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Posts tagged "Aeon"


Thou Shalt Think Like a Proton

A follow-up to our recent discussion on The Mockingcast of the (non-)virtue of niceness, a couple paragraphs from Mariana Alessandri’s fabulous essay “Cheerfulness Cannot Be Compulsory, Whatever the T-Shirts Say” that appeared on Aeon recently:

If you have to tell someone to be cheerful, they aren’t feeling it. Cheerfulness spontaneously felt and freely given is brilliant, but it is no more virtuous than acting courageously when one isn’t scared…

Cheerfulness conceived as a virtue – à la Boy Scout Law – instead of a spontaneous feeling is a pretense. It’s not an action but it is an act. Whistling while you work might be worth defending, but forcing yourself to smile when you don’t feel like it amounts to lying to the people around you. ‘Fake it till you make it’ has brutal consequences when applied to the emotions. When conceived as the attempt to trick others into thinking that you feel cheery, cheerfulness is far from a virtue. It’s a vice. It falls on the deficiency end of the spectrum of trust. Too much trust is called naïveté, and is a vice of excess. But cheerfulness is just as bad. It confesses: I don’t trust you with my darkest feelings; I don’t think you are responsible enough to handle my inner life. Forced cheerfulness is a denial of life. All experiences taste different, and if we force a smile through the sour ones, we are not living honestly. We might want to lock out certain people from our fragile hearts, but cheerfulness is an equal-opportunity vice; it keeps even my loved ones out of reach. Whoever gets our cheery selves does not get our true selves.

Cheerfulness also unwittingly cancels out the Christian virtue of faith. It says: you can’t handle the expression of my feelings, and I deny you the chance to prove me right. Since it is built on the certainty that others will disappoint, cheerfulness lacks faith. It denies possibility. In real life, others probably will disappoint us. If we show them what we are really feeling, they will probably screw it up. But given the emphasis on cheerfulness in the US, as etched into Boy Scout Law, it’s no wonder that they screw it up. Still, a botched attempt at compassion is better than being denied the chance to fail. Here’s an anti-cheerful but virtuous attitude: expect others to fail but give them the chance. Also, recognize when someone is giving you a chance to fail them. Vulnerability is a risk and a gift.

I’m reminded of the extremely sad irony of who co-starred in the video for Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy”… ht RT:

Another Week Ends: Esther Perel, Tourist Photos, Six-Week Church Services, Perfect Products, and Lunch Brushers

1. For those of you who are, like me, already devotees of Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin? podcast, much of her interview with the New Yorker will come as no surprise. On multiple platforms I’ve heard her give this explanation about our current marital malaise, but that doesn’t matter because it’s great: Marriage is […]

Another Week Ends: Abrahamic Evolution, More Cookie Monster, The Law of Higher Ed, G.K. Chesterton as Saint, and the Puritan Legacy

1. Over at aeon, Benjamin Grant Purzycki once again demonstrates the poverty of discourse about religion – the fact that little understanding of its required to make grand pronouncements. Anyway, he says some interesting things along the way, and it’s worth a read. First, we’re all biased toward thinking of God as a cosmic judge: In a […]

The Cost and Benefit of Forgiveness (Class)

I remember a conversation some years ago where a friend was voicing her chief objection to Christianity. It had nothing to do with science, or politics, or even suffering (at least not explicitly). What she found offensive about the faith was the notion/assertion/accusation that one of our primary needs as human beings is for forgiveness. […]

Another Week Ends: This American Life’s 500th, Dustin Hoffman’s Female Perspective, Midlife Crises, Man-Children, Spitzer, and Chickens

1) Heather Havrilesky, at it again, this time over at Aeon. Writing from the perspective of a “successful” middle-ager, she describes how nothing can really be enough nowadays. The avenues for comparison are as numerous as the avenues for self-expression. She has this to say about her own experiences: This is the shape my mid-life […]

Obesity, Freedom, and the Limits of Willpower

Over at Aeon Magazine, a tremendously insightful essay was published a couple of weeks ago on the rising obesity trend – one that’s gone way beyond America, and one whose potential solutions are fast becoming a major policy issue for governments, as well as a booming industry (soon to become a trillion-dollar one, McKinsey & […]

Another Week Ends: One Way Love, Platonic Tennis, Curmudgeon Law, Downton Anti-Snobbery, Ecumenical Shipwrecks, Dr. Hook, House of Cards and Justified

1. The hits just keep on coming. Spring Conference speaker and friend Tullian Tchividjian announced his next book this morning and the title will be familiar to some of you, One Way Love: The Power of Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. Tullian, of course, is paying tribute to the definition of grace that PZ […]