Some religious navelgazing fr yr considration

This article about young women who choose to become nuns is a whole lot, my pals. It notes that these women are specifically looking not for, like, a fun cool liberal order tied to the secular modern world but the really dogmatically strict, conservative hardline ones that demand the most obedience and sacrifice.

And before the author gets to some thoughts on why, I’m like oh yeah, no, I see why this would be appealing–it’s an escape from how precarious, terrifying, and lonely life in a hypercapitalist world that values individualism and is heading for increasingly certain environmental destruction is. It provides a sense of actual fulfillment, of finding meaning to your life, that we’re told to find from going to work and serving our bosses, or as conscientious consumers on the market.

“Nothing is ever enough,” Dubay writes of how it feels to live in the modern world. You are expected to give yourselves entirely, 24/7, without wavering, to careers, to hobbies, to lovers, to children. Ideally, you are supposed to spend zero time not loving your job in a dying industry or your husband who fails to absorb the concept of emotional labor. But this is impossible.


And yet, Dubay explains, there is one being who reliably rewards our efforts: Christ. The woman who loves Him, the religious sister, has a calling worthy of her complete devotion and that honors her sacrifices “many times over,” as the Book of Luke says. She has found her “passion.” She has “rest,” “fulfillment,” “enthrallment,” “completion”—precisely the things that I, exhausted, have often wanted.”

And of course it’s not enough to just exist as a religiously-observant person in the modern, secular world; that doesn’t address the root of the problem. And presenting religious life as having this very cool ‘n’ hip vibe is a) something the youth are pretty solidly able to identify as insulting pandering, as a hollow sales pitch from growing up hyperaware of being constantly advertised to, and b) hits at neither the nihilist absurdism nor the straightforward sincerity that is more in line with what they’re more receptive to. Like, whom among us with our cynical irony-poisoned brains cares that priests are also gamers in these dark and trying times?

This part covers the appeal of going back to Simpler Times when Catholicism was comfortably terrifying better than I’m explaining here; it describes a teacher’s reaction to seeing a strict, traditional priest speak to his class about the religious life–

The more Olon thought about his students’ enthusiastic response to the hardcore priest, the more it made sense to him. Millennials and Generation Z kids report much higher levels of social anxiety, pessimism and depression than previous generations. He’d seen it firsthand in his own classroom. “When I ask kids what they want to do in their lives, they’ll say, ‘I guess I’ll get a job,’” Olon told me. They would explain that they had already done everything. They had destroyed worlds, fallen in love, built communities, made art. Then he’d realize that they meant they’d done this all online.


In real life, they were much more fearful. Everything they said—every youthful, experimental pose they struck—became a part of their permanent record on social media. The stakes seemed so high for even tiny choices. Sometimes, after class, they would ask him mournful questions like, “What have I ever really done that has any depth?” They reminded him of people having midlife crises. Yet Olon noticed that the more cornered they seemed, the more pressured they felt to do something truly wholehearted and unique. To be like Steve Jobs and take a huge risk that changed the whole world. Hemmed in on all sides, they also yearned for a tabula rasa, to tear everything down and start over from scratch.”

Anyway I have absolutely thought about becoming a nun because I hated the thought of doing any career, had absolutely no direction in life I felt would be worthwhile to pursue, and realized that all I wanted was to fill my time with hobbies and occasional socializing just to fill this meaningless void with pleasurable distractions that ultimately didn’t matter. Oh and that I needed some kind of assurance that I won’t die alone and neglected because I’m not capable of forming the emotional and physical connections that other people look for in a relationship so uh better see what other options are out there. And I still feel like that, on all accounts! It sucks! And basically everything in this article about how strict obedience in the name of a higher power, in a community of similarly-minded people who become your family, hits home incredibly hard. I’ve even already been raised to believe the inflexibly conservative strain of Catholicism, like really it’s all right there.

