Ethan Richardson is a contributing staff member for Mockingbird. Born and raised in Lexington, KY, he graduated from the University of Virginia in 2009, majoring in Religious Studies and English. In June of 2011, he finished two years of teaching 5th grade in the inner city of New Orleans, and now lives in Charlottesville, VA and works for Mockingbird along with serving at Christ Episcopal Church.
Another Week Ends: Palo Alto, the Other U-Curve, Adele Calling, Polly Answering, George Saunders in the Future, and Jonathan Haidt on Coddling
Click here for the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast.
Like many of these weekend columns, it seems we are provided a moment to stop and stand in the drift of cultural attention. Lots of times, especially if our collective attention is focused on something of particular interest to Mockingbird, we find we must write about it on its own, right now, sans weekender. This is what Dave did this week in his compilation piece about teenage optimism. Whether it is due to the atrocities in Europe, or the continued civil unrest here at home, it seems Americans (humans?) have had to…
As we all know, love stories are often too good to be true.
On This American Life last week, NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, who now has his own podcast called Hidden Brain, tells the story of a love-letter scam created by a man named Don Lowry. In the 1980s, Lowry purchased the address lists of major men’s magazines and began sending catalogs advertising female penpals. Interested men could peruse this catalog of pretty girls, with photographs and extensive bios, and begin receiving letters and pictures for a subscription fee.
You might have an idea of what these pictures and letters…
What does “the good life” really mean? It is a question which, in itself, may prove the point of the recent NY Times‘ op-ed, “The Gospel According to ‘Me’”. In it Jamieson Webster and Simon Critchley, a psychoanalyst and a philosophy professor, talk shop about today’s “church of self,” how the emptying pews of churches and synagogues aren’t representative of popular religiosity. Quite the opposite in fact–the religious faculties of the human race are doing just fine, thank you very much; it’s simply that their object has shifted.
So where is our focus these days if not on God, you ask?…
In a review of J.F. Powers’ book of letters, Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker refers to the mid-century writer as a Catholic cross between Chekhov and Garrison Keillor. Says Gopnik, “His tales had a Trollopean sensibility: he accepted the necessity of the divine institution, without unduly sanctifying its officials. Small rivalries (I recall one good story in which a priest with a valet engenders the envy of his colleagues) and little epiphanies (as in the beautiful ending of the story “Lions, Harts, Leaping Does,” in which a dying friar loses his pet canary in a snowstorm ) were his…
Instead, you can walk backwards into life—
Undo your steps and gain ground as you yield,
As long as ground remains beneath your feet.
It’s like one way of wading into surf,
Putting the swell behind you as it breaks.
The other is to take life diving under
With eyes shut tight until it washes over.
Either way, if you don’t want to face
The world mounting towards you, wave on wave,
Or setting up its obstacles perversely,
You can make a virtue of reversal
Or submission. Then, perhaps, you’ll have
That certain feeling of being vaguely shepherded
Or that someone somewhere knows where you are headed.
Leslie Jamison’s book of essays, called The Empathy Exams, has a lot to say to about the reaches (and limits) of human love and compassion in their modern expression. The second essay in the collection, called “Devil’s Bait,” is about a group of sufferers who share a rare, controversial illness called Morgellons Disease. With Morgellons, strange fibers grow beneath the skin, causing the sensation that the skin is crawling. The term is formication—the sensation of crawling insects under the skin.
It is a controversial disease, though, because it has no known medical cause and no known medical cure. While it remains…
Another Week Ends: Work and Play, Oprah and Colbert, Barack and Marilynne, Kanye Western, and Yes, Death
The work and play issue continues. This week we saw two articles surface that had more bad news to give us about the growing presence of our work lives in our leisure time. Ugh. I’ll spare you both of them. One of them talks about the implicit message of workaholism in tv shows these days. Besides The Office, many popular series paint the picture that work is life, that meaningful work sometimes means the dissolution of everything around you, but is still lionized by the show’s plotline (Mad Men, Scandal, Rescue Me).
The one I want to quote here is the…
From the poet’s new collection, Application for Release from the Dream. His take on the non-toiling flowers of the field (Mt 6).
tell the flowers–they think
the sun loves them.
The grass is under the same
From Prayers of Life. This section sounds like a modern mixture of Jesus calming the storm (Mt 8) and the psalmist’s cry in the night (Ps 6). Quoist then gives us God’s response.
I’m at the end of my rope, Lord.
I am shattered.
I am broken.
Since this morning I have been struggling to escape temptation, which, now wary, now persuasive, now tender, now sensuous, dances before me like a seductive girl at a fair.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know where to go.
It spies on me, follows me, engulfs me.
When I leave a room I find it seated and waiting for…
This week, Sherry Turkle picked up where she left off in her NYT article a few years ago, “The Flight from Conversation.” This time, Turkle, who has a new book out, is talking about the lack of conversation skills in today’s young people, but more importantly, how their lack of face-to-face interaction has deeper consequences for learning the lessons of empathy.
It’s almost yawn-worthy to hear yet one more scare-piece about the waning of human attention, or the prospect of a monstrous grown-up millennial generation, but it continues to be on our radars. As we discuss in the upcoming Technology Issue, we simply do not have the…
Another Week Ends: St. Paul’s Gift, Princeton’s Fifth Quintile, Biden’s Kierkegaard, Russia’s Soul, Pixar’s SadLab, and the Peak of Television
1) After the seriously powerful interview Colbert conducted with Vice President Joe Biden, Quartz did a closer look on the guiding philosophy that helped Biden endure the loss of his son Beau. If you’ve not watched the interview, well, go ahead and do that, but Biden describes a note that his wife left him on his mirror, which read, “Faith sees best in the dark,” which comes from Kierkegaard.
Apparently, says Joel Rasmussen of Kierkegaard’s phrase, this is the paradoxical power of Christianity in the human occasion of suffering.
“One sees a kind of goodness coming out of this darkness but, as…
From the 1990 selection of Sabbath poems.
The body in the invisible
Familiar room accepts the gift
Of sleep, and for a while is still;
Instead of will, it lives by drift
In the great night that gathers up
The earth and sky. Slackened, unbent,
Unwanting, without fear or hope,
The body rests beyond intent.
Sleep is the prayer the body prays,
Breathing in unthought faith the Breath
That through our worry-wearied days
Preserves our rest, and is our truth.