Recommended Reads: 23/2016

I’ve gone back to regular Quick Takes this week (last week?), but don’t think I’d forgotten about Recommended Reads. It’s not like I stopped reading! My goal is to make this a weekly feature. I’ve got a repeating task in Wunderlist to read some posts in Pocket every Thursday, so I’m bound to find some gems, and I made myself a template for these posts, so that should help. I didn’t exactly read all of these last week (week 23 of 2016), but these are the ones I picked out then. My blog, my feature, my rules.

— 1 —

Title: The Frivolity of Evil
Source: City Journal via CERC

There is something to be said here about the word “depression,” which has almost entirely eliminated the word and even the concept of unhappiness from modern life. Of the thousands of patients I have seen, only two or three have ever claimed to be unhappy: all the rest have said that they were depressed. This semantic shift is deeply significant, for it implies that dissatisfaction with life is itself pathological, a medical condition, which it is the responsibility of the doctor to alleviate by medical means. Everyone has a right to health; depression is unhealthy; therefore everyone has a right to be happy (the opposite of being depressed). This idea in turn implies that one’s state of mind, or one’s mood, is or should be independent of the way that one lives one’s life, a belief that must deprive human existence of all meaning, radically disconnecting reward from conduct.

I think about this sometimes, and because of it, I’m very careful about ever claiming to be “depressed.”

While my patients know in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong, and worse than wrong, they are encouraged nevertheless to do it by the strong belief that they have the right to do it, because everything is merely a matter of choice.

Somehow it’s not okay to say that sometimes people make bad choices.

— 2 —

Title: Personal Love and the Call to Chastity
Source: The Public Discourse

Fulton Sheen aptly diagnosed the modern sexual situation: “Sex is thought about as a medium of pleasure to such a degree that it has become an obsession.” Even in our sex-saturated culture, student organizations like the Love and Fidelity Network have formed in reaction to the college culture, which masks sexual libertinism in Slut Walks and speech against “slut-shaming”—efforts that often only lead to “chastity shaming” instead. Even women well versed in feminist theory find pop culture’s presentation of feminism unsatisfying, with its insistence on the bifurcation of the self—dividing the physical from the personal and the emotional from the sexual. One paradigmatic example can be found in the lyrics of the popular Lady Gaga song, “Do What U Want”: “You can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind, but do what you want with my body.” This false, dualistic dichotomy is the malady of the modern age.

— 3 —

Title: The Impossibility of Secular Society
Source: First Things

Advocates of secularism assume they are proposing a novel possibility, which is that moral precepts can be known without any particular revelation by God. Yet this is precisely what Christianity has taught, explicitly since Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and, implicitly, since Jesus himself. This was lost sight of in the modern era, when many Christians defended religion against skeptical and rationalist attacks by arguing that it is necessary for ensuring the moral basis of society. Men without religion, it was argued, could not be trusted to behave in an upright fashion. So advocates of secularism were drawn into the false debate.

Not the article I was expecting, but good from here until the switch to the second argument.

— 4 —

Title: The Limits of Consent
Source: The Public Discourse

The value of consent lies not in the ability to make our own decisions, but in making the right decisions.

Sounds a lot like the difference between license and freedom, now that I think about it. The broader culture demands the former; the Truth lies in the latter.

— 5 —

Title: Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest
Source: The New York Times

As Dr. Kimmel masterfully deflected an outpouring of protests, the atmosphere grew palpably tense. A young man wearing fraternity letters stood up. “What you don’t get right is that girls are into hooking up as much as we are; they come on to us, too,” he said. Dr. Kimmel shook his head, which left the student clearly rattled.

His voice quavering, the young man stammered something unexpected from a frat brother, about how women can be as insensitive and hurtful as guys. He sounded like a victim himself. But afterward, when I asked him if he had reached out to any of his guy friends for advice or solace, he stared at me, incredulous, his irises two small blue islands amid a sea of sclera. “Nah, I’ve got this,” he said.

— 6 —

Title: Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity
Source: The Atlantic

If you scanned the press releases, or drove past the many university buildings, symphony halls, institutes, and stadiums named for their benefactors, or for that matter read the histories of grand giving by the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Stanfords, and Dukes, you would be forgiven for thinking that the story of charity in this country is a story of epic generosity on the part of the American rich.

It is not. One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income.

I think about this whenever I consider parish stewardship. I have a plan for myself, but the reality is that the bystander effect (“someone else will help”) is strong.

— 7 —

Title: How to Beat Loneliness
Source: TED

If you feel socially disconnected, go through your phone and email address books, and your social media contacts, and make a list of people you haven’t seen or spoken to for a while. If you feel emotionally disconnected, make a list of five people you’ve been close to in the past. Reach out to them and suggest getting together and catching up. Yes, it will feel scary to do so, and yes, you will worry about it being awkward or uncomfortable. That is why it is also important to….

Don’t just wallow or complain. Do something about it!


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I read #6 as well and found it really interesting. I was recently listening to the Catching Foxes podcast and one host is a youth minister and he said his hardest youth ministry job has been in a very suburban rich parish vs the lower-class or poor parishes. I believe it. I feel like sometimes those people are so far removed from the poor they just don’t understand how people could get there and why they can’t get out.

So that loneliness post. I found from your pocket feed and added it to my pocket and then pocket emailed me and told me it was the most popular post in pocket this week. Very interesting. I feel lonliness is a big topic nowadays that people LOVE to complain about but don’t like to do anything about it.

    I listen to Catching Foxes, too! The first time I realized how easy it is to become distanced from ways other people see the world was in high school. Some friends of mine had a visiting teacher from Africa give a lesson in their math class. He was guiding them through a problem and said, “In my country, we say ‘substitute’ for this, but here you say ‘plug in’?” They understood the concept of mathematical substitutions, of course. The difference was that, when you live in a country without widely available, reliable electricity, “plug in” is not an idiom you use. That was mind-blowing for me.

    I liked how practical that loneliness article was, too. I hope those tips catch on!

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