Reading List: I Have "We're All In This Together" From High School Musical Stuck In My Head And You Know What? I'm Not Even Mad.
Darlings, as I prepare to take some time off of screens to rest my brain and hopefully read alllllllll of the books (SEND ME THOSE RECOMMENDATIONS, Y'ALL!), wanted to once again thank you for taking time out of your morning to listen to me rant and rave and muse about the current state of our collective experience. I’m grateful to have this outlet, and grateful to all of you for the encouraging feedback and suggestions you send. So while I may not speak to you until after the American Memorial Day weekend, know that I couldn’t have gotten through the last 14 months without the ability to reach out over coffee, tilt my head to the side while asking “are we ok?”
So many long reads! So let’s get to it…
Nancy Sherman, If You’re Reading Stoicism for Life Hacks, You’re Missing the Point (The New York Times) - Dating as a ten-days-from-37-year-old in the Bay Area means getting a lot of nerd cred when the topic of favorite books comes up on a first date because, after I rant about how much of an oracle Hannah Arendt was for Origins of Totalitarianism, I get raised eyebrows and approving nods as I describe how helpful Epictetus has been for my own mental health. Because, for me, stoic philosophy has been a way to quiet my anxious self-doubt and wrangle my hummingbird brain, giving me a reflective structure in which to examine my own tendencies and determine what it is, in fact, I can actually control (versus yielding to what my nervous disposition says I need to obsess over, despite having absolutely no personal agency with which to change it.) But sometimes, as Sherman details in this piece, that first date convo turns to the selfish side of Stoicism, an insistence on navel-gazing and defeatist resignation to “the world is trash and I’m just going to get through it.” Because that sort of nihilistic defeatism isn’t why I read super old white dudes talking about their daily struggles thousands of years ago - after all, stoicism reminded me that, when I was having panic episodes about the Former Guy getting reelected, the thing I could control was getting out there and doing something about it for the greater good, the promise of that connected self and the potential of contributing to the common good so that I may “live well as a cooperative member of a commonwealth.” (h/t Mum of the Missive)
Ed Yong, What Happens When Americans Can Finally Exhale (The Atlantic) - A dear friend recently reported that a first restaurant date night with their partner since vaccination devolved into a fight over seemingly nothing, leaving both of them hurt and angry. In chatting with them about it, all I could think about was how we’re all teetering on the edge: yesterday, while on a video call with some Chicago colleagues who are back in the office, another group of colleagues ran into their conference room because they saw my large floating face on the monitor and wanted to come in and tell me they missed me. I shrieked with joy to see them all together, and then after I exited the call, proceeded to sob with a mixture of joy and… grief? I think? Anyways, all this to say that the next few months are going to be SO hard, because, as this piece discusses, we’re all freaking traumatized, and it’s not like we can flip a switch and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind-ing back to February 2020 (as much as so many are behaving as if we can). We have so much emotional build-up, both protective and harmful, to peel back and deal with. So be kind to yourself, give space for empathy and patience, and just do your best.
Annie Karni, In Biden White House, the Celebrity Staff Is a Thing of the Past (The New York Times) - I finally had the opportunity to meet a couple of my fellow phone bank captains for Biden, individuals I spent so much time in the virtual trenches with in the lead-up to the election. We had dinner (gasp! So much normalcy!) and on topic of conversation that darling Friend of the Missive Austin brought up was how happy he was not to know the name of most White House staffers and/or cabinet members. And I agree: it is so darned wonderful to not know the personal dramas of public servants in DC.
Philip Bump, Kevin McCarthy inadvertently demonstrates the utility of a Capitol riot commission (The Washington Post) - In this era of near-concurrent historical revisionism, the fact that I was pleased that 35 GOP members of the House voted in favor of the commission, while 175 of them are hell bent on pretending the damned thing didn’t happen, is telling. God help us.
Rowan Jacobsen, Top researchers are calling for a real investigation into the origin of covid-19 (MIT Technology Review) - I am not a conspiracy theorist, and I know that if you read me on a regular basis, you likely aren’t one either. But I will be reading this long and thorough piece on how “18 prominent biologists—including the world’s foremost coronavirus researcher—are lending their weight to calls for a new investigation” into where this nasty virus originated from.
You’re lovely. Be kind to yourself, be kind to each other, drink some water, and don’t forget to breath.