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Ballistic for Justice? Yeah, I Get It

Ballistic for Justice? Yeah, I Get It

I can’t roll the videotape, but I’m pretty sure that our middle child’s first fully formed sentence (somewhere south of age 2) was “That’s not fair!”  It was likely because her older sister had a bigger juice cup. It was sobering for me, because I learned something about her in that moment that was probably going to be inevitable about at least one of our kids, but I didn’t want to resign myself to say the words out loud so early in her life. They came out though, albeit involuntarily. “She’s just like me. Damn.”

Clarity of that truth reared its…

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Sex and Death: The Existentialism of King Solomon and Ernest Hemingway

Sex and Death: The Existentialism of King Solomon and Ernest Hemingway

We live our lives bounded by those two mysteries, birth and death—our beginning and our end—and in between we stumble about in the dark, looking for the light, or at least for a good pair of existential shoes so we will not cut our feet quite so much on the sharp edges of Reality as we head for the Exit. What most of us find is ordinary life. The accidents of history have for now enclosed a space in which a wide swath of humanity—though not all of us, to be sure—experience ordinariness in the prosperity and pleasures of an…

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Passionate vs. Cool: Performancism in College

Passionate vs. Cool: Performancism in College

Set to start my senior year of college, a few interactions from my first semester in Charlottesville still stick with me. One was a question my advisor asked me as I anxiously slumped into a chair in his office for the first time. The second is a comment I made over lunch with a professor I respect and am hugely intimidated by.

The question that sent me squirming in my seat was a seemingly simple one: “What are you passionate about?” … Crickets. He prodded, offering up easy suggestions for an 18-year-old male: sports, food, money, girls … “Sex?” he even asked, in…

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Penn Faces and Campus Tragedies: More Notes on an Epidemic

Penn Faces and Campus Tragedies: More Notes on an Epidemic

Here’s why I didn’t want to write about Julie Scelfo’s recent article “Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection” in The NY Times:

It is not because we’ve written about the phenomenon too many times already–though we have. It is because writing about it again only serves to underline how futile-seeming these kinds of reflections are. Who wants to spend an afternoon basking in despair? Or mitigating the despair by placing oneself above it all? It is deeply unpleasant.

This past year Charlottesville witnessed four undergraduate suicides, and I’m not sure I can muster the energy to cartwheel yet again over the…

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Letters from Old Boxes: Searching for a Wild Love

Letters from Old Boxes: Searching for a Wild Love

Two years after moving into our house, my husband and I have finally unpacked. We got through all the easy stuff first: kid toys, old clothes, books that we will never actually read. And then we began to deal with the heavier stuff of life. Which astonishingly seems to come in the form of papers.

There were photographs from prom (his) and programs from earnestly bad high school theatre productions (mine). We found our first driver’s licenses and concert tickets. But mostly, there were pages of letters from old boyfriends. There was correspondence in that box that went from 7th grade crushes…

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Ines Boubakri of Tunisia, left and Nicole Ross of the United States compete in the round of 32 during women's fencing at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Saving Face: the Relational Politics of “I Don’t Know”

This post was co-written by Samantha McKean and Kristen Gunn. Sam is a student at Duke Divinity School, where she’s realizing what she actually does and doesn’t know. Kristen is heavily into words and why we say them, which is how this conversation became a post.

Sam: I say “I don’t know,” a lot. It’s a filler, a tic, the new “um” or “like” that your Com101 professors warned you about. It comes tacked onto the end of my sentences like sad parade banners. Most of the time, I don’t even notice I’m saying it.

I have a friend who always calls…

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In a World of Suffering, the “And Yet”

In a World of Suffering, the “And Yet”

Well, Modern Love’s Daniel Jones is certainly not on vacation. This past Friday’s installment of our favorite relationships column was a heat-seeking missile into the dark depths of marital skepticism. Surprisingly, though, the article does not object to marital skepticism–it normalizes it. Ada Calhoun writes about her own 10+ years of marriage and the difficulties that quickly skimmed off the fluff of most wedding toasts you hear–“I will never let you down,” “You will always be my best friend,” etc. Strangely enough, Calhoun indicates the inherent optimism of these kinds of toasts as part of the problem. We feel entitled to their sentiments, so much so…

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Check, Please!

