CJ Green studied English and Middle Eastern Studies at UVa. His favorite books are for ages 7-12. The Holy Spirit led him to Mockingbird, and he is eternally grateful.
Another Week Ends: The Shortcomings of Reason, La La Land Parodies, Technological Glitches, Militant Veganization, Performance Art, Existential Billionaires, Extreme Church Makeovers, and a “Hostage Situation”
1. Lots of interesting links this week! First up, The New Yorker published “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds,” a fascinating piece by Elizabeth Kolbert. Discussing at length the phenomenon of ‘confirmation bias’ — which suggests that we believe those facts that support our beliefs and reject those that challenge our beliefs — Kolbert ultimately confirms (bada bing!) much of what our own pop psych. archives have been saying for quite some time. Drawing from the work of cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, and their upcoming book The Enigma of Reason, Kolbert argues that “reason” is a tool we have developed to help ourselves convincingly navigate our biases without giving away our…
The following poem evokes AA’s fourth step (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”) and the gravity of apologies. This is from Kaveh Akbar’s chapbook/collection, Portrait of the Alcoholic.
Personal Inventory: Fearless (Temporis Fila)
“I know scarcely one feature by which man can be distinguished from apes, if it be not that all the apes have a gap between their fangs and their other teeth.”
– Carolus Linnaeus
A gap, then,
a slot for fare.
I used my arms to learn two,
my fingers to learn ten.
My grandfather kept an atlas so old
there was a blank spot in the middle of Africa.
I knew a girl…
Lowland Hum’s third studio album, Thin, is out today. Its 11 tracks wrap their way in and around several different heart-level themes, but one that maintains precedence throughout is the freedom to be small. Their previous self-titled album aimed for, and executed, a bigger sound with a fuller production; by contrast, Thin relies on the musical capacity of the husband-and-wife duo, Daniel and Lauren Goans, alone.
This is a fragile place to be. As always, the music is greatly informed by the Goans’ marriage — a favorite lyric: “Andrew Wyeth, you always move my wife” — and as their sound becomes more intimate, its investigation of their relationship grows deeper. As Lauren says, the music…
“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin” (Gal 1:11).
Lady Gaga began her halftime show from a perch high above everyone else: Above the stadium, underneath a drone-filled night sky, she was dressed in what Variety called “an MTV exec’s idea of what Y2K was going to look like” — in other words, a glittery silver spacewoman outfit; her eyes were bedazzled with a silvery mask.
Everyone I spoke to beforehand was eager to see what Gaga would do but anxious about whether or not she would get political. In that sense, it was…
Another Week Ends: Robotic Employees, Free Speech Zones, Travel by Bubble, Carnival Culture, More Love, Less Self-Help, and Mary Tyler Moore
1. Ever feel like a robot at work? Well, the good news is, it’s the weekend so maybe you can hit your off-switch.
The bad news comes from an article John Harris wrote in The Guardian, “Digital giants are turning workers into robots.” It’s about increasingly invasive programs which monitor work ethic. Eugh.
The US retail chain Target announced in 2015 that Fitbit trackers were to be offered to its 335,000 workers, as part of its embrace of what the business vernacular calls “corporate wellness programmes”. As things stand, workers who opt to have their metabolisms monitored are organised into teams who compete to raise money for charity. Just…
This American Life’s recent Christmas episode, about gifts, told stories of mostly bad news: two of the three segments were about characters realizing that the thing they most wanted was bankrupt of what they actually needed. They were about expectations and disappointments, about human longing and our tendency to put our faith in the wrong things.
The first segment, however–the prologue–was the precise inverse: the thing we didn’t realize we wanted was the thing we needed most.
It’s a good story. It starts off with a Marine named Luke who, while serving in Ramadi, Iraq in 2005, spent his off-time watching Gilmore Girls.
Luke Huisenga: Yeah, I mean,…
Death of a Salesman is one of my favorite stories, not because it is a piece of great “litracha,” but because it is about a man to whom I can profoundly relate. For anyone who wasn’t subjected to Arthur Miller’s masterpiece in high school, here are the basics: Willy Loman is a salesman harboring great expectations for his son, Biff. When grown-up Biff returns for a visit (“I’m mixed up very bad,” he says), Willy’s delusions about who Biff should be collide with who Biff really is. Willy nevertheless maintains a blind sort of optimism: “Certain men just don’t get started…
This an excerpt from the conclusion to MLK’s 1959 sermon, “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart.”
