Yesterday, I spent over two hours injecting cancer cells into mice, looking through a glass barrier in full, identity-erasing protective gear. As I did this, I listened to a Longform interview with Wesley Yang, of “Paper Tigers” fame. When the Longform hosts introduced him, they noted how unique he is among their interviewees in his convoluted path through journalism and writing in general.
As Yang describes it, when he initially became a journalist, he was not super set on that path or particularly ambitious. He just wasn’t good at anything else. What lingers with me most is the few minutes when he said that he was just always lost, still is lost.
Today, I went to the Asian Art Museum for its 50th anniversary celebration. There was an exhibit on the use and symbolism of gold throughout the ages. The placards noted its association with prosperity, divinity, and immortality. As I read this, I thought what strange creatures we humans are, to desire immortality with such fervor. What drives us to construct tombs containing thousands of warriors, to build pyramids on the bones of the unfortunates, to create and collect records of civilizations? Continue reading “Immortality, lost and not quite found”
I finally finished reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I also finished putting together the audio for a Bone Lab episode featuring our interview with a bioarchaeologist. Together, these things are giving me a less despairing lens with which to view this strange and tragic era. And can’t we all use a little less despair right now.
Last week felt more than ever like the plot of a dystopian novel. In 2015, we have self-driving cars, inexpensive personal genetic sequencing, eyeglass computers guiding surgical procedures, and an apple that is engineered to resist bruising. We seem to have the tools to create a utopia. And yet, people around the world lack food and clean drinking water. Entire villages, countries are raped, pillaged, and murdered. In 2015, North Korea executes its citizens for gaining exposure to the outside world, old men can marry and rape young girls without repercussions, and a Hitler-like Donald Trump is a viable presidential candidate in a country that is supposed to represent freedom. In 2015, ISIS, in spite of its technological savviness, tortures and beheads prisoners, commits unspeakable acts of terror and barbarism reminiscent of the Dark Ages or the ancient Middle Kingdom.
What the fuck.
How can this read as anything other than a work of dystopian fiction or an absurdist play? How can we, on a global scale, be doomed to constantly repeat the same kinds of mistakes, enact the same ridiculous tragedies?
Continue reading “The universal constant”
I know a guy who lost his mother in high school, and he is so even-keeled and unflappable and successful, I don’t understand it. Every day, I see him in lab, and I want to ask him, “How are you so normal and functional? Do you ever dream about her? How can you live without acknowledging that she was alive and without forcing everyone else to acknowledge it too? Why have you been able to carry on as if life were normal?” It’s been about a decade for him, but I’m over four years out, and I don’t think another six will change my constant urgent need to make sure she is remembered or my sense that nothing will ever be okay again, not really. Maybe it’s just that men and women grieve differently. Maybe it’s just us, because he has always been even-keeled and unflappable, and I’ve always been the opposite.
But then I think of Derek Thompson’s article in the Atlantic after he lost his mother, when he wrote about how surprisingly easy it was to move on and be normal, with scientific studies to back up that trend of resilience, and I want to scream because why are all these people able to be normal and functional? What is wrong with me that I still have such intense spasms of grief, four years out, and I have to struggle so hard just to put one foot in front of the other?Continue reading “grief spasms”