1. A stop-you-in-your-tracks story of grace and forgiveness from the recent ESPN awards, The ESPYs, about the family of high school football coach Ed Thomas. What appears to be one thing turns out to be quite another. Just be absolutely sure to watch past the 9:30 mark (huge ht to Brad Erwin):

1a. Not nearly in the same league(!), but Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry’s remarks about the late, infamous George Steinbrenner caught me off-guard. It sounds like The Boss had a (hidden) appreciation for the power of second chances and gracious father-figures (ht JB). 

2. Speaking of second chances, an article about ex-con Rick Dyer, now a lawyer in Boston, now being considered for an appointment to a Massachusetts bench – “Judging The Value of Redemption.”

3. From Wired of all places, an unintentionally funny article entitled, “Secret of AA: 75 Years Later, We Still Don’t Know How It Works” tries to uncover what makes the 12 Steps work. Amidst all the talk of prefrontal cortexes and mesolimbic pathways, you’ll find priceless quotes such as:

AA’s method, which requires “surrender” to a vaguely defined “higher power,” involves the kind of spiritual revelations that neuroscientists have only begun to explore. What we do know, however, is that despite all we’ve learned over the past few decades about psychology, neurology, and human behavior, contemporary medicine has yet to devise anything that works markedly better.

There’s no doubt that when AA works, it can be transformative. But what aspect of the program deserves most of the credit? Is it the act of surrendering to a higher power? The making of amends to people a drinker has wronged? The simple admission that you have a problem? Stunningly, even the most highly regarded AA experts have no idea. “These are questions we’ve been trying to answer for, golly, 30 or 40 years now,” says Lee Ann Kaskutas, senior scientist at the Alcohol Research Group in Emeryville, California. “We can’t find anything that completely holds water.”

“I always thought I was too smart for AA,” a bespectacled, Nordic-looking man named Gary shared at a meeting in Hell’s Kitchen this past winter. “I’m a classical musician, a math and statistics geek. I was the biggest agnostic you ever met. But I just wrecked my life with alcohol and drugs and codependent relationships.” And now, after more than four years in the program? “I know God exists,” he says. “I’m so happy I found AA.” Maybe one day we’ll discover that there’s a quirk in Gary’s genetic makeup that made his prefrontal cortex particularly susceptible to the 12 steps. But all that really matters now is that he’s sober.

Of course, for our take on the question at hand, simply go here.

4. In the reality-check department, apparently this now exists. We can only hope that the junior Mockingbird readership is as resourceful as we suspect. The true nemesis of GodBlock might be LB Games, which bills itself(!) as the only publicly-traded company devoted to Christian video games.

5. In NY Magazine, a sobering piece called “All Joy And No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting,” exploring the hard data that’s been pouring in recently about parents being considerably unhappier, in general, than their non-parent peers. It would seem that an enormous amount of it boils down to identity questions, of parents viewing their children as projects/accessories/means of self-fulfillment, combined with parents seeing themselves as the sole arbiters of their children’s fates. In other words, a frankly rather God-less outlook, one which makes parenthood a heavy burden indeed (says the expectant father!). The first hypothesis put forward in the article is particularly interesting:

“One answer could simply be that parents are deluded, in the grip of some false consciousness that’s good for mankind but not for men and women in particular. [Harvard psychologist Dan] Gilbert, a proud father and grandfather, would argue as much. He’s made a name for himself showing that we humans are pretty sorry predictors of what will make us happy, and to his mind, the yearning for children, the literal mother of all aspirations for so many, is a very good case in point—what children really do, he suspects, is offer moments of transcendence, not an overall improvement in well-being.

Renowned friend of Mbird, Dr. Annette Lareau has one of the best soundbites:

“Middle-class parents spend much more time talking to children, answering questions with questions, and treating each child’s thought as a special contribution. And this is very tiring work.” Yet it’s work few parents feel that they can in good conscience neglect, says Lareau, “lest they put their children at risk by not giving them every advantage.” 

6. Lastly, Inception sounds cooler and cooler. The A/V Club writes,  “Two separate but related millennial fears drive Nolan’s ambitious, mostly dazzling new opus Inception: We have no control over our lives, and reality as we used to understand it no longer exists—or at least has been fundamentally destabilized.” T.S. Eliot meets The Matrix meets Adaptation meets Oceans 11? You tell me.

Our dream life, to this blogger, has always seemed like the ultimate affront to religious/Pharisaical claims of spiritual progress or ideas about quantifiable sanctification. Dreams being the true litmus test of the internal life, etc, and one on which very few people would willing to stake their reputation. 

7. Finally, if you haven’t had a chance to check out Reboot Christianity’s series on Cognitive Biases, do yourself a favor.