1. Reporting from the Aspen Festival of Ideas, Connor Friedersdorf briefs us on “How Parents Make High-Achieving Kids Miserable” via a discussion that took place earlier this week between William Deresiewicz and David Brooks on the state/purpose of higher education. The first twelve minutes find Deresiewicz recounting the background of his new book, but once Brooks hits the stage (13 minute mark or so), it really heats up. For instance:

“I see my students burdened by this epidemic of conditional love, where their parents have honed them, and if they decide not to take the job they want, or the major they want, the love is withdrawn.”

Anyone interested in the perils of “performancism”–how this dynamic works out both in our culture and our homes–should take a look.

2. In the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik took a voyage through the history of the love song in order to gain a better understanding of love itself. The last few paragraphs, which tackle a few of the fundamental contradictions involved in matters of the heart, are particularly striking (reminiscent of some of Nick Cave’s thoughts on the subject):

“All good love songs are sad,” Paul McCartney, who knew, once told this reporter. The mystery is that while what we want is love fulfilled, what we actually feel most deeply about is love frustrated. The safest bet going is that we’ll find scruples to complicate our passions, barriers to intensify our desires. When none present themselves, we invent them at the bedroom door, and find reasons to constrain passion even when it comes at us, smiling and unconstrained. Supplying such scruples for you is one of those modern subjects, as the essential loneliness of love is the real burden of its songs.

17b8e965When we’re young, we seek another to overrate; when we’re older, we seek another to overrate us. Infatuation happens in midlife when we believe that someone is once again rating us at an inflated value rather than the discounted one of an older love, now aged. The other shows us ourselves in a forgotten light, as someone less dull than we thought we had become. We look at each other and love ourselves.

Another, lasting, kind of love—the permanent harmony that seems to have eluded Mr. and Mrs. Shakespeare as it eludes most of us—is difficult to name without making it sound weak in comparison. Agape, divine love; caritas, compassionate caring; empathy or lifelong engagement (though without Cupid to make it frisky love seems merely dutiful). Lasting love that is not simply habitual is found among the shards of the self-regarding mirror, after it is broken and we have to look around at life as it, so inadequately, is.

3. In the wake of the Charleston tragedy, Nadia Bolz-Weber voices a plea to pastors, “Don’t Forget Our Job”:

I do not believe that the proclamation of forgiveness of sins is dependent on context – or that it “may” be added to such a liturgy. I believe it to be a fundamental theological reality of the Gospel, Martin Luther’s writing and the Lutheran Confessions, that one of the primary functions of the church is to proclaim forgiveness of sins…and not that we proclaim forgiveness of sins only when we aren’t devastated by our own complicity in that sin.

4. The NY Times is hosting a roundtable discussion on “The Relentless Pursuit of Happiness”. Favorite quote comes from author William Davies:

Atheistic-Typology-by-Kacper-Chmielewski_dezeen_468_14Happiness becomes a personal project, that each of us must now work on, like going to the gym. Since the 1970s, depression has come to be viewed as a cognitive or neurological defect in the individual, and never a consequence of circumstances. All of this simply escalates the sense of responsibility each of us feels for our own feelings, and with it, the sense of failure when things go badly.

5. In music, some of us are very excited about the announcement of a new Libertines record, Anthems for Doomed Youth, out Sept 4th. It’ll give me something else to listen to besides the many amazing tracks culled from Rolling Stone’s recent lists of “Albums We Loved in the 70s That You’ve Never Heard”, both Rock n Roll and R n B iterations (Favorite new discoveries being The Stovall Sisters and Blue Ash).

6. While we naturally take issue with the presumptions, this attempt at Atheist Architecture by Kacper Chmielewski is pretty eye-catching. Surely I’m not the only one who immediately thinks of Arrakis and Frank Herbert’s Dune, which–providentially!–turns 50 years old this October.

7. Many thanks to AJ Cerda for reviewing our recent publication, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints). We’ve been very encouraged by the initial response, both in terms of interest and Amazon write-ups (don’t be shy!). Speaking of the book, the good people at St. Francis in the Fields in Louisville, KY are working their way through it this summer, week by week, under the supervision of Mbirders Jady Koch and Nick Lannon. You can follow along and listen to the sessions on this page. (You can tweet questions to @SFITF and they’ll answer as best they can).

8. Finally, in humor, The New Yorker indulged in a little biblical amusement with some mock-tabloid headlines, “Bethlehem Star Exclusives”, e.g. “JESUS CRASHES CANA WEDDING WITH MOM AFTER FORTY-DAY CLEANSE”. Patriotic humor is a difficult strain to pull off, but this McSweeney’s one “From the Diary of John Adams” had me laughing out loud numerous times. Happy 4th to all.