Another Week Ends

1. Last week I mentioned a recent study exploring the physical impact of keeping secrets, […]

David Zahl / 5.4.12

1. Last week I mentioned a recent study exploring the physical impact of keeping secrets, and by implication, the biological necessity of confession (to say nothing of absolution). This week, that study has become manifest in an alarming way. A Reddit thread which asked the question, “What Secret Could Ruin Your Life If It Came Out?” has turned into a stomach-churning tour of the darkest recesses of the human heart and experience, with people anonymously confessing to things as innocuous as petty theft and faking an illness (e.g. “I once helped out my a female friend’s family by taking care of their cat for a week. Every day for a week, I would go over there and snoop around their house. I found my friend’s diary, and proceeded to read the entire thing. I used this information to get her to like me, and she is currently my wife”) — and as devastating as pre-meditated murder and every kind of abuse under the sun. The 20,000-plus comments may ultimately be a drop in the ocean, but they are still more than enough to give a vivid, specific, and repentant sense of the phrase “sin of the world” — I’m reminded of David Browder’s post, “Jimmy McNulty, Walter White and the Search for a Gracious God.” Indeed, the gravity of it all, taken together, casts the Cross in what can only be called a properly dire light. As if we needed any more reminder that the human race doesn’t need assistance, it needs deliverance.

The thread is frankly too graphic to link to here (i.e. you’ve been warned), so instead I will reproduce one story which is simply too relevant to everything we talk about on here re: the Law of Identity not to reproduce. It’s also too preposterous for someone to have made up. It’s a bit longer than what we normally include in the Week Ends, so brace yourself, ht JD:

Never, ever told a soul about this. No one knows, including the parents that would accept me no matter what.

I have a major identity disorder (untreated) because since I was ten I’ve been contorting my facial features at all waking hours to disguise my true appearance. I have naturally droopy eyes, large lips for a man, and an overbite. Everyday, I squint my eyes, curl my upper lip in when I smile, and jut out my lower jaw just enough to drastically change the shape of my face and the general relationship between my features.

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When I became aware of the strangeness of this behavior as a teenager, I was desperately concerned that others would notice the cracks in my veneer, and so had difficulty sitting on the left side of people (the right side of my face was the least controlled) and having any pictures taken of me (still do, to an extent). This coupled with deep depression made the years of quintessential self-discovery in a young person’s life ones of intense confusion and detachment.

Over the years, however, I’ve fine-tuned this behavior so that among most I’m now considered to be a conventionally handsome man, when in truth I’m conventionally ugly by normal standards.

When I approached adulthood and went to a large public university, I took the opportunity to create an public identity that matched the physical countenance I had molded for myself– one of the utmost confidence and charm. Many people bought it, but the image flickered on bad days. I grew further from myself.

As a 21-year-old today, I deal with crippling anxiety and ontological dislocation on a regular basis. I cannot reconcile the physical differences between my true appearance and the image I’ve contrived, and I fear that it is too late to let go. In fact, I have no idea what physical toll “letting go,” aka relaxing my facial features for longer than a minute or two, would have on me, let alone on my psychological state. It will need to be a gradual process, if I ever decide to accept it.

Does anyone else do this? Or has anyone heard a similar story? I haven’t been able to find any similar cases online. For now, as a perfectionist in all of my pursuits I live in constant fear that I will lose control and others will see the shadowed figure behind the mask. I am afraid that that figure is my true myself, because I don’t know what that would make me.

2. Next… something a little lighter! On the 10th anniversary of its release, instead of reflecting on its cultural significance or the now-legendary story behind its creation/distribution, Spencer Kornhaber considers in The Atlantic “What ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ Said.” It’s a beautiful piece and a worthy tribute to Wilco’s watershed work, ht ER:

Rather, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‘s triumph was in how it captured a facet of human nature: the way we all send signals, hoping that someone will understand them but also anxious about what happens when someone does. You’ll sometimes hear the album get called cryptic, or self-conscious, or difficult. And that’s fine. It’s really a soundtrack for the ways in which people ask to be misunderstood.

The rise of the Internet over the past decade would seem to lend Tweedy’s lyrics even greater resonance. “All my lies are always wishes”; “I’m down on my hands and knees every time the doorbell rings”; “It’s become so obvious you are so oblivious to yourself”—these could be the drunken tweets of the poster-child for, say, the recent Atlantic cover story about how social media can isolate people and screw with relationships. But Tweedy’s really singing about a universal, timeless crisis of communication. That’s why so many people continue to take Yankee Hotel Foxtrot very personally. In high school, it sounded like Tweedy was speaking for me: This is how shy guys talk to people. In the time since, I’ve realized that no, this is how everyone talks to everyone. Saying what you mean is hard. What’s astonishing about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is that it actually did it.

3. A must-read contribution from our recent conference speaker Michael Horton on The White Horse Inn blog, asking “Has the Gospel-Centered Emphasis Gone Too Far?” One guess as to the answer…

4. In the burgeoning theo-meme department this week, there’s Reinhold Bieber.

5. On The A/V Club, Noel Murray uses the response to Girls and the new season of Mad Men as a springboard to consider “Our ‘White People Problems’ Problem: Why It’s Time To Stop Using ‘White’ As a Pejorative”. It’s a smart, compassionate column, touching on some of the implicit (some might say unavoidable) judgements embedded in dismissive labels and decrying the ways we try to minimize other people’s suffering by projecting all sorts of hierarchies. “The big problem with the eruption of “too white” as a putdown: It turns real complaints that deserve a fair hearing into part of the nagging buzz of self-satisfied snark that pervades our culture today.”

6. Speaking of judgement, do you have what it takes to be a mother? More importantly, do you have what it takes to be the ‘right’ kind of mother? Whatever the case, you probably caught some of the hubbub surrounding the US publication of Elizabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. The NY Times allowed all the various camps in the Mommy Wars to respond, and boy oh boy, if the discussion doesn’t drive you to your knees, I don’t know what would. Mercy!

7. A terrific little interview with our very own DJ JAZ over at the Viva Radio Blog, whose new mix can be found here. And speaking of JAZ, perhaps we should take a moment to consider the Bat-Stache:

8. Lots of great Joss Whedon interviews popped up this past week in conjunction with the release of The Avengers. His Q&A with The Guardian was even wittier than normal. Which is saying something. (Q: Tell us a joke. A: Your life has meaning. Q: Tell us a secret. A: Your life has meaning). The AV Club interview was good too:

AVC: One of the other recent comments that got the web all worked up was when you said you saw a potential Avengers sequel as “smaller and more personal.” Were you prepared for how people would react to that?

JW: All I said was, you don’t have to “top” yourself. You have to dig deeper. I stand by it. Doesn’t mean the flick wouldn’t have thrills ’n’ ridiculously expensive spills.

9. Finally, an oldie but a goodie from The Onion, “Take Advantage of our Two-For-One Special on Scott Tissue, For One Day We Die.” And in the wish-it-were-The-Onion department, there’s Brazil Actor Playing Judas Dies From Accidental Hanging.” Oy.

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