1. There’s been a lot of talk of reconciliation these last few days, and for good reason. It’s a topic that can get dangerously abstract, dangerously quickly. Fortunately, we couldn’t have asked for a more powerful, gut-level picture of what reconciliation looks like than the clip below. Guilt, shame, forgiveness, mercy, second chances, estranged fathers (little-f and capital-F), prayer, gratitude–this one has it all. Just be sure to have some tissues handy. I haven’t cried so hard since my son was born. Praise God (for a Day!), ht GWL:

While we’re on the subject of kids being reunited with parents, if you have any tears left (and grew up in the 90s), The Lost Children of ‘Runaway Train’ may eek them out. By a similar token, if you haven’t read Cameron Cole’s reflection on losing a child from this morning, I could not commend it more highly. Such an honor to have it on our site.

2. On a somewhat related note, Heather Havrilesky dropped an incredibly gracious treatise about parenting over NY Magazine, “Do Your Kid a Favor: Be an Imperfect Parent”, displaying once again her unrivaled antennae for picking up on the the vagueries of little-l law in our culture:

Parents today are supposed to serve their children, full stop, transforming them into little Renaissance athletes with quick minds, excellent fine motor skills, and a million and one passionate hobbies. Mothers in particular are seen not as sentient beings with their own needs so much as always-smiling, activity-loving, craft-obsessed lunatics who hover around the clock like a hazy cloud of maternal memory foam on wheels, one that not only separates the vulnerable child from the harsh outside world, but also makes sure that child can block a goal, swim like a fish, play the piano, and understand long division. (But not, you know, handle a broom or wash a window or anything that actually makes anyone else’s life a little easier.)

This quest to be perfect and raise perfect children creates anxious kids who believe that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. And also? It’s torture. Throw in a culture that fixates on achievement and constant improvement and the relentless pursuit of your “best life,” and you’ve got a recipe for unrelenting disappointment and misery — miserable overtested, overscheduled kids who are learning, more than anything else, to hate themselves for their faintest moments of self-doubt or darkness or tiniest worries or smallest mistakes, and miserable, overtaxed parents who hate themselves because they’re not super into crafting or cooking elaborate meals or prattling on about Barney the Dinosaur while following their toddlers in fast circles around the house for hours at a time.

3. Amen to that. Elsewhere, Heather doled out some wisdom to a third-year law student claiming that “I’ve Failed at Everything I Worked to Achieve”. What sounds like pessimism on HH’s part is actually a heartfelt attempt at dressing down the armor the young lady appears to have clothed herself in, AKA delusions about the world and her place in it that seem to be compounding her misery. Chief among them? The idea that life is an endlessly upward trajectory, both achievement and personality-wise, where a very narrow understanding of personal progress is not only assumed but actively venerated. The ‘Hallelujah’ reference struck me as especially poignant, a fitting reminder–this week of all weeks–that these low-anthropology lessons apply not just to individuals but society (and history) as well:

Sooner or later, we all discover that life is not a never-ending victory march… Once you accept that this is an important time, a glorious, amazing, promising time, you can lean into your failure instead of trying to hide it on the outside while eating yourself alive on the inside.

Shit never stops happening. You do not arrive somewhere someday where no more shit happens. This is how it feels to be an adult, and if you accept that and embrace it, you will see how much happiness flows out of every crisis. If you fear it and get defensive and hardened and walk away instead of facing it head on, you will only learn how to become a perfectionist who quits and hides and is plagued by fear forever…

This is the skill you need more than any other skill: learning to face yourself, in all of your wild anger, in all of your self-hatred and fear and anxiety, and learning to face an uncertain future. Everyone has to do this over and over again. You are lucky to be here, trust me. This is perfect training for your career: Before you become a helper, you are going to know how it feels to need help.

4. Very sad to hear about Leonard Cohen, may he rest in peace. Believe it or not, my gateway into his music wasn’t “Hallelujah”. It was the debauched record he recorded with Phil Spector in the late 70s, The Death of a Ladies Man, for which I still have a soft spot. My favorite individual song of his remains “The Future” (above), which not only contains lines like “Give me Christ or give me Hiroshima” and “Love’s the only engine of survival”, but boasts one of his greatest chorus melodies.

If you’re looking for some reading on the man, I’d start with Liel Leibowitz or Jim Knable’s tributes on Tablet or Rob Sheffield’s over at Rolling Stone. Next, I’d check out the jaw-dropping 2011 article from Tim Challies (yes, that Tim Challies), whose aunt was immortalized in Cohen’s song “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy.” I kid you not. Pitchfork has collected some tributes from some of the man’s more well-known devotees, like Nick Cave. Oh, and if you didn’t tune into Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast a few months ago about the evolution of “Hallelujah”, run don’t walk. With all due respect to Jeff Buckley, the best version of that tune is John Cale’s.

