2. Apparently, there are no laws when you’re drinking Claws. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of imbibing White Claw hard seltzer, know that it has become the drink of the summer, or, at least, a drink of the summer. Often labeled “basic,” White Claw has nevertheless become immensely popular: sales surged 320 percent over the last year. According to Amanda Mull at The Atlantic, hard seltzer can be a refreshing option if you are exhausted by the rules of social drinking, which have become increasingly complex in the past decade. Anyone who has ever felt tired of not understanding “what your drink says about you” will appreciate the following, where Mull raises a glass to giving up:

A major factor in hard seltzer’s current popularity is what it’s not: difficult or aspirational. Being a cool young drinker has had a lot of arbitrary rules in the past decade. For much of the 2010s, booze trends have centered around limited-edition, high-alcohol craft beers and booze-heavy, professionally assembled cocktails. These trends have demanded that young people learn the ins and outs of booze culture; have a willingness to pursue the stores, bars, and breweries that meet their very particular tastes; and have the ability to spend some money to try new things. To get the full experience, those drinks also have to be aesthetically pleasing—all the better to document on Instagram, to show off your generationally and socioeconomically appropriate good taste.

White Claw’s appeal, meanwhile, is that it rejects standards. Hard seltzer is exactly what it sounds like: fizzy water in a can with a pinch of sugar, a dash of fruit flavor, and roughly the same amount of alcohol as light beer. It’s cold, drinkable, and doesn’t taste like much. It neatly satisfies young consumers’ desires for affordable, convenient, portable, low-calorie, healthy-seeming alcohol options. In other words, it’s the perfect drink for people exhausted by rules. Maybe “Ain’t no rules when you’re drinking Claws” would be a more accurate meme, but that doesn’t rhyme.

Trends are born when groups of people grow bored with the things they’re supposed to like.

[…] Hard seltzer was sometimes dismissed as “girly” when it debuted, but the Claw has managed to transcend the drink’s gendered beginnings. The memes themselves both embrace and poke fun at bro-y stereotypes, and the simple black-and-white cans are seemingly as beloved by too-cool coastal creatives as they are by aging frat boys and young parents. All these groups have lived much of their adult life under the aesthetic tyranny of Instagram-determined good taste. After craft cocktails, funky IPAs, and attempts to acquire an affinity for whiskey neat, maybe nothing tastes better than giving up.

3. Phrases like “aesthetic tyranny” and “supposed to like” are surefire indicators that law is at work, doing what it does best…accusing. Similar language is employed in this next story, but from a different life-zone: not social drinking but sports, which is arguably rife with as many if not more performance-based demands. In “Football Doesn’t Let You Leave,” former NFL player Nate Jackson reacts to Andrew Luck’s expectations-defying retirement. He discusses his own experience with football and the near-deadly expectations that came with it:

As a child, the spinning football called me to chase it. My heroes wore red and gold. They postered my walls. By the time I saw John Taylor catch the winning touchdown from Joe Montana in Super Bowl XXIII, I was a full-fledged, capital-B Believer. Whatever I could do to get there, I would. And I did. And once I put on my pads, like all football players, I became a prisoner of my success; a slave to my toughness. I wore that badge with pride and had no qualms about where it was taking me. But then my body started to fail me; injury after injury, disappointment after disappointment.

No matter how rough things got, though, I always worked my way back, never wanting an injury to define me. Never wanting weakness to be my final act. That’s the pact you make when you put on that helmet. That’s what grandpa expected, that’s what dad expects, and what all of your coaches and friends and neighbors expect. That kid who told you you’d never make it. That coach who cut you in college. The reporter who said you weren’t worth a shit. You’ll show them all. You’ll have the last laugh.

And so you play until they drag your lifeless body from the grass, and it’s all you can do to muster a thumbs-up as they wheel you into the tunnel, knowing that’s how you secure your legacy. Every football player knows how to make that sacrifice. But few know how to walk away. That seems to be changing, and thank god for that.

4. More tragically, yet in the same vein, re: extreme sports — or, you might say, addictive toughness — Nick Heil responds to the recent deaths of three prominent alpinists. In a long report about the high-profile accident, he presses gently into the larger questions in play, of risk and mortality. The first quote comes from climber Benjamin Erdmann:

“I started climbing to help me deal with trauma, but now it was causing it. I was like a heroin addict who turned to methadone to get clean, then the methadone became the problem.”

I’d often heard this kind of language—the vocabulary of addiction—not just in the climbing world but among many who pursue dangerous activities like BASE jumping, wingsuiting, ski mountaineering, big-wave surfing, and so on. I marveled at the power of such pursuits to override our hardwired instinct for self-preservation. How close one needed to stand—or fly, or ski, or surf—to their own mortality was, to me, a question of infinite fascination with no correct answer.

