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From the Editor


When, in the Venerable Bede’s account of the conversion of King Edwin, one of Edwin’s advisors is asked to describe the pagan view of reality and humanity’s place in it, the advisor tells him that life is like “the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall” filled with warm fire and friends, but that the sparrow exists in this warm space a short time only, traveling as it does between winter storm and winter storm.  He says, “Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing.”  The bird, for the Anglo-Saxon advisor, is the soul.  The house, the body.

Saint Augustine writes, “Understand that you may believe; believe that you may understand.”  John Keats says, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”  And Blaise Pascal offers, “For, in fact, what is man in nature?  A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between nothing and everything.”  Historian, theologian, poet, philosopher…  Each finds the human condition caught between mundanity and infinity.  Archaeopteryx: The Newman Journal of Ideas exists to provide a space for academic and creative dialogue at this precise intersection, at the locus of the sublime, the nexus between faith and reason, the bright, brief interval where humanity finds itself housed. 
This first issue of Archaeopteryx contains both wonder and challenge.  It houses prose and poetry by believer and skeptic alike.  It engages us at the emotional, the intellectual, and the visceral level.  From Ned Balbo’s “A Parable of Flight,” a formal meditation on flight itself, to Timothy Richardson’s “The Fat Man,” a sometimes ribald exploration of the Maltese Falcon, of where its flightless lump of lead might lead us, the stories and poems collected here set our minds racing toward meaning in all its terrible and laudable, trashy and transcendent beauty.  From Mary Jane White’s religious meditations to Lise Goett’s more fleshly explorations of similar concerns to Frederick Turner’s troubling and triumphant gest meant to mine the landscape for answers in a “fallen world,” every writer here attempts to find a place in “the Arms of God” and understand “what he has made of Himself.”
Laura Kopchick’s struggling mother first finds the sublime “by dissolving into the grief that had settled” over her and her daughter as they face a traumatic operation.  Later, this same mother finds comfort in an unconventional catechism.  Maureen McCoy’s guilt-ridden father discovers he “would rather live, live and atone, on earth, die old, atone forever” than succumb to a vision of a world without moral law.  While Albert Wendland explores a path to salvation in Ondaatje’s The English Patient, John McCormick trailblazes a similar route through the rubble in Neruda’s “United Fruit Co.”  Though many of these poems, stories, and essays might at first appear contradictory to, even combative with, what Cardinal Newman himself stood for, all of them seek meaning, blessing, and transcendence in the paradise Turner says “is always here, / Right in the corner of meanwhile.”  Faith is not easy.  Just ask Augustine.
So why introduce a new journal now, just now, in a world where the written struggle with “(my god) my God” appears to be disappearing?  Because faith is not easy.  Because, particularly in this ether age, we cannot give in to Hopkins’ fears of accepting carrion comfort and cry, “I can no more.”  We can.  In a world where too many public forums—be they books or bookstores, libraries or journals, newspapers or cable stations—find themselves failing, disappearing, or   simply caving to popular sentiments concerning how little we need to question the world in which we live…  In a world that shows us, daily, how seriously we seem to value entertainment and complacency over art and science and philosophy, over the vertiginous, over ideas that should shake us and make the world mean more, this journal is intended to manifest Cardinal Newman’s vision of educating the whole person to seek the truth. 
To this end, Archaeopteryx will strive to encourage a wide variety of meaningful, meaning-seeking modes of inquiry.  The essays, stories, and poems found in these pages will have but one thing in common, Kafka’s admonition that “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”  Named for the first bird—ancient, fossilized, frozen as if in the act of flying through shale—Archaeopteryx is intended to shake free storm and stone and ice and set the soul free to soar. 
—Bryan D. Dietrich, Editor-In-Chief