It’s a grim January 2021. Most of us will be in some sort of lockdown. No-one dares book a holiday. We’re on our millionth Zoom call.
But as Florence says, “it’s always darkest before the dawn”.
I believe we may be on the brink of a better future. A new age of reason — a science-led, healthier, politically-kinder era. Maybe 2020 wasn’t the annus miserabilis we thought it was. It might even have been a net positive for the planet.
Look, I recognise that if you’ve been ill in 2020, or suffered the loss of a loved one, then you are of course unlikely to see the year positively. …
“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”
― Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven
Resilience. Very nearly every self-help article on LinkedIn, every podcast, every trending Instagram #tag is about resilience and how to develop more of it. Especially during a pandemic. In winter.
Resilence is toughness: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; a postive capacity to cope with stress”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well sure.
I don’t know about you, but as of late I’ve been all out of resilience. My good humor has been paper-thin. My temper on a rolling-boil. My ‘quick fixes’ for my seasonal affective disorder (cycling, kayaking, going to the pub, seeing actual real human beings) largely canceled because of lockdown 2.0 here in the UK. …
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can’t handle the truth! — Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.
What’s the most dangerous trend in the fight for gender equality right now? Complacency: the lazy belief that it’s not so much of an issue anymore. That the Epsteins and Weinsteins were aberrations and a product of the past. After all, people say “second wave” feminism is nearly 60 years old — Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique” in 1963.
Did I fall for this complacent shrug of the shoulders? I’m sorry to say I think I did. Middle-aged men like me fall for it partly because it salves our guilty conscience. So why am I suddenly seeing the light? …
When I look at my studies, my life, my career, if there’s one thing I really could do without it is getting angry. So, I turn to Jane Austen.
Not an obvious choice, I know. But it always cheers me up to know how great figures of literature are as emotionally backward as I am.
Austen’s famous heroine Emma Woodhouse is something of a case in point. She is introduced to us as having led a blessed life: she had “lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her” (‘Emma’, 1815).
But she realises she cannot control her anger at the famous Box Hill picnic. Like the rest of us, Emma is prone to allowing her emotions to throw her off…
E.M. Forster wrote ‘The Machine Stops’ in 1908/9 and for years people have marvelled at its remarkable predictive ability – of the internet and global communications. But few thought we would be soon living, like Kuno and his mother Vashti, a life of complete self-isolation.
I’m feeling a little horrified about it all – and of course my thoughts are with those who are most vulnerable. But for some reason it also strikes me as quite funny.
So, I started reading Forster again, you know, because in times of crisis it’s always good to have a sci-fi geek out. …
Right now, most Western economies are into full heightened ‘isolation’ mode, hoping to delay, reduce or even contain the virus. But what happens next? What will 2020 look like in terms of the length of the isolation, and the impact? I’ve found the coverage frustratingly short-termist, and so thought I’d put together what I can find about the progress of the virus over time and what it means for our economies — with a UK/European focus. (This is all taken from trusted sources, such as WHO, Lancet — all hyperlinked).
Health warning: I’m no epidemiologist, but I have experience in statistics, economics and even completed my undergraduate dissertation on the spread of the bubonic plague in the 17th Century (it was more fun than it sounds). …
“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. It is a clever, treacherous adversary. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease.” — Yann Martel, Life of Pi
It’s a funny thing, fear. Now we’re all grown up, we like to think of it as something we experienced as a child only. A playground emotion. But fear lurks everywhere.
Jared Diamond is a true modern polymath. He switches lanes like they aren’t there. A brilliant physiology professor at UCLA, he found his specialism – the salt uptake of gall bladders – intellectually confining, so he kept escaping to New Guinea to study ornithology and ecology ‘on the side’.
He went on to write the popular science bestseller Guns, Germs and Steel and took a professorship in geography. It’s simple curiosity, he says, that got him where he is.
“If you know a lot, it’s because you’re curious”, he says. “You have this impulse to know and, therefore, things stick to you. …
Has this ever happened to you?
The alarm goes on your first day. You’ve told everyone on LinkedIn how psyched you are to be joining the “awesome team at MegaBucks Bank”. You’re so pleased you’ve finally landed that “creative writing role” you always deserved.
There’s a slight niggle in the back of your mind that the contract mentioned something about a ‘secondment to the compliance department’. Coffee’d up, you try on your third outfit of the morning, then arrive at reception 5 minutes before your scheduled induction meeting with the office manager.
You wait for 45 mins while they try to find your new pass, which arrives bearing the legend ‘Eleanor Johnsor (sic) — Complaints Office, Finance & Compliance’. …
They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had, And add some extra, just for you
But they were fucked up in their turn, By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern, And half at one another’s throats.
Ah, summer is here. You can’t wait to get away from your job and spend some time with your family. Then you remember that you’ve agreed to go away with your aging mother. Your mood darkens a little. You love her dearly but she is very ‘judgy’ when she’s with your partner and children. She makes small comments about the children’s education, such as “How’s Alice doing at that school”. She has a way of mentioning your siblings a great deal and reflecting on their successes. …