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La Perfeccion

My Honduran neighbor buys a Hummer and washes it every day. Lovingly, he strokes it with the finest lint-free chamois, applying layers of special chemicals to every gleaming surface. He decides to cut down down the silver maple next to the driveway to prevent pollen from coating it and to keep it safe from robin droppings. He removes the tires weekly, to clean the brake pads and axles. After double cafeteria shifts required by the payments he sits in his garage beside the car and lets it idle,...

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The Way of Orphanhood

I have often written about the need to create a new life-affirming culture as the most pressing task before us. The hypermasculine story of rational hegemony and the promise of technology is toxic and urgently needs to be replaced. But with what? And how? Recently I heard Bayo Akomolafe, a Nigerian intellectual, speak about similar topics. His personal story involves leaving academia and decolonizing himself by returning to traditional Nigerian village life. He is a cultural refugee of sorts....

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End of the Road

Thanks to my husband’s regular reminders, I’m aware of the phenomenon whereby we selectively register information that reinforces our existing views. Perhaps I am guilty of that. I’m the first to admit that I am skeptical of gadgets and the way that our over-reliance on technology distorts our experience. Given those disclaimers, I find myself wanting to share the news story about the man who drove off an abandoned freeway, inadvertently killing his wife, because he was apparently paying more...

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Breaking the Trance

  For most of us, it’s really hard to imagine what the Great Turning could look like. (I’m using Joanna Macy’s description of the shift towards a life-affirming society – in contrast to the “Great Unraveling” in which we keep going down the path we’re on.) This is the monolithic power of late capitalism: It has all but destroyed the possibility of even imagining alternatives. That’s what totalizing narratives do, and the one we have going right now is sine pari. It’s horrifyingly...

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When I Grow Up…

  A couple of recent conversations have reminded me how I have long been uncomfortable with the emphasis our society places on career as the basis of identity. It’s in the ritual question we ask a stranger: So what do you do? It is generally assumed that what is most relevant and interesting to others is the particular way in which we have been able to monetize ourselves. The consensus is that this defines us. And this shapes assessments about our relative success, worthiness, potential,...

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