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The Death of Curiosity: On Information Cocoons and the Frights of Surprise

On September 11, 2001, I became a cable news junkie and would be crippled by the addiction for the next decade and a half. I remember sitting in the breakroom at my dental school with the other students, watching footage played and replayed of the planes hitting the towers, of the devastation at the Pentagon […]

Shooting Blanks: Baby-Making in an Age of Anxiety – Ben Maddison

From our Spring conference in NYC, the following video features Mockingbird contributor Ben Maddison, in a talk about fatherhood and fertility in the 21st century. For more, see his previous work The Weight of Masculinity and Mary Definitely Knew.

Shooting Blanks: Baby-Making in an Age of Anxiety – Ben Maddison from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The Science of Gratitude (Won’t Make You Grateful)

“Gratitude is one of those things that cannot be bought. It must be born with men. All the obligations in the world will not create it.” – George Savile Gratitude, it turns out, is good for you. Studies have suggested that a sense of gratitude improves one’s quality of sleep and overall physical health. It […]

“What’s the Point?” Hip Hop, Rico Nasty, Vanity, & Grace…

“…All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. This is an […]

The Breakdown Is Just the Beginning: Reese and Payton’s Rules for Life

Recently, I was bequeathed a second-hand copy of Reese Witherspoon’s book, Whiskey in a Teacup, by a friend who knows my fraught relationship with all things Witherspoon/Hello Sunshine/Draper James. When said friend handed over the tome on the school playground, my eyes rolled even as my breath caught: the hot-pink cover (because OF COURSE it’s […]

A Full Grown Man & His Sad Jelly Belly

A confession from Matt Magill: I have a complicated relationship with sugar. It’s really the candy that does me in. The guilty verdict on my perpetual adolescence needs no further evidence than my wicked sweet tooth and embarrassing proclivity to indulge it. No matter how often I throw out “Not today Satan!”, I trend towards […]

The Evil Person I Become on a Bike

This one was written by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson. Yes, that’s me: mild-mannered theologian by foot, hate-spewing demon by bike. Note that when I say “bike,” I don’t mean a souped-up chopper bearing a Hell’s Angel in well-worn leather and a half-drunk can of Schlitz. I mean a dorky, human-powered eight-speed that I can’t even make […]

There’s No Failure Like Success (in the Meritocracy of Performancism)

Every summer our family faces a conundrum. A petty one, to be sure, but it comes up more and more as our kids get older. I’m referring to the swim team question. Usually when a fellow pool-goer asks if we’re joining up, a simple “Nope, not this year” suffices. If pushed, I’ll mumble something about […]

The Unforgivables: Is There Hope For Those Consigned to Secular Hell? – Jeff Mallinson

The next video from our recent NYC Conference is here! This time courtesy of Dr. Jeff Mallinson. We’ve been referencing this one on an almost daily basis since he gave it. Brilliant, hilarious, and about as timely as it gets:

The Unforgivables: Is There Hope Even For Those Consigned to a Secular Hell – Jeff Mallinson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

He Was Number One (or, Why Not Everyone Gets A’s, According to Alfie Kohn)

Imagine a high school graduation. Family and friends proudly jostle for a view of their students turning tassels on stage. Imagine the students’ camaraderie, the collective sigh of relief: summer spans ahead, former identities fade. Outcasts, athletes, nerds all face the world, now wide with opportunity. Imagine, also, the salutatorian standing and speaking about her […]

Parenting Is Impossible

A little snippet from Nick Lannon’s incisive new book, Life Is Impossible: And That’s Good News:

I think I first became aware of the impossible in my life—at least aware enough that it kicked off a sort of mini existential crisis—when my wife and I were approaching the birth of our first child. I realized, as the date came closer and closer, that I was becoming more and more nervous and agitated. I’d never been a father before, and I wasn’t sure I could be a good one. In fact, I wasn’t sure what to do at all! The choices seemed endless: cloth diapers or disposable? Jarred food or blend-your-own? Breast milk or formula? Spanking or not? Harvard or Yale?

In all seriousness, though, the decision tree that spread out before me was tremendous—never-ending, actually—and it was stressing me out. It wasn’t until later that I realized what was actually going on. It turned out that I was subconsciously convinced—in a way that I never would have admitted consciously—that if I made all the right choices along that infinite parenting decision tree, that my child would grow up to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or the next Oprah Winfrey. You’ll say, of course, that such a thought is ridiculous…and of course you’re right. But we all think this way, all the time. Most of the stress in our lives comes from the fact that we’ve convinced ourselves—often only subconsciously—that the sum of our decision-making will determine how well things turn out for us. Who wouldn’t feel stressed? In that scheme, your happy future depends on every minute-by-minute choice that you make!

What finally gave me some peace, and the ability to approach the birth of our daughter with some mental stability, was the realization that making all the right decisions along the parenting decision tree was impossible. Not difficult, impossible. It wasn’t something that I could buckle down on, or something I could solve with parenting books or daddy blogs…there was no way to make my way through unscathed. No, I had to acknowledge from the very beginning that failure was my sure destination. “Success,” as I had subconsciously defined it, was impossible. Ironically and counterintuitively, it was in admitting failure that I found peace.

The Writing on the Bag (Paper, Plastic, or Shame?)

This one comes to us from Blake Nail. The box of Cookie Crisp taunts you as you reach for the Grape Nuts and sigh. You travel over to aisle 9 where the peanut butter is and realize you should just grab some jelly while you’re at it. Make a stop in aisle 14 for the […]