Another Week Ends

1) To add to the Facebook files, this one came from the New Yorker. A […]

1) To add to the Facebook files, this one came from the New Yorker. A study was given to see what emotional effects are aggravated by social media site, and, surprise surprise, the rise in the “market of social capital” equals a correlated relationship with envy and loneliness. Still, studies snake-eye with Facebook: many researchers say it is a good thing, that it offers virtual connection possibilities, something we are “wired” for. People on this side of the research say that “active” Facebook users, versus “passive” users, are more likely to have healthy relationships because of it. On the contrary, this article says:

b20172b13f114bffa8004c0dae7529a7c190b2a9_mIn other words, the world of constant connectivity and media, as embodied by Facebook, is the social network’s worst enemy: in every study that distinguished the two types of Facebook experiences—active versus passive—people spent, on average, far more time passively scrolling through newsfeeds than they did actively engaging with content. This may be why general studies of overall Facebook use, like Kross’s of Ann Arbor residents, so often show deleterious effects on our emotional state. Demands on our attention lead us to use Facebook more passively than actively, and passive experiences, no matter the medium, translate to feelings of disconnection and boredom.

In ongoing research, the psychologist Timothy Wilson has learned, as he put it to me, that college students start going “crazy” after just a few minutes in a room without their phones or a computer. “One would think we could spend the time mentally entertaining ourselves,” he said. “But we can’t. We’ve forgotten how.” Whenever we have downtime, the Internet is an enticing, quick solution that immediately fills the gap. We get bored, look at Facebook or Twitter, and become more bored. Getting rid of Facebook wouldn’t change the fact that our attention is, more and more frequently, forgetting the path to proper, fulfilling engagement. And in that sense, Facebook isn’t the problem. It’s the symptom.

This need for engagement–and the need to justify such continual engagement–relates to Harvard Business Review’s “Stop Complaining about How Busy You Are.” In it Meredith Fineman describes the art of this kind of humblebragging, and not just its symptomatic rootedness under a deep vocational law, it also kills the very social connectedness which can give us reprieve from these demands. It stands in some ways as a stiffarm to comfortable words (ht RW).

So much of this is about out-doing each other. To say that “I’m busier than you are” means I’m more important, or that my time is more valuable, or that I am “winning” at some never-finished rat race to Inbox Zero. (Inbox Zero is another absurd contest to tackle at another time.) What you’re trying to say with these responses is: I’m busier, more in-demand, more successful.

Here’s the thing: it’s harming how we communicate, connect, and interact. Everyone is busy, in different sorts of ways. Maybe you have lots of clients, or are starting a new business, or are taking care of a newborn. The point is this: with limited time and unlimited demands on that time, it’s easy to fill your plate with activities constantly. But this doesn’t mean that you should.

To assume that being “busy” (at this point it has totally lost its meaning) is cool, or brag-worthy, or tweetable, is ridiculous. By lobbing these brags, endlessly puffing our shoulders about how “up to my neck” we are, we’re missing out on important connections with family and friends, as well as personal time. In addition to having entire conversations about how busy we are, we fail to share feelings with friends and family, ask about important matters, and realize that the “busy” is something that can be put on hold for a little while.

Speaking of which, a relevant, if not a bit awkward, TED Talk from Daniel Cohen:

2) Publishing imprint FSG (of course) is releasing, get this, a Prayer Book from the journals of Flannery O’Connor, due to come out this November. On top of this, The New Yorker this week, pre-released some of the prayers themselves. Without saying too much more, they sit under the title “My Dear God,” and are profoundly tender. As a 20-something reading her 20-something prayers, I am astounded that some of the issues we’ve described as specifically “ours,” kind of aren’t. For example:

How can I live–how shall I live. Obviously the only way to live right is to give up everything. But I have no vocation & maybe that is wrong anyway. But how eliminate this picky fish bone kind of way I do things–I want so to love God all the way. At the same time I want all the things that seem opposed to it–I want to be a fine writer. Any success will tend to swell my head–unconsciously even. If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me. Right at present this does not seem to be His policy. I can’t write a thing. But I’ll continue to try–that is the point. And at every dry point I will be reminded Who is doing the work when it is done & Who is not doing it at that moment. Right now I wonder if God will ever do any more writing for me. He has promised His grace; I am not so sure about the other. Perhaps I have not been thankful enough for what has gone before.

The desires of the fles–excluding the stomach–have been taken away from me. For how long I don’t know but I hope forever. It is a great peace to be rid of them.

Can’t anyone teach me how to pray?

Can you Find Flannery?

3) Turns out people just need a once-through on the 50 Shades of Grey saga. I guess it is not only Walter White whose wishlist is tragically short-sighted. And I guess it is not only Walter White whose barometer of success is a continually emptying, well, fantasy. The Telegraph (hilariously) reports (ht BJ):

The exploits of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele once gripped the nation, and with 5.3 million copies flying off the shelves it became best-selling book in British history. But now the country has amassed a “paper mountain” of unwanted copies of EL James’s erotic novel, suggesting that readers are bored with the “mummy porn” trilogy. The books cannot be recycled because of the glue which was used to bind them. Cancer Research UK have revealed that as soon as they sell one of the novels, they get two donations in its place. Ben Wadsworth, Marketing Manager, said: “We have thousands of copies of all the Fifty Shades books, but we’ve stopped selling them because no one was buying them.


