Tag Archives: covid

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

Hi,

(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.

love,

mark

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

love,

mark

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/

blips

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,

mark

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

P.S. Black Asian solidarity.

#stopasianhate

Our country was founded on racial injustice so acts of oppression, discrimination, and violence against BIPOC are not new, but this past year has seen a particularly alarming uptick in violent acts against Asians, clearly due in part to the previous president’s evil rhetoric around the coronavirus.

I want you to remember, however, that there is hope for a better tomorrow where all of us have agency and can feel like we belong. It requires education and empathy to the highest degree. Now is the time to step up as humans.

It also requires persistence. The BLM protests cannot be where we stop speaking out. We have to fight in solidarity for each other. No racial group should stand up just for themselves. The fight requires all of us who value decency, fairness, justice, and humanity. We can’t do this alone.

If you’re wondering how to help, The Cut has a good list of suggestions: https://www.thecut.com/2021/03/atlanta-spa-shooting-how-to-help-where-to-donate.html

Anyway, I just wanted to use my own privilege to say something. I feel relieved that these emails have been helping some of you so I keep doing them, but I’m always wondering if they’re enough. So this is a reminder, too, that if you ever need anyone to talk with about anything, I’m always available. Or just say hello and let me know how you’re doing.

Also, go listen to some BTS, the number one band in the world right now (who keep getting shortchanged at the Grammys because they’re Asian.)

love,

mark

P.S. If you’re interested, I started putting up course lectures on my YT channel. The ones from 236 are particularly important, regarding agency and control in our digital age. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVZwWhfG8ak&list=PLqMt8w5YgAQqgZyEMAXFdUkEKgZ6bRBHj

There’s a place for everyone.

Hi all,

So… last week the Perseverance rover landed on Mars and transmitted the first audio recording from the surface of another planet. It’s worth listening to while just imagining the wondrous nature of our universe. Seriously, go do that now…

You see, Mars is very far away (it took about 7 months to get there) yet the sounds are as familiar as trying to talk to someone with your smartphone while they’re walking across the street downtown. That’s the amazing thing for me: how huge and how small the solar system, galaxy, and universe can feel.

The distance always boggles my mind, made more acute since I’ve been playing this game called Elite Dangerous, which has a simulation of our galaxy with 400 billion stars in it, each of them visitable. After being out for several years, by 2017 hundreds of thousands of players had only visited like 0.003% of the galaxy. I think now the number is closer to 0.01%?

The game has become something of an obsession for me, and I’ve even upgraded my monitor set up as I prep for a months-long journey to circumnavigate the Milky Way. I have a ship that’s outfitted with a sci-fi jump drive (engineered to the max) letting me hop about 75 light years with each jump. By contrast, the rocket that took the Perseverance would take about 1,900,000 years to go 75 light years (if it didn’t accelerate the whole time). But I’ve got a journey ahead of me that’s about 330,000 light-years, so jumping 75 light years at a time seems pretty damn slow. (The diameter of the Milky Way is approx 100,000 light years, but I have to get to an edge from Sol first.) I estimate I’ll contribute about 4,000 to the number of visited star systems (maaaaybe), which would add about 0.000001% to the total number that players have visited.

Yes, it kind of boggles the mind. And that’s just our galaxy. The current low estimate is that there are 100 billion galaxies in our universe.
Take heart in knowing that you’re part of something bigger… like seriously much bigger… much much bigger… than you can even begin to fathom. There’s room for everyone, but not only that… it’s kinda miraculous that we exist in the forms that we do. Each of us is unique among billions and billions and trillions of uniques. You must believe that there’s a place for you because there’s a place for everyone. There’s a place for everyone.

NASA named the last two Mars rovers Curiosity and Perseverance. These two things are mantras we can all live by. Use curiosity to propel you forward, asking questions, challenging beliefs, discovering the world and yourself. Persevere when the going gets tough. It’s not always going to be easy, but persisting is what gives you power and creates a layer of infinite meaning on top of the base layer craziness of the stuff of the universe.

love,

mark

P.S. If anyone wants to join me as I fly through the galaxy, I can stream the game whenever. I’m basically a hobo with a home and a very fast computer, I’m often free and always will be for you.

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.

love,

mark

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

<3

mark

Happy thxgvng!