…but also actually being… some amount of religious is what guarantees I would never actually go through with this? Because I do think that it has to be a calling, not a self-interested escape, and it’s deeply offensive to use religious life as an out because I’m too lazy to get a job and too socially incompetent to interact with people. Like, the article does touch on what some of these women thought about why or if they felt some calling from God to become nuns and, understandably, it’s an incredibly nebulous point–what is a calling from God? How do you know you’re having one? But like, if you’re bullshitting it, you know.

(Also ahaha I uh am also not on board with a lot of the conservative religious doctrine that, while it doesn’t affect me, is still something I’m not able to make myself sign on to in exchange for a workaround for capitalism.)

I guess what I am saying is that uh if you have heard God’s calling to join the religious life, go do that, I support it, I do not support the twee Catholic Twitter nonsense of “to all my lovely followers, remember that abortion is a sin uwu~ ” but if you hear the calling of “I hate my job and need to talk to people” idk pal, do some political or charitable work and get some therapy, maybe you’ll still go to hell but in the meantime we all have to live in this hyperbolic hell we call earth together ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Real political hours here tonight

I read Plutopia, about semi-secret towns built around nuclear plants during the Cold War nuclear arms race era, a while back and I still think about how it describes the people living in the town as being these very staunch anti-communist, patriotic Americans who, you know, are 1950s middle-class suburbanites working effectively for the government so they’re very much against government handouts or interference, because that’s what the Soviets do, but their entire existence is literally at the whim of the government choosing to have this nuclear program, the government owned their houses that they had to rent (and, actually, they were super against a proposal to buy their houses from the government, because they knew that once the nuclear program was shut down, they were screwed, so they preferred this arrangement to ~real American homeownership), their local government was basically controlled by reps from the private companies the government contracted with for making nuclear weapons, their local newspaper was also created by company reps, etc. Like. We truly do contain multitudes.

And this reminds me of a comment I heard about how the modern suburbs are a space very much shaped by government involvement in people’s lives, very much deliberately created by government intervention, but are full of people who ascribe to a hands-off “freedom-from” view of freedom, where the government doesn’t interfere in your life. I truly don’t know what my take-away from this is, like, sure, people are hypocrites sometimes, wild takes here, but it sure is a type.

Recc Roundup 07/22/19-07/28/19

  • Reading (book): Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, by Kate Brown
    • A book comparing the history of two towns that arose around nuclear plants during the Cold War nuclear arms race, one American and one Russian. Get ready to hear about how a whole bunch of people got horrible radiation poisoning!
    • (No seriously, it’s, uh, really just a spectrum from incompetence on one end to human experimentation and general callousness on the other.)
    • Also the mindset of people who lived in these towns and were aware they were under constant government watch, constant threat of danger, constant risk of horrible illness or death, but still like defensive of or grateful for what they had is wild, and the comparison of the American and Russian mindsets in particular is some good shit.
    • Also the way the American residents dealt with the cognitive dissonance of being good, patriotic, commie-hating Americans with that conservative we-support-the-military-industrial-complex-that-sustains-us mindset, while living under government (or government contractor proxy) control, with curtailed freedom of press, assembly, self-governance, etc, their whole living situation subsidized by the government, etc.
  • Reading (article): Psychic Healing at the End of History, by Hannah Gais, (The Baffler, April 10, 2019)
    • This article on the popularity of psychics presented on state TV as a salve and alternate explanation for the crisis of communist collapse and capitalist shock after the fall of the Soviet Union is my gender, my sexuality, my Mood, and my Patronus.
  • Watching: Rhythmic gymnastics instagram is a thing I’m now fascinated by, also while it’s deeply impressive, I am solidly willing to assume that all of these kids need help because this cannot be a sport that fosters good physical and mental health and I’m worried about all of these very bendy girls.
  • Listening: I’m just gonna keep this all very Russia-and-Russia-adjacent themed in this here post because there’s some powerful aesthetic here that I’m vibing with–

It’s suffering time again

This is from an article about mental health apps and how mental illness is kept individualized, masking the societal factors that contribute to depression and stress with twee marketing and self-improvement solutions and I’m just gonna post a bunch of quotes because this truly captures the basis of if not every, then the vast majority of every instance of failing mental health I have ever experienced.

