Tag Archives: care

Recognize yourself and the world: How to find agency in the face of madness

Hi all,

(This letter is being sent to current and previous students of mine in the past 2 years, as part of a series I started when UWB first went into lockdown. An archive of previous emails can be found on my website. If you want off this mailing list, let me know. If you want to stay on it after you graduate, send me your non-UW email address.)

I’m not sure what to say. The news from two days ago is horrific and debilitating, further making the world seem senseless as we despair in our helplessness. If you’re a UWB student, there are good resources for counseling and advising. Regardless, you will always be welcome to reach out to me for support.

I read on CNN that the US has had more mass shootings than days so far this year. That’s insanity. A collective insanity as our Senate is held hostage by the GOP and lobbyists (who’ve also filibustered meaningful action on climate change, federally protecting abortion rights, etc.).

If you’ve been reading my emails for the past two years during COVID, you may remember that most of them included words of support. I’ve written about how absurd the world is yet also how to find agency when it seems like you’re stuck. And so, I guess I’m writing again… to what? to reiterate what I’ve already said? I guess so… but maybe in a different way…

Two weeks ago, I watched Everything Everywhere All at Once, and it was transformational for me, succinctly coalescing I think what I’ve been trying to say for the past two years. That in the face of absurdity, you DO HAVE control over how you react and treat others. Everyone is going through something; we’re all human. Take the time to understand and treat each other with kindness as the default attitude rather than being so self-centered and reactionary to a confusing world.

I think a lot of the problem is we live in a hyper-capitalist society that privileges profit over people, manipulates us into thinking we have to always be productive (at the cost of irreversible climate change), and, when combined with hypermasculinity and gender norms that stresses individuals rather than collectives, encourages toxicity and selfishness.

The only way to change this is together. As Ursula LeGuin stated: 

We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.

But even before finding meaning in art and writing, realize that there are more basic ways to live that act as a foundation to finding meaning in the world. As the elders of my family say: You can do anything you want except two things: Never compromise your integrity and never act against your conscience. 

I’m adding that you also have to stay informed and to think bigger about the larger forces at play and what it says about us as humans. There are patterns that can only be recognized through continual assessment of our current constraints.

Definitely, these two things must exist together: recognize yourself and recognize the world. Treat others with generosity and kindness, and be consistent with that vision of your ideal projected self, AND be critical of the world and how it should be different so that it’s easier for everyone to be kind and safe and happy.

Also, realize that we can discover how to do these things together. It’s better together. From there, we can and will move forward with meaningful action. These wounds we’ve suffered recently will heal. That said, a scar will definitely form, though, and we’ve got a whole lot of previous scars to prove it. PTSD is real, and its effects last for generations.

But remember, in the long scheme of the universe, we are but a tiny speck. It’s what we do with that knowledge that defines us and gives us meaning. Be sure to tell your friends and loved ones that you care, ask how you can help them, or just say hi and let them know what you have going on.



Communication and Consistency

Hi all.

(I’ve been sending periodic emails to current and some former students since the start of the pandemic. If you want off this list, lmk. If you want to stay on as a former student, lmk and send me your non-UW email. And, if you’re interested, you can see an archive of past emails to students on my website.)

Where to start? A lot has happened since the last time I wrote you all.
I was thinking of writing something in January as UW decided to go back to campus. If you’re a current student of mine (and you attended the class session where I talked about UW’s decision), you know the deliberation I went through and the poll I sent out, as I considered the options and decided to stay remote, only to have my dean disallow me that option. And, as you know, I then decided to remind you all that I don’t take attendance and that I’d just have my laptop open to the zoom room while sitting in the physical room at UW and whether you were in the physical space with me or not was entirely up to you. But… man, there’s so much to unpack there. Just know that I’m trying to live a consistent life where I make decisions based on my values and commitments. I believe that’s the only way to live without regrets. (No regerts!)

A week ago, the Winter Olympics ended, and, wow… what a controversial few weeks that was! From the getgo, US announcers and commentators acknowledged that this was going to be weird with the Chinese ongoing cultural genocide of the Uyghurs and with rising tension on the Ukraine border and Putin flying in to meet with Xi Jinping to solidify their bond (making me speculate about Taiwan). Then we had a bunch of athletes being disqualified for stupid reasons and, of course, the huge thing with Valieva doping and whether she should’ve been allowed to skate and then falling twice and the whole Russian team in disarray and us watching teen girls get traumatized for life on TV!
And, now… I mean shit. When the doping occurred and Russia was potentially going to be punished, I made the speculation that Putin would just invade Ukraine and basically say “who gives a shit about the Olympics?” And then the president of the IOC made that closing ceremony speech saying how sport and the games unify us and that we must remember that this unity is stronger than the forces that seek to divide us. I totally ate it up, but I sort of felt like he was trying really hard to believe his own words.

