Literature

Another Week Ends: Misplaced Fear, Further Reflections on an Epidemic, Recovery and the Ego’s Death, Dave Eggers, Marilynne Robinson, and Clickhole

Another Week Ends: Misplaced Fear, Further Reflections on an Epidemic, Recovery and the Ego’s Death, Dave Eggers, Marilynne Robinson, and Clickhole

1. It’s a little too easy, but Barry Ritholtz over at Bloomberg helpfully reminds us that Ebola is no threat to the personal health of 99.99% of Americans, which goes into a broader point:

We fear the awesome predatory perfection of the great white shark, and have made the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” “the longest-running cable television programming event in history.” This seems somewhat disproportionate, given that 10 people a year die from shark attacks — out of more than 7 billion people. If you want to fear a living creature, than logic suggests it’s the mosquito — they kill more human…

Read More »

John Berryman’s Second Conversion

John Berryman’s Second Conversion

From the great poet’s 1970 interview with The Paris Review, shortly after the second volume of The Dream Songs was published. The ‘treatment’ to which Berryman refers is alcohol rehabilitation, for which he was hospitalized numerous times during that year. Thus the references to ‘leave’ being rescinded, etc. This interview was conducted less than 18 months before he tragically jumped to his death in Minneapolis. It’s worth reading the whole thing, if only to absorb the footnotes Berryman made a few months later about the various delusions he had expressed, ht MS:

INTERVIEWER

There has always been a…

Read More »

Wallace Stevens, Phish, and the Importance of Silliness

Wallace Stevens, Phish, and the Importance of Silliness

Oh out near Stonehenge, I lived alone
Oh out near Gamehendge, I chafed a bone
Wilson, King of Prussia, I lay this hate on you
Wilson, Duke of Lizards
I beg it all true for you

…You got me back thinkin’ that you’re the worst one
I must inquire, Wilson
Can you still have fun?!

-‘Wilson,’ Phish

Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

-From ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream,’ Wallace Stevens

 

Everyday we take ourselves too seriously. But at this point, we’ve earned that right. We have studied, sweat, strived, and achieved our whole lives. Not only that but we’re conditioned to know intuitively that…

Read More »

A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

1. Lots of interesting news on the how-can-we-be-sure-God-exists front. We’ve had our own part of that conversation, highlighting our own favorite Atheists and the hip trend of flogging Dawkins (dibs on Flogging Dawkins as a band name!). If the patterns are to be believed, it seems that the trajectory is toward a more humble, less aggressive atheism that acknowledges its own non-rational presuppositions. And humility is good for everybody, theist and atheist alike. Gary Gutting over at the New York Times sums up his series of interviews with religious philosophers, and while the ending seems disjointed (I’m an agnostic Catholic?), the middle is helpful:

Read More »

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Before we get going, the Houston Conference is almost here!! While we never turn anyone away–last minute walk-ins more than welcome–we need to know by Monday morning (10/13) if you are planning/hoping to dine with us. You can either pre-register on the site (through Tuesday at midnight), or send us an email at info@mbird.com so we can reserve you a plate. The food is going to be delicious!

1. First off, this is both incredibly fascinating and incredibly sad. Perhaps you’ve heard of The Downtown Project, a “start-up city” in Las Vegas founded and pioneered by Tony Hsieh, the guy behind…

Read More »

Fideism, H.R. Niebuhr, and More ‘Cultural Engagement’

Fideism, H.R. Niebuhr, and More ‘Cultural Engagement’

I was encouraged last week to see an article on cultural engagement get some commentary. At Christianity Today, Alissa Wilkinson’s article on “Lazy Cultural Engagement” was dead-on, providing a more personal/vocational take and bringing in the helpful and germane framework of content and form. At ThinkChristian, Josh Larson’s commentary was also helpful, if a little divergent from our take:

In a broad sense, I agree with what both of these folks have to say. Certainly, as McDavid suggests, Christians are needed as critics outside of our Christian subculture. (I’m grateful to have other outlets where I can do that.) And Wilkinson’s call to…

Read More »

A Reflection on the Fall, or Sisyphus vs. Jack Vincennes

A Reflection on the Fall, or Sisyphus vs. Jack Vincennes

This is the transcript of a talk given over the weekend by Mbird’s Will McDavid at The Olmsted Salon in NYC, loosely based on our recent Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis. For the audio, go to the Olmsted site here, and to order the book, go here.

