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Psychology

Prisons of Sadness and a Love Much Greater Than Evolution Requires

Prisons of Sadness and a Love Much Greater Than Evolution Requires

I was going to save this for tomorrow’s Another Week Ends column, but it’s just too good not to highlight all on its own. I’m referring to the sermon that author and journalist Michael Gerson gave at The National Cathedral this past Sunday. He opens with the admission that he’d missed the initial preaching date […]

The Trauma of Decadent Religion (and the Best Worst S-Word)

The Trauma of Decadent Religion (and the Best Worst S-Word)

The notion of sin dominated my girlhood. Raised in Indiana by fundamentalist parents, sin was the inflexible yardstick by which I was measured. Actions, words, even thoughts weren’t safe from scrutiny. The list of sinful offenses seemed infinite: listening to secular music or watching secular television, saying “gosh” or “darn” or “jeez,” questioning authorities, envying […]

For Unto [Every Type] Is Born a Savior

For Unto [Every Type] Is Born a Savior

This one comes to us from Clayton Hornback. These days it seems you can throw a rock and hit a self-professed Enneagram guru. For those of you living under a rock, the Enneagram is a personality profile made up of nine different “Types.” Each person’s primary personality falls somewhere from 1 to 9. For the […]

Preoccupations: Painting Ponds or Hiding Sea Monsters?

Preoccupations: Painting Ponds or Hiding Sea Monsters?

In The Crown’s retelling of British history, we find Winston Churchill having his portrait painted by the royal family’s artist Graham Sutherland. Though the show’s writers have surely taken liberties to imagine how these more intimate moments would have gone, they present a scene that is a poignant depiction of how profoundly art can function […]

A New Recipe: Grace in Family Life

A New Recipe: Grace in Family Life

This is an edited version of a talk given by the famed child psychologist, Dorothy Martyn, at the second annual Mockingbird Conference in 2009 and republished in our most recent issue of the magazine, the Deja Vu Issue. She died in January 2018. I suppose that you are, in some way or another, engaged in […]

The Pagan Priests of Mockingbird

The Pagan Priests of Mockingbird

Here’s one of the lists from this most recent issue of our magazine, The Deja Vu Issue, which should have arrived at your house by now. If not, well, you can remedy that now… One well-worn slogan that we’ve consistently enjoyed putting to the test is that “all truth is God’s truth.” Come to find […]

Can Jordan Peterson Walk Away from Omelas?

Can Jordan Peterson Walk Away from Omelas?

Full disclosure: the point of this article is to get clicks. Lots of clicks. Because, love him or hate him, the Canadian psychology professor and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson gets clicks. And despite all our talk at Mockingbird about not keeping score, Google Analytics is real and we are sinners and clicks are the currency […]

Be Imitators of Me, As I Am of

Be Imitators of Me, As I Am of

You are looking for the thing that has meaning for them, and you are using that to get access to their inner world and draw their attention to interaction rather than solitary self-starvation. These are the words of Phoebe Caldwell, a renowned therapist, describing her work with people with autism. To communicate with nonverbal children […]

Anhedonia: The Disease of Happy People

Anhedonia: The Disease of Happy People

Falling in love stereotypically brings with it a come-what-may optimism. It is a symptom of what we are feeling so strongly at the present moment. Never in our lives have we felt so magnetized in the present moment than in these with this one person—we can sit and talk until three in the morning, the […]

The Déjà Vu Issue is Here!

Dear readers, Issue 12 is officially out to print and will be in your hands in a matter of days!

Maybe you’ve wondered to yourself, “What is Mockingbird all about? And what should I read to get some insight?” If you have, or know your nosy roommate has, this is the primer to get you (or anyone) started. Even if you’re a vintage reader, this issue will sit with you like an old friend. After all, this is what déjà vu is all about: old stories/friends cropping up in new ways you never expected. Here is a collection of refurbished, rewritten posts, talks, and interviews from the dark caverns of the Mockinglibrary, an issue packed with sturdy theology, plenty of personality and, always, light hearts. In a word, it is classic.

So, to tide you over until your copy gets there, here’s the Opener from Ethan and a glimpse at the Table of Contents. Grab them fast! ORDER UP TODAY!

The Missing Word

In broaching the phenomenon that is déjà vu, there is one memory that’s bubbled up from the depths for a lot of Americans recently. The memory is of a smiling, lanky man, who sort of talk-sings off-key, who enters his house and changes out his coat and shoes for a sweater and sneakers.

It’s not that we don’t recognize the man or the place. It’s Mister Rogers, of course, and we’re in his house, which is in his Neighborhood. The déjà vu moment has been brought to us via the new documentary about the man, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? And it’s not that we’ve forgotten having watched this program as children. It’s that when we re-watch these scenes in the documentary—scenes of such simplicity and warmth—we momentarily access a feeling that we can’t quite source. It is a feeling that seems to predate our first experience of the show, and even predates us entirely. We have known the feeling before but we don’t know where from.