Yesterday and today, in case you haven’t been paying attention, Russian forces invaded Ukraine (and supposedly also are engaged in a large-scale cyberattack against the nation). Biden gave a press conference this morning. NPR’s coverage was sobering. No one really seemed to know what to think or what to predict for the coming weeks and months. One person who was interviewed actually speculated that Putin seemed unhinged and that’s not something you want in a person in charge of nuclear arms (though, I suppose we had four years of that recently…).

I gotta be honest with you. I was feeling anxiety and despair this morning as I was listening to all of that news. I kept thinking, “but we’re fucking in this together.” It physically hurts me, and I get sick to my stomach when people don’t realize this. That we’re better together is something I always try to impress upon you, even more so in recent quarters as new classes form. I fully believe this.

I remember in grad school, a student group I was in, Educators for Social Justice, brought in a bunch of guest speakers from local community groups, and one of them was asked why they do the work they do, and his reply was “There’s a lot of shit happening in the world. I’m trying to make sure none of it is from me.” 

And, yeah… well, that’s the thing. It’s pithy (like Google’s “don’t be evil”), but, in more recent years, I’ve come to realize that, actually, we need to do more than that; don’t just not be shitty but actively try to clean up shit. You don’t want net-zero shit; you want net-negative shit. (And wouldn’t it be awesome if Google was actively trying to be good rather than just not evil?)

Anyway, I don’t know where I’m going with this. I just want to say that as I move further along in life, I’ve sort of realized that what matters is communicating and being consistent with your values. I’m trying to do these more and more. 

I know a lot of you are graduating soon (or have already! or will eventually) and are worried about the future. My only advice is to live a life consistent with your values and to constantly be examining whether you’re doing that. I mean, sure, you want to make sure you’re able to survive, but, beyond that, so long as you don’t compromise who you are, you’ll be fine. Life isn’t fair, but you will know yourself, and that’s enough. (Unfortunately, for many of you, this won’t make sense for another 20 years or so… sorry.)

Ok. I guess I’m done. Be good to each other and to yourself. Lemme know if you need anything.

love, mark

P.S. The series finale of The Expanse had this inspiring tidbit:

You don’t do it for a reward or a pat on the head.The universe never tells us if we did right or wrong.
It’s more important to try to help people than to know that you did.
More important that someone else’s life gets better than for you to feel good about yourself.
You never know the effect you might have on someone, not really.
Maybe one core thing you said haunts them forever.
Maybe one moment of kindness gives them comfort or courage.
Maybe you said the one thing they needed to hear.
It doesn’t matter if you ever know.
You just have to try.

Stay Social!

Hi all,

(I’ve been sending periodic emails to current and some former students since the start of the pandemic. If you want off this list, lmk. If you want to stay on as a former student, lmk and send me your non-UW email. And, if you’re interested, you can see an archive of past emails to students on my website. Also, top image credit: lunar eclipse and seven sisters Nov 20, 2021 Robert Fedez)

It’s hard, innit? I know. And at UW, we’re going into remote instruction again (with some waffling and passing the buck by leadership). But I’m writing to you to hopefully cheer you up and inspire you to keep on keeping on. It’s *still* important to be social as much as you can, and going digital online doesn’t mean being isolated. It takes effort and deliberate thoughtfulness about how you interact with others. Hit those like buttons, add emojis to everything, let people know you’re there, even if you don’t say anything. 

And remember that we’re in this together.

I just discovered a new video by the BBC about the size of the universe, a remake of the “Powers of Ten” video from 1977!

Again, I want to impress upon you how you’re part of something bigger, and in this realization, you can draw strength and comfort. But maybe your natural inclination is to feel terror and insanity at how insignificant you are–just a speck among humans with humans just a speck among stars–but, actually, the opposite is true. While the video shows our physical reality and how massive it is, it becomes even more incredible when you realize that each of us is also infinitely deep, limitless in how we make meaning and feel. Indeed, the soul of the universe is infinite x infinite, and you are as infinite as the (multi/uni)verse itself.