Hi all,

(I’ve been sending periodic emails to all of my students from the past 2 years. If you no longer want them, let me know If you want to read my previous emails, I’ve been archiving them on my website: https://markdangerchen.net/2020/06/03/letters-to-my-students/)

Earlier this week, I saw a post on Delish for an apple pie with a cinnamon roll crust. That looked amazing and, thus, it came to be, along with brussel sprouts, stuffing, and mashed pos. Without having to deal with family or friends, the favorite parts of the meal (i.e., sides and dessert) could receive the attention they deserve. That’s the key, I think, to life as well. You have to make do with what you can, and, sometimes, like this year, it is more constrained than usual, but that comes with the realization that you can also look for new opportunities and silver linings. Rarely do new constraints come without new potentials.

Anyway, I just wanted to say two things: 

1. We’re living in a particularly absurdist time where it can feel like you’re going insane as different people you care about are so completely at odds with each other or totally disregarding science and healthcare workers. The pandemic is worse than it’s ever been and it’ll get a lot worse before it gets better even though vaccines are on their way. Make no mistake, we will lose many more loved ones before this is all over, and, way beyond the death toll, we’ll have millions more suffering from neurological complications that might last their whole lives. On top of that, even without the pandemic, we still have the existential threat of climate change and the centuries-long injustices of colonialism, unchecked capitalism, and ongoing systemic racism and xenophobia. Yes, the fight for everything right isn’t over, and, though our endurance is constantly tested, we have to regroup and keep on fighting. Also, jesus christ, avoid people like the plague because, hold on, it IS a plague.

2. I’m thankful we might be turning towards compassion for others again, and I believe Biden does truly care about all of us. I think we’d all be better off if we all cared for each other rather than just for our own tribe. I’m frankly surprised this isn’t actually a given in America because I remember being taught this value as something to be proud of as an American. In fact, I think the ultimate test for a society is how much its individual members care about strangers as much as they care about friends and family. I think we’re all connected, but, on top of that, I really appreciate the personal connection I make with students, colleagues, and friends. So thank you for being in my life. Drop me a note and let me know how you’re doing, or play a game with me online some time!

Anyway, I hope this message finds you well and that you’ve been finding some respite over the long weekend. But I also know that some people don’t have secure home lives the same way others do. Let me know if you need anything. I’ll always be here for you if I can.

love,

mark

P.S. Things to watch or rewatch: The Social Dilemma, Queer Eye, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Bake Off. Go Sounders. Stay playful.

P.P.S. If you have book/movie/show/game recommendations for me, lemme know!

Thoughts as we start the new year (wherein Mark flies his progressive colors and appeals to you for help)

First, RIP Notorious RBG. With her death, we lost a strong voice for LGBTQ and women’s reproductive rights on a national level. If the Republican Senate succeeds in their massive hypocrisy, we’re going to see another dramatic shift in the judicial branch that threatens what I believe makes for a just and equitable society, and this shift will last decades. On lower levels of court, Trump has installed a number of conservative judges over the last four years, and, frankly, even if things change this fall, massive steps backwards have already been happening that will, yes, take decades to rectify.

The absurdity is that this all comes at a time when most Americans agree on many traditionally progressive values: believing that all Americans deserve stable lives and access to healthcare, recognizing the value of science, wishing to focus on climate change collectively, and addressing racial, gender, and sexuality injustice on a systemic, national level. It boggles the mind how powerful those in power can be and that so many Americans support them in their greed, completely fooled by the rhetoric of the “American Dream,” thinking that they just need to work hard for what’s theirs, not understanding that the system is rigged to reward some to the detriment of others. Indeed, the rich have us fighting each other. (For example, is immigration actually a problem? OR could it be that the rich are trying to use xenophobia to pit the poor against the even more poor while they accrue record-levels amount of wealth? They’re getting working-class folks to fight each other for shit jobs that pay shit but keep us too busy to see the shit, and instead we are thankful to be working, shoveling their shit.)

But more and more of us seem to be recognizing that it need not be this way, perhaps because COVID-19 has shown how fragile the system is. Maybe we’ve been given a potentially last chance to turn things around. I believe we mostly have a resource distribution issue, not a resource scarcity issue. We could all thrive, have our voices heard, and live loving lives as brothers and sisters, if only we would collectively move to tear down the institutions erected and sustained by the rich and powerful. 

Today is National Voter Registration Day. It’s not a perfect system by any means, but participating in it is required for any chance of change. Register to vote and then vote goddammit. We need better representation on all levels of government.

Some useful resources:

Also:

And for distraction:

Lastly, as you know, this pandemic has had a traumatic effect on the world, and it seems like the summer protests and current wildfires and hurricanes are just more crap to deal with. As predicted in my very first email last spring, we have about the same number of deaths from COVID-19 as we did during WW2. 🙁 Like some of you, I’ve lost a few friends and/or family. But, as always, if you need someone to talk to, I’m here for you, and I can help or find resources.

love,

mark