Psychology
Seven Signs Romans 7 Applies to You Perfectly (Look at Number 4!)

Seven Signs Romans 7 Applies to You Perfectly (Look at Number 4!)

You know you didn’t want to click this. You saw it and let out a wail of despair that Mockingbird is resorting to “click-bait” headlines, but you saw the adorable puppy as the featured image and clicked anyway. So now here you are.

“Click-bait” is a tactic used by all different kinds of websites (perfected by Buzzfeed and Upworthy) to inflate page views and Facebook shares. These raw statistics make a site more attractive to advertisers and drive revenue for a site. I’ve definitely succumbed to these. They aren’t inherently bad, but when I waste away a good chunk of my…

Read More »

Yes, You Are Communicating Wrong (And No, You Will Not Like This Post)

Yes, You Are Communicating Wrong (And No, You Will Not Like This Post)

Des: Aren’t you a bit of a cad for leaving town with your girlfriend in the hospital?

Jimmy: It might look that way. I’ve been through this before. After graduation Laurie and I were going to break up, but the same day she came down with terrible back spasms. I hung around the hospital all summer, almost bankrupted her parents, and as soon as I left town she recovered. By going away and putting an ocean between us, i.e. making a definitive break, Charlotte’s likely to recover much faster.

Des: What makes you think that putting…

Read More »

Finding Myself at The Ontario Symposium; or Self-Forgetfulness

Finding Myself at The Ontario Symposium; or Self-Forgetfulness

Back in 1988, a bunch of social psychologists met in a sunny Canadian province to run through new experiments, theories, and approaches in social psych research. The theme was self-inference processes, or the ways we make judgments – accurate or inaccurate, constructive or merely descriptive – about, you know, who we are. The result is a mostly mundane, dry, and technical body of psych literature, littered with revolutionary insights into who we are (which, nonetheless, Luther had arguably discovered or personally reified centuries before), leavened with some real, concrete, original insight.

We’ve covered less psychology of late on the site, partly because it feels the field…

Read More »

Resolving the Discrepancies of the Self

Resolving the Discrepancies of the Self

A few decades before Alexander’s conquest, the Macedonians were considered barbarous and uncivilized by the other Greeks. Many of their nobles felt they should be proper Greeks, and one young king in particular – Alexander the Great’s father, Philip – seems to have been very bothered by the discrepancies between the Macedonians’ actual status as outsiders and their desired identity as insiders. Philip addressed this discrepancy by transforming, in a few short decades, his backward country into a military powerhouse and conquering the snobbish Greeks. Near the end of his life, he held a Pan-Hellenic festival to celebrate the new order of Macedonian…

Read More »

Christian Battle Lines and the Narcissism of Small Differences

Christian Battle Lines and the Narcissism of Small Differences

I became a Christian during summer camp at age eleven, and few experiences since then can compare to the bliss of that first night and the month or so following it. I still remember, though distantly, the thrill of morning devotionals and a general sense of wonder at the strange, unmapped new territory of Christianity.

Walker Percy wrote that every explorer names his island Formosa, “beautiful”, and such Christianity was to me. After a time, however, I started hearing an internal voice, one that said, roughly, why do morning devotionals for ten minutes – you could do them for thirty. So…

Read More »

The Rationalist Delusion and the Perils of Certainty – Jonathan Haidt

Didn’t think we’d reached the end of the videos, had you? Not by long shot! Here’s Dr. Haidt’s fantastic presentation from Saturday morning:

The Ratonalist Delusion & the Perils of Certainty ~ Jonathan Haidt from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Another Week Ends: Cultural Literati Pretenders, Fake Empathy, The Search for Cool (Moms), Kurt Vonnegut, Calvary, and the Gospel Dustups

Another Week Ends: Cultural Literati Pretenders, Fake Empathy, The Search for Cool (Moms), Kurt Vonnegut, Calvary, and the Gospel Dustups

