You really shouldn’t miss Sophie Gilbert’s thoughts over at The Atlantic on this year’s Super Bowl ads. She quite perceptively demonstrates how these commercials seem to be, more than ever, playing on our nationwide anxiety. She writes,
America, judging by the Super Bowl XLIX advertisements, is suffering through the kind of existential crisis that only God’s iPhone, Marshawn Lynch’s Skittles, and a car with an erection can heal. America is hangry. America can’t sleep. America is very, very worried about getting old and irrelevant and physically stuck on the couch shouting at a football game while other, younger countries are going to super-cool Pac Man parties and flipping tires over for no discernible reason and seducing elderly wives in leopard-print camisoles. America might think this identity breakdown can be solved by buying a Chevy Colorado, which is focus group-proven to make people more attractive than, say, a simple Prius, but America is wrong. The hurt is on the inside. No truck-shaped penis extension can fix it.
[R]emember that, deep down, unless they face off against a wolf for you, they’re only cars/beers/extreme workouts. They aren’t love.
Gilbert reminds us that though these marketable goods might promise to make us “more human” (as Reebok would put it), closing the gap between our actual selves and our desired selves, they are powerless to bestow anything. So deep is the universal identity-crisis that we might just need a divine rescue.
Read the whole thing here.
FOMO’s not the whole story – nor is it new.
The Boston Magazine this week published a history of “Fear of Missing Out“, tracing its beginnings, like a careful epidemiologist, back to 2004, at Harvard Business School. Of greater interest were its comments on FOBO, Fear of a Better Option (more precisely, Fear that a Better Option Exists, but FOBO’s easier than FBOE, so there it is):
But this mentality had its costs: McGinnis and his group found they couldn’t commit to anything. Working with the rudimentary tools available to them (cell phones and address books), they developed complex algorithms to plan…
We are about six weeks away from the publication of Christian Wiman’s new collection of poetry, Once in the West, and what better way to prepare than with quick quote from that gift that keeps on giving, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer:
If God is a salve applied to unbearable psychic wounds, or a dream figure conjured out of memory and mortal terror, or an escape from a life that has become either too appalling or too banal to bear, then I have to admit: it is not working for me. Just when I think I’ve finally found some balance between active devotion and honest modern consciousness, all my old anxieties come pressuring up through the seams of me, and I am as volatile and paralyzed as ever…
Be careful. Be certain that your expressions of regret about your inability to rest in God do not have a tinge of self-satisfaction, even self-exaltation to them, that your complaints about your anxieties are not merely a manifestation of your dependence on them. There is nothing more difficult to outgrow than anxieties that have become useful to us, whether as explanations for a life that never quite finds its true force or direction, or as fuel for ambition, or as a kind of reflexive secular religion that, paradoxically, unites us with others in a shared sense of complete isolation: you feel at home in the world only by never feeling at home in the world. (pg 9-10)
America’s Finest News Source reports:
PHOENIX—Unwilling to cede decades of hard-won advances, local man Roger Cannon’s persistent anxiety vowed Monday that it would not let clinical depression muscle in on any of its turf. “Look, I’ve had a vise-grip on this guy for 30 years, so I’m not about to roll over now and let some despondent feelings and an overriding aversion to activity waltz in and take over his emotional state,” said the mental disorder… “Roger’s mental condition is my domain. And if all-encompassing thoughts of hopelessness and inadequacy think they can parade around like they own the place, trust me, they’ve got another thing coming.” The neurosis then promised that it wouldn’t make the same mistake it did in 2011, when it briefly let its guard down and disastrously allowed happiness to take hold.
Confession time: I only play pick-up basketball in gyms where the average age of those playing is well above middle-aged. I tragically got cut from the JV team my sophomore year of high school, so being on the same court as my contemporaries brings back too many unwanted memories. This preference rules out playing pick-up at my college gym. My only refuge for my ideal, quasi-geriatric hoop scene is the local YMCA where I grew up.
This particular basketball court is the mecca of mediocre basketball and varying life advice. Because a young buck like me is such a rarity there,…
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From the MacArthur Genius’ (very funny) book of daydreams, real dreams, and five-sentence memoirs, Can’t and Won’t. Recommended reading for this summer–each entry is mostly no longer than a page, many times without much of a plot–and this one talks about in-flight complications, and the anxious (even superstitious) thinking of the end of one’s life. The pilot has just made an announcement about the wings’ failure to slow the plane down, so it must circle very close to the ground to attempt to slow itself down. Davis journeys back through the way her mind processed this news.
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Whenever I hire my annual student intern, a part of my hiring process is a quick Google search. I’ll be working with this student for the next academic year or so, which is my excuse for scrutinizing the applicant’s web footprint for reasons to hire or not to hire. I’m told that nowadays blind dates operate the same way- a quick Google search is customary to make the date a little less blind. That internet search reveals the good, bad, and ugly: family photos and keg stand photos from college days, angry name calling on twitter and kind birthday wishes…
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“So maybe [anxiety]’s just a part of who we all are, and always were. My worry now, though, is that we are starting to nurture these neuroses of ours, and treating them like pets. That can’t be a good thing.” –Craig Finn, in The Independent
I don’t often remember my dreams, yet for some reason, I still have a fairly vivid memory of a dream I had a couple years ago—in that dream, my teeth were falling out. As I later learned, dreams about teeth are normally assumed to reveal anxiety about money, relationships, and, well, just about anything. For me,…
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The Paris Review’s (stunning) most recent issue features interviews with quite the coupling: Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and our favorite psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips. Both men talk about the art of writing, Phillips using a lot of the dialectic idioms you seem him using on paper all the time. Things like, “Symptoms are forms of self-knowledge.” Or, “Analysis should be the need not to know yourself.”
That being said, Phillips covers a lot of ground, including his own childhood, the books that formed him, the initial interests that brought him to the analysands’ chair. But mainly the conversation covers the breadth…
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We all, at one point or another, have experienced anxiety or suffering to some degree, and many of us have experienced both. The way our world addresses anxiety is to offer temporal solutions that may (to some extent) ease the physical side-effects of anxiety. But, in the grand scheme of anxiety itself, these temporal solutions do nothing for the root problem: I’m actually anxious, I’m actually stressed. The same can be said for the way our world addresses suffering; often the solutions offered to the sufferer do nothing for the greater problem: I’m actually suffering, I’m actually hurting. We’d tell…
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