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When you get to be my age—71 or thereabouts—remembering takes up an ever-increasing proportion of your mental life. In my case, remembering is not infrequently spurred by sorting: going through stacks of books, file folders, photocopies, email printouts, magazines, piles of newspaper articles, and more.
Right below that in the stack was a long 2006 obit for the novelist Muriel Spark, followed by a photocopy of Alec Wilkinson’s New Yorker profile of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (“The Ghostly Ones,” Sept. 20, 2004) and a photocopy of a 1990 piece on Iris Murdoch by Sarah Booth Conroy.
Items - Others - Stack - Trails - Memory
Each of these items (not to mention others in the same immense stack) sent me down winding trails of memory, intersecting with other trails. But the one that sent me the furthest was a short piece of my own that appeared in a magazine called Christianity and the Arts (Fall 2001), a special issue devoted to “The Madonna,” guest-edited by Carl Winderl. Here it is:
During Holy Week of 1999, I was in Philadelphia for the annual meeting of the Association for Asian American Studies. On the afternoon of Good Friday, instead of attending the scheduled business meeting, I decided to go to whatever church was nearest. That turned out to be Saint John the Evangelist, a Roman Catholic church, where I attended a performance of Franz Liszt’s Via Crucis (The Way of the Cross). Saint John the Evangelist was not stripped down, like many modern Catholic churches. There were grottoes and niches and altars all about. Certainly the Quakers wouldn’t have approved of this place, nor would the Baptists among whom I learned how to worship God.
Sanctuary - People - Pews - Shoulder - Cross-section
The sanctuary was packed, and the people who filled the pews shoulder to shoulder looked like a cross-section of the city. In the pew just in front of me,...
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