Editor's Note from April 14, 2016
There is no shining feather that does not shine from God,” Augustine wrote in Concerning Two Souls. It’s a great quote that I thought about using as the epigraph for this issue’s cover story instead of the John Cassian one we ended up including. One problem with it: while it’s a lovely sentiment that pairs well with a photo essay on feathers, I ripped it terribly out of context. It’s part of a section where Augustine is summarizing a view of his opponents, the Manicheans.
Pulling things out of context can be a danger with a magazine like The Behemoth. Take our feathers article, for example. If we only ever looked at feathers but never looked closely at the birds that grow them, we’d lose much of what’s marvelous and beautiful. (There’s little risk of that in this magazine: We’ve already looked at falcons, black-capped chickadees, bar-headed geese, crows, emperor penguins, and other avian marvels.) But provide too much context, too much explanation, too much information, and you can also lose sight of the sublime. I get anxious when assigning articles: 1,500 words or so isn’t much to communicate a full understanding of bird physiology, or Coptic Christianity, or nephology. But it’s enough to communicate wonder. We want to get to that moment of grandeur, and then pause to behold it. We don’t want to make our issues so long that they stack up, New Yorker–style, in expectation that you’ll read it someday. We want to be short enough that you have time to read this magazine right now, all the way through, and carry its moments of wonder for a fortnight. We want to be as light as a feather, but as weighty as one, too. Thanks for being part of it.
- Simply Beautiful Feathers
A display of birds’ useful adornments. /
- From Garbage to Glory
The cave churches of Cairo offer sanctuary in the midst of squalor. /
- Not All Who Wander Are Lost
How ants have solved the Traveling Salesman Problem. /
- Under the Cloud
Five amazing facts about the fluffy, immense formations above our heads. /
- Wonder on the Web
Issue 46: Links to amazing stuff.