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Group Portrait of British band Duran Duran in London, England in 1981. Left to right are (back) keyboard player Nick Rhodes, singer Simon Le Bon, (front) bassist John Taylor, drummer Roger Taylor and 
guitarist Andy Taylor. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

T.S. Eliot on Gentlemen, Youth Groups, and “New” Morality

A letter from TS Eliot was published earlier this week in The Paris Review, and by golly, it’s just too good not to reproduce in full here [ht @FredOSphere]. The context is Eliot’s personality-revealing essay “Thoughts after Lambeth,” which is worth its own post in the future for no other reason than the poet’s prophetic thoughts on youth groups circa 1930. I kid you not. Either way, Eliot is actually arguing for teaching youth chastity, humility, austerity, and discipline. These may sound like “law” to us, but for Eliot, these are the virtues that help human beings cope best with life under the curse…

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Even An Active Shooter Can’t Make Me Appreciate My Life More

Even An Active Shooter Can’t Make Me Appreciate My Life More

A few weeks ago, the press descended on a small town in Minnesota, just a few hundred miles from where I grew up in Wisconsin. They were there because the remains of Jacob Wetterling were found, and his abductor and killer was apprehended. Jacob Wetterling was born in the same year that I was, and my childhood was marked by his disappearance in 1989. We — the children in the area hundreds of miles surrounding his hometown — all knew his face from the countless posters put up around town, and the news reports that we were all too young…

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PZ’s Podcast: Centennial and Circle for a Landing

PZ’s Podcast: Centennial and Circle for a Landing

EPISODE 221: Centennial

Healing, one’s healing, doesn’t come from fiat, i.e., from declaration. Nor does it come from deletion, i.e., from living as if events in your past never took place.

Healing comes from abreaction and merger, from engagement, even the ‘clash by night’, with the past and with your hurt, rejection and pain.

I saw this recently “up close and personal” during a visit to my old college.

It was the centennial of my final club (i.e., fraternity), and the whole world had returned to show good faith and loyalty. Suddenly I became witness to an ancient institution that is throbbing with life….

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Lay Down Your Smartphone and Follow Me? (Just a Second…)

Lay Down Your Smartphone and Follow Me? (Just a Second…)

I owe you an apology. Or at least a confession. Nine months after switching to a flip phone, and about six months after making a big stink about it, I went back to a smart one. I’m not proud.

What got me in the end wasn’t Internet itself. I stand by what I wrote about the cost, both personal and communal, of non-stop web access. I probably undersold it. What made me, er, flip back was two things: music and texts. They were the rationalization, in any case.

I realized about a month into the experiment that I wasn’t willing to live…

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Motherhood and the Maris Crane in Me

Motherhood and the Maris Crane in Me

I love being a mom. Motherhood, however, has also savagely birthed a hideous new version of my self into the world.

For example: Parenting has become the most tedious competitive sport since Scotland invented golf in 1457, and yet I frequently run to win it. I’ve even come to view preschool drop-off as a performance opportunity.

SCENE: I tenderly pull my kids from their car seats and immediately transform into the cheeriest, most in-control yet carefree version of “mom” since Carol Brady. I don my overly-priced active wear (the official jersey of mothers everywhere). I offer excessive hugs and kisses, the likes…

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Surprised by Love, Appalled by Grace: Richard Bausch’s “The Fireman’s Wife”

Surprised by Love, Appalled by Grace: Richard Bausch’s “The Fireman’s Wife”

Nothing prepared me for the ending of Richard Bausch’s short story, “The Fireman’s Wife.”[1] Just a couple of years into the marriage, Jane is experiencing deep regret over her decision to marry her firefighter husband. When Martin is not working long shifts with buddies Wally and Teddy, he is likely playing cards with them, drinking or doing drugs with them, or working on their shared passion of building and flying model airplanes.

Jane and Martin fight too much, and he comes off as remarkably immature, demanding, and self-absorbed. Her frequent headaches mirror the relational burdens she carries. Milly, Wally’s wife, tries…

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The Narcissist In Your Life

The Narcissist In Your Life

In her booklength essay on narcissism, Kristin Dombek enumerates the varieties of Narcissisms that plague the world order these days. There’s the Narcissistic Leader, whose ego runs the office you work for, the Collective Narcissist whose group or tribe is the best in the world, the Sexual Narcissist whose libidinal prowess must always be tested by new conquests. There’s also the Corporate Narcissist, the White Coat Narcissist, the Spiritual Narcissist and, of course, the Conversational Narcissist. The list is several pages long. (I wonder if you, like me, will be able to effortlessly match a face you know with each…

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Calling a Thing What it is: Ruminations with Lemony Snicket, Pt 2

Here’s yet another quote from the celebrated children’s author, Lemony Snicket, posted for your amusement (and in anticipation for Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the filming of which wrapped last month!). 

