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Posts tagged "PZ’s Panopticon"

PZ's Cure for Existential Beastliness

PZ’s Cure for Existential Beastliness

The other day I was suffering from the normal post-holiday, first-of-the-year, what-has-happened-to-my-life, dear-God-help-me blues. We’ve all been there, right? Right? I was scanning my bookshelf, as you do, desperate for some encouragement, and my eyes lit on PZ’s Panopticon.

I have quite a few of Paul Zahl’s books and have given away Grace in Practice, specifically, more times than I care to count. I even own Comfortable Words, edited by J.D. Koch Jr. and Todd Brewer, the festschrift (isn’t that a great word–literally means “celebration writing”) devoted to his life and work. Suffice it to say, I am a fan. There is…

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FEBRUARY BOOK SALE – 20% Off All Mbird Books!

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A little self-promotion: Whenever we find a theme here on the blog we’re especially excited about and feel we’ve done some of our best writing on, we’ll take a few months, get an editor onboard, and take the time to basically do it way better and more in depth than we can find time for on the blog – thus Mockingbird books. They’re a little underused, but we love all of them – and want you to, as well. So we’re offering 20% off through the end of February. Get some books, tell your friends. IMHO, they’re solid work. Catalogue below:

A Mess of Help, by David Zahl: Our newest book presents the best of DZ’s music writing, revised, rethought and expanded, plus a good bit of never-before-done material, too. Get to know the ‘cruciform’ shape of the lives/work of many of the best rock n’ roll artists, and don’t miss the ultimate annotated playlist.

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Eden and Afterward, by Will McDavid: Mockingbird’s most ambitious biblical foray yet, it gives a pretty good deal of thought/reflection on the beginning of the Bible, Genesis. By reading it with fresh eyes and a view toward its character as literature, EAA makes these old stories fresh, new, and surprising.

PZ’s Panopticon, by Paul F.M. Zahl: PZP does comparative religion through the only lens that really matters, i.e., how do the different religions look to a dying person? Immensely provocative, entertaining, and profound, in classic Paul Zahl style.

The Mockingbird Devotional, edited by Ethan Richardson and Sean Norris: Our bestselling book by a good stretch, this 365-day devotional, by over 60 contributors, provides the Gospel every day. Called the “best devotional on the planet” by Tullian Tchividjian.

Grace in Addiction, by John Z: When it comes to the bound will and the crucial question of if, and how, people change for the better, look no further. This is our most practical book, an extended meditation on the Twelve Steps with almost infinite application to ‘Christian life’, and inexhaustible comfort.

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This American Gospel, by Ethan Richardson: A rare work of what might be called ‘personal theology’, TAG starts in the gritty, everyday stories of the popular radio program “This American Life”, and it weaves them together beautifully into deep meditations on themes of human life. Packed with insight.

The Gospel According to Pixar, edited by David Zahl and Todd Brewer: Just what it sounds like; Pixar’s golden age not only resulted in exceptional children’s movies, but also a surprising Gospel bent to almost everything they did. Toy Story, Cars, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and others strike a remarkable balance between story and parable. Perfect for young Sunday School courses, adult nostalgia, or a good cry.

Judgment and Love, edited by Sean Norris: One of our earliest books, Judgment and Love takes a bottom-up approach to the old theme of Law and Gospel, telling personal stories of how these themes play out in real life.

Promo code for everything is 4FYR46BT – except for Pixar and J+L, which are already discounted. Pick up yours today!

 

When I Was an Adult I Read Books, to Remain a Child

When I Was an Adult I Read Books, to Remain a Child

The following piece was recently shared with Mockingbird. The “librarian,” whose name is not Paul Zahl (seriously!), has given us permission to post it here.

Note from the librarian: This reading diary, penned by LeVar Burton, was recently discovered in the archives of a theological library. The manuscript, handwritten on napkins and folded away inside an old volume of George Herbert’s poetry, suggests that Burton found gold at the end of the (Reading) Rainbow.

[Books are] a children’s game which God has given me in order that the time till his appearing should not be long for me.”

~ Johann Georg Hamann

 

William Hale…

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PZ’s Podcast: Farewell to the First Golden Era

EPISODE 170: Farewell to the First Golden Era

ACH000801895.1307708911.580x580Here is some recommended Summer reading, and listening; a few words of “Good Counsel”, as in Our Lady of Good Counsel; and a brief musical offering, at the end, by Johann Sebastian Bach.

You’ll note an animadversion to Aversion, a Hymn to Him (My Fair Lady), and an invitation to Him to Take the Wheel. All three are solid in me now, and all three I commend. Then there’s the Bach, and the happy birth-trauma pictured in the Offering.

