We Are Complicated

“What Faye won’t understand and may never understand is that there is not one true self hidden by many false ones. Rather, there is one true self hidden by many other true ones. Yes, she is the meek and shy and industrious student. Yes, she is the panicky and frightened child. Yes, she is the bold and impulsive seductress. Yes, she is the wife, the mother. And many other things as well. Her belief that one of these is true obscures the larger truth, which was ultimately the problem with the blind men and the elephant. It wasn’t that they were blind – it’s that they stopped too quickly, and so never knew there was a larger truth to grasp. … Seeing ourselves clearly is the project of a lifetime”- from Nathan Hill’s novel The Nix



“In many respects, we know who we are by knowing who we are not.” – Emerson & Smith, Divided by Faith

The American Theme

“Ralph Ellison, author of the classic novel Invisible Man, was once asked, “Would you say that the search for identity is primarily an American theme?” He answered, “It is the American theme.”

Think of the classic stories of American literature; from Huckleberry Finn on the river to Jay Gatsby on his dock, from Luke Skywalker not knowing who he really is to Princess Elsa feeling terrified that people will discover what she’s really like— these are all stories about identity. Perhaps the theme of identity dominates our stories because the search for identity dominates our lives. Like Pinocchio, we long to make ourselves real. Like Jay Gatsby, who “didn’t want you to think I was just some nobody,” 2 we will do whatever we can to prove that we’re somebody. Or, as Rocky put it in that most American of films, “All I wanna do is go the distance … [so I’ll know I’m not] just another bum from the neighborhood.” -Rankin Wilbourne


Real Freedom

“In the more classical understanding of the matter, whether pagan or Christian, true freedom was understood as something inseparable from one’s nature: to be truly free, that is to say, was to be at liberty to realize one’s proper ‘essence’ and so flourish as the kind of being one was.” -David Bentley Hart