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About David Zahl

David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries and editor-in-chief of the Mockingbird blog. He and his wife Cate reside in Charlottesville, VA, with their two sons, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church.

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Author Archive
    
    Singing Love Songs to Addicts (and Earth People, Too)

    Singing Love Songs to Addicts (and Earth People, Too)

    Been a while since we checked in on the world of addiction. Back in January The Huffington Post ran an article with the transparently baiting title of “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think” that went viral. I think we mentioned it in a weekender. It was the work of Johann Hari, a controversial British journalist and author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. In June Hari gave a TED talk–embedded below–based on the same material, in which he stresses the social factors that…

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    Another Week Ends: Amabots, Dismaland, Resurrected Souls, Evangelical Wizards, more Brene, and the Death of the Internet

    Another Week Ends: Amabots, Dismaland, Resurrected Souls, Evangelical Wizards, more Brene, and the Death of the Internet

    1. By this point, you’ve probably gandered at The NY Times’ “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace”, which describes the retail baron’s notorious pattern of “burn and churn” when it comes to its employees. If the report is to be believed, the closest reference point to their company ethos is that of the Prussian military, i.e. “Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.” While reports about the mega-retailer’s internal culture have been circulating for quite some time now, this is the article that will cement Bezos et al at the top of the performancist foodchain. One of the ways they’ve…

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    Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

    Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

    I promise you, I had no intention of writing about this subject again. Not for a long while at least. I’m talking about the whole culture of offense/outrage/oversensitivity/correctness/humorlessness/what-have-you that seems to have overtaken our nation’s universities, and by extension vast swaths of media, social and otherwise. It may be one of the primary places where the thematic rubber is meeting the road (for now), but it doesn’t bring out a terribly hopeful side. And one needs all the optimism one can get, especially at the dawn of a new semester. Or election.

    Plus, we’ve already covered most of this stuff at…

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    Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

    Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

    It turns out that Stephen Colbert has a sign on his computer that reads, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the existence of God.” No joke. I tell you this by way of context for what comes next. GQ ran a profile of him this month entitled “The Late, Great Stephen Colbert”, checking in with the comedian (and, according to the article, “one of the country’s few public moral intellectuals”!) before he kicks off his much-anticipated stint as host of The Late Show in September. The article is jaw-dropping. What starts out with a story about Colbert needling Eminem on…

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    How to Construct a Vehicle for Feeling Superior

    Finally absorbed DT Max’s biography of David Foster Wallace, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, while on vacation last week and figure the window of film-related hubbub won’t be open forever. One passage that stuck out comes from a letter that Wallace wrote to Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, in which he describes a familiar conflict: how one’s inner lawyer can marshal shortcomings just as deftly as strengths in its quest for personal righteousness:

    aliciaworkI go through a loop in which I notice all the ways I am–for just an example–self-centered and careerist and not true to standards and values that transcend my own petty interests, and feel like I’m not one of the good ones; but then I countenance the fact that here at least here I am worrying about it, noticing all the ways I fall short of integrity, and I imagine that maybe people without any integrity at all don’t notice or worry about it; so then I feel better about myself (I mean, at least this stuff is on my mind, at least I’m dissatisfied with my level of integrity and commitment); but this soon becomes a vehicle for feeling superior to (imagined) Others… It has to do with God and gods and a basic sense of trust in the universe v. fear that the universe must be held at bay and micromanaged into giving me some smidgeon of some gratification I feel I simply can’t live without. It’s all very confusing. I think I’m very honest and candid, but I’m also proud of how honest and candid I am–so where does that put me.

