Friday Linkage

“Joking around” can be an act of cruelty [Hatrack]

3 Steps to Building a Happy Relationship [Verily]

How to Get People to Like You [Barking Up the Wrong Tree]

The Myth of Following Your Passion [Art of Manliness]

Conversations with Nuns [Harvard Divinity Bulletin]

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Iris Murdoch on love

Love is the very difficult understanding that something other than yourself is real.

Iris Murdoch

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Communion and Community

 “Community can only exist where there is repentance.”

This weekend, Fr. Stephen Freeman of Glory To God For All Things spoke at a one-day retreat in central Indiana. He gave three talks on Communion and community, and how the two support one another. I won’t try to give a summary (especially since I might’ve missed the first talk because I was reading picture books aloud at the breakfast table), but there were a few points that especially spoke to me, that seemed a bit radical in the world we live in.

Often we’re told that when we’re young, especially if we’re single, that the thing to do is to take big risks and strike out on our own, move across the country for that job, to follow our dreams. To let our biggest dream be of workplace success. But Fr. Stephen asked, “What for?” What’s the purpose of taking a job that pays more, but separates us from the people who love and support us? Companies expect employee mobility—they can build businesses wherever they wish and import employees to work there. On average Americans move every 5 years. But that’s for the company’s convenience, not for ours, and it’s worth examining why. It’s worth looking at the cost.

Fr. Stephen told a story about two Christmas eves. One was when he was a child, living in the same small town as both sets of grandparents, 17 aunts and uncles, and countless cousins. That Christmas eve, his father drank too much, and two phone calls were made. One to an aunt to take the kids to their grandparents’ house for the night; one to an uncle, to come sit with Fr. Stephen’s parents until his dad fell asleep. Their network supported them, and they got through it. I assume there was still some work to be done in the future, but they got through it.
Another Christmas eve was more recent, a newlywed couple: she grew up in one state, he grew up in another, they met at college in a third state, and were living in a fourth state. In this new place they had no family, and they had separate sets of friends, coworkers, acquaintances. There was little overlap. That Christmas eve, the man drank too much, and two phone calls were made. One to a hotel, another to a divorce lawyer. There was no network of people who loved them there to hold them up when they needed it most.

“Stability isn’t just two people being stable,” Fr. Stephen said, it requires a network of friends and family. People sixty years ago weren’t any better at being married than people today. The current 50% divorce rate isn’t just because people suddenly suck at being married, or because people were just magically more skillful Back In The Day. We don’t have that net. Fr. Stephen stressed that it’s impossible to recreate the period where tight-knit extended families were common and the whole community knew everybody’s name, and there’s no point in beating ourselves up about that. But it’s okay to make choices that put community ahead of careers.

A lot of young people come to Fr. Stephen and say, “What should I be when I grow up? I don’t know what major I want! What’s my vocation?”
And Fr. Stephen’s response is, “You have a vocation to be like God.” The will of God, in 1 Thess. 5:18, is “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Give thanks.

Communion—ευχαριστια, Eucharist—means thanksgiving. The basis of our culture, though, is consumerism. Get a job, buy stuff, move away from our families to get a better job, to buy more stuff. But what for? What do we need all the stuff for? How much stuff does it take for us to be thankful? He called consumerism anti-thanksgiving; kids don’t get thankful at Christmas, they get greedy. But we were created to give thanks, homo eucharisticus as Fr. Alexander Schmemann put it. It’s the purpose of life.

Being rich, he said, is having enough to give some away. Consumerism consists of buying things in order to not suffer, à la retail therapy. But it doesn’t work for long—the bills come due, or it just gets old. We weren’t created to shop, as useful as stuff can be, because we’re Eucharistic beings. We’re not designed to consume and consume and consume. God created us to give thanks at all times.

Sometimes life feels like hell. Fr. Stephen spoke about car wrecks, cancer, heart attacks, divorce, even the death of a child. Things happen, and they’ll keep happening. “You are going to suffer,” Fr. Stephen said. But on the night Christ was betrayed, He gave thanks as He broke the bread.

Community is built on giving thanks, repentance, and healing. What does God want you to be when you grow up? Grateful.

To hear Fr. Stephen’s talks in their entirety, please click here.

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C.S. Lewis on duty vs. love

A perfect man wd. never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people), like a crutch, which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it’s idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (or own loves, tastes, habits etc) can do the journey on their own!

From C. S. Lewis: Letters to Children

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A beloved prince and a beautiful princess…

It’s wedding season at Laura and Brigid’s church—six weddings in two months, including Laura’s! Yesterday there was a beautiful wedding between a woman who grew up at the parish and a man who was born in India and became Orthodox after falling in love with Elena, her family, and the parish.

Our priest has a beautiful way of reminding us of what True Love means—not twoo wuv, but love grounded in Christ Himself. This is the homily Fr. David gave at the wedding. He said, “With an Indian name that means ‘beloved prince,’ for a guy marrying a girl named for the Queen Mother of Orthodox Byzantium, it was begging for a fairy tale.”


A Story for Sajankumar and Elena

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Friday Linkage

An Apology and an Affirmation [Ruminate]
Angela Doll Carson on bodies, and how she talks to hers.

Awkward: What to Do IRL When You’ve ‘Swiped Left’ [City Lab]
Ah, modern life.

