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Internet Shame and the Price of a Reputation

Internet Shame and the Price of a Reputation

If you already have a list of podcasts you pretend to listen to, put Reply All at the top. It’s a show I had avoided for a while because it’s exclusively “a show about the internet,” a medium I surrender so much of my time to already. But I quickly found that, like most of the public radio offerings these days, it’s just another wide avenue for good human-interest stories. I mean, where else do you see human nature writ large than in your Instagram feed or in some nefarious Reddit comment chain? Besides, each episode is short—some are fifteen…

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Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Often, when I try to explain what Mockingbird is I am faced with the daunting task of articulating a “low anthropology”. That is, an unflattering view of humanity. People accuse me of being negative or of losing sight of the fact that human beings are “mostly good.” So I pause and consider their opinions. And then I start to judge them for having those opinions. “How naïve” I say to myself. Then I realize I’m sinning in the middle of a theological discussion. Which brings me back to square one: low anthropology it is.

Recently, I met a lovely person who…

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Mining Netflix: Frasier and Niles Try to Magically Change Everything

Mining Netflix: Frasier and Niles Try to Magically Change Everything

A bit of a nostalgic, I’ve been finding myself vegging out lately to old episodes of Frasier. (Thank goodness for Netflix!). Perhaps you remember the premise. Always trying hard to be people who are well-recognized in society, Frasier and Niles are a restless duo: members of gentlemen’s clubs, wine-tasting societies, country clubs… the elite of the elite. Naturally this leads to sibling rivalry as they try to outdo each other and fail miserably every time. They are portrayals of all of us living under… well, the law. As with all scenarios in which the self remains front and center, the…

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Judas’ Charitable Enterprise for the Poor

This passage in Georges Bernanos’ The Diary of a Country Priest comes from our hero’s mentor, the Priest of Torcy, who, if a little harsh, stands as a clear-eyed check on our young cleric’s idealism. This is his monologue on Christ’s love for the poor. But for the priest, and for Bernanos, the love for the poor is not some systematic ethic for justice—it is romance. Referring to the story of the widow’s costly perfume “wasted” on Jesus’ feet, the priest speaks (as Christ) to Judas, against his kind of cautionary, penny-wise methods for selling off a poor woman’s nard.

The poor you will always have with you, but me you have not always with you, answered Our Lord. Which amounts to this: don’t let the hour of mercy strike in vain. You’d do far better to cough up that money you stole, at once, instead of trying to get My apostles worked up over your imaginary financial deals in toilet waters, and your charitable enterprises. Moreover you think you’re flattering My notorious weakness for down-and-outs, but you’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick. I’m not attached to My paupers like an English old maid to lost cats, or to the poor bulls in the Spanish bull-ring. I love Diary_of_a_Country_Priestpoverty with a deep, reasoned, lucid love—as equal loves equal. I love her as a wife who is faithful and fruitful. If the poor man’s right was derived only from strict necessity, your piddling selfishness would soon reduce him to a bare minimum, paid for by unending gratitude and servility. You’ve been holding forth against this woman to-day who has just bathed My feet with very expensive nard, as though My poor people had no right to best scent…The poor you have always with you, just because there will always be the rich, that is to say there will always be hard and grasping men out for power more than possession. These men exist as much among the poor as among the rich, and the scallywag vomiting up his drink in the gutter is perhaps drunk with the very same dreams as Caesar asleep under his purple canopy. Rich and poor alike, you’d do better to look at yourselves in the mirror of want, for poverty is the image of your own fundamental illusion. Poverty is the emptiness in your hearts and in your hands. It is only because your malice is known to Me that I have placed poverty so high, crowned her and taken her as My bride.

Thesis 10 of The Humility Code (and the Scales of the Universe)

Thesis 10 of The Humility Code (and the Scales of the Universe)

As Bryan alluded to in the most recent weekender, David Brooks’ new book The Road to Character hit shelves last week and has been lighting up our social media feeds, as the NY Times columnist tends to do whenever he gets into less topical territory. While the volume itself makes its way to our mailbox, a couple of reviews and write-ups are too tasty not to mention. Brooks has gone on record to state that, “my book is not a religious book. It uses religious categories … and I do that because I think the public square needs to have…

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Simultaneously Frazzled and Fragile: Surviving a Culture of Overachievement

Simultaneously Frazzled and Fragile: Surviving a Culture of Overachievement

It’s getting to the point where I’d almost rather not draw attention to articles like Frank Bruni’s “Best, Brightest–and Saddest?”. Not just because I wish their subject matter wasn’t as urgent as it is, or that their claims were more groundless, but because the whole thing has become so excruciatingly obvious. As performancism escalates, so too does its fallout, and the affected demographics only seem to be getting younger. Reading about each new upping of the ante feels like watching a massive collision unfold in slow motion, one where we’ve all had our turn at the wheel.

