About David Zahl

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

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Author Archive

    Easter Jams: Del McCoury’s “Recovering Pharisee”

    Hard to believe this hasn’t been posted before, ht CJ:

    Moral Children and Their Praising Parents

    Moral Children and Their Praising Parents

    The New Yorker may have published the definitive word on parenting think-pieces a few weeks ago, but apparently the memo didn’t make it across town to The Times. Which is fortunate, since there’s quite a bit to be gleaned from Adam Grant’s recent “Raising a Moral Child”. If most parenting articles tend to focus on things like anxiety and self-image and work ethic, Grant gives us a helpful survey of current social science on how/where kids develop conscience and compassion and kindness. He begins by telling us that “when people in 50 countries were asked to report their guiding principles…

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    From The New Yorker

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    Another Week Ends: Walser’s Wounds, Diet Supremacists, Homeless Christ, Hart’s Lament, Flat Circus, Mad Men, Parenthood, and The Secret Sisters

    Another Week Ends: Walser’s Wounds, Diet Supremacists, Homeless Christ, Hart’s Lament, Flat Circus, Mad Men, Parenthood, and The Secret Sisters

    1. Much of value comes across one’s desk during Holy Week, and this year was no exception. But the sources are seldom the expected ones. What stopped me in my tracks this week was an interview The European conducted with prominent German intellectual Martin Walser on “Kafka, Faith and Atheism” (and Karl Barth), which was picked up by The Huffington Post in 2012. Don’t gloss over! Despite the somewhat confusing allusion to Martin Luther–a generous read of which would surmise he’s referring either to the -ism that followed the man, or the way the Reformer’s understanding of vocation was culturally…

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    W.H. Auden Was There on Good Friday

    This one has been making the rounds a bit recently, but fortunately no amount of familiarity can detract from its power. From Wystan’s long out of print ‘commonplace book’ A Certain World:

    daisy_nookJust as we are all, potentially, in Adam when he fell, so we were all, potentially, in Jerusalem on that first Good Friday before there was an Easter, a Pentecost, a Christian, or a Church. It seems to me worthwhile asking ourselves who we should have been and what we should have been doing. None of us, I’m certain, will imagine himself as one of the Disciples, cowering in agony of spiritual despair and physical terror. Very few of us are big wheels enough to see ourselves as Pilate, or good churchmen enough to see ourselves as a member of the Sanhedrin. In my most optimistic mood I see myself as a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria visiting an intellectual friend. We are walking along, engaged in philosophical argument. Our path takes us past the base of Golgotha. Looking up, we see an all too familiar sight – three crosses surrounded by a jeering crowd. Frowning with prim distaste, I say, ‘It’s disgusting the way the mob enjoy such things. Why can’t the authorities execute people humanely and in private by giving them hemlock to drink, as they did with Socrates?’ Then, averting my eyes from the disagreeable spectacle, I resume our fascinating discussion about the True, the Good and the Beautiful.

    Glimmers of Civilization (and Grace) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

    Glimmers of Civilization (and Grace) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

    I was bonding with a friend in New York last week over our mutual affection for the new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. After swapping a few favorite lines, he asked, with a twinkle in his eye, “So how’re you going to shoe-horn this one into your theological framework?” Quick wit that I am, I responded, “A story about adoption and inheritance that ends with an act of radical self-sacrifice – probably won’t need my shoehorn for this one”. Badabing! Obnoxious, I know. What’s even more obnoxious is that I’d been thinking for days about Grand Budapest and…

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    Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable (According to DFW)

    Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable (According to DFW)

    The time has come to post four rather astounding quotes from the 1993 interview that Larry McCaffery conducted with David Foster Wallace. It first appeared in Review of Contemporary Fiction, and the second paragraph will be familiar to those who attended last week’s conference:

    I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves….

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    April Playlist

    Coming very soon! Advance copies will be available at the Conference.

    Coming very soon! Advance copies will be available at the Conference.

    1. Tin Solider (live) – The Small Faces
    2. One Tin Soldier – The Original Castle
    3. Morning Girl – Neon Philharmonic
    4. Made in Dagenham – Sandie Shaw
    5. Going Down – The Stone Roses
    6. New York Morning – Elbow
    7. The Story of Me – The Everly Brothers
    8. Eyes to the Wind – The War on Drugs
    9. Mockingbird – Rob Thomas
    10. How a Resurrection Really Feels – The Hold Steady
    11. Carl Perkins’ Cadillac – Drive-by Truckers
    12. Mirage – Mack Starks
    13. Invisible – Burton Cummings
    14. Big Jet Plane – Primal Scream
    15. Stranger in Moscow – Tame Impala
    16. Control – Broken Bells
    17. Be Good – Emily Kinney
    18. Just One Victory – Todd Rundgren

     


    Henderson Wants!

