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Another Week Ends: The Loneliness Minister,  Divine Retribution, Sexual Misery, Lighthearted Poetry, Smart Pills, Astrology in the App Age, and David Bentley Hart's Grocery List

Another Week Ends: The Loneliness Minister, Divine Retribution, Sexual Misery, Lighthearted Poetry, Smart Pills, Astrology in the App Age, and David Bentley Hart’s Grocery List

1. This week brought some good news from the Old Country… In response to the increasingly acknowledged correlation between loneliness and physical deterioration/illness, the UK has appointed a minister for loneliness. I don’t know about you guys but, having grown up with a deep-seated appreciation for self-reliance, I couldn’t help getting a little smirky at this headline. But then, you can’t deny the humility in play here. Publicly admitting that not only is loneliness a legitimate problem but also that an entire nation is dangerously affected by it? That’s a pretty powerful admission of human need—which is in no way specifically…

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Turns Out Sex Is Still a Big Deal

Turns Out Sex Is Still a Big Deal

Like many people, for the past few days I have wrestled with what to make of the (too) well documented evening that a woman had with actor/comedian/writer Aziz Ansari. If you are living under a rock, a woman called “Grace” (hell of a pseudonym), had what she called the worst night of her life with Ansari. 

Needless to say, “Grace” has received a massive wave of critique. People are demanding to know why she stayed when she was uncomfortable and how she could possibly classify the evening as sexual assault. Perhaps the most upsetting critique is that everyone wants…

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Death, Taxes, and the New England Patriots

Death, Taxes, and the New England Patriots

I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. In the main, the Steelers are a pretty great team for whom to root. They’re almost always pretty good, and win their division most years. Their ownership is stable, evidenced by the fact that they’ve had three coaches since 1969. For comparison’s sake, the Cleveland Browns—a nominal rival of the Steelers—have had eighteen coaches in that same period. The Browns are terrible. One of my favorite statistics is that, since he entered the league, Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ veteran quarterback, is the winningest quarterback at the Browns’ stadium…and he plays there once per season. The…

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I, Tonya Justifies the 90's

I, Tonya Justifies the 90’s

Where were you in 1994 when Nancy Kerrigan took the famous billy club to the knee? Can you believe that event took place nearly a quarter century ago? It’s one of those strange decade-defining events that’s lasted in our minds alongside the Milli Vanilli lip syncing scandal of 1990, the Clinton affair scandal of 1998, or the O.J. Simpson trial of 1994. For those who weren’t following the illustrious world of 1990’s U.S. figure skating, or for those who simply weren’t born yet, there’s a fresh chance to get in on the story with this year’s Oscar bait dark comedy I,…

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Improve Thyself! On the Fantasy Person You're Failing to Become

Improve Thyself! On the Fantasy Person You’re Failing to Become

If you go to an American bookshop, by far the biggest section is self-help and improvement. The idea that life is refine-able and that you can learn a technique for anything, whether it’s love-making, being a businessman, marriage, cooking, losing weight, whatever it is. There’s a Tony Robbins way of doing it, there’s a things-they-didn’t-teach-you-at-Harvard way of doing it. There’s an unbelievable sense that life is improvable.

These are the words of Stephen Fry, on his way to explaining the difference between British and American comedy (clue: Adam & Eve). While I’m not sure I buy his ultimate point, there’s no…

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Jesus Just Makes More Sense When We Lose…

Jesus Just Makes More Sense When We Lose…

Tua Tagovailoa (the freshman QB) came off the bench after halftime last week and led Alabama to (yet another) College Football National Championship, and below was his first interview right after the game. Wow! Did he just say what I think he said? (20 seconds in). “My parents will be mad, so, first, excuse me, but I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…”

Wow! — he did say that! His parents will be mad? Why? Is it because his parents think that Jesus would probably prefer that their son give direct answers to direct questions, and not try…

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Happy MLK!

We’ll be back with new posts tomorrow, but in honor of the day, you can peruse our MLK archive here. Also, as a reminder: today is the last day to take advantage of earlybird pricing for our Spring NYC Conference (4/26-28). All other tiers of registration open tomorrow.

Another Week Ends: Breakfast with Dads, Dead Memoirist Romance, Twitter's Mercilessness, Sarah Silverman's Forgiveness, Metric Fixation, and the Wonder of Grace

Another Week Ends: Breakfast with Dads, Dead Memoirist Romance, Twitter’s Mercilessness, Sarah Silverman’s Forgiveness, Metric Fixation, and the Wonder of Grace

Click on the poster to see more about the Tyler Conference in February!

