Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with our friend Kimm Crandall, author of new book Beloved Mess.

1. To start, here’s a must-know for anyone planning to see the new Star Trek:

lbb-coverStar Trek: The Motion Picture [1979] will always be divisive among Trekkies…But as nebulous and confounding as some of the movie’s ideas are, apparently series creator Gene Roddenberry had an even more outlandish premise planned for the franchise’s big screen debut…

Years after Paramount shelved the script due to fears over the controversy it would cause, author Michael Jan Friedman was hired to turn the original treatment into a novel. However, Friedman didn’t exactly give the story a glowing endorsement after he actually looked over the unedited drafts:


I hadn’t seen other samples of Gene’s unvarnished writing, but what I saw this time could not possibly have been his best work. It was disjointed—scenes didn’t work together…In the climactic scene, Kirk had a fistfight with an alien who had assumed the image of Jesus Christ.

“So Kirk was slugging it out on the bridge. With Jesus.”

2. On a separate note, here is an amazing story from Womansday, Why I Abandoned Tough Love Instead of My Child. It’s about a mother trying to figure out how to love her son while he lived with a heroin addiction. Reading her story, you can’t not feel the no-strings one-way love she has for her son, not because of anything he does or did but just because of who he is to her. Despite his down-and-down lifestyle, she never sees him as anything but her son–in peril–and a person of infinite worth.


In response to his addiction, she was advised to give him tough love.

The notions of tough love and enabling—ubiquitous in American culture—are tossed about casually by self-help gurus, armchair psychologists and well-meaning friends. Yet the tough love concept became a terrifying and cumbersome tool, akin to bringing a chainsaw to a duel, when I was confronted with the idea that even providing my son with housing might contribute to his demise…

I was naive in hoping that a few weeks on the streets would snap him to his senses. Instead, for the next six harrowing years he only became increasingly isolated and entrenched in his addiction…

Counselors and peers continued to encourage me to combat enabling by diligently questioning my own behavior to determine if I was loving my child or loving my child to death. A single glimpse of my sons emaciated frame made it shockingly clear that, in practicing tough love, I was doing the latter.

As the world abandoned him, my son came to believe that hed been given a death sentence, and had hopelessly resigned himself to it.

So she goes searching. She goes into the place that he would likely be familiar with: the needle exchange.


I saw suffering human beings, at their lowest, who had been written off by society and even their own families. They had just this tiny 600-square-foot sliver of space in the entire world where they knew they’d be treated with dignity and respect in exactly the condition they presented themselves. There was no judgment here—only grace.

The syringe exchange staff not only met their participants right where they were, connecting them with an array of services all aimed at reducing harm and protecting health, they also met me exactly where I was, embracing me in all of my distress, anger and confusion. They provided me with tools, like naloxone, and advice on ways to restore my relationship with my son, even as he continued to use. Although I wouldn’t find him for several days yet, what I found that day, in that cramped space of grace, was hope.

She communicates to her son that she didn’t want him to hit rock bottom; she didn’t want him to die. He was worth something to her.

The message I sent…on how to prevent an overdose wasn’t permission to get high, but to stay safe and alive and to know that he was a valuable human being—whether or not he continued to use drugs.

Unconditional love, which looks to all disapproving outsiders like permission (and may very well be permission), ultimately pulled both a mother and her son in the direction of recovery.


3. It would be hard for any article to follow that one, but this one fails profoundly. How to Raise Brilliant Children, According to Science is an article that I submit primarily as a description of the law, especially since it’s framed in a very ten-commandments (“you’ve got your six C’s!”) sort of way. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, co-author of a new how-to-be book explains:

[Our culture is] training kids to do what computers do, which is spit back facts. And computers are always going to be better than human beings at that. But what they’re not going to be better at is being social, navigating relationships, being citizens in a community. So we need to change the whole definition of what success in school, and out of school, means.

Which is admirable, and something we’ve talked about before. The problem here is that, while Hirsh-Pasek is attempting to encourage more creative values, she is nevertheless focused on output. There is an unmistakable (and somewhat expected) element of control at work here. From DZ’s post from yesterday:

In our parlance, you might say that while grace is the only thing that produces truly law-fulfilling behavior in people, if it’s ‘used’ to produce an intended result, it is no longer grace but manipulation (aka a more subtle form of law).

Maybe in the end we should be seeing ourselves not as parents determined to save the world but as clueless kids who probably need guidance but aren’t asking for any. Harsh-Pasek fears that “What we do with little kids today will matter in 20 years…If you don’t get it right, you will have an unlivable environment. That’s the crisis I see.”

4. In direct contrast to the above statement, I present to you this very enjoyable song that boasts the lyrics: “Don’t have to be dead right, ’cause dead right can go wrong. We could be friends. Just put your head on my shoulder.”

5. From The New York Times: What Makes a Politician ‘Authentic’?

The words “authentic” and “authenticity” derive from the Greek “authentes,” a word that can denote “one who acts with authority” or “made by one’s own hand.” But in Greek mythology, it also had another meaning. The literary critic Lionel Trilling noted that authentes was “not only a master and a doer, but also a perpetrator, a murderer.” […]

But the fixation on finding a core self by peeling away social conventions also had its naysayers. Adorno was suspicious of the “jargon of authenticity” and the attempt to find a self unmediated by language, pretense and power. Adorno recognized that our understanding of authenticity was necessarily shaped by the very society it’s supposedly defined against. As something discoverable and elusive, authenticity was desirable, and desirable meant marketable, especially in a society as relentlessly commercial as ours.

