Power, talent, and self-transcendence
What I’m up to
We are just over halfway through October break. We spent the first half of break hanging out with old friends in Taichung, my former hometown. Our plan was to camp in the mountains and then drive to the east coast, but we were thwarted by a massive tropical storm that caused landslides and tore up roads. We ended up camping in the rain for one night and then returning home a few days early.
Still, we had a great time. It is also surprisingly nice just to be at home.
(Best part of our trip? Getting to test drive the new camping box Paul built.)
What I’m reading
I just finished Lauren Groff’s Matrix. It’s a fictionalized account of the life and work of the real 12th century poet Marie de France, starting from her banishment to an impoverished, godforsaken abbey. To me, it’s essentially about women and their power, and the brilliance of the novel is that it’s feminist without feeling anachronistic.
I also finished listening to Liane Moriarty’s The Last Anniversary, which is centered on a mystery but is, I think, really about mothers and daughters. I always enjoy Moriarty’s books, even though I don’t think I’ll ever love another of her novels as much as I loved What Alice Forgot.
Currently reading The View was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datto, which reads like Hollywood fanfiction.
I picked up Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (whom I always get mixed up with Maggie O’Farrell), a dual narrative of an Amelia Earhart-figure and a contemporary actress who is trying to make a film about her. It’s a hefty book and I’m both excited and daunted to dive in.
What I’m thinking about
The Baby-sitters Club and Squid Game.
I’m thinking about The Baby-sitters Club because like many, many Asian American women, the existence of Claudia Kishi as a main character was huge for me. This was my first experience of mainstream America’s inclusion of Asian American stories. While I didn’t relate to Claudia as a child at all (she’s Japanese, bad at school, an “outrageous” dresser), I just loved that she was Asian, period. I loved that she was a badass who broke Asian stereotypes (albeit stereotypes her sister, Janine, embodied haha). She was Asian American, not a foreigner-who-lives-in-America. I loved that she was just as much a part of the group and her family just as much a part of the community as the other characters. She wasn’t the sidekick. Her fleshed-out individuality didn’t make her feel like the token anything.
Squid Game because Netflix just reported that, with 111 million viewers within the first 28 days, it’s the streaming services’s “biggest series launch” ever. Squid Game is important representation, as well: the Western acknowledgment of Asian talent, influence, and voice. Asian countries have long had their own thriving media scene. (That’s why Crazy Rich Asians was not a huge deal here, but a huge deal to Asian Americans.) It’s nice to increasingly see Asian projects get global attention. Squid Game tells the world that Asian stories aren’t just good foreign stories, they’re good stories, period.* And sometimes they’re more successful** stories.
*That said, I can barely watch the series. It is brutal!
**Not to say that success always equals excellence, but we can talk about that another day.
What I’m learning
All the good ones are Jesuits.
I went to a workshop on Jesuit priest, philosopher, and theologian Bernard Lonergan and the framework he provides, which allows us in a Christian school to focus our biblical education on the idea of “self-transcendence,” the movement from being self-focused to living a life that is oriented towards loving God and others (in other words, becoming more like Jesus!).
So much to say here, but it did make me wonder again why Christian education, even education for non-believers, tends to fixate on differences (salvation now!) rather than commonalities (social justice! love! purpose! values!), despite knowing that doing so can alienate, and especially since we all ostensibly acknowledge that faith is a journey.
I think we are afraid if we focus on “issues” rather than doctrine, people will “miss the point” and not feel like they need God… but wow, was Jesus practical when he focused again and again on the social issues that created division, legalism, exploitation, and unneighborliness amongst his followers. If all truth is God’s truth, then teaching truth should lead to God, should point to Christ.
It’s something to think about, at least.
(Shoutout to B, who gave the workshop, and A, who helped me process it and who also may have said “all the good ones are Jesuits” first.)
What I’m doing
Messing around with essential oils, very very late into the game. We’ve had a diffuser just for scent for years now, but after last year’s bout of headaches and this year’s insomnia, friends gave me oils to try and I finally became interested in the benefits of oils aside from… well, room deodorization. I am now really into carrying around a little rollerball of frankincense (lol) and randomly blasting lavender from my portable diffuser.
I’d been actively uninterested in oils since they’d always seemed synonymous with MLMs to me (I am not into MLMs, but no disrespect to those who are), and it was kind of a revelation to me that there are highly reputable non-MLM essential oils that are readily available. If you, like me, enjoy using oils without buying into a membership or supporting this particular business model, here are reputable brands to try: 1, 2, 3.
What I’ve saved
Video and transcript of an interview with Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistle-blower who confirmed that Facebook not only brings out the worst in humanity, but it does so purposefully (CBS)
New York Public Library, like several others, have officially eliminated all library late fees, acknowledging that fees — like so many forms of public accountability — disproportionately hurt the underprivileged (NPR)
Until next time,