But even more than that! If you frameshift your mind, you realize that we’re in a collective–intricately connected like a single entity rather than individuals existing with others. Draw strength from this and focus on making yourself and the whole better today than it was yesterday. Sometimes you can focus on yourself, but sometimes you can’t so you focus on others. Focus on what works, and, in the end, it’ll come back around.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the original, it’s also worth a watch as it goes the other direction, as well, showing the microscopic world down as far as we knew back then.

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful. Remember, also, to be playful.

As always, with love,


Temporary local configurations of star stuff

Hi all and happy boxing day (and other holidays)!

(I’ve been sending periodic emails to current and some former students since the start of the pandemic. If you want off this list, lmk. If you want to stay on as a former student, lmk and send me your non-UW email. And, if you’re interested, I’m maintaining an archive of past emails to students.)

This is just a note to say that I hope things are going well for you now and that you’re getting a chance to rest. Also, a note to acknowledge that a lot of people don’t have restful situations going on with their families, and, for that, I’m sorry. I hope you have (online) friends you can rely on for support and love. 

This is also to acknowledge that this freaking virus is still with us. UW has decided to go remote for the first week of the Winter Quarter as everyone gets back from vacation and tests for COVID and gets boosted. I hate to say this, but, given how easily the omicron variant spreads, I sort of predict more remote instruction will be mandated in a few weeks. 🙁 So, yes, I know it’s pretty stressful and uncertain for those of you still at UW. For me and your other instructors, it makes it really effing hard to design a curriculum that can adapt to different learning modalities. Ugh.

I know there are people out there stuck in a moment that they can’t get out of. But remember my previous emails about blips (and about imposter syndrome), and, as I was contemplating how to help last week, one morning I woke up with this thought:

We all bathe in the same sunlight, and we all see the same moon.We are all temporary local configurations of star stuff, and when we go away, we return to the cosmos to become infinite potential. But right now, relish and be thankful for our temporary configurations because this one lets us reflect and marvel at our universe’s awesomeness. Rejoice and bask in the awesomeness of existence and allow yourself to feel the energy between all of us.

Photo of man sitting on a Jeep looking away towards the night sky which features Mars, Venus, and the Moon by Shi Huan
Mars, Venus, and the Moon by Shi Huan

Anyway, I want to leave you with some goodness. I’ve found joy and solace in some media this week:

  • Music – New Order’s Ceremony and Erasure’s Blue Savannah
  • Movies – The Matrix Resurrections (a satisfying 4th-wall-blended response and reclamation to alt-right red-pillers) (I haven’t seen the new Spider-Man yet but since I want to watch the first two again first)
  • Shows – The Witcher season 2 is good, and the first is worth a rewatch… The Expanse is on its last season (I haz a sad)
  • Games – are everything

cheers and love,


Thoughts on imposter syndrome

Hi all,

We’re halfway through the first quarter of the new academic year. Things at UWB seem to be going okay in terms of people wearing masks and respecting the policies in place, and, surprisingly to me, we haven’t had any major outbreaks! Hoorah for small comforts. 🙂

I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty and a general numbness going on, though, and I’m not sure what it is other than things just being rona weird… but it seems also that a lot of students (and people in general who aren’t students) are just lacking confidence, not sure where to start with their (new) workload. There’s a feeling that whatever you do might not be that good so it’s hard to find motivation. Then you fall behind, and things just sort of spiral.

Do you know what imposter syndrome is? Basically, it’s the feeling that somehow you got to a place where you don’t really belong… that the others there are there because they’re super capable and that you somehow cajoled your way in or you got in by mistake or whatever… that your work just isn’t up to snuff when you compare yourself to others. It’s really hard to be motivated if you feel this way.

Almost everyone feels this way at least some of the time! People who don’t have some serious vanity issues or don’t really engage in self-reflection, imho! It’s okay to feel this way; it means you’re thinking about yourself and your place in the world. We need more people doing that!

But feeling like you don’t belong is a problem because the truth is that it likely isn’t true.

My best way to think about it is maybe only possible if you’ve lived a while so I realize that what I say might not be meaningful to you until years later… To me, it’s ridiculous to compare yourself to others and take away from that that you’re less than. I mean, at this moment, okay, someone might know more than you or is capable of doing something better… but you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, and right now is a tiny blip along that timeline. All you have to do today is focus on being better than you were yesterday. Improving can take time, sure… but your eventual plateau might actually be higher than someone who is more capable than you now.

