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    PloughCast 81: Can Metaphors Help Us Live Well?

    By Joy Marie Clarkson and Susannah Black Roberts

    April 17, 2024
    • Beverly Sholl-Canonico

      i always appreciate these discussions. thank you for them. this conversation's mentions of metaphor reminded me of one of my own songs; (i am) a tree". my youtube page is billcanonico @billcanonico6657 search "a tree"

    About This Episode

    Joy Clarkson discusses her new book, and the importance of metaphor.

    Why are metaphors important? How can they help us live well – and how can they go wrong? Why should we not think of ourselves as computers? And what does all this mean for our language about God?

    In the discussion, Joy and Susannah range widely through topics including apophatic theology, the inevitability of metaphorical language, Owen Barfield, anthroposophy, Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, Suzanne Simard’s research on how trees communicate via fungal networks, and much more.

    [You can listen to this episode of The PloughCast on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

    Recommended Reading


    Susannah Black Roberts: Welcome back to The PloughCast! I’m Susannah Black Roberts, senior editor at Plough. I’m speaking today with Joy Clarkson, my friend and colleague at Plough, and author most recently of the book You Are a Tree: And Other Metaphors to Nourish Life, Thought and Prayer.

    Joy, thank you so much for joining us. This is a podcast to discuss, among other things, your most recent book called You Are a Tree: And Other Metaphors to Nourish Life, Thought, and Prayer. It’s really lovely. I’ve just finished reading it. It’s a series of gentle and thoughtful meditations on different metaphors that we use to describe different aspects of life, which really, it requires you to slow down as you’re reading.

    It feels nourishing to read. The thing that reminds me most of that I’ve read most recently is Makoto Fujimura’s Culture Care. That might just be a stylistic thing. I think we’re going to talk a little bit about the problem with bad metaphors, but do you want to just talk about how you came to write this, like what your aim was, what your inspirations were?

    Joy Clarkson: Absolutely. It’s lovely to hear you talking about the book, and I take the comparison with Mako to be a very positive one. It’s the funny thing about writing a book is that you spend all this time working away on it in your little corner. It’s much less immediately gratifying than writing an essay in a magazine, which comes out after a few months. The fun thing about writing a book is people starting to read it and react to it.

    The idea behind this book is to give my elevator pitch, should one need that pitch to be given, is that the metaphors that we use shape how we think, pray, and live – I don’t think that Plough readers will probably need a lot of convincing on that topic, some people do – but the basic idea is that the metaphors that we use shape the expectations that we have about life and how we interact with it.

    One of my favorite chapters was writing on love as a disease, so it was about the different metaphors we look for love and about how often we describe love as some unfortunate thing that happens to us. We talk about falling in love, which sounds a little bit violent. We talk about being lovesick. We talk about being crazy in love, and of course, that has its roots far back into ancient philosophy like in Plato in the Phaedrus. But that metaphor of love as a sickness or disease shapes our expectations of it, makes us think that love is something that kind of takes us over, and it might be a good thing that takes us over, it might be the divine madness, but it’s something that kind of happens to us. But of course, if you’ve been in any loving relationship for a long time, you know that love needs more agency. And so if we always describe love as something that just happens to us, then it’s something that can stop happening to us, and we don’t have much choice in the matter. So that chapter then explores other metaphors for love, like love as a home, somewhere we belong, where we let people in, where we shut people out.

    And that’s just one example of the many ways in which metaphors kind of shape how we live and how we think and how we proceed in life. And the inspiration for it was partially, as we’ll get into, kind of observing how the dominant metaphors that are beginning to rise over the last hundred years, or probably even more than that, are metaphors of machines and money, and thinking about how those metaphors are kind of inhumane in many ways that we can get into.

    And so the book was kind of wanting to respond to that, and it wanted to do, I wanted to do exactly what you described, Susannah, which was to slow people down, to help them pay attention to the words that they’re using and how it might be shaping how they live, and then also to pay attention to these various experiences in their life, like looking at a tree or watching the sunrise or feeling the heaviness of carrying something. And to see how these experiences, these more organic natural experiences sometimes offer us kind of more deep and more nourishing metaphors for living and thinking and praying than the more mechanistic or money-oriented metaphors might.

