Israel Folau: seeing the good

In my latest article at MercatorNet I apply my focus on providence to look for the positive aspects in the case of Israel Folau, a rugby player whose recent sacking for quoting a “homophobic” Bible verse has worried conservatives, Christians, and free-speech advocates in Australia and beyond:

Predicting possible negative outcomes is a learned skill. In fields like journalism and ethics it’s an occupational hazard. We can learn to do the opposite instead, looking for the good in every situation, the good our faith tells us God will inevitably bring out of evil.

What happened to Folau is not exactly something his friends and family would cheer for, but it’s also not an outright evil or pure misfortune.

https://www.mercatornet.com/above/view/the-sacking-of-israel-folau-can-you-see-the-good-in-it/22488

Is ‘Avengers’ America’s Iliad?

My latest article on MercatorNet looks at the whole Infinity Saga as a cinematic form of the epic poem:

The epic genre is defined by loose stylistic and thematic criteria, not all of which translate to film. But the essence of the epic is there:

“it is a long verse narrative on a serious subject, told in a formal and elevated style, and centered on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a tribe, a nation, or (in the instance of John Milton‘s Paradise Lost) the human race”.

Other key characteristics include catalogues of heroes and warriors, vast geographic range and disparate locations, depictions of superhuman and martial feats, extensive descriptions of the hero arming himself, intervention by gods and other supernatural beings, and often a terrifying journey to some form of underworld or land of the dead.

Has Marvel succeeded in creating an epic for our era? And if so, what virtues and values does it represent to us?

https://www.mercatornet.com/popcorn/view/is-avengers-americas-iliad/22463

Aren’t we all a bunch of snowflakes?

My latest article at MercatorNet takes aim at our disdain for those horrible “snowflake” Millennials:

I used to laugh along with derogatory stories about Millennial “snowflakes” who think they deserve special treatment in every walk of life just for being born.

But after a while I began to see it as morbid, like hearing an old man rail against his “useless” offspring, and all you can wonder is whether a good tree produced bad fruit.

Finally I discovered I’m actually a part of the Millennial cohort myself, and if I take off my scratched and dented hand-me-down grey-coloured Gen X glasses then what seems like cringe-worthy sensitivity and emotional weakness among my younger peers begins to look like something very different: authenticity.

Or at least the desire for it.

https://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/arent-we-all-a-bunch-of-snowflakes/22444

The Batman article we deserve

Mercatornet republished my blog post on International Batman Day!

And what a great and immediate example of what I wrote in a recent post:

It’s a bit like writing a draft. Is a draft a failure because it’s not as good as the revision? Of course not.

I remember someone saying that a first draft is really your first best try. It’s creating our first best try that gives rise to our desire for something more perfect, more a match for our desire and intention.

So check out the new and improved version:

Notwithstanding forgettable renditions in the current crop of DC films, and the controversy of Batman killing many people in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Christopher Nolan’s 2005 trilogy set the bar high in our appreciation of the Dark Knight’s story.

In Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan rescues our beloved hero from weak and campy portrayals of the late 90s, a series of films that had itself attempted to rehabilitate Batman’s image from the even more kitsch 60s TV series starring Adam West.

For many though, the gold standard is the early 90s Batman: The Animated Series which is not only regarded by many as the best on-screen portrayal of Batman anywhere, but one of the best animated series full stop.

https://www.mercatornet.com/popcorn/view/happy-international-day-batman/22423

Will comparative religion save the world?

My latest article at MercatorNet expresses my enthusiasm and enjoyment of comparative religion, a subject close to my heart and part of my personal search for meaning for some twenty years:

Even when things seem irreconcilable, like the supposed atheism of Buddhism or a belief in reincarnation, understanding in depth the role these diverging beliefs play in the life of the believer can show the differences are not necessarily the obstacle they may seem.

