Last Week’s Links

How to be alone

“Solitude is a skill. You can get better at it with practice.”

Sigal Samuel urges us to lean into being alone.

Many factors have conspired to make us bad at solitude. They’re mostly not our fault. As Jenny Odell lays out in her book How to Do Nothing, we live in a culture where sociability and constant connectivity are rewarded, and where choosing to be by yourself marks you out as a loser, crazy, possibly immoral.

This article goes deeper than I expected. Samuel offers several ingredients for making the most of solitude:

  1. “First, there’s the idea that to succeed at solitude, you have to accept that you’re being “thrown upon yourself” — to confront your reality rather than opting for distraction.
  2. “Another key ingredient to successful solitude, psychologists have found, is having a clear sense of purpose.”
  3. Some people who have adapted to living in isolation “emphasize the importance of routines — the little daily rituals that anchor us in time and give shape to a day.”
  4. “Many artists insist that isolation is necessary for creative work.”
  5. “Most world religions, even if they’re ambivalent about solitude as a long-term path, acknowledge that it’s useful for fostering spiritual insight.”

But Samuel also acknowledges that sudden isolation, such as that forced on us by the COVID-19 pandemic, can also have risks. There’s a link to a guide to developing “distress tolerance skills” developed by psychologists for the Centre for Clinical Interventions, supported by the Australian government’s department of health.

Loneliness Hasn’t Increased Despite Pandemic, Research Finds. What Helped?

NPR reports on several new studies that suggest the huge increase in loneliness social scientists expected to accompany the mandatory isolation necessary to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus hasn’t materialized.

Some researchers wonder if the many ways communities have found to band together while socially distanced—such as porch chats, Zoom dinners, neighborhood dancing—have contributed to the lower-than-expected rate of loneliness. Still, they add, conditions are ripe for anxiety and depression, which we should be on the lookout for in both ourselves and others.

As the pandemic surges, old people alarm their adult kids by playing bridge and getting haircuts

My husband and I are both over 70, and we’ve been terrified by how hard this virus is hitting older adults. We have minimized our trips out as much as possible, always wear masks when outside the house, and stay six feet away from others when we do go to the grocery store. So I was surprised to see this news story about older people shocking their children by not following recommended health guidelines.

Various factors are contributing to this generational divide. Older people in the United States are statistically more likely than younger generations to listen to conservative media and to politicians who have played down the dangers of the virus, and some may have followed their lead. Others may be well aware of the risks but have weighed them against the mental and physical benefits of maintaining exercise and social routines.

Whatever the reasons, the dynamic can leave middle-aged people, many of whom may already be worried about their adult children going to protests or beach gatherings, feeling that they must also parent their parents.

You’re Doomscrolling Again. Here’s How to Snap Out of It.

This experience of sinking into emotional quicksand while bingeing on doom-and-gloom news is so common that there’s now internet lingo for it: “doomscrolling.” Exacerbating this behavior, shelter-in-place orders leave us with little to do other than to look at our screens; by some measures, our screen time has jumped at least 50 percent.

Read explanations of how to use these approaches to lift yourself out of the doom and gloom:

  1. Create a plan to control your time
  2. Practice meditation
  3. Connect with others

Viewing Literature as a Lab for Community Ethics

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront many bioethical questions, such as, when resources are limited, which lives should be saved and which sacrificed? Maren Tova Linett, author of Literary Bioethics, argues that fiction, with its ability to present imagined worlds, offers the chance to explore such concerns: “Fiction has the virtue of presenting vividly imagined worlds in which certain values hold sway, casting new light onto those values. And the more plausible we find these imagined worlds, the more thoroughly we can evaluate the justice of those values.”

Literary Bioethics considers novels such as The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

The Lingering Legacy of America’s First Cookie-Cutter Suburb

I’ve been hearing a lot about systemic racism in the U.S., the fact that racism is built so basically into our culture that even the best-intentioned white folks don’t notice it. This article from Atlas Obscura startlingly illustrates that point.

“The idyllic ideal of modern suburbia in the United States was born in 1947 with the creation of Levittown, a large housing development in Long Island, New York.” Furthermore:

A clause in the standard lease for the first Levitt houses baldly stated that the homes could not “be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race.” Government policies at the time, such as those of the Federal Housing Administration, supported such racist practices, blocking Black Americans and other people of color from the new suburbs and homeownership.

I’ll just leave that fact right there.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

IS THE CURE FOR ALZHEIMER’S HIDING INSIDE US? SHE THINKS SO

Here’s a profile of Annelise Barron:

Alzheimer’s is the root cause of 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and the complexity of the disease has troubled neurology researchers for decades. But Barron, an associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford, has uncovered a way for our own immune system to fight off a major cause of Alzheimer’s. If her research leads to a treatment, it would be the first new therapeutics development in more than a decade.

BOOKS WITH STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS OVER 50

Being of a certain age myself, I enjoy books that feature older women characters. And if you’re into reading challenges that ask you to read a book featuring “a strong female character over 50,” here are eight books to help you fill in that category.

READ HARDER: A BOOK WITH A FEMALE PROTAGONIST OVER THE AGE OF 60

And if 50 is too young for you, here’s a list of six books featuring female protagonists over age 60. I heartily second the recommendation of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and would also add Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

Cover: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

SOLVING THE HIDDEN DISEASE THAT’S AS BAD AS 15 CIGARETTES A DAY

That disease would be loneliness:

Experts agree that we’re facing a loneliness epidemic, one that has profound consequences for our physical health, our longevity and our overall well-being. But where others emphasize the scale and seriousness of this looming crisis, Murthy offers an encouraging message: Yes, loneliness is a pervasive problem worldwide, but there is a simple and actionable solution.

Why Older People Have Always Trashed Young People

Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?
Oh, what’s the matter with kids today?

Why does every generation express worry that its kids aren’t as good? Because of fear, this article argues:

We talk of children in terms of continuation. They carry on our traditions. They take our names. We delight in how they look like us, act like us, think like us. We want our kids to adopt our politics, our causes, our sense of meaning. In our children, we seek immortality.

But then they grow up, and we discover they’re not us. They are their own people. They’ll find their own politics, their own causes, their own sense of meaning. They’re more interested in the future than the past. They’ll know their parents’ names, of course, and probably their grandparents’ names, but perhaps not their great-grandparents’ names, and certainly not their great-great-grandparents’ names. Which means one day they’ll have children, and those children will have children, and our names will begin to be forgotten too. We will slip into nothingness, remembered by nobody, having left no recognizable impact.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown