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1) An amazing interview with contemporary artist Chris Martin (not that one), that I wish I could reproduce here in full, over at the (ironically named) Believer. He talks about the art world and its tendency–in being seekers and conduits of “reality”–to talk about nothing that is real at all. He also talks very bluntly about the world-glossy term, “spiritual” and limits of language:

BLVR: Some people talk about how the art world is comparable to religion. It has a community, a shared language about something ineffable, a sort of icon worship.

CM: When people have a hard time with the word spirituality they’re assuming spirituality is something extra-mystical on top of what we all know to be true. But that’s just a big pile of steaming shit, because really what’s at stake here is a question of what’s real, and when one tries to engage with serious questions about what is real, then things can get very mysterious and spooky. I hate the word spirituality but I… um, sure, why not use that word? We can think about the breath rather than think about some kind of empirical, material, formal idea of what this society thinks is real. And the word mystical is an even worse word than spirituality—that artists take drugs, and then they add some crazy extra thing to what we all know is real. But our job as artists or as human beings is to investigate what we really think is real, and to come back to the tribe and say, this is what the world feels like to me. Joseph Beuys is a great example of that…

BLVR: Why do you think institutions frame art in such a formal way?

enhanced-buzz-16031-1383769226-26CM: Well, they avoid talking about life or meaning or content, which is a very hard thing to talk about. And they foreground a formal narrative of the development of art. All that stuff about flatness—it’s this idea that painting is a specialized discipline and that modernist painting increasingly refers to painting and is refining the laws of painting. But who cares about painting? What we care about is that the planet is heating up, species are disappearing, there’s war, and there are beautiful girls here in Brooklyn on the avenue and there’s food and flowers, and I love my dog and it’s life. That’s what we care about. I’m falling in love! This is the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen! I love pine trees! This is what we care about. That’s why any kind of art is interesting—if it brings us as human beings in closer contact with life, and with the deeper mysteries of life. Who cares about whether it’s painting about painting and the flatness or if it’s in F sharp?! These are the mechanics of art forms. The institutions emphasize language. I personally don’t care about language, except when it helps me and us together to look at something that’s meaningful and gives us some kind of trembling.

Speaking of what’s real, and the deeper meanings of life, and running out in front of the institutional frameworks–Pope Francis! And speaking of art, Rod Dreher’s Theology of Rock is something to behold, too.

2) Nadia Bolz-Weber, at it again, this time in a portrait piece done by the Washington Post, about her new book Pastrix, and the lifestyle that’s come in its wake, of innumerable speaking engagements and a growing community of followers. What’s more, the Washington Post really takes a look into what’s different about Bolz-Weber: she’s not a liberal’s liberal, or a conservative’s conservative. Her theology stands in a place unsettling for both. Regardless of what you make of the rising star preacher–or her theology–who couldn’t find a home in this kind of church, where this is the message preached to the burned-out and torn up?

Her message: Forget what you’ve been told about the golden rule — God doesn’t love you more if you do good things, or if you believe certain things. God, she argues, offers you grace regardless of who you are or what you do. Christianity, Bolz-Weber preaches, has nothing to do with rules; it is the process of things constantly dying and then being made new. Those things, she says, might be the alcoholic who emerges into sobriety, some false narrative we have about ourselves, religious institutions that no longer inspire.

“I never experience God in camping or trees or nature. I hate nature,” she told the Austin crowd as she paced the stage. “God invented takeout and duvets for a reason.” This emphasis on experience over rules challenges conservatives, but it also bothers progressives who have turned church into what she views as essentially a nonprofit organization. “This isn’t supposed to be the Elks Club with the Eucharist,” Bolz-Weber said in a taxi ride before her Austin talk. Religion should be “something that’s so devastatingly beautiful it can break your heart. Instead it’s been: ‘Recycle.’ And ‘Don’t sleep with your girlfriend.’ ”

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…Bolz-Weber founded what today is casually called House. It’s a start-up of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with an “anti-excellence, pro-participation” policy. It meets in the parish hall of an Episcopal church. Seating is arranged around an unelevated circle, lay people can pick up a card and help run the service, and sermons by Bolz-Weber are usually 12 minutes tops. Singing is all a capella and every service has a creative, congregant-run, interactive program.

“Sometimes I ask myself, why aren’t we at 1,000 people? This church is unbelievable,” said Aram Harotunian, a former evangelical megachurch pastor who goes to House. “For 21 years, I felt I had to keep people in line, and it felt like bondage to me. House has a lot of people burned by religion, and this still holds for me. It’s the only church I can stomach.”

