The protagonist of The Visitor is Walter Vale, an academic who has retired from life after his wife’s death. A political economist at a small Connecticut college, Walter (played by Richard Jenkins) is no longer engaged with his students. He’s taken a reduced teaching load ostensibly to complete a book, but he’s not writing one.
David Gordon Green’s Snow Angels begins with the discordant sounds of a small-town high school band practicing on a football field under gray skies. It ends with the angry cry of a heartbroken grandmother calling to her dog from a back porch.
Darwinists are communists. And Nazis. They hate our freedom. And—this might be worst of all—they are New Atheists. Or so suggests the film Expelled, Ben Stein’s comedic documentary about scientists who have lost their jobs for questioning the Darwinian consensus. Stein is an actor best known for his role as the hapless teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (“Anyone?
The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing Alive enough to have the strength to die. —“Neutral Tones” (Psalm 72))
It won’t last long, this snow that sheathes the dooryard pine in April and lays its feckless cover on the slope behind. Crocuses, just tall enough, poke their small blue noses through. It’s clear that they’re alive enough to live. April’s gale is loud as bombers. What’s left of ice around the pond in town is rough as predators’ teeth. The fisher fells the luckless squirrel.
There’s much I too may try to cover. For all of that I feel a gladness in watching this omni-inclusive white blot out the neutral tones that pushed our brilliant poet to ponder death, and love’s deceit, its cruelty. We’ve been together, my love and I, near three decades, which have scudded by like these sideways flakes. My lover-wife. There can come pangs, but the freshets have started
to wander the brush and make their signs: soon we’ll find the trillium, the painted kind, in that secret place which I discovered springs ago, and which since then I’ve kept a secret from all but her—from even our children; and the valley’s white-faced Herefords, while winter endured, dropped new calves, which now, though mud clots up like blood, shine clean as a man’s most colorful dream.
What is this one’s dream? That life go on as ever. That all our lives go on. No more than dream, of course. I know, the planet heating up, the cretin politicians waving swords, as if, by counter-logic, war might transform earth into something more saintly. So many hard facts conspire against me. To know that, though, is to make me cling the harder to gifts that appear to be given
without my having to deserve them. Flowers, beasts, the glinting trees. My disposition, which has moved me here to mute dispute with my great better, in spite of all my darker doubt. Inkling that something will soon come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth. Let us praise the Lord, and every weather. Or the smile on the mouth of my lover, which still can blind like snow.
Or the road agent waving from his bright-red plow as it smooths the mud-clotted back lanes over.
A curving trail—the callused field obscures it until we shovel out the clotted brick, lug a ton or two of sand to fit trenches, level rumpled earth, correct courses. A mallet stuns a thumb, new blisters bud as self-impressed we shout, “This row is done!” but then a kid names names, prefers George Toad, Kate Cricket, slaps William Mosquito, pats Barkly, unleashed, our best company. We rest and share cold drinks. David brings homemade muffins, burned, blueberry plenty. Sun flickers around us, summer’s wings. Yet sand, we need more sand! Deer watch from trees while we adjust the pathways on our knees.
Philosopher Michael Ruse is an ardent evolutionist and unbeliever, but he often comes to the defense of believers who are under fire from militant atheists like Richard Dawkins. Ruse says his sympathetic stance toward religion is partly due to his Quaker upbringing. “I grew up surrounded by gentle, loving (and very intelligent) Christians. I never forget that,” said Ruse. He also objects to what he regards as bad atheist arguments. Evolution explains the existence of religion as an adaptive mechanism, but that doesn’t necessarily explain it away. “It is as plausible that my love of Mozart’s operas is a byproduct of adaptation, but it doesn’t make them any the less beautiful and meaningful,” Ruse said (New York Times interview, July 8).