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About David Zahl

David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries and editor-in-chief of the Mockingbird blog. He and his wife Cate reside in Charlottesville, VA, with their three sons, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church (christchurchcville.org).

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    March Playlist

    If you had told me a year ago that I’d post a playlist with not one but two songs sung by Sammy Hagar, I wouldn’t have believed you. Especially if you’d said one would be about vespas, the other about Christian aliens, and neither would feature Eddie Van Halen. Thankfully for all of us, the Lord had other plans!


    Click here to listen on Spotify.

    Three Things That Aren’t Grim About the Future

    An Excerpt from the Future Issue of The Mockingbird Magazine

    Another Week Ends: Anthropology Wars, Youth Anxiety, Type of Guy Theory, Fitness Scams, Nuclear Families, Age Rage, and Mirrors4sale

    1. A brilliant essay in The American Interest by Tara Isabella Burton on What The Culture War Is Really About in which the upcoming NYC Conference speaker burrows underneath the acrimony that surrounds us and reveals a conflict over, well, anthropology. In her view, the divide in our culture isn’t between those with a high […]

    The Mockingcast Goes to the Future (By Way of the Past)!

    Hard to believe we’re closing in on two months out from our annual conference in New York City (4/23-25)! The details are coming together beautifully – the lineup is pretty much set (not including a couple surprises we can’t disclose until the event itself), and the menus should be up in the next few weeks.

    Anyone who’s curious about why we asked author-not-actor Tom Holland to keynote this year should run not walk to the interview we got to do with him for the special new episode of The Mockingcast, devoted to The Future Issue of our magazine. You’re in for quite a treat! I’m not sure we’ve ever gotten so much feedback on a podcast so quickly, especially of the it-made-me-genuinely-excited-to-be-a-Christian variety. Oh and while you’re at it, grab a copy of his book Dominion.

    Also on the episode, Ethan speaks with NY Times tech columnist Nellie Bowles, and once-and-future Mbird authority Will McDavid mines the fertile ground at the intersection of Marcel Proust and the Left Behind series. A goldmine!

    You can listen to the episode here, and pre-register for the conference here.

    February Playlist

    This one serves as an unofficial soundtrack to the Future Issue, as well as a mini-companion to the new episode of The Well of Sound about Allen Toussaint. Oh and you can listen to about three quarters of it on Spotify by clicking here.

    Why Ada Calhoun Can’t Sleep

    I’ve been struck by the publicity surrounding Ada Calhoun‘s new book, Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, which takes as its subject the creeping insomnia, restlessness, and burnout Calhoun has noticed among American women of her own generation. While we wait for the book itself to arrive, a couple soundbites of Calhoun tracing the shape of today’s little-l laws were too tempting not to post. And probably goes without saying but her diagnosis extends beyond the demographic in question; as a non-GenX lady, I recognize much of this in my own life. Shades of #seculosity abound! (Note how many times the word “enough” is used). This first bit is from an interview she did with NPR:

    “One thing that a sociologist who studies the generations told me is that our generation [Gen X] tends to judge ourselves based on everything. So if, you know, in the past the question was, how nice is your home? Or how good are you at your job? Now it’s like, it’s all of the things. So it’s – are you a good parent? Are you good at work? Are you – you know, is your house nice? Are you in shape? Are you recycling? Like, it’s every single factor in life you have to excel at. And I think that level of pressure is unsustainable.

    These next paragraphs are taken from Calhoun’s Q&A with Maria Shriver:

    What I think happened to women in this generation was when we were girls we were told we could “be anything, even president!” And as I was interviewing all these women around the country I heard from them that the idea that they could do anything somehow morphed somehow into a directive that they must do everything—and do it all effortlessly. In middle age, they are likely to find that they haven’t lived up to this fantasy they had for themselves, epitomized by the crimes against humanity that were those Enjoli perfume ads about bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan. If women bought into that idea (as many of us did), they may have a family but not a career or vice versa and then feel like they are not doing enough. Even a lot of women I talked to who were doing a stressful full-time job and a lot of caregiving (the classic definition of “it all”) felt like they had failed in some way—maybe they had both work and family but they weren’t in good physical shape, their kids weren’t getting good grades, they worked all the time but still couldn’t afford a nice vacation, or they were just very, very tired…

