The Ceaseless Longing

Driving home late this rainy spring evening I am listening to the radio. A man is talking about one of those untranslateable German words, like schadenfreude. This one is fernweh. Literally, it’s “farsickness,” but what the Germanic word connotes, the man says, is something more like “longing for a place you’ve never been.” Maybe I…

The Stone Wall Whispers

It’s the week after Easter and I am building a stone wall. Well, not quite. I am an apprentice to a real stone mason, my neighbor Mike. For months my only job is to find stones and pile them at the work site. The land here in Pennsylvania is mostly rocks, but the stone finder’s…

Passion, Anybody?

“What are you passionate about?” Anyone’s who’s ever had a job interview has had to endure this question. It’s first up on the eHarmony profile (and if you’re afraid that, despite your best efforts, your response will be a cliché—‘family and friends!’—there are coaches who will help you write something catchier). I bring up passion…

Trust Yourself

Fifth in a five-part series Chaim Potok, the distinguished Jewish novelist, tells how he knew he wanted to be a writer when he was very young. But his mother said, “Chaim, be a brain surgeon. You’ll save a lot of people from dying, and you’ll make a better living.” So he grew up and went…

The Secret Prayer

  Fourth in a five-part series As a young boy I remember going to “Prayer Meeting” on Wednesday nights at the Baptist Church. We sat in the pews, we sang hymns, the pastor preached a sermon–it was just like Sunday morning, except that we took some prayer requests and the preacher offered a longer “pastoral…