The Last Word

In each issue, The Last Word features the views of a guest columnist.

When is Sacred Not Sacred?

After the anti-Semitic massacre of worshipers in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an editorial in The New York Times raised this question: “Can’t we be safe in our homes, in our schools, in our most sacred places?” Seeing the … [Continue]

Material Gateways

Recently, I’ve plugged into a new app, “Deep Time Walk,” while on my morning perambulations. Developed by ecologist Stephan Harding and others, the app walk is 4.6-kilometers-long, just under three miles, representing 4.6 billion years of the Earth’s … [Continue]

Show Me the Ether

As a nature enthusiast, I was recently drawn to Tristan Gooley’s How to Read Water: Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea. In this field guide to the often-overlooked characteristics of movement, Gooley explains that all bodies of water can be … [Continue]

What’s in a Name?

The name of our magazine is Faith & Form and when I started to think about a subject for my column in this issue, I suddenly realized that I almost always address form instead of faith. Why? Is it so difficult to describe one’s faith in words? Of … [Continue]

What Should Mosque Architecture Be?

The religion of Islam is built upon an understanding of the relationship between humans and nature. Many verses in the Quran urge Muslims to think deeply about creation and the miracles of the universe. Fasting, prayer, and all other forms of worship … [Continue]

“The Pierless Bridge”

How should we protect and, in the event of disruption, help communities recreate “sacred space”? The question itself provokes more questions, including unintended consequences. Set aside the goal of an impregnable sanctuary and think about the sacred … [Continue]

To Notice

In the words of architect John Hejduk, “the fundamental issue of architecture is that does it affect the spirit or doesn’t it. If it doesn’t affect the spirit, it’s building. It if affects the spirit, it’s architecture.” I strive to make the … [Continue]

Landscape as Poetic and Sacred Architecture

Maybe seeing the Plains is like seeing an icon: what seems stern and almost empty is merely open, a door into some simple and holy state. Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography Eons ago, a retreating glacial blade gouged a region through … [Continue]

Everything Old is…Old Again

We are a nostalgic people, in part because the past can be known, judged, and the “good parts” can be repeated. There is little risk in replicating from the past what today is deemed “traditional.” Tradition is comfortable. We can snuggle down in it. … [Continue]

Sacred Dirt

Imagine, for a moment, a forest, perhaps a redwood grove, with sunlight slanting through the trees. If you have ever stood among the redwoods, it is hard not to feel a sense of the holy, what the theologian Rudolf Otto described as the “numinous.” In … [Continue]