1. Lots of amazing stuff hitting our inbox this week, including this news story from a middle school in Dallas. After deciding to hold a “Breakfast with Dad” event at the school, teachers worried that many of the 150 students who signed up for the breakfast would be without their fathers. So they took to Facebook and Twitter, asking for 50 male volunteers to come in their stead for the fatherless boys. Amazingly, SIX HUNDRED dads came.

‘I will never forget witnessing the young students surrounded by supportive…

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Wearing Black

Wearing Black

This one was written by Ann Lowrey Forster.

I didn’t actually catch the Golden Globes on Sunday. On Monday morning, though, I watched Oprah’s dazzling speech and heard Natalie Portman’s perfect one-liner. I also saw the streaming in of men and women dressed in midnight and ebony and onyx. Oprah telling us about Recy Taylor and a new horizon gives everyone all the feels; and Natalie makes me want to join the fight, burn my bra, and kidney punch my husband just for possessing a Y chromosome. But, given a few days of reflection, something strikes me as a bit off.

When…

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But Now Let's Have a Surprise

But Now Let’s Have a Surprise

I love church mishaps. Once, at a Baptist service, I spilled my little cup of communion Welch’s on a neighbor’s new white pants. He was so kind about it but also probably mad, and I was so embarrassed. There was a soft piano playing in the background while the preacher, up front, invited the congregation to commune with the Lord and, when we were ready, to go ahead and drink. I tried mopping up the spill with my sleeve, until parishioners from all sides descended upon me and told me to stop: “It’s okay,” they said, “it’s okay.” It didn’t…

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When the Diagnosis Is the Treatment

We’re slowly but surely rolling out the list of confirmed speakers for this year’s NYC Conference (4/26-28) and somewhere very close to the top of the pile sits Alan Jacobs, a writer, teacher, and thinker who has been an invaluable influence on–and help to–our work these past couple years. Alan’s How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds dropped this past Fall, i.e. not a moment too soon, and the book is as short as it is essential. (NY Times readers may remember it inspiring a particularly strong Brooks column back in October.) Here’s a small taste of the intro:

Everyone today seems to have an RCO [Repugnant Cultural Other], and everyone’s RCO is on social media somewhere. We may be able to avoid listening to our RCO, but we can’t avoid the realization that he or she is there, shouting from two rooms away.

This is a profoundly unhealthy situation. It’s unhealthy because it prevents us from recognizing others as our neighbors–even when they are quite literally our neighbors. If I’m consumed by this belief that that person over there is both Other and Repugnant, I may never discover that my favorite television program is also his favorite television program; that we like some of the same books, though not precisely for the same reasons; that we both know what it’s like to nurse a loved one through a long illness. All of which is to say that I may all too easily forget that political and social and religious differences are not the whole of human experience. The cold divisive logic of the RCO impoverishes us, all of us, and brings us closer to that primitive state that the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes called “the war of every man against every man.”…

Once, years ago, I started having chest pains, and my doctors couldn’t isolate the problem: I exercised regularly, my heart seemed healthy, nothing was evidently wrong. But the pains kept coming back, and that scared me. Finally, one doctor asked some probing questions and discovered that I had had, before the pains began, a lingering heavy cough. It seemed that coughing had strained a muscle in my chest, and that was the source of the pain; and when I started worrying about it, the resulting anxiety tensed the muscle and increased the pain–which then led to more anxiety. It was the classic vicious circle of reinforcement. When I asked the doctor what treatment he thought best, he replied, “The diagnosis is the treatment. Now that you know you don’t have a life-threatening illness, you won’t worry so much, and less stress in your mind will mean less stress on your chest muscles. That’ll give them a chance to heal.”

p.s. Click here to pre-register for the NYC Conference (4/26-28)!

Snow Blowers Are Of The Devil (Blue Jeans Too)

Snow Blowers Are Of The Devil (Blue Jeans Too)

We live in a time of raging technology. Everything is changing as the microprocessors are taking everything over. A couple of centuries ago a group called the Luddites simply rejected technology beyond what they knew back when the microprocessor was called the steam engine. Luddites smashed machines to retain control. It didn’t work. Technology won. Everything changed.

In a similar way, I think technology has become a public crisis once again. Not since the advent of The Machines has our culture convulsed as it is now with the advent of the pervasive robot. I know this personally because I…

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