The first issue of The Mockingbird, our brand new quarterly magazine, is in the mail! If you signed up for our mailing list, you should have one coming to you, free of charge. If haven’t, sign up before March 1st and we’ll happily send you one. If you want to...
I can’t believe Jesus. He said some things that just can’t be true. In fact, almost everything he said can’t be true. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like some it: He said that he came to fulfill the law. I like that. He said to love others and to love God. That’s tough (and maybe impossible) but it at least sounds good. It sounds right. But some of the patently untrue things he said also just sound wrong to my Christian ears. He told stories that seemed to say if you didn’t have your act together, you’d get…
This comes from Howie Espenshied.
Emmitt Smith, NFL all-time rushing leader–fired! Shannon Sharpe, an NFL hall of famer who finished his career atop all of the tight end categories–fired! (last week). Dan Marino, retired with the most broken records of any quarterback in history–fired! (also last week). Joe Montana, the greatest NFL QB of all-time, was encouraged to quit before he was fired. What do these four have in common? They were all dismissed from the jobs they took immediately after their storybook NFL careers ended. “Network NFL Studio Analyst” was the career of choice.
What happened? Certainly they are all subject…
We continue our tradition of anonymous Ash Wednesday reflections on rest:
…the night cometh, when no man can work.
-John 9:4, KJV
Four hours last week, followed by a full day of breakneck productivity. Those of us who pride ourselves on working without sleep find solace in our indefatigable nocturnal spirits, sustained by too many cigarettes and too much caffeine. Sleep is the last frontier, someone once said. Humans only have to transcend our embarrassingly creaturely need for sleep, and we can double our productivity. As Roger Ekirch discusses in his recent At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, people used to see night as a time for vital rest and leisure, more than a mere “dormant interlude between working hours”, as he puts it, night in various times past was divided into ‘watches’, structured with an quasi-liturgical respect. I’m proud to need little sleep sometimes. It allows me to function outside the limits of the dead zone, an eight-hour interval which seems to shrink as the demand for productivity rises.
Sometimes it’s something productive, like a book or article. Other times, it’s one more beer, another cigarette on the porch, another episode of How I Met Your Mother. It’s as if leisure is some active salve that must be applied to a day’s work, and going to bed earlier can make you miss out on leisure, too. It’s effectively a fear of missing out. We’re overwhelmed by a bevvy of experiences during the day, and even more activity has to heal the stress. We procure this healing for ourselves with TV or other activities. Leaving things be is difficult. And if the day has been unfulfilling, we can delay going to sleep, admitting defeat; instead I want to re-raise the stakes with a losing hand, salvage the miniscule ante.
Sleep is a daily brush with death. It’s the closest we come to death’s passivity, that total negation of experience and selfhood. And yet death seems more inevitable so sleep, for now, is the last frontier: vanquish that and we have more time to fulfill ourselves, to develop into those ideal, actualized men and women we yearn to be. But it catches up: even if science finds some way to solve the lack of energy after a bad night’s sleep (or a full string of them), it will not be able to address the anxiety and grumpiness. That burden of selfhood and fulfillment-chasing does catch up, eventually.
Buy stock in Sleepytime® tea. We find it harder to sleep than ever now, and the aids we need progressively more of are selling, cropping up in new stores every day. With all our activity, the efficiency provided by computers and modeling and instruments and machinery, the one thing we’re getting worse at is sleep. It feels too much like death, because it sort of is. So much missing out, so many opportunities for achievement or leisure or self-fulfillment we are missing. On Ash Wednesday, we receive the imposition of ashes: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Life “imposes” sleep on us as a daily reminder of mortality. And that involuntary and unchosen imposition relieves us, above all, from our restless and irrepressible daily justifications. May we remember we are dust, and there find God’s rest.
О weariness of men who turn from God
To the grandeur of your mind and the glory of your action,
To arts and inventions and daring enterprises.
To schemes of human greatness thoroughly discredited.
Binding the earth and the water to your service,
Exploiting the seas and developing the mountains,
Dividing the stars into common and preferred.
Engaged in devising the perfect refrigerator,
Engaged in working out a rational morality,
Engaged in printing as many books as possible,
Plotting of happiness and flinging empty bottles,
Turning from your vacancy to fevered enthusiasm
For nation or race or what you call humanity;
Though you forget the way to the Temple,
There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger…
Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws?
She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget.
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they would like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.
But the man that is will shadow
The man that pretends to be.