    And the last thing I’ll say is that it’s motivated partially out of my own kind of personal obsession with metaphors and poetry and with what I think is the deeply human need to be able to put our words into experience. But it also kind of grew out of tangents of my own research for my PhD, especially thinking about how the metaphor of nature as a machine has worked itself so thoroughly into the world that we now basically just think of nature as a machine, and we forget that that’s a metaphor. So that’s a long rambling answer, but that’s kind of some of what the book cares about, and some of the swampy depths of my mind from which it came.

    Susannah Black Roberts: You begin with yourself as transplanted, as a houseplant. But you also kind of begin with the danger of bad metaphor, and particularly of thinking of ourselves as computers. You know, we process things, we get our wires crossed, we have inputs, we have to crunch, whatever.

    The thing that obviously I’m kind of obsessed with and have been partly because of this technology issue that we have been putting together is the badness, the sort of real psychological and spiritual anguish and awfulness of thinking of ourselves as machines in the age of AI. And it does seem to me that the power of language and the power of metaphor primes us in a bad way to misunderstand the world in a pretty profound way in that area. Does that ring true to you?

    Joy Clarkson: Well, I think that the thing about language is that it’s pretty much impossible to speak literally. So we are always using metaphors, and we’re not always using them carefully. And so I think one of the biggest dangers of metaphor is that we forget that it’s a metaphor. So in my kind of introduction, I talk about the fact that, and this is actually woven into all of the chapters, so each one of the chapters is people are, and it has parentheses, (not) trees. Wisdom is parentheses, (not) light. And the reason I do that is that a metaphor at its heart is, you know, it is as Aristotle puts it, carrying the properties of one thing over to another.

    But inside of a metaphor is always this kind of whispered negation, right? We say people are trees because we know that they are not in fact trees. And that there’s actually something that’s helpful about that with metaphors, because by thinking about a tree and carrying over its properties to another person, you might notice things about people. But also in knowing that a person is not a tree, you then pay attention to the human more closely and think about the ways that a human is not like a tree. So there’s always that kind of internal negation in metaphors that they are about similarities, but they’re also about disruption and a lack of alignment or attunement.

    And so I think, you know, when I think about mechanistic metaphors, and I try to point this out in the book, I don’t necessarily think all mechanistic metaphors are bad at all. You know, there is something quite that feels satisfying about saying, I’m going to recharge over this weekend. Like that feels correct. I am going to shut down and recharge. But the problem comes with – there’s two problems. One is that there are more and less appropriate metaphors. So I think about this with sometimes you’ll read a metaphor and you’ll just go, Oh, yuck. No, that is not – why did we use that metaphor? That seems inappropriate. So some metaphors are just not as appropriate or as apt for describing our experiences. And so maybe the mechanistic metaphor, and all that has to do with computers is not as appropriate for the human experience.

    But also, and I think actually more fundamentally, the problem, and this is what’s happening now is that we forget that we are using metaphors, we start to think that, that we really do recharge, that we really do “update” our friends, that our wires really are crossed. And we begin to impose on human beings something that should only be for machines.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Your focus on specific metaphors and words reminds me very much of Owen Barfield, and you actually mentioned Barfield in the book. Do you have, can you just sort of describe Barfield’s approach to these things, just because I think he’s not as well-known as he should be, and I like him a whole lot?

    Joy Clarkson: Yes, Barfield is a fascinating figure, one of the kind of understudied members of the Inklings. I’m actually doing my small part, hopefully, to undo that. I have an article that I’m waiting to submit to some journal about Barfield. He’s one of the Inklings. He was one of the only ones who wasn’t an academic, so he was a barrister most of his life, which he found incredibly grim and boring.

    But in his spare time, he kind of worked on his philosophy. And he was really interested in language and in what he called kind of the development of human consciousness. So one of the reasons he’s less well known is that he was a Christian, but he was also a devoted anthroposophist, which was a group started by Rudolf Steiner.

    So, if you want to go on a deep dive in Wikipedia, this is one for you. Rudolf Steiner came out of the theosophical tradition, if you can call it that, the theosophical movement, we’ll call it that, that was basically a reaction in many ways to kind of, you know, modern rationality. And it started to believe there was an objective spiritual world that you could access through the power of your mind. And that if we could all do that, we would bring about – kind of like an elevated mankind, humankind. And so Barfield thought this was actually pretty harmonious with Christianity.

