Thinking It Through and Station Eleven

Catching up on old issues of The New Yorker, I came across Joshua Rothman’s essay in the Annals of Inquiry – Thinking It Through – examining rational decision making and how well it works. Although I tend to overthink my decisions and try to research every angle of possibilities, more times than not, it is my intuition or gut feeling that weighs in the most. Maybe that’s not so bad, according to Rothman.

Throughout the essay, Rothman compares rational thought to impulsive decisions, pointing out how much harder it is for an emotional and impulsive person to make the right choices – or is it? Although examining, dissecting, and comparing choices in life – become an English professor or an economist, rent or own – many of us do make life altering decisions based on our opinions of what we think is best and our views of what is right.

Having lived through gut wrenching worry over what to do, I wondered if Rothman was about to advise and conclude that only rational thought could direct all successful actions, but then he offers scenarios where it is intuition that guides to the better path. Nothing should be done on a whim; on the other hand, not everything can be calculated precisely. Life just doesn’t work like that.

I’ve torn out the last paragraph of his multi-page essay to slide into the side pocket of my wallet, and may reread it the next time I am in a quandary – probably soon – again. Here it is:

The realities of rationality are humbling. Know things; want things; use what you know to get what you want. It sounds like a simple formula. But, in truth, it maps out a series of escalating challenges. In search of fact, we must make do with probabilities. Unable to know it all for ourselves, we rely on others who care enough to know. We must act while we are still uncertain, and we must act in time – sometimes individually, but often together. For all this to happen, rationality is necessary, but not sufficient. Thinking straight is just part of the work.”

Station Eleven

Although Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven was published in 2014, years before our current familiar crisis, her novel is gaining new readers with its view of life after a pandemic. I have not yet read the book but am following the HBO series based on the book, and am so gratified to know Shakespeare’s plays can survive, even after the apocalypse.

In Writing “Finding Joy Through Art at the End of the World in ‘Station Eleven” for the New York Times, Alexandra Alter quotes chief television critic James Poniewozik – “{Station Eleven} is the most uplifting show about life after the end of the world that you are likely to see.”

I’m not sure if I will read the book – of course there are differences, some sanctioned by the author, but I will continue to watch the series, looking forward to an ending where stories and Shakespeare stand the test of time and anything else the universe throws at us.

Trying Something New

When I first started this site over ten years, my purpose was to review books and timely articles, and I will continue – just more slowly.  I have a few books waiting to be read and I do plan to give my thoughts on them, but to keep writing in these precarious times I find I need a new venue that does not limit me to books.

A few years ago, I started a small site to preserve recipes, many from my mother, and to talk about anything of interest, a potpourri of ideas.  My favorite post was Ithaka, which may be appropriate in these times.

I plan to keep writing to keep my sanity, so I hope you will join me with your comments on Potpourri with Rosemarie.  Here is the link to my latest post at Potpourri with Rosemarie

And a link to Ithaka:

Ithaka

 

Try Writing a Haiku

poetry-clip-art-1Do you remember a well-meaning teacher assigning a haiku for homework – maybe to instill a love of poetry. The products often resembled Ogden Nash poems – lots of nonsense but without his wit.

Alan Feuer’s “The 3 Lines of the Haiku Train Make 61 Stops in Manhattan” – online at Haiku Challenge in the Sunday New York Times – offers a short review of the style and samples from New Yorkers who participated in the paper’s challenge to write about the city in the three-line verse. Poets wrote about Central Park, the subway, Times Square… My favorite came from an online reader in Dallas –  Sharon Cohen wrote:

Union Square Market
Blueberries for ten dollars
New York City blues

Thinking about the city I live in now, I am working on a verse to celebrate the end of national poetry month – ocean, sun, surfers – not that easy to create three lines with 5,7,5 beat – and a punch line at the end of the 17 syllables. The New York Times offers  “a quick 101 guide on writing a haiku”:

• Only three lines.
• First line must be five syllables.
• Second line must be seven syllables.
• The third line must be five syllables.
• Punctuation and capitalization are up to you.
• It doesn’t have to rhyme.
• It must be original.

Have you tried writing one?

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The Rosie Project

9781476729084_p0_v6_s260x420When an Italian tells a joke disparaging the Italians, is it less insulting – or just insensitive and ignorant?  Although Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project is a humorous romantic tale, the underlying ridicule of someone with Asperger’s syndrome is hard to ignore.  If you can dismiss the main character’s social ineptness as the idiosyncracies of the stereotypical professor nerd, you might enjoy the ridiculous situations and laugh at the literal comments.  If you can appreciate the happy ending as hope for those who suffer being different, you might bask in the possibilities for improved relationships.  If you can forget the author’s references to autism, you might see awkward actions as charming.

Gabriel Roth in his New York Times Review – Without a Cue – notes:

“It’s cheering to read about, and root for, a romantic hero with a developmental disorder…Simsion’s debut and a best seller in his native Australia, reminds us that people who are neurologically atypical have many of the same concerns as the rest of us: companionship, ethics, alcohol…The ultimate convention of romantic comedy is that love conquers all, but to propose that it can so easily mitigate such a painful condition may be to take convention too far.”

Although I laughed at times at Don’s misadventures as he searches for the perfect mate and finds one in the imperfect Rosie, I felt uncomfortable doing so.

Making Friends at a Certain Age

“It takes courage” to confront a stranger to start a connection.  Alex Williams addressed making friends for those over forty in his New York Times essay – Friends of a Certain Age.

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends…often people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move…

Worth rereading when everyone around you seems to have something to do that does not include you.

The sidebar by Jesse McKinley in Some Friendly Advice  offers 6 quick ways to find a friend; one is to “go it alone.”  In that spirit, I took myself to cooking demonstrations celebrating Julia Child, who will soon celebrate her 100th birthday.  People who like to eat and cook are usually friendly, and I did find new friends: Kathy, a writer from Australia, and Devra, the Coco Chanel of beautifully made ETSIS sunhats.

The best advice from the articles  – besides getting over yourself – appreciate the BFF’s you have and look for a casual friend or two – “better than total isolation.”  As the Girl Scouts sang – “one is silver, the other is gold.”

For more musings on articles, go to Read Between the Lines