…to see one’s own religious heritage as part of a universal search, love, and knowing of the divine in our lives gives it context and meaning beyond the narrow scope of how we were raised and the peculiarities of our immediate culture and society.

https://www.mercatornet.com/above/view/will-comparative-religion-save-the-world

 

Thus spake Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson is in Australia, and my editor asked if I could explain the psychology professor’s global appeal:

Jordan Peterson is much more than an impassioned participant in the PC cause célèbre, and those who went looking for more information on the humble professor who sounds not unlike a Canadian Kermit the Frog soon uncovered a wealth of content…

Peterson turned out to be a charismatic and impassioned lecturer drawing upon his expertise in psychology, his ambitious yet idiosyncratic ambit in mythology, literature, religion and philosophy, and undoubtedly his many years of clinical therapeutic work to exhort his students and viewers to take responsibility for the meaning in their own lives.

https://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/thus-spake-jordan-peterson

There’s always more to be said, but I’m particularly glad my Nietzsche and Kermit intuitions bore fruit!

How the internet is driving the fractionalisation of society

In my latest article on Mercatornet I reflect on the growing fractionalisation of society, facilitated and driven by the internet:

In the recent past everyone watched more or less the same TV shows. Now we can enjoy such a diversity of content that kids in the same class at school can effectively inhabit different planets of entertainment, just as their parents inhabit different worlds of news and online opinion.

There are still many points of convergence, but the option to not watch Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey or the latest from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is more viable than ever.

Linear TV focused our attention on a limited range of options, just like the two-party political system effectively concentrates genuinely diverse political views on a near-binary set of options.

The rise of the internet means that people can now air their diverse political views, whether it be weird and wonderful theories or simply the degree of personal support or opposition for a candidate.

And it’s not just a process of “airing” what is already there. Exposure to diverse opinions engenders greater diversification. We change, reflect upon, amend and consolidate our opinions as we realise how and why other people agree or disagree.

https://www.mercatornet.com/features/view/often-in-error-never-in-doubt-how-the-internet-is-driving-the-fractionalisa/21802

Bad Cholerics in the Catholic hierarchy

Inspired by the McCarrick scandal, my latest article at MercatorNet shows how we can use the Four Temperaments theory to help spot the “wolves in sheep’s clothing”:

We can’t know without evidence whether someone is deceitful, hypocritical or malicious. But bad Cholerics also know that we can’t know, and exploit our uncertainty with cunning and duplicity.

A bad Choleric knows how to exploit other people’s values and beliefs as well. They know how to tailor their message to a specific audience for maximum impact.

If we understand how Cholerics function, it’s easier to pick the difference between the good ones and the bad ones. The faults of bad Cholerics become clearer up close, and in retrospect they are obvious, but without understanding the Choleric temperament we’re more liable to accept excuses and discount faults.

https://www.mercatornet.com/above/view/can-we-spot-the-wolves-in-sheeps-clothing/21687

Is it time to consider the lily?

My latest piece at MercatorNet is part 2 of my parenting tips from a low-energy father. Therein I advise we draw on providence and find ways to be happy, for the benefit of ourselves and our children:

Parenting doesn’t end at getting things done. Parents aren’t machines. We model not only our behaviours and skills to our children, but our entire worldview and the moods and personality traits that accompany it.

We can, in a sense, “do everything right” but still inhabit a joyless existence, and our children are powerfully susceptible to the long-term influence of our attitude to life.

That’s why good communication is not enough, and why – for my own sake, and for the sake of my children – I set out learning how to change how I feel.

https://www.mercatornet.com/family_edge/view/is-it-time-to-consider-the-lily/21652

Parenting advice from a low-energy father

In my latest at article at MercatorNet I share the merits of assertive communication in raising kids:

instead of using aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviours to coerce others into doing what you want, you can learn to literally assert your needs and wants, thoughts and feelings to others, with the implication that merely communicating your own inner world is the first and most important step in interacting with others.

In other words, relationships are ideally not power struggles of passive or outright coercion, manipulation and resentment. How novel!

Learning to communicate well is important because other people don’t necessarily understand what we want, think, or feel (even though it’s obvious, right?), and many of us are blinded to good communication by an expectation of conflict in our relationships.

But in an ideal world we could all learn to be open and clear about what we want, think, and feel, and let others decide how they think, feel, and want in response to that.

https://www.mercatornet.com/family_edge/view/3-parenting-tips-from-a-low-energy-father/21616