3) We’ve talked before about social media warmongering, but never in terms of individuality, as it is done here by Anna Mussmann at the Federalist. Linking to the recent story of a Rue 21 Facebook backlash, that then proved wrong, and embarrassed several people, Mussmann discusses the individualism we say we believe in, though we generally use social media to turn a human being into a representation of an evil/offensive force. It’s plain and simple that social media quantifies relationships, and groups them, but it’s also true that this also shows us who are, in turn:

Despite our claims of valuing diversity, freedom, and choice, we have become a nation of indignant crusaders who are quick to lambast opinions or manners of which we disapprove. We respond so vehemently that it becomes clear we view our opponents as symbols of pervasive societal injustice instead of flawed individuals. To many online commenters, the clerk at Rue 21 became an effigy of bullying. The crusaders wanted to smash the effigy. Why do we forget that the people we attack online are merely people, and why do we care so deeply that they are wrong even when they cannot directly affect our lives? Why do Facebook posts “spiral out of control?”

When our opponents become symbols instead of people, it becomes much harder to accept any sincere attempts to make amends or live in peace. Instead we rally the public to boycott entire firms because of an alleged insult from one employee, or we attack a businessman for answering interview questions in a way that does not fit our definition of a prejudice-free world. We use that employee or that businessman as fodder for our crusades.

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And, in that vein of symbolizing, we self-symbolize, too, or so says Slate in regard to what is called “The Impostor Effect.” Have you heard of this? Maybe you haven’t, but I bet you know it. That when you’re successful at work–whatever it is–you still feel as though you’re a fraud, or at least you pretend you do, to take the pressure off? Slate says the draw to view yourself this way, at least in the workforce, is more powerful if you are a woman:

What happened? In one of the weirdest takes on the impostor syndrome I’ve seen, New York Times writer Benedict Carey proposes that these feelings and behaviors are actually an effective social strategy, rather than a personality tic. “Projecting oneself as an impostor can lower expectations for a performance and take pressure off a person,” he notes. The “phony phony” gets brownie points for being humble, even if she’s “secretly more confident than [she] lets on.” This made me wonder: Am I a fraud, or just a fraud at being a fraud? Maybe it doesn’t matter, because according to Carey, if one takes the self-deprecation too far, she starts to believe her own act. Could it be that women turn toward impostor syndrome as a presentation technique to cope with perfectionism (and—bonus—appear nice), only to get mentally sucked in?

4) Funny, from the Onion: “Kidnapped Teen Freed, Though Freedom Is Its Own Kind of Prison, Is It Not?” And I quote:

Paulsen, who disappeared on October 10, is reportedly in good health and has returned to her family’s home, where she will begin the process of healing and where, though she will no longer be held in physical confinement, she will nonetheless remain a prisoner to the uncertainty, doubt, and inexorable agony of existence, insofar as these emotional states are universal constants of the human condition.

“This rescue was made possible through the coordinated efforts of law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels,” said Sheriff John Montague, who, yes, helped to rescue Paulsen from the torment of her human captors, but is she not still subject to the psychological imprisonment we all experience as beings endowed with moral agency? “We have arrested two male suspects and are questioning them at this time.”

And just in time for the big gift-wrapping season, “Writing ‘Fragile’ on a Package May Result in Worse Treatment.”

5) This one’s a little too close to home, from the Huffington Post, about GYPSYs (Generation Y Protagonists and Special Yuppies), a special breed of adultescents who just can’t seem to find their happiness. Their equation for happiness, though, is priceless (Happiness = Reality – Expectations). I’ll put down the first bit, you 20-somethings read (or fill in) the rest! (ht BT)

21ANXIETY-blog427Say Hi to Lucy. Lucy is part of Generation Y, the generation born between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s. She’s also part of a yuppie culture that makes up a large portion of Gen Y. I have a term for yuppies in the Gen Y age group — I call them Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies, or GYPSYs. A GYPSY is a unique brand of yuppie, one who thinks they are the main character of a very special story.

So Lucy’s enjoying her GYPSY life, and she’s very pleased to be Lucy. Only issue is this one thing: Lucy’s kind of unhappy. To get to the bottom of why, we need to define what makes someone happy or unhappy in the first place. It comes down to a simple formula:

Happiness = Reality – Expectations

It’s pretty straightforward — when the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy. To provide some context, let’s start by bringing Lucy’s parents into the discussion:

Lucy’s parents were born in the ’50s — they’re Baby Boomers. They were raised by Lucy’s grandparents, members of the G.I. Generation, or “the Greatest Generation,” who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II, and were most definitely not GYPSYs…

College basketball begins this weekend. The best NCAA previews are over at Grantland!