I am thankful that we worship a God who is both tough minded and tenderhearted. If God were only tough minded, he would be a cold, passionless despot sitting in some far-off Heaven “contemplating all,” as Tennyson puts it in “The Palace of Art.” He would be Aristotle’s “unmoved mover,” self-knowing but not other-loving. But if God were only tenderhearted, he would be too soft and sentimental to function when things go wrong and incapable of controlling what he has made. He would be like H. G. Well’s loveable God in God, the Invisible King, who is strongly desirous of making a good world but finds himself helpless before the surging powers of evil. God is neither hardhearted nor soft minded. He is tough minded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.
At times we need to know that the Lord is a God of justice. When slumbering giants of injustice emerge in the Earth, we need to know that there is a God of power who can cut them down like the grass and leave them withering like the Greek herb. When our most tireless efforts fail to stop the surging sweep of oppression, we need to know that in this universe is a God whose matchless strength is a fit contrast to the sordid weakness of man. But there are also times when we need to know that God possesses love and mercy. When we are staggered by the chilly winds of adversity and battered by the raging storms of disappointment and when through our folly and sin we stray into some destructive far country and are frustrated because of a strange feeling of homesickness, we need to know that there is Someone who loves us, cares for us, understands us, and will give us another chance. When days grow dark and nights grow dreary, we can be thankful that our God combines in his nature a creative synthesis of love and justice that will lead us through life’s dark valleys and into sunlit pathways of hope and fulfillment.
Another Week Ends: Andrew Garfield Falls in Love with Jesus, Internet Trolls Enter the Confessional, Ninety-Percent Forgiveness, Bootstraps Parenting, Kirk Franklin Loses His Religion, and Labour-In-Vain Road
1. Happy Friday, everyone! First up, America Magazine’s interview with Andrew Garfield, who plays Rodrigues in Scorsese’s adaption of Silence, which is wide-releasing today. Apparently Garfield prepared extensively for his role as a Jesuit priest, practicing Ignation Exercises for several months before shooting. To get the scoop, Jesuit Brendan Busse went on a “religious blind date” with Garfield. It started off pretty awkward…the actor was tired, the Jesuit was excited [about Ignatius Loyola]. And then Garfield explained his weariness: “…the grief of living in a time and a place where a life of joy and love is f–ing impossible.”
He goes on to identify the law: that, even…
I’ve been enjoying Michael Lewis’s new book, The Undoing Project, which picks up where Moneyball left off: When it comes to sports recruitment, if the numbers are more reliable than human judgment, the next question is why? What’s going on in the human mind that makes even the experts’ top picks hit-or-miss?
One answer is the inevitable confirmation bias. The following definition comes to us from our magazine’s recent Mental Health issue: “The tendency to experience the world through the lens of your already held beliefs. If you think, before you’ve eaten there, that La Frontera is a terrible restaurant…the odds are in favor of you hating it…
I think we owe ourselves a congratulations. We got through the holidays! The holiday-less S.A.D.-inducing winter spans before us and the countdown to new TV shows and MLK day begins.
Amid all of my complaining about 2016 and the politics of gift-giving, I had forgotten to expect one thing that can actually make the holidays challenging: just spending time with family…occupying the same dinner table, digging into the same refrigerator, watching the same movies with a group of people we never chose our relation to. It was only a matter of time before our great Uncle Fabio–we all have one–staggered through the doorway with all sorts of opinions…
Oh no. Another Snicket quote. This, from The Slippery Slope:
Deciding on the right thing to do in a situation is a bit like deciding on the right thing to wear to a party. It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier. It might seem right to wear a navy blue suit, for instance, but when you arrive there could be several other people wearing the same thing, and you could end up being hand-cuffed due to a case of mistaken identity. It might seem right to wear your favorite pair of shoes, but there could be a sudden flood at the party, and your shoes would be ruined. And it might seem right to wear a suit of armor to the party, but there could be several other people wearing the same thing, and you could end up being caught in a flood due to a case of mistaken identity, and find yourself drifting out to sea wishing that you were wearing deep-sea diving equipment after all. The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until the party is over, and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind, which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things and wearing ugly clothing, and so few volunteers who are able to stop them.