Questions of Time

Working Towards Whiteness has got me thinking about things I’m sure many people have asked and answered before. It’s a complicated topic but I want to know what makes a culture? Patterns of migration occur and have occured all over the world for millenia and yet we have a very American problem of a lack of “white culture”. Is it simply that our country has progressed so rapidly it hasn’t had time to become placed? The Scottish people’s came from Spain, France, and other Southern European countries when they have a narrative that says they came from Northern European countries. And yet they have their own culture. Is it simply that Scotland has had the time to develop it’s own distinct culture over many hundreds of years with migration happening slowly?

A Few Ideas

Idea one. Read the following two books about the idea of whiteness: The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class and a sort of sequel of sorts called Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White. The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs. both by David Roediger. I’ve been exploring this idea of what it means to have a cultural identity, how whiteness erases the cultural identity of my ancestors and in turn wondering at what point in American history did immigrants go from Irish, English, Jewish, etc. to simply white? To that point when did MY family experience that transition and how? I’m hoping to understand politics at a larger scale as well as my own internal identity.

Idea two. Make a Genogram for American presidents of the last thirty years. Explore political integrity through the lens of Psychology and specifically Family Systems.

Sabbath, Identity and Millenial Burnout

Yesterday I listened to an episode of The Ezra Klein Show, a podcast by the creator of Vox media, called Work as Identity, Burnout as Lifestyle. Klein talks to Anne Helen Peterson who wrote the popular Buzzfeed article about Millenial Burnout and Derek Thompson who wrote an article about Workism over at The Atlantic (which I’ve yet to read). Two things stood out to me among the millions of thoughts I had on the podcast and the subject.

The first is the way in which spirituality is either straightforwardly or subversively brought up in a neutral or slightly positive light. As millenials increasingly move away from organized religion and the Christian church in America it is a pleasant surprise to hear people pondering if religion has something positive to offer. In this case Peterson, Thompson, and Klein are mostly referring to idea of sabbath and internal vs. external models of identity. Specifically Thompson says

and weirdly I thought more about the benefits of believing in God more writing this piece than I have ever writing any other piece and part of that was because of this idea of…. falsification that if you place the weight of your self esteem on Twitter it's going to be falsified and if you place the weight of your esteem on work purely; it's going to be falsified. You're going to be disappointed from time to time, you're not going to get some rays, you're not going to get the traffic that you wanted from some article, you're not going to be able to finish some project on time. Work falsifies our hopes and dreams all the time. That's just that's just how the external world works but kind of a nice thing about a belief system that is oriented around a spiritual being is that God never comes down to fire people. It's a purely unfalsifiable belief and there's something really beautiful about unfalsifiable beliefs and falsifiable belief systems…

and then the group move into a conversation about leisure and the need for play time in America. (I’ll call it Sabbath). The next place in the podcast that I ponder religion is where they talk, near the end, about structures that might help them out of these two crisis: they talk about more leisure time, they discuss bringing back social clubs, such as Rotary, reducing time on social media, creating unions again. But they also two larger potential salves to our current wounds: Marxism and Buhddism both I see the merits of as either an opposition to Capitalism or a balancing act to it. But I still, at the end of the day, wonder about Jesus. I don’t have an answer yet about him and millennial burnout. But I have ideas forming.

The second thing that stood out to me is the conversation had on Capitalism’s ability to turn things outside government and work into places of efficiency, social interaction, monetary value, and the like. I just read an article that some people in my generation are using productivity apps like Slack and Trello to help their home life. While that feels sad to me on a number of levels, although understandable, my thoughts actually go to the origins of Cheaper by the Dozen. The real life family was doing efficiency testing long before app developers made Slack or Trello and while I’m not advocating for this necessarily I do imaginatively ponder what it would be like to bring the Gilbreths to the 21st century and have them do efficiency testing on our modern world. My theory is that they’d find that, exactly like we’re slowly becoming aware of, our combining, “time-saving” devices might actually be making us spend more time working and on our devices! (See timestamp 00:39:30 in the podcast).

I wonder cognitively what multi-tasking does to our brains, to our guts and our anxieties. And to that point our mental health as individuals and as a nation. How much of my mental health journey could be aided along by simply being on my phone less? By being present. By feeling like a kid in the 90s again; in the sweet spot between playing outside and reaching a few more goals in my video game adventure. Not being distracted by technology.

I often wonder how much I don’t know myself because I’m constantly distracted from paying attention to my feelings and my body by being sucked into my devices. How I’ve created this external identity through Google searches and come to unknow myself and my true identity.

These last thoughts are a little more jumbled. (Surprise! I’m distracted!)

Pop Culture Thoughts

  • Stranger Things series 3 is already a million times better than series 2. It’s got that overarching mystery thing down pat. Makes me want to read Nancy Drew books which I somehow missed out on as a child despite my love of mystery stories.

  • Speaking of YA novels: I’m revisiting The Babysitters Club through the eyes of two male identifying leads in a podcast called The Babysitters Club Club. I’d recommend reading the books along with the episodes as there’s not much plot summarization happening but it’s hilarious, nostalgic, and nerdy as all get out. Plus the two leads have podcast chemistry.

  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is making me re-think the way I cook. Plus Samin Nosrat is A-DOR-ABLE. I’m also simultaneously reading How to Read a French Fry which looks at the scientific reasons why potato’s fry, how to cut an onion without crying, and what makes an emulsion….emulsify. Companion reading is a good approach when studying a passion sometimes.

  • I finally watched the first episode of Veronica Mars and I like it but I may have to wait a while to see if I want to continue watching it as a lot of traumatic stuff is revealed to happen to her in the very FIRST episode which, spoiler alerts, includes, the death of a friend, abandonment by her mother, cover-ups by her father, bullying, date-rape, and probably other stuff I’m forgetting. Sheesh!

So, be right back I’m going to get sucked into a wormhole of researching detective dime novels and endlessly scrolling Netflix for a movie to watch (which I’ll probably never actually choose).

The Four Resiliencies

According to Jane McGonigal’s work:

  • Phsyical: Move around at least once every hour. Move your body. Don’t sit still for too long

  • Mental: Practice willpower. Complete arbitrary tasks. Do pointless but challenging things.

  • Emotional: Experience 3 positive emotions for every 1 negative emotion you have every day.

  • Social: Communicate with others; especially in the form of gratitude. Touch and be touched.