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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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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 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.

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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From the Archives: Don’t Look Now But Your Soul Toupee Is Showing

From the Archives: Don’t Look Now But Your Soul Toupee Is Showing

Ah, the difference between who we’d like to be and who we actually are. Such a perennial theme these days (and source of anxiety), what with the advent of social media and its carefully constructed/curated presentations of self. The discrepancy between the real and the ideal has become so prevalent a part of our everyday lives, in fact, that it may be worth reminding ourselves just how much this phenomenon pre-dates the Internet.

Take for instance the following passage from Mbird fave Tim Kreider’s masterful essay, “The Czar’s Daughter”, collected in We Learn Nothing. The essay is a rumination on, and…

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Unless You’re God, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice

Unless You’re God, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice

This week The New York Times published an op-ed by Adam Grant entitled, “Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice.” Grant highlights what we might call “the law of just being yourself,” the widespread cultural mandate that, when followed correctly, should guarantee both freedom and success.

We are in the Age of Authenticity, where “be yourself” is the defining advice in life, love and career. Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. As Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, defines it, authenticity is “the…

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Conceptual keyboard - Find Love (pink key)

You Have No New Matches: Reviewing Season 1 of Casual

Several nights ago on a break from his thesis work, my husband peeked his head into the den and casually noted, “The shows you watch have a lot of sex in them.”

This was worrisome and, once I thought about it, also true.

Most recently, I stumbled upon Hulu’s Casual (Season 2 aired Tuesday) out of boredom and indifference. I’d just finished Six Feet Under, a wonderful but weighty series, and needed a lighter story to balance out my troughed dopamine levels. From what I could tell by the title and cast photo, Casual seemed to fit the bill – a casual (wink)…

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The Culture of Narcissism, Part 3: The Religion of “Me”

The Culture of Narcissism, Part 3: The Religion of “Me”

Here is the penultimate post in a series inspired by Christopher Lasch’s book, The Culture of Narcissism.

Back in 1987, when the New Age movement had not yet become just another part of the spiritual background noise of postmodern America, ABC television mainstreamed one branch of the movement in the miniseries “Out on a Limb,” which was based on actress Shirley MacLaine’s autobiographical book about her adventures in New Age spirituality. Just over a decade had passed since my own brief involvement in the New Age, so much of the mindset and the jargon was familiar to me. One scene in…

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