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About Ethan Richardson

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.

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    The Benefit of Treating Your Spouse Like A Small Child

    From a talk he gave on love this summer, Alain de Botton here gives us permission to view our significant others as the small children they actually are. Relying on a searingly low anthropology, de Botton argues that pessimism is, in fact, the key to a successful relationship. He says, “Pessimism is often seen as the enemy of good things, and indeed it is in many ventures. But when you embark on the journey of love, pessimism, in fact, is the most generous and kindly emotion you can direct towards yourself and your partner.” One of the ways we do this, he figures, is to disentangle one another from the “adult” expectations we have for one another. (The entire 20 minute talk, below, is well worth the listen. This comes in the last couple minutes.)

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    The first thing we need to understand is: let’s stop treating our partners as if they were adults and let’s start treating them like small children. The reason this is so important is when a small child has done something wrong—let’s imagine you have a small child, you cook them dinner, they’re two years old, three years old, you have broccoli and some schnitzel and you put a plate down in front of them and they just swipe it off and go, “Ech!” and start screaming. Now, what do you do as a modern parent? You don’t hit them. You don’t go, “I’m so offended, I’ve had a hard day at work, and now this—you’re persecuting me!” You don’t say that. Instead, you go, “Maybe my poor child’s got a sore tooth, or maybe he’s a bit jealous of his sister being born, maybe that’s kind of weighing on him, maybe he’s a bit tired, that’s why he’s behaving like this.” In other words, we’re incredibly generous with our system of interpretation. We don’t do this with adults because we think, This person’s an adult. And, most adults look like adults, unfortunately. It would be so much more useful if we looked like children.

    The thing about breaking something—like a broken arm—is that everyone can see it. “Oh, you’ve got a broken arm! I’m so sorry, let me open the door for you.” If you’ve got a broken bit of your soul, a broken bit of your psyche, everyone thinks your normal. But you want to say, “No, no, I’ve got this thing, it’s broken even though it doesn’t look broken.” We don’t look like children—but we are inside. And we’re so aware of how patronizing it is to be treated as if you are younger than you are, but we forget how generous, how kind, how truly loving it is to treat someone as if they are younger than they are. Because this is what it means to truly love someone: to be generous in one’s interpretation of another person.

    Another Week Ends: Leo’s Apartment, The Boss’s Dad Issues, Jung’s Advice, the None’s Affiliation, and the FitBit’s Failure

    Another Week Ends: Leo’s Apartment, The Boss’s Dad Issues, Jung’s Advice, the None’s Affiliation, and the FitBit’s Failure

    1. I think we have to lead off with this one: Leo DiCaprio’s Malibu beach property is on the market (for a measly $11M), and the folks from LAist decided to have some fun with the realtors over at Redfin, in a nihilistic sort of way. With some help from their friends—Jean-Paul Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche—the journalists ponder whether or not this future home could ever bring meaning to an otherwise meaningless and, well, imponderable existence.

    LAist: Hi! Love the house!! Just a few questions. Albert Camus once said “At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman.” This house is obviously…

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    The Narcissist In Your Life

    The Narcissist In Your Life

    In her booklength essay on narcissism, Kristin Dombek enumerates the varieties of Narcissisms that plague the world order these days. There’s the Narcissistic Leader, whose ego runs the office you work for, the Collective Narcissist whose group or tribe is the best in the world, the Sexual Narcissist whose libidinal prowess must always be tested by new conquests. There’s also the Corporate Narcissist, the White Coat Narcissist, the Spiritual Narcissist and, of course, the Conversational Narcissist. The list is several pages long. (I wonder if you, like me, will be able to effortlessly match a face you know with each…

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    Tough Love Lessons in a Year of Jail Ministry

    Tough Love Lessons in a Year of Jail Ministry

    Before even beginning this post, you probably noticed the one giant, smug asterisk that naturally attached itself to the title: *Oh goodness, that’s right. Can’t believe I forgot to tell you! I do jail ministry. NBD. I’d love to, you know, grab a beer and tell you more about it sometime…

    Let me alleviate any forespoken superiority with a quick rejoinder: God did not equip me with enough confidence to throw “successful tips” out about much, and definitely not about doing jail Bible studies. I do not have tips. I am a “sensitive” guy, which does not exactly disqualify me from…

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    Another Week Ends: Contra-Coddling, Dumb Phones, Harambe, Optional Church, TV God, and the Millennial Whoop

    Another Week Ends: Contra-Coddling, Dumb Phones, Harambe, Optional Church, TV God, and the Millennial Whoop

    Kudos to the trend buckers out there, the first of whom being the University of Chicago, who sent this letter to their class of 2020 before their arrival on campus. In opposition to the kind of coddling we’ve seen surface over the past couple years in academia, Chicago promises their students that there will be no such thing as trigger warnings in their classrooms. Diversity, if it means anything at all, will be as offensive as it is accepting. Part of the job of the university, they argue, is to level the playing field of discourse—something that a culture of offense prohibits…

