Caitlin Frazier

Caitlin Frazier
Caitlin Frazier is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees audience and engagement.
  • Beauty and Sanctity in Rumi's ‘A Great Wagon’

    Whirling dervishes perform a ritual in honor of Rumi in Konya, Turkey, on December 7, 2016. Murad Sezer / Reuters

    Poetry, like music, takes me back to the time when I first heard that piece. I first heard the work of the Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi when I was in college. The priest at the Episcopal campus ministry, who became my mentor, would substitute a Rumi poem for a biblical reading or use it in one of his sermons. This poem, “A Great Wagon,” is the one that has stayed with me over the last 12 years. You can read it in full here.

    Like most of Rumi’s poems, its themes are mystical, drawing out what connects humanity to each other and to the divine. This is my favorite stanza, because it talks about music:

    Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
    and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
    and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    There’s a simple story to follow: you wake up, don’t do x, do y. The first several times I heard this stanza, I followed the story. But now when I hear or read these words, I am always drawn to the line, “Let the beauty we love be what we do.”

    It doesn’t quite make logical sense—I’ll find myself thinking through the syntax two or three times. But on an intuitive and poetic level, I think Rumi is talking about the sacredness and beauty of all life and work.

    My priest was a living embodiment of these verses. Walking into his office, you were fifty times more likely to see him picking on his guitar than reading the latest on biblical exegesis. He’d be singing one of the songs he’d written, like this one that uses cooking and baking as analogies for embracing God. His music was the beauty he loved and he made it his life, just as Rumi instructs. When he died last month, “A Great Wagon” was the first thing that came to mind.

  • Reuters / Jonathan Ernst

    The Iconic Hillary Clinton

    In defeat, the politician may find a status that had eluded her in victory—as a symbol for other women who see themselves in her struggles.

  • Smashing the Church Patriarchy One Mitre at a Time

    Today at the cathedral in Salisbury, England, Maddie Lyles will make history by becoming the first girl to ever take the place of the bishop during an annual ceremony on the feast day of St. Nicholas. Only boy choristers have been allowed to assume that role; it was even called “boy bishop.” Now it will be called “chorister bishop.” It’s an appropriate change given that the first female bishop of the Church of England was just consecrated in January.

    Boys choirs have been a tradition in the church since the Middle Ages, but only recently have girls been allowed to join. The girls choir at Salisbury Cathedral was founded in 1991, on the 900th anniversary of the first boys choir. So that’s 924 years for the boys choir and 24 years for the girls choir.

  • What It's Like to Tell Someone They Have HIV

    Today is World AIDS Day, which means that, with any luck, thousands of people will get tested. Most of those tests will come back negative, but some will not. Some people will find out that they have HIV.

    When I was an HIV tester and counselor and I would tell people about my job, the first thing they would say is, “That must be so hard to tell someone that they have HIV.” And it is. As a friend put it, “Sharing a positive test result with a client remains the most difficult thing I've ever done, but I had to always remind myself that, as difficult as it was for me to share that news, it would have been far more difficult to hear the news.” She was a good tester because of that empathy.

    In my own experience, giving a positive result was nerve-wracking and intimidating.

  • Rick Wilking / Reuters

    Working at JCPenney on Black Friday

    A remembrance

  • A Resettlement Story

    The American backlash against refugees over the last few weeks has been fierce and shocking. On Thursday, Russell reported that the House passed a bill that could effectively halt Syrian refugees from entering the United States. Several governors have disinvited refugees from their states. But the refugees I’ve heard about from these elected officials have been nothing like the refugees I’ve known.

    In the summer of 2006, I worked as an intern at an organization then known as Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA), now known as New American Pathways. In just a couple months, I got to see the process that new refugees entering the U.S. go through and what we did to prepare for them: picking up families and individuals at the airport, renting an apartment, filling that apartment with necessary furniture and cooking supplies and attempting to buy culturally appropriate food at Kroger, and endless hours spent at the local Social Security office.

    These new Americans were usually excited and nervous to finally arrive in the U.S. after months or years of uncertainty and worse. In my reflection over this time in my life, one memory seems particularly relevant to our current debate.