As soon as you hear the title, you can probably guess what kind of film The Book of Eli is going to be. Yes, it is the story about a man named Eli (played by Denzel Washington, who is also one of the film’s producers), who has a book; it is also about the Bible, which in this case seems to provide not a set of beliefs but simply the hope that humanity has a future.
This was a gale that formed a fist, a punch turning into a full kick that almost sent me flying downhill. The Greek word translates as “a movement of air.” But this was karate; I loved the force of it, its full release and enthusiasm.
In my tedium, I wish I might keel over when that other spirit blows, or that that fierce, holy breath would fill me to almost-bursting, a red balloon buoyant with air, pressure inside and out, and no strings attached.
I am fearfully made and I imagine the sleek curves of my kidneys and the round red onion shape of my bladder. I will never see those parts with their perfect forms, their elegant overlaps sealed in my skin. All I know is their transparent function, or its change, or that blind nerve dance we call pain.
I will never see those long pale ropes that take my food and turn it to steps or speech. All I know is the wonder of containing such exchange, that lets the morning eggs and the noon bread rise as song in the kitchen, laughter in the back yard, rise as indignation, care, or grieving, rise as love or longing or belated thanks.
This winter I had the opportunity to observe a Caravaggio painting upclose and often: his Supper at Emmaus (1601) was on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago from its permanent home in London’s National Gallery. From the Century offices, it was only a few steps across Michigan Avenue to see this vibrant, dramatic painting.
My neighbor scrapes old paint from the fence around his pasture, an annual chore he attends to, for he knows the white he applies revives each slat. I think of his recent essay, peeling back the layers, as he said, of online education, revealing a barren base devoid of the body’s subtle gestures— how a screen cannot replicate confusion written on a brow, engagement flashing in the eyes, or a hand touching a shoulder. How a cursor cannot translate the voice’s inflections, nuanced as the nod of his head, greeting me, while he lays down his tool to rub my dog’s ears, while he motions toward the remaining wood, tells how he’ll finish the job before winter.
Nathan Eckstrom teaches English in the Boston Public Schools, one of the most diverse school systems in the country. Its more than 9,000 students come from about 100 countries, and they speak more than 80 languages. Instead of taking a vacation this past summer, Eckstrom went to Haiti to find the places where several of his students live and to visit their extended families. He knows that he will be able to make better connections with his Haitian students after learning about their culture and country. Over the past ten years, Boston teachers have made similar trips to Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and other countries. Fund for Teachers, a Houston-based nonprofit, helps fund these trips (Boston Globe, September 12).