I find it very useful to think bigger. Focus on why you want to improve over a lifetime rather than trying to perform to some standard at this very moment. Find a calling that you can aspire to that sustains you. For me, that’s helping people. I try my best to do that, and it doesn’t matter if I’m not as good as someone else because every positive from anyone counts. Then it becomes about us uplifting each other collectively rather than individuals competing against each other. The world is so screwed up right now because of this stupid competition.

When you realize that, basically, everyone around you is feeling imposter syndrome, too, you also realize that you’re all being mum out of intimidation for no good reason. One of the biggest regrets I have, when I look back at my college experience, is not reaching out and making more friends than I did, mostly because I felt like everyone around me was smarter, or maybe not smarter but more “with it.” And realizing now that that simply wasn’t true, I really wish we’d gotten to know each other as whole humans more so than we did. 

Anyway, I hope this makes sense… 🙂

As always, I’m here for you if you need.

love,mark | t: @mcdanger | m: markdangerchen | d: mcdanger#6611

P.S. Here’s a hot tip in case you didn’t know: get a credit card and start using it and paying the balance off each month so you don’t get charged interest. Do that for a while so that in a year or so you have good credit and can do stuff like get a loan or rent an apartment.

It’s the end of September in 2021


(I’ve been sending periodic emails to current and some former students since the start of the pandemic. If you want off this list, lmk. If you want to stay on as a former student, lmk. And, if you’re interested, an archive of the emails can be found here: https://markdangerchen.net/2020/06/03/letters-to-my-students/)

If you’re at UW, this means that the new school year has just started (and welcome to the email list, new students of mine!). If you’re not at UW, I like to imagine that you’re doing well or at least coping. 🙂 I consider us still connected so feel free to drop me a note to let me know how you’re doing.

I’m not sure what to write other than to say that we’re entering the new year with some trepidation but also excitement as a bunch of awkward people meet each other face-to-face in what’s sure to be Awkward+ and also that… I know.

I know it’s gonna be weird.

But let’s make it fun as well! We shall treat each other generously and playfully, and we shall fight uncertainty with collective humor and love. I will always endeavor to treat you with compassion and understanding, and I expect that you do the same for me and your peers. If we have any conflict, let’s try to figure out why and work through it. If any one of us has an endeavor, the endeavor belongs to all of us.

I suppose I can also say that this summer, I took a break. I had the luxury and privilege to be able to do that, and I’m extremely grateful for it. Sometimes I just played computer games or watched shows or read, and sometimes I felt like I wasn’t being productive and wasting my time, and sometimes I hated myself for feeling that way since it means I’ve given into the capitalist bullshit of our society (where the wealthy profit off the labor of others).

Meanwhile, the university administration and a group of faculty generated a TON of emails in July and August about what we’d do this fall, how to handle outbreaks on and off-campus, and how to just deal with all of this anxiety and uncertainty and all of it. Gah! (One thing that was clear to me was that we all care, even amidst the uncertainty and infighting.)

It took weeks for me to relax… to learn *how* to relax again… and to remember how to not feel guilty for spending time liking the things I like, and, if I’m being honest, I’m not sure I succeeded (tho, I admit, all the while I was still trying to think through how to teach in the fall).

Anyway, I think we all need moments to ourselves like I had (more or less) this summer to figure out where we are and where we’d like to be going with our lives or to refocus energy on neglected relationships or neglected self-care. Sometimes that refresh takes just a day. Sometimes months. Sometimes years. It’s okay. It’s okay to feel lost or lonely or just not sure. 

But remember that you aren’t alone. To be human is to belong to a massive collective (swarm), and if you need reminding of this, just reach out, and sidestep, right-left, to my beat.



