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[M]aybe the bread, as I’ve always understood it, really is over. The new world order is rearranging itself on the planet and settling in. Our touchstone is changing color. Our criteria for earning a life, a living, are mutating like a virus that wants badly to stay alive. I text a friend, “I can’t find bread flour.” She lives in Iowa. “I can see the wheat,” she says, “growing in the field from outside my window.” I watch a video on how to harvest wheat. I can’t believe I have no machete. I can’t believe I spent so many hours begging universities to hire me, I forgot to learn how to separate the chaff from the wheat and gently grind.

Sabrina Orah Mark, “Fuck the Bread. The Bread Is Over.”

In failing health, [Jacques Tati] was unable to realize his final screenplay, Confusion, in which he was determined to kill off [M.] Hulot and depict a video-dominated future without windows, where people communicate solely by screen.

Geoffrey O’Brien, “Constant Delighted Astonishment”

[P]erhaps the greatest thing Kierkegaard has to tell our age is that we might stop thinking of ourselves as occupying an age at all—stop thinking that the meaning of our lives is determined by impersonal historical forces outside our control, or that our primary objective in life is to respond to the peculiar challenges of our moment. In 1848, the liberal revolutions sweeping through Europe arrived in Denmark, transforming the absolute monarchy into a constitutional democracy. “Out there everything is agitated,” Kierkegaard wrote in his journals. “I sit in a quiet room (no doubt I will soon be in bad repute for indifference to the nation’s cause)—I know only one risk, the risk of religiousness.”

Christopher Beha, “Difficulties Everywhere”

This comes close to the end of the story as it is now, but she can’t really end with the devil and a train ride. So the end is a problem, too, though less of a problem than the center. There may be no center. There may be no center because she is afraid to put any one of those elements in the center—the man, the religion, or the hurricane. Or—which is or is not the same thing—there is a center but the center is empty, either because she has not yet found what belongs there or because it is meant to be empty: there, but empty, in the same way that the man was sick but not dying, the hurricane approached but did not strike, and she had a religious calm but no faith.

Lydia Davis, “The Center of the Story”, in Almost No Memory: Stories

The human consciousness may have begun to leap and boil some sunny day in the Pleistocene, but the race by and large has retained the essence of its animal sense of time. People think in five generations—two ahead, two behind—with heavy concentration on the one in the middle. Possibly that is tragic, and possibly there is no choice. The human mind may not have evolved enough to be able to comprehend deep time. It may only be able to measure it. At least, that is what geologists wonder sometimes, and they have imparted the questions to me. They wonder to what extent they truly sense the passage of millions of years. They wonder to what extent it is possible to absorb a set of facts and move with them, in a sensory matter, beyond the recording intellect and into the abyssal eons. Primordial inhibition may stand in the way. On the geologic time scale, a human lifetime is reduced to a brevity that is too inhibiting to think about. The mind blocks the information. Geologists, dealing always with deep time, find that it seeps into their beings and affects them in various ways. They see the unbelievable swiftness with which one species on the earth has learned to reach into the dirt of some tropical island and fling 747s into the sky. They see the thin band in which are the all but indiscernible stratifications of Cro-Magnon, Moses, Leonardo, and now. Seeing a race unaware of its own instantaneousness in time, they can reel off all the species that have come and gone, with emphasis on those that have specialized themselves to death.

John McPhee, Basin and Range

Being introverted has nothing to do with liking alone time. It turns out that the desire for solitude comes from a different trait altogether: independence.


What makes introverts different is our sensitivity to stimulation: We’re more easily overloaded than extroverts. When introverts spend a whole week acting like extroverts, there is evidence that the emotional benefits fade and costs begin to emerge—introverts start to feel more negative emotions, more exhaustion and less authenticity.

Adam Grant, “Yes, Even Introverts Can Be Lonely Right Now”

[T]o be an artist is like to be [sic] an aristocrat. […] It is to be out of the classification. And I like to be out of any classification.

Anselm Kiefer, in Karl Ove Knausgaard, “Into the Black Forest with the Greatest Living Artist”

Any adversity makes artists move closer to what is important, essential. Only time can show what fruits will such a focusing on the essential bear.

Arvo Pärt

The body responds to extreme experiences by secreting stress hormones. These are often blamed for subsequent illness and disease. However, stress hormones are meant to give us the strength and endurance to respond to extraordinary conditions. People who actively do something to deal with a disaster—rescuing loved ones or strangers, transporting people to a hospital, being part of a medical team, pitching tents or cooking meals—utilize their stress hormones for their proper purpose and therefore are at much lower risk of becoming traumatized. (Nonetheless, everyone has his or her breaking point, and even the best-prepared person may become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge.)

Helplessness and immobilization keep people from utilizing their stress hormones to defend themselves. When that happens, their hormones are still being pumped out, but the actions they’re supposed to fuel are thwarted. Eventually, the activation patterns that were meant to promote coping are turned back against the organism and now keep fueling inappropriate fight/flight and freeze responses. In order to return to proper functioning, this persistent emergency response must come to an end.

Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma