Jenny Odell’s latest book asks an urgent question: What happens when our emergencies become banal? My wrist gets a buzz. The tiny computer strapped around it lights up with a message, rendered in lilac-blue: I am sitting, the watch informs me. I shouldn’t be.
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Last December, during a Christmas Eve celebration with my in-laws in California, I observed what I now realize was the future of COVID for older people.
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“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now,” Jack Kerouac wrote in a beautiful 1957 letter to his first wife turned lifelong friend. “Kindness, kindness, kindness,” Susan Sontag resolved in her diary on New Year’s Day in 1972.
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“That is happiness,” Willa Cather wrote, “to be dissolved into something complete and great.
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“You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love,” the artist Louise Bourgeois wrote in her diary.
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Empathy makes you better at cocktail parties—and at life. In a touching Medium post a few days ago, the writer and programmer Paul Ford shared what he thinks is the secret to his politeness.
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The phrase if it please you has been shortened and shortened over time—until it’s become more brusque than courteous. Growing up in a strict household, I was taught to honor etiquette; I still call my elders “sir” and “ma’am,” and I always say thank you.
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When I was studying for my doctorate, in the late 1960s, we budding anthropologists read a book called Ideas on Human Evolution, a collection of then-recent papers in the field. With typical graduate-student arrogance, I pronounced it “too many ideas chasing too little data.
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The decline of the John Birch Society offers possible strategies for containing the MAGA movement. Most Americans who have heard of the John Birch Society associate it with the political fringe—and rightly so.
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There are seasons of being when a cloak of meaninglessness seems to slip over you, over everything, muffling the song of life. It is not depression exactly, though the two conditions make eager bedfellows.
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