FB/IG: markdangerchen | Twitter: @mcdanger | Discord: mcdanger#6611

Thoughts after more than a year…

Hi all,

(I’ve been sending periodic emails to current and former students. I think I’ll be sending fewer and fewer, but, just in case, if you want off this list, lmk. Also, if you’re graduating and want to stay on, send me your non-UW email. And, if you’re interested, an archive of the emails can be found here: https://markdangerchen.net/2020/06/03/letters-to-my-students/)

As stated in the disclaimer above, this may be one of my last emails to you all. I started writing these when the pandemic first hit because I was seriously worried that no one was checking in on you and letting you know exactly what was happening. We lived in a time of massive misinformation (and still do) and incompetent leadership. Then, as UW and local authorities became more clear on their pandemic news and guidelines, we started going through extreme turmoil as news hit about George Floyd’s murder, acting as the breaking point and giving rise to an (inter)national movement for black lives. (The Central Park Karen was just icing on the cake.) We also realized that we were in this pandemic life for the long haul, adding stress and negatively affecting our ability to stay social and healthy both physically and mentally. So I kept writing. Then it became pretty damn clear that the previous administration was deliberately encouraging Asian American hatred and violence. It just seemed like I needed to keep writing and reminding you all that moments like these are challenges to be the best humans we can be and that no matter how shitty the world is, love and friendship CAN triumph. But now, with the academic year coming to a close (grats graduates!) and the bright days of Seattle summer are upon us, marking a change in national leadership as well, I feel like I might be able to take a break and just geek out on sci-fi and videogames for a while. (Effing Supreme Court better not eff things up too much!)

A Note on Communicating and Being Human:

Being human sucks sometimes. I say this because sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to miscommunicate, and sometimes it’s alarming how much what you say can be misinterpreted and then taken offensively/defensively. And when this happens, it can be painful since it’s confusing and such a jolt. “Everything was going great; what the hell happened?”

But here’s the thing. I believe you get better by trying, failing, and trying again. That said, sometimes it’s hard when who you’re communicating with has been put on guard and doubts your intent or when you’re the one who feels slighted so you’re not open to anything else they have to say.

But I think it’s important to remember this:

Never ascribe intent when incompetence or obliviousness could explain what happened.

Then follow up with questions. Indeed this is very true of group work and something I tell my students, but it’s also just true of general communication with friends and loved ones. This requires generosity in how you interpret and communicate.

If it seems like things got out of alignment somewhere, whether you think you may have said something wrong or whether you’re the one misinterpreting, the only move is to apologize for the miscommunication and then see if things can be repaired. If so, great! If not, that’s sad but you’ve done the right thing in admitting that there was a breakdown and trying to learn from it. Sometimes, you just have to let go.

Regardless, if you feel like you have no control, remember that you do… with yourself. You will always be in control of yourself and how you interpret and react to things, and mastering that–attempting to stay level-headed and not overreacting or jumping to conclusions–is the key to peace, contentment, and enlightenment.

Anyway, I say all this because I was surprisingly repeatedly reminded this year about these things, and, in thinking why, I thought maybe the extremely stressful year may have made miscommunication events more likely. So maybe it’s happened to you, too. And you don’t know what to do. Well, I encourage you to reach out to your friends and family and just let them know you love them. We need to normalize love because being human doesn’t have to suck as much as it does.

(Potential) Final Thoughts:

I leave you all with these wise words from Bill and Ted: “Be excellent to each other!” But also be excellent to yourself, too. 🙂

And, as always, if you need anything, you can find me in netspace.

FB/IG/LI: markdangerchen, Twitter: @mcdanger, Discord: mcdanger#6611



P.S. I’ll be rescreening the Lord of the Rings and maybe throw in Bill and Ted’s trilogy as well this summer starting in June in case you’re interested in joining the Discord server… 🙂

P.P.S. I’m also still out in space with Elite Dangerous if anyone wants to come to check it out sometime, but I’ve also been thinking of trying some more coop games so lmk.

P.P.P.S. I still can’t get enough of this YT channel! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfx4cqD5n0M

P.P.P.P.S. This Red Table Talk about Asian American and Black tension is very, very good. I cried for the whole thing. https://fb.watch/5Oq0cxKZWR/


Hi everyone,

So much has happened since my last letter that I’m not sure what to say. I mean, for weeks now, I haven’t been sure what to say, and that’s partly why this has taken so long. It seems like we keep getting hit by tragedy, both nationally and close by. The close one, a death of a student right as Spring Break was starting left me just not sure of anything anymore, especially because they were always the light of the room. It is extremely distressful and heartbreaking, and I will always remember them and try to live up to their hopes and dreams.

Yet the longer I waited to send something, the more it became clear that America is the most absurd place to live right now, with each week showing us that gun violence, police brutality, and racism are unrelenting issues that seem intent on reminding us in the most horrendous ways.