Once again, the theme of “using” crops up. In this case, politicians are just easy targets for picking apart the patterns that we find in ourselves. We strive to project an image of our “true self” in order to seem more valuable and marketable to our environment.

(For more on the cult of authenticity, spend some time mining gold nuggets in our authenticity archives, and check out the conversation with DZ, Sarah, and Scott on this week’s Mockingcast!)


6. A great one from The Atlantic: The War on Stupid People–about how the Law of Being Smart has the potential to put a tombstone on the employment of millions of Americans who are being shut out of potential job opportunities because they do not live up to the highfalutin expectation of a high IQ or a college education.

Down on earth, the worship of intelligence also unleashes a sour gas into the air of everyday life. It reinforces archaic notions that educated diners-out may be somehow “better” (even morally) than waiters and waitresses lacking bachelors degrees.

The 2010s, in contrast [to the 1950s], are a terrible time to not be brainy. Those who consider themselves bright openly mock others for being less so. Even in this age of rampant concern over microaggressions and victimization, we maintain open season on the nonsmart. People who’d swerve off a cliff rather than use a pejorative for race, religion, physical appearance, or disability are all too happy to drop the s‑bomb: Indeed, degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement…

Rather than looking for ways to give the less intelligent a break, the successful and influential seem more determined than ever to freeze them out…many jobs that have come to require college degrees, ranging from retail manager to administrative assistant, haven’t generally gotten harder for the less educated to perform. At the same time, those positions that can still be acquired without a college degree are disappearing.


The article implies that the lesser educated may be made to feel more worthless than their educated peers, ultimately leaving their health at risk.

We are left with two conclusions: If we discard the not-very-Christian idea that there are different calibers of people–that inherently smart people are better than others–then we’re left with works-righteousness: If you work hard and read all your books and pay attention, you can be smart and succeed.

Regardless of the various ways of how to get smart, the fact remains that people don’t live up to the standards of intelligence that we have built for ourselves.

Instead of bending over backwards to find ways of discussing intelligence that won’t leave anyone out, it might make more sense to acknowledge that most people don’t possess enough of the version that’s required to thrive in today’s world…Quibble with the details all you want, but there’s no escaping the conclusion that most Americans aren’t smart enough to do something we are told is an essential step toward succeeding in our new, brain-centric economy—namely, get through four years of college with moderately good grades…

And then–wait for it–self-justification pops out of the basement!

Dumb and Dumber (Screengrab)

We comfort ourselves with the idea that we’re taking steps to locate those underprivileged kids who are, against the odds, extremely intelligent. Finding this tiny minority of gifted poor children and providing them with exceptional educational opportunities allows us to conjure the evening-news-friendly fiction of an equal-opportunity system, as if the problematically ungifted majority were not as deserving of attention as the “overlooked gems.” Press coverage decries the gap in Advanced Placement courses at poor schools, as if their real problem was a dearth of college-level physics or Mandarin…

When Michael Young, a British sociologist, coined the term meritocracy in 1958, it was in a dystopian satire. At the time, the world he imagined, in which intelligence fully determined who thrived and who languished, was understood to be predatory, pathological, far-fetched. Today, however, we’ve almost finished installing such a system, and we have embraced the idea of a meritocracy with few reservations, even treating it as virtuous. That can’t be right. Smart people should feel entitled to make the most of their gift. But they should not be permitted to reshape society so as to instate giftedness as a universal yardstick of human worth.

Moreover, there is always more to learn, and so much that we don’t know (sorry to go all postmodern, but I love it). Though some people may fare better economically by scrambling for job security based on high IQs and sharper wit, we still don’t know what our parents were like when they were teenagers, or what we were like when we were babies; we don’t know what our backs look like, or who we are, or whether or not we’ll survive till morning. If it’s the law of knowledge, we all fall short.


7. Another from The Atlantic: Is American Culture Asking Too Much of Marriage? The article quotes Esther Perel (who we’ve also quoted here), saying: “I want the same person to be familiar and to be new, and to be comfortable and to be edgy, and to be predictable and surprising.” These heightened expectations lead us to fail, and fail hard. Perel suggests that this is why infidelity has become so common.

Think of the last wedding you attended. Did the couple’s vows to each other involve promises to be, for the rest of their lives, friends and family and companions and lovers and allies?…If so, the couple is very modern. Marriage has spent most of its existence, in the West and elsewhere, as primarily an economic arrangement.

Hm. I’ve heard this before, and I only half buy it. Prepping for the big tying-of-the-knot myself, I’ve been looking at the vows in my old-as-dirt Book of Common Prayer, and the expectations there–emotional, physical, spiritual–are pretty high. Ahem:

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy…Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God…Will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

There’s nothing modern or economic about any of the above. What’s scary, however, is the fact that the ensuing “I will” may very well be one of the biggests lies ever told. When it comes to the promise to love, we will fail regularly. But there are so many problems with just erasing expectations (the first being that we could never not have expectations, as so many rom coms will attest.) And experiencing the gospel without the law is pretty hard; this seemingly bleak vantage point is the place out of which grace arises.


8. Lastly, this is pretty funny: Buying Organic Groceries in Brooklyn Can Be a Serious Trial. A grocery store in Brooklyn holds morality trials, complete with juries and judges, and bans people from its premises for varying periods of time depending on the level of transgression; this is both engrossing and terrifying for foodies in the area.

The co-op isn’t “a hippie-conspiracy trial at all times,” said Toby Vann, 52, who said he designs domes, including one for the cultural festival Burning Man. “It’s just people who like to eat good food.”