4) Next, our friend Win Bassett reviewed an intriguing new memoir over at the LA Review of Books. Entitled The Dark Path, David Schickler walks his line of faith somewhere between priest and tramp and, along the way, lights upon a faith that is present in darkness.

Schickler returns, for example, to that lust caused by what Dorothy Sayers named in her essay “The Seven Deadly Sins”: “Sheer boredom and discontent, trying to find in it some stimulus which is not provided by the drab discomfort of [his] mental and physical surroundings.” The feeling of this stimulation might also be the reason he initially records his encounters with women and himself. Schickler’s motive for writing evolves, however, from a mere stimulus into a way to work out the world. “David,” a friend tells him, “stop writing bullshit. You’re not an Anne of Green Gables guy. Write the raw truth.” His previous chapters are far from cow slurry, but from this point on, his story is less “crying at songs” and more “fears of men who feel trapped and unsure of their way in intimate relationships” — with women, with family, and with God; or rather, with Schickler’s “Lack-of-God,” to whom he prays more fervently.

The meaning of darkness changes for Schickler as he ages. Whereas he previously found God only in the shadows of his path and was “afraid that if I go talking about how God is in the darkness, He will leave it and I’ll be alone,” he later comes to find God, though he doesn’t expressly write it, in all things. “Somehow her warmth and kisses are making me need God not only to be real but to be eternal and willing to share His eternity with the two of us,” he says about a new, unique kind of love both human and divine.

Speaking of misfit priests, and churches, have you heard of Wild Goose? If not, look them up. Super weird, but they did happen to host Nadia Bolz-Weber, a heavily tatted Lutheran priest, who heads up Denver’s House of All Sinners and Saints. She’s a person seen as within the “Emerging” Church, and interestingly one with some great Lutheran perspective on a life in continual modes of death and resurrection. The woman is just amazingly engaging as a speaker, and was apparently a comedian before she took on the priesthood. This interview in particular, with Krista Tippett of On Being, gets interesting around the 12-minute mark. And there’s also this interview in the Religion News Service.

5) And, of course, there have been many, many tributes to Capon over the past week that we’ve had nothing to do with! Curator Magazine did a great review of the Supper of the Lamb. Also, Christianity Today, interviewing Capon’s wife, gives us an intimate perspective of the man behind the writing–she talks of his divorce after a marriage of 27 years, his shortcomings and his sickness, and his reputation among the Shelter Island community.

But after 27 years of marriage and six children, Capon divorced his first wife, Margaret. “As it has turned out,” he wrote in The Romance of the Word, “there were a lot of departments in which I was not a success, not to mention several in which I was, and still am, a failure. … I dedicated a great deal of time and effort to my children’s religious formation, only to find them now mostly uninterested and non-practicing.” The failure of his first marriage and subsequent remarriage ended Capon’s career as dean of a diocesan seminary and priest-in-charge of a mission church. His was not a life of “triumphant goodness or heroic efforts” but of “dumb luck and forgiveness.” This only underscored his gratitude for God’s grace and mercy; elsewhere he wrote: Grace cannot prevail … until our lifelong certainty that someone is keeping score has run out of steam and collapsed.

613mYjr-OEL._SY300_“It has been an adventure,” Mrs. Capon said of their marriage. She loved traveling with him for speaking engagements and book promotion, but she seemed equally enchanted with their quiet life on Long Island, where he wrote numerous books and articles on food and theology and served as a supply priest. Unlike Bed and Board and, very much more so, The Supper of the Lamb, now quite deservedly reprinted in a Modern Library Classics edition, none of Capon’s later books (of which there are well over a dozen) sold very well. Finances were tight (“my decision to go freelance threatened constantly to become a license to starve,” he once wrote.) There were some lean years, but with a laugh, Mrs. Capon recounted the time that her husband started a sermon in a church in East Hampton—well-known as a playground of the rich and famous—by setting fire to a $20 bill. “I have just defied your God,” he said.

…From Mrs. Capon’s description of their routines, worshiping and eating seemed to form the foundation of their life together—appropriately enough for a man known for his work on theology and cooking…Robert Farrar Capon’s writing is charged with an intense love for God and for all that God has made; it is deeply opinionated, utterly unique, and saturated with grace, reflecting the quirky appeal of the man himself, who, though now lifted to glory, leaves behind a warm invitation to taste and see that the Lord is indeed good.

P.S. Zach Morris in 2013!

P.P.S. New Marilynne Robinson novel!

P.P.P.S. If you didn’t know already, Coen Brothers/T-Bone at it again!


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One response to “Another Week Ends: Zach Morris, Misfit Priests and Wild Geese, 50 Shades Turnover, Finding Flannery, Inbox Zero, and More Capon”

  1. Greg Taylor says:

    How can this article possibly have no comments yet after three days? It’s a great article. Perhaps when we talk about online media in shades of Luddite, people get their interactive wings clipped. I completely agree with this approach to not supposing everything about online engagement (not only Facebook, which gets knocked most because it’s the biggest perhaps) is positive. I read Neil Postman a lot in terms of same/similar arguments on television. I’m very interested in what you are saying on this blog and in this article in particular. I think you guys are in a younger generation for the most part. I’m 46, so I value the 20-40 set and what you are saying right now. Keep on saying it and more.

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