Bruni’s article focuses on the teenage…

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Clothes Make the Man: Thoughts on NYT’s Men’s Style

Clothes Make the Man: Thoughts on NYT’s Men’s Style

Earlier this month, the New York Times debuted a new print section in their newspaper- the first new print section of the paper in a decade- and that new section is dedicated to Men’s Style. It says a lot that one of the great media companies in history would decide in 2015 to invest ink and paper in any subject matter. Even if the section insert is only once a month, if the New York Times is getting into men’s fashion, perhaps we should be turning our attention there as well. Says Men’s Style editor Jim Windolf:

Today The Times unveils Men’s…

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Waffle Makers and Blueberry Forests: Learning to Live Again (in Prison)

Waffle Makers and Blueberry Forests: Learning to Live Again (in Prison)

In the same Sunday issue, The New York Times Magazine published two articles that drew some not-so-subtle conclusions about the American prison system, about its problematic rise in numbers, about its entrenched recidivism, and about its inherent contradictions to the American themes of freedom, opportunity, and hope. Of the two articles, one of them was a character study of ADX in Colorado, “America’s Toughest Federal Prison.”

Since opening in 1994, the ADX has remained not just the only federal supermax but also the apogee of a particular strain of the American penal system, wherein abstract dreams of rehabilitation have been entirely…

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The Overwhelm: A Conversation on a Modern Mandate with Brigid Schulte

The Overwhelm: A Conversation on a Modern Mandate with Brigid Schulte

Our first free-peek into The Work and Play Issue of The Mockingbird is our interview with Brigid Schulte, journalist and author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time.

Ironically enough, it took a good bit of phone tag for this interview on busyness to happen. When we were finally able to coordinate a time to talk, Brigid Schulte was calling from a train station, heading back home from New York City, and she sounded rushed but told me she had a few minutes to talk and set up a time. When it came time for the…

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You Do You, Genghis

You Do You, Genghis

I was a little worried when The NY Times Magazine changed its format in February and did away with “Riff”, a column we’ve mined over the years almost more than any other. Lo and behold, my concern was misfounded. What they’ve done is clever, funneling those observations into a handful of thematically-defined columns, the language-oriented “First Words” being the prime example. For the second time in as many months, writer Colson Whitehead has utilized that new umbrella to deliver a tour de force of cultural commentary. Last time he explored the appeal of the ‘loser edit’, this time he goes…

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Filling the Void with Fitness: A Conference Breakout Preview

Filling the Void with Fitness: A Conference Breakout Preview

This one comes to us from Mockingtern Evan Brush:

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote last fall about the decline in the number of cults capturing America’s attention. He recalled the 1980s when cults worried the parents of estranged children and often caught headlines for all the wrong reasons. However, Douthat actually saw the decline in cults as indicative of a lack of vitality in American religious life: less people seeking to go outside the mainstream in search of the answers to the big questions. He thinks that the lack of a somewhat radical fringe is indicative of stagnation within…

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Another Week Ends: Abrahamic Evolution, More Cookie Monster, The Law of Higher Ed, G.K. Chesterton as Saint, and the Puritan Legacy

Another Week Ends: Abrahamic Evolution, More Cookie Monster, The Law of Higher Ed, G.K. Chesterton as Saint, and the Puritan Legacy

1. Over at aeon, Benjamin Grant Purzycki once again demonstrates the poverty of discourse about religion – the fact that little understanding of its required to make grand pronouncements. Anyway, he says some interesting things along the way, and it’s worth a read. First, we’re all biased toward thinking of God as a cosmic judge:

In a 2013 article in Cognition, I reported that Christian students from the University of Connecticut who claim that God knows everything will nonetheless rate His knowledge of moral information (Does God know that Sebastian robs grocery stores?) as better than His knowledge of non-moral information (Does God…

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