Snicket may be one of the only children’s authors who dares to raise an eyebrow at the rosy outlook of the optimist. He wants his young readers to know that emotions, even sad ones, are allowed to be felt and that “a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.” From The Miserable Mill:

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“Optimist” is a word which here refers to a person who thinks hopeful and pleasant thoughts about nearly everything. For instance, if an optimist had his left arm chewed off by an alligator, he might say, in a pleasant and hopeful voice, “Well, this isn’t too bad. I don’t have my left arm anymore, but at least no body will ever ask me whether I am right-handed or left-handed,” but most of us would say something along the lines of “Aaaaah! My arm! My arm!”….

If you have ever had a miserable experience, then you have probably had it said to you that you would feel better in the morning. This, of course, is utter nonsense, because a miserable experience remains a miserable experience even on the loveliest of mornings. For instance, if it were your birthday, and a wart-removal cream was the only present you received, someone might tell you to get a good night’s sleep and wait until morning, but in the morning the tube of wart-removal cream would still be sitting there next to your uneaten birthday cake, and you would feel as miserable as ever. My chauffeur once told me that I would feel better in the morning, but when I woke up the two of us were still on a tiny island surrounded by man-eating crocodiles, and, as I’m sure you can understand, I didn’t feel any better about it.

Stranger Things and Upside-Down Kingdoms

Stranger Things and Upside-Down Kingdoms

“These men…have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6

My husband and I recently binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix. And by binge-watched, I mean that we finished the series in about ten days, taking into account my propensity for falling asleep mid-episode and stretching a couple of the chapters over multiple viewings–like the last one, which we viewed on a laptop from a Sydney hotel room over the course of a night (I passed out thirty minutes in) and the next morning at 4:30 (thanks, jet lag). CJ already deftly covered the appeal of the show–themes of nostalgia, redemption, purity, and…

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Everyone Is Still Awkward and the Gospel Is Still Strong: The 40th Anniversary of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church

Everyone Is Still Awkward and the Gospel Is Still Strong: The 40th Anniversary of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of ordaining women to the Episcopal priesthood. While we have come so far, we have quite a way to go. No, I do not mean we need more women bishops. And no, I am not talking about how few women we see leading major churches. The church still has to adjust to women leading it, and women themselves are only at the beginning of navigating what it means to lead the church.

I laugh, heartily, when people suggest to me that the Episcopal Church is accepting and welcoming of women’s ordination. Instead I would say…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Lamentations Chapter Two Verses Twenty Two and Twenty Three

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Mockintern extraordinaire Margaret Pope.

As of May 14, 2016, I am an adult. Maybe more accurately a pseudo-adult because my dad still pays my cellphone bill and insurance, but nevertheless, I am no longer an undergrad. I went straight from graduation in Oxford, Mississippi, to summer camp in North Carolina to a new job in Charlottesville, Virginia, so I did not fully comprehend the reality of my newly-minted adulthood until today.  A restless weekend and an exceptionally long Monday hit me like a ton of bricks. The honeymoon phase of moving to a new city and starting a new job came to a screeching halt. Cue the tears and the hour-long phone call to mom. I explained to her that I felt as if I might crumble into a million pieces at any given moment, that life was not all sunshine and rainbows. She admitted that she had a similar day last week, confirming that, despite appearances, no one actually has it all together.

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The world tells us that as adults, we must have our lives completely figured out with a sense of who we are, where we want to be, and how we are going to get there. When we cannot meet that standard, we feel like utter failures. Fortunately, the world’s definition of a successful, put-together adult is contrary to what God requires of us. In fact, not having it all together is the only requirement for receiving the immeasurable grace that God offers. He knew full well that we would never be able to get our acts together because of the sin that permeates every aspect of our lives. Therefore, He sent His Son to earth to live a perfect life on our behalf that would cover up our bad days, our failures, and our complete inability to get it together. And the best part is that no matter how many bad days we have, God never turns away, leaving us to fend for ourselves: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 2:22-23).

In no way do I pretend to have adulthood figured out or to live perfectly in this grace. I write this to preach to myself and to remind myself of the God who saved me, forgave me, and guided me to where I am now. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Pretentious Believers and the Law of Authenticity

Pretentious Believers and the Law of Authenticity

There was a period of time, and I’m not proud of it, when the worst insult my friends and I could lob at a person/place/thing was that they were ‘pretentious’. It connoted everything we didn’t like: phoniness, humorlessness, and haughtiness.

At least, in theory it did. Over time, the word became less of a spear and more of a shield, fending off anything that made us feel bad about ourselves. That grad school student who disagreed with our opinion? Pfff, pretentious! That girl who wouldn’t give us the time of day?! So pretentious. That writer who slagged off Guns n Roses…

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