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    Softening the Sting: Some Words From Falling Into Grace

    Softening the Sting: Some Words From Falling Into Grace

    In a particularly memorable chapter from his book, Falling Into Grace, John Newton (who’ll be speaking at our Fall Conference in Oklahoma City 10/28-29) opens with the story of “The Scorpion and the Frog.” You may already be familiar with the story, but I wasn’t, so I’ll run through it quickly:

    The scorpion is looking for a way to cross the river, but, for obvious anatomical reasons, he’s having a hard time finding anyone willing to give him a ride. He asks the frog, who says, “No way, you’ll sting me!” The scorpion eventually cajoles the frog into giving him a lift across the…

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    A-Rod’s Legacy: It’s Complicated

    A-Rod’s Legacy: It’s Complicated

    Normally, a great athlete announcing his/her retirement provides an opportunity to reflect on a legacy. Image-management, tweaking of narratives and ad nauseam SportsCenter coverage often ensue. For professional athletes, therefore, this can be viewed as a strategic opportunity to forge a lasting impact, like a President in the final year of his second term. Different players choose to handle the retirement issue in different ways. Michael Jordan retired three times, Brett Favre stumbled over it so much we were eventually begging him to leave and Peyton Manning stepped into his next job as Papa Johns and Budweiser PR-man on the…

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    Our Daily Liturgies: An Excerpt from Bed and Board

    Our Daily Liturgies: An Excerpt from Bed and Board

    Returning to an Episcopal Church during college after some years worshiping in different traditions, I was surprised that the various creeds and dictums came back to me quickly. It was so assuring to hear the words that I had been so familiar with growing up, finding them still there in the recesses of memory. When the pastor said, “Hear these comfortable words” after the Confession and the Prayers of the People, the scripture then, and also the familiar liturgy throughout, really were that to me: comfortable words. Dwelling on them in content was important, no doubt, and a few teaching series I’d…

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    Tidy Lies and Messy Truths in Flaked

    Tidy Lies and Messy Truths in Flaked

    In a few recent Netflix shows, Will Arnett plays existentially ambivalent and sometimes despondent characters with alcoholic tendencies. He voices the title role in Bojack Horseman, an animated series centering on a maladjusted former TV star who’s going broke and doesn’t know how to engage in a meaningful relationship. And in the more recent Flaked he plays Chip, an exemplary community member with a colored past, basically killing time before the lease runs out on his furniture store in Venice Beach. He produces both shows and has a larger hand in the creation and writing of the latter, which claims AA…

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    The Graduates (Almost): Thoughts on Church and Worship

    The Graduates (Almost): Thoughts on Church and Worship

    This is Part 2 of a multi-part series about college, faith, and the expectations of millennials from the perspective of two near-graduates: David and Lizzie, Mockingbird’s finest interns.

    In our first “Millennials” post, Lizzie and I discussed the confluence of work and play in college and the uncertainties in discerning our next steps. In the second, we thought about our church experiences as young people. We noticed, as we talked and wrote, that we spend a lot of time in worship, and that worship is rarely focused on Jesus, much less anything beyond our phone screens. For Lizzie, jamming out at a Widespread…

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    Thomas Wolfe and the Armor of Affect

    Thomas Wolfe and the Armor of Affect

    Growing up involves enduring moments of self-recognition that accompany moving through different life stages. Or so I’ve been told. This new knowledge offers an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus. I’ve been going through such a stage over the past month or so, wondering how much the self I have worked to build and project is a reflection of how I truly feel deep down and would like to be seen. Thomas Wolfe’s Of Time and The Rive–whose chest-puffing epigraph, “A Legend of Man’s Hunger in His Youth,” effectively characterizes the frenzied egotism at play in the book (and my…

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    Listening to Sad Tunes

    Listening to Sad Tunes

    I rely solely on my more knowledgeable friends to give me music suggestions and shape my listening habits. This is a good idea because I’m basically tone deaf, and it allows for a bit of an eclectic personal playlist (that, at least, is my hope). To find something I really like, I keep my ears open and wait to hear what sticks. This streamlined process led me to an old Deerhunter album called Halcyon Digest this week. I think it’s awesome, but it’s also really sad. So, as I listen obsessively, I’m wondering, why am I so hooked on this…

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    How to be Hip and Cool According to Infinite Jest

    How to be Hip and Cool According to Infinite Jest

    I have a strong hunch that I’m a cynic, and I don’t like it. So whenever people I respect sound off about cynicism, I’m all ears. If you spot it, you got it and if you got it, you spot it, after all. David Foster Wallace offers a piercing insight into cynicism and the human condition in this passage from Infinite Jest:

    It’s of some interest that the lively arts of the millennial U.S.A. treat anhedonia and internal emptiness as hip and cool. It’s maybe the vestiges of the Romantic glorification of Weltschmerz, which means world weariness or hip ennui. Maybe…

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    Forgiveness in Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose Novels

    Forgiveness in Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose Novels

    This week I’ve waded deep into the world of Patrick Melrose. He’s from the upper crust in Britain, and if his world of ten thousand dollar weekend splurges in NYC and posh dinner parties in the English countryside aren’t quite applicable to my life, the pressure he feels to interpret and weave together his threads of experience into a meaningful story (and an ugly form of self-absorption that only serves to breed dread and guilt) most definitely are.

    Edward St. Aubyn’s acclaimed series of novels pick up with Patrick at the age of five and carries him through an abusive relationship…

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    The Internet and the Ache in Franzen’s Purity

    The Internet and the Ache in Franzen’s Purity

    Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Purity, came out last week, and although it temporarily cost me some good moods and positive self-regard, I got through it. Franzen has a real knack for exposing the ugly personal implications behind most of my daily behaviors. He has a low anthropology, which is partially why his writing is so attractive. Purity includes his take on what the Internet and social media mean for the contemporary self as well as his accurate insights into relationships and family life, achieved so memorably in Freedom and The Corrections. This book gets in your face but also boasts…

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    Passionate vs. Cool: Performancism in College

    Passionate vs. Cool: Performancism in College

    Set to start my senior year of college, a few interactions from my first semester in Charlottesville still stick with me. One was a question my advisor asked me as I anxiously slumped into a chair in his office for the first time. The second is a comment I made over lunch with a professor I respect and am hugely intimidated by.

    The question that sent me squirming in my seat was a seemingly simple one: “What are you passionate about?” … Crickets. He prodded, offering up easy suggestions for an 18-year-old male: sports, food, money, girls … “Sex?” he even asked, in…

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    Woody Allen, Walker Percy and “The Search”

    Woody Allen, Walker Percy and “The Search”

    “You suffer from despair,” Emma Stone tells Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the trailer for Woody Allen’s new movie, Irrational Man. “It was at this moment that my life came together,” Phoenix chimes in later via voiceover, “I’m Abe Lucas, I’ve had many experiences and now a unique one … This was the meaningful act I was searching for!” With this exclamation, he seems to have shaken his despair, assumedly the inner conflict that the film will center around. But, unless Woody Allen has had an extreme change of religious conviction, I suspect that Phoenix’s transcendent, unique act won’t lead to…

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