Debilitating Empathy

I read an interview awhile ago where Brandi Carlile said we need “Debilitating Empathy” right now. I can’t stop thinking about that phrase and what the world would look like with it.

People would wear masks without prompting out of concern for others. There would be a clear understanding that Black lives matter and systems need to change. We would revere and care for the oldest and most vulnerable people in our communities. Priorities would be on food justice, animal rights, the environment, universal healthcare…

Instead, as a nation, we put ourselves first. Of course, that is reflected the most in who we have allowed to be president.

We literally have the worst possible person to have as President in this moment. What would be happening right now with a normal President? And by normal, I don’t mean a democrat- I just mean normal and not f-ing insane, psychotic, and DUMB as a doorknob. Anyone who encourages the politicization of masks and less testing is a sociopath.

It is so easy to unite people in a crisis, yet he insists on continuing to divide. I am working hard on having empathy towards the cruel people who still support this administration. I’m having a hard time…the Trump enablers continue to be the problem.

Here’s some links and things that I’ve been thinking about:

The Sickness in our Food Supply by Michael Pollan. What is the answer – it’s so messed up, and it is the most important thing.

Jose Andres & his World Central Kitchen give me hope. He’s a rockstar.

Oprah Shares 20 Things She Does Not Know for Sure. Because I love Oprah.

We’ve been playing Reunions at least once a day…this is a great interview with Jason Isbell in GQ. “I didn’t notice it when I was writing it,” Isbell said. “And not really even when we were recording it, either. But when we were mixing it and I was listening back to mixes at the end, I thought, Man, almost every song has a ghost. Like, a literal ghost. And I start thinking, What is a ghost? Usually it’s not a stranger. In the ghost stories that actually mean something, it’s somebody that you’ve known in your past, so you are reuniting in a way with that person.”

I loooved this Kim Stanley Robinson must-read piece in the New Yorker

Imagine what a food scare would do. Imagine a heat wave hot enough to kill anyone not in an air-conditioned space, then imagine power failures happening during such a heat wave. (The novel I’ve just finished begins with this scenario, so it scares me most of all.) Imagine pandemics deadlier than the coronavirus. These events, and others like them, are easier to imagine now than they were back in January, when they were the stuff of dystopian science fiction. But science fiction is the realism of our time. The sense that we are all now stuck in a science-fiction novel that we’re writing together—that’s another sign of the emerging structure of feeling.”

What Comes Next series on Lit Hub

Padma Lakshmi’s new TV show Taste of the Nation is excellent. I thought it would annoy me because it would try to copy Anthony Bourdain too much – but her viewpoint is different and is exactly what we need right now.

Camp TOB for a good summer reading competition – I’ve read 5/6 and am on the library audio waitlist for the NK Jemison one. Every single book on the list is amazing – I have no idea who the winner will be, but if I had to choose, I’d pick Writers & Lovers.

One of my biggest pandemic breakdowns occurred when the libraries closed – I had a stack of holds waiting for me! However, between our libraries audio and e-books, as well as stocking up from my local bookstore I’ve managed to read a ton lately. And, good news, the library is offering curbside delivery of books on hold – so I have a huge stack still waiting for me to read. Here’s some great reads – I recommend all of them:

Weather by Jenny Ofill. As a culture, we are not panicking about climate change and that is crazy. Ofill’s short, powerful writing is clever and unputdownable. Fair warning: I read this during a particularly depressing COVID week, and this book took my anxiety level through the roof.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore. A well-written detective book with a female lead about the opiod crisis. Gripping, fast summer read.

Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit. I’m a huge Solnit fan. I was hoping for more juicy info in this autobiography, but it’s pretty tame. Like all of her writing, it is powerful and looks at the big picture – the huge forces shaping our lives.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd. I’ll pick up almost any kind of biblical fiction (Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle was my childhood fave – other good ones are The Red Tent and The Dovekeepers), and this is the story of Jesus’s wife. Oh, you say Jesus didn’t have a wife??!! Ha. Who knows…

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore. Another Jenna Bush bookclub pick and it’s a good one about resilient women in a Texas town during an oil boom. Would never have picked this one up without her recommendation. I continue to be impressed by her picks – way better than Reese’s book club.

Writers and Lovers by Lily King. I looooved this book. A book about a writer and all her writer friends – struggling and keeping on because of the need to write. Excellent writing and characters.

Stray by Stephanie Danler. Sweetbitter is such a great account of the restaurant industry, and I’ve followed Danler’s writing ever since I read it. This book is a raw, painful and brutally honest memoir about her addict parents and her own mistakes.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn. My local bookstore said I had to read this book – and I always, always trust them. I thought this was going to be a magical realism story, and it is, but that is just a small portion of it. It’s a story about a struggling Hawaiian family with complicated sibling dynamics. The descriptive settings and character development had me zipping through it.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich. A cast of memorable characters at a Native American reservation in the 1950’s as the government tried to “terminate” the tribe. Powerful, infuriating, funny, and heart-warming all at the same time.

Next on my list are Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schulz, A Burning by Megha Majumdar, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, and the latest Anne Tyler.

I’m looking at my reading list above – it’s a lot of white women authors. If you look through this blog or look at my bookshelf you’ll realize that I read about 60% white women…

In college I read a large variety of authors and voices – I especially fell in love with Toni Morrison and Harlem Renaissance authors – but after that, I went back to reading mostly white women. I will consciously adjust that moving forward. Here are some recent books I loved by Black authors if you are looking to diversify your reading list: Homegoing (yay – she has a new book coming out this year!), An American Marriage, The Water Dancer, Such a Fun Age, Behold the Dreamers (also has a new book coming out soon), everything by Colson Whitehead. By the way, if you read this and think “Why don’t you make a commitment to start reading more white men authors” – this blog probably isn’t for you.

One thought on “Debilitating Empathy”

  1. Love this post! Hope writing it was healing for you. Xo. Keeping in my email for book recommendations 🙂

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