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Social Science


The Postmodern Community: A Magnifying Mirror of Me

One of the most interesting books (if you are a nerd like me) I’ve read in the last couple of months is Babel, a book co-authored by Ezio Mauro, an Italian writer, and Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist. Himself a secular Jew, Bauman seems to always offer profound insight into our Western cultural climate, and if you manage to read Babel, it will likely leave you with more questions than answers. Here’s just one quote that is ripe for reflection and is good fodder on the self’s bent-inwardness (incurvatus in se):

41TCtCOvLTL…[C]ommunities came to be supplanted by ‘networks’—forms of association made to the measure of ‘self-communication’. In stark opposition to the old-style communities, a network is a grouping (more correctly, a list or a roll-call of names or addresses) meant to be selected/composed by the individual on his/her sole responsibility for the selection of links and nods. Its ‘membership’ and boundaries are not ‘given’; neither are they fixed—they are friable and eminently pliable; defined, drawn and endlessly redefined and re-drawn at will by the network’s composer placed firmly in its centre. By origin and by its mode of existence, it is but an extension of the self, or a carapace with which the ego surrounds itself for its own safety: cutting its own, hopefully secure, niche out of the dumbfounding, inhospitable, and perhaps—who knows?!—hostile offline world. A ‘network’ is not a space for challenges to the received ideas and preferences of its creator—it is rather an extended replica or magnifying mirror of its weaver, populated solely by like-minded people, saying what the person who admitted them is willing to hear, and ready to applaud whatever the person who admitted or appointed them says; dissenters, individuals holding to contrary—or just unfamiliar and thus uncomfortably puzzling—opinions are exiled (or, at least consolingly, amenable to being banished) at the first sign of their discordance.

From the Archives: Surviving November

From the Archives: Surviving November

Even though it’s not even September, the weary need their rest. As we enter a particularly vicious (and ridiculous) election cycle, we bring out from the archives our “Surviving November” series from four years back. Based on Jonathan Haidt’s work, The Righteous Mind, DZ delves into the sociology of political strife, and what hope we might be able to gather in spite of it.

 

I. Political Divides, Intuitive Dogs, and Rational Tails

Maybe the non-stop and increasingly ludicrous “opposition ads” have started to make you dread turning on the TV. Maybe you can’t read your (predominantly pop culture-focused!) Twitterfeed without getting depressed about…

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When Life’s Gappers Get Your Goats

When Life’s Gappers Get Your Goats

A good starting place for reading the stories of George Saunders might not be Tenth of December, but The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, a fable that is as appropriate for kids as it is for adults. The story centers around the seaside town of Frip, which consists of three families: The Ronsens, a husband and wife who look exactly alike, and have two daughters who stand very still; Bea Romo, a big, angry woman with two big, angry sons, all of whom are big, angry singers; and our heroine, Capable, and her father, who live in the red house closest…

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A Treatise Against Christian Hypocrisy

A Treatise Against Christian Hypocrisy

Because I am an immediate devotee to anything Mark Burnett produces, I suffered through an entire season of Fox’s Coupled this summer. If you aren’t familiar with this romantic tale, then pat yourself on the back for being a better person than me. The premise is simple: twelve single women get to filter through a lot of men to see if they can ultimately be “coupled” off. You know the drill: island location, loads of Mai Tais, one affront to feminism after another.

There was one character that had me rapt for the entire season. Her name is Alexandra “Alex” Clark,…

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Pep Talks and the Gospel (In a Van Down by the River)

Pep Talks and the Gospel (In a Van Down by the River)

When I was growing up with my three siblings, my dad drove us all to school every morning, and picked us up every afternoon. There was a school bus, but he liked spending that time with us, and we liked it, too, and so we piled into his car on chilly Wisconsin mornings, and he dropped us off at our respective schools on his way to work.

