New Here?
     
Cultural

The Power of the Personal Essay

The Power of the Personal Essay

In her piece for newyorker.com, “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over,” Jia Tolentino laments the death of a genre of writing that was, for a spell, ubiquitous. “A genre that partially defined the last decade of the Internet has essentially disappeared,” she writes. The Toast, Hairpin, Gawker, and other sites showcasing the noble attempts of young writers to mine their experiences and explore what they had to say have since disbanded or stopped receiving first-person pitches. The audience has shrunk for these essays, and Tolentino is sad to see them go.

The online personal essay has its faults. The form’s popularity contributed…

Read More > > >

When You Can't Get the S-Town Off of You

When You Can’t Get the S-Town Off of You

There are these golden moments in interviews where everything before and after becomes fuzzy, and the clarity of what is happening between those two people gets thrust into sharp contrast, like an audio pull-quote. Recently I had just that experience.

 

I felt an urge to relisten to S-Town just a few weeks ago. It was even more moving the second time, hearing Brian Reed tell the story of the eccentric genius John B. McLemore and the equally colorful supporting cast of characters that were his family and neighbors. It was like listening to a real-life Flannery O’Connor story; Southern Gothic meets…

Read More > > >

When We Were Young: A Story of America

When We Were Young: A Story of America

Back in the summer of 2004, roughly fifteen months after the United States invaded Iraq, I sat in the United States House of Representatives, high in the balcony on to the right of the lectern for he who stood at it, and listened to Colin Powell speak to a chamber full of congressional interns. It was a hard time for the United States. The Bush presidency and the invasion of Iraq had led to a sense of national division as great as we had experienced in my lifetime, and certainly since the Vietnam War. I tried to remain aloof and…

Read More > > >

Top Hat Meets Obelisk

Top Hat Meets Obelisk

A great one from Richard Mammana.

For about a century, proud and dead Americans imagined themselves to be Egyptians. Throwing away the simple, hopeful crosses of common grave-marking, and setting aside the robust traditions of soaring angels and death’s heads of Puritan or German decoration, we erected obelisks in our own memory. It doesn’t seem to have ever extended to mummification and canopic jars, but it was a fad of fads that grew up following the Napoleonic spoliation of Egypt—and the sudden appearance of Cleopatra’s needles in Paris, Rome, London, and New York. It ended as abruptly as it began. But…

Read More > > >

Downer Darko

As Martin Luther reminds us, the thirst for glory is not ended by satisfying it, but by extinguishing it (paraphrase). Few men have had that thirst more publicly and painfully extinguished than Darko Milicic, the 2nd pick in the 2003 NBA Draft – right after Lebron. And before All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Josh Howard, David West and two others whom you can go look up if you like. Milicic is widely considered the greatest NBA bust of all time, a joke and cautionary tale. Imagine carrying that burden – Biggest Failure of All Time – everywhere you go, forever. Ouch.

All of which is why I was drawn to a recent article on Darko. Turns out he’s doing pretty well. As he puts it:

I kind of feel like Old Darko died. Like, when I think about myself, or myself when I was playing, I feel like I’m sort of thinking about someone who is dead.

Yes, he still has a sizable portion of the 50+ million dollars he made playing basketball (I chose the wrong profession), but he also has assets infinitely more valuable: a loving family, a sense of humor, something to live for, and some perspective. I won’t spoil the ending, but Jesus figures prominently in this man’s ability to accept himself as-is. May we all be so blessed, whether we succeed or fail.

 

The God of Order and the God of Cabbage Hill

The God of Order and the God of Cabbage Hill

Most Sundays you can find me in the pulpit of an imposing brick church on the western edge of downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. One-way streets join in odd angles and strange numbers before its disused front doors; Cabbage Hill at once rises and descends behind it into a labyrinth of narrow alleys, overhead power lines, and crumbling Edwardian row houses. Not a hundred feet out of sight is our parking lot, one of very few in that corner of the city, but woe to the one who seeks it without aid of GPS. I have on occasion suggested a sign for…

Read More > > >

We're All Right? Phil Harvey Spector, “Sign of the Times”, and the Horror of Pop

We’re All Right? Phil Harvey Spector, “Sign of the Times”, and the Horror of Pop

The following was written by our friend, Rachel Gaffin. A version of this article was originally published in The Ruckus last September.

The year my brother Richard discovered rock and roll, his Christmas gifts shared a common theme: one uncle bought him a giant red Visual Dictionary of Rock and Roll; another bought him a set of AC/DC boxers. At the time a wide-eyed ten-year-old, I watched my brother the way he watched videos of Hendrix wailing out “The Star-Spangled Banner” in ’69: with reverence and a burning desire to imitate. Since the boxers weren’t exactly accessible, I turned instead to the…

Read More > > >

The Essential Shift: Moving from Orphan to Beloved Son

A terrific talk from the 2017 Coming Back Stronger Conference in Birmingham, AL. Tray Lovvorn, one of the hosts of Undone Redone, talks about the different ways we understand our relationship to God:

Identity and Summer Selfies: A Reminder

Identity and Summer Selfies: A Reminder

It’s that time of year again, when all of us at some level look at our bodies and realize that we’ve been more, let’s say, “relaxed” about our health during the colder months. We also see — well, some of us do, anyway — our offensively pale skin or winter-weight and dread the first day of shorts, or sun dresses, or swimsuits. It’s difficult because when everything is green and bright, there is much work to do. That is, those social media photos aren’t going to take themselves.

There’s tremendous pressure, isn’t there, to have a good time when times…

Read More > > >

Telling Stories to the Devil: From Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story

Telling Stories to the Devil: From Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story

This is an incredible excerpt, albeit completely unorthodox. It comes from a short section entitled, “Saying Goodbye to Satan,” in Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s book, Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story: The Promise of Narrative Psychiatry.

As you read, note the utter left-handedness in Mehl-Madrona’s approach: he allows the patient to tell her story and enters that story with her, totally devoid of judgment or correction. This example of narrative psychiatry in real-life shows, first of all, that the stories we tell ourselves can be damning; second, that denying those stories won’t restore us to sanity. Instead, acceptance (and more importantly:…

Read More > > >

Old Ways and New Ways in Master of None Season 2

Old Ways and New Ways in Master of None Season 2

Bust out the Italo and pull out your pasta makers! Aziz Ansari’s Netflix project Master of None is back for season two, exploring the difficulties of love and relationships in 2017. The show continues with storytelling inspired by Aziz’s Modern Romance research project, a book we loved so much that we invited co-author Eric Klinenberg to #MbirdNYC16. Sadly, book deals prevented us from sharing the recording, so just trust me when I report that it was one of the best (funniest? most poignant?) talks at an Mbird gathering from someone “outside” the fold.

Season one, united by the theme of “fear…

Read More > > >

Giddy Godless Weddings

Giddy Godless Weddings

’Tis the season.

More than any other time of the year people are celebrating their connection in marriage. Having aged into “friends of Mom and Dad” status, my wife and I have been to many weddings in the last few years. We’ve noticed that this ceremony, which was languishing in our culture, has been enlivened in recent years by my generation’s children getting married.

These days the act of marriage is at best deferred, but definitely its inevitability has been diminished. Weddings happen, but fewer, later — and these long-planned, very expensive, highly produced gatherings are pretty programmed affairs.

But the real story is…

Read More > > >