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.
In Booth Tarkington’s 1915 novel The Turmoil, the character ‘Bibbs Sheridan’ suffers a nervous breakdown as a young man and is confined to a sanatorium. During this period he composes an essay entitled “Leisure”, from which the following (stunning) excerpt comes. A nice addendum to Will’s yesterday’s post about happiness:
“A man may keep a quiet heart at seventy miles an hour, but not if he is running the train. Nor is the habit of contemplation a useful quality in the stoker of a foundry furnace; it will not be found to recommend him to the approbation of his superiors. For a profession adapted solely to the pursuit of happiness in thinking, I would choose that of an invalid: his money is time and he may spend it on Olympus. It will not suffice to be an amateur invalid. To my way of thinking, the perfect practitioner must be to all outward purposes already dead if he is to begin the perfect enjoyment of life. His serenity must not be disturbed by rumors of recovery.“
File this one under required reading. David Brooks’ column in The NY Times this week “Alone, Yet Not Alone” mines a very rich vein: the discrepancy between how religious faith is presented and how it is experienced in America (and the world) today, particularly in terms of the role doubt plays. The man appears to be on something of a hot streak, quoting Augustine and Heschel in equal measure, and dropping what could be a career-making (hopefully not -wrecking) endorsement of singer-songwriter Audrey Assad. The intro goes like this:
When secular or mostly secular people are asked by researchers to give…
A hilarious and seriously relevant bit from comedian Mike Birbiglia about the fragility of what it means to be (or think of yourself) as a “decent person” and the often comic discrepancy between motivation and action. Taken from the recent goldmine of an episode of This American Life about “Good Guys”, ht CW:
“To some people, I may seem calm. But if you could peer beneath the surface, you would see that I’m like a duck—paddling, paddling, paddling…” – Scott Stossel
You don’t have to have a therapist on speed dial to relate. You don’t need a prescription to Xanax or Ativan, or a shelf full of ‘dealing with anxiety’ books to know what he’s talking about. You don’t even need to be interested in mental health. If you have a pulse, you know. Of course, it helps if you have an Internet connection too. The skyrocketing rates of anxiety in America are no…
One wonders how many times the Book of Concord has been mentioned on a prime-time sitcom… ht TB:
Our Father, whose creative Will
Asked Being for us all,
Confirm it that Thy Primal Love
May weave in us the freedom of
The actually deficient on
The justly actual.
Though written by Thy children with
A smudged and crooked line,
The Word is ever legible,
Thy Meaning unequivocal,
And for Thy Goodness even sin
Is valid as a sign.
Inflict Thy promises with each
Occasion of distress,
That from our incoherence we
May learn to put our trust in Thee,
And brutal fact persuade us to
Adventure, Art, and Peace.
“My friend Robin grew up in an army family, and learned early on that she wouldn’t live anywhere or know anyone for very long, that things like houses and best friends were strictly provisional and temporary. It makes me sad to know that she had to internalize this lesson so early–kids like me, with stabler lives, were brought up with the delusion, fuzzy and comforting as a favorite blanket, that home and friendship were givens, fixed forever. But, as Robin points out, transience wasn’t just a peculiarity of her own upbringing; it turns out to be the reality of life, for all of us. Everything is contingent and ephemeral, and the flimsy little Potemkin villages of permanence and security we rig up for ourselves—real estate, possessions, tenure and retirement plans, circles of friends and long-term relationships–are easily demolished by layoffs or divorce, accidents or diagnoses, even, on occasion, non-metaphorical hurricanes.”
If I’d had it on hand this past August, it would’ve definitely been included in this sermon, “Plank to Plank”:
Speaking of both Kreider and anxiety, we are finally ready to announce the theme for the upcoming NYC conference (4/3-5)! Curious? You know the drill. Preliminary Schedule coming next week.
Well, anyhow, it preserves us from the pride
of thinking we invented sin ourselves
by our originality, that famous modern power.
In fact, we have it from the beginning
of the world by the errors of being born,
being young, being old, causing pain
to ourselves, to others, to the world, to God
by ignorance, by knowledge, by intention,
by accident. Something is bad the matter
here, informing us of itself, handing down
its old instruction. We know it
when we see it, don’t we? Innocence
would never recognize it. We need it
too, for without it we would not know
forgiveness, goodness, gratitude,
that fund of grace by which alone we live.