It’s not my intention to extrapolate life lessons from someone else’s tragedy, but what I notice here, and see in myself, is that self-preservation is not the only human instinct. Rational self-interest can be overcome for any number of reasons (if it was even there in the first place). What comes to mind is “Free Solo,” which DZ awarded 2018’s “Favorite (and Most Law-Oriented) Documentary”: in which climber Alex Honnold says,

“…there is a satisfaction in challenging yourself. That feeling is heightened when you are facing death. You can’t make a mistake. If you’re seeking perfection, free soloing is as close as you can get.”

If climbers are edging toward death in order to feel alive, or more perfect, one wonders whether a faith in objective self-worth, with or without accomplishments, might offer some freedom to step back from the ledge. Whatever wall you’re scaling today, the gospel offers a different message: “power is made perfect in weakness.”

But this is still wow:

5. From the Brain Pickings archive, our next link is an excellent excerpt by philosopher Adam Phillips on self-criticism. Envisioning the internal critic who is constantly pointing out flaws (what Phillips glosses as “superego”), he says this:

Were we to meet this figure socially, as it were, this accusatory character, this internal critic, we would think there was something wrong with him. He would just be boring and cruel. We might think that something terrible had happened to him. That he was living in the aftermath, in the fallout of some catastrophe. And we would be right. […]

Indeed, so unrelenting is this internal violence that we have no idea what we are like without it. We know virtually nothing about ourselves because we judge ourselves before we have a chance to see ourselves (as though in panic). Or, to put it differently, we can judge only what we recognize ourselves as able to judge. What can’t be judged can’t be seen. What happens to everything that is not subject to approval or disapproval, to everything that we have not been taught how to judge?

A piercing diagnosis! Phillips recommends “overinterpreting,” meaning, allowing a multiplicity of stories to dilute the superego’s accusations: “[G]uilt is always underinterpreted,” aka guilt and self-criticism come pointedly — sharp, loud, and convincing. But by remaining open to the grace of overinterpretation — that there is more to us and our neighbors than failure — Phillips says we may find ourselves “less jaded and jading, more imaginative and less spiteful.”

6. In humor, The Giving Tree Gets Real: “Basically, I just feel really used… It’s time for me to branch out…”

Also, from the Babylon Bee: Report: Judas Iscariot Was Seen At Popeyes Shortly Before Betraying Christ:

“While the rest of the gang was eating Chick-fil-A, Judas said he was gonna head over across the parking lot to grab a Popeyes chicken sandwich,” Dr. Dathy said in a press conference announcing the groundbreaking findings.

7. Why Niceness Weakens Our Witness, by Sharon Hodde Miller, at Christianity Today, draws a perceptive distinction between niceness and graciousness:

Niceness has become a social currency in our culture, one that we value highly without ever really realizing it. […] We will forgive all manner of ills in a person we deem to be nice. We use niceness to grease the wheels of our social interactions. We employ it like a ladder, helping us to scale the heights of our career. And for many Christians, following Jesus means we are just really, really nice.

[…] Niceness is concerned with the appearance of goodness and not the reality of it. It gives the facade of serving others but exists primarily to serve ourselves. […] We exist in a world that swings between sweetness and outrage, two behaviors that seem to be at odds with one another. In reality, they are two sides of the same coin: a lack of spiritual formation. When our civility isn’t rooted in something sturdy and deep, when our good behavior isn’t springing from the core of who we are but is instead merely a mask we put on, it is only a matter of time before the façade crumbles away and our true state is revealed: an entire generation of people who are really good at looking good.

The solution, however, is not to trade in our appearance of niceness for an appearance of boldness. We have to go deeper into Christ.

And Christ, we are reminded, was gracious and forgiving; his property is “always to have mercy” for sinners like us, who, inside, are usually not very nice…

8. In an exceptional reflection, this week Chad Bird unpacks “me-centric” readings of scripture. He takes the classic kill-your-giants story as an example: David vs. Goliath: We’re Teaching the Story All Wrong:

The Philistine behemoth of a man who stood on the battlefield is more like we are than we care to admit. He is, in fact, the incarnation of everything that’s wrong with us. We are born enemies of God. We are full of ourselves. We not only have a giant problem; we are a giant problem. We defy God. We exalt ourselves. It’s all about me. If Goliath were Roman instead of Philistine, his motto would be homo incurvatus in se, that is, man turned in upon himself. A navel-gazer. An ego-addict. This is who we are as sinners. We’re foes of heaven, giant sinners. […]

But Christ, the Son of David and David’s Lord, does not sling a rock into our big heads. He has a liquid weapon. He holds us under the water of baptism. In that wet death we are joined to a bloody death—David’s own. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). We die, but we die with him. We are drowned, but we are crucified with him. David wraps his arms around us Goliaths and plunges into the watery grave with us. Together we die. And together we rise.

Strays: