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What Children Teach Us About Love (and God)

What Children Teach Us About Love (and God)

Chalk it up to feeling a bit sentimental as my wife and I enter the final stretch of waiting for baby number three (most likely our last prenatal go-round). Or maybe it has to do with the increasing number of conversations I’ve been having with young couples perplexed by why anyone would ever want to reproduce, given the obvious insanity of the contemporary parenting treadmill and the (largely recreational) venting that occupies so much online real estate. Or perhaps it’s that I’m trying to think of something to say this Sunday about Naaman, the leper-warrior who, at the prophet Elisha’s behest, begrudgingly “went down and…

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Whole30 and Holiness: Notes on Spiritual Cleanliness, Eating Disorders, and Bodily Damages Wrought By Cheetos

Whole30 and Holiness: Notes on Spiritual Cleanliness, Eating Disorders, and Bodily Damages Wrought By Cheetos

This one comes to us from Charlotte Donlon. 

My friend Jen is telling me about the Whole30 eating plan. We’re sitting in lounge chairs by the pool on a hot and humid afternoon while our kids are swimming and engaging each other in water gun battles. She rattles off everything that’s not allowed on Whole30: “No sugars or artificial sweeteners. No alcohol. No grains. No legumes including beans, soy, and peanuts. And no dairy.” When our kids come ask us for snacks, she hands out baggies of grapes to her two boys. Her kids are doing it, too. I give my…

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The Worst F-Word There Is (On the Elephant in the Room)

The Worst F-Word There Is (On the Elephant in the Room)

I feel sorry for those who have to put up with me this month. It gets pretty unbearable. You see, some people try to lose weight in January. For me, it’s June, the month when the calendar empties out and I can devote what little willpower I have to the project of reduction. The other eleven months of the year, for whatever reason, such attempts have always proven to be “subject to futility”.

So for thirty days at the beginning of each summer, the majority of my mental energy is occupied consumed by dieting. I try to play the single-mindedness for laughs, but it’s irritating.

The…

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“Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell” by Archibald MacLeish

When he moved to Paris in the 1920s, Archibald MacLeish (1892 – 1982) ran with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, and I have every suspicion that his God-wrestling Pulitzer-winning legacy will make a cultural resurgence soon enough; here’s hoping.

Despite first appearances, the following poem doesn’t just pit science against faith. Rather, it emphasizes the persistence of the unknown versus the known and the unmeasurable versus the measurable. As with much of MacLeish’s work, it’s designed to affect us emotionally, not just intellectually.

Eugenia-Loli6

Eugenia Loli

Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell
by Archibald MacLeish

Science, that simple saint, cannot be bothered
Figuring what anything is for:
Enough for her devotions that things are
And can be contemplated soon as gathered.

She knows how every living thing was fathered,
She calculates the climate of each star,
She counts the fish at sea, but cannot care
Why any one of them exists, fish, fire or feathered.

Why should she? Her religion is to tell
By rote her rosary of perfect answers.
Metaphysics she can leave to man:
She never wakes at night in heaven or hell

Staring at darkness. In her holy cell
There is no darkness ever: the pure candle
Burns, the beads drop briskly from her hand.

Who dares to offer Her the curled sea shell!
She will not touch it!—knows the world she sees
Is all the world there is! Her faith is perfect!

And still he offers the sea shell . . .

What surf
Of what far sea upon what unknown ground
Troubles forever with that asking sound?
What surge is this whose question never ceases?

From the Archives – Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

From the Archives – Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

Well, we’re probably nearing our yearly limit for writing about anxiety, but great articles on the subject have been irrepressible. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that our increasing need to self-actualize, and increasing avenues for doing so, is a root behind the contemporary epidemic of nerves that had 1 in 5 American adults on anti-anxiety or antidepressant meds in 2011, numbers which have presumably risen since. An organization called the ADAA (anxiety and depression, etc) reported that almost one-third of the nation’s health bill is caused by anxiety disorders. You could reasonably ask to vet the numbers there, but even…

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The Irresistible Father: Grace in The Water Diviner

The Irresistible Father: Grace in The Water Diviner

I know it may not have received very good reviews, but Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner may be one of the greatest movies I have ever seen.

In my opinion, it’s better than The Mission. It’s better than Of Gods and Men. It may even be better than Red Beard.

Why? It’s because you don’t see it coming. You have no idea of the irresistible grace that is headed your way as you watch the movie unfold.  And it hits you, again, and again (and again).