5. “Is Late Night Political Comedy Useless?” asks Ian Crouch over at The New Yorker this week, and while I’m not sure I agree with his answer, I was grateful for the words of Stephen Colbert contained therein via his live election night Showtime special:

How did our politics get so poisonous? I think it’s ’cause we overdosed, especially this year. We drank too much of the poison. You take a little bit of it so you can hate the other side. And it tastes kinda good. And you like how it feels. And there’s a gentle high to the condemnation, right? You know you’re right, right? You know you’re right.. Politics used to be something we thought about every four years—maybe two years if you didn’t have a lot of social life. And that’s good we didn’t think about it that much, because it left room in our lives for other things, and for other people.

Now politics is everywhere. And that takes up precious brain space we could be using to remember all the things we actually have in common.

While I’d certainly echo Colbert’s sentiment, I’d amend it slightly. Politics is everywhere because, to vast swaths of the population, it has become everything. That is, rightly or wrongly, politics has never been more of a religion than it is today. Transparently so. Thus, the election outcome represents more than a defeat or reversal (or the inverse), but a death of purpose and faith–a confirmation of one’s deepest fears re: the meaninglessness of life. It’s probably too soon to talk about this in theoretical terms.

Still, for those still very much “feeling their feelings” post-Tuesday, or simply looking for some additional insight about it all, I highly commend our friend Duo Dickinson’s post on the perils of “Confusing Loss & Losing.” Needless to say, they are not the same thing.

6. Next, while we’re surfing that thematic wave, Rebecca Mead wrote a fascinating profile for The New Yorker of one of my favorite filmmakers, Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret), whose new film Manchester By the Sea has been raves on the festival circuit. I cannot wait:

Much of Lonergan’s work is driven by the idea that the conscious and the unconscious mind are often at odds—“that a large part of yourself is hidden from yourself, and comes out in all sorts of strange and interesting ways.”…

“Manchester by the Sea” burrows into the mind of a man [named Chandler] who experiences a trauma that neither kills him nor makes him stronger. Rather, it leaves him maimed. In his depiction of Chandler, Lonergan challenges a bromide that is often invoked in the face of depression or sorrow: that personal growth can be wrested from even the most terrible suffering. “I have seen a lot of movies—and they are really great movies—about people who come back from bad things and are redeemed,” Lonergan told me this summer. “And in real life people do it all the time.” We were at a restaurant on Nantucket, where he was being honored by the Screenwriters Colony, an artist’s retreat. We sat on a veranda overlooking a lawn, with a view of the water, and ordered oysters. We were a hundred miles from the piers of Manchester-by-the-Sea, and a world away. “And some people don’t come back,” he continued. “I don’t see how you come back from some things. I don’t see how people get through what they get through.” Describing Chandler, he said, “The character doesn’t learn to live with and move on from what happened. It’s part of him for the rest of his life.”

Lonergan describes himself in the piece as an atheist with an abiding and not altogether unsympathetic interest in faith. Which makes sense if you’ve seen You Can Count on Me (in which Lonergan himself plays a clergyman of the non-moronic variety). I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the song playing in the Manchester trailer was written/performed by Mathew Perryman-Jones, who has also worked with Indelible Grace hint hint nudge nudge.

7. TV: As much as I’ve been enjoying Westworld and Black Mirror (and Divorce), the best thing I’ve seen this Fall is Atlanta. We all knew Donald Glover was a talent, but I don’t think anyone suspected such a major one. If the one-two punch of episodes 6 & 7 don’t have you putting down your other screens, I doubt anything could do the trick. In fact, I’m not sure anyone else could’ve gotten away with “B.A.N.”, not even the South Park guys. Talk about range…! I cannot wait to see where it goes next season. Also, let me join in the chorus of those who’ve been deeply gratified to discover that The Crown is just as absorbing and gorgeously shot as the critics claimed.

8. Humorwise, it’s understandably a little dry/bitter out there at present. A couple that made me laugh were ‘The True Election Was In Eternity Past,’ Annoying Calvinist Keeps Reminding Everyone on The Babylon Bee and The Onion’s “Area Liberal No Longer Recognizes Fanciful, Wildly Inaccurate Mental Picture Of Country He Lives In”. Ooof. Let us know in the comments if you’ve seen anything else. A little levity would go a long way!

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