By the way, a “Noye’s Fludde” of new reviews has appeared on Amazon for the updated new edition of PZ’s Panopticon. I find them to be short and shrewd, and some a little heart-rending. Here are some highlights:

“Arresting, Difficult, Funny, Brilliant, and Ultimately Hopeful! I loved PZ’s Panopticon. I started it in December, but I had to put it down after 40 pages because I found it too emotionally difficult. It was too close to something. I picked it back up in late January and finished it in one sitting. Then I wept. I pray it touches you in the way it did me.”

“The stultifying stupidity of defensive prejudice in the spiritual mud-wrestling ring that is organized religion is ripped apart by Zahl in a breathless romp to reanimate politically correct soullessness into a place where we live and long to be connected to what we know, but cannot prove: that God is with us every minute of every heartbeat…”

“Resurrection and mercy—that’s the diamond thread of hope that can withstand the testing-by-fire that is the question of death.”

“It is the only book I’ve ever read through from cover to cover, then immediately turned around and read it cover to cover again.”

Take my breath away (Berlin). Hugs always, and see you in September, –PZ

Notes from the Panopticon: A Solution Outside the Field of Battle

Paul F.M. Zahl speaks, from years of theological accomplishment and pastoral experience, on religion that works, from PZ’s Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide to World Religion. Readers should note that we’ve just released an updated version of PZP which includes a few minor revisions, tighter formatting, no typos, etc. Be sure to check out the reviews on Amazon–they’re flattering to say the least!

“Whatever is true about my apparent self, which could be called my “ego”, it is highly resistant, or better, obdurate. It doesn’t like to be told what it should want or what it should do. It doesn’t like to go along with anyone else’s bright ideas.

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Religions that are about subduing that particular driver—“They call me Baby Driver”—fail. Or at least they fail to do what they have set themselves up to do. No matter how noble they sound in maxim and aphorism, no matter how lofty their goals in terms of personal and social improvement, and high-mindedness, they don’t work. Their problem is that they are trying to revive a patient, as we now see him, who is struggling against the inevitable, which is death, down in the operating theater. The “drowning pool” of failed efforts to re-animate the dead cannot be allowed to become the prime theater of life. If you think it is the scene of life’s real action—and resolution—then it will turn into Vincent Price’s Theatre of Blood (1973).

A religion that works needs to be a religion that is not having to work “over-time” to conquer the unconquerable. You could say that a religion which works has to have different raw material than the human “self” who is involved in a life-long action to deny and postpone the inevitable. Religion that works, in other words, is a question of “if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.” I am talking about religion as flight, not fight.

At first hearing, this sounds like cowardice, the opposite of religion as good works, social improvement, and engaged optimism. But religion with those outstanding positive themes, when it is not anchored to the fact of death, and the near-death which permeates life, fails to deliver, by which I mean, “deliver us from evil” and help us face death. Practical religion takes the measure of the ego’s impossible situation, and locates the solution to it outside the field of battle. As Gerald Heard put it, “The verb to escape is clear enough—it means to leave a position which has become impossible.”

True Detective 1x08 - Form and Void - Detective Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), Detective Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson)

The panopticon of life cannot be in the hands of the struggler down in ICU. He or she is losing the fight. There is no way under the sun by which the ego-life on that flat surface will be able to carry on forever, no matter what. It is too late for the extinguishing self to understand what is going on with it. All he and she can do is “keep on dancing (dancin’ and a prancin’, doing the jerk)” (The Gentrys, 1965), until they just collapse upon the ground.

The man on the ceiling [who is near death, out-of-body in the operating room] is the one with the panopticon, not the man below. It is always too late for the man below. The raw material of him can’t respond to treatment. It is the man on the ceiling to whom the religions of the world have got to have something to say. He is the man on the moon.”

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On TV: "Form and Void", True Detective

On TV: “Form and Void”, True Detective

[Spoiler Alert]

The closing installment of the hitherto brilliant True Detective may have disappointed some. There were all sorts of outlandish theories, complex and convoluted, some with only minimal support from prior episodes. Most notably, people thought that Maggie was going to be a killer, or her father, because her and Marty’s children arrayed their male dolls in a circle around a prostrate female one, re-enacting the show’s central, unseen cultic rape. The show is stronger without Maggie’s involvement – in that case, her children’s sexual acting-out is a plot clue, the result of a traumatic past. But the way things went down,…

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Finger-Wagging the Tofu Faithful

Finger-Wagging the Tofu Faithful

Perhaps this would fit under PZ’s “Religions that Aren’t Called Religions,” as an Ideology. Or perhaps this is simply its own religion, the religion of Health, the religions of Fitness and Nutrition, of Kale Chips. But it could be easily replaced with almost anything–Sound Investments, Good Hair, Child-Rearing–anything that promises we will never die, and thus leaves us missing out on what’s enjoyable about actually, really living. This comes from Capon’s amazing Health, Money and Love (and Why We Don’t Enjoy Them)

