There is a revelation I had last year, a sobering one, that has helped me shape my life better in the months since: I am no longer young and agile like I was in my youth. I don't heal as quickly as I once did, and pain lingers, longer.
This is not, inherently, all bad. Sure, I have days like today when I struggle to get out of bed and have to cancel all my appointments because I can’t bend my knee to put on socks, but I also have a better recognition of my limits, about the boundaries of my abilities, and have been able to adapt my activities accordingly. I listen to my body more than I did before, and that's definitely a good thing if I want to make sure I can take care of it as I age.
On the days when my back is spasming or knee refuses to bend—sometimes, both at the same time—I keep my mind engaged by reading, either library books or my often-ignored Instapaper queue. I drink tea (if I'm strong enough to go downstairs and make it) and enjoy the words and ideas of others.
Here are some of those words and ideas I’ve enjoyed recently:
My President Was Black
President Obama, in conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates: “I’m careful not to attribute any particular resistance or slight or opposition to race. But what I do believe is that if somebody didn’t have a problem with their daddy being employed by the federal government, and didn’t have a problem with the Tennessee Valley Authority electrifying certain communities, and didn’t have a problem with the interstate highway system being built, and didn’t have a problem with the GI Bill, and didn’t have a problem with the [Federal Housing Administration] subsidizing the suburbanization of America, and that all helped you build wealth and create a middle class — and then suddenly as soon as African Americans or Latinos are interested in availing themselves of those same mechanisms as ladders into the middle class, you now have a violent opposition to them — then I think you at least have to ask yourself the question of how consistent you are, and what’s different, and what’s changed.”
Obama Reckons with a Trump Presidency
David Simas, President Obama’s political director: “Until recently, religious institutions, academia, and media set out the parameters of acceptable discourse, and it ranged from the unthinkable to the radical to the acceptable to policy. The continuum has changed. Had Donald Trump said the things he said during the campaign eight years ago—about banning Muslims, about Mexicans, about the disabled, about women—his Republican opponents, faith leaders, academia would have denounced him and there would be no way around those voices. Now, through Facebook and Twitter, you can get around them. There is social permission for this kind of discourse. Plus, through the same social media, you can find people who agree with you, who validate these thoughts and opinions. This creates a whole new permission structure, a sense of social affirmation for what was once thought unthinkable. This is a foundational change.”
Prince’s Closest Friends Share Their Best Prince Stories
Morris Hayes, Prince’s long-time keyboard player: “We have a thing called Caribou Coffee in Minnesota, which is like Starbucks. He’d go over there, and he didn’t have any pockets. He didn’t have a wallet or any credit cards. He just had cash he’d carry in his hand—like, a $100 bill. And whoever took his order, they’d have a good day, ‘cause he'd buy his coffee drink and then just leave the whole hundred. He doesn't wait for any change because he doesn’t have anywhere to put it.”
Children of Men Might Be the Most Relevant Film of 2016
“In the weeks that followed, Cuarón and Lubezki put together some of the most technically daunting and aesthetically stunning action sequences in modern cinema. Cuarón and Lubezki wanted to shoot the movie almost like a documentary: with wide shots and long, continuous takes without a cut. ‘It was this whole idea of being there in the moment with the character and experiencing violence,’ Cuarón says. ‘When you constantly cut out, back, forward, you’re presenting the cool ways for a car to crash, as opposed to the random way in which violence happens.’” (Here’s the full transcript of Abraham Riesman’s conversation with Alfonso Cuarón.)
From architecture to cultural life: how would you design a city from scratch?
Zoe Williams, looking at city-building from a political perspective: “Any city built from scratch, with any ambition, assumes the participation of its inhabitants, assumes neighbourliness, a ‘sense of community’, as its raison d’etre. In architectural drawings, this is conveyed by a man on the street, mending a bike, plus a child carrying balloons. On the BBC, the ‘community’ is religious leaders, plus or minus a do-gooder who runs marathons. None of these cut it: the only thing that meaningfully unites people who live alongside one another is wanting certain things – improvements, activities, visual interventions into unloved spaces, places for young people that aren’t bus shelters, but also bus shelters – for their area. This is politics.”
The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi
“The erasure of Islam from Rumi’s poetry started long before Coldplay got involved. Omid Safi, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at Duke University, says that it was in the Victorian period that readers in the West began to uncouple mystical poetry from its Islamic roots. Translators and theologians of the time could not reconcile their ideas about a ‘desert religion,’ with its unusual moral and legal codes, and the work of poets like Rumi and Hafez. The explanation they settled on, Safi told me, was ‘that these people are mystical not because of Islam but in spite of it.’”