    This is a part of a place where Lewis and Barfield kind of vehemently parted ways. And I think eventually – I read an article recently, looking at their letters, eventually, they just kind of had to stop talking about it, because Lewis was just like, he just thought it was crazy. And he just needed Barfield to calm down. He just wasn’t going to agree with it. And so he said, let’s just not talk about it, because we’re not having any fruitful conversations about this.

    But the point is, Barfield thought that Christianity and theosophy could meet, and the way in which he thought it could meet was that, in his mind – sorry, that’s probably getting way more detailed than you need.

    Susannah Black Roberts: No, no, no, I love this stuff!

    Joy Clarkson: In his mind, like, human consciousness was on this kind of trajectory of evolution. And we started with what he would call original participation, which was this kind of sense where human beings didn’t stand in opposition to the world, but were a part of it, and where it naturally didn’t project, but it perceived the spiritual in the world. And it looked at kind of natural material things as symbols of the divine. And he kind of talks about it, using people like Lévy-Bruhl, who is an early sociologist, as kind of a “totemic consciousness,” the idea that everything in the world was kind of a totem referencing something beyond itself.

    But then he says that we have this development of consciousness and like kind of early modernity, where we began to have a sense of the development of the “I,” like, “myself” being internal and separated from the world. And he describes this in various ways. I usually like to refer to it as the pure cussedness, because that’s kind of the like, that’s the word he used to describe it. And he says this is actually a really important part of the development of human nature, because it makes us able to have advances in science and to be able to pay attention to things more precisely, because we’re not always kind of dealing with everything as these grand symbols.

    But that the problem is, is that we, we basically start – and a big part of this also has to kind of a convoluted theory of perception, – but that we stop, we start thinking that nothing is behind the sign, we start thinking that things in the world aren’t totems that point beyond themselves. And so he says, what we need to do is get to this place of final participation, where we retain all of the kind of clarity of mind that we have in, basically, modernity and scientific thinking, but with an awareness of the divine that’s beyond.

    And so a lot of that is a little bit wild with the anthroposophy elements, and it does have these kind of end of the world things. But I think the basic principle behind Barfield, which is helpful, is just this reminder that, that perception is in activities, the way that we look at things, it’s not just like a stamp, it’s not a machine, I don’t look at something and it’s implanted on my mind, how I see the world is formed by my habits and thoughts of imagination, the kind of culture that I’m in.

    And so there might be more to the world than we notice, and to notice, kind of, those spiritual dimensions, we might have to train ourselves in attention. He describes the pure cussedness state of mind, the kind of anti-spiritual, as coming from a habit of inattention. And so I think I used Barfield when I was talking about, in the chapter on wisdom is light, where he talks about “understanding,” originally came from the word to stand under something. So the very physical act of standing under something was what kind of gave the meaning to the word understanding. So understanding is not this kind of disembodied knowledge, but that we know things actually with our bodies. And so I find him useful in so much as he reminds me that what I see in the world is not actually objective and that I could be missing a lot. And so I actually hope this book might be a little bit of a practice of attention, that it’s helping us move beyond the habit of inattention.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Yeah, it is very, I mean, reading the book is very Barfieldian in that it, it points, it calls up images that by their very nature point beyond themselves. And you talk, you know, explicitly about that, but you also allow the images to kind of do their own work, which I think is kind of just part of the artistry of the writing.

    So the other aspect of Barfield’s thing with signs is that they’re not – we think of them as arbitrary, and they’re not arbitrary, they actually they are related in some we’re perceiving, we’re not inventing them and imposing them, we’re kind of picking up on them. And there are actually – so the book that we were all reading over Covid that you kind of introduced to the broader friend group, you and Alison Milbank, were the two ones actually who introduced it was Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, which I will definitely drop a link to in the show notes, because if you want like, kind of the novel version of your book, and also a kind of novel version of Barfield, I would say Piranesi is the way to go.

    And then the other book, I don’t know if you’ve read this yet, but you kind of have to, is Philip Pullman, who, you know, is extremely anti-Christian, he thinks of himself as the anti C. S. Lewis, and his original trilogy, The Golden Compass trilogy was very grimly anti-Christian by the end. But the first two books of his new trilogy set in the same world are – something’s happened to the guy, and he’s getting Barfieldian, and I don’t know what’s going on. But if you haven’t read those two books, I really recommend them because I think you’d enjoy them.

