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The Triumph of Hope Over Self-Knowledge

A quick paragraph from Alain de Botton’s marvelous first book, On Love (1993):

41m6kn3sf-l-_sx326_bo1204203200_What is so frightening is the extent to which we may idealize others when we have such trouble tolerating ourselves–because we have such trouble… I must have realized that Chloe was only human, with all the implications carried by the word, but could I not be forgiven for my desire to suspend such a thought? Every fall into love involves the triumph of hope over self-knowledge. We fall in love hoping we won’t find in another what we know is in ourselves, all the cowardice, weakness, laziness, dishonesty, compromise, and stupidity. We throw a cordon of love around the chosen one and decide that everything within it will somehow be free of our faults. We locate inside another a perfection that eludes us within ourselves, and through our union with the beloved hope to maintain (against the evidence of all self-knowledge) a precarious faith in our species.

A Little Post-Thanksgiving Humor

Courtesy of Thanksgiving Day episode of The Mockingcast:

Three Stanzas of W.H. Auden’s “In Sickness and in Health” (1940)

crc4mugwgaay0pyBeloved, we are always in the wrong,
Handling so clumsily our stupid lives,
Suffering too little or too long,
Too careful even in our selfish loves:
The decorative manias we obey
Die in grimaces round us every day,
Yet through their tohu-bohu comes a voice
Which utters an absurd command – Rejoice.

Rejoice. What talent for the makeshift thought
A living corpus out of odds and ends?
What pedagogic patience taught
Preoccupied and savage elements
To dance into a segregated charm?
Who showed the whirlwind how to be an arm,
And gardened from the wilderness of space
The sensual properties of one dear face?

Rejoice, dear love, in Love’s peremptory word;
All chance, all love, all logic, you and I,
Exist by grace of the Absurd,
And without conscious artifice we die:
O, lest we manufacture in our flesh
The lie of our divinity afresh,
Describe round our chaotic malice now,
The arbitrary circle of a vow.

A Love Letter from King George

A Love Letter from King George

I recently caved and jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon. The two-and-a-half-hour hip-hop soundtrack took me about four days to listen to all the way through, and, I must admit, I now understand and appreciate what the hype is about. Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and winner of eleven Tony Awards, tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton: how he came to America, his role in founding our country, and all the (romantic) drama in between.

One of my favorite songs at the moment—which is probably very telling about my taste in music—is “You’ll Be Back.” King George (Jonathan Groff) sings…

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Mockingbird Asks Polly: Our Interview with Heather Havrilesky

Mockingbird Asks Polly: Our Interview with Heather Havrilesky

Another sneak peek into the Mental Health Issue, folks. Order up! They’re going going going…

We first came across the name “Heather Havrilesky” back in 2011, when The New York Times Magazine published a column under her name comparing two television shows set in high school, Friday Night Lights and Glee. She noted how the former found beauty in the fragility and uncertainty of life, and virtue in selflessness, while the latter seemed to revolve around the bold-faced pursuit of personal glory and vindication. Here was someone putting fresh words to some of our favorite themes, with a wit and compassion…

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Grace in Trains, Pantsuits, and Locker Rooms

Grace in Trains, Pantsuits, and Locker Rooms

A couple of weeks ago my husband, back from an extended work trip, gave me the greatest of gifts: an overnight stay in a local hotel. No, not with him. This was the gift of solitude for nearly twenty-four hours, a joy rarely experienced by mothers of young children and highly coveted by the same, particularly the introverted sort such as myself. Granted, the gift was born out of a demand on my part after a sleepless night and an overflowing toilet, but let’s avoid looking at this horse directly in the mouth, shall we?

When the time arrived, my…

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Attachment Theory and Your Relationship With God

Attachment Theory and Your Relationship With God

Another sampler from the Mental Health Issue! Here’s a doozie from psychologist Bonnie Poon Zahl about the meaning of ‘attachment theory’ and its implications for the ways we talk about our faith. Of course, this is only to whet your appetite…

I am a psychologist of religion. This means that I use tools from psychological science to study, empirically, the manifold expressions of religion and spirituality in human lives. I am most interested in how people understand and relate to God, and in my research I adopt the methodological naturalism that is expected in my discipline; I try to understand people’s religious…

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A Mama’s Grace in a Culture of “Do”

A Mama’s Grace in a Culture of “Do”

My daughter turned one a few weeks ago, and as is apparently the case whenever I throw a party with cupcakes at my house, I learned something about God’s grace.

Amidst making banners and hanging monthly pictures and Amazon Prime-ing multicolor tassels to hang from the mantle, I found myself reflecting both on what it means to celebrate my daughter, and on her growth and development. The “big O-N-E” tends to serve as a chance to throw a blowout party (we made it!) and as a clear marker for a child’s development: Can she wave “bye bye” yet? Can she stand on her…

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From the Archives: A Referendum on Midlife Friendships

From the Archives: A Referendum on Midlife Friendships

“We haven’t seen them in a while,” I hear myself observing every few weeks, usually in reference to friends with whom my wife and I have lost touch.

Most of the time, the estrangement is logistical, schedules being what they are in a house with two working parents and two napping toddlers. But guilt nevertheless sets in and triggers defensiveness. Soon platitudes like “it takes two to tango” or “life happens” are being trotted out and before long, you’re castigating yourself or the other person(s), possibly deconstructing society as a whole, and any chance of reconnection has been essentially nullified.

Growing up,…

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The Magnetic Power of a Proxy Marriage

The Magnetic Power of a Proxy Marriage

My late father-in-law, a pastor, used to say he would rather officiate a funeral than a wedding. It shocked my young ears at the time, but after I became a pastor I could see his reasoning. Weddings, at their worst, have a kind of dramatic tension that completely overwhelms its sacramental significance. Not all brides and their mothers live up to their stereotypes, but some do. In those cases, give me a simple funeral of a God-fearin’ woman or man.

But weddings at their best are animated by a sweetness and beauty that are hard to find anywhere else on a…

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Gchat Apologies and the Lonesome Cockpit

Gchat Apologies and the Lonesome Cockpit

In her new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle invests a lot of ink in the distinction between connection and conversation. This is a distinction already rife with commentary, on this site and others, that while connection is the term of choice for LinkedIn partnerships and Facebook “friends,” it is bankrupt when it comes to the real subjectivity present in a conversation between two breathing people. Turkle argues that this transition away from conversation is, in turn, bankrupting us of the real meaning of connection. With the growth of internet communities, relationships are…

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On Rejecting Love and Little Brothers: From Thomas Merton

On Rejecting Love and Little Brothers: From Thomas Merton

The following is an excerpt from Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain.

One thing I would say about my brother John Paul. My most vivid memories of him, in our childhood, all fill me with poignant compunction at the thought of my own pride and hard-heartedness, and his natural humility and love.

I suppose it is usual for elder brothers, when they are still children, to feel themselves demeaned by the company of a brother four or five years younger, whom they regard as a baby and whom they tend to patronise and look down upon. So when Russ and I and…

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