Everyday
Ubuntu and the Sharpened Pencils: Welcome Back to School

Ubuntu and the Sharpened Pencils: Welcome Back to School

Another back-to-school ode, this time from Ms. Newton.

Over the next several weeks, children will enter new classrooms across the country, sporting shiny sneakers sans skid-marks and carrying freshly sharpened pencils and blank notebook paper. And they are perhaps a bit nervous (or a lot nervous) about unearthing the answer to a question they’ve been wondering for weeks: Who did I get this year? Who will stand in front of us every day, and with whom will I spend the next nine months? Is she a Miss Honey or a Miss Trunchbull? Will she encourage me or lock me in the…

Read More »

When Smartphones Get Too Smart

When Smartphones Get Too Smart

Well, this is pretty amusing. Writing for The Atlantic, James Carmichael explored our precarious relationship with self-knowledge via the awkwardness of Google Now. I’m almost surprised he didn’t quote Eliot’s line about humankind not being able to bear much reality (or law). I mean, some of us can’t even handle looking at our most-played in iTunes, I’d hate to think what kind of revelations a ‘smart’ tracking device might hold (e.g. “it’s 10:45pm! – Time to secretly gorge on your kids’ snack food”, “Beep beep beep! It has now been eighty seconds since you last checked your web stats”, etc)….

Read More »

Back to School: When Your Heart Eats Glue

Back to School: When Your Heart Eats Glue

Over the next few weeks, many kids will be starting school for the very first time. Cue collective family panic. It is an unwieldy process. Notebooks have to be purchased and lunches packed. Everyone has to wake up earlier. Much earlier. If you are like our family, you have the challenge of convincing a three year old that he does in fact have to wear a uniform on the daily. It is the opposite of fun.

But of course, the practical panic inducing tasks pale in comparison to the emotional anxiety that takes hold. We worry about our kids. Will they…

Read More »

Matthew 4.18-19 (A Loose Translation)

Matthew 4.18-19 (A Loose Translation)

I never considered myself much of a fisherman, so when my dad said, “Take a gaff,” I asked what that was. He held up a massive hook. “In case you get a big one,” he insisted. And I answered, “We’ve been fishing all summer and never needed a gaff.” But I took it anyways, because he said so.

My brother, Andrew, and I packed the rest of the rods into the doorless Jeep and off-roaded past the cul-de-sac into the woods, where deep in the trees a river runs. I plopped on the bank where my feet could dangle above the…

Read More »

500 Miles from Bir-ming-ham: Umberto Eco and the New South

500 Miles from Bir-ming-ham: Umberto Eco and the New South

The New South aesthetic is farcical, but not irredeemably so.

Over pimento cheese fritters with bacon jam at a restaurant in South Georgia, I marveled at waiters in chambray shirts under plaid vests, distressed brick walls, and cocktail names like ‘rockin porch’. How, I wondered, had things down there come to such a pass? My companion, a Virginian who’d gone to a New England college, lightly objected to the rusty scythes and plows adorning the walls – wasn’t this a bit much?

The farm tools were almost a New South parody, the chiks comin’ home to roost. To the Georgian, it seems,…

FOMO and the Fear of a Better Option

FOMO and the Fear of a Better Option

FOMO’s not the whole story – nor is it new.

The Boston Magazine this week published a history of “Fear of Missing Out“, tracing its beginnings, like a careful epidemiologist, back to 2004, at Harvard Business School. Of greater interest were its comments on FOBO, Fear of a Better Option (more precisely, Fear that a Better Option Exists, but FOBO’s easier than FBOE, so there it is):

But this mentality had its costs: McGinnis and his group found they couldn’t commit to anything. Working with the rudimentary tools available to them (cell phones and address books), they developed complex algorithms to plan…

Identity, Ass, and the Wrong Context

Identity, Ass, and the Wrong Context

Emily Newton on the new phenomenon of social media anonymity, and the teenage quest for a powerful new name.

Failed Confessions of a Success-o-holic

Failed Confessions of a Success-o-holic

We’re told that learning how to handle failure is an important part of growing up. Yet we do everything we can to make sure our kids never experience it. What did Samuel Beckett actually mean when he told us to “fail better”? And what does it have to do–if anything–with the theology of the cross? All this and (not) much more!

