The miracle is that we have integrity at all. O, not fidelity to a moral code. That’s a pale shadow of the integrity I mean. Stable identity. Some semblance of unity. Or, to put it in the word that has haunted me for some months – coherence.


What is the thread that draws us through time and change? When faced with the diminishments of cognition that seem to loom with age, and especially when we confront the specter of Alzheimer’s and the like, how do we hold it together? How did we ever?



A psychiatrist told me recently that brain science is discerning that healthy brains are healthy because they can focus the disparate parts of the brain quickly, pulling together regions that have their own agendas. My non-scientific mind imagines that as a newsroom of reporters, a là All the President’s Men, each working on their own stories and then Ben Bradlee calls them in for a conference on tomorrow’s front page. Brain science calls this coherence.




I am less trusting in my own coherence these days. Perhaps it is because, after years of moving and working in different places and roles, I feel that I am strewn across the land, pieces of me flung from here to Texas and beyond where I have invested myself.   And now, with a daughter in college halfway across the country, I’m feeling more strewn. On the days I feel it most acutely I think about the futility of identity and coherence as the raw illusion of the self-determined self.



Most days the center holds. Some divine, mysterious order draws me together. But it is seems beyond my power to cohere, so the best that I can do is adhere. To stick like tape to the surface of a thing loved and beloved.



To adhere

to be here to a subject

present and still

expectant and pliant

at full attention

to Her


Such is the way of adherents.


–Alex Joyner

is a a writer and pastor on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and is the author, most recently, of A Space for Peace in the Holy Land: Listening to Modern Israel & Palestine [Englewood, 2014],

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