    Joy Clarkson: Well, and Pullman even in his very atheistic modes, you know, he has the kind of stardust thing, which to me is, kind of, it’s almost like an attempt to reenchant the world through a scientific mode. And I think Barfield appreciates something in that in that the idea is if there is meaning behind things, then if you just paid really close attention to things, you might find them. So maybe Philip Pullman is doing that by paying close attention to his world and finding that it actually does reveal things to him.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Well, we can hope. And the layers of meaning, the sort of Barfieldian, like non arbitrary symbols, he actually in the newer books goes more into the golden compass itself and the way that symbols work in the golden compass itself and the way that symbols work in his world is like, I just don’t know how this guy is going to avoid eventually becoming Christian. I mean, it’s, I don’t know,

    Joy Clarkson: Which book is this?

    Susannah Black Roberts: So the first one, the first one of the new trilogy is called La Belle Sauvage. And then the second one is called The Secret Commonwealth. And the new trilogy is collectively called The Books of Dust. So I …

    Joy Clarkson: Well, and you know, you know what the “Secret Commonwealth” is a reference to?

    Susannah Black Roberts: Yeah, the Kirk thing, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, which I have not read, but I own a copy of. Have you read it?

    Joy Clarkson: I have. And it is the book is actually supposed to be an apologetic argument to rationalist atheists being, you know, it’s written from in the highlands by this minister. And his argument is basically was – not an argument, but this was like a common thing. So he’s just saying that he’s, like, met fairies, and so he’s writing about them. It is very amusing that fairies happen to take on the exact kind of like empire structure of the United Kingdom.

    But the argument is basically like, well, you know, you atheists have your rationalist arguments, but fairies exist. So like, obviously, and clearly, so how does that play into your atheistic world, which I find funny, because it’s just like the argument is basically, well, obviously fairies exist. So maybe God exists, too. But I guess if you lived in the highlands in in that era, you might just be rather convinced that fairies existed.

    Susannah Black Roberts: I used to think – so like when I would read like E. Nesbit books, you know, Five Children and It, and all those books, I used to sort of think like, how are these kids supposed to go back to like their everyday 1915 or 1930 English lives after meeting a Psammead? Like how are – like, what are they supposed to do with that? Like, and like, agnostic, twelve-year-old me was just like, if I met a Psammead, I think I might start to wonder if God was real. And I think that would change my life. So the sort of the same experience. Yeah.

    Susannah Black Roberts: So the other thing I wanted to criticize you for is your dislike of the London Underground, which I was really shocked about. And, you know, but, you know, that’s OK. You can be wrong about some things.

    Joy Clarkson: Well, yeah, now that I’m not on the Bakerloo line as often I don’t feel quite as powerfully negative about it.

    Susannah Black Roberts: OK, that’s good. I like that for you. Do you want to talk just about some of the other chapters? Maybe the chapter on light on wisdom is light, I found really, yeah, I was gonna say illuminating, which is, you know, it’s, it’s impossible to talk without metaphor. And we apparently shouldn’t worry about that.

    That was the other thing that I thought was really helpful. You know, there is a kind of like, there can be a Christian suspicion, as well as a rationalist suspicion of or a materialist suspicion of metaphor as dangerous or as, as, you know, misleading, especially when we use metaphors of God. And one of the first things that you did in the book was defuse that worry. Do you want to just talk a little bit about our analogical language about God and how, like how we see that work in the Bible and then how the theology of that kind of has been understood to work out?

    Joy Clarkson: Sure. Well, it’s, it’s an immense topic. And so I did my best to kind of gently tap dance over it so that what needed to be brought up was brought up and the rest was left to the imagination. But metaphor is one of the main ways that we’re able to talk about God. And there could be something kind of, especially when you have in mind that Aristotelian definition of carrying properties of one thing to another. It could feel almost blasphemous, to say something about God with metaphor to, to use the properties of these earthly fallible things to talk about the heavenly infallible God. But I think the first thing to note is, as you said, A, we just, we are incapable of speaking without metaphor, even at kind of some of the very basic levels of language, our tangible, visible experiences are informing the way, the words that we speak, whether that’s with language of up and down or lighter and heavier or darker and lighter, we’re always kind of speaking metaphor. So that’s, one thing is to kind of just say, well, you can’t get away from it. So on some level accept it.

    The second thing though, is that scripture furnishes us with many, many metaphors with which we speak about God. It speaks of God as a rock, a bear, a tower, a nursing mother, a light, a, you know, so many, many, many of course, I go on and on. And so we should feel comfortable using those metaphors because that is what is given to us kind of in the tradition to speak about God. And so we shouldn’t feel uncomfortable using the language that we’ve been given in, in Revelation.

