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Literature

Sex and Death: The Existentialism of King Solomon and Ernest Hemingway

Sex and Death: The Existentialism of King Solomon and Ernest Hemingway

We live our lives bounded by those two mysteries, birth and death—our beginning and our end—and in between we stumble about in the dark, looking for the light, or at least for a good pair of existential shoes so we will not cut our feet quite so much on the sharp edges of Reality as we head for the Exit. What most of us find is ordinary life. The accidents of history have for now enclosed a space in which a wide swath of humanity—though not all of us, to be sure—experience ordinariness in the prosperity and pleasures of an…

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2-29-96 For John Barron story...David Foster Wallace discusses his new novel, 'Infinite Jest'.  Ellen Domke/Sun-Times  96-02-703

The Non-Binding Paradox (of How David Foster Wallace Had Fun)

Tomorrow marks the release of The End of the Tour, the dramatization of David Lipsky’s book-length interview with author David Foster Wallace, (a number of portions of which we’ve posted over the years). As much as I admire Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg, I’m in the camp of those who are ambivalent about the film’s production. Just feels too soon, and as his estate has made abundantly clear, there is no way the man himself would have wanted this to happen. The initial images from the set looked dubious, but then the first trailer appeared (below), and it was far…

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Woody Allen, Walker Percy and “The Search”

Woody Allen, Walker Percy and “The Search”

“You suffer from despair,” Emma Stone tells Joaquin Phoenix’s character in the trailer for Woody Allen’s new movie, Irrational Man. “It was at this moment that my life came together,” Phoenix chimes in later via voiceover, “I’m Abe Lucas, I’ve had many experiences and now a unique one … This was the meaningful act I was searching for!” With this exclamation, he seems to have shaken his despair, assumedly the inner conflict that the film will center around. But, unless Woody Allen has had an extreme change of religious conviction, I suspect that Phoenix’s transcendent, unique act won’t lead to…

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Why Harper Lee Is a Prophet

Why Harper Lee Is a Prophet

The overall response to Harper Lee’s newly published novel of sketchy origins, Go Set a Watchman, has been nothing short of hysterical. This review contains spoilers, but if you’ve Googled Watchman at all in the past week, then there’s really nothing left for me to spoil: Atticus is a racist, and that’s the main cause of nationwide collywobbles.

I was surprised to find that this isn’t just a dilemma of literary proportions: The turn of events has real-life implications, as when, only a month ago, bombshell Jennifer Love Hewitt named her newborn son Atticus, thereby suffering an actual bombshell when she…

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CAST AWAY, US 2000 TOM HANKS CASTAWAY US 2000 TOM HANKS Date 2000, Photo by: Mary Evans/C20TH FOX / DREAMWORKS/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection(10305969)

Law & Gospel: News from Across the Sea

The following is excerpted from Mockingbird’s newest resource, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints), which is available here. This comes from the beginning of the Gospel section:

‘News’ expresses something different from ‘knowledge.’ We live in a time of unprecedented knowledge: a day’s worth of new data now would, in terms of raw amount of information, be the envy of entire centuries past. Knowledge equips us to better live in the world around us: The scientist must be in control in the lab, and the factory manager needs good data on her employees’ output, the cost of raw…

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The Only Ones Who Can Tell the Truth

Two weeks before her death, Simone Weil—semi-Catholic philosopher, hunger-striker, political activist—wrote a letter to her parents about the source of truth in Shakespeare:

“There is a class of people in this world who have fallen into the lowest degree of humiliation, far below beggary, and who are deprived not only of all social consideration but also, in everybody’s opinion, of the specific human dignity, reason itself—and these are the only people who, in fact, are able to tell the truth. All the others lie.”