Missing tile syndrome [Prager University]
On how to make yourself unhappy

5 Confessions of a Female ‘Nice Guy’ []
Interesting perspective from the “other side.” Language warning.

A Case for Casual Dating for the Marriage-Minded [Verily]
A compelling point about keeping expectations in check.

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To Love At All

True of many types of love.


Zen Pencils

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Reader Q: Dating and Age Brackets

We periodically get questions about dating and age, specifically about how to handle it when one person’s older than another, what healthy age brackets look like, and what the warning signs are for unhealthy dynamics around age. We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth revisiting.

First of all, it may be more helpful to look at phase of life than at age. What kind of worldview do they have? Do they have kids? How do they spend their free time? What does a typical week look like for your schedule, and for theirs? What does an ideal week look like? Is it compatible with yours? What is their friend group like? What does their normal employment situation look like, and how does it complement or contrast with yours? How’s the power dynamic between you two? Have either of you ever said anything resembling “Well, I used to think that, but when you’re older you’ll see it my way”?
Most differences taken by themselves don’t matter so much; for instance, plenty of healthy couples involve one partner who’s in school, one who has more outdoorsy pastimes than the other, one who already had kids, etc etc. So ultimately, what does your gut instinct tell you?

Five years matters a lot when one person’s 14 and the other is 19, but it doesn’t matter at all if the people are 35 and 39. A 55-year-old’s spouse might be 40 or 70, but I’d be alarmed if one person were 16 and the other were 31. Though that’s the same age difference, it’s a wildly different percentage of life, and that’s bound to affect the relationship.

Sometimes it works out just fine to date/marry someone who’s far older or far younger, and the key difference is generally in the power dynamic. But it can be hard to recognize unhealthy patterns of invalidation, and those are so easy to fall into when one person’s got a few decades worth of extra confidence, skillfulness, and rhetorical skills. And it’s worth remembering that some older people pursue younger partners in a predatory way, specifically because younger people often lack boundaries and don’t trust their own instincts, so it’s easier to have control. Sometimes it’s less predatory and more narcissistic; it’s easy to feel extra-knowledgeable and powerful when you’re hanging out with someone who has half your experience.

A friend of mine pointed out that everyone wants to date twentysomethings: High-schoolers think college kids are so much cooler, and 40-somethings often gravitate towards the same crowd! She said, “It’s the part of life that is validated most by our culture and media. In a lot of ways it’s the only part of life where people are usually portrayed as real people rather than caricature roles in those real people’s lives. People in their 40s are parents, not people, and people under 20 are children, not people. People over 40 are ‘the old’ and once again not people.”

There’s often an assumption that people who’ve remained unmarried longer are somehow less marriageable overall—I even see it in people who themselves have never been married, and the one they’re judging is their own age. It’s silly, really. People don’t lose their value as a potential partner just because they turn 30, or 60. As people age, they gain wisdom and competency and all sorts of good things, and you’ll want someone who can grow with you.

In fact, I want to emphasize that: We have to find partners we can grow with, and who will grow alongside us. It’s not enough to find someone who works right now. If it’s going to actually work over a lifetime, each partner has to be someone who can help the other become their best self—loving, competent, wise, and joyful—and they have to be someone who will always strive to grow in those same key ways. If they’re too immature to grow up or too set in their ways to change…it doesn’t bode well.

Recommended Reading:

Age Ain’t Nothing But A Perfectly-Accurate Representation of How Old You Are [The Toast]

Comments from Men Over 40 to Run Away From [The Toast]

Dodgy Older Dudes Being Dodgy [Captain Awkward]

And this comment from Mary on the latter article, which is a superb response to “But I still feel twentysomething!”

I’m thirty-six in a month’s time, and I also identify with “thirty-SIX? HOW?” feelings. At the same time, nothing makes feel, “…oh yeah, thirty-six” like hanging around with people in their twenties. I have a mortgage! I have been with my partner for ten years! I have friends with teenage kids! I have seen Doc Martens, black tights and ditsy floral dresses come in, go out, and come back in again! I have seen and experienced (and occasionally perpetrated) a wide variety of relationship [bologna] and have No Time For That Nonsense! I tend to consider workplace dilemmas from the perspective of “what should management be doing here?” instead of “oh god my LIFE what am I even DOING”! I regard sleep and exercise and reasonably healthy food as good things that I can do for myself rather than oppressive tools of the conformist system!

I mean, not everyone has the same list, obviously, but if you get to your late thirties and see no difference in experience and knowledge of the world between yourself and a twenty-one-year-old, even a mature and intelligent twenty-one-year-old, what on earth have you been doing with that time? It doesn’t say good things about you.

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Let’s Fix It: The rest of the world is rising with or without the west [LinkedIn]
Did you know the largest per-capita YouTube users are Saudi Arabian women viewing educational videos? I didn’t.

Apple and Facebook’s Eggscellent Adventure [LinkedIn]
Why do they offer egg freezing instead of a healthy work-life balance?

Stories like Passwords [The Hairpin]
Language warning, but the content is important.

SAHM as My Feminist Act [Unschooling]

A Little Online Dating Advice [Begin the Béguinage]

I Hate Strong Female Characters [New Statesman]
“Is Sherlock Holmes strong? It’s not just that the answer is ‘of course’, it’s that it’s the wrong question.”

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Cosmo, 18th Century Edition


via Absinthe & Old Lace

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