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    When Life’s Gappers Get Your Goats

    When Life’s Gappers Get Your Goats

    A good starting place for reading the stories of George Saunders might not be Tenth of December, but The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, a fable that is as appropriate for kids as it is for adults. The story centers around the seaside town of Frip, which consists of three families: The Ronsens, a husband and wife who look exactly alike, and have two daughters who stand very still; Bea Romo, a big, angry woman with two big, angry sons, all of whom are big, angry singers; and our heroine, Capable, and her father, who live in the red house closest…

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    Another Week Ends: Mandating Happiness, Facetuning Your Face, The Never-Ever Golden Age, and The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere

    Another Week Ends: Mandating Happiness, Facetuning Your Face, The Never-Ever Golden Age, and The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere

    Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with psychologist and ‘experimental theologian’ Richard Beck, author of Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted.

    1. The New Yorker asked last week whether or not you can mandate happiness? Looking specifically at workplaces—workplaces that are basing their strategy from positive psychology and “science of happiness” studies—the article describes that happiness (believe it or not, people!) triggers better personal relationships in the workplace, and thus higher productivity. What the studies do not show, though, is that that happiness cannot be…

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    Throwback Thursday: The 1983 Interview with…Robert Farrar Capon!

    Throwback Thursday: The 1983 Interview with…Robert Farrar Capon!

    Another gem from The Wittenburg Door, the satirical Christian magazine of yore which brought some heavy-lifting (and light-humored) interviews back in the day. This is their phenomenal interview with hero bon vivant Robert Farrar Capon (ht MM).

    Door: You used to teach theology?

    Robert Farrar Capon: Someone had to do it.

    D: We’re glad it was you and not us.

    RFC: So is the theological community.

    D: We were going to be easy on you, but now you have forced us to ask the difficult questions. Here’s our first: What is theology?

    RFC: That’s a difficult question?

    D: Quit stalling.

    RFC: Theology is a funny kind of knowledge. Unfortunately, most…

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    The Blessing of The Cursed Child

    The Blessing of The Cursed Child

    A quick disclaimer before reading: I will be giving a positive review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I will, in the words that follow, go so far as to recommend Harry Potter fans read it. So there. If you’ve already decided that the seven books will be the only books, that you will never touch the apocryphal supplements that come via screen or stage, I will not call you a pureblooder…that decision, to close eyes, ears and hands to some idea of magical purity–that’s entirely your decision. A rather pretentious one, I’ll grant, but your decision nonetheless. Everyone…

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    Hiding Under the Stage of Political Certainty

    Hiding Under the Stage of Political Certainty

    It’s not even September, which means we’ve only just begun to moan at the radio, “Good grief, another piece on approval ratings?!” With three months to go, we’re going to need all the help we can get, which is why I came back to Kathryn Schulz and her book Being Wrong. This excerpt discusses the allure of ‘public displays’ of certainty, even when the evidence plainly proves otherwise. Schulz explains why we, despite the false promises of the past, continue to cast our votes for a certain future.

    Certainty might be a practical, logical, and evolutionary necessity, but the simplest truth about it is that it…

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    The Ministry of Personal Concern

    From Henri Nouwen’s classic The Wounded Healer, this excerpt seems to describe pastoral care (and relationships) 101: the power of one’s own inner-archaeology to “break the fourth wall” with another; to actually reach out and meet another by first reaching in.

    ec85f5bc2fe180880ec3f2c022986e5687045070_mIt is not just curiosity which makes people listen to a preacher when speaks directly to a man and a woman whose marriage he blesses or to the children of the man whom he buries in the ground. They listen in the deepseated hope that a personal concern might give the preacher words that carry beyond the ears of those whose joy or suffering he shares. Few listen to a sermon which is intended to be applicable to everyone, but most pay careful attention to words born out of concern for only a few.

    All this suggests that when one has the courage to enter where life is experienced as most unique and most private, one touches the soul of the community. The man who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his fellow men might well be the best equipped to speak to the needs of the many, because all men are one at the wellspring of pain and joy.

    This is what Carl Rogers pointed out when he wrote: “…I have–found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others. This has helped me to understand artists and poets who have dared to express the unique in themselves.” It indeed seems that the Christian leader is first of all the artist who can bind together many people by his courage in giving expression to his most personal concern.

    The Seven Sacraments of Harry Potter

    The Seven Sacraments of Harry Potter

    In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, here is another essay from our new anthology of movie essays, Mockingbird at the Movies, available in print here and on Kindle here. 

    Before anyone calls bluff on a Harry Potter essay found in a book about movies, let us first consider a fact about the Harry Potter movie franchise. As of July 2015, total movie sales for the eight Harry Potter films had almost surpassed total Harry Potter book sales, a ridiculous feat when you consider how much money that is (over $7 billion). And when you consider…

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