    Time for another memorable passage from Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King:

    4535310075_f231037dbd_zNow I have already mentioned that there was a disturbance in my heart, a voice that spoke there and said, I want, I want, I want! It happened every afternoon, and when I tried to suppress it it got even stronger. It only said one thing, I want, I want!

    And I would ask, “What do you want?”

    But this was all it would ever tell me. It never said a thing except I want, I want, I want!

    At times I would treat it like an ailing child whom you offer rhymes or candy. I would walk it, I would trot it. I would sing to it or read to it. No use. I would change into overalls and go up on the ladder and spackle cracks in the ceiling; I would chop wood, go out and drive a tractor, work in the barn among the pigs. No, no! Through fistfights and drunkenness and labor it went right on, in the country, in the city. No purchase, no matter how expensive, would lessen it. Then I would say, “Come on, tell me. What’s the complaint, is it Lily herself? Do you want some nasty whore? It has to be some lust?” But this was no better a guess than the others. The demand came louder, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want! And I would cry, begging at last, “Oh, tell me then. Tell me what you want!” And finally I’d say, “Okay, then. One of these days, stupid. You wait!”

    This was what made me behave as I did. By three o’clock I was in despair. Only toward sunset the voice would let up. And sometimes I thought maybe this was my occupation because it would knock off at five o’clock itself. America is so big, and everybody is working, making, digging, bulldozing, trucking, loading, and so on, and I guess the sufferers suffer at the same rate. Everybody wanting to pull together. I tried every cure you can think of. Of course, in an age of madness, to expect to be untouched by madness is a form of madness. But the pursuit of sanity can be a form of madness, too. (pg. 24-25)

    Striving in Our Sleep, or Resting to Work Better?

    Striving in Our Sleep, or Resting to Work Better?

    Talk about grist for the mill! Did you see Eve Fairbanks’ riff in this past Sunday’s NY Times Magazine, “When Did Sleep Become So Nightmarish?” Amazing stuff. She takes her own struggle with insomnia, what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared a full-blown “public-health epidemic”, and uses it as an entry point to exploring the mentality surrounding sleep in this country–or at least the sleep industry, which has apparently become a $32billion/year endeavor. What she finds could not be more relevant to those interested in the relationship between productivity and identity (or ‘works righteousness’). It’s enough to,…

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    Another Week Ends: Overprotected Kids (and their Legos), Disney Therapy, Katims Gold, Malaysian Obsessions, Performance Reviews and Symmetrical Wes

    Another Week Ends: Overprotected Kids (and their Legos), Disney Therapy, Katims Gold, Malaysian Obsessions, Performance Reviews and Symmetrical Wes

    1. I had every intention of giving the subject of parenting a rest. Really, I did. But then The Atlantic put Hanna Rosin’s “The Overprotected Kid” on their cover this month and what can you do. Rosin touches on many of the same points that Heather Havrilesky raised in her polemic on ‘scripted play’, tracing the adverse effect that the decrease in unsupervised, unstructured time is having on our nation’s children, and the mounting tyranny of control (some would say paranoia) among parents. As Rosin notes, “failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent”. And yet,…

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    Play to Order and the Gamification of Parenting

    Play to Order and the Gamification of Parenting

    One of the most difficult and awkward things about being a youth minister was billing the events we would organize. We would tell kids about how much fun or profound something would be, hoping they would come, and we wouldn’t be lying. We knew the retreat/camp/outing would be a great time; they always were. But the second those words escaped your mouth (“the most fun you’ll ever have! the trip of a lifetime!”), they rang hollow. You could see it in the looks on the faces of whomever you were addressing. How fun could something be if you had to…

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    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt 33)

    7WEpA

    Toothpaste Paralysis and the Difference Between Regret and Remorse

    Toothpaste Paralysis and the Difference Between Regret and Remorse

    I hate shopping for toothpaste. You probably know what I’m talking about. There’s the kind that’s good on cavities but doesn’t whiten. There’s the environmentally friendly brand that cleans well but doesn’t do much for the breath. There’s the all-in-one variety that looks promising but only comes in a small (expensive) tube. And then there’s every possible variation thereof. The hours I’ve killed in that brightly colored aisle are more than embarrassing, they’re borderline irresponsible.

    Like you, I’ve read about the paradox of choice (the more options, the harder it is to choose), but truth be told, it has yet to…

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    Les Mousserables