1. A very interesting blog post over at the NY Times entitled, “Kierkegaard, Despair and Depression”, the final paragraph of which is really something (ht Jeff Dean):

Each of us is subject to the weather of our own moods. Clearly, Kierkegaard thought that the darkling sky of his inner life was very much due to his father’s morbidity. But the issue of spiritual health looms up with regard to the way that we relate to our emotional lives. Again, for Kierkegaard, despair is not a feeling, but an attitude, a posture towards ourselves. The man who did not become Caesar, the applicant refused by medical school, all experience profound disappointment. But the spiritual travails only begin when that chagrin consumes the awareness that we are something more than our emotions and projects. Does the depressive identify himself completely with his melancholy? Has the never ending blizzard of inexplicable sad thoughts caused him to give up on himself, and to see his suffering as a kind of fever without significance? If so, Kierkegaard would bid him to consider a spiritual consultation on his despair, to go along with his trip to the mental health clinic.

2. A jarring and tragic piece in USA Today (that’s right) about suicidal pastors. Read it and weep, truly. A few choice portions (ht J. Stamper):

Those who counsel pastors say Christian culture, especially Southern evangelicalism, creates the perfect environment for depression. Pastors suffer in silence, unwilling or unable to seek help or even talk about it.

A pastor is like “a 24-hour ER” who is supposed to be available to any congregant at any time, said Steve Scoggin, president of CareNet, a network of 21 pastoral counseling centers in North Carolina. “We create an environment that makes it hard to admit our humanity.”

Rodney Powe, worship pastor at the church, said he only now understands depression is a mental illness. Christians who don’t experience depression trivialize it, he said. “We just say, “Come on, get over it. We have the hope of Christ and the Holy Spirit.”‘

Stanford, who studies how the Christian community deals with mental illness, said depression in Christian culture carries “a double stigmatization.” Society still places a stigma on mental illness, but Christians make it worse, he said, by “over-spiritualizing” depression and other disorders — dismissing them as a lack of faith or a sign of weakness.

3. Poor Andre Agassi! In case you haven’t seen the headlines about his new autobiography, the book begins:

I run quickly through the basic facts. My name is Andre Agassi. My wife’s name is Stefanie Graf. We have two children, a son and daughter, five and three. We live in Las Vegas but currently reside in a suite at the Four Seasons hotel in New York City, because I’m playing in the 2006 US Open. My last US Open. In fact my last tournament ever. I play tennis for a living, even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion, and always have.

As this last piece of identity falls into place, I slide to my knees and wait. In a whisper I say: Please let this be over.

It goes on from there. Be sure to read the portion about his relationship with his father. It sadly doubles as a profound illustration of the fruit of the law, i.e. his hatred of tennis did not come from nowhere… He’s still my favorite player.

4. A very interesting and not altogether unsympathetic review of the new Rick Warren biography over at Slate. The final paragraph is particularly telling:

One does not have to be an evangelical to realize that a world of ruthless calculators living for no higher purpose is as shallow as a world in which religious faith allows no room for individual self-development. Rick Warren, Sheler’s book makes clear, has found a message that reconciles profit and high purpose, faith and individual effort, and offers a form of humility that, at its best, galvanizes without aggrandizing. It may not be how I, or others, would balance the relationship between individual striving and a life of meaning, but it is plainly a formula uncannily well-timed for our disoriented, driven moment.

5. The New Yorker printed a wonderful and in-depth profile of Wes Anderson this week. You can find it here. 26 days and counting!

6. Finally, in leaked music news, Weezer’s Raditude sounds exactly as the title would have you believe (i.e. utterly infectious teen-pop thrown off-kilter because it’s made by guys who have not been teens for a long time). Another predictably unpredictable move from Rivers and co, I would be lying if I didn’t report that it’s had me pumping my fist all week. In the ranks of terribly-titled-yet-totally-great-driving-themed songs, their “Tripping Down The Freeway” is second only to The Beach Boys “Honking Down The Highway”.

Meanwhile, Strokes’ singer Julian Casablancas’ Oscar Wilde-inspired solo record “Phrazes For The Young” is even better than I had hoped. His lyrics have always been underrated, and they really get a chance to shine here. At eight tracks, it’s a bit short, which would be a bummer if every single one weren’t top-notch. Highly recommended.

Also, everything that needs to be said about Bob Dylan’s fantastic Christmas In The Heart has been said over at mardecortesbaja (back up on Sunday). “Hark the hee-rald angels see-ing!””

7. Has anyone seen The Plan yet?!

8. Finally, if for any reason you missed this week’s Mbird e-newsletter – which contains some pretty exciting details about upcoming events – read it here. You can sign up for our email list in the sidebar.