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What (Not) to Do When There Is a War on Everything

What (Not) to Do When There Is a War on Everything

Of all the noble feelings which fill the human heart in the exciting tumult of battle, none, we must admit, are so powerful and constant as the soul’s thirst for honor and renown. – Carl von Clausewitz In addition to the trade war and the culture wars and the war...
If I Can Just Understand the Arrival Fallacy, I'll Be Happy

If I Can Just Understand the Arrival Fallacy, I’ll Be Happy

The latest ‘gimme’ from the world of social science has, er, arrived. I’m referring to the Arrival Fallacy, “the illusion that once we make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness.” Earlier this week The NY Times devoted a whole column to...
Notes on Beauty

Notes on Beauty

I am getting older. If you believe in science, which I do, then I guess we’re all getting older. The aging process for me has been underway for 35 years now, but I’ve only really become aware of it recently. My hands are starting to look like my mom’s. Things...
For Walt So Loved the World

For Walt So Loved the World

In honor of WW’s 200th birthday, here’s this. I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. (1-3) Whitman is my favorite narcissist. His poetry overflows with ego, but instead of being stuffy, his poetic...
Stop Blaming the Devil: You Can Do Bad All By Yourself

Stop Blaming the Devil: You Can Do Bad All By Yourself

The first time I heard someone blame Satan I had just graduated from college. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and my parish priest and I were standing in an elderly woman’s backyard helping her clean out a freezer. There were crawfish. She had not had power for weeks. It...
If Jesus Were a Dietitian

If Jesus Were a Dietitian

“I was my sickest and loneliest when I appeared my healthiest.” How’s that for an admission? Yet it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jessica Knoll’s recent op-ed for The NY Times, the provocatively titled “Smash the Wellness Industry.” She describes a somewhat harrowing relationship with...
Sobriety Broke Me to Pour Me Out

Sobriety Broke Me to Pour Me Out

Grateful for this one, by Erin Jean Warde. Months ago, I decided to quit drinking. I have chronic migraines and sometimes face depression. I wondered if maybe something that gives me headaches wasn’t the best for chronic headaches. I wondered if maybe a depressant wasn’t the best beverage for depression....
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Site Maintenance

This week our site is undergoing some maintenance/revival, so if you have been experiencing disruptions, this is why. We’ll return tomorrow with fresh content. In the meantime, if you missed yesterday’s posts, you can visit them below! <3

It Could Be Worse: The False Gospel of Optimism (and Pessimism) - Carrie Willard

In this talk from our annual conference in New York City, Carrie Willard discusses the pitfalls of wearing rose-colored glasses when life gets hard. Topics include pleasantly surprised pessimists, the tyranny of positive thinking, Psalm 89, and Steel Magnolias. Has to be the most delightful talk out there about worst-case scenarios:

It Could Be Worse: The False Gospel of Optimism (and Pessimism) – Carrie Willard from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

An Ode to the Mockingbird Calling Outside My Window at 2AM

An Ode to the Mockingbird Calling Outside My Window at 2AM

This spring, for weeks at a time, a mockingbird has sat in a birch tree outside our bedroom window, calling out for hours on end in the middle of the night, well before dawn. Blaring his latest remix of car alarms, ring tones and other birds from the neighborhood, he relentlessly calls out into the […]

Another Week Ends: School Performance, Workplace Food, Cowboy Suicides, Love Ambitionists, and the Wrong Side of History

Another Week Ends: School Performance, Workplace Food, Cowboy Suicides, Love Ambitionists, and the Wrong Side of History

1. Today the fourteenth issue of the magazine goes to print, and so it’s only appropriate that we open this weekender with one of our issue’s featured interviewees (and conference speaker!), Alfie Kohn. In our Family Issue, Alfie and I talked about parenting and education, and how kids (and the people who raise them) are […]

Stop Blaming the Devil: You Can Do Bad All By Yourself

Stop Blaming the Devil: You Can Do Bad All By Yourself

The first time I heard someone blame Satan I had just graduated from college. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and my parish priest and I were standing in an elderly woman’s backyard helping her clean out a freezer. There were crawfish. She had not had power for weeks. It was August in Mississippi. You […]

He Was Number One (or, Why Not Everyone Gets A’s, According to Alfie Kohn)

He Was Number One (or, Why Not Everyone Gets A’s, According to Alfie Kohn)

Imagine a high school graduation. Family and friends proudly jostle for a view of their students turning tassels on stage. Imagine the students’ camaraderie, the collective sigh of relief: summer spans ahead, former identities fade. Outcasts, athletes, nerds all face the world, now wide with opportunity. Imagine, also, the salutatorian standing and speaking about her […]

Angels in the Architecture: A Defense of Repetition

Angels in the Architecture: A Defense of Repetition

A while back, an acquaintance asked me if I was “still writing for that website,” by which she meant Mockingbird. The question was delivered with a smirk that I interpreted as vague condescension from someone I know to be more into DIY than grace. I assured her that I was, in fact, still writing for […]

What If I Amount to Nothing?

What if I amount to nothing
And come to the end with empty hands?
No podium standing or trophy toting or
Byline, book-bound, crown-found meaning?

What if I am only a creature or object —
A lesson in futility, misplaced effort,
Humility lost and found and lost again.

Perhaps I cannot be optimized. What if
I accomplish nothing more than breath?
What will I be if I become only this, only me?
Flesh and bone filled with grace, drenched in mercy.

This is not a race and you cannot win.
All has been given and given and given.
It is given again each morning, each moment.
No scorecard in sight, no throne (save one).  

What if I amount to nothing
And come to the end with empty hands?
It will be enough.

From The Atlantic: Are McMansions Making People Any Happier?

Apple’s magazine and news service, Apple News+, served me up another parable of the little-L law from The Atlantic last week as I perused my News app. It’s a classic, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses type report about how we Americans are building bigger homes than everand yet our happiness tends to be inversely proportionate to the square footage of our new real estate. As usual, the dynamics of comparison, judgment, and self-salvation (AKA self-justification) are at play. A couple of takeaway quotes (emphasis mine):

To be clear, having more space does generally lead to people saying they’re more pleased with their home. The problem is that the satisfaction often doesn’t last if even bigger homes pop up nearby. “If I bought a house to feel like I’m ‘the king of my neighborhood,’ but a new king arises, it makes me feel very bad about my house,” Bellet wrote to me in an email. […]

Bellet sketches out an unfulfilling cycle of one-upmanship, in which the owners of the biggest homes are most satisfied if their home remains among the biggest, and those who rank right below them grow less satisfied as their dwelling looks ever more measly by comparison.

None Without Faith (or a Strong Belief in the Reality of Evil)

None Without Faith (or a Strong Belief in the Reality of Evil)

The following comes from Chris Arnade’s book of photography “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America,” pages 110-111, chapter 3: God Filled My Emptiness. Everyone I met [in the South Bronx] who was living homeless or battling an addiction held a deep faith. Street walking is stunningly dangerous work, and everyone has stories of being […]

For Walt So Loved the World

For Walt So Loved the World

In honor of WW’s 200th birthday, here’s this. I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. (1-3) Whitman is my favorite narcissist. His poetry overflows with ego, but instead of being stuffy, his poetic self is so all-embracing, so […]

Miriam Toews Has Something to Say

Miriam Toews Has Something to Say

Miriam Toews (pronounced “taves”) first came to my attention in 2015 with her book All My Puny Sorrows, a moving novelization of her sister’s suicide. Her newest book, Women Talking, is a response to the real-life story of mass sexual assault in a remote Mennonite colony; its cover art (see below) is both elegant and […]