Another Week Ends

1. This week, The NY Times made the astute observation that the new buzzword, “moment,” reflects […]

CJ Green / 8.28.15

1. This week, The NY Times made the astute observation that the new buzzword, “moment,” reflects something significant about the human condition. You need only glance at headlines to see how the word is being used—as far as media coverage goes, a “moment” is usually something trending, anything that garners fifteen minutes of fame. It could be a celebrity or a musical group; there are election moments and hurricane moments and Kanye moments. The article explains:

No nexus of events is too large or heterogeneous — no geopolitical weather too swirlingly turbulent — to avoid being reduced to the shorthand of the moment.

As the election grinds on, the names attached to such moments will change. Marco Rubio might succeed Trump as the official man of the moment; Al Gore might have his Lazarus moment. The only thing we can be certain of is that the moments will arrive, incessantly, and that when they do, they will be collected, labeled neatly and displayed for public consumption. We are living in the moment moment.

Ultimately, the article continues, labelling moments is our way of controlling and understanding not only the moment in question but also our relationship to it.

We master things by labeling them. Numbers, categories and hierarchies are ways of moving and storing the chaos of the world — mental technologies every bit as fundamental as levers and blades and buckets….

‘‘One tragedy of the human condition,’’ the sociologist James Beniger, who was an expert on the information society, wrote in his 1989 masterpiece, ‘‘The Control Revolution,’’ ‘‘is that each of us lives and dies with little hint of even the most profound transformations of our society and our species that play themselves out in some small part through our own existence.’’ Confident declarations that define the cultural moment are a way to ameliorate this tragedy. If we can’t understand the era, perhaps we can understand the moment. It seems so much less daunting.

2. This week, addiction is having a moment at Mockingbird, and as a follow-up to DZ’s recent post, check out this particularly incisive AA testimony that surfaced in the NY Times this week. Entitled “No One to Rescue Me From My Drinking,” the story relates a young woman’s unexpected entrance into an alcoholic lifestyle as well as her persistent need for a savior throughout. She concludes:

It has been two years since that first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and I have remained sober. The absence of alcohol revealed that my “dark soul” was the manifestation of a decades-long depression. Booze had masked its diagnosis while also egging it on. Sobriety has also allowed me to see that even if my ex had wanted to be the savior I was looking for, he couldn’t have rescued me from myself.

“I know that’s not how you are,” he had said after that first night.

But this is how I am, and I clutch that truth as tightly I did my first sobriety chip.

3. Ashley Madison and her saucy silhouette just won’t retire from the newsfeed. The infidelity website, whose membership list was published by hackers last week, proves that “we don’t even know what [the Internet’s] for yet. This week, its main purpose appears to be exposing extramarital affairs.”

Slate published some pretty humorous responses to the hack in its Dear Prudence section. For example, a concerned “Curious Cat” admitted to discovering that, while thankfully her father and fiance weren’t on the exposed list, her uncle certainly was. Prudence replied:

Dear Curious,
It’s true that now people who view themselves as do-gooders will be informing friends and family that they have investigated the Ashley Madison hack on their behalf, and are passing on the news that a spouse is possibly a cheater. I hope most of these do-gooders are told to mind their own business. Something compelled you to check out your father and fiancé—I bet both would be deeply distressed to think you were suspicious of them. But then, bingo, you got a hit on your uncle. I urge you not to insert yourself into your aunt and uncle’s sex life. I do not have a blanket prohibition on telling innocent parties that are being cheated on. But searching the Ashley Madison data for people who have not asked for your help does not rise to the level of must-tell news. If your aunt wants to know if her husband frequents the site, surely she has the computer skills to look for herself.

The good thing about Prudence’s responses aren’t her sharp, really satisfying stick-it-to-yas. What I found valuable is the way she points the finger back at the do-gooder, beautifully reminiscent of one of Western Christianity’s favorite scenarios: Jesus, standing between the religious right and an adulterous woman, says: “Let anyone without sin be the first to throw the stone” (John 8:7). Prudence reminds us that even the goodiest do-gooders grapple with sin, whether it be alcoholism, infidelity, or the self-justifying need to search for every acquaintance’s email address on the hacked Ashley Madison membership list.

Still, as Sarah’s recent post points out, the ubiquity of sin doesn’t make it acceptable, and it has very real consequences including divorce, suicide, and Miranda Lambert on repeat. The adulterous cat is out of the bag, and only a very bloody cross yields resurrection.

The sad reality continues, from a article entitled “Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site.” After some data digging, the article concludes that most of the female accounts, which were already few and far-between, were probably fake. The article concludes that, in any case, “data suggests Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren’t there.” False idols indeed.

4. Rolling Stone released this never-before-published Springsteen interview in honor of the 40th anniversary of “Born to Run,” his breakout album which was only produced after a long period of risky un-success.

Immediately after the album’s release, Springsteen thought he was toast.

