To Believe it

publisher's note

Photo: Jackson Krule

Photo: Jackson Krule


Maybe having an opinion about New Year's resolutions is just as good as making them. This time two years ago, my opinion was simple and straightforward: I was still keeping all of mine and was silently judging all of those who had given way to whatever vices they'd hoped to stave off for at least a little longer. That feeling of self-importance is not only not there this year – a year when I not only didn't make any but had really seriously planned to – it's been replaced by a feeling of guilt that I suspect I wouldn't have had I not previously succeeded. A silly guilt, to be sure. But I wonder if in 2016, when I felt like keeping resolutions was the same thing as being virtuous and good, I would have said that I'd deserve it.

In this issue, our contributors explore the institutions and practices – many religious in nature, but others not – that help us make meaning, bring us together, sometimes divide us, and are the background noise of our lives for reasons that are mostly accidents of history. Who among us hasn't considered the untapped real estate value of the land in Midtown that churches and synagogues sit on, themselves once the tallest buildings for blocks but now dwarfed by the office complexes that surround them?

Particularly in a metropolitan environment, it's easy imagine that religion and other ancient institutions (fancy museums! private schools! getting dressed up for travel!) don't still matter, or don't matter in the way they once did. And maybe that's true – maybe they don't.

But maybe they do.