By Andrew Solomon. A more appropriate title would’ve been “The Many Shapes Of Love”. The most challenging thing I’ve read in a long time. Socially and intellectually. This multimedia version from Solomon’s website will save you from googling the main characters.
1. Viewing. American Insurrection. Dear righty friends who have made up your mind that political violence is the fault of radical lefties, in the interest of “equal time”, which counter-documentary do you want me to watch?
2. How the Super League fell apart. It’s too bad Europeans don’t take their football more seriously.
5. In the wake of George Floyd, private schools brought in diversity consultants. Outrage ensued. Mark it up because if you sign up for my Multicultural Education course this fall, you’ll have to re-read it.
It’s time for us to pivot from an abundance of caution to an abundance of risk.*
Sure, we should keep being smart about social distancing and wearing masks indoors, and of course getting jabbed; otherwise though, it’s time we start affirming that living life in close relationship with others entails risk.
To be in relationship with others is to embrace a much wider range of emotions, including positive ones like acceptance, tranquility, and love, and negative ones like anger, sadness, despair, and grief.
Kaitlin Ruby Brinkerhoff met Ian McCann, a Canadian, on a mountain biking trip in her Utah hometown. They then maintained a challenging cross-border relationship through the pandemic. Here’s their story. I dig their story because they embody the “abundance of risk” mindset we need to reclaim.
Of course, one can pivot to an abundance of risk in many ways. Romantic love isn’t the only avenue, we can form friendships by planting gardens together, by moving outdoors together, by doing all kinds of community service with one another.
Here’s the start of the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes:
“For everything there is a season, A time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.”
Consider, if you will, this is a time to risk.
*Admittedly, this does not apply to the frontline workers, especially our health care providers, who have been taking on lots of risk on our behalf for over a year.
Or stupendous and sixty? Or sublime and seventy? Or extraordinary and eighty?
If so, I highly recommend two essays.
Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think by Arthur C. Brooks.
- How to Practice by Ann Patchett.
Both beautifully nudge the reader to contemplate the end-of-life. Patchett’s piece is the single best thing I’ve ever read on decluttering as an intentional act of preparing to die. If you think you might die someday, forget Marie Kondo, just sink deeply into Patchett’s story.
Patchett had me from the jump when she described the stages of life as “. . . youth, middle age, and . . . the downhill slalom.”
Ski on dear reader and read on.
Beth Moore, “one of the most prominent white evangelical women in the United States” is breaking with the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Moore cites the ‘staggering’ disorientation of seeing its leaders support Mr. Trump, and the cultural and spiritual fallout from that support.
‘There comes a time when you have to say, this is not who I am. I am still a Baptist, but I can no longer identify with Southern Baptists.’
Her stature in the movement poses a serious challenge for the Southern Baptist Convention, which has already been embroiled for years in debates not just about Mr. Trump, but about racism, misogyny and the handling of sexual abuse cases. Its membership is in decline.”
Joy Beth Smith, a fan of Moore’s said:
“She has given us permission to leave those broken institutions.”
If you own shares in the Southern Baptist Convention, sell them. The left will rip Moore for taking so long. Not me. I will just celebrate the fact that she has acted so publicly and boldly.
Times are changing. Adapt or lose your scholarship, your job, or whatever else you value.
Recently, a UCLA trackster, I’m embarrassed to say, got kicked off the team following the release of a phone call littered with racist and homophobic comments.
A college football coach was just fired for a bevy of inappropriate behavior involving female students.
What do these stories have in common? Both the dismissed trackster’s and fired coach’s offenses were committed before they were affiliated with their respective institutions. The runner was in high school when the phone call was made. Allegedly, the coach’s problems occurred 5-8 years ago at a different university.
The following questions aren’t intended to simply forgive and forget, but I’m genuinely curious, what language in scholarship offers and job contracts enables athletic departments to rescind scholarships and allows employers to break work contracts based upon an athlete’s or employee’s previous behavior? And how far back can an admission’s office, an athletic department, an employer go? Doesn’t there have to be some statue of limitations?
I am not proud of some of my actions while matriculating at Cypress High School in Cypress, California, a few years back. Should I worry?
Frances McDormand is Fern, a widower struggling to let go of her past. She’s hard working and resilient. Her van makes for a precarious home. She befriends other “nomads” also living on the road, but only to a point, because she isn’t fully in the present.
Nomadland has the feel of a compelling documentary. A thoughtful window into a vulnerable, but resourceful community of non-conformists prioritizing personal freedom and nature over material comfort. If you enjoy films firmly based in reality, you may like it as much as I did.
Tyler Cowen’s “My days as a teenage chess teacher” is interesting on a lot of levels. For instance, take lesson learned #6 of 7.
“6. The younger chess prodigy I taught was quite bright and also likable. But he had no real interest in improving his chess game. Instead, hanging out with me was more fun for him than either doing homework or watching TV, and I suspect his parents understood that. In any case, early on I was thinking keenly about talent and the determinants of ultimate success, and obsessiveness seemed quite important. All of the really good chess players had it, and without it you couldn’t get far above expert level.”
I often envy people who are obsessive about anything even remotely socially redeemable—whether being a grand master in chess, or cycling 12,000 miles/year, or knowing more about Mormon history than anyone except a few dozen Mormon scholars. Why do I envy obsessive people? Because I don’t know if I’ve ever been truly obsessive about anything. It seems like it would be fun to be so immersed in an activity that time stops.
And yet, when I take stock of my life, I can’t help but wonder if my lack of obsessiveness about any one thing may be one of my most positive attributes. If it’s not a positive attribute, splitting the difference between similarly compelling forces, is my essence. It’s who I am.
To the best of my ability, I seek balance. Between work and family life. Between intellectual pursuits and physical ones. Between running, swimming, and cycling more specifically. Between listening and talking. Between teaching and learning. Between friends. Between being silly and serious.
I wonder, should I stop idealizing obsessiveness?
“If we want to support each other’s inner lives, we must remember a simple truth: the human soul does not want to be fixed, it wants simply to be seen and heard.”
Parker Palmer from a couple of decades ago. Especially relevant today.