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Matt Bieber
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Matt Bieber is a freelance writer in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He writes about obsessions, personal and political, at thewheatandchaff.com.

Entries by Matt Bieber

Stories in Development

(0) Comments | Posted March 10, 2014 | 12:20 AM

Charley Johnson and I met as classmates at Harvard Kennedy School in 2009. At that time, we both believed that we were obligated to live lives of 'public service.' Like many of our classmates, though, we had very little idea what that meant; the feeling of obligation came first, and...

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Facing Off on Rawls, Public Reason, and Whether Political Discourse is Improving: A Conversation With Eric Miller

(0) Comments | Posted March 5, 2014 | 8:20 AM

Eric Miller and I have been debating religion and politics since middle school. Today, he's a writer and professor at Bloomsburg University, while I'm still shooting NERF arrows at his head. Obviously, it was time to take our show on the road.

Eric Miller: In your view, does...

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Everyone Comes to Meditation Practice for the Wrong Reason: A Conversation with Psychoanalyst Barry Magid

(0) Comments | Posted March 4, 2014 | 11:46 AM

Barry Magid is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst practicing in New York City, and the founding teacher of the Ordinary Mind Zendo, also in New York. He is the author of Ordinary Mind and Ending the Pursuit of Happiness. His newest book is entitled Nothing is Hidden: The Psychology of Zen...

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We Don't Need Debates; We Need Conversations

(0) Comments | Posted February 11, 2014 | 11:40 AM

Josh Weinstein thinks about rhetoric and argumentation with more nuance and subtlety than anyone I know. At the moment, he's developing Argmaps, a web-based platform for structured inquiry into really hard questions. In the conversation that follows, we talk about why contemporary political debate so rarely solves...

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The Obsessive-Compulsive Style in American Politics

(0) Comments | Posted January 30, 2014 | 7:06 PM

The contemporary Tibetan meditation teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche frequently described how we depend on our anxieties, fixations, and worries. However painful they may be, he suggested, they also serve as occupations -- ways to stay busy, to keep moving, to avoid acknowledging some of the deeper existential truths about our...

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Life in a Glass Cage: An Extended Metaphor for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

(0) Comments | Posted January 27, 2014 | 10:20 AM

Imagine you live in a glass box just slightly larger than your body. It is shaped such that you can neither sit nor stand.

Through the glass, you see the world going to and fro. It looks very inviting, and you think, If only I could crack the glass, I'd...

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Intimate Politics: The Personal and Political Revisited (An Interview With Harvard's Tim McCarthy)

(0) Comments | Posted January 22, 2014 | 3:39 PM

Timothy Patrick McCarthy is a Lecturer on History and Literature, Adjunct Lecturer on Public Policy, and director of the Sexuality, Gender, and Human Rights Program at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. His most recent book is The Indispensable Zinn: The Essential Writings of...

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Doctor Without Borders: A Bizarre First Brush With Psychiatry

(0) Comments | Posted January 16, 2014 | 12:44 PM

Awaiting my first appointment with a psychiatrist, I look down and notice a brochure. "There is no such thing as mental illness anymore," it reads. "There are only physical illnesses of the brain."

Anymore? I wonder. The brochure suggests that mental illnesses were once real, but no longer --...

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OCD and the Art of Motorbike Maintenance

(0) Comments | Posted January 13, 2014 | 10:00 AM

When I came home from my first stint living in Vietnam, people frequently asked me what my favorite thing about the experience had been.

"Motorbikes," I would say.

It felt a little silly -- thin, even superficial. Five months in a (nominally) Communist country with 1000+ years of fascinating history...

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America Isn't the Greatest Country on Earth -- And That's Just Fine

(1) Comments | Posted January 5, 2014 | 3:26 PM

Our politicians are fond of telling us that America is the greatest country that's ever existed. And with elections coming up this year, we can expect to hear it even more.

Can we be honest for a second? It's an obnoxious thing to say. How would...

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Diary of a Student Teacher: Quitting, Continued

(1) Comments | Posted January 1, 2014 | 3:04 AM

Most of my friends hated my last blog post.

They thought that I was calling into question the value of practical knowledge, even condemning our whole school system. (No! My parents are teachers, and I have great respect for what they do.)

"It's funny," I said. "I don't...

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Diary of a Student Teacher: Why I Quit

(6) Comments | Posted December 31, 2013 | 2:07 PM

"What do you want them to learn?"

My mentor teachers and I were discussing the upcoming social studies lesson that I was to lead. The lesson would mark the beginning of our unit on Greek mythology, and I had free reign: I could teach the kids whatever I wanted.

For...

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A Manifesto for Working Less (If Only I Could Afford It)

(5) Comments | Posted December 6, 2013 | 7:11 AM

Just watched this conversation between Clay Shirky and Jonathan Franzen. For me, the most compelling moments were Franzen's comments about the pressures that aspiring writers feel to self-promote, to spend time amassing followers and retweets instead of devoting themselves to the hard self-mining that yields the foundations of good...

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Economic Growth as a Form of Moral Evasion

(3) Comments | Posted November 11, 2013 | 11:01 AM

Many observers have pointed out the incoherence of 'growth' as a perpetual economic goal. They're right, of course; on a finite planet, growth has to end sometime.

The question then becomes, why the persistence of such nonsense? Perhaps because the "rising tide lifts all boats" logic makes it easy to...

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OCD: A Way of Distracting Myself From Something Even Scarier?

(0) Comments | Posted October 24, 2013 | 11:24 PM

Buddhism makes much of the ceaseless stream of thoughts and feelings that course through our minds. I can certainly identify, but there are times when it feels like the stream dries up, when I'm occupied by just a single thought for long periods. The thought itself can fluctuate, but it's...

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Diary of a Student Teacher: Why Do We Care So Much About Having Opinions?

(8) Comments | Posted October 14, 2013 | 4:11 PM

Teaching is like being a human Occam's razor. "Why do you think that?" we ask. "How did you get there?" We don't necessarily have answers to all of the questions we're exploring, but -- at least some of the time -- we gently insist that students not just make...

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Diary of a Student Teacher: Breakups, Compassion, and Dogfighting

(0) Comments | Posted October 8, 2013 | 6:41 AM

As she was breaking up with me, a woman once told me she loved me.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I know you."

In the moment, that felt like the worst reason I could imagine. I wanted it to be about some singular quality I had, some special niche in my...

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Diary of a Student Teacher: August and September

(0) Comments | Posted October 7, 2013 | 3:27 PM

Friday, August 23

There are no American flags in the classrooms here.

Like many absences, it took me a while to notice. When I finally did, I was doubly struck, because this private school sits on what was once an Air Force base. Barracks and officers' quarters are now classrooms...

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Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars and the Cost of Us-Them Thinking

(4) Comments | Posted August 5, 2013 | 10:55 AM

I just saw Jeremy Scahill's documentary Dirty Wars, and it got me thinking about the phrase "American lives." You hear it from politicians all the time: it's the thing they're going to protect, the thing that motivates the policies they're going to adopt or the actions they've already...

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The First Few Chapters of a Life With OCD

(6) Comments | Posted July 1, 2013 | 11:01 AM

When I was 18, I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Since then, I've occasionally considered writing about my experiences, but I've tended not to trust my motives. Writing about my experiences, I thought, would be a way to redeem them, to justify an early adulthood that hadn't measured up...

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