And it hits at why I get really frustrated when I engage in that casual and frequent acceptance that I just can’t do some basic thing because I’m so mentally wrecked from work–I can’t have any part of my life that my job, and a capitalist society more broadly, haven’t claimed from me–and it’s entirely beyond my control because my problem really is entirely caused by external, social factors that aren’t changing any time soon. There’s really nothing I can do–changing jobs in no way solves this problem–except start believing that it’s something wrong with me, and I should get over myself and go see a therapist like everyone else (or, you know, use one of these apps, as I am very much about to not have health insurance lol.) And this way of thinking about stress, burnout, depression, what have you, is just not the accepted framing, and I sound absolutely insufferable over here like “um excuse me, I’m not the one who is sick, oh ho ho, it is society who is sick, my comrade.”

Anyway, here’s someone talking about this far better than I:

We frequently speak of mental illness as “stigmatized,” but at least in young, urban, middle-class segments of American society, this no longer seems to be the case. Existential dread is now one among many inconveniences that you might as well digitally outsource, but the fact that we can now find an app for curing depression is just one symptom of a larger shift in the discourse around mental illness. The same consumerist culture that once shunned mention of depression now also seeks to cannibalize its language for use in advertising and media.

A ubiquitous truism about marketing holds that advertisements sell us a better and more beautiful version of ourselves—if you smoke Virginia Slims, you will be skinny; if you take Cialis, you will be able to play catch with your son—but increasingly advertising seems to appeal to a vision of well-off millennials as lazy, depressed homebodies, prone to ordering food online every night and binging Netflix for eight hours at a time. You order delivery from the restaurant across the street not because you’re awesome or want to be awesome, but precisely because you’re not, these ads tell us, and that’s just fine. If the end goal of Instagram and Candy Crush was always to numb us into contentment, isn’t it easier just to come out and say we will take away your pain

[A]s one meme has it, “we live in a society”: one that requires many of us to work inhumane hours without fair compensation or medical care; one that in the sparse gaps between those working hours bombards us with junk food, mass culture, demonstrably addictive social media, and the vague promise of incremental political reform; and one that, meanwhile, listens to our phone conversations, tracks our most minute movements, and recommends us purchase after purchase based on what we Google while on a bathroom breaks.

The formalism of clinical psychology, [clinical psychologist and philosopher David Smail] writes, leads too many people to view their well-being as a matter of medical diagnosis rather than as the result of externally imposed conditions—chief among them “the machinery of global capitalism,” which “has enormous effects on vast numbers of people in the world who are themselves in no position to see into its operation.”

[T]he navel-gazing recommended by apps like these has the potential to entice us away from larger questions about the structural forces that generate a great deal of our suffering. Similarly misleading is our recent societal tendency to see depression as a kind of cultural common denominator, the most “relatable” of all memes.

