Author Archive
The Center Cannot Hold

The Center Cannot Hold

The stories now featured on the site touch on many issues, but one theme they have in common is the role that religion plays in driving people to get passionately involved politics and activism — and how difficult it is to find secular ways to kindle the same fire. In Saving Souls, Benjamin Gottlieb profiles an enterprising humanitarian group that is busily educating poor children in Delhi's slums. But the work of COI and other evangelical Christian groups continues to draw controversy in India, a once-colonized nation now booming economically and working mightily to assert its own cultural identity. In Losing Zion, Rob York reviews the book The Crisis of Zionism, which argues that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dying, ruined by extremism in Israel and the apathy of the liberal American Jews who could help bring about a broad-based peace movement.

Religious groups have been almost unmatched in their ability to train activists and build social movements. In America, the most obvious recent example is the pro-life movement and the cultural warriors it has drawn from the pews of evangelical, Catholic, and other congregations. But the civil rights movement, too, acquired its power and breadth by filling the streets with churchgoing protesters, and filling its rhetoric with the biblical language of freedom, struggle, and redemption.

Closer to Home

Closer to Home

It's hard to think of another role with as much impact as being a mother and father. For almost every other position, we are replaceable in the long term. Someone else will do our job, for better or worse, if we're not there to do it. Someone else will eventually start our company or make our invention or sketch out our idea. Maybe it won't happen for a long time; maybe it would have happened earlier, if we weren't around to slow things down. But eventually, society makes progress, and the niches of innovation — in business or technology, art or politics — are filled.

The stories we're featuring on the site now touch upon the impact that fathers have — even in their absence. In Learned at My Father's Feet, Kae Dickson remembers her experience caring for her "Daddy" at the end of his life, as dementia robbed him of his memories and independence. In A Circle, Broken, Amy O'Loughlin reviews a family memoir by CNN journalist Mark Whitaker, who describes his complicated relationship with his absentee father, an African American scholar who blazed trails only to see his career burn out amid his struggles with alcoholism.

Lost Decades

Lost Decades

This week the magazine is featuring a trio of articles about prisons, real and psychological. In Freed, but Scarred, Francesca Crozier-Fitzgerald describes the post-prison lives of three men who spent, among them, forty-three years in New York penitentiaries for crimes they did not commit. In an accompanying photo essay, Life after Innocence, Dana Ullman presents intimate portraits of the three men and their families, still scarred by absences and regrets. Finally, in Across Oceans, Haunted by Memories, Susan M. Lee reviews the novel "The Reeducation of Cherry Truong," a tale of two Vietnamese families flung across the globe, chased by their war-era remembrances of traumas endured and wrongs perpetrated — at times, on each other.

The End of the Road

The End of the Road

Hitchhiking has become an anachronism in many parts of the world, along with the trust of strangers that makes it possible, but in The Road Less Traveled, Lita Wong hitches her way through rural Cuba and finds herself relying in unexpected ways on the kindness and decency of the people she meets on the road. Also check out Havel: An Authentic Life, Jan Vihan's essay on the plays of Vaclav Havel, the Czech statesman, revolutionary, and writer who died at the end of last year.

A Dog's Life

A Dog’s Life

A new year is a time for new beginnings, and in Girl's Best Friend, Rebecca Leisher describes how friendship helped her to overcome a self-destructive lifestyle and learn to face life with an authentic confidence. (In Rebecca's case, her friends were dogs.)

‘Only Love Can Make Us Listen to the Truth of Another Person’

‘Only Love Can Make Us Listen to the Truth of Another Person’

Here are words worth pondering from the recent funeral service for Czech president Václav Havel. "Truth, seen in a narrow, self-centered way as the one and only truth, is the cause of discord and intolerance. That is why he took “Truth and Love” as his motto, as only love can make us listen to the truth of another person, to the truth of others. Such love teaches us to be humble, and Václav Havel had more humility than we all do. This is the deep meaning of the motto “Truth and Love," a motto for which he was sometimes ridiculed and so much criticized. And yet, it expresses the very substance of human struggle."

Cheating Death

Cheating Death

Ben Breedlove died on Christmas. The Austin teen suffered from a heart condition that brought him to the verge of death multiple times over his eighteen years. He described his near-death experiences in this two-part video, posted a week before the heart attack that killed him. In the video he doesn't speak, but tells his story with note cards, from time to time flashing a smile that hints at the things his scribbled words leave out. In Ben's telling, what he felt as he drew close to death was an overwhelming feeling of peace. "I had no worries at all, like nothing else in the world mattered," he wrote of a near-death experience when he was four. "I can't even describe the peace, how peaceful it was."

In The Fray 2.0

In The Fray 2.0

Welcome to the new In The Fray.

We've been on hiatus for a while, and we've used that time to update the site, our editorial approach, and our nonprofit organization. We hope you'll enjoy reading the new magazine. Ever since we founded ITF ten years ago, we've published stories that help readers understand other people and empathize with their struggles and triumphs. This will continue, but we've streamlined both the look and content of the magazine in ways that make our mission clearer and our work more compelling.

Alan Watts, British philosopher

No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along, or that the whole object of playing it is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them. —Alan Watts, British philosopher

Alice Walker, American author

I find it difficult to feel responsible for the suffering of others. That’s why I find war so hard to bear. It’s the same with animals: I feel the less harm I do, the lighter my heart. I love a light heart. And when I know I’m causing suffering, I feel the heaviness of it. It’s a physical pain. So it’s self-interest that I don’t want to cause harm. —Alice Walker, American author

It all goes back to Enron

Here's a fascinating piece from 60 Minutes that links last year's disastrous surge in oil prices to rampant speculation made possible by deregulation — the very kind of deregulation that Enron, at its peak, lobbied aggressively for, and that other firms and investors took full advantage of, securing handsome profits before the bubble burst.



Blogging Hope and Peace in Gaza

NPR recently aired a segment on two bloggers from Gaza and Israel. The Israeli calls himself Hope Man, the Palestinian calls himself Peace Man, and together they write the blog Life must go on in Gaza and Sderot.