Check, Please!

Being a college student means asking for separate checks at restaurants. Generally, my friends and I wait until the end of the meal to say, “Oh yea, could you split those up by the way? Yeah that’d be great, thanks,” as if it was an afterthought and the waiter/waitress had no idea what was coming all along. In truth, splitting up checks is pretty annoying. It means more buttons pressed and cards swiped and pens gathered, and I do often feel pangs of guilt asking servers to do it. But generally they’re accommodating, and they know what to expect when…

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From The Onion: Toddler Unsettled By Whatever Possessed Her To Bite Friend’s Face

Pretty funny rejoinder to their classic, “New Study Reveals Most Children Unrepentant Sociopaths”. Read the full thing here:

614Ob8PCQNL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_WESTON, CT—Visibly shocked and repulsed by her own behavior as she sat questioning the type of person she is deep down, unsettled 2-year-old Ellie Ritter admitted to reporters that she had no idea what compelled her to bite her friend on the face Thursday. “I honestly don’t know what came over me. I know Jacob took the train I was playing with, but I usually handle that kind of thing okay—but this time I…I bit him,” said a shaken and bewildered Ritter, sitting wide-eyed on a floor mat at her daycare… “I mean, this is Jacob we’re talking about. He’s my friend, my playmate. And I just went straight for his forehead like an animal. Jesus, what is wrong with me?” At press time, the unnerved toddler was staring uneasily down at her trembling, fingerpaint-covered hands and contemplating what other horrors she was capable of.

David Brooks Goes to the Basement

David Brooks Goes to the Basement

A buzzword like “character” could mean just about anything you want it to mean. Like a lot of reclaimed, lofty words from Ancient Greece or Rome — virtue, beauty, culture — character has picked up a lot of fuzz along the way, enough to become a proverbial lightning rod for just about any self-help guru and pop academic and thought-leader under the sun. Which is why David Brooks’ newest title, The Road to Character, did not exactly grab me like the earlier Bobos in Paradise. It sounded too much like the kind of book a dad pushes on an eighteen-year-old graduate. Or an HR executive plants in her office giftbags.

But Brooks is…

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PZ’s Podcast: PZ’s Fabulous New Dating Tips for Gals

EPISODE 190

This is a word to your future self. I’m not sure you can hear it now. But in five or ten years… OMG. You’ll hear it then, inside your head pounding like a perpetual hammer, and… you’ll remember.

It’s a comment on internet dating, and a massive warning. You may want to say back, Don’t take away the only hope I have for a non-alone life. Don’t pour cold water on the one thing I’ve got.

But it’s not cold water. It’s actually balm in Gilead. But to your future self! In five or ten years, and maybe in five or six months, “You’ll come running back” (Time Is On My Side, The Rolling Stones). You’ll hear this again and say, Dang!

Incidentally, at the end of the cast I offer a future. There is still a way. Love is out there, but… yet… nevertheless… however… better to be alone than be crucified on the altar of a man’s body and mind collapsing aeons before yours does.

This is your Ghost of Christmas Future speaking.

I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Grace: Thoughts on The Useful Sinner

I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Grace: Thoughts on The Useful Sinner

Culturally we spend a lot of time talking about a kind of “pay it forward” do gooderism. You know, you pay for a random stranger’s Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks and then they pay for somebody’s Lemonade Coolerista (just kidding, they haven’t started making those yet). Perfect strangers in perfect harmony, as the thinking goes. Or maybe you are familiar with the pebble theory. We drop a pebble of kindness into water and the ripple effect is such that even more encouraging acts come from this one moment of positivity.

I love this way of seeing humanity. But it lives in denial…

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