On the Unattainability of Social Righteousness

Pretty clever, this, ht BJ:

What Is Not Working for Christian Wiman

MAGIC-IN-THE-MOONLIGHT-posterWe are about six weeks away from the publication of Christian Wiman’s new collection of poetry, Once in the West, and what better way to prepare than with quick quote from that gift that keeps on giving, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer:

If God is a salve applied to unbearable psychic wounds, or a dream figure conjured out of memory and mortal terror, or an escape from a life that has become either too appalling or too banal to bear, then I have to admit: it is not working for me. Just when I think I’ve finally found some balance between active devotion and honest modern consciousness, all my old anxieties come pressuring up through the seams of me, and I am as volatile and paralyzed as ever…

Be careful. Be certain that your expressions of regret about your inability to rest in God do not have a tinge of self-satisfaction, even self-exaltation to them, that your complaints about your anxieties are not merely a manifestation of your dependence on them. There is nothing more difficult to outgrow than anxieties that have become useful to us, whether as explanations for a life that never quite finds its true force or direction, or as fuel for ambition, or as a kind of reflexive secular religion that, paradoxically, unites us with others in a shared sense of complete isolation: you feel at home in the world only by never feeling at home in the world. (pg 9-10)

True Colors: Car Choices, Food Sources, and the Fauxthenticity of Our Times

True Colors: Car Choices, Food Sources, and the Fauxthenticity of Our Times

Now a month out from its release to your doorsteps, it’s now time to leak just a few samplings of what’s in our summer issue of The Mockingbird. If you feel you missed your chance, fear not! Click here and we’ll set you up.

This essay comes James Gilmore, business school professor and co-author of Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want and The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, both published by Harvard Business School Press. In this essay, Gilmore examines the pervasive and nuanced Economy of Authenticity, where the myth of what is “real” is what…

Read More »

Summer Vacay: Where is Mom’s Coffin?

Summer Vacay: Where is Mom’s Coffin?

Officially speaking, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying tells the story of Bundren family traveling to bury their mother, Addie. Quickly in the narrative she dies. Children and husband must fulfill last request to take Mom’s body on a 40-mile trek in a wagon to be buried in Jefferson, Mississippi. Written in 1930, it dances the line between modern and post-modern literature. Different characters’ voices take over each chapter, and as the book progresses, the reader is given a complex, dark, and intimate narrative.

Unofficially, I believe it is a book written about a mother who simply wanted her family to…

Read More »

I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

To many students like myself, mid-July feels like this: “I can’t believe school starts in only a month—I haven’t done enough summery things yet.” There’s a nagging sense of regret even in the present that maybe we could do more to optimize our time. Maybe it’s FOMO, the fear of missing out, or, perhaps, the fear of wasting time. Summer is a long-anticipated golden calf in my head, carved deep with endless vacations and immediate suntans and condensating glasses of Kool-Aid. Not a moment of this empyrean season should go to waste.

And so waste becomes the object of frenzied anxiety….

Read More »

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

When you watch a movie that’s a re-make of an older movie (which was also probably adapted from a musical adaptation of a novel) – do you ever mope and wonder if anything out there is original anymore? Is there really nothing new under the sun? I like to be cynical and sleep bitterly in this camp from time to time, sure that our collective imaginations are being mercilessly wiped away by some Never Ending Story-esque of a Nothing. “This is all that’s left of Fantasia!?” But then I consider the very concept of originality and I start to chuckle…

Read More »

On the Divine Injunction to Just Relax

On the Divine Injunction to Just Relax

Was delighted to be asked to contribute a guest post to Amy Julia Becker’s Thin Places blog over at Christianity Today last week, something dealing with the topic of Sabbath rest. Those who read the whole thing may notice a few, er, congruencies with past Mbird posts, but I was pleased with how it turned out. Here are a few paragraphs from the second half:

Talk to a member of the “greatest generation” about their childhood Sundays and they will invariably relate youthful frustrations about Sabbath prohibitions. They will tell about blue laws. About no baseball on Sunday. No…

Read More »