November 29, 2018

Predisposed towards kindness

I believe that we all are predisposed towards kindness.

Sometimes, even the best of us find ourselves in situations and contexts where we forget to be kind, where our capacity for vitriol overcomes our natural inclination to show kindness; in those situations, we need reminders to show us back to the path of love, to remind us that we can, and should, be kind.

A few years ago, Gina Trapani and Anil Dash created a web service called ThinkUp. At its core, ThinkUp was a social analytics service: it scoured your interactions on social media to provide you with insights on how you were using the tools. What was remarkable was that ThinkUp didn’t just talk about your number of followers, or how many likes you got; instead, it provided insights into how many times you said thank you” or expressed gratitude, or how many people you congratulated, or how many times you said you were sorry. It helped you notice when people would make changes to their bios or photos, it helped you track your most used words over time, and it gave you a picture of who you were online, and how you were interacting with others.

ThinkUp was a regular reminder to be kind. It was a regular reminder to express warmth even when the world was decidedly cold. I was sad when it closed, not just because it was a valuable tool, but because it demonstrated how analytics could be powerful not just to optimize a brand’s reach” but to remind ourselves of the compassion that comes from being our true and whole selves.

The world needs more ThinkUp-like services these days. At least, it needs spaces—online and off—that are designed around measuring our kindness rather than our reach. I believe that we all are predisposed towards kindness; some days we just need a little nudge to find our heart and humanity that can be easy to forget.

This poem, For the Dogs Who Barked at Me on the Sidewalks in Connecticut by Hanif Abdurraqib, is one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry I’ve read in a long time:

Darlings, if your owners say you are / not usually like this / then I must take them / at their word / I am like you / not crazy about that which towers before me / particularly the buildings here / and the people inside / who look at my name / and make noises / that seem like growling / my small and eager darlings / what it must be like / to have the sound for love / and the sound for fear / be a matter of pitch / I am afraid to touch / anyone who might stay / long enough to make leaving / an echo / there is a difference / between burying a thing you love / for the sake of returning / and leaving a fresh absence / in a city’s dirt / looking for a mercy / left by someone / who came before you / I am saying that I / too / am at a loss for language / can’t beg myself / a doorway / out of anyone / I am not usually like this either / I must apologize again for how adulthood has rendered me / us, really / I know you all forget the touch / of someone who loves you / in two minutes / and I arrive to you / a constellation of shadows / once hands / listen darlings / there is a sky / to be pulled down / into our bowls / there is a sweetness for us / to push our faces into / I promise / I will not beg for you to stay this time / I will leave you to your wild galloping / I am sorry / to hold you again / for so long / I am in the mood / to be forgotten.

Roxane Gay called out Canadian racism and smugness on Twitter this week and I am here for it:

I’ve written about this Canadian smugness” issue before, if you’re interested:

A few things to read and explore:

Emoji skin tones are essentially like real life: White people still get to be the default, while many people of color feel left out of such rigid representation.“

There’s a copy of The Joy of Cooking on our bookshelf, like there is on the bookshelf of almost everyone we know. I had no idea about the story behind the bestselling and iconic cookbook and how it continues to be a family endeavour.

For many reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about caregivers and about the emotional, cognitive, and financial load carried by those who care for their sick or aging loved ones. It’s clear that we need to do a lot more to support those who care for others.

It turns out that baking sourdough is the new hip thing to do in Silicon Valley? (I do love the baked goods at Tartine, to be completely honest.)

Science proves it: consensual hugs reduce stress. I definitely need more hugging in my days.

A few years ago, I was enraptured with lists like the (then, San Pellegrino) best restaurants list, or the enRoute new restaurants list. I aimed to eat at all the places on the lists—and did a pretty good job of getting through them. Recently, however, I’ve been questioning the need to rank everything in the world, and critically examining my selfish desire to complete” these lists. More and more, I’ve started to rely on personal recommendation over best of” rankings, in an effort to really enjoy where I dine instead of dining for status or completion; this piece in Thrillist about how a best burger” list led to the closing of the number one burger joint in the country is a fascinating look at our collective obsession with best-of lists.

I just started reading Becoming, Michelle Obama’s new memoir, and in preparation for reading it, I’ve been reading this interview with Oprah, listening to this podcast interview with 2 Dope Queens, and listening to the playlists that Questlove made for Michelle Obama’s book tour soundtrack on repeat.

I’ve been lucky to know Latif since he was a little kid, and am extremely proud to see him take his place as a driving force in the podcast world. This piece on Transom on how he finds stories is insightful.

All of Tillie Walden’s comics are quirky and delightful. This one, Weather Woman, is one of my favorites, but do check them all out:

Weather Woman by Tillie Walden

Thing I learned: puzzle makers often used the same die cut for their puzzles, and you can mix and match them to create surreal images:

Puzzle mashup by Tim Klein

32 beautiful early dust jackets for iconic books:

Dust jacket for Call It Sleep published by Ballou, 1934

The always entertaining and captivating Estelle Caswell breaks down John Coltrane’s Giant Steps” on the most recent episode of Earworm and it’s worth watching whether or not you know anything about jazz. It is a truly fascinating and groundbreaking piece of music.

I’m off to listen to more Coltrane to start my Thursday. Have a musical and joyful weekend ahead, my friends.

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