    I think also metaphors are particularly appropriate in speaking about God because they have that kind of negation element. So here we could kind of bring to light the idea of apophatic theology. So, you know, cataphatic theology is a theology that we, we use to affirm, you know, Jesus is God. God is the creator of all things.

    But apophatic theology is speaking about God by saying what God is not. And that has this tradition of basically preserving the otherness of God, that God is beyond our capacity to just describe or explain. And I think metaphors are really appropriate because they always have that kind of apophatic impulse – we can use these words to describe God, but we know that that doesn’t contain God.

    But I think the final reason that metaphor is, is useful and is important in theological language and language about God, is that all things have their, at least in a kind of traditional way of thinking about things, the Christian tradition, all things have their being and their origin in God. So to some degree, everything that we experience and see in the world, kind of borrows its properties from God. And so it should, it is fitting that we are able to speak about God through the images and the experiences that he’s made possible through our very existence.

    Susannah Black Roberts: So that actually kind of implies that at least to some degree, the metaphors go the other way, like, or the metaphors that we, the language that we use about God actually has the metaphor running the other way than what we might think. And Ephesians, you know, talks about this. All right, so this is Ephesians 14. Saint Paul writes, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family” – or that would be the pater from whom every patria – “in heaven and on earth is named.” So from whom all fatherhood is named, “that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant you to be strengthened, et cetera, et cetera.”

    So basically, Saint Paul is saying that it’s not that we use father as a metaphor for God. It’s much more that God uses human fatherhood as a metaphor for himself. And that’s also what Saint Paul says about marriage. So he says that, you know, it’s not that we use marriage as a metaphor for what happens with Christ in the church. It’s much more that what happens with Christ in the church is the real thing, and then God has set up human marriage as a lived metaphor for that, which is a very bizarre kind of back-to-front way of thinking, but it does seem to be what, you know, the Bible is implying.

    And, you know, I’m not … I don’t know how far you can press them.

    Joy Clarkson: Yeah, of course. So the way that Thomas Aquinas articulates that, and I think I quote this in the book, is he says, “Our knowledge of God is derived from the perfections which flow from him to creatures, which perfections are in God in a more imminent way than in creatures.” So that’s going again to the idea that we understand God through the perfection of marriage, but that flows from God into creatures. “Our intellect apprehends them as they are in creatures. As it apprehends them, it signifies them by name.” So we apprehend perfections, then we’re able to speak about them. “Therefore, as the names applied to God, this is the perfections which they signify, such as goodness, life, and the like, and their road of communication. These names belong properly to God, and more properly than they belong to creatures, and are applied primarily to him.”

    So that seems to be Aquinas basically saying what you have just said, which is that the properties of marriage or fatherhood or motherhood or these very certain things are more properly God’s than they are the creatures.’ But then Aquinas also has this thing where he talks about basically, there will be some qualities of creatures which wouldn’t be qualities of God because they are created and their createdness is kind of fundamental to their creatureliness, whereas God is uncreated. So there’s some kind of boundaries in there, but it’s always slippery because everything is always deriving from God. So one’s mind begins to bend a little bit eventually.

    Susannah Black Roberts: The thing that doing this kind of theology reminds me most of is like, I used to be really into, and I to a certain degree still am, into, like popular physics books like that talk about Einsteinian physics, which I’m not a science person. I don’t really know what I’m like, half the time I don’t know what I’m reading. I don’t understand it, but it’s like thinking about the two slit experiment. It’s like thinking about the uncertainty principle or Schrödinger’s cat. There’s something very strange in reality that we’re trying to picture that is really fun to try to grapple with, but not straightforward.

    Joy Clarkson: Totally. And I will also say, maybe this is a good reminder for me, back before I started my PhD, between my masters and my PhD, I read a physics book because I’m sure it’s very out of, like it’s probably very old now and they’ve figured out how the physical world works. But I did it because I was like, oh, I won’t have time to do this. So I’m doing my PhD, not anticipating how many ways one can find to procrastinate. But it was, it was really in line with what you’re saying. It was really good because I think that just reading it kind of set me up for the next few years to think about how, how much more complex and interesting the world is than we sometimes think of it.