1) The Atlantic attempted a definition of “cool” this week, and it runs in tow with Shane Snow’s definition of humor in the New Yorker. Whereas humor can be defined as “benign violation,” cool is defined by Derek Thompson as “a measured violation of malign expectations.” Sounds good to me! Within this definition, cool is bound on both ends by law: cool is a response to some form of constraint or expectation, but it also must operate within an expected set of parameters in order for it to be seen as cool. If it operates beyond the parameters of its…

Read More »

Marcel Proust on the Dogged Determination of the Will

shv103bl“Whereas at the moment we are just about to start on a long-planned and eagerly awaited holiday, our brain, our nerves begin to ask themselves whether it really is worth all the trouble involved, the will, knowing that those lazy masters would at once begin to consider their journey the most wonderful experience, if it became impossible for them to take it, the will leaves them explaining their difficulties outside the station, multiplying their hesitations; but busies itself with taking the tickets and putting us into the carriage before the train starts. It is as invariable as brain and nerves and fickle, but as it is silent, gives no account of its actions, it seems almost non-existent; it is by its dogged determination that the other constituent parts of our personality are led, but without seeing it, while they distinguish clearly all their own uncertainties.”

-Marcel Proust, from Within a Budding Grove

Ruts, Expectation, and the Word from Beyond: Thoughts on Christian Time

Ruts, Expectation, and the Word from Beyond: Thoughts on Christian Time

We all know the feeling of being in a rut: repetition temporarily dominates variation, and we’re going in circles, with routine and mundanity showing no signs of breaking. Most recently, Rust Cohle on True Detective comes to mind. His quote that “time is a flat circle” emphasizes repetitiveness, lack of progress, everything repeating and repeating – “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace”, as Shakespeare’s Macbeth puts it. What lent the air of futility to Macbeth’s time? He had a goal, a telos, or end, earlier: to become king. Once his ambition is fulfilled, there is no more movement toward…

Read More »

The Priesthood of All Couples Counselors

Building on last week’s Fargo post, some food for thought from pages 119-120 of writer-philosopher-’religious atheist’ Alain de Botton’s provocative How to Think More About Sex (other brave portions of which we excerpted here):

treeoftrust

“In a perfect world, all couples would be visited by a psychotherapist on a weekly basis, without even having to put themselves forward for the service. The session would simply be a regular feature of a good, ordinary life, as the Friday evening meal is for Jews, and would offer some of the same cathartic function as this ritual. Above all, neither party would be made to feel by society that he or she was crazy for having therapy–which is currently the main reason people neglect to see therapists and therefore slowly go crazy.

This ideal therapist would take a history of a relationship, explore its current tensions and try to serve as a catalyst for the sort of change that the couple themselves were too weak, busy or confused to bring about on their own. She would remind her clients that every exchange, however minor, had meaning and could set off a chain of recriminations and resentments that would prevent them from wanting to have sex. She would teach them to treat the complicated business of being in a relationship with extraordinary care. She would ask them both to arrive at every session with a list of issues that had arisen during the previous week, and insist that they each listen to the other’s complaints compassionately, without resorting to angry self-justification or injured self-pity… She would review their individual psychological histories and endeavor to help make the couple aware of some of the ways in which, because of their particular pasts, they might both be likely to distort or misread reality. And when arguments did flare up, she would urge each of them to see the other as being wounded and sad rather than malicious or spiteful.

This therapist would belong to a new kind of priesthood, designed for an age that no longer believes in religious forgiveness and understanding in the afterlife but that is still very much in need of those same qualities in the here and now.”

