Another Week Ends

1. Turns out we’ve been writing quite a bit about memory and regret these past […]

David Zahl / 6.6.14

1. Turns out we’ve been writing quite a bit about memory and regret these past few months. Not sure why exactly–most of the posts predate the Google fracas happening in Europe–other than it feels like a fresh way into the old story. Just last week Bryan J. highlighted a piece of commentary worth revisiting, Giles Fraser’s prediction that “the internet generation will be a lot better at forgiveness than older people”. One can’t help but admire the optimism, or rather, envy it, ht RW:

BpS4EBRCMAAZvhEFor if we are going to find it more and more difficult to forget, then we are surely going to find it more and more important to forgive. Public figures will no longer be able to delete their messy adolescences, for instance. Which means that we are going to have to learn to deal with our public figures as being more than bland two-dimensional cutouts. We are going to have to accept that they are as human and fallible as the rest of us. This is clearly good: we are simply going to have to learn to be more honest about ourselves and about other people.

So I won’t be weeping tears for the demise of our ability to forget. Forgetfulness was always a sort of poor-man’s forgiveness: mimicking some of the positive consequences of forgiveness – like releasing people from their past – without requiring those involved to do anything as difficult as facing up to the truth or even to say sorry for it. Forgetfulness was always forgiveness for cowards. And I say “was” because, with the internet, the age of forgetfulness is over.

The New Republic might take issue with that last statement, at least judging from their fascinating overview of “Books of Forgetting: Why We Can’t Stop Writing About What We Can’t Remember”–suffice to say, I have a feeling we’ll have plenty to keep writing/thinking about on this subject, RW.

But back to Fraser. Contrary to their perceived moral flexibility, I’ve always found younger people to be less forgiving than their elders, regardless of technological circumstances. One more reason that, despite the current hysteria about ‘millennials’, churches will continue to appeal more to the old than the young (as Fraser himself wisely implies in a further column: “If the church is to survive, it doesn’t need to be nice – it must address the big existential questions of sin and death”). Case in point: both Bob Mould and Morrissey have new records coming out at the moment with banner songs about ‘forgiveness’–an occurrence that would have been unthinkable in their younger, take-no-prisoners years.

Of course, one can always hope that forgiveness will become more common (among all the generations) as our mistakes grow more indelible. It will certainly become an even hotter commodity. So could it be that the Internet has opened a door for a faith that claims to be centered around the “100% forgiveness of sins…erasure and thereby closure” (PZP)? Again, one can only hope (and pray).

2. If Fraser is right about the church’s survival, it probably shouldn’t expect much help from Hollywood. As blockbuster season descends, The NY Times Magazine issued a pretty devastating riff on “How Hollywood Killed Death”, lamenting how big-budget films are borrowing not only their content but form from comic books, an art form in which death is rarely if ever final. Giving new meaning to the phrase “o death where is thy sting’ Alexander Huls lists a number of examples of big-budget features where “death has become a mere transition device.” I suppose if you’re marketing to a species bent on denying its mortality, this trend may have been inevitable. His final paragraph is a, er, stinger:

No matter how much movies or comics depart into realities with superpowered beings, technologically advanced futures or fantastical worlds full of impossible creatures, they still need to do what all good stories should: Tell us something about being human. But most of today’s movies are telling us death doesn’t matter. And it’s hard to imagine a more inhuman observation than that.

Reading Rainbow’s New Theme Song with LeVar Burton from LeVar Burton

3. For the parents out there, Mark Oppenheimer’s review of Paul Raeburn’s new book “Do Fathers Matter?” is definitely of interest. (Spoiler alert: they do!). It would appear that ‘father studies’ is a relatively new field–just wait until someone looks at the relationship between fathers and religious belief. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll see a link between ‘the decline of men’ and the rise of the nones. Elsewhere The Atlantic tells us that “cool moms” may be just as effective as tiger moms in motivating their children to achieve, that the key is how the child views his or her relationship with their mother. Ya don’t say.

4. The Social Science Study of the Week comes to us from The Pacific Standard: Their “The Value of Unstructured Play for Kids” reports on recent work being done in Germany that has found a high correlation between unstructured play and ‘social success’ as adults. Go figure. If you’re looking for more social science gold, New York Magazine’s new Science of Us site has been tallying up the gems.

5. Our friends at Kill Screen invited us to gaze into the void via a real time infographic from by PennyStocks that tracks the staggering amount of data being sent over the Internet on popular sites such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Skype, Google, Tumblr, Netflix and LinkedIn:

Click the animation to open the full version (via

6. In the addiction-compulsion-religious impulse department, The Atlantic profiles “The People Who Can’t Not Run”, otherwise known as ‘streakers’ (not those kind), an increasingly large subculture of Westerners whose identity appears to be built around never missing their daily jog, ht JD:

Gary Rust, the patriarch of the daily runner family, says if he ever had to stop, he’d mourn. He says he loves running, and even speaking about it reminds him of good times. “I think it would be psychologically devastating,” he says. “It would take me time to get over the loss of my neighbor. It would take me time to get over the loss of my spouse. It would take me time to get over the loss of my streak. Because it’s been with me so long.” Rust says he’s addicted to running. But he says his everyday record is not the most important thing in his life. If his wife required a kidney transplant, he’d give up a kidney for her, even if he had to end the streak.

Dedication and addiction aren’t the same, says Duncan Simpson, an assistant professor in sport, exercise, and performance psychology at Barry University and a certified consultant with the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. To Michael Sachs, a professor of kinesiology at Temple University, addiction comes down to control. “If your life seems to revolve around making sure that your streak continues, then I don’t know that that’s necessarily a good thing,” Sachs says. He says he thinks researchers should investigate addiction as it relates to streak running.

When it comes to addicting subcultures, Wax Poetics reproduced a stunning tribute to one that’s near and dear to my heart: crate-digging, ht JF. And while we’re (sort of) on the subject, Jay Haug, who spoke so powerfully about sex addiction at our 2012 NYC Conference, has just come out with an important new resource for those involved in ministry, Speaking to the Addictive Personality in the Local Congregation.

7. Those looking for a great and seasonally appropriate illustration of grace would do well to check out the remarkable little story recounted by Tullian Tchividjian over at his new blog. I haven’t thought about ‘cabin clean-up’ in quite some time, but man, what a treasure trove of memories.

Speaking of the past, wow:

8. In TV, it was gratifying to hear that Sister Cristina won Italy’s version of The Voice. To celebrate she gave thanks to “the man upstairs” and recited the Lord’s Prayer. On The A.V. Club Todd VanDerWerff produced an excellent reflection on the prominent role that the Almighty plays in three very dark and uniformly excellent dramas currently eating up our airwaves (Fargo, The Americans, and Hannibal), “God as Cause, God as Absence, God as Storyteller”. Finally, Mad Men fans should definitely take a gander at the ‘For Your Consideration’ posters AMC just put out. Very clever. But not quite as clever as this: