1. A couple of addiction-related articles worth drawing your attention to this week. The first is The NY Times article about the now infamous St Anthony Residence, a so-called “wet house” in St. Paul where alcoholics are given shelter while drinking themselves to death. Plenty of food/drink for thought. The second is a short essay on The American Scholar by William Deresiewicz about Alcoholics Anonymous entitled “The True Church,” in which he describes an AA meeting in the following way, ht WRB:
What I saw there was religion stripped to its bones, austerely beautiful like a piece of Shaker furniture. No priesthood, no prelacy, no special garments or sacred objects, no shibboleths of membership. A bare minimum of custom and formula. A congregation called by need, not duty.
Most of all, a sense that all this really mattered in the most urgent and immediate way. The overwhelming feeling that I’ve gotten from most of the religious services I’ve attended is that none of this has to do with anything other than itself.
To peruse our archive of addiction resources, click here.
2. In “Silver or Lead” The New Yorker traces the fascinating if brief history of Mexico’s most powerful young drug cartels, La Familia Michoacana, focusing in particular on their penchant for making public pronouncement via the bodies of their victims. Also known as “corpse messaging, it’s predictably pretty gruesome stuff, and not for the squeamish (though perhaps a fitting follow-up to Jacob’s controversial post a few months ago). One paragraph in particular caught my eye, ht JW:
La Familia’s corpse messaging often mentions divine justice. Its soldiers are said to be required to carry Bibles or, alternatively, a self-published volume of epigrams by Nazario Moreno González, one of the gang’s leaders, who is also known as El Chayo, or El Más Loco (the Craziest). El Chayo is inspired, in turn, it has been reported, by the muscular Christianity of John Eldredge, an American evangelist whose self-help best-seller “Wild at Heart” is reportedly studied, in Spanish translation, at La Familia training camps.
3. For something much, much more redemptive along those lines, run don’t walk to espn.com for Rick Reilly’s “The Lessons of Nathaniel Jones” which reports on NBA star Chris Paul’s inspiring forgiveness of the men who callously murdered his grandfather in 2002. Paul is quoted as saying, ht RW:
“These guys were 14 and 15 years old [at the time], with a lot of life ahead of them. I wish I could talk to them and tell them, ‘I forgive you. Honestly.’ I hate to know that they’re going to be in jail for such a long time. I hate it.”
“I’ve probably tried 30 homicide cases,” says Paul Herzog, of Fayetteville. “It’s very rare for a family survivor in a murder case to feel that way. You just don’t see that ever. That’s incredibly generous of Mr. Paul.”
4. Continuing in the heavy vein, Slate published the results of its recent poll on grief. Of special relevance to us is how inevitably the “should” creeps in and devastates those who are already devastated:
Some findings surprised us, given what grief literature has led us to expect. For example, less than one-half of those who took the survey said they had experienced disbelief about the loss, which seems low when you consider how popular the idea of “denial” has become in mainstream culture. By contrast, 60 percent of our respondents dreamt of the dead. Startlingly, too, nearly one-fifth reported imagining they had seen the deceased alive—a “symptom” that might seem extreme, a cinematic fiction, until you hear it from so many mourners.
In general, many respondents wanted to explain how “uncomfortable” (a word that appeared over and over) they felt their grief had made others. As one respondent put it of those around her, “They would get tired of my sad mood and need to talk about it, and say I was ‘wallowing’ or I should move on.” Another wrote, “People are very supportive for the first couple of weeks, but then they move on. … It makes you feel guilty to continue to mourn when others are tired of dealing with it.” At the same time, a smaller group noted that they’d been told they weren’t grieving enough. Paradoxically, the responses seem to suggest there was both an expectation that one should grieve a little and a concurrent desire that the mourner not grieve too much.
5. On a much, much lighter note, The Austin A/V Club dug up some Muppet rarities that even this self-confessed Henson aficionado was unaware of. They may not exactly diamond in the rough – Henson’s editorial sense was too refined for that – but “Little Muppet Monsters” in particular sounds fairly meta/prophetic.
6. A couple of more strictly theological articles worth checking out this week: Michael Horton’s thoughtful and in-depth review of Rob Bell’s controversial new book Love Wins (Lauren Winner in The NY Times Book Review wasn’t bad either). And Tullian Tchivijdian’s excellent meditation on fruit, roots, and the pitfalls of Christian narcissism, “God’s Final Word”.
7. Some recent Onion highlights include “Visiting Friend Okay Doing Whatever” and “Just When Couple Finally Stops Stressing About Having A Baby, They’re Still Not Pregnant.”
8. Finally, the new Werner Herzog documentary about the Paleolithic cave art in France sounds amazing. Slate writes, “Werner Herzog’s New Cave-Painting Documentary May Be the Greatest 3-D Film Ever Made,” and “If You Are a Member of the Human Race, You Should See This Movie.” They then also remind us of the greatest Herzog voiceover moments, one of which we featured on here a while ago. Another must-see is: