Roy Scranton, an Iraq War vet and author, knows a thing or two about getting used to death. In an essay for the New York Times, We’re Doomed. Now What? he argues that humans need to accept that our culture is bringing about its own collapse. It’s a theme he touches on in another essay in the Buddhist journal Tricycle: Learning to Die in the Anthropocene. I think he’s on to something, acknowledging that human civilization, just like our own lives, will probably end one day:
Buddhism articulates the riddle posed by human mortality to human consciousness in a way that shows us that the riddle’s answer lies not in evading the great ending, the terrifying void, but in accepting the truth that our great ending is merely another iteration of the innumerable endings we live through each day.
Have you resolved to exercise more in the new year? Or write more? Well, the two are often connected, notes Nick Repatrazone in a piece for The Atlantic: Why Writers Run. Haruki Murakami claims his career as a writer began the day he started running, Joyce Carol Oates ends writers’ block with a jog, and Don Dellilo finds that a run helps him “shake off the world.”
In a long, gorgeously detailed essay, This is Living, Charles D’Ambrosio recalls his father’s relationship with money, and how a handful of silver dollars eventually awakened the author to the realities of experience.
In the worshipping eyes of a son any father’s life is epic, I suppose, but nothing in my father’s life ever approached the coherence of narrative.
I’ve spent some of my time in Paris visiting a friend who lives near the ethnically-rich Goute d’Or neighborhood, where street sellers from Sudan and Senegal peddle roasted corn and cheap clothing. Maggy Donaldson, in an article for Harper’s, takes us inside the life of an asylum-seeker who frequents the neighborhood known as The Golden Drop.
In Orion magazine, Elizabeth Bradfield gives us three poems written during her time working as a naturalist/tour guide in Antarctica. Combining journal entries, haiku, and photography, these pieces capture the extreme, stark beauty of the southernmost continent.
Earlier last year, the literary world was treated a historic find: a lost early poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Published when he was only 18, “Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things” is a blistering attack on England’s warmongering against Napoleon. You can read the whole poem courtesy of the Bodelian Library. It still rings true today:
cold advisers of yet colder kings,/ To whose fell breast no passion virtue brings
And finally, apropos of the New Year: before you go making wildly optimist resolutions, you might brush up on the new science of pessimism. Some psychological studies show that those who have lower expectations actually do better at attaining goals. Happy New Year!