Surprising our future selves
The pair of socks I am wearing today has a repeated print of a car carrying a Christmas tree on its roof. I smile every time I look down at my feet, because the socks remind me of the upcoming holiday season, and all the joy that comes from this time of year.
Nobody else notices the socks, and that’s okay. They aren’t there for others: they are there for me, to bring a small burst of surprise and delight into my day.
It’s not just socks, either. We all wear little pieces of clothing—fun prints on our underwear, a graphic tee under our sweaters—and carry little tokens—a keychain from a friend, a note in our wallets—hidden to the rest of the world but are there to make us smile when we notice them. These are little surprises that we plant for our future selves; they are gifts from the present to the people we will soon be, minutes, hours, or days from now.
I’m embracing these little surprises more and more these days. Whether it’s hiding a note in a jacket pocket, putting a voice memo of self-affirmation into the middle of my podcast queue, or wearing a matching set of festive holiday socks and boxers, I’m making sure my current self drops delight into the world of future me.
What are you doing to surprise yourself, minutes, hours, or days from now?
A few things to read and explore:
In the last few years I have lost count of the times mental illness has been compared to a broken leg. Mental illness is nothing like a broken leg.
In fairness, I have never broken my leg. Maybe having a broken leg does cause you to lash out at friends, undergo a sudden, terrifying shift in politics and personality, or lead to time slipping away like a Dali clock. Maybe a broken leg makes you doubt what you see in the mirror, or makes you high enough to mistake car bonnets for stepping stones (difficult, with a broken leg) and a thousand other things. […]
Even when everyone is doing their job well, and many do, the treatment of mental illness is a slog. The trial and error of finding a productive medication, or multiple medications. Multisyllabic names in packets with go-faster stripes. The implicit paradox of becoming ill and necessarily hospitalised, meaning being removed from all the things that normally help. The expense of prescription charges for lifelong conditions that (aside from in Scotland, where all prescriptions are free) are not exempt, though some physical illnesses are. The fact that, if doctors only ever see you at your worst, or in crisis, they are not getting the whole picture, which is crucial with mental illness. […]
When I am well, I am happy and popular. It is tough to type these words when I feel none of it. And sometimes when I am most well I am… boring. Boring is how I want to be all of the time. This is what I have been working towards, for 12 years now.
And importantly, it is in his videos that we see Prince exploring the edges of his identity and public persona. There are hints and clues of what Prince wanted to do next at almost every phase of his career. Frustratingly, though most of Prince’s videos, including some of his very best, remained obscure, getting almost no airplay back when there were music video channels, or being distributed through one-off VHS video collections, CD-ROMs or uneven and short-lived video streams on Prince’s websites. As a result, it’s been almost impossible to evaluate Prince’s videos as a whole body of work.
You see, a strange thing happens when things become ubiquitous. When something is all around us, we tend to deem it benign. We start to think that it’s normal, and we just absorb it into our lexicon and stop questioning it. The ubiquity of online labor platforms and their addictive convenience has done the same thing. It’s romanticized this lure of disruption so much that it has managed to make an entire global workforce of workers disappear before our very eyes. They’re like Santa’s elves, right? They do all the work and you and I benefit from it, but we never hear about them. We have tech conferences that rival the budget of the Academy Awards, but we never hear about these workers. Online labor platforms have done a few things. They have reconfigured what it means to be a worker, and how work is perceived and experienced. And in this reconfiguration, they have designed an unacceptable level of inequity.
The lack of ability to imagine black people as heroes may be one explanation for these shootings. That was one of the countless things that James Baldwin was right about. American fiction is a significant contributor to our ideas of heroism both on the page and onscreen, and as the author both wrote and said in 1965, “It comes as a great shock to see Gary Cooper killing off the Indians, and although you are rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians are you.” Regardless of color, we all are trained from an early age not merely to synchronize whiteness and heroism, but are fed narratives that discourage us from forming any other conclusion. Barack Obama wasn’t enough to change that, to say nothing of Lando Calrissian, Roger Murtaugh or Axel Foley. Not even T’Challa from Black Panther or Chris from Get Out. A childhood of seeing men of color as cannon fodder for Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and other assorted Good White Guys With Guns has an effect on folks.
Perhaps the most tragic manifestation of racist sentiment in Mississippi is silent. Built into the very bones of this place. My state starves its people and, in doing so, actively resists King’s legacy. Our Republican lawmakers have made an effort to undercut programs that serve the poor, maybe because so many people of color in Mississippi live in poverty and depend on social programs for help. Thirty-two percent of the state’s African Americans, 25 percent of its Hispanic Americans, and 38 percent of its American Indians live in poverty. All of these numbers are higher than the national figures: 22 percent for African Americans, 19 percent for Hispanic Americans, and 26 percent for American Indians. Racist sentiment is built into the fact that the state government squeezes the funds for public schools, which might technically be desegregated but remain very segregated because the whites who have the money send their children to private schools. Built into the fact that Mississippi has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation and some of the lowest test scores. Built into the fact that Medicaid provides health insurance for more than 50 percent of children in the state and many senior citizens as well, and yet our public officials repeatedly vote to deprive the program of resources, to shrink coverage. Built into the fact that, during a recent push to unionize, some black workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, near Jackson, said they were denied promotions and assignments, which resulted in their being paid less than their white counterparts. It’s a story familiar to many Mississippians of color.
As women, our gaze is constantly talked down to on screen, our desires limited to sweet nothings and roses, or, if we get lucky, an open hand on a steamy car door in the belly of a doomed ocean liner. There are very few sex scenes—or porn films, for that matter—made for skin-hungry female eyes. Such a thing is not supposed to exist. We are not supposed to exist.
A fault is a rupture, helps us see the other sides—the before and after the fault—plainly, starkly. We are approaching the fault line. Take note. Look to see where it is going to begin. There is an impending crevasse. Where is the resonate, firm end just before and just after the gape?
The fault line is a measure of the past, it doesn’t have to demand its presence — its existence as a rupture already commands it.
It is ironic, then, that billions can be given to dying industrial giants, but raising the minimum wage and the basic income pilot that attempted to bring some of that golden security and prosperity to individuals, is scrapped. Empathy, it seems, has its limits.
Flattening current events into a stream means living in a perpetual present, where events are disconnected from their antecedents and where history is counted in minutes and days rather than in months and years. It’s another way the rise of ambient, instant connectivity has warped our perceptions of the world — and indeed, our conception of what the world is.
Bars and restaurants continued to merge through the 1990s and 2000s, and that’s a big reason restaurants on the whole got noticeably louder. Bars are raucous, and they present a different dining atmosphere than the typical sit-down restaurants. As the bar and dining spaces began to occupy the same space, their clientele and atmospheres combine, and the result is a lot louder. Open-concept restaurants and warehouse-style gourmet food courts have made dining out more casual and communal, but getting rid of the walls, ceilings, and soft goods that once defined luxury have also made them noisier.
Europe is also often placed much farther south on mental maps than it really is, appearing directly across the Atlantic from the contiguous United States. But it actually lines up better with Canada: Paris is further north than Montreal, Barcelona is at a similar latitude as Chicago, and Venice lines up with Portland, Oregon.
Nelson suspects that climate might play a role in this misconception. Western Europe is relatively warm for its latitude thanks to the Gulf Stream, which brings warmer water from the Gulf of Mexico across the Atlantic and gives Europe its so-called Mediterranean climate. The warmer temperatures are more similar to the climate of the lower 48 states than Canada’s.
I hope your weekend ahead is filled with all kinds of surprising delight, my friends.
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