Two-thirds into writing this issue the seriousness of this pandemic set in and I knew much of it was no longer relevant to the emergencies we’re facing, so I rewrote it. This 80% coronavirus-influenced edition of Align Center makes room for humor, poetry and art amongst reflections on isolation, quarantine and grief. I hope something in this issue will resonate with you and help during these unprecedented times, as several did for me.
◦ worth sharing
A few things I thought were worth sharing:
- I learned two new words: hopepunk and its dystopian antagonist, grimdark.
- An open call for art for social change in response to the pandemic.
- A heart-warming quarantined love story. (OK, drones are now good for two things).
- Covid19 humor: these people get the shock of their lives when they realize who their partners really are working from home.
- The NYTimes sent photographers to once-bustling public spaces including Paris, Times Square, and Indonesia to document their eerie emptiness.
- A prescient animated short on urban neighbors and depression (Bloom – 3min on Vimeo).
- A dance company for young people with autism (3m30s video on FB).
- SadBoys – a British Columbian clothing line tackling the stigma around mental health for men.
- Columbia Sportswear CEO cuts salary from $3.3M to $10,000 to keep paying 3,500 out-of-work retail employees.
- Dan Price, who famously raised the minimum salary of his employees to $70,000, cuts his salary to $0.
- Social distancing brand logos.
- Melbourne singer-songwriter Nick Murphy FKA Chet Faker released his first instrumental album, Music for Silence. Good ambient tunes to work from home to.
◦ selected words
We’re feeling a lot of things at this moment, many unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Not since WWII has a crisis of this magnitude affected people across all walks of life, rich or poor, across the globe. Having recently watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, I was struck when Mr. Rogers said giving names to feelings is the first step to managing them. A potent article on how we can apply Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief, to better manage our feelings and find meaning.
Harvard Business Review (7min read)
Jules Verne said “solitude, isolation, are painful things, and beyond human endurance.” But a more optimistic Pablo Picasso famously said “without great solitude, no serious work is possible”. In our over-stimulated times, a period of reflection can be a garden for new ideas, allowing us to revisit past travels when we’re often busy jumping to the next trip (I’m certainly guilty). How being confined at home can be an opportunity to get to know ourselves and our loved ones better.
The School of Life (9min read)
In what is the greatest remote work experiment of all-time, technology’s promise to connect us while we are at our most disconnected is put to this test as the majority wait it out in isolation. This article argues not only that we’re heading directly in this trajectory, but that we’ve already been living it. (This piece was written March 4 when things were less dire).
The Atlantic (6min read)
If capitalism is so great, why do we need socialism to bail us out every twelve years? That’s a meme I saw this week after the trillion dollar stimulus packages were approved. (Note: capitalism itself is not the problem, it’s unfettered corrupt capitalism with monopolies). Now with $1,200 and $2000 cheques being cut to every citizen in the USA and Canada, the results of a recent universal basic income project got buried under the headlines.
CBC News (3min read)
I always think of Wu-Tang Clan’s lyric “Cash rules everything around me” when conversations are bound by money concerns. There’s this very real limitation income puts around us, so in 2015 it made headlines when Seattle-based CEO Dan Price introduced a $70,000 minimum salary for all of his 120 employees and cut his pay to the same amount. An update five years later on the culture of his payments company. Another update: last week Price and his COO cut their salary to $0 during this crisis.
BBC News (9min read)
◦ listen in
From the creators of On Being (which I mention far too many times in these newsletters), an unhurried immersion into a single poem. Guided by the wise poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama.
Poetry Unbound via On Being or Apple Podcasts
The Belgian psychotherapist is hosting a free four-part live conversation about “the new normal, what it means for our relationships, and how we can move forward in a time of social distancing, uncertainty, and grief.” The four-part webinar starts April 1 at noon Pacific.
◦ eat well
Last month in Ubud, I met an amazing human from Lithuania in the room next to mine. A country of 2.8 million wedged between Latvia, Belarus and Poland, it was the first Baltic state to declare independence from the Soviet Union. Soups are popular in Lithuanian cuisine, none more recognizable than Saltibarsciai, a bright pink cold summer soup based on beets and dill. Nutritious and easy to prepare, when I finally return home this will be the first new recipe I’ll make.