Grace for the Party Monster? Michael Alig and the Law of Club Celebrity

Grace for the Party Monster? Michael Alig and the Law of Club Celebrity

This one comes to us from Josh Encinias

I jokingly suggested on Monday that Papermag should’ve titled their article about Michael “Party Monster” Alig: “Alig Don’t Wanna Be a Freak (But He Can’t Help Himself)” (Dynasty), but as I read through the story, I realized that Alig was released from prison this week into a community that’s simultaneously expecting the best and worst from him, because of his high-profile background. But can it be any other way? He’s a criminal with a twisted history. People are unsure what direction his life will take, but I know there’s an answer…

Read More »

Marital Contempt, Fargo the Miniseries, and One-Way Love

Marital Contempt, Fargo the Miniseries, and One-Way Love

When my husband Josh and I were newly engaged we underwent a series of pre-marital counseling sessions with a therapist. While I wish I could tell you what I remember from that expensive experience, I cannot. We probably checked a mental box of “reassurance about us being okay” and moved on. Some weeks before our wedding, Josh’s bishop in Atlanta asked to meet with us. Years later, that meeting is something I consider on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Here’s what he said: if true contempt enters into a marriage, it is over. After years of counseling to-be-joyfully-wed couples, this…

Read More »

I Could’ve Been Somebody: Regret and Possibility in “Rixty Minutes”

I Could’ve Been Somebody: Regret and Possibility in “Rixty Minutes”

To be honest, I’d never expected zany sci-fi, Adam Phillips, and Leibniz’s best possible world approach to the theodicy problem to converge in a masterful twenty-two minutes on Cartoon Network. Then again, life sometimes mocks expectations. Adult Swim’s new series Rick and Morty is off to an unbelievable start, enjoying wide critical acclaim and no small amount of creative self-indulgence, in the best way. In a series of brilliant episodes, episode 8, “Rixty Minutes”, stands out for the surprising depth of its meditations on regret. Watch here. Spoilers follow.

For those new to the series, Rick – an…

Read More »

Jean-Luc Marion Needs Assurance

In the wonderful French philosopher’s reflections on The Erotic Phenomenon, he points out the poverty of a Cartesian ego which operates by certainty – certitude of objects and of itself. Why does Descartes undertake his project of doubt and demonstration in the first place? We desire to know, and this word – “desire” – indicates an intention toward something far greater than knowledge or certainty: an assurance beyond the self. This happens in his “erotic reduction”, in which we are “led back” to the human as lover:

trapped

(via XKCD)

Thus in the erotic reduction, nothing and no one assures me – the lover that I have become under the erotic reduction – except myself, who by definition cannot do so. By agreeing to hear the question “Does anyone love me?” it is as if I have opened beneath my feet an abyss that I can neither fill, nor cross, nor perhaps even sound – an abyss that I risk enlarging even more by developing the logic of the question “Does anyone out there love me?” For the question “Does anyone love me?” will in effect only be able to receive a response (if it ever could) by coming upon me from elsewhere than myself; it thus assigns me an irreversible dependency upon that which I can neither master, nor provoke, nor even envisage – an other than myself, eventually someone other for me (alter ego), in any case a foreign instance, coming from I know not where – in any case, not from me. So, while the search for certainty (“Of what am I certain?”) may still hope to lead me back to myself, by certifying to me that at the least I am, even if I am still deceived, the request for an assurance (“Does anyone out there love me?”) exiles me definitively outside of myself: even if it eventually winds up reassuring me against the threat of vanity (“What’s the use?”) by assuring me that someone loves me, it would assign me all the more to this “someone” (whosoever he or she may be) that I will never be, and whose foreignness nevertheless will always remain more inward to me than my most inward part. The very one who could assure me must estrange me. In short, certainty can lead me back to myself, because I acquire it by subtraction, like a poor phenomenon, while assurance separates me from myself, because it opens within me the separation of an elsewhere. Whether it remains an empty request or, instead, fills me with its excess, it always marks me with a lack that is my own. By opening the very question of assurance, I become a lack to myself.

Can You See the Real Me? – David Zahl

The second video to be posted from our recent conference in NYC but the first to be recorded, this is from Thursday evening 4/3:

Can You See the Real Me? ~ David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.