    Directive – Robert Frost

    Directive – Robert Frost

    Back out of all this now too much for us,
    Back in a time made simple by the loss
    Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
    Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
    There is a house that is no more a house
    Upon a farm that is no more a farm
    And in a town that is no more a town.
    The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
    Who only has at heart you’re getting lost,
    May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
    Great monolithic knees the former town
    Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
    And there’s a story in a book about…

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    Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lion? Code Fetishists in an Age of Outrage

    Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lion? Code Fetishists in an Age of Outrage

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought people were joking at first with the whole #Cecilthelion fracas last week. I was traveling, so I only heard snippets of what had gotten people so upset. Once I realized they were serious, surely I was missing something. Alas, even after reading up on the admittedly grotesque incident, the whole thing feels too much like a send-up of internet outrage, parodic in both subject and intensity, like something Black Mirror might do. The joke was on me, I guess. Until I remembered Tim Kreider’s immortal diagnosis of the phenomenon:

    So many letters to the editor and…

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    August Playlist

    An abundance power pop this time around… You’re welcome.

    The Non-Binding Paradox (of How David Foster Wallace Had Fun)

    The Non-Binding Paradox (of How David Foster Wallace Had Fun)

    Tomorrow marks the release of The End of the Tour, the dramatization of David Lipsky’s book-length interview with author David Foster Wallace, (a number of portions of which we’ve posted over the years). As much as I admire Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg, I’m in the camp of those who are ambivalent about the film’s production. Just feels too soon, and as his estate has made abundantly clear, there is no way the man himself would have wanted this to happen. The initial images from the set looked dubious, but then the first trailer appeared (below), and it was far…

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    ORG XMIT: VTBUR101 In this Tuesday, April 19, 2011 photo, Ashley Koetsier, 21, of Woodstock, Vt., reads about a college student who died by suicide from a small laminated plaque attached to a backpack on the green outside Davis Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt.  Active Minds, a student group dedicated to promoting increased dialogue about mental health and incidents and impacts of sucide, placed 1,100 backpacks representing victims, dozens with personal stories of student suicide. (AP Photo/The Burlington Free Press,  Ryan Mercer) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT TV OUT

    Penn Faces and Campus Tragedies: More Notes on an Epidemic

    Here’s why I didn’t want to write about Julie Scelfo’s recent article “Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection” in The NY Times:

    It is not because we’ve written about the phenomenon too many times already–though we have. It is because writing about it again only serves to underline how futile-seeming these kinds of reflections are. Who wants to spend an afternoon basking in despair? Or mitigating the despair by placing oneself above it all? It is deeply unpleasant.

    This past year Charlottesville witnessed four undergraduate suicides, and I’m not sure I can muster the energy to cartwheel yet again over the…

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    From The Onion: Toddler Unsettled By Whatever Possessed Her To Bite Friend’s Face

    Pretty funny rejoinder to their classic, “New Study Reveals Most Children Unrepentant Sociopaths”. Read the full thing here:

    614Ob8PCQNL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_WESTON, CT—Visibly shocked and repulsed by her own behavior as she sat questioning the type of person she is deep down, unsettled 2-year-old Ellie Ritter admitted to reporters that she had no idea what compelled her to bite her friend on the face Thursday. “I honestly don’t know what came over me. I know Jacob took the train I was playing with, but I usually handle that kind of thing okay—but this time I…I bit him,” said a shaken and bewildered Ritter, sitting wide-eyed on a floor mat at her daycare… “I mean, this is Jacob we’re talking about. He’s my friend, my playmate. And I just went straight for his forehead like an animal. Jesus, what is wrong with me?” At press time, the unnerved toddler was staring uneasily down at her trembling, fingerpaint-covered hands and contemplating what other horrors she was capable of.

    Another Week Ends: Soren Love, Bad Sleep, Mindful Corporations, Pocket Knives, Captive Mothers and Mountain Goats

    Another Week Ends: Soren Love, Bad Sleep, Mindful Corporations, Pocket Knives, Captive Mothers and Mountain Goats

    1. In a sea of inter-religious conflict and division, how beautiful it is to catch a glimpse of the opposite. Apparently a group of Muslims has raised close to $100K to help rebuild the black churches that were burned in the recent rash of arson. Amen to that, ht BB.

    2. “I Still Love Kierkegaard” is the title of a wonderful article by Julian Baggini that appeared on Aeon. Favorite sections are the ones dealing with Soren’s Christianity:

    What Kierkegaard showed was that the only serious alternative to atheism or agnosticism was not what generally passes for religion but a much deeper…

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