I first want to speak a little about why I wrote this book. I think the relative decline of the Christian religion among intellectuals has resulted in a few interesting consequences for the Bible. People now are relatively less likely to study the letters of Paul, in which he lays out much…

Read More »

The Apple Isn’t the Only Biblical Reference: 50 Years of The Giving Tree

The Apple Isn’t the Only Biblical Reference: 50 Years of The Giving Tree

Did you read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree as a child? Do you remember how it made you feel? The children’s book turns 50 this year, so theoretically, a few generations have had their chance to soak in the bittersweet melancholy of Silverstein’s prose. Acknowledging the anniversary, The Giving Tree was featured in this week’s Bookends column of The New York Times, which invited two contributors to reflect on the book’s history and meaning [ht DJ via Twitter]. That’s no surprise, of course–the book is well loved and continues to be a children’s classic. But what I was shocked to discover (maybe…

Read More »

‘Cultural Engagement’, a Bad Fix for Christian Isolationism

‘Cultural Engagement’, a Bad Fix for Christian Isolationism

It’s hard now to sort through too much Christian media without hearing moving and grandiloquent talk  about “cultural engagement.” It’s the trendy thing now, and it seems like the Christian para-academic establishment prepped the ground for an overdue reaction against the isolationism and confrontationalism of now-octogenarian culture warriors. But the talk often seems inversely proportional to the engagement itself. One framework: affirm the good, critique/subvert the bad, discuss redemptive possibilities.[1] (We here tend to omit the latter two.) Talk about talking about culture, and the Evangelical Church is your best conversation partner; talk about a spectacular Game of Thrones battle…

Read More »

Hopelessly Devoted:  Romans 10:12

Hopelessly Devoted: Romans 10:12

Today’s devotional comes from the Rev. John Zahl:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile… the same Lord is Lord of all… (Romans 10:12, NIV)

In this passage, the Apostle Paul denies the legitimacy of a particular strain of categorization. He suggests that “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile.” He wants to get rid of something that runs rampant in each and every society, and in so doing, achieves something incredibly rare. What does he want to get rid of, and what does he hope to accomplish?

“Jew and Gentile” are racial and religious distinctions. Paul assumes that his…

Read More »

Face Down – Mary Karr

Face Down – Mary Karr

Woah. A devastating one from the new issue of The New Yorker (click here to hear her read it):

What are you doing on this side of the dark?
You chose that side, and those you left
feel your image across their sleeping lids
as a blinding atomic blast.
Last we knew,
you were suspended midair
like an angel for a pageant off the room
where your wife slept. She had
to cut you down who’d been (I heard)
so long holding you up. We all tried to,
faced with your need, which we somehow
understood and felt for and took
into our veins like smack. And you
must be lured by that old…

Read More »

George R.R. Martin on Space Inquisitions and Relativism

George R.R. Martin on Space Inquisitions and Relativism

It’s true. The second I heard that acclaimed Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin had penned this passage, my joy was inexpressible:

As a senior in the Knights Inquisitor, I command my own starship, which it pleases me to call the Truth of Christ. Before the craft was assigned to me, it was named the Saint Thomas, after the apostle, but I did not consider a saint notorious for doubting to be an appropriate patron for a ship enlisted in the fight against heresy…

Peter, the first Pope and ever his enemy, spread far and wide the tale of how Judas…

Read More »