For Weil, the truthful characters are the fools. Neither protagonists nor antagonists, the fools are the outcasts, the supporting roles, the ones for whom no ulterior motives can cloud their eyes. The real tragedy, according to Weil, is not the death of the entire cast, but rather that no one would listen to the fool.

dumb-and-dumber-2“In Lear it is striking. Even Kent and Cordelia attenuate, mitigate, soften, and veil the truth; and unless they are forced to choose between telling it and telling a downright lie, they manoeuvre to evade it. What makes the tragedy extreme is the fact that because the fools possess no academic titles or episcopal dignities and because no one is aware that their sayings deserve the slightest attention—everybody being convinced a priori of the contrary, since they are fools—their expression of truth is not even listened to. Everybody, including Shakespeare’s readers and audiences … is unaware that what they say is true. And not satirically or humorously true, but simply the truth. Pure unadulterated true—luminous, profound and essential.

A Pie in God’s Face

A Pie in God’s Face

Here’s one from Paul Walker, via his most recent sermon:

There is a moving scene in Peter De Vries novel called The Blood of the Lamb. The narrator, Don, grows up in a strict religious family. As he gets older he struggles with doubt. He needs a God who is bigger than the moralistic entity of his childhood. As an adult, he encounters deep suffering. His wife is mentally ill and finally commits suicide. He is left alone with his young daughter, Carol, who is the joy and love of his life.

Don and Carol share the wonder of life together. They…

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Check, Please!

Check, Please!

Being a college student means asking for separate checks at restaurants. Generally, my friends and I wait until the end of the meal to say, “Oh yea, could you split those up by the way? Yeah that’d be great, thanks,” as if it was an afterthought and the waiter/waitress had no idea what was coming all along. In truth, splitting up checks is pretty annoying. It means more buttons pressed and cards swiped and pens gathered, and I do often feel pangs of guilt asking servers to do it. But generally they’re accommodating, and they know what to expect when…

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Good Poems for Hard Times: A Love Letter to Garrison Keillor

Good Poems for Hard Times: A Love Letter to Garrison Keillor

In a preaching class in seminary we were all told to go around the room and tell everyone our name, where we were from, and who our favorite preacher was. While I knew it probably wasn’t the right answer, the truest answer for me was that my favorite preacher was, and still is, the magnificent Garrison Keillor.

To say that I loved Garrison Keillor with all my heart would be an understatement. I grew up on Public Radio in Mississippi. Which means that as a child I heard loads of classical music and Morning Edition. And while this was likely good…

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From the Forgiveness Issue: A Q&A with Philip Yancey

From the Forgiveness Issue: A Q&A with Philip Yancey

For this fifth issue of the magazine, we had the privilege of talking to author and journalist Philip Yancey about the message of grace in today’s churches. We also got a chance to re-print a small sample of his most recent book Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?.

To order a copy of The Forgiveness Issue, look no further than here. There’s more where this comes from. 

In May of 2015, the Pew Research Center released its latest findings on the “changing religious landscape” of the United States. According to the survey, 70% of Americans identified as Christian in 2014,…

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David Brooks Goes to the Basement

David Brooks Goes to the Basement

A buzzword like “character” could mean just about anything you want it to mean. Like a lot of reclaimed, lofty words from Ancient Greece or Rome — virtue, beauty, culture — character has picked up a lot of fuzz along the way, enough to become a proverbial lightning rod for just about any self-help guru and pop academic and thought-leader under the sun. Which is why David Brooks’ newest title, The Road to Character, did not exactly grab me like the earlier Bobos in Paradise. It sounded too much like the kind of book a dad pushes on an eighteen-year-old graduate. Or an HR executive plants in her office giftbags.

But Brooks is…

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I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Grace: Thoughts on The Useful Sinner

I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Grace: Thoughts on The Useful Sinner

Culturally we spend a lot of time talking about a kind of “pay it forward” do gooderism. You know, you pay for a random stranger’s Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks and then they pay for somebody’s Lemonade Coolerista (just kidding, they haven’t started making those yet). Perfect strangers in perfect harmony, as the thinking goes. Or maybe you are familiar with the pebble theory. We drop a pebble of kindness into water and the ripple effect is such that even more encouraging acts come from this one moment of positivity.

I love this way of seeing humanity. But it lives in denial…

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