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Illustration by Mathieu Bourel

Mere Virtuosity

When you are really young a song is often practical or compulsory. It has a function. It tempers loneliness when you sing it to yourself; or it breathes a different life into a schoolyard game or a movie; or it’s sung at gatherings, as a hymn or anthem; or it’s what you play on an instrument, for obligatory reasons that might be obscure to you, every Thursday at 4:30 with a teacher, sitting on gray metal folding chairs in a basement classroom.

Made to Hear: Cochlear Implants and Raising Deaf Children. By Laura Mauldin. Minnesota, 2016. 224p. PB, $25.

Ear to the Battleground

Of the five senses, vision tends to get the glory. We hail great innovators as visionary, praise writers for their insight, and thank friends for offering perspective. We call prophets seers, but also admire daily perspicacity and seek to avoid myopia and blind spots. Just consider the words spectacles and spectacular, and you catch a glimpse—not a whisper, a glimpse—of the divergence between vision in the optometrist’s office and vision in our cultural construction of it. But while vision gets the glory, hearing has our trust. We want justice to be blind during court hearings.

Photograph by Fred Viebahn

An Interview With Rita Dove

In Germany, I began to experience what it was like to think in another language. Also, the way Germans looked at me—with curiosity but no racial baggage—was so different than Americans. I began to understand a little bit more about my own country and how I fit in or not. 

House vs. Home

A house is not a home. It is but a pile of sticks. “‘Home is,” on the other hand, as Robert Frost famously said, “the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in.’” Less well known, and more resonant, are the words that follow: “‘I should have called it / Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.’”

Solstice vs. Equinox

When it comes to the workings of the universe, Albert Einstein famously said, “God does not play dice.” Einstein said nothing about the dreidel, however, which may explain why Earth and the other planets in our solar system spin like tops, a touch wobbly but more or less self-​correcting, whirling about in space toward whatever bang or whimper the future has in store.