There are two posts I found this week that pretty much cover my sentiments:

2021-04-19 (3).png
hell of a paragraph.jpg

I’m not sure what I could add. Maybe more about AAPI hate because jesus christ…

But, anyway, I guess I’ve waited long enough that things seem easier to say, or maybe I’ve hit a point where I feel like I just have to say something… and, I guess, maybe the sunshine also helps. It’s like a dark cloud is lifting (tho I can’t tell if it’s a facade or a distraction)…

One of the main issues and why we’re at a boiling point, I think, is that people feel helpless. We desperately need to feel hope and find some agency in our lives (and that agency needs to come in forms that don’t then take away agency from others, goddammit!).

So I guess I’m writing now to remind you that finding agency is mostly an incremental endeavor. Things improve gradually. It starts with realizing that small steps matter, but also that these small steps add up. Also, they are collective steps where the aggregate is what creates lasting change. So even if things seem stuck, your little push may have lasting effects, when combined with others’ little pushes, for things to be a little less stuck.

But also, maybe you’re stuck because you don’t see the larger picture. If you read one of my previous emails, you saw how we could be considered just a tiny blip in the overall scheme of the universe. But the scope goes inward as well as outward. Whatever you’re stuck on is just a tiny blip in the sum of your life. Whatever your life is, it is also just a tiny blip in the sum of humanity. And whatever humanity is, it is also just a tiny blip in the galaxy. The galaxy a blip of the universe.

So long as you have some vision of tomorrow that’s better than today, you can maneuver towards it in tiny blip-like fashions. The arc bends ever so slightly. It also helps to have a vision of yourself that is better than today. You might not be the best at something now but you can be better at it tomorrow than you are today, and that’s enough to aspire to from day to day.

Or… maybe you can’t help yourself right now, but maybe you can help a friend. Or maybe you can’t help this one friend, but you might be able to help a different friend. There are always opportunities for growth and learning; sometimes you just have to take a step back and defocus from a problem where you’re stuck to refocus on a different problem, and this includes defocusing from yourself to refocus on others in need. 

Attend to what you can.

Finally, realize that words have power, and how you say something matters. I was reminded of this today in a moving way, which is another reason I’m writing this. I feel like this is one way I can help with words so I find I have to do this. I hope you know that I’m rooting for you and for me and for all of us and for our future selves, as well. We can be noble so long as we realize it takes all of us to work at it for humanity’s blip to shine.

love as always,


TW: @mcdanger | DS: mcdanger#6611 | FB/IG: markdangerchen

P.S. Black Asian solidarity.

Realize we’re connected. Now it’s time to move forward.

Hi all and happy new year.

And what a new year, huh? I know this is late, but January was pretty extreme, leaving me rather stupefied and dumbfounded such that I found myself at a loss for words.

We’ve had significant Wednesdays this month: Insurrection, Impeachment, Inauguration, and I think we can add Investment craziness to the list, just to keep the alliteration going. 

Anyway, I’ve been listening to a lot INXS these past few weeks.
I’m not sure why, but maybe it’s because I feel like we’re in a time of transition and that we finally have some time to reflect on the past year(s) before moving forward. In reflecting, I recognize that, among the high amount of stressful news of the past year, we lost many great luminaries. The one that hit me the hardest was the death of Chadwick Boseman.

And when I think about tragic deaths, I think about Michael Hutchence of INXS, so that’s probably why… Hutchence was named the sexiest man alive in the mid-90s and the wild man of rock. Unfortunately, he took his own life in 1997, after years of suffering from depression. U2’s Bono wrote a song to him, trying to say that he was stuck in a moment and couldn’t get out of it.*

Boseman gave the commencement speech at Howard University a couple of years ago, in which he reminded those graduating that the key to life is to find purpose. There were, are, and will always be struggles–personal hills to climb–and they are different for different people, but the important thing is to live to an ideal, even if it means taking the more difficult path. He also gave this extremely important piece of wisdom: you sometimes have to fall down a few times in order to understand what your purpose is.

You are stronger each time you get up. So long as you learn and reflect and stay true to your ideal projected self. (This reminds me of Schwarzenegger’s recent message about how, like Conan’s sword, our democracy is stronger the more it is tempered.)

And as Hutchence sings in “Tear Us Apart“, we’re connected. Forever. I know he was singing about romantic love, but I believe this extends to all love and to love for humanity and for Mother Earth. We’re all connected. If only Hutchence could learn from Bono and find strength in his connections.

