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Earlier today, as I cored an apple to slice, I recalled the moment I learned that particular way of doing the thing, that moment when I saw it and realized — yep, that’s a better way. That was a lot of years ago, but that knowledge made an immediate and permanent shift in my habits. Similarly, I used to boil eggs one way and they were fine; and then this piece from J. Kenji López-Alt instantly converted me. It’s just better.
Small or large, these moments matter. Whether your heart is swirling around politics or pandemics, climate change or coups, the ability to change our minds is critical, I believe, to our sanity and - dare I? - to our survival. For the last two days, I’ve been swallowed whole by a tremendous book, one of those good ones that will take me whole days to muster up a review for. Charlotte McConaghy’s Migrations is about a lot of things, but one of its themes is climate change and the irreparable destruction we are causing. Interesting, isn’t it, that climate change is named for a thing that is happening, which is also a thing many of us fear. I am not one of that many. Change, for me, is life. And when a thoughtful argument is made to prove that a thing should be done, I usually just do it.
I know this is odd. But it is true. Here’s a story: when I was a little girl, I sucked my thumb. That’s not odd. Lots of kids do. But when I was 5, I went to the dentist, and the dentist told me I needed to stop sucking my thumb because if I didn’t it would harm the way my teeth and mouth developed. I don’t remember this at all, of course, but my mother says I simply took my thumb out of my mouth right there in the dentist’s office and never put it back in. That’s it. It just made sense.
For most of us, it doesn’t work like that. Those comforts, the conveniences that we have come to rely on, are not so easily changed. But if we are to avoid the kinds of outcomes most are predicting, change is required and not the gradual kind. Radical change, change that feels like a theft. This is what is needed.
And I wonder: can we do it? Can we apply the same logic to our planet that we do to our method of boiling eggs? Can we reasonably expect our loved ones who voted differently than we did to change their minds? Can we see our way through to a better way?
I’m not sure. But I’m hopeful.
This line of thinking got me wondering about my readers, (that’s you, friends!): have there been times in your life where you learned something and it changed everything? I’d love to hear from you. If you have a story like this, will you share it with me? I’m chipping away at a small wall of despair trying to build itself around my heart, and your stories would help.
And here are a few things I fell in love with recently:
— Heather Havrilesky is one of those writers who seems to write directly for me, writing to me even though her “Dear Polly” column is supposedly in response to actual letters written by people who are not me. This recent edition is no exception, especially this:
Trusting this path is your whole job. You don’t need to get anywhere. This is enough.
— Anne Helen Petersen, in a post from a few weeks ago, suggested that when we are most stressed, a good solution is to turn ourselves outward, toward others because then,
. . . it’s not about you. It’s about those who our society has failed, and continue to fail, and will continue to fail, until we radically reorganize our understanding of how we should live with and care for one another.
She asks for more hot sauce and never once checks her phone.
Unexpected Joy Department:
These never-before-translated stories from Kafka? Knocked my socks off.
(and yes, that is from a June issue of the New Yorker. I TOLD YOU I would be reading back issues past Halloween!)
Published This Week:
On Sundays, We Read Poetry, and this week it was Elizabeth Alexander’s American Sublime.
I can’t watch the Netflix series of The Queen’s Gambit. I know it would not do good things to my spirit. But. BUT. I CAN read the book and urge you to do the same because, friend, it is brilliant.