I put this newsletter on a holiday hiatus back just before Christmas. I’m glad I didn’t have the pressure to try to respond with any kind of intelligence over the last few weeks. Frankly, it’s been mostly anger interspersed with gallows humor. That’s just where I am with…all of this…
My friend, Geoff, wrote this morning about how many computer systems use a “logical” delete which doesn’t actually delete anything but instead simply hides it. It’s all still sitting there ready for revelation. That got me to thinking about the grace that is forgetting.
While I might well remember the feeling I had when someone said something or even did something particularly mean to me, it’s difficult for me to conjure the exact words used. Even if I try to think specifically about that moment, over time the sharp edges dull and what might have invoked fury is now maybe just mild discontent. This is the power of forgetting.
We now live in a world where nothing is forgotten. Think of the stories where tweets made a decade ago resurface to dog someone. Those utterances are then elevated to the same level of import and meaning as anything being said in the moment. I’m not bemoaning people being held to account for racist or sexist positions. In fact, this lack of forgetting is probably helping to educate a lot of people about what is acceptable and what isn’t. They are probably also learning the dangers of simply putting every thought they have out into the world. You reap what you sow.
In my work, not only do we not delete things but we preserve a decades-long history of who said it and when. Sure, there’s a large portion of anonymity but the record still exists. Since we deal in trying to record the sum of all human knowledge, this kind of hoarding seems important. The folks at Internet Archive are engaged in similar efforts. There’s a paradox here that on the Internet nothing ever disappears yet we have two very large organizations trying to save all the stuff that’s disappearing.
So, there must be some other force at play. It seems to me that it’s a lack of grace. The old books fade into formats no one can access. The personal pages full of the stuff of culture fall apart as technology moves on. But, we humans make sure that the petty stuff of bickering and mouthing off with our worst intentions are preserved and relitigated over and over again at length. This is the nature of what we choose to save and what we choose to let decay.
That’s an awfully damning conclusion. The evidence seems clear though. We have a chance to set in our collective memories those moments of grace, compassion, growth, and vulnerability. We even have leaders among us who can take us there. We have to choose to follow.
A Little Kindness
This New Yorker profile of Shigeru Miyamoto highlights that dreamers still exist and that kindness can still be something more than a charitable, selfless pursuit. When asked what he might change about how world, Miyamoto says, “I wish we were all a little more compassionate in these small ways. If there was a way to design the world that discouraged selfishness, that would be a change I would make.” It gets to the heart of the matter about many of us seek to collect and to gather as opposed to give and to share.
Christ Among the Children
The amazing art-pop band, Love Tractor, recently reissued their first self-titled album in a beautiful vinyl version. Produced by R.E.M.’s Bill Berry, the album often shows up in your favorite band’s list of favorite albums. The video above is for a song called “Christ Among the Childen” from a later album, The Sky at Night. I celebrate their entire catalog. If you love that Athens sound of the early 80s, you will, too.
Get it Back
We all the know the horrors visited upon the native tribes of the Americas by the white Europeans who came here. In addition to murder, enslavement, and rape, the white settlers also systematically defrauded the native tribes of their land. Through theft or fraudulent contracts, land was “bought” or “reclaimed” as the tribes were continually relocated. I grew up learning about a white-washed version of the Trail of Tears. Well now, using the contractual means originally employed against them, some tribes are buying back their land and rebuilding their nations.
Why does beauty exist?
Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass is a classic of ecological thinking and you should read it. This article and the radio piece it accompanies give a nice intro to the topics that Kimmerer studies and writes about. She is certainly one of the foremost scientists reframing our attachment to the natural world. I love this simple sentence, “We speak a grammar of animacy.” How easy it can be to acknowledge the agency of the world we inhabit.
That’s all I can muster for this week. I’m still reeling. If you want to get poetry, other ramblings, and more music, buy a subscription. Paid subscribers get bonus stuff.
Have a great week!
The Orb Weaver