I Feel Better Now, by Jake Bittle for The Baffler, July 11, 2019

Recc Roundup 07/08/19-07/14/19

  • Reading (books)
    • American Advertising Cookbooks: How Corporations Taught Us to Love Bananas, Spam, and Jell-O, by Christina Ward
      • If you are into the weird terrifying things that were considered recipes back when jello molds and mayonnaise were going to win the Cold War (examples here) this is a fascinating book of photos from said advertising cookbooks (so, not just recipes, but recipes using specific products being advertised through the cookbook) with some historical context blurbs that I really could have used more of.
    • How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, by Daniel Immerwahr
      • About America’s imperialist history, as stated. Also full of cutesy little asides about like, “And because of America doing x, a young boy who would grow up to be [historical figure of some note] did y… wow everything is connected.” That’s fun.
  • Reading (articles) – Not gonna lie, this is mostly going to be comprised of Longreads picks but here you go:
    • How the All-American Motel Became a Last Resort for the Country’s Most Vulnerable, by Andrew Fiouzi (MEL Magazine; July 2019)
      • It’s basically what you think it is–millennials like the aesthetic but don’t actually go there (I mean. Not wrong, in my personal experience of myself), other people are pushed there due to housing scarcity, domestic violence, the precarious position of sex workers, etc.
    • The Nonprofit Hospital That Makes Millions, Owns a Collection Agency and Relentlessly Sues the Poor, by Wendi C. Thomas (ProPublica; June 27, 2019)
      • Our healthcare system… it’s not great!
      • Ok but actually the whole part about the debt collection/legal system side of it is a great followup to me ranting about my job to you, the reader, of this blog, who I am sure I have done this to as there is a 0% chance someone reading these words has not heard me go off about how much I hate debt court.
    • The No. 1 LadiesDefrauding Agency, by Rose Eveleth (Longreads; July 2019)
      • Women invented the Ponzi Scheme in the 1800s, financial scams are a feminist act, girl power~
      • (No but actually it’s a fun read for people who are riding that wave of scammer tales.)
  • Listening
    • The Red Wall Podcast – In their own description, it’s “[y]our best and only leftist podcast for Brian Jacques’s “Redwall” series” and that’s going to either be incredibly your jam or it’s not but here you go.
  • Watching
    • …it’s really mostly still reality TV that I’m not recommending you poison your brain with, folks, don’t do it, it’s real bad.
  • Errata – Apparently the Trader Joe’s ube ice cream I recommended in my last post is facing shortages and won’t be back until the end of July and let me tell you, I am deep in the TJ’s fandom now, my friends, in that a) I managed to catch it before it sold out and b) I know this information. Send a fucking intervention now.

A tarot spread for quitting my job

I’m giving my 3-weeks (an extra week because I’m polite and also want to announce to the world I am quitting and cannot contain myself any longer) notice tomorrow and am tackling that anxiety with some good old-fashioned woojoo here we go. A 5-card spread for making tough choices:

  1. Your Motivation: Seven of Wands, inverted
    • “Reversed, this card suggests embarrassment, anxiety, or an inability to stand up for oneself.”*
    • I mean, generally yeah, I’m pretty strongly motivated by shame and also am a passive person who can’t stand up for myself until I get to the point where I’m crying and acting irrational and like, that’s not some effective self-advocacy. I do regularly feel pushed to do things that I consider embarrassing in my job, usually in how I am forced to talk to opposing counsel. And I’ve been worried that I’m quitting not just law but my job entirely because I can’t toughen up and deal with that. So, you know, we’re off to a roaring start on the “I am making a terrible mistake” path here.
  2. Ideal Outcome: Three of Wands
    • “[T]his card encourages us to exercise [foresight] with an open mind. We must consider the many routes we may take and plan accordingly, and in doing so, we will benefit.”
    • Cool, so, the ideal outcome is that I quit my job with an actual path in place for a) what I want to do instead of law, and b) how to get there. I have neither. I have no hopes and dreams and aspirations, careerwise, and having any foresight or planning as I go into this is definitely the ideal outcome.
    • So the takeaway I get here is… yeah, I wish I knew what my plan was but I am too passive and unambitious to have one, and I pretend that it’s because I am hip to the capitalist scam of “you have to love your job so you don’t question your own oppression” but no, I mean, that is also true, but also also it is true that I am an unmotivated, indecisive hack.
    • I have. No idea how to get to my ideal outcome. But it can’t just happen. I’ll never stumble upon what I want to do and a plan to get there. Fuck.
  3. Your Values: Ace of Rings, inverted
    • “Reversed, this card can imply a fixation on the material world, anxiety, and greed.”
    • I have been talking a whole lot about how I think my ostensibly consumer-rights law firm is actually just preying on poor people by taking their money and promising to get them out of debt that we cannot get them out of, because the law is stacked against them and they have no defenses, and the affirmative cases we take are embarrassingly weak because again, the law is not on our side here, and the firm is ultimately about making money off these desperate people while promising them the world, but.
    • …actually I think that is something I have convinced myself is true so that I feel justified for leaving, and delude myself into thinking it’s not out of laziness and a fragile constitution.
    • So this… suggests that my values are not as strong as the fake case I’ve made for myself makes them out to be, and the real reason I am leaving is what I said in point 3 here. Cool cool. Doing real great here.
  4. Option 1 Likely Outcome: Ten of Rings
    • Option 1 is “I quit.”
    • “This card symbolizes juggling family affairs and financial matters, as well as desire for tradition and affluence.”
    • Uh huh. So like. I’ve also been saying that I can’t quit because I will be a greedy selfish drain on my family and also I will not have any money, which are things I would strongly prefer to avoid. So that is indeed the likely outcome of quitting, as I suspected.
  5. Option 2 Likely Outcome: Three of Rings, inverted
    • Option 2 is “I stay.”
    • “Reversed, it can represent weakness in work or team situations, incompetence, and an inability to delegate.”
    • I despise the other lawyers I work with, on the whole, and I am in fact actively getting dumber working here, as they will not train me and just push me to do so much work I can’t learn, and keep making mistakes.
    • So yeah this checks out, thank you stars and mystical forces.

In conclusion:
– I need to shuffle better, damn.
– This confirmed what I suspected and feared, without offering me any insight.
– Other than the fact that I know I’m gonna quit anyway, so I guess the real witchcraft was the impulsive, ill-advised decisionmaking we made along the way?
– Anyway, see you at your place once I’m destitute and desperate. Spare a few stale breadcrusts and slightly spoiled fruit my way if you can, because I’m quitting my job tomorrow!

*Descriptions taken from the Marigold Tarot guide, as that is the deck I’m using.

Recc Roundup 06/23/19-06/30/19

  • Reading (books): The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth, by Josh Levin
    • About the woman behind Reagan’s “welfare queen” anecdote. I figured it would be like “this was mostly a bunch of racist, classist fearmongering and she was more a victim of a culture that primed people to view any poor person who doesn’t know their place as an amoral criminal than anything else”
    • But actually it was more “no she actually has killed and kidnapped on more than one occasion, she’s truly not great, but this is still a story about how there’s definitely a reason that her most egregious crime was the welfare fraud and not the ones where her victims were poor black people.”
    • So yeah the book is good at keeping a grounding of sympathy towards someone who had a real upsetting upbringing, but who definitely did some inexcusable things, and keeping the focus of Who’s the Real Bad Guy Here firmly on the real monster, Reagan.
    • (No but actually, it’s the aforementioned racism and hatred of poor people.)
    • Also. It was real easy to do crime before the rise of the big-data surveillance state, huh?
  • Reading (articles): The I in We, by Reeves Wiedeman (NY Mag; June 10, 2019)
    • A profile of the WeWork CEO. On the other end of the spectrum of scammers from my book recc, here is someone who is truly an antisocial menace to society who will never face any consequences for his actions, at least not until what I’m sure will only be a temporary setback after WeWork tanks.
    • On the topic of other spectrums he exists on the opposite end of, he is the anti-Marianne-Williamson, as our new meme queen is a loveable, probably-well-intentioned dolt of a spiritual new-agey capitalist, while WeWork Guy is an earthshatteringly detestable ghoul of a spiritual new-agey capitalist.
    • If walking past one of the many WeWorks in your city doesn’t already give you a grim sense of despair, just wait until you read this.
  • Watching: Not gonna lie, it’s The Bachelorette, So You Think You Can Dance, and (catching up on, I know it’s over) Project Runway season, that’s where I’m at.
  • Listening: I dipped back into reading some Mark Fisher and am going hard on the Sounds of Hauntology lately, here’s a good one:
  • Snacking: Look, there’s a new novelty Oreo out, so obviously I’ve already gone through a pack–yes, it’s just the standard chocolate cookie with a nigh-indistinguishable-from-the-default-flavor marshmallow creme, except it’s purple, but they pull this “same cookie but dyed creme” shit every single holiday season and this one is just slightly tweaked enough to pique my interest.
    • …no but they are for all intents and purposes the same; don’t let that truthbomb stop you from sensing a slight difference because you were convinced it was there. I feel you. Part of me is walking that path with you this very moment. It does taste more purple.
    • Also on the topic of novelty purple foods, Trader Joe’s has an ube ice cream and it’s the good shit, which also should be turned into a creme for their own sandwiched cookie treats; don’t think I didn’t notice we skipped Matcha Joe-Joes this year…