History and Recipe on Arousing Appetites
◦ read slow
There’s no shortage of think piece-y coronavirus commentary, but when the author of Sapiens sounds a warning that we are heading directly into an Orwellian future, it’s worth the read. Through a systematic lens, Harari warns of the choices nations will be faced with when the dust settles – totalitarian surveillance versus citizen empowerment, and nationalist isolation versus global solidarity. A glimpse into how the decisions made in this time of great crisis can have lasting consequences.
Financial Times (14min read)
And finally, a great long read with no mention of the pandemic. An improvisational fusion of Arab, Andalusian folk, and gypsy music, flamenco emerged as a musical outlet for the poor and oppressed. In this male-dominated tradition, a child prodigy and her teacher / father who once trained with the great Paco de Lucía returns to Spain to seek the rarest of recognitions – to become a tocaoras, a female flamenco guitarist. A story of tradition, culture, travel, mid-life learning and finding joy in rekindled passions.
Afar (15min read)
◦ current read
Based on John Bowlby’s work and influential psychologist Mary Ainsworth’s oft-cited The Strange Situation test, attachment theory is concerned with relationships and emotional bonds between people. In Attached, the focus is on romantic partners and how attachment styles can be recognized when our behaviors keeping us from harm are also keeping us from loving, secure relationships. Complement this with Dr. Sue Johnson’s Hold Me Tight and perhaps better read first as a primer, whereas the creator of EFT (Emotion-Focused Therapy) goes deeper with specific exercises for couples.
Attached by Amir Levine, Rachel S.F. Heller (304p book)
◦ humble thought
“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”
– In 1991, poet, writer, academic, farmer and environmental activist Wendell Berry wrote this poem in resistance of capitalist definitions of progress, bringing the reader to the open fields and Mother Earth.
Read the entire poem, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Holy, hell. Only a few months ago we were occupied with the fires in Australia, a half-hearted impeachment, migrant crises / ICE, populist movements around the globe and Brexit twice over. I’d just left for a trip to Japan, stopped for a month in Thailand, and now am one of a small group of travelers still trying to get home from Bali. (Of course, there’s a hashtag for us: #stuckinbali). What a shock we are living in now, and what a test in so many unimaginable ways.
At a time when whatever is broken in society is getting revealed for just how broken it is, could this be the reboot our civilization needed? The reset to put us back on track? The recalibration that makes space for reflection and real change from the direction we were headed? This is starting to sound like another of these think piece-y bits on the pandemic, but I’ll continue…
As the shocking news seems to have plateaued and little is outside the realm of possibility, the conspiracy theorists are now coming out in full force. But whether these theories turn out to be true or not, does it really matter? I’m reminded of a useful acronym shared by a friend – W.I.N. – What’s Important Now. It’s like your house is on fire and you’re sitting with your laptop Googling where your stove was manufactured. It doesn’t matter! Just get out while you can, triage, and the truth will come. This is a global pandemic, affecting rich and poor, small villages to nation states. I truly doubt a cover-up of this magnitude is possible with all the players involve. Yes, the media is sensationalizing, what else is new. Yes, they’re playing with our fears, but there is no valid argument against the actions we must take now to flatten the curve to take the pressure off the healthcare system. Rant over.
There’s so much uncertainty and the fire hose of news never stops. Lives have been flipped upside-down and so many of us are getting blindsided by new feelings we’re completely unequipped to handle. We’re seeing sides of people we didn’t know existed, or at least pretended not to. Communities are being tested and leaders are emerging from the fray.
How do you want to remember this time? Being locked down in fear for months, wasting away hours on news, case counts, conspiracy theories, and consuming even more Netflix? As a time when you acted scared and self-centered, protecting yourself and loved ones only?
Or would you rather look back and see this as a time where you overcame challenges and deepened connections by practicing kindness and generosity?
Will you fall into negative thought patterns and succumb to the worst that isolation can trigger, or will you connect using the tools at hand and make use of this time to reflect, reassess, and create?
I wish for everyone to come out of this stronger, if not scarred, full of resolve and solidarity, with a reimagined perspective of this short time we have on this planet and what we choose to dedicate our limited reserves to. Until the next challenge.
Be the best version of yourself today. Take care.
Note: I’ve started a casual book club for non-book club people. To join the The Reluctant Book Club, message me to get an invite to the Facebook group. There’s little structure or pressure – it’s more of a place to jam about books. The first reads are Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference, and David Brooks’ The Second Mountain.