Every morning, he gave us a rousing pep talk. I suspect it was as much for him as it was for us. On Mondays, the pep talk went something like this: “It’s…

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Bad Moms, Odd Moms, and Everything In Between

Bad Moms, Odd Moms, and Everything In Between

I’m a mom, so I run primarily on adrenaline and guilt. Throw in some coffee in the AM, some wine in the PM, and you’ve covered the structure of most of my days–but I’ll be damned if anyone but me reduces my life to a cliche. I’ve seen some pretty bad representations of the pulled-in-all-directions nature of motherhood, so when the trailer for Bad Moms popped up on the internet a few months ago, I approached it warily. A major Hollywood studio accurately portraying my constant ambivalence? A script penned by two men (the writers behind The Hangover, no less)?…

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Back To School, I Mean Anxiety, I Mean School

Back To School, I Mean Anxiety, I Mean School

After months of swimming pools and sleeping late, the school year is upon us. For so many reasons, we rejoice in its arrival. The fall means that we get to reboot the family schedule. We buy a new day planner (if you’re a Technology Memaw like myself) and make dinners in the crockpot again. If you are lucky enough to go to one of those schools that requires uniforms, then by now you have spent a mortgage payment on tiny sailor dresses. It is all very exciting.

Also, the school year brings enough devilish anxiety to blow the roof off of…

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The Blessing of The Cursed Child

The Blessing of The Cursed Child

A quick disclaimer before reading: I will be giving a positive review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I will, in the words that follow, go so far as to recommend Harry Potter fans read it. So there. If you’ve already decided that the seven books will be the only books, that you will never touch the apocryphal supplements that come via screen or stage, I will not call you a pureblooder…that decision, to close eyes, ears and hands to some idea of magical purity–that’s entirely your decision. A rather pretentious one, I’ll grant, but your decision nonetheless. Everyone…

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The Ministry of Personal Concern

From Henri Nouwen’s classic The Wounded Healer, this excerpt seems to describe pastoral care (and relationships) 101: the power of one’s own inner-archaeology to “break the fourth wall” with another; to actually reach out and meet another by first reaching in.

ec85f5bc2fe180880ec3f2c022986e5687045070_mIt is not just curiosity which makes people listen to a preacher when speaks directly to a man and a woman whose marriage he blesses or to the children of the man whom he buries in the ground. They listen in the deepseated hope that a personal concern might give the preacher words that carry beyond the ears of those whose joy or suffering he shares. Few listen to a sermon which is intended to be applicable to everyone, but most pay careful attention to words born out of concern for only a few.

All this suggests that when one has the courage to enter where life is experienced as most unique and most private, one touches the soul of the community. The man who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his fellow men might well be the best equipped to speak to the needs of the many, because all men are one at the wellspring of pain and joy.

This is what Carl Rogers pointed out when he wrote: “…I have–found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others. This has helped me to understand artists and poets who have dared to express the unique in themselves.” It indeed seems that the Christian leader is first of all the artist who can bind together many people by his courage in giving expression to his most personal concern.

“I Must Have Done Something Good”

“I Must Have Done Something Good”

When I was a little girl, our family’s acquisition of a VCR coincided with my older sister’s debut in several small town musical productions. This meant that I could watch Annie, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and The Fiddler on the Roof to my heart’s content, when not elbowing my brother out of the way when he wanted to watch Star Wars. I watched the Fiddler on the Roof on VHS so many times that the tapes warped. We also had vinyl records of musical soundtracks, and hearing a needle hit the vinyl still makes my throat catch before I…

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Pick Up Your Pool Noodle and Follow Me

Pick Up Your Pool Noodle and Follow Me

I have two boys, ages 8 and 5, and they are delightful. No, really. They are. I think some people find that hard to believe, but they are what my parents’ generation would call “good kids”. I just call them easy kids. They get along with each other more than I thought possible for two human siblings, and they are generally kind, sweet kids. I would sometimes like to take credit for their behavior, but mostly, I’m just grateful.

The last two summers have been particularly great. We are in what writer Julianna Miner has dubbed “the sweet spot.” The kids…

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How To Be Miserable, Lesson 27

How To Be Miserable, Lesson 27

Putting the finishing touches on the Mental Health issue of our print magazine, and simply couldn’t wait to share an excerpt from one of the books we’re including in our list Non-Self-Help Self-Help Books. This comes from Randy J. Paterson’s recently released How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use, a tongue-in-cheek guide to being your own worst enemy. You’ll learn, for example, how to “filter for the negative”, “construct future hells”, and “rehearse the regrettable past.” As you can imagine, it’s all pretty much worth reprinting, but for the sake of brevity, here’s one of my favorites, the…

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