Russell Crowe portrays an Australian farmer, Joshua Connor, who allows his three sons to enlist with the ANZAC troops in World War I….

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The Culture of Narcissism, Pt 4: Good News for Narcissists

The Culture of Narcissism, Pt 4: Good News for Narcissists

Here is the conclusion to the series inspired by Christopher Lasch’s book, The Culture of Narcissism. Find the rest of the series here.

“Our society is narcissistic, then, in a double sense. People with narcissistic personalities…play a conspicuous part in contemporary life…these celebrities set the tone for public life and of private life as well…The beautiful people…live out the fantasy of narcissistic success….Modern capitalist society not only elevates narcissists to prominence, it elicits and reinforces narcissistic traits in everyone.”

So concluded historian and cultural analyst Christopher Lasch thirty-seven years ago in his influential book, The Culture of Narcissism. The intervening years have only more…

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Imagining Worst Case Scenarios with a Hellfire Therapist

Imagining Worst Case Scenarios with a Hellfire Therapist

A wonderful reflection from Carrie Willard.

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ. – C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

When my son was almost three years old, he got violently ill while we were away from home. What started as a run-of-the-mill virus turned into an ambulance ride and several nights in the pediatric intensive care unit at a major teaching hospital. I was pregnant with our second son…

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Leaky Pipes and Potty Training: How to Save a Life

Leaky Pipes and Potty Training: How to Save a Life

First-world/grown-up problems alert: the plumbing in our suburban home continues to flare up and send me into an anxiety spiral every few weeks. Our master bath shower, situated above the formal dining room we never use (#kids), will occasionally–usually once I’ve forgotten it’s a possibility–develop a leak that sends water dripping onto the floor below, causing our older son to rush in, point to the puddle, and proclaim, “Uh oh. Wet,” just before transferring his point upward to the ceiling and the makeshift opening that’s been there for months, a product of the first of four plumbers we’ve had evaluate…

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PZ’s Podcast: What’s Going On

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EPISODE 218

Just how “effective” are collective expressions of grief? Do they work?

Every time I see a vast concourse of people gathered at the site of a massacre, I honestly “feel with” the grief; and yet remain a little skeptical. It’s one thing if you yourself lost someone you love as a result of the crime; or if you know someone that lost someone. It’s another thing if you are grieving by association or in relation to a category or collective identity.

Do you think you’ll be thinking about instances of collective loss that took place in your life, when you are dying? I wonder. I know you’ll be thinking about instances of personal loss that you suffered.

This podcast asks you to consider “exiting from history” (Milan Kundera) in order, well, to really live. Focus on the individual instance — on you, in other words! I cite the novels of Rider Haggard in this connection, who understood as well as almost anyone the persistence of the eternal in the life of the individual. There’s the rub, and there’s why Haggard’s “Zulu” novels are a kind of summit of racial reconciliation in English literature. These novels understand human beings as one, due to shared suffering, shared loss, and the shared aspiration to love and be loved. I wish Haggard were here today to write about Orlando.

Oh, and listen closely, if you can, to Dave Loggins at the end. Loggins said that after he wrote the song — in one night — he realized he hadn’t written it. He didn’t know where it came from, but he knew it didn’t come from him.

Let Us Now Praise Fathers: On Taking the Patriarch for Granted

Let Us Now Praise Fathers: On Taking the Patriarch for Granted

A few weeks ago one of my girlfriends asked me to pray for her husband. They were getting back some major test results and she was worried he might be critically ill. He wasn’t. Thank God. But what she said on the phone about the possibility stayed with me. She said, “I feel bad for thinking this. But there’s just so many things he does. I don’t know what I would do without him.”

I knew immediately what she meant. I do not know what day the trash goes out. I hate driving anywhere I do not have to. And the…

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Richard Rohr on Why We Kiss the Cross

Richard Rohr on Why We Kiss the Cross

The “performance principle” is a guiding mythology that, according to Richard Rohr, guides the first half of our religious lives. It is the mythology that suggests we are defined, more or less, by our achievement. It is also a mythology that is rooted in and propelled by fear: the expectation of punishment. Our achievements are meant to secure for us a way out of this punishment. In short, we live to prove. I don’t know a better summation of the Law.

What must happen, then, is death. Our first self must die. Thankfully, as Rohr’s meditation illustrates, this is the nature of the cross…

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