The new Mister Rogers documentary was inspired by an Esquire feature written in 1998 by Tom Junod. Junod tells the story of meeting Fred for the first time, in Rogers’ small, dingy New York City apartment. Before he could get down to any of his own questions, Rogers had his own.

“What about you, Tom? Did you have any special friends growing up?”

“Yes, Mister Rogers.”

“Did your special friend have a name, Tom?”

“Yes, Mister Rogers. His name was Old Rabbit.”

“Old Rabbit. Oh, and I’ll bet the two of you were together since he was a very young rabbit. Would you like to tell me about Old Rabbit, Tom?”

To his own surprise, the award-winning journalist jumped into a long lost, favorite story about Old Rabbit. It wasn’t a new story, like the one he was working up for Esquire, but a very old one. He became a child again.

We named this The Déjà Vu Issue out of a similar conviction that the old stories are the ones to pay attention to. This is not to stake a claim on the importance of tradition so much as to say that, while the world is kept spinning by fresh headlines and hot takes, the deepest stories pretty much stay the same. The experience of déjà vu is really the new experience of an old truth, maybe one you forgot you ever knew.

Déjà vu is also the experience of life in repetition. Contrary to the way we prefer to imagine our lives—as linear progressions, moving upward and onward towards an ever-improving end—they instead take on a more circular trajectory. You don’t have to look far for examples: we find ourselves saying things we only ever heard our father say. A history of some great war we read mirrors almost exactly the newspaper’s description of the political climate this week. And that old macramé lampshade in the attic, the one you nearly got rid of, is now all the rage.

Still, if these were the only kinds of repetitions, then déjà vu would be a harbinger of despair, a reminder that nothing ever changes. But Christianity proclaims that these are not the only repetitions we experience in life. The Christian faith announces that something—someone—broke through these circular histories and offered something truly new. It proclaims that this something new is like a fountain that continues to spring up all the time—it is good news, hope for a change, and it continues to surface in unexpected ways. In our own lives, we may see it crop up out of nowhere, much like déjà vu: we’ve never seen it before, but then again, maybe we have.

Mockingbird is named after this phenomenon of repetition: a mockingbird repeats what it hears. We are a group of people who have, in some way or other, witnessed paranormal déjà vu. We have experienced it in our lives, we have seen it bubble up in places no one expected it to, and we have felt compelled to share that story with others. Whenever it shows up it may be a new story on its own, but it’s really just an extension of the very old story that gave us the good news to begin with.[1]

This issue makes use of old stories to go back to the Old Story. The essays collected herein were published earlier in Mockingbird’s tenure—as blogposts, in chapters of books, in talks at conferences—and have been polished and reworked here in hopes to tell it, all over again, for you. We share parenting lessons from the late child psychologist Dorothy Martyn and the final interview with Robert Farrar Capon. We talk law and gospel, cross and glory, Halloween candy and wedding dresses, girly boys and gorilla moms. We also have a handful of brand-new lists and three brand-new poems from Mary Karr. Some of it you may remember, but none of it will be the same—that’s the way déjà vu works.

Later in that Esquire piece, after Tom Junod has followed Mister Rogers around Penn Station, and joined him on his daily morning swim and seen his office in Pittsburgh, he gets a sense that there is something heroic about the man. Despite the zip cardigans and wide-eyed wonder, maybe Mister Rogers himself is an agent of some kind of power, a reminder of an Old Story he never fully got to hear. He calls this Old Story “grace.”

What is grace? I’m not certain; all I know is that my heart felt like a spike, and then, in that room, it opened and felt like an umbrella. I had never prayed like that before, ever. I had always been a great prayer, a powerful one, but only fitfully, only out of guilt, only when fear and desperation drove me to it… and now this was it, the missing word, the unuttered promise, the prayer I’d been waiting to say a very long time.

This missing word is what we hope you find here too.

[1] When we were initially planning this issue, we had thought of it as a Greatest Hits Issue. Besides the inherent judginess of such a theme, there was something else about it that didn’t seem to ring true. It was only after pulling these essays together that we realized why: it wasn’t just about which essays were our favorites, or garnered the most attention, it was also which stories have portrayed this Old Story so powerfully.

PRE-ORDER THE DEJA VU ISSUE HERE

Transgressors, Transgression, and the Perilous Bridge of Forgiveness - Ethan Richardson

This packed-out session from MockingbirdNYC was all about the nitty-gritties of forgiveness in real life, the psychology of it, the messiness…and the risk. From editor-in-chief of The Mockingbird, and featuring clips from Three Billboards and This is 40 — you’ll laugh and cry:

Transgressors, Transgression, and the Perilous Bridge of Forgiveness – Ethan Richardson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The Role of Art (Or, the Limitations of Self-Help) in Life and Work

The Role of Art (Or, the Limitations of Self-Help) in Life and Work

This one comes to us from Mark Casper. Recently I came across an article in The New Yorker that nearly bowled me over. It’s called Improving Ourselves to Death by Alexandra Schwartz, and it thoroughly outlines the negative consequences of living in a “self-improvement culture.” You may remember the post that appeared on Mockingbird earlier this year about […]