Another family vacation is coming up, which for me means thinking once more about the pre-nostalgia of family photos. While blog posts are ostensibly for visitors, the audience I care more about is actually future me.
Just before a 2013 trip, I wrote “Nostalgia Comes Early,” a post about memories and why I go to the trouble to share these posts — as much with my future self as with readers (I continued this thought later with Recovering the Past Through Photos).
Every successive family trip creates a magnitude more data than the one preceding it. I have exactly 10 photos from the first time I visited Walt Disney World, with my then-fiancée in 2001. I have only fuzzy memories of the trip. A year or so later I returned back to Florida (Key West this time) for a honeymoon with her, a trip that has zero photos. I remember maybe a half dozen things we did but few locales visited.
Contrast this with a 2013 Disney World trip, for which we made a whole blog, A Special WDW Family. The focus was traveling Disney with autistic kids. There’s a lot of information in there. We wrote about meals and rides, small victories, and child meltdowns. The bandwidth of memories isn’t just in the number of jpeg files but in the distinct memories I have of the events of that week-plus.
We took many hundreds of photos over our most recent family vacation in December 2015, only a small fraction of which went online. In addition, I have Google Location data for the trip and Foursquare checkins logged in Evernote. I know how many steps I took each day. I know whether I had a good sleep. We didn’t make a public blog but we have a long annotate log of each restaurant and stop, with annotation tips to remind our future selves about how we could do things better in the future. The metadata is in itself not so important, but it’s useful to be able to drop into a day and remember what we did and see the smiles (and tiredness) on faces each day.
The new issue of Friends Journal is available online. This month looks at Giving and Philanthropy. There's some good reflections from Friends on why they give to the causes and institutions they do. There's also a nice piece from Quaker fundraiser Henry Freeman on the "language of Quaker values." If you're trying to unpack what it means to be Quaker, this on-the-ground perspective is one way to parse out the reality of Quaker testimonies.
It seems a lot of conversations I’m in these days, on social media and IRL revolve around how we should be responding to Trump’s election. I know there’s a certain danger in being too deterministic, but a lot of answers seem to match where individuals are in the vulnerability scale. Some are counseling patience: let’s see how it goes after the inauguration. Maybe we don’t know the real Donald Trump.
Well, I think we do know the real Trump by now, but what I don’t think we know is the actual flavor of a Trump presidency. Have we ever seen a president elect who was so thin on actual policy? Trump rode his lack of policy experience to victory, of course, citing his independence from the people who govern as one of his chief qualifications. But it’s also his personality: on the campaign trail and in his famous 3am tweets from the toilet he often contradicted himself.
He’s a man of high-concept ideas, not detailed policy. This means the actual policies – and the governance we should and shouldn’t worry about – will depend disproportionately on the people he hires. Right now it seems like he’s trolling lobbyists and a handful of neocon dinosaurs that started the Iraq War on forged documents. He’s bringing the alligators in to “drain the swamp” and in the last 24 hours they’ve already signaled that a lot of key campaign pledges are open for reconsideration. How much we have to worry – and just what we have to worry about – will be clearer as his team assembles.
One of the takeaways of this election this is that we’ve all siloed ourselves away in our self-selected Facebook feeds. We listen to most our news and hang out primarily with those who think and talk like us. One piece of any healing will be opening up those feeds and doing the messy work of communicating with people who have strongly different opinions. That means really respecting the worldview people are sharing (and that’s as hard for me as for anyone) and listening through to emotions and life experiences that have brought people into our lives. Basic listening tips apply: try not to judge or accuse or name call. If someone with less privilege tells you they’re scared, consider they might have a valid concern and don’t interrupt or tell them they’re being alarmist.
But all this also means apologizing and forgiving each other and being okay with a high level of messiness. It’s not easy and it won’t always work. We will not always have our opinion prevail and that’s okay. We are all in this together.
I’m thrilled that the Ulysses writing apps for iOS and Mac have been updated this week. They now have Dropbox syncing back and can post directly to WordPress. If this post shows it means the WP integration works!
And I’m afraid there will be some amount of Disneymania when the family goes to Florida after Thanksgiving.
Something I’ve long wondered a lot about, As Stress Drives Off Drone Operators, Air Force Must Cut Flights.:
What had seemed to be a benefit of the job, the novel way that the crews could fly Predator and Reaper drones via satellite links while living safely in the United States with their families, has created new types of stresses as they constantly shift back and forth between war and family activities and become, in effect, perpetually deployed.
I mention this toward the end of my review of The Burglary, the story of the 1971 antiwar activists, and it’s something I’ve been trying to pull from potential authors as we’ve put together an August Friends Journal issue on war. Much of the day-to-day mechanics of war has changed drastically in the past 40 years — at least for American soldiers.
We have stories like this one from the NYTimes: drone operators in suburban U.S. campuses killing people on the other side of the planet. But soldiers in Baghdad have good cell phone coverage, watch Netflix, and live in air conditioned barracks. The rise of contractors means that most of the grunt work of war — fixing trucks, peeling potatoes — is done by nearly invisible non-soldiers who are living in these war zones. It must be nice to have creature comforts but I’d imagine it could make for new problems psychologically integrating a war zone with normalcy.
Craig Barnett tries to define Friends:
“I want to suggest that there is a living tradition of spiritual teaching and practice that makes up the Quaker Way, which is not defined by a particular social group, behavioural norms, or even values and beliefs.”
As usual Craig clearly articulates his premise: that Friends have become something of a content-less, lowest-common-denominator group that fears making belief statements that some of our membership would object to.
I agree with most of his analysis, though I would add some pieces. I don’t think one can understand what it means to be a Quaker today without looking at different types of definitions. Belief and practices is one part but so is self-identification (which is not necessarily membership). We are who we are but we also aren’t. There’s a deeper reality in not being able to separate Quaker philosophy from the people who are Quaker.
In this light, I do wish that Craig hadn’t resorted to using the jargony “Quaker Way” ten times in a short piece. For those who haven’t gotten the memo, liberal Friends are no longer supposed to say “Quakerism” (which implies a tradition and practice that is not necessarily the denominator of our member’s individual theologies) but instead use the vaguer “Quaker Way.” In my observation, it’s mostly a bureaucratic preference: we want to imply there is substance but don’t want to actually name it for fear of starting a fight. Contentless language has become its own art form, one that can suck the air out of robust discussions. A truly-vital living tradition should be able to speak in different accents.