“Isn’t it true that the eating habits of most Americans are killing them?” My answer is no. People die…

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A View to a Death: Paul Zahl's Christianity for the Dying

A View to a Death: Paul Zahl’s Christianity for the Dying

This quote comes from our inimitable purveyor of one-way love (and world religion!), Paul F.M. Zahl, in his latest work, PZ’s Panopticon:

“This guide to world religion is written through the lens of a near-death panopticon. It takes the position of a person who finds himself floating up the wall, on the ceiling, looking down helplessly as the surgeons try to save his body on the operating table…

Religion is not about the superiority of one concept in comparison to another concept.

Rather, religion is about salvation in the most imminent sense of the word. Religion is…

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Alain de Botton Talks Christianity, Anxiety, and Death

Alain de Botton Talks Christianity, Anxiety, and Death

“What would Alain de Botton do?” — Mark Corrigan, Peep Show, Season 4

In a passage eerily reminiscent of Paul Zahl’s Panopticon, emerging Mbird-favorite Alain de Botton speaks about death and the counterintuitively comforting perspective sometimes offers on life and our ‘status anxiety‘. Turns out we’re all anxious about downward mobility of some sort, and the ultimate equalizer, the inevitable rock-bottom, can speak to this:

“Whatever other differences there may be between them, Christian and secular concepts overlap substantially on the subject of what is meaningful in life when viewed from the perspective of death. There is a strikingly similar positive emphasis on love,…

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5 Golden Themes (Again)! What We Loved (and Loved to Analyze) in 2013

5 Golden Themes (Again)! What We Loved (and Loved to Analyze) in 2013

Well, well, well. Here we go again, 2013 edition.

1) The Religion of Food. Well, as we might have said last year, and the year before that, it seems the foodie is here to stay. Of particular interest this year was the spirituality of food–things like Jay Z and Beyonce joining arms with the 22 Day Challenge. Jay Z pledges: “Why now? There’s something spiritual to me about it being my 44th birthday and the serendipity behind the number of days in this challenge; 22 (2+2=4) coupled with the fact that the challenge ends on Christmas day…It just feels right!” This…

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You Can Never Have Enough (Copies of Tomb of Ligeia): A PZ's Panopticon Teaser

You Can Never Have Enough (Copies of Tomb of Ligeia): A PZ’s Panopticon Teaser

As we approach the holiday season, in which I look forward to Paradox Interactive’s Europa Universalis IV and a new sweater for the frigid mid-Atlantic, I was recently reminded of the floater, a (non-) fictional man on the ceiling lovingly created by Paul F.M. Zahl, an out-of-body person watching the doctors operate on his body. What could each religion mean to him, when he needs it most? Specifically, things – a new historic simulation video game or a Tauntaun sleeping bag?

Zahl, in his newest book, PZ’s Panopticon, examines the religion of Things in a remarkably fresh way, using his ‘panopticon’ (‘all-seeing’) of…

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Announcing PZ’s Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide to World Religion!

We are so proud and excited to announce the release of a brand-new Mockingbird publication, Paul Zahl’s first book in seven years, PZ’s Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide to World Religion! Entertaining, page-turning, and quirky almost beyond words, the Panopticon mines fresh territory without ever losing sight of the “heart of the matter”, providing a remarkably fresh survey of the world’s most captivating answers to the question of being human. It is unlike anything you’ve ever read (in the best possible way), a true cult classic in the making, both Dr. Zahl’s funniest and most personal piece of work to date. We’ll run some previews in the coming weeks but for now, enjoy the blurb on the back cover, which reads as follows:

panopticoncoverImagine you have ten minutes to live. You’re in a near-death situation, like the patient who’s being operated on and suddenly finds himself looking down on the action as the doctors try to save his life.

What do you need to know when your life’s end is near? What is there to know? What can this religion or that religion say to you when you really need some light? Maybe nothing, for sure. But maybe something, possibly.

PZ’s Panopticon weighs the world’s organized religions, such as Christianity and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism; but it also weighs “dead” religions like those of the Aztecs, the ancient Egyptians, and the Greeks and Romans. There are also religions that are not called religions, like money and fame and sex; family and children; ideology and power.

PZ’s Panopticon is a wild ride. But it’s part of a trip we’re all going to take.

Now available on Amazon, but if you want more of the revenue to go to Mbird, PLACE YOUR ORDER HERE TODAY!

P.S. The Panopticon is only the first of two PZ-related projects that are hitting shelves this month. Stay tuned for an announcement next week about the long-awaited Comfortable Words: Essays in Honor of Paul F.M. Zahl.