The Relentless Picnic: Ep. 27, “The Wreckage”

I don’t really know how to explain my enthusiasm for the Relentless Picnic podcast for those who aren’t already fans. Maybe you would only get it if, like me and like the co-hosts, you went to St. John’s College in the early to mid-aughts? But their audience is much bigger than that. Maybe if you’re looking for profane leftist podcasts like Chapo Trap House? But they’ve evolved way beyond that genre.

I guess the simplest way I could put it is that it’s a stylized presentation of the kind of conversations we wish we could have more often, or at all. Ones that are smart and searching, that engage us fully as human beings, in all their genius and grossness.

The reasons I’m posting this episode here is twofold. First, while the ostensible subject of the episode is the mystery of relationships and coming to terms with how they end or erode, the part where the guys delve into moving past the end of a relationship—to “manage your present, mortgaged against your past, to try and build a fucking future”—provided a lot of insight into how one journeys from brokenness to wholeness. And that’s the meat of any spirituality worth its salt; I don’t think it’s an accident that AA, one of the more successful religions to have been created in the 20th century, is brought up here.

Second, as we continue to reap the rotten fruits of toxic masculinity, there’s been a lot of flailing around for some model for a healthy masculinity that we can teach to boys and young men. (See, for example, Michael Ian Black in the New York Times or Jay Baron Nicorvo in the Baffler.) You could do worse than to listen to this episode (or this episode, which may be an even better introduction to the podcast) to hear what this supposed healthy masculinity might sound like.