Suffering


Failure in a Society that Celebrates Triumphalism

HONY

If you don’t know Humans of New York, it’s one of the few creative things worth following on Facebook. It is curated by a guy named Brandon who simply collects quotes and photos of the people he meets (mostly in New York City), posting them on his blog and social media. He has a huge following. I was struck by a recent post. It’s a down-to-earth presentation of a theology of the Cross versus one of glory:

“I’ve written so many stories and novellas that nobody will look at, plays that I can’t get produced, screenplays that will never be made. Everything is so branded these days in the art world, it’s so hard for an outsider to get work.”

“In what way would you consider yourself an ‘outsider?’”

I’m interested in failure, so those are the themes that I like to explore. But we live in a society that celebrates triumphalism. A society wants art that reaffirms itself. We want to read about characters that win.

“What was your lowest moment as an artist?”

“I worked on a screenplay for two years, and it had just been turned down by the fifth theater in a month, and I remember walking down 5th avenue in the middle of winter, tossing the pages one by one into the slush, vowing never to do it again. It was just a few blocks from here, actually.”

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Before we get going, the Houston Conference is almost here!! While we never turn anyone away–last minute walk-ins more than welcome–we need to know by Monday morning (10/13) if you are planning/hoping to dine with us. You can either pre-register on the site (through Tuesday at midnight), or send us an email at info@mbird.com so we can reserve you a plate. The food is going to be delicious!

1. First off, this is both incredibly fascinating and incredibly sad. Perhaps you’ve heard of The Downtown Project, a “start-up city” in Las Vegas founded and pioneered by Tony Hsieh, the guy behind…

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Ebola, “Friends” and the Reasons We Give

Ebola, “Friends” and the Reasons We Give

Tim Keller has said that a Christian is someone who knows that they need to repent not only for the wrong things they do, but for the reasons they do the right things. That is to say, whatever we do, no matter how seemingly altruistic, almost always has some sort of selfish motivation mixed in – as Joey points out to Phoebe in “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS” (or so my wife tells me). Who would’ve thought that Joey Tribbiani would subscribe to what Calvin (following Sts. Augustine and Paul) called “total depravity”?

Further illustrating this point was a recent…

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The Apple Isn’t the Only Biblical Reference: 50 Years of The Giving Tree

The Apple Isn’t the Only Biblical Reference: 50 Years of The Giving Tree

Did you read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree as a child? Do you remember how it made you feel? The children’s book turns 50 this year, so theoretically, a few generations have had their chance to soak in the bittersweet melancholy of Silverstein’s prose. Acknowledging the anniversary, The Giving Tree was featured in this week’s Bookends column of The New York Times, which invited two contributors to reflect on the book’s history and meaning [ht DJ via Twitter]. That’s no surprise, of course–the book is well loved and continues to be a children’s classic. But what I was shocked to discover (maybe…

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Losing Is Winning When You Are a Cubs Fan

Losing Is Winning When You Are a Cubs Fan

This comes to us from Thomas Deatsch. 

“Continual loss” defines my feeling every baseball season. It’s my fault. I choose to follow the Chicago Cubs. No one forces me at gunpoint to root for these loveable losers. Every fall, when the season is waning, the Cubbies not only fail to reach the World Series, but more often than not, they do not even make the playoffs. I now believe it is a “merciful impasse.” The phrases “continual loss” and “merciful impasse” not only help me understand baseball, but how life, with its many cul-de-sacs and dead-ends, can have hope and meaning.

Being…

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Song for the Victims of our Modern Day Gladiators

Song for the Victims of our Modern Day Gladiators

Are you not entertained? All signs point to “No, I’m not entertained”, per David Puddy and the cheesy 8-ball jacket (thank you, Seinfeld fans). Rather, we’re disgusted.  I’ve read it in comments here. I’ve seen it on Facebook and Twitter – we’re fed up. I get it, really, I do. It’s an awful thing. However, I have to admit my two (polarized) reactions to all of this.

On one hand, I really don’t want to write about this crap two weeks in a row. This week though, we have four more (count them, four – Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer,…

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The Power of Negative Thinking

The Power of Negative Thinking

The 8am service on the Sunday before Labor Day was not well attended, and the rain didn’t help. Honestly, I was only there because I am paid to be. Then came the first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah:

“I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation.Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.”

Great. Thanks Jerry. That’s super-helpful. Just what I need for a little…

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Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT

1. First off, grab the kleenbox box because here’s a beautiful instance of grace in practice. It comes to us from little league coach Dave Belisle, whose Cumberland American team (Rhode Island) lost the Little League World Series championship game to Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West this past week. In their moment of defeat, Coach Belisle gave the following speech:

2. Looking through our archive this past month, clearly two subjects have been occupying the (hive-)mind: education and suicide. The Atlantic ran an interview this week with lead Ivy League critic William Deresiewicz about his new book Excellent Sheep, and if he’s…

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When Forgiveness Also Says “I Never Want to See You or Speak to You Again”

When Forgiveness Also Says “I Never Want to See You or Speak to You Again”

Here in Atlanta, pastor Andy Stanley often tells the story of a couple in his church whose newborn baby was dropped on its head by their obstetrician who was drunk when he delivered the baby. Several years later, the child has severe and permanent brain damage, but the couple has very publicly forgiven the doctor and reconciled with him. It really is quite a testament to the “absorption”  that is necessary to move forward in some semblance of a friendship with someone who has wronged you horribly. To forgive like this is to take the emotions of anger, horror, incredulity,…

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Red Knight Triumphant?

Red Knight Triumphant?

One final post before we give the depression talk a rest, and only because the source material is so remarkable. I’m referring to Andrew Solomon’s reflection on you know who for The New Yorker, which appeared late last week. With trademark compassion, he put his finger on a big part of what makes Robin Williams’ death so shocking:

When the mass media report suicide stories, they almost always provide a “reason,” which seems to bring logic to the illogic of self-termination. Such rationalization is particularly common when it comes to the suicides of celebrities, because the idea that someone could be…

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The Light That Burns Brighter

The Light That Burns Brighter

A few months ago, I wrote here about our society’s inclination toward hero-worship, especially when it comes to celebrities. A fine line exists between admiration and deification these days, and nowhere is that line more apparent than in the countless acknowledgments this past week of Robin Williams’ death. For my part, I can admit that it hit me like a ton of bricks when I read the news on Twitter: RIP, Robin WIlliams, in black and white and fewer than 140 characters. I think I even shook my head, standing there alone, and called out to my husband as I…

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O No, Captain! My Captain!: On the Suicide of Robin Williams

O No, Captain! My Captain!: On the Suicide of Robin Williams

In the film Dead Poets Society, Neil Perry, a young prep school boy, goes against his father’s wishes and performs in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The father blames the boy’s teacher, John Keating (played by Robin Williams) for Neil’s disobedience, demanding Mr. Keating stay out of the boy’s life. In reaction to the situation, that evening Neil’s father takes him home, telling Neil he plans to enroll him in military school.

Later that night Neil, unable to handle the thoughts of his possible future, takes his own life.

Of course, today this plot holds a bitter irony since one of Robin…

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