January 25, 2019

The paralysis of being overwhelmed

There is a feeling that often overcomes me, a feeling of having so much to say but being completely unable to say anything.

There is a paralysis that comes from being overwhelmed, an inability to articulate everything that is racing through your mind, or even process that jumble of thought effectively.

This has been a hard, loud, overwhelming month. My efforts to find quiet, to find slowness, have been somewhat successful, but even then I am at a place where I am consumed by noise and speed that I do not know how to handle. My ability to think, to write, to articulate has disappeared as I scramble from one moment to the next.

I have so much to say, but I am paralyzed by the sheer overwhelm of the world.

And so today, I say nothing but instead present to you things others have said, and have said so much better. Here’s to finding my voice again, soon.

Poem of the week:

Palm” (2018) by Ann Lauterbach:

You keep turning up in my dreams
like a penny, worth less than the old,
but shinier. I am glad to hold you
in my warm hand and
turn you face up, stare into your
eyes looking at me. Hello, I say,
and you say it back to me, like the gypsy
in the song
who disappears at the end.
I vow never to spend you
even in this
unrequited bliss field
with all the shades drawn down.

In case you missed it:

Exactly ten years ago today, I moved to Washington DC with optimism about the future but an uncertainty about who I really was. For my own take on the #10yearchallenge, I wrote about how things can change (politically and personally) a whole lot in a decade.

From January to April 2019, I’m teaching the Government in a Digital Era” course as part of the Masters of Public Service program at the University of Waterloo. Every week, I’ll share what we learned that class, and some of the reflections and insights from the class, too. I started by posting the course overview earlier this week.

A few things to read and explore:

Mary Oliver’s poetry resonates with so many of us. This reflection entitled How Mary Oliver helped me to breathe again” is a beautiful remembrance:

We fear sentiment, I think, because it undresses us. But Wild Geese” is one of those poems that strides unabashedly into sentiment, into feeling.

I may not live there anymore, but Toronto still feels like my home” city. Navneet Alang’s dissection of how the city’s constant denial of winter is indicative of a failure of good governance and inclusive policy is spot-on:

Toronto pushes a lot down: its second-tier status among global cities, for one; for another, the two decades of gentrification, and the way it has driven the poor to the suburbs where they stand in sub-zero temperatures for twenty minutes to catch a bus. Maybe when you design a city in which it is winter for half the year but pretend that isn’t actually true it’s not because you’re secretly waiting for the planet to warm but because you’re not actually willing to face the truth: that this city, like so many other metropolises with too much money, too little housing, and no real leadership, is getting worse for more people and nobody seems to have the courage to do anything about it.

The way we talk about race and racism is wrong, and helps perpetuate racist ideology: In short, we think of racist’ as an insult, rather than as an adjective.”

Adwoa Afful reminds us that Toronto must reckon with its past before planning for its future: For as long as Toronto has existed, Black migrants and residents have had to meet a level of accountability to their host city in ways that another kind of migrant—tech companies—have not.”

I re-read Adam Serwer’s The Cruelty is the Point” regularly, whenever I wonder what’s going on in the world. It’s not uplifting, but it’s right to the point:

It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.

The new version of Queer Eye is one of my favourite things on television, and I’m realizing now I love it so much because it shows us all that it’s okay to mess up and not have everything sorted out, and that we can lean on others for support:

What Queer Eye in its modern incarnation makes clear is that for a great many straight men, their designated comfort zone is a miserable place to be. Given permission to step outside of it—permission to fail with grace and dignity and a new sectional into the bargain—they all fall into line with something like relief.

This quote by Khoi Vinh on the complexity of healthcare is right on the mark: Few of us would feel comfortable representing ourselves in courts of law without a lawyer, and yet we’re all expected to make our way through the complexity of healthcare entirely on our own.”

A fascinating piece by Virginia Heffernan on the effect that screens are having on our eyes: We measure our vision against the phone, all the while suspecting the phone itself is compromising our ability to see it.”

This piece on how imagining the future is holding us back resonates, and resonates deeply: You picture how great the thing will be, and then you think about how inadequate your current skills are, and then you stop.”

I am very glad that Canada’s Food Guide got a much-needed update, but André Picard brings up a good point that we can’t ignore:

Healthy eating, as it is proposed in Canada’s Food Guide, is a privilege of wealth. The symbolic fruity/nutty/grainy plate is actually out of reach for many who struggle with poverty, food insecurity and health illiteracy.

My amazing wife works with a lot of communities who have a high risk of getting infected with HIV, so I’ve learned a lot about PREP over the last couple of years. If you haven’t heard of this potentially game-changing drug before, this piece on the good and bad of PREP is a great place to start learning.

I once went to a party where another partygoer stopped the dancing for almost half an hour to give us a lesson on the importance of the Amen Break—we were all enthralled and captivated, and so we didn’t mind the break from dancing—so this piece on how the Amen Break is akin to a design pattern is an interesting way to think about this core building block of contemporary music.

Like all of you, I was delighted by UCLA senior Katelyn Ohashi’s floor routine that recently was being shared everywhere. Here’s a great breakdown of viral college gymnastics routines and why they go viral every few years.

There is a lot to parse in Tim O’Reilly’s Gradually, Then Suddenly” piece, but one passage jumped out at me quite vociferously:

It’s not just the political fracturing of our country that should concern us; it’s the fact that government plays a critical role in infrastructure, in innovation, and in the safety net. That role has gradually been eroded, and the cracks that are appearing in the foundation of our society are coming at the worst possible time.”

A fascinating look at the role of economics in the design of our world: how the Great Recession influenced a decade of design.

Ashley Feinberg did not come to play in her incisive interview with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.

I am completely smitten with these elaborate and colorfully decorated origami creations by paper artist Cristian Marianciuc.

Photo of ornate paper crane

Here’s a fun game to play when you have a few minutes of boredom to fill: guess which domain name is worth more money.

Lost & Found is an adorable and beautiful short film that brought me to tears.

Until next time, find your voices and speak beauty to the world, my friends

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