that becoming a better person is more important than becoming a better writer”
– Jason Armstrong, WriteOnFightOn
I hope each of you and your families enjoyed a peace-filled and joyous Christmas and holiday season. What would a new year be like if I didn’t add to your already full schedules with some suggested readings?
Recently, I received an email from Charles Eisenstein. (No it wasn’t a personal email… Charles and I haven’t reached that stage in our relationship as of yet.) In his email, however, Charles shared a list of pieces he had written or podcasts he has created that he wished more people had seen. Wait. Don’t leave. I’m not going to give you a list of the favorite pieces that I’ve written. That would be a cruel way to begin the new year. But what I did take away from Charles’ list is that many of us come across pieces of writing, many from very disparate sources, that touch us. They beg to be shared.
I decided to do my own version of Charles’ sharing. I’m sharing these because I feel that each passes the “What Matters” test that James Ryan shared in his commencement address and that each, in its own way, deserves to be shared. I’m adding the YouTube video of Dr. Ryan’s talk as a closing in case you’ve missed it.
Take some time in the next few weeks to visit each of the pieces I’ve included here. Consider this a warning… and a hint… get an adult beverage or two before diving in.
While I have found each of these really special, none of the pieces included here is short. I also don’t think they’re meant to be read without discussion. And just so you don’t get part way through a piece and wonder, “why the heck did he suggest I read this”, I’ve included a bit of an intro to each. It was tempting to make the intro a kind of summary; however, my first attempt at using that format was a disaster and, more importantly, failed to do justice to the work of the authors.
The first piece, “How Kids Learn Resilience”, is an article that appeared in The Atlantic. It was adapted by Paul Tough in 2016 from his book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, which spent more than a year on the NY Times best-seller lists.
“The Miseducation of the American Boy” by Peggy Orenstein appeared in The Atlantic, January-February 2020. The author spent two years interviewing high school and college students and draws a disappointing, sad, frightening (pick your word) picture of the process and experiences through which young males learn to become men. My question for you… who do you think should read this?
A few posts ago, I shared some data and related thoughts about the alarming increase in pre-adolescent and adolescent stress, anxiety, and depression. The next piece appeared in this morning’s NY Times. In it, the author extends the issues facing our young people to the alarming increase in depression in our adult populations. To me this appears to be an invitation to look more deeply the surprisingly unexplored connections between the daily positive reports on the health of the nation’s economy, the daily rise in stock values, the low unemployment figures, etc. and the very different reality faced by growing numbers of Americans … increasing disparities in wealth, startling figures about homelessness, loss of retirement security, etc.
What would a suggested readings list be without a link to Charles? The linked piece is listed in the post from Charles referenced above. Charles frequently uses the metaphor of stories or narratives. His thinking addresses what he would consider the reality that the story with which many of us have grown up is dead or dying. We live in a time between stories and have the opportunity to write a new narrative/story, one that is built on peace rather than on violence and conflict. This thinking is reflected in one of his early books, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.
The last piece I’ll offer is a blog post by Jason Armstrong. I’ve referred to Jay in earlier posts. I’ll share his own words as an intro to Jay and his work.
In 2013, I was diagnosed with Cerebellar Degeneration, an unpredictable, untreatable condition with no known cure. Then in 2015, tested positive for a treatable but chronic auto-immune disorder that causes bodily inflammation known as Sarcoidosis. By all accounts the two disorders are not related. I’m just lucky.
When I was diagnosed with Cerebellar Degeneration, the doctors scratched their heads and suggested I get my affairs in order. I was 33 years old.
Scared out of my skull I thought a lot about not just the prospect of death but dying without ever doing the thing I really loved…writing. The thought of dying with so many untold stories nestled inside me was– well– killing me. So at some point I decided that if I was going out, I would make sure my stories weren’t going with me. Then something funny happened… I didn’t die. In fact, after two years of physical and emotional beatings…Ironically, it was those beatings that brought me back to life.
Having a rare disease is lonely business. Writing is lonely business. Hell, living is lonely business. I want you to know that you are not alone. I want you to know that your story doesn’t just exist…your story matters. And I hope this site gives you the courage to tell your story, to preserve your story.
Ok, I lied. Here is one more link . I can’t take the chance that someone hasn’t had the opportunity to see this commencement address given by Dr. James Ryan who was, at the time if the address, the Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Enjoy. Think what matters.
Looking at my readership stats, I note that followership is small but quite diverse. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and share the richness of your reactions, thoughts, insights to the pieces here that might speak to you. Again, wishing you a healthy, loving, peace-filled new year.
PS Some of you may be wondering about the absence of cartoons from recent posts. Some time ago, I attempted to make contact with Gary Larson to get permission to use his work. I received no response and assumed that, in his retirement, he was not terribly concerned with my use of his work. For Far Side fans, there is great news. Larson has unretired. Great news but it seemed unfair to make use of his work without permission now that he was active again. No more Gary here. (: Poor me.