Another Week Ends

1) A trio of articles surfaced recently about the psychological relationships between work ethic and […]

Ethan Richardson / 7.24.15


1) A trio of articles surfaced recently about the psychological relationships between work ethic and mental health. It appears that anxiety is on the rise, especially for achievers. The first one of note, from The Atlantic, introduces the phenomenon of “John Henryism,” claiming that there is a paradoxical health risk to those who happen to work really hard to find success. A study was done with a group of underprivileged kids from low-income neighborhoods, who exhibited strong academic performance and self-control. While this self-control and determination led them to more opportunities beyond their circumstances, their health suffered because of it.

They become so focused on this definition of success that they just neglect some of the lifestyles that happen naturally for the kids who are having an easier time. “There’s other work showing that unrelenting effort toward goals has a cost,” said Miller. “People who pour their hearts and souls into achieving certain things often do so at some risk to their health. We’ve known that for quite a while.”

… With this work, researchers like Miller are drawing closer and closer to the mechanisms that that lead to cardiometabolic disorders James sought to understand as a student. “It happens in young people who are doing their damnedest to be successful,” James says with consternation as visceral as it reads in the words he wrote on the subject decades ago. “This is what I came to appreciate and be profoundly disturbed by. We’re talking about people hardly being given a chance to pursue their goals without having to pay with their health. This is really, really important work.”

And an exemplar for normalizing and caring for mental illness comes to us via The Economist, who took a look at the Belgian town of Geel. In Geel, there is a centuries-old cultural expectation to take in and care for those who otherwise would be put into institutions. When Geel was under threat of losing that tradition, when the Belgian government mandated these people be put into proper institutions, Geel officially designated itself as an asylum!

412xtKZmdOL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_And then there’s this one, from Mockingbird-favorite anthropologist, Tanya Luhrmann. She discusses American anxiety, and the concept of the mind that may contribute to its growth (it is the highest in the world!). Luhrmann seems to be getting at a truth we’ve discussed here before; namely, that knowing is not half the battle. In fact, the pressure to categorize and analyze our thoughts and feelings could be a contributing factor to the way we experience the inexplainable, emotionally confusing parts of our lives. She uses the new Pixar film’s depiction of the Modern Mind to make her point:

“Inside Out” tells this story from the point of view of her mind. Five emotions (fear, joy, sadness, disgust and anger) sit at a control panel in the aptly named headquarters. These emotions determine what she does. Anger grabs hold of the controls when her father insists she eat her broccoli. The plot hinges on a tussle between Joy and Sadness (Joy doesn’t want Sadness to touch Riley’s memories) in which the two are accidentally swept out of the control room. They get lost in Riley’s mind, wandering around the subconscious and imagination land (both of which are very large) while Anger is left in charge (a bad idea)…

It’s a charming movie. It is also distinctly American. It is based on a particular model of the mind that we take for granted, but that is in fact as culturally idiosyncratic as the way we dress. I’m not suggesting that the basic science of emotion depicted in the movie is wrong. Emotions do seem to be crucial in organizing human thinking. I’m suggesting that there is something deeply cultural about the way this mind is imagined, and that it has consequences for the way we experience thoughts and feelings.

Our high anxiety, whatever the challenges we face, is probably one of the consequences.

2) The New York Times Magazine released a whopper of an article entitled, “Is This The End of Christianity in the Middle East?” within it saying that,

The future of Christianity in the region of its birth is now uncertain. ‘‘How much longer can we flee before we and other minorities become a story in a history book?’’ says Nuri Kino, a journalist and founder of the advocacy group Demand for Action. According to a Pew study, more Christians are now faced with religious persecution than at any time since their early history. ‘‘ISIL has put a spotlight on the issue,’’ says Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, whose parents are from the region and who advocates on behalf of Eastern Christians. ‘‘Christianity is under an existential threat.’’

Besides recommending it as a well-written and startling ‘state of affairs’ regarding the Syriac/Assyrian/Chaldean believers in the Middle East, I would also say that this article’s leading question is the kind of question that tends to push Western Christians into opposing corners of opinion about God’s involvement and/or our responsibility in it. The circumstances in Iraq and Lebanon and the surrounding regions are terrifying, and the hope for a safe haven in the Nineveh Plains seem dubious at best, but I for one am thankful that the central tenet of the faith in question is the foolish wisdom of death and resurrection. Amidst rightful fear of Christian eradication, the message of the cross cannot be snuffed out.

3) Okay. Heavy enough? In other news, hilarious Tumblr to follow: “Why I Deleted Your Band’s Promo E-mail.”

And this one from the Onion: 4 Hours Scrolling Through Facebook Before Bed Referred To As “Winding Down”

TULSA, OK—Saying it felt good to just kick back and decompress after a long day, local woman Kelly Alderman reportedly referred to the four hours she spent scrolling through Facebook before she went to sleep Wednesday as “winding down,” sources confirmed. “As soon as I get home from work, all I want to do is take a load off and relax for a little while,” said Alderman, speaking of the period between 7 and 11 p.m. during which she routinely sits on her couch, makes brief comments on her friends’ status updates, clicks “like” on several dozen posts, and responds almost instantaneously to any and all notifications she receives before eventually closing her laptop and brushing her teeth. “I think it’s important to spend some time every evening [repeatedly clicking through every one of my acquaintances’ most recently uploaded photos of the bars they’re visiting or the weddings they recently attended and then just sit there continuously refreshing my news feed] before I turn in for the night.” Sources added that Alderman refers to the 25 separate times she scans the social media site on her iPhone throughout the workday as “taking a little break.”

4) A close second to CJ’s Watchman piece was the one that came from Isabel Wilkerson. She talks about the continuity of two flags being lowered—the one at the South Carolina capitol, and the recent fall of our fictional hero of racial reconciliation, Atticus Finch. She draws out America’s complex relationship with racism.

It has seemed as if the force of history has led us to this moment, stirred as we have been by the recorded killings of unarmed black people at the hands of the police, the uprisings and hashtags, a diatribe 5531a4a132fd8792877dfef1a433a43df6fffff6_mof white supremacy from the young man accused in the Charleston rampage, a former slave ship captain’s “Amazing Grace” sung by a sitting president. History is asking us to confront the wistfulness that we had ever escaped racism’s deep roots.

… The importance of this new Atticus is that he is layered and complex in his prejudices; he might even be described as a gentleman bigot, well meaning in his supremacy. In other words, he is human, and in line with emerging research into how racial bias has evolved in our society. He is a character study in the seeming contradiction that compassion and bigotry can not only reside in the same person but often do, which is what makes racial bias, as it has mutated through the generations, so hard to address.

5) Finally, in the hurt-people-hurt-people category of life, The Washington Post ran this story about female harassment in the gaming community and how most of their harassers are, unsurprisingly, male gamers, who tend to lose at Halo a lot. Two things of note: 1) that video games serve as powerful proxies for studying human interaction, and 2) the startling statistic that over 40% of internet users have suffered some form of harassment. Again we see, via web interfaces, the alluring power—and the allure of abuse—when it comes to faceless and costless interaction.

6) How good does the new season of Fargo look?!



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