Law

When Balance Becomes a Weapon (Women, You Can Have It All!)

When Balance Becomes a Weapon (Women, You Can Have It All!)

Not often do I get the opportunity to quote my dad on matters other than Alabama football and Fox News, but lately I’ve been turning over in my head two of his favorite axioms: Life isn’t fair and Everybody just CALM DOWN!

I grew up under the constant admonition of that first phrase: the awareness that the world doesn’t always work according to the balance and order I think it should have; that even if I do the right thing it doesn’t mean everyone else will; that, ultimately, there are no guarantees. But I also grew up under the reign of…

Read More »

Reflections on America’s Happiest City

Reflections on America’s Happiest City

Four and a half months ago, Charlottesville, VA was named the happiest city in America. As the happiest blogger in the happiest city, I feel like I should do some commenting.

In the original paper for the happiness study, the researchers are careful to note that they’re measuring only “self-reported” happiness, a qualifier lost in some of the news outlets which reported it. To oversimplify things, we could view one’s self-reported level of happiness as consisting of three factors: (1) happiness itself, (2) pressures to lie on the survey, and (3) self-deception about perceived happiness. Since the survey was anonymous and Sandford,…

Read More »

George Lucas is Darth Vader is Your Father

George Lucas is Darth Vader is Your Father

For children of the 70s and 80s, the phrase “cautiously optimistic” perfectly fits our feelings about the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. We love “the original trilogy” (Episodes IV through VI) almost as much as we regret having ever heard of the prequels (Episodes I through III). Most of us, though I can’t speak for the true die-hard Star Trek fans, like what Abrams did with his Star Trek reboot and are hopeful that he can bring back some of this series’ luster—a shine that was lost in Jar Jar Binks’s…

Read More »

A Quick Non Sequitur

42d9b050571f0132b0b1005056a9545d-1

Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash: A Parable of Stifling Perfection

Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash: A Parable of Stifling Perfection

[Mild spoilers follow.] As a writer, I’ve found, you’re always searching for material. A friend’s talking to you about a bad breakup, years of religious doubt and self-recrimination for doubting, a car wreck, DUI, or lost job. Suddenly, once an insight seems to hit you – or even a situation with a certain intellectual appeal – the ideas become all, and their textures, contexts, and the unfortunate people living in them become pared back, leaving you with what feels like the beginnings of a great article, essay, even poem. The real world fades away, and all you’re left with, all you…

Read More »

Midlife Crises and Expectation Gaps

Midlife Crises and Expectation Gaps

As suspected, the cover story for November’s Atlantic Monthly, Jonathan Rauch’s “The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis”, contains more than a handful of relevant tidbits. The article is concerned less with the particulars of sports cars and second marriages and more with the “U-Curve of Happiness”–the phenomenon reported across countries, cultures and even species(!) of self-reported wellbeing dipping significantly in one’s 40s, and rising in one’s 50s and 60s, often peaking during one’s 70s. Rauch makes a terrific guide through all the research and theorizing, along the way telling us his own story of mid-life discontent. There are plenty of things…

Read More »

Another Week Ends: Life in Psychiatric Records, Faith as Ambiguous Blessing, Evangelical Women, Relentlessly Positive Millennials, Flawed In-Laws, and Friends of Sinners

Another Week Ends: Life in Psychiatric Records, Faith as Ambiguous Blessing, Evangelical Women, Relentlessly Positive Millennials, Flawed In-Laws, and Friends of Sinners

1. If anyone thought that medical records couldn’t be riveting and deeply touching, you’re not alone. But George Scialabba, an acclaimed thinker, writer, and book reviewer, voluntarily posted his psychiatric medical history in the current issue of The Baffler. Apart from the courage and vulnerability  such a move shows, as well as the compassion for fellow sufferers which presumably undergirds his release, Scialabba’s post offers a curious mixture of elements as a reader: self-reproach for such intimate voyeurism combined with a feeling that you’re really seeing yourself; wonder at how far short even highly accomplished people can fall far short of…

Read More »

“I Wanna Get Better”—Self-Propulsion, Self-Reproach, and the Big Picture

“I Wanna Get Better”—Self-Propulsion, Self-Reproach, and the Big Picture

This reflection comes from our friend Mimi Montgomery:

And I miss the days of a life still permanent / Mourn the years before I got carried away / So now I’m staring at the interstate screaming at myself, / ’Hey, I wanna get better!’