It was just really me not wanting to let it go and not wanting to admit that it was the best that I could do and that I was finished. To accept that our fortunes were going to rest on whatever this was, for better or for worse.

In other words, he had sufferedeth longeth and was now forced to give up control.

So it was just traumatic. And you’re young, 24 or 25, and you don’t have the stability or the history to be able to put it in any kind of perspective. It was just all that there is and all that there was gonna be. [It felt like] there were gonna be no more records after this record. We were all going off a cliff the next day, as far as my approach to it. It was just, “This was it.”

The songs were written immediately after the Vietnam War and…it didn’t matter how old you were, everybody experienced a radical change in the image they had of their country and of themselves. You were going to be a different type of American than the generation that immediately preceded you…. [Born to Run] wasn’t just a mishmash of previous styles. There was a lot of stuff we loved in it from the music we loved, but there was something else too — and that something else was quite a sense of dread and uncertainty about the future and who you were, where you were going, where the whole country was going. That found its way into the record.

5. A little belated, but this commencement speech by David Brooks would go nicely with AZ’s list of the Best Anti-Commencement Speeches, featured in The Forgiveness Issue. Brooks explains:

Pdahq1_(1)But your fulfillment in life will not come from how well you explore your freedom and keep your options open. That’s the path to a frazzled, scattered life in which you try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one.

Your fulfillment in life will come by how well you end your freedom. By the time you hit your 30s, you will realize that your primary mission in life is to be really ood at making commitments. Making commitments sounds intimidating, but it’s not. Making a commitment simply means falling in love with something, and then building a structure of behavior around it that will carry you through when your love falters….

When you’re making a commitment, you won’t be paralyzed by self-focus because you’ll have something besides yourself to think about….

He zooms ahead and predicts what the graduates will do in 2040:

You’ll think at some random moment in that day, after a few glasses of wine, about the totality if your life: Where you came from, where you were when you graduated, and where you are a quarter-century later…. At reflective moments like this, it feels like time is suspended and reality will slip outside its bounds, and you’ll experience a sense of gratitude that your life is filled with joy, a joy beyond anything you could possibly have earned.

6. There were a lot of responses to The New York Times’ Modern Love column, The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give, and few were as good as Ethan’s. Check out the varied and honest responses in “Modern Love Redux.” I’ve included a particularly moving story here:

Married 55 years and counting. We are two strong-minded, opinionated people who butted heads many times over the years, but we are still together.

When we moved into our first apartment, my mother-in-law gave us a large Chinese evergreen plant with a zillion leaves. Kiddingly, I said that our marriage would last until that plant died. Of course, I knew that I had never been able to keep a plant alive and healthy for more than a couple of years.

Three kids, numerous moves for job changes and 45 years later, the Chinese evergreen was still alive, although it had become noticeably thinner and had many straggly leaves. Then, you-know-what hit the fan.

I had three major medical problems within 23 months. I was depressed, more than unhappy and just wanted to run away, and I couldn’t stand my husband anymore. One day, I packed up some clothes and decided to just get in the car and drive. But before I did that, I cut all the leaves off the plant, down to the stubs.

Of course, I returned home before midnight and found a distraught husband. The first thing I noticed was a bowl of water. In it were the root stubs of the leaves I had cut off. My anger and depression lifted right then and there, and as new leaves sprang forth over the next weeks, the world seemed completely right. Ten years later and now I’m his chief caregiver, as he has Alzheimer’s. I still love the guy and hope to hold his hand as he takes his last breath.

There were also some funnier responses like the following:

I will never understand the part where marriage is hard. After seven years, I could never be as mad or frustrated with my wife as I am with my career, my favorite sports team or even traffic. The secret: We don’t have children nor care to.

7. Marvel never fails to draw plenty of viewers (and sharp commentary). Here’s a humorous criticism of the “Universe” as a whole.

Marvel is now a megachurch. Everyone is crazy pumped and ready to experience God, and a pastor dances around and starts healing people, and they all start falling over and shaking. It’s not because they’ve truly experienced anything great, they’re just caught up in the buzz and are reacting how they know they’re expected to react.

And so we sit with our Marvel bingo cards and checklists, fueled by the buzz and ready to do our part. We’re not moved by the story, because we’re not focused on this story. We’re nudging each other because we know that this scene is a direct commercial, err, reference, for a movie coming out in three years. We’re feeding the brand.

8. The Texas-based band, The Oh Hellos, released a new single last week, “Bitter Water,” and its toe-tapping chorus goes, “I know I shouldn’t love you but I do.” The song was released in anticipation of an upcoming album entitled “Dear Wormwood” (Lewis references are everywhere!); this is the follow-up to their first full-length [concept] album, “Through the Deep, Dark Valley,” which unpacked themes of transgression and repentance.


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One response to “Another Week Ends: (More) Addiction, Infidelity and Death, and Music to Get You Through It All”

  1. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    Couldn’t resist throwing in this link for the weekend, dad gets his child a self-transforming Optimus Prime birthday cake.

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