It’s a piece on how the pandemic has taught me to look more closely at the world, and what I hope to carry forward when society once again begins to move.
It covers ukiyo-e woodblock prints, biology time-lapses, close-readings of contemporary poetry, 19th century Russian literature, George Saunders, and meditation.
There’s a lot here!
A few snippets:
On pressing our noses against biology:
It is a video of both literal and figurative close looking. That we can peek over Nature’s shoulder and witness the 0-1 pop of a thing from a gooey dot to sneaky automaton is miraculous and bizarre. When does it “salamander?” The very definition of astonishing seems to be embedded in the way the cells move, as they grow from a “knowable” half-a-dozen dots to the millions and billions of the finished product. The phrase “sentience of the swarm” runs through my mind as I watch it. I am delighted and terrified: These little dots in aggregate know so much more than I ever will.
And from my conversation with Sam Anderson on the power of words and close looking.
Sam: Words are magic. Words are really magic. They add so much. You can take a TikTok video, and you think the TikTok video is the end in itself. You don’t need any gloss on that, but you absolutely do. It’s so much funnier if you can articulate what is embarrassing or weird or impressive about what that person is doing. That is a great hack.
And on meditation:
Ten minutes a day, observe your breath — the literal movement of air into and out of your nostrils. Do it first thing on waking up. Before you look at your phone, before your partner rises. Reduce friction by placing a pillow on the floor in a quiet corner of your home the previous night. Then sneak out of bed, make a beeline for that pillow, and just sit and pay attention — to the weight of your body, how your shoulders fall, the tension in your face — as you closely observe that nose air. Is it hot? Is it cool? Does it come out of both nostrils? Just one? Neither? Are you stuffed? Is it pollen season? Why did they plant so many cedars post-war here in Japan?