I didn’t know I was broken ‘till I wanted to change / I wanna get better, better, better, better, / I wanna get better

-Bleachers, “I Wanna Get Better”

I have a compulsive need to continuously have some sort of background noise going on while I drive my car—NPR, the radio, my iPod, calling my mom so I can listen while…

Read More »

From The Onion: Laid-Back Company Allows Employees To Work From Home After 6 P.M.

The hits just keep coming. Check the original here

Newsletter-College03-320GRESHAM, OR—Underscoring the benefits of working for a laid-back company like SocialFire Marketing, founder and CEO Matt Avalon told reporters Tuesday he had instituted an office-wide policy permitting employees to work from home anytime after 6 p.m. “If it helps them be efficient and get more done, I have no problem with people working remotely once they’ve left the office for the day,” said Avalon, who noted that as long as they’re doing their jobs, the location where his staff members choose to work between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. is “completely up to them.” “That’s the kind of relaxed culture we strive to create here—one where you can even be working from your living room couch at two in the morning if you’d like.” Avalon added that since they don’t have to be in the office for any meetings, employees are free to work from home on weekends and holidays as well.

On TV: The Boardwalk Empire Series Finale and the Warning Label on the Side Panel of the American Dream

On TV: The Boardwalk Empire Series Finale and the Warning Label on the Side Panel of the American Dream

The fifth and final season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire concluded last week. It ends having not quite the widespread appeal of The Sopranos or Game of Thrones, but the reviews were strong, due largely to how well the show balanced a fictionalized morality tale with an historical account of the emergence of the American gangster during the Prohibition era. BE centers around the rise of Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) to prominence as the preeminent bootlegger in Atlanta City in the early 1920’s. The Nucky Thompson character is based on real life gangster Nucky Johnson who was an associate of Al…

Read More »

Happy Reformation Day From Philip Melanchthon!

This one comes from Melanchthon’s Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV, 164A, 172B, ht SMZ:

Philipp_Melanchthon_monument“[I]f we had to believe that after our renewal we must become acceptable not by faith on account of Christ but on account of our keeping of the law, our conscience would never find rest. Instead, it would be driven to despair. For the law always accuses since we never satisfy the law… For who loves or fears God enough? Who endures patiently the afflictions imposed by God? Who does not often doubt whether human affairs are ruled by the counsel of God? Who does not often doubt whether one is heard by God? Who is not often angry that the wicked enjoy a better lot than the pious and that the godly are oppressed by the wicked? Who is not often enraged by the judgment of God when he seems to abandon us? How many live up to their calling? How many love their neighbor as themselves? Who is not incited by concupiscence? About these sins the psalms says [Ps. 32:6], ‘Therefore let all who are the saints offer prayer to you.’ Here he says that the saints pray for the forgiveness of sins.’ … Only faith brings [peace to consciences] – faith which is confident that on account of Christ the high priest we have a gracious God… Faith justifies in this way: that it simultaneously makes alive, that is, it cheers and consoles consciences and produces eternal life and joy in the heart.”

Tavris and Aronson on Justification

We’ve posted at length on Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson’s Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), a book which brilliantly details the far-reaching consequences of self-justification and cuts toward the heart of the human condition.

Perpetrators are motivated to reduce their moral culpability; victims are motivated to maximize their moral blamelessness. Depending on which side of the wall we are on, we systematically distort our memories and account of the event to produce the maximum consonance between what happened and how we see ourselves… The relatively small number of people who cannot or will not reduce dissonance this way pay a large psychological price in guilt, anguish, anxiety, nightmares, and sleepless nights. The pain of living with horrors they have committed, but cannot morally accept, would be searing, which is why most people will reach for any justification available to assuage the dissonance.

The unendurability of such a price generally leads people to rationalize one way or another to conform events to a pre-existing picture we have of ourselves. Such dissonance can be eased by delusion, “moral acceptance” – basically, anything goes – but the Christian message enters into that dissonance, formulates it. “I do not do what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate”; “simul iustus et peccator, saint and sinner at once”. Christians are so often described as self-righteous not least because our religion’s self-helpy, aspirational form may encourage us to distort things still-more to maximize consonance between “what happened” and our newly-inflated picture of ourselves, between the ideal of linear sanctification and the empirical evidence of recidivism. The only message which can speak effectively to the all-pervasive problem of justification is the assurance that what happened has been forgiven and is now of no consequence, and how we see ourselves was delusory to begin with.