Astrology Bullshit Corner

I dip in and out of believing in this way too much for my moderately religious liking but it’s that time again! I bought some incense and am all set to add that extra -k on the end of “magic.”

Just checking out the ol’ Cafe Astrology natal chart and here’s the top 5 “sorry mom, sorry God, this is clearly objectively real” zingers:

  • (Sun in Leo) “They are the first to blame themselves when something goes wrong. Once again, it’s the Leonine self-importance at work, and this characteristic works in unexpected ways. Instead of being the conceited, self-absorbed show-offs of reputation, they are usually very self-aware, self-conscious, and, yes, even humble.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “You may acquiesce to others a little too often, if only to maintain a feeling of balance and harmony, as conflict is something you not only dislike, you might fear it.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “When things are going well, you suffer from fears that something will come along to change that.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “At times, you can be intensely dissatisfied with your personal accomplishments and expressions of self. You put a lot of pressure on yourself regarding your own endeavors. You can be quite dissatisfied with your creative self-expressions, and want to hide your expressions from others until you feel the output is “right”.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “[Y]ou can be intensely fearful of, or threatened by, change. This can express itself through attempts to control your life in such a way that you can manage your fears of being taken off guard.”

And to for balance, top 5 “this is clearly a perversion of both faith and science, wow the planets really got that one wrong” bits:

  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “She is balanced, at ease with herself and usually gets on very well with her parents or guardians.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “You are likely personally popular, mainly because you expect harmony in your relationships. You are attractive to most people, and your self-confidence and security make you easy to deal with on many levels.”
  • (Mercury in Leo) “You are an excellent conversationalist and can fascinate your partners with your sharp mind. You love to debate issues just for the mental exercise, even if you don’t feel strongly about the position you argue!”
  • (Venus in Virgo) “She has a good grasp of reality and of duty. She is thrifty, reserved and usually not given to showing off.”
  • (Mars in Leo) “This is one of the more sexual positions of Mars. While they are rather easy to arouse, their passion is long-standing.”

Review: LaCroix Coffea Exotica

• LaCroix: very good
• Coffee: quite pleasant
• Soda: delightful
• LaCroix with notes of Sumatran coffee and exotic soda: as a species we are blessed with curious minds and wild dreams, and have harnessed the forces of nature in order to manifest those dreams into the world

…it’s fine, it tastes like the watered-down coffee I always end up making when I try to prove to myself that one of those pour-over dripper cups and a manual bean grinder were good investments I am capable of using, but also carbonated, but also with a faint whisper of soda for an added feel of whimsy.

It’s got a bitter aftertaste because it’s a mature, adult sparkling beverage and abysmal can design because it’s an incoherent mess of a drink. I’ll finish the box and then unquestionably buy the other new novelty flavors because I choose to go through life embracing the call to adventure and facing the unknown with an open mind and generous wallet.