation at the cost of individual identity."
Chasing Paradise: From Japan to Japonisme (series)
"[O]ne of the fruits of the cross-pollination between East and West was a greater sense among all people of the possibilities for artistic expression .... Some Japanese artists decided to embrace art as a mode to reflect reality back to the viewer, while some Western artists chose to begin experiencing art as a kind of philosophy in itself."
The Consolation of Art: Depictions of Homer's Iliad
"Homer’s Iliad has provided solace and wisdom to so many countless generations because the fears it addresses are so timeless ... the never-ending war between the rage of Achilles and the will of Zeus – a war that dwarfs us all in scale and force – always seems to simmer on."
Chasing Paradise: Life After the Fire
"Though many traditional aesthetic principles, such as iki and wabi-sabi, were maintained in ukiyo-e, the movement’s emphasis on transitory pleasures and spontaneous fluidity made it far more easily digestible by Western audiences, who need not be as familiar with Japan’s philosophical tradition to be attracted to the exotic beauty of its subject matter and execution."
Chasing Paradise: Pure Land Buddhism and Ukiyo-e
"For the “average person,” therefore, a very different understanding of the Pure Land Buddhist tradition began to establish itself. Rather than leaning into radical asceticism ... the people revolted. Vices surged; red-light districts emerged and flourished."
On the Meeting of Saints Francis and Dominic
"Like an excellent work of art, it was only in striving to create a more unified world that Francis and Dominic became comfortable with the variety of their talents. And, by accepting that variety, not only did their missions prosper, but the orders themselves also grew closer in unity."
Chasing Paradise: Japanese Aesthetics Part 2 (series)
[W]hile Western art has often traditionally been a call to meditate on what is beautiful and immaterial through visually accurate depictions of the world, Japanese art ... [guides] the viewer through an abstracted visual “philosophy” to contemplate the nature of the material world ... its beauty lies as much in the ideas it expresses as it does in ink and paper."
Chasing Paradise: Japanese Aesthetics Part 1 (series)
"Perhaps the aesthetics of mono no aware and wabi-sabi have been so appealing to Western audiences, in particular, because they allow us to reconnect with our own ascetic tradition .... There is much, perhaps, we can learn from a rusty Japanese tea pot."
Chasing Paradise: Art in Japan's Philosophical Tradition (series)
"To the untrained Western eye, Japanese art may at times seem haphazard and incomplete. But in truth, it is a demanding process of translating not merely the visual information of the forms themselves but the true essence of the thing as transient and mortal .... The goal is both to see and to feel the relentless mutability of the moment."
Chasing Paradise: East and West, Then and Now (series)
"Between the worlds of nineteenth-century decadence and ukiyo-e are a web of metaphysical and ethical connections, all of which, whether we realize it or not, have had an enormous impact on the way we view art – and life – today."
Dignity and Destruction: Divinity and the Empire (series)
It is not simply a question of the Scylla and Charybdis of the Savage State and the Consummation, but the difficult balance that arises when the immovable realities of natural law meet the unstoppable force of human determination."
Homeward Bound: Ukiyo-e, Japonisme, and Cultural Integration
"The different responses of Europe and Japan to encountering a new world can be a reminder to us today that exploring an idea in earnest must be a precursor to accepting or rejecting it. It is a way both to practice real intellectual integrity and to strengthen and enrich our own beliefs."
Dignity and Destruction: The Individual and the Empire (series)
"[At the scale of the pastoral] it is not the system of government or economics that matters as much as each person doing what they can to take care of those around them .... Though it may not be possible to fix the system, it is possible to do your job today. Someone may be counting on it."
Dignity and Destruction: Nature and the Empire (series)
"While Cole may have been dubious about the state’s ability to ensure the environment is protected, his very lack of hope contains the glimmer of a different solution: one in which people, rather than being forced to care for the world, can instead learn to do so on their own initiative."
Alphonse Mucha and Love in the Time of Commercialism
"We know how to use beauty for personal gain; what we have forgotten is how to love it simply because it is beautiful. Superficial mimicry will not help us remember. If we are to truly delight in art again, we must learn to sever our appreciation of beauty from our own desires for wealth, power, or prestige."
