One year of Soul Bone links: only the finest in essays, explainers, articles, incense, stickers and microwave baked goods.
Soul Bone #10 landed in inboxes a few days ago, on the first new moon of 2022. I’ve been sending it for a year now — the Soul Bone takes a month off now and then, it seems — and I’m rounding up 10 or so of my favorite links so far from both sections of the newsletter.
Not sure what the Soul Bone thing is all about? As a girl, I thought my soul was a bone in my body, and I thought I knew exactly what it looked like. Most medical professionals seem fairly certain I was wrong, but the metaphor feels so right. I grew up an earnest fundamentalist evangelical Christian, and I slowly un-converted myself, starting in my 20s. I dismantled my life, and then I put myself back together, bone by bone. And one of those bones was my soul bone — even if it is just a metaphor. Although it’s silly to say something is “just” a metaphor because I’ve learned that metaphors are way more powerful than any literal thing. Soul Bone is also the name of a book I’m writing; the letter goes out every new moon and includes a set of religion-ish links and a set of generally happy-making links.
Section #1: Religion and religion-adjacent links
Since I’d been saying I was going to start sending my newsletter “any day now” for a decade, a few of the links I included at first — you know, the Soul Bone’s legendary early stuff — weren’t all that recent.
The early stuff
- Heather Havrilesky, whose latest book will be out soon, on secular prayer, including such lines as, “I need to honor my soul, of course. Who doesn’t? But I want to do it in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m living in a douche commercial.”
- Maud Newton, whose book also will be out soon, on her trip to Jerusalem: A Doubter in the Holy Land. I re-read this on the plane on my first trip to Israel, which was for work. “I’d been warned that visiting the Holy Land intensifies your deepest religious beliefs,” she writes.
- I was happy to see this interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer in the Believer. I loved her book Braiding Sweetgrass and enjoyed reading how she’d thinking about the pandemic in context of moss and the chestnut tree blight. The On Being podcast interviewed her as well.
- And, oh, this line from Jia Tolentino’s New Yorker essay about her Texas megachurch experience, which is also in her book of essays: “Christianity formed my deepest instincts, and I have been walking away from it for half my life.”
The more recent stuff
- Articles about communicating across ideological divides felt important and helpful: how to talk to extremists using deep canvassing techniques in Vox and how to talk to relatives about topics like Black Lives Matter in Vice.
- Similarly, Sarah Smarsh in the New York Times about what to do with our Covid rage. I called it “the everyday spirituality of Sarah Smarsh” at the time, and I’m sticking with it.
- It was almost hard to keep up with the analysis of how religion and spirituality are evolving online. A few that stand out:
- There was a look at Instavangelists: "Contrary to what you might have seen on Instagram, our purpose is not to optimize our one wild and precious life." The article mentions Glennon Doyle, of course; The New Yorker and Anne Hellen Petersen wrote about her too.
- And there was a look at internet spirituality on Vox: “When enormous swaths of people feel as though they have no power against evildoing … they tend to opt into narratives that provide a simple answer as to why the world is so terrifying.” (The book Strange Rites by Tara Isabella Burton also looks at these issues.)
- And I sort of wanted to start using TikTok when the New York Times told me about Abraham Piper’s religious critiques, but I don't even remember to check the other social media thingies regularly?
The bonus stuff, it obviously being too hard to choose just 10
- One in Nylon by Jeanna Kaldec about how tarot became a prayer and a way of expressing care after she left the church.
- One on Thoreau and Emerson and nature and divinity and mystery : A Backyard Walden by David Brockman in the Brick House’s Preachy section.
- One that’s so intense, I still haven’t read the whole thing: an examination of corporal punishment in evangelical households by Talia Lavin. Just … whew.
- One in Slate by Joshua Rivera about how the rapture affects the way evangelicals look at the world.
Section # 2: Not-religion links
Separating links into religious and not-religious is oversimplifying, but here we are. A few of the happy-making links that are still on my mind (or in my heart).
- Breathing: Meet my favorite new incense, which is made in London and which I learned about through Jenna Wortham.
- Taking solace: Many thought pieces have been written about nostalgia; I decided to just revel in it instead. Namely, in ‘80s-era commercials, as inspired by this article, and ’70s-era scratch-and-sniff stickers, as inspired by the glory of ’70s-era scratch-and-sniff stickers.
- Listening: Somehow Neko Case made me love This Little Light of Mine so much that it became the final song on my exercise playlist for a while.
- Buying: The world’s most delightfully strange candles spoke to me as well. Did I finally buy one? Yes. Yes, I did.
- (Not) Buying: I’d probably buy a Colorama teapot if I could decide between the colors.
- Eating: Sorry, but my biggest food news was that I got into making 90-second cakes and bread in the microwave (maybe the culinary equivalent of sweatpants?). It all started when I happened upon this recipe for 90-second bread from The Kitchn.
- Drinking: My new holiday tradition is to enjoy a Victorian-era punch with Dickensian pedigree called the Smoking Bishop.
- Protecting my time: I loved this reminder to take care of my time — guard it like a precious cake! (so guard it even more fiercely than a microwave cake!) — created by Chanel Miller, whose book I also loved.
- Reading: Even if you’re not as into medieval mystical nuns as I am, I recommend Lauren Groff’s new book, Matrix. And I love this look in Pioneer Works at what inspired her.
Want more Soul Bone? You can read more about my soul bone, or sign up for the monthly newsletter.
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