We have had a lot of uncertainty and unknowing recently, and it’s showing. My social media feed is full of baking and hiking, and also full of suffering and prayers and data. Every day I visit one particular tree, and every day I update a spreadsheet of some of the saddest numbers I’ve ever seen.
We are all searching for understanding, but there is something more too: we are all searching for safety. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard references to indicators that show well, it’s way over there, and then well, it’s only very old people, and then well, it’s only very sick people, and then well, it’s only smokers, well, it’s only people who are overweight, well, it’s just my one friend or my relative… by now it’s too close and we all have to let these analytical illusions fall and admit, here we are.
Friends, there is no other place. There is no other group. There is no other.
Yes, let’s draw our loved ones close.
All of them.
That’s the safest thing to do.
* Einstein wrote this in a letter to a grieving father who had just lost his son. You can read wonderful reflections on this idea from Maria Popova of BrainPickings, and can learn more about the original text and its popular mis-quoting on the OnBeing site.
We were in the middle of analyzing some news and data this week when one of my colleagues made a profound observation:
We are seeing how fragile our systems can be.
We are seeing how fragile our own well-being can be.
We are seeing how many are working in care of others every day.
We are seeing how time can be fleeting and endless, all at once.
We are seeing how solace can come in word or touch, in taste or sound, in movement or rest.
We are seeing how the unfurling of a leaf or blooming of a bud is miraculous.
Dear ones, essential elements are being revealed, like rocks at low tide.
Let us be safe. Let us be well. Let us be one. Let us take heart.
Oh, dear friends, what a time.
This week I set up a home office and argued with a lady in CVS who was taking the whole shelf of hand sanitizer and watched the stock market plummet and read so many scary headlines and it was all perseverance and planning and analysis and determination and fine, okay, fine, and then on Friday night I watched the video of those people singing across the empty streets of Italy and burst into tears.
On Saturday, I read some Wendell Berry and took a long walk in the woods and found a long-ago stone wall running through the trees, one that I’d seen on an old property map but never been able to find.
Dear ones, this tumult, like all tumult, reminds us of how fragile we are. It also reminds us of what is essential, and what we can do. We can work together. We can help one another. We can seek solace. We can look for the new questions that are emerging. We can recognize the insights that arise.
We can consult the old maps.
We can find the markers through the woods that were set down for us long ago.
Let us be safe. Let us be well. Let us be one.
Here are some gifts from Wendell Berry, greater than anything I can offer. I invite you to support the Berry Center, in thanks:
One of my greatest mentors and advocates, Jack Welch, passed away this week. Like all of us, his life had some complexity, and like anyone who holds positions of power, his legacy holds some complexity too.
Here is what I know.
When I was a 24 year old industrial analyst, and my friend Jennifer and I were often the only women in the room, he took us seriously.
When I got pushed out of the way (actually pushed) at a big business dinner, he noticed. The next year, there was assigned seating, with the push-er way at the end of the table, and me right across from Jack.
He told my colleagues that I knew the company better than anyone, and that they should pay attention to my work.
He wrote thank you notes – not just to me, but to hundreds, thousands, of people.
He asked about my family, and my life.
He sent congratulations when my book was published, even though we’d been out of touch by then and he likely disagreed with everything in it.
Dear friends, if we are lucky we will have lives full of meaning and love. For sure, we will all also have some complications, and some might be doozies. But we can all choose to give a young newcomer a chance. We can all write the thank-you note.
I have read a lot of remembrances of Jack this week, which include a lot of critique – some fair, some less so.
For me, he will always be the one who listened, and answered my endless questions.
He will always be the one who moved the mean guy to the end of the table, so that I could have a better seat.
This week I spoke with a reporter about women in finance, and especially about women in sustainable investing. I talked about the skills that are needed to translate across settings, and the opportunities that come about in emerging fields. This was all accurate, but not especially poetic.
I should have talked about salt marshes and wetlands and mangroves and treelines – ecotones, edges, the places where different systems come up against one another, where both systems are present and there is also something emergent, something that is neither one nor the other.
The edges are messy. The edges are diverse. The edges are full of experimentation and invention and innovation. The edges are teeming with life.
Dear ones, if we find ourselves at the edge, let’s be sure to look around, to take in the explosion of invention that tends to happen there. And if we’re safely tucked in the center – whether at work or in society or in our own families – let’s wander out and explore. Let’s see what’s happening at the outer edges, the places we’ve been told are weird, or dangerous, or lesser.
At the edges, there is more mixing and mingling.
At the edges, there is less sense of “normal,” because we’re already betwixt and between.
At the edges, difference is more welcome, and more valuable.
At the edges, amazing things can happen.