As most of you know, I’ve been sending out periodic emails to students and former students over the past couple of years*, starting from when the pandemic first hit, trying to take an open approach to you all since, honestly, I didn’t trust others to do the same. I felt like you deserved to be informed about the virus and UW’s response to it, but then that sort of morphed into thoughts I’ve been having about how to best support you all, to give words of encouragement, to give advice about how to be good, and to generally try to uplift.
After more than two years, I do find myself starting to run out of things to write about. Usually, at the start of a new quarter, though, I want to catch new-to-me students up with these emails so I suppose this email serves that purpose. So, yeah, new-to-me students, an archive of previous posts can be found on my website.
Things are great, things are good, things are sad, things are melancholy, things are listless, things are… things are absurd, things are everything everywhere all at once.
But here’s another thing: I reread this amazing post from The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings) about life through the eyes of Burroughs among others. It’s an amazing post in that it connects the thoughts of a whole bunch of philosophers, scientists, artists, etc. into one train of thought: that life is uniquely good… all of it: the ups and downs… and the totality and that it’s within this best possible universe is what makes it uniquely good.
If there’s only one post you read this year in your search for what to make of life, make it this one: Cosmic Consolation for Human Hardship: The Great Naturalist John Burroughs on How to Live with Life
And revisit it every once in a while, since there’s a lot to unpack and tendrils to follow and contemplate.
Seriously, if I could, I would just assign this one reading for my courses. It’s more important than anything my syllabi cover.
*If you want to be taken off this email list, lmk. If you want to stay on but are losing your UW email soon due to graduation, lmk a diff one to use for you. And, I guess, if you know someone else who should be in on these emails even though they might not’ve been a student of mine, lmk.