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About David Peterson

David graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016 and has been at Mockingbird since 2015. He helped edit Mockingbird at the Movies and produce the Mockingcast. David especially likes going to matinees solo and then writing about them.

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Author Archive

    The Power of the Personal Essay

    In her piece for, “The Personal-Essay Boom is Over,” Jia Tolentino laments the death of a genre of writing that was, for a spell, ubiquitous. “A genre that partially defined the last decade of the Internet has essentially disappeared,” she writes. The Toast, Hairpin, Gawker, and other sites showcasing the noble attempts of young […]

    Goodbye to All That

    In a little more than a week’s time, I’m planning to move to a new city. I don’t know where I’m going to live, or what exactly I’m going to do, but I’m moving nonetheless. It’s one of those big life decisions that people my age have to make, however prepared we do or don’t […]

    It Comes at Night and the Fear of Grief

    If you’ve caught any trailers for It Comes at Night, you know it’s a scary one. I went to see it the other day, and, preparing for the worst, I took a seat near the back and nestled in behind my popcorn. Sensing a particularly horrific part coming, I fixed my eyes at a corner […]

    The NBA Finals, Finally

    The NBA playoffs have come to their long awaited climax: the third straight Finals matchup between the Cavaliers and Warriors. Neither team has been slowed down at all thus far. The Warriors are 12-0 and the Cavs are 12-1. The average margin of victory across the playoffs has been a disappointingly wide 13.5 points, and both teams made […]

    Entry of the Gods Into Alien: Covenant

    The latest Alien movie is in theatres, and it’s a lot like the others, which means tons of casualties, and robots can’t be trusted. A few wrinkles separate Covenant, though. First, Danny McBride is in this one, and he’s a convincing space cowboy. He knows his John Denver, and he won’t rest until the crew […]

    When the World Tastes Like Cold French Fries

    Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood is a small collection of essays printed in a charming paperback edition, and it’s perfect for carrying around this summer. A poet by inclination, Chew-Bose’s essays are lyrical and wonderfully meandering, especially the lead, “Heart Museum.” This passage is from a little further along in the book, in a piece […]

    Transhumanism: No More Death

    “Unreal City, Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many.”  – T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland. In an excellent essay for n+1, Meghan O’Gieblyn connects transhumanism’s striving take on human perfectibility with Christian eschatology. “Ghost in the Cloud: Transhumanism’s […]

    A Passage from William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep

    William Deresiewicz (who will be speaking at our upcoming conference on Friday afternoon, 4/28!) made waves in 2008 when the American Scholar published his essay, “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.” His full length book from 2011, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, expounded upon the […]

    The Idiot Redux

    Elif Batuman takes the title of her first novel, The Idiot, from a Dostoevsky classic. Her young protagonist, Selin, mirrors the innocent Prince Myshkin of the Russian novel. Although an allusion to that giant makes Batuman’s literary ambitions clear, for her sharp narrator, the title may be too self-deprecating. Selin’s a Turkish-American student starting at […]

    March Madness Preview

    The NCAA tournament, that glorious spectacle that only comes but once a year, is finally upon us. Sportswriter Bob Ryan said that if the field of 68 duked it out six times, we’d have six different winners. Sounds like brackets will be busted early and often, which, in my view, makes for the most enjoyable […]

    Big Little Deaths

    In a memorable section of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Daedalus comes upon a relatively large sum of money and squanders it, prodigal son style. Daedalus shifts several times in the novel from extreme penitence and self-denial to full-on pursuit of his sinful desires. This tension between reverence […]

    More from Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote

    In an excellent chapter from The Antidote, Oliver Burkeman (who will be speaking at the 10th anniversary conference in April!) analyzes our obsession with setting goals. “Goal Crazy” zeroes in on the 1996 disaster at the summit of Mount Everest, documented most memorably in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Burkeman’s insight that the goals we set often become assimilated into our identities has strong resonances of Law. We are so uncomfortable with the undeserved gift of grace that we create goals for ourselves and then lament our inadequacies when we fail to meet them. Aided by the work of “stockbroker turned expert on organisational behavior,” Chris Kayes, Burkeman writes,

    The Everest climbers, Kayes suspected, had been ‘lured into destruction by their passion for goals.’ His hypothesis was that the more they fixated on the endpoint – a successful summiting of the mountain – the more that goal became not just an external target but a part of their own identities, of their sense of themselves as accomplished guides or high-achieving amateurs … ‘The more uncertain climbers felt about their possible success in reaching the summit,’ as Kayes puts it, ‘the more likely they were to invest in their particular strategy.’ A bizarre self-reinforcing loop took hold (Notes of Mental Health Issue here): team members would actively seek out negative information about their goal – looking for evidence of weather patterns, for example, that might render the West Ridge approach even more risky than usual – which would increase their feelings of uncertainty. But then, in an effort to extinguish their uncertainty, the climbers would increase their emotional investment in their decision. The goal, it seemed, had become a part of their identity, and so their uncertainty about the goal no longer merely threatened the plan; it threatened them as individuals. They were so eager to eliminate these feelings of uncertainty that they clung ever harder to a clear, firm and specific plan that provided them with a sense of certainty about the future – even though that plan was looking increasingly reckless.

    Burkeman continues the chapter with a discussion of how uncomfortable we are with uncertainty. His prescribed antidote, embracing our fragility, sounds a lot like belief, and Christ’s parables of the Kingdom:

    “Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities – for success, for happiness, for really living – are waiting. ‘To be a good human,’ concludes the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum, applying this perspective to her own field of ethics, ‘is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertainty, and on a willingness to be exposed. It’s based on being more like a plant than a jewel: something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from that fragility.'”