Just in time for Ash Wednesday, we are getting word that copies of the first issue of The Mockingbird are (finally) making their way into your mailboxes. If you are on our mailing list, and yours has not made its way to you yet, fear not, it should be there by week’s end.
And what better way to honor the holiday of our ashes than take a look into R-J Heijmen’s essay on, yes, death? It appears on page 100 of the first issue.
If you have not signed up to receive The Mockingbird, it’s not too late. Come one,…
On the viral video front, there is an incredible story circulating about Kevin Richardson, the so-call “Lion Whisperer,” a South African zoologist (not the Backstreet Boy) who playfully interacts with lions and hyenas on animal sanctuaries. While watching the video, I kept thinking to myself this guy is crazy and going to end up like the Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin or Timothy Treadwell, the subject of the film Grizzly Man, who were both killed by the wild animals they studied. In comparison though, there is something very fascinating and almost otherworldly about how comfortable Richardson is with these lions—they actually know him and…
This preview comes to us from Win Bassett. To register for the NYC Conference, now just four weeks away, go here.
Reynolds Price, from little old Macon, North Carolina, graduated from Duke University, attended Merton College at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, traveled across Europe, befriended artists on the cusps of their fame, and landed a job as a professor back in Duke’s English Department by the time he turned 25. Four years later he published his first novel, A Long and Happy Life, which won the William Faulkner Foundation Award and sold over a million copies. Price published several more…
Recently a friend asked me to recommend something that a young man considering a call to ordination might profitably read. I went through “the usual suspects” (i.e., Bishop Lightfoot, John Stott, W.H. Griffith-Thomas), but actually came up with a novel, or rather a novella, to help him spell out the issues.
It is sometimes true that a work of art — a song or painting or short story or movie — gets through to me in a way that propositional non-fiction, say Bishop Lightfoot’s treatise on the ministry, does not, or maybe even cannot. I believe this is because music or…
- London’s a Lonely Town – Dave Edmunds
- San Miguel – The Beach Boys
- I Can’t Go Back to Denver – Tommy James
- Look Out Cleveland (live) – The Band
- Fall in Philadelphia – Hall & Oates
- Memphis Tennessee – Elvis Presley
- Thanks for Chicago, Mr James – Scott Walker
- Paris 1919 – John Cale
- The City of New Orleans – Arlo Guthrie
- Life in San Fransisco – Girls
- Time Spent in Los Angeles – Dawes
- Another Lonely Night in New York – Robin Gibb
- Shanghai Surprise – George Harrison
- The District Sleeps Alone Tonight – The Postal Service
- Stranger in Moscow – Michael Jackson
- Vienna – Ultravox
- Going Down to Liverpool – The Bangles
- London Town – Paul McCartney
This morning’s entry from the Mockingbird Devotional comes from Sean Norris.
Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7, NIV)
Life is a game of denial. In fact, I would argue that most of the things we fill our day with are, or at least can be, tools for denial. Work, play, shopping, television, relationships, hobbies, philosophies—anything can be used to manipulate the reality of things gone wrong. It would not be too far to say that Christianity itself has often been used as a tool of reality-rejection.
People often have a sober view of themselves around the time of…
Another Week Ends: Secret Auden, Eagleton Deicide, Remembering Wes, Method Acting, True Detective, and Russian Tourist Tips
1. Holy smokes! Have you read Edward Mendelson’s “The Secret Auden” in the NY Review of Books?! If not, run don’t walk. It’s a jaw-dropping, incredibly inspiring catalog of the clandestine episodes of grace initiated by our all-time favorite Wystan–about as honest a Matthew 6:5 vibe as I’ve come across in ages. Lest these remarkable stories be dismissed as mere hagiography, Mendelson (author of the indispensable Later Auden) doesn’t lionize the great poet, instead tracing the ‘good works’ back to their root–which is not a sense of earning or credit (clearly) but of genuine humility brought on by piercing self-knowledge….
Here’s another (timely) sports piece from Howie Espenshied.
Any time the US faces Russia in Olympic men’s ice hockey, as they did on February 15th, the “Miracle on Ice” game in Lake Placid, NY in 1980 is brought to mind. This one ended much the way that one did, with the US securing a dramatic 1 goal victory. However, noticeably absent was the Cold War setting that helped the ending of that legendary game become arguably the greatest sports moment of all-time.
Much has changed in the last 34 years. In 1980, the US only sent amateur athletes to the Olympics, while Russia…