Dignity and Destruction: The Fall of an Empire (series)
"While Thomas Cole shares the common Victorian view that the Greco-Roman Consummation is the 'highest ... human achievement,' he is also acutely aware that to glorify 'wealth, power, knowledge, and taste' is usually also to justify the greed, injustice, manipulation, and pride that come with them."
"For a brief moment, the people of the Consummation forget their origins and lose themselves in their apparent omnipotence. But as glorious as the scene may be, it is in the empire’s Consummation that we see the seeds of destruction begin to take root. It is here in the Early Autumn ... that it begins to fall."
"True to Victorian form, Cole looks to the past – or rather, to the pastoral – for the key to society’s ailments. And yet ... he is unable to escape his fascination with the untread wilderness that lies beyond it or with the marvels of art and architecture."
How Sydney Paget’s Illustrations Brought Sherlock to Life
"It seems, then, that people are drawn to Sherlock Holmes not only because of a desire for intellectual transcendence – plenty of writers have tried and failed to capture readers’ imaginations with reason alone – but because the stories express some part of what art truly is and, in turn, what life truly is."
Michelangelo's Artistic Struggle to Preserve Beauty and Faith
"At the end of the day, it may be that, beyond even his technical prowess and awe-inspiring artistic vision, viewers are drawn to Michelangelo’s work in part because of his own loyalty to the things he loved – art, Italy, his faith – even in their apparent brokenness."
On Death, Friendship, and Bernini's Salvator Mundi
"Bernini invested time and effort into grappling with the relationship between Christ’s dual nature and his mercy, and the bust [is] thus his ethical appeal for salvation based on Jesus’s character as he had come to understand it. It is, in a way, his own theological treatise."
The Worth of a Woman: Beatrice Portinari in Victorian Painting
"Women, like men, [are] happier, more powerful, more inspirational, even more beautiful when given the chance to express the fullness of their own personhood – as Dante would have put it, to become the person God [has] made them to be."
The Aesthete and the Cathedral
"[I]n the twilight of their lives the decadents may have found solace in the discovery that they had not escaped the past but carried it in some small way into the future. As Huysmans sat patiently in Chartres awaiting the sunrise ... [we can imagine him] finding himself more at home with those lovingly crafted stone walls than he had ever been in his rich apartment in Paris."
"[The Denial of Saint Peter] is a somber meditation on [Caravaggio's] mixed feelings of guilt and hope ... Its uncharacteristically indistinct, at times almost clumsy brushwork certainly reveals the extent of his physical wounds, but it also reflects its creator’s harrowing self-examination as his vivid imagination turned increasingly towards thoughts of his own death."
Chrétien, Jean-Louis. "Martha and Mary: The Double Hospitality." Translated by Abigail Leali. Communio International Catholic Review 47, no. 3 (2020): 472-502.
Abstract: Chrétien explores a selective history of theologians’ various responses to the Biblical figures of Martha and Mary, emphasizing the Fathers and mystics. He is reluctant to assert that the sisters are simply symbols of action, which is good, and contemplation, which is better. Rather, he establishes a continuum of interpretations: on one end, they represent two static and permanent states of life; on the other, two evolving states in which the Christian simultaneously progresses towards the contemplation of God and remains open to the active love of neighbor. True hospitality, he concludes, requires both our hands and our ears.
The Way of the Lamb by John Saward
[Ex Fontibus Company]
The Durtal Saga by Joris-Karl Huysmans
2020, Copy Editor
[Ex Fontibus Company] A three-part series detailing the journey of "Durtal" (a thinly veiled autobiographical figure for Huysmans himself) as he converts from Decadence to Catholicism and becomes an oblate. Provided copy editing and light translation assistance for En Route and La Cathèdrale.
Against Heresies by Irenaeus of Lyons
2019, Copy Editor
[Ex Fontibus Company] An updated Victorian translation of this work by Irenaeus of Lyons, one of the Early Church Fathers.
The Philosophy of Saint Bonaventure by Étienne Gilson
2019, Copy Editor
[Ex Fontibus Company] A philosophical biography of Saint Bonaventure.
Reality by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
[Ex Fontibus Company]
The Works of Athanasius, edited & translated by John Henry Newman
2018, Copy Editor
[Ex Fontibus Company] A lightly updated edition of one saint's translation of another.