It’s not too late for us to learn this lesson. Take this moment to catch your breath and reflect on our collective connectedness. Soon–like really, really soon… now even–we move forward. We have a lot to catch up on if we’re going to make the world better.



twitter: @mcdanger

discord: mcdanger#6611

FB, IG, LI: markdangerchen

(I’ve been sending periodic emails to current and former students. I still mean to trim the list some time this quarter so lmk if you def want to stay in it (or if you def want to be out). If you’re interested, an archive of the emails can be found here: https://markdangerchen.net/2020/06/03/letters-to-my-students/)

*: U2’s lead singer Bono wrote the lyrics about the suicide of his close friend Michael Hutchence, lead singer of the band INXS. The song is written in the form of an argument about suicide in which Bono tries to convince Hutchence of the act’s foolishness. Bono characterised the song as a fight between friends, which he felt guilty for never having with Hutchence.

Happy holidays, farewell (and fu) 2020, and next year’s watch parties

Happy holidays everyone!

This has been a crazy year, huh? I hope these holidays are bringing you some respite from the craziness and that you are able to connect with loved ones and friends.

Some of my students this year and I started watch parties that we’ll continue on into next year. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send you details.

At the beginning of this week, we watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it seemed like the perfect story for our times. (I want to do an encore viewing of them in Jan or Feb when the 4k versions are more readily available!) So, in the meantime, here are three quotes, one from each movie, that I thought were particularly meaningful:

  • In Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo and Gandalf have a moment in the Mines of Moria when Frodo laments,

“I wish that none of this had happened.”

Gandalf’s reply: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Life can seem unfair and without reason, especially this year, it seems. But, in truth, to live meaningfully is to constantly strive to make life better. The struggle for happiness is what gives life purpose. Choosing to accept the challenge is the decision to take control of the thing that you actually can control–yourself. And how you act in the world and your ability to stay true is your measure.

  • In The Two Towers, Frodo, the Ringbearer, finds that he’s sinking more into despair as the challenges keep adding up (in this case, Nazgul appear on winged beasts to terrorize the garrison). Sam, the Support Hero, gives probably his most famous speech:

“I know.

It’s all wrong.

By rights, we shouldn’t even be here.

But we are.

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo.

The ones that really matter. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the ending because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?

But in the end,… it’s only a passing thing.

A shadow.

Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer.

Those are the stories that stay with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.

But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand now.

I know now.

The folk in those stories had lots of chances for turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding onto something.”

Frodo asks, “What are we holding onto, Sam?”

“That’s there some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”  

(You might recognize the last line from an email I sent out earlier this year. 😉 )

The struggle is important because there is always hope that it *can* get better. There’s always some good in the world, no matter how dire things may seem and how it may seem like there are villains in every corner who care only about themselves. But there’s always a projective future we can work towards to find the good and make it better.  

  • In The Return of the King, Frodo and Sam are soooo close to their goal, but the weight of the ring (i.e., the weight of the world) is too much for Frodo to bear, and he finds that he cannot continue. After Sam asks Frodo to remember The Shire, the lush meadows, the smell of the fresh crops, and the taste of the season’s first strawberries and cream, Frodo admits that he can’t remember any of it. Sam realizes, he’s about to lose Frodo and says,

“I can’t carry it for you, but I *can* carry you.”

He then lifts Frodo up and, with renewed vigor, carries his friend up the mountainside.

Ultimately, it’s within each of us to find the responsibility to live a good life and to reconcile with any demons or personal hang ups we may have. But that doesn’t mean each of us is alone. We can’t take on our friend’s personal burdens, but we *can* support *them* when they need it so they can concentrate on their inner burdens.

I hope the end of 2020 means something for you like it does me. A turning point where humanity can regroup and find renewed conviction to do right by each other and to also focus inward in doing right by ourselves.

I’ll leave with three things:

  1. The Great Conjunction happened on Monday. Remember that our acute experiences are fleeting in the grand scheme of things, and be in awe of the majesty of the universe.
  2. I recently rediscovered the School of Life videos: https://www.youtube.com/c/theschooloflifetv/videos
  3. And, when all else fails, cats in snow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_t773h9UolY&feature=youtu.be

cheers, happy holidays, and lmk if you want to join the watch parties