    And it’s that great phrase of, you know, a little science will make you an atheist, but a lot of science will turn you back into a believer.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And there’s something interesting in your first chapter: You Are (Not) a Tree. There’s something that I’ve kind of been thinking about lately, where it feels like, you know, this ancient metaphor, which is found in Psalm 1, you know, the righteous man is like a tree planted by streams of water. Things that we have recently discovered about trees can kind of write backwards onto what we understand about humans. And so you mentioned Peter Wohlleben, is that how his name is pronounced? The German?

    Joy Clarkson: I probably don’t, yes, probably don’t know any better than you. That sounds wrong to me.

    Susannah Black Roberts: OK. So he’s this German popular science writer who was picking up on Suzanne Simard’s work on basically like the way that trees communicate with each other through mycelium networks, through fungal networks. And the way that a forest is something, the forest is greater than, like, obviously, that’s a cheesy way to put it, but like, a tree can’t actually properly be a tree and thrive without a community of trees with which it is literally communicating.

    And you know, "literally" is a carefully chosen word in this conversation. Trees do actually communicate with each other. And that communication is cut off if there is like one tree in the middle of a sea of concrete. And one of the things that one of the perpetual kind of puzzles or disagreements or whatever, that people, Christians, non-Christians get into about politics is, is politics natural? Or is politics, Christians would say the result of the fall, or an imposed structure of oppression.

    And I’m enough of an Aristotelian to think that man is by nature a political animal. And one of the things that I think that Suzanne Simard’s work kind of shows is that like, you can actually think of, you know, trees are kind of political animals as well. And, you know, if we think of trees as genuinely naturally in community with each other, communicating, giving, receiving, passing information, helping, then how much more can we think of humans naturally living in polities, in cities or in communities with each other? And we literally cannot be ourselves in a thriving and full way without that giving and receiving in community that we see in a forest among trees that are, you know, talking to each other through the fungus. I don’t know if I can.

    Joy Clarkson: I had not considered whether or not trees were political, but I think maybe that’s your follow up book, Susannah.

    Susannah Black Roberts: I feel like it was just like when I was reading that chapter, I was just like, oh, I don’t know. I feel like I actually want to write something that kind of is a, I don’t know, fan fiction of that chapter or something.

    Any last sort of words? Like what would you like people to take from this? I mean, one of the things that’s really good about the structure of the book is that at the end of each chapter, you do provide further reading, further listening, further viewing suggestions, just because it is a contemplative work and it’s a work that kind of depends – The book would not make sense if the contemplative life were not worthwhile because it asks you to contemplate and you, through these sort of chapter appendices, you invite people, you give people directions on how to further contemplate. What would you like to say about it? How do you want to send this off into the world?

    Joy Clarkson: Well, I’ll say the self-aggrandizing thing first, which is that I hope people will buy it and read it. But what I hope they will get from buying and reading it is that I hope it will invite them to pay attention to their life, to the very ordinary and simple experiences they have in it, from rising in the morning to watching, I’m watching my little plant that I own, gaining new leaves, to thinking about the experience of birth. They will notice and pay attention to all those things and that in doing that, they will realize that ordinary life is much more densely meaningful than we sometimes give it credit for and that they would be invited to see those patterns and habits of meaning in everything that they engage with. And that I hope the book will be an exercise in doing that and will be something that will hopefully fulfill its subtitle’s promise of nourishing life, thought and prayer.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Well, Joy Clarkson, thank you so much for coming on the pod and I’ll see you later on our editorial meeting. And yeah, just highly recommend this book to our listeners.

    Joy Clarkson: Thank you so much for having me, Susannah, and for your very thoughtful questions. All right, awesome.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Thanks for listening, be sure to subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast needs met, and share with your friends! For a lot more content like this, check out for the digital magazine. You can also subscribe: $36/year will get you the print magazine, or for $99/year you can become a member of Plough. That membership carries a whole range of benefits, from free books, to regular calls with the editors, to invitations to special events, and the occasional gift. Our members are one aspect of the broader Plough community, and we depend on them as a kind of extra advisory council. Go to to learn more.

    Contributed By JoyClarkson2 Joy Marie Clarkson

    Joy Marie Clarkson holds a PhD in theology from the Institute for Theology and the Arts at the University of Saint Andrews. She hosts Speaking with Joy, a popular podcast about art, theology, and culture, and writes books.

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    Contributed By portrait of Susannah Black Roberts Susannah Black Roberts

    Susannah Black Roberts is a senior editor of Plough.

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