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Posts tagged "Oliver Burkeman"


Another Week Ends: Property Ownership and Murder Mysteries, Americans Ready to Look Hot, and a Prayer for This Easter Season

1. On a walk last night, I spied a property for sale not far from the place I rent now. What possibly could be the asking price of a house with no renovations, one bathroom, an impractically small kitchen, and “loads of charm”? The answer nearly knocked me out. It was hard not to spend […]

Another Week Ends: Tim Keller, Jordan Peterson, the Baby Bust, Unceasing Despair, Prosciutto, and Weird Catholic Twitter

1. I wish more dying people would write about dying. That’s a thought I had while reading Tim Keller’s recent essay in the Atlantic, because I sensed I was finally reading something on the internet that mattered. Keller, the well-known pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC, writes that, despite his ministering to people about the […]

Another Week Ends: Martin Luther’s Emails, Resilient Kids, Fresh Starts, Popped Pandemic Bubbles, and Joy with Parkinson’s

1. Every now and then, you get to start the weekender out with the humor section. This week’s gem from the New Yorker, “Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, as E-mailed by Your Passive-Aggressive Co-Worker,” stole the show: FROM: Martin.Luther@vatican.org TO: All Vatican Staff Subject: A Quick Note Not to be that guy, and most of this […]

Another Week Ends: Niche Sports, Faith Healers, Super-Parents, Rediscovering Privacy, and Your Done List

1. Mbird speaker emeritus Oliver Burkeman has a new twice-a-month newsletter with a great name, The Imperfectionist, which you can sign up for if you’d like. In his inaugural edition of the newsletter, Burkeman has an uncanny insight into the unpayable debt of the cosmic to-do list: What if — and personally I find this […]

Another Week Ends: Edenic Parenting, Stryper Envy, Miscarriage Stigma, Imposter Syndrome, Clergy Burnout, and Raised By Wolves

1. Lord Almighty, what a week. Feels like we could all use a good laugh right now, and thankfully, McSweeney’s delivered a masterpiece in Audrey Burges’s “On the Seventh Day, God Created Parenting, and Then Parenting Created Coffee“: In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth in just six days, the seventh […]

Another Week Ends: Cognitive Dissonance, Habit Formation, Transparent Influencers, Aging Album Covers, and a Love That Casts Out All Fear

1a. It’s been a big week for the social scientists among us. Two of our favorites, Elliot Aronson and Carol Tavris, had a hit article over at the Atlantic this week. We’ve been following the duo since 2011, when they published Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). The authors are experts in describing how […]

Another Week Ends: Divine Accidents, Sunday Scaries, Workism, Artificial Obligations, Drama-Free Romance, and StoryMakers

1. So you’re trying to sleep, and it’s well after bedtime, but you’re tossing and turning and unable to get comfy, and you notice you’re replaying the same scenario in your head: some vision of tomorrow, of what might happen, how a hope could be dashed. If you’ve had this experience, you’re far from alone […]

Another Week Ends: Recovering Small Groups, the Problem with Happiness, Metrics of Judgment, Masculine #Seculosity, Love at L’Arche, and 20 Years of “All Star”

1. In the first slot this week, Christianity Today published Kent Dunnington’s reflections on small groups and AA: Small Groups Anonymous: Why the best church small groups might take their cues from the Twelve Steps. An in-depth look at how AA works and why most small groups fail to transform character and practice, Dunnington’s piece […]

Another Week Ends: Bad Romance, Marriage Therapy, Shania Twain, First Date at Denny’s, Techno Tyranny, and the Paradox of Control

1. In high school, a friend of mine found a single rose waiting for her on each of her desks for six classes in a row; she was later offered yet another six roses and asked to the prom via guitar-serenade. The routine was sweet but seemed a little familiar, as if from a movie. […]

‘S’ Is For ‘Swaddle’: On Baby Anxiety and New Parents

There we were, him holding his newborn son and me with my 1.5-year-old clinging to my legs. We were talking, as men do these days, about baby books, and I was trying to remember the last two of the “Five S’s”. I had “Swing,” “Swaddle” and “Shush,” but couldn’t for the life of me remember […]

Sisyphus’s Inbox – Oliver Burkeman

It was such a privilege to have journalist and best-selling author Oliver Burkeman speak at our recent conference in NYC! His incredible talk, about productivity and modern life, is available here:

Sisyphus’s Inbox ~ Oliver Burkeman from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

More from Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote

In an excellent chapter from The Antidote, Oliver Burkeman (who will be speaking at the 10th anniversary conference in April!) analyzes our obsession with setting goals. “Goal Crazy” zeroes in on the 1996 disaster at the summit of Mount Everest, documented most memorably in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Burkeman’s insight that the goals we set often become assimilated into our identities has strong resonances of Law. We are so uncomfortable with the undeserved gift of grace that we create goals for ourselves and then lament our inadequacies when we fail to meet them. Aided by the work of “stockbroker turned expert on organisational behavior,” Chris Kayes, Burkeman writes,

The Everest climbers, Kayes suspected, had been ‘lured into destruction by their passion for goals.’ His hypothesis was that the more they fixated on the endpoint – a successful summiting of the mountain – the more that goal became not just an external target but a part of their own identities, of their sense of themselves as accomplished guides or high-achieving amateurs … ‘The more uncertain climbers felt about their possible success in reaching the summit,’ as Kayes puts it, ‘the more likely they were to invest in their particular strategy.’ A bizarre self-reinforcing loop took hold (Notes of Mental Health Issue here): team members would actively seek out negative information about their goal – looking for evidence of weather patterns, for example, that might render the West Ridge approach even more risky than usual – which would increase their feelings of uncertainty. But then, in an effort to extinguish their uncertainty, the climbers would increase their emotional investment in their decision. The goal, it seemed, had become a part of their identity, and so their uncertainty about the goal no longer merely threatened the plan; it threatened them as individuals. They were so eager to eliminate these feelings of uncertainty that they clung ever harder to a clear, firm and specific plan that provided them with a sense of certainty about the future – even though that plan was looking increasingly reckless.

Burkeman continues the chapter with a discussion of how uncomfortable we are with uncertainty. His prescribed antidote, embracing our fragility, sounds a lot like belief, and Christ’s parables of the Kingdom:

“Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities – for success, for happiness, for really living – are waiting. ‘To be a good human,’ concludes the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum, applying this perspective to her own field of ethics, ‘is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertainty, and on a willingness to be exposed. It’s based on being more like a plant than a jewel: something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from that fragility.'”