    In interviewing these women, I learned that a lot of the stress seemed to be coming out of shame—they felt they should be more successful, maybe, but also more grateful. They would say, “I’m so lucky, I have no right to complain.” And then they would describe what they expected from themselves and what they were dealing with. The responsibilities and pressures would be massive, but the thing that seemed to be pushing them over the edge into despair was this idea that they were whining if they admitted how hard it was. They would dismiss what they were feeling by making a joke about #FirstWorldProblems. And they would tell me that they knew if only they could do enough yoga or find the right herbal tea or learn about CBD oil, the feeling of unease would go away. This book tries to show that no, if you are stressed out it isn’t necessarily that you did something wrong or you haven’t made the right chore chart—maybe the deck is stacked against you.

    Another Week Ends: Advanced Status Games, Insecure Globalists, Wavering Churchability, Cancer Chairs, Redwall Feasts, and Statism

    1. First up this week, other than Ozzy Osbourne in 1987 (featured image), would have to be Agnes Callard’s magnificent piece for The Point, “Who Wants to Play the Status Game?” in which she unpacks the not-so-subtle status games we play with those whom we’ve just met. Meaning, when you’re introduced to someone at a […]

    How MLK Got His Name

    Perhaps you know the story: In 1934 the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta sent its pastor Michael King, Sr. to attend a Baptist World Alliance Meeting in Berlin. The trip included a whirlwind visit to a number of other sites, but apparently the time in Germany (just as the National Socialists were starting their rise) had such an impact on Michael that he decided to rename himself and his 5-year-old son after the Great Reformer. Thus, father and son became Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr.

    Somehow I don’t think we’ve ever posted this beautiful portion of MLK’s 1967 speech “Where Do We Go From Here?” in which he sounds more than a little like his namesake, especially toward the end, ht SC & JF:

    I’m concerned about a better World. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood and sisterhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

    And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. […] and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.

    And so I say to you today, my friends, that you may be able to speak with the tongues of men and angels; you may have the eloquence of articulate speech; but if you have not love, it means nothing. Yes, you may have the gift of prophecy; you may have the gift of scientific prediction and understand the behavior of molecules; you may break into the storehouse of nature and bring forth many new insights; yes, you may ascend to the heights of academic achievement so that you have all knowledge; and you may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degrees; but if you have not love, all of these mean absolutely nothing. You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing. You may even give your body to be burned and die the death of a martyr, and your spilt blood may be a symbol of honor for generations yet unborn, and thousands may praise you as one of history’s greatest heroes; but if you have not love, your blood was spilt in vain. What I’m trying to get you to see this morning is that a man may be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. His generosity may feed his ego, and his piety may feed his pride. So without love, benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.

    January Playlist

    Click here to listen on Spotify.

    “All My Friends Are Finding New Beliefs” – Christian Wiman

    Taken, presumably, from the esteemed poet (and Mbird fave)’s forthcoming collection Survival Is a Style, this one appears in the January Issue of Poetry Magazine. Couldn’t ask for a more fitting capstone to my year of #seculosity, ht MS:

    Consuming 2019: Favorite Music, TV, Humor, Podcasts, Books, and Journalism

    Time for our annual round up of favorites!. As always, these are predominantly personal picks, albeit with an eye toward Mocking-resonance. Click here to read last year’s list. Deep breath: Music Favorite Discoveries Roxy Music. 2019 was the year I fell for Roxy, and I fell hard. The well (of sound) with these guys is […]

    Auburn Sandstrom and the Pinhole of Light

    This, as the kids say, is everything. Everything we fumble toward in our writing and everything we hope in, especially at Advent Christmastime. No idea how it escaped our attention before but good god almighty… Take 10 minutes today – you won’t regret it, ht CWZ.

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