All posts tagged: Ursula K. Le Guin

Beyond the Pandemic

To no one’s surprise, nostalgia is very much in vogue in the middle of this pandemic. That’s understandable. Psychologists say that experiencing distress, or “negative mood” is a very common trigger of nostalgia. As a temporary reprieve from the pressures of the present world, these past happy memories can be a helpful coping device. But as a long-term strategy for getting through and — more importantly — thriving on the other side of the pandemic, nostalgia alone will not be enough. With past pandemics and crises as a guide, the world never goes back to the old way of doing things after such a shock to the system. As someone whose entire career has focused on ensuring that history is part of our present and future, I want to make certain that we don’t discount the past. But this pandemic will require that we adjust to the reality of inevitable change. We can adjust, becoming more effective in our jobs and in life while also promoting our cognitive health, by embracing enthusiastic learning during and …

Farewell 2019, Hello 2020

It is time, once again, when I first look back over the past twelve months and then think ahead to where I want to go in the year to come. This annual review is one small part of a larger practice to have an honest conversation with myself in the hopes that I’ll then be able to have real conversations with the larger world. During 2019, I’ve thought a great deal about place, privilege, and—given the tenor of the times—paths forward individually as well as collectively. Why place? My career has been focused on older and historic places, what those places can tell us, and how they can nurture us (or not) into the future. Although I took a gap year from full-time work in 2019, I didn’t stop thinking about my life’s work. Knowing that emotions flow through place, in my writing over this year I’ve focused more on the buildings and landscapes in our cities and towns that, while coming from my professional life, also have deep personal meaning for me. Why privilege? …

All That’s Left to Learn

Gap years provide opportunities to try something new or—if your time off comes later in life—to return and revisit neglected passions. In the last six months I’ve taken a writing course. I’ve incorporated my long-time love of guitar playing into my daily routine. A course on wine or bourbon tasting, to gain fresh insights into a couple of my more pleasurable pursuits, may be in my future. Perhaps I’ll use the new bike path that runs in front of our house as the impetus to rekindle my passion for cycling. And while I’d given yoga a chance in the past, there were always other, seemingly more important, calls on my attention. But I now find myself here, in my gap year, returning to the yoga studio. There’s a very logical reason for making this move: my muscles and joints were crying out for more flexibility. Several months ago I tripped while stepping off the train in London and fell to the concrete platform, landing directly on my right knee. For a number of weeks the …

Writing, Briefly. Writing Well.

I am a frustrated writer.  Not the kind who needs to work on The Great American Novel (or TGAN)*.  If I wanted to write fiction — great or otherwise — there are plenty of models to follow, such as Flannery O’Connor’s habit of three-hours of writing first thing every morning, or advice to be found in places like Annie Dillard’s eloquent The Writing Life  and Cheryl Strayed’s direct and somewhat salty response (be forewarned) to a young aspiring writer.  No, I want to be able to write essays, blog posts, magazine articles, reports, letters, and speeches that pull people in, make them care about the topic at hand, show a bit of my personality, and only say what needs to be said and nothing more. If you have similar aspirations, you may not want to take advice about writing from a computer programmer, but let me suggest that Paul Graham — a programmer, writer, and investor who helped co-found Y-Combinator, a new type of startup investment firm — should be the exception. In a tiny …

Responding to Anger

Our recent national conversations too often seem soaked in anger. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t become angry.  It is a trait we all seem to share.  What differs is how we respond to anger:  our own and others. Over the winter holiday, our family visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Last Friday, our divisional management team toured the Mere Distinction of Colour exhibit at the National Trust Historic Site Montpelier.  Both cultural institutions showcased the many ways a people oppressed have responded to anger held against them by others as well as that held inside themselves. While at Montpelier, I picked up Michael Eric Dyson’s book Tears We Cannot Stop, a powerful call for recognition and redemption which brims with this Baptist preacher’s righteous anger. In her collection of essays No Time to Spare:  Thinking About What Matters, Ursula K. Le Guin has a two-part piece on anger. The first half looks at public anger, while the second focuses on our private anger.  I thought of the first in the …

Farewell 2017, Hello 2018

I was so discouraged with our country’s direction at the end of 2016, that I missed what had become an annual More to Come… year-end update.  Many commentators described 2017 as a “dumpster fire of a year.” Even Dave Barry had a hard time coming up with outrageous examples that exceeded our twisted reality.  The title of this year’s review by Barry says it all:  “2017: Did that really happen?” My optimism for our country’s future hasn’t fully recovered in part because I find myself agreeing with Lewis Lapham when he writes: “If the American system of government at present seems so patently at odds with its constitutional hopes and purposes, it is not because the practice of democracy no longer serves the interests of the presiding oligarchy (which it never did), but because the promise of democracy no longer inspires or exalts the citizenry lucky enough to have been born under its star. It isn’t so much that liberty stands at bay but, rather, that it has fallen into disuse, regarded as insufficient by …

Respect is a Decision

We are heading into a season when generations will mix together with more frequency than they may at other times of the year (around a dining table for a holiday meal, for instance.)  While we interact with people of a variety of ages at work, the differences in generations are often much wider when we move outside the office. I was thinking of the clashes that often arise during these gatherings as I was reading a new book of essays by the science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin entitled No Time to Spare:  Thinking About What Matters.  Le Guin is 88 and, in this delightful and insightful book, she is not shy about saying she is old.  In fact, don’t suggest otherwise.  As she notes, “Encouragement by denial, however well-meaning, backfires.  Fear is seldom wise and never kind.  Who is it you’re cheering up, anyhow?  Is it really the geezer?” But what got me to thinking about relationships between generations, and the importance respect plays in all of our dealings with each other, is …