And his path to warmth

Frost’s warm exterior hid a tragic interior. [ Photo by Dmitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images]

In reading “The Raven,” Robert Frost likely identified with the following lines: “Deep into that darkness peering / long I stood there wondering, fearing, doubting, / dreaming dreams no mortal dared to dream before.” While Edgar Allen Poe’s protagonist gazes into an earthly darkness, he also ponders that deepest, most opaque darkness: The universe.

Poe is typically remembered as America’s “dark” writer. Frost, by contrast, seems … different — a cheerful New Englander full of light, naturalistic poetry. But the gulf between Poe and Frost is not so vast.

Frost was one of the darkest poets who ever lived.


Yet Finding our Soul — Solving Our Meaning Crisis — Is Crucial to Social Salvation

It is, unfortunately, only too clear that if the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption.

— Carl Gustav Jung

A young Jung. [Public Domain.]

The unrelenting crises of 2020 — economic, environmental, political,biological — reveal we are lost. Proof of our purposelessness is plentiful, apparent in rising rates of mental illness and especially in skyrocketing numbers of suicides, which occur both through the slow degradation of substance abuse and quicker, messier methods.

Clearly, we’ve strayed off some path. It is a path we cannot name but used to…

“The Last Day of a Condemned Man.” (Public Domain)

For years the wise man had wandered through the desert. For years he had fled false justice so that he could know true justice. Yet now, callused feet submerged in the Dead Sea’s stinging salt water, he awaits his arrest. Why?

The reason is simple: He is tired.

For a long while the wise man looks across the western sea. The sun sets below the horizon. It goes to light places he has never seen, ones with different views on justice and truth and morality. He wonders: What qualifies as truth there? He wonders, for he knows there is no…

In 2020, we forgot key 2,000-year-old principles. In 2021, let’s remember them.

In public life today, there are those who think principle is for “suckers” and “losers.” For them, might makes right. They bully the weak; make arguments that trigger fears instead of hopes; take authority as truth instead of truth as authority; and exploit all they encounter, squeezing both organizations and human beings like lemons before — when done — moving on to the next unlucky fruit.

These soulless souls have no higher purpose than accumulation — of money, of status, of sexual partners. Fundamental principles like equality under law, empathy, and honesty mean nothing. Only power matters to them. Why…

COVID-19 & the Tension Between “Doing” & “Being”

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.

— Kurt Vonnegut.

One lesson of COVID-19 is that society’s maintainers are angry— rightfully so. (Image Credit: INSEAD.)

2020’s greatest gift is 20/20 vision. Because of COVID-19, we’ve suffered; because we’ve suffered, we see more clearly.

Once-blurred truths have sharpened. We realize that “unskilled workers” are “essential workers,” that lust — for money, status, fame — makes us more vulnerable to disease, that we are human, all too human.

After the Scientific Revolution, some Enlightenment thinkers equated scientific progress with moral or political progress. Unfortunately, revolution often becomes devolution.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. Martin Luther King, Jr.

French polymath Marquis de Condorcet believed political or ethical progress was an “unavoidable consequence” of scientific progress. He was wrong.

At core, politics requires power. Ideas move hearts; power moves history.

Although legislators operate through majoritarian coalitions, since an energized plurality of any population habitually opposes even benign change, democratic populism alone is no sure safeguard against a tyranny of the minority.

For most of history, the path to political power ran through nepotism, exploitative economic policies like mercantilism, offensive wars justified as defensive ones, and other exercises of “might makes right.”

Today, authority is less naked; neither generals nor politicians…

How Revisiting Post-Traumatic Stress Can Spur Post-Traumatic Growth

Trauma shatters your most basic assumptions about yourself and your world. It causes you to retreat, like a turtle into its shell. But everything you want is on the other side of fear. It’s time to come out.

In 2020 and 2021, many of us have had time to think. For some, this time has led to a realization: We’re lost.

We once had a soul — a purpose, an identity — but somewhere along the way, this coherence shattered. The path out of the foggy forest of uncertainty became obscured, covered with the dead leaves of the past, tangled over with variegated thorns that we falsely believe block our way.

The inability to see a path quickly leads to the false assumption that there is no path. But there is a path. Finding it will take work…

In a revolutionary new book, two doctors describe the surprising upsides of ADHD

If you’re reading this article, you probably (a) have ADHD or (b) know someone who has ADHD. If so, you’re in for some good news. (As long as you can read to the end, that is…)

Hallowell and Ratey’s first book focused on ADHD’s downsides. Their latest work is a bit more optimistic. [Image Credit: Random House]

I recently had the chance to read an advance copy of ADHD 2.0. Often when I get such copies, I quickly skim the first few pages before realizing that the book isn’t for me. When I received ADHD 2.0, however, I read it in a single sitting.

The first reason the book interested me was that the authors are clearly credible. Both (a) have…

All Men Are Created Equal

Note: I published the below on Facebook after deciding to delete it for a month. I quit partly because my current job prevents me from discussing current events, and Facebook proved too tempting. The below is related to political history — not any upcoming election.

Thomas Jefferson.

Too many of us have forgotten all the valuable things we share in common: that we are — all of us — American; that nearly all of us came from “somewhere else”; that (for those of us who arrived unchained) our ancestors were much poorer than we are; that we were often fleeing bigotry and…

Confronted with Biological Cancer and the Moral Cancers of anti-Semitism and Sexism, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Persevered

As I write this, I am cognizant of the limits of what I can say as a federal judicial law clerk:

Law is imperfect; but — when molded by minds like Justice Ginsburg’s — it increases everyone’s freedom by limiting the liberty of would-be oppressors to oppress. It is, at its best, the dam holding back the tide of humanity’s lowest instincts.

Justice Ginsburg dedicated her life to maintaining that legal dam — to maintaining the Constitution and laws, those “wise restraints which make us free.” How remarkable. Few souls go through life with convictions for the public good that…

Michael Shammas

Formerly edited Harvard Law’s student newspaper. Enjoy reading non-featured stories and follow liberally. Currently editing, and updating, old fiction pieces.

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