I believe that we all are predisposed towards kindness.
Sometimes, even the best of us find ourselves in situations and contexts where we forget to be kind, where our capacity for vitriol overcomes our natural inclination to show kindness; in those situations, we need reminders to show us back to the path of love, to remind us that we can, and should, be kind.
A few years ago, Gina Trapani and Anil Dash created a web service called ThinkUp. At its core, ThinkUp was a social analytics service: it scoured your interactions on social media to provide you with insights on how you were using the tools. What was remarkable was that ThinkUp didn’t just talk about your number of followers, or how many likes you got; instead, it provided insights into how many times you said "thank you" or expressed gratitude, or how many people you congratulated, or how many times you said you were sorry. It helped you notice when people would make changes to their bios or photos, it helped you track your most used words over time, and it gave you a picture of who you were online, and how you were interacting with others.
ThinkUp was a regular reminder to be kind. It was a regular reminder to express warmth even when the world was decidedly cold. I was sad when it closed, not just because it was a valuable tool, but because it demonstrated how analytics could be powerful not just to "optimize a brand’s reach" but to remind ourselves of the compassion that comes from being our true and whole selves.
The world needs more ThinkUp-like services these days. At least, it needs spaces—online and off—that are designed around measuring our kindness rather than our reach. I believe that we all are predisposed towards kindness; some days we just need a little nudge to find our heart and humanity that can be easy to forget.
This poem, "For the Dogs Who Barked at Me on the Sidewalks in Connecticut" by Hanif Abdurraqib, is one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry I’ve read in a long time:
Darlings, if your owners say you areâ/ânot usually like thisâ/âthen I must take themâ/âat their wordâ/âI am like youâ/ânot crazy about that which towers before meâ/âparticularly the buildings hereâ/âand the people insideâ/âwho look at my nameâ/âand make noisesâ/âthat seem like growlingâ/âmy small and eager darlingsâ/âwhat it must be likeâ/âto have the sound for loveâ/âand the sound for fearâ/âbe a matter of pitchâ/âI am afraid to touchâ/âanyone who might stayâ/âlong enough to make leavingâ/âan echoâ/âthere is a differenceâ/âbetween burying a thing you loveâ/âfor the sake of returningâ/âand leaving a fresh absenceâ/âin a city’s dirtâ/âlooking for a mercyâ/âleft by someoneâ/âwho came before youâ/âI am saying that Iâ/âtooâ/âam at a loss for languageâ/âcan’t beg myselfâ/âa doorwayâ/âout of anyoneâ/âI am not usually like this eitherâ/âI must apologize again for how adulthood has rendered meâ/âus, reallyâ/âI know you all forget the touchâ/âof someone who loves youâ/âin two minutesâ/âand I arrive to youâ/âa constellation of shadowsâ/âonce handsâ/âlisten darlingsâ/âthere is a skyâ/âto be pulled downâ/âinto our bowlsâ/âthere is a sweetness for usâ/âto push our faces intoâ/âI promiseâ/âI will not beg for you to stay this timeâ/âI will leave you to your wild gallopingâ/âI am sorryâ/âto hold you againâ/âfor so longâ/âI am in the moodâ/âto be forgotten.
Roxane Gay called out Canadian racism and smugness on Twitter this week and I am here for it. I’ve written about this "Canadian smugness" issue before, if you’re interested:
“Emoji skin tones are essentially like real life: White people still get to be the default, while many people of color feel left out of such rigid representation.“
There’s a copy of The Joy of Cooking on our bookshelf, like there is on the bookshelf of almost everyone we know. I had no idea about the story behind the bestselling and iconic cookbook and how it continues to be a family endeavour.
For many reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about caregivers and about the emotional, cognitive, and financial load carried by those who care for their sick or aging loved ones. It’s clear that we need to do a lot more to support those who care for others.
It turns out that baking sourdough is the new hip thing to do in Silicon Valley? (I do love the baked goods at Tartine, to be completely honest.)
Science proves it: consensual hugs reduce stress. I definitely need more hugging in my days.
A few years ago, I was enraptured with lists like the (then, San Pellegrino) best restaurants list, or the enRoute new restaurants list. I aimed to eat at all the places on the lists—and did a pretty good job of getting through them. Recently, however, I’ve been questioning the need to rank everything in the world, and critically examining my selfish desire to “complete” these lists. More and more, I’ve started to rely on personal recommendation over “best of” rankings, in an effort to really enjoy where I dine instead of dining for status or completion; this piece in Thrillist about how a “best burger” list led to the closing of the number one burger joint in the country is a fascinating look at our collective obsession with best-of lists.
I just started reading Becoming, Michelle Obama’s new memoir, and in preparation for reading it, I’ve been reading this interview with Oprah, listening to this podcast interview with 2 Dope Queens, and listening to the playlists that Questlove made for Michelle Obama’s book tour soundtrack on repeat.
I’ve been lucky to know Latif since he was a little kid, and am extremely proud to see him take his place as a driving force in the podcast world. This piece on Transom on how he finds stories is insightful.
All of Tillie Walden’s comics are quirky and delightful. This one, Weather Woman, is one of my favorites, but do check them all out:
Thing I learned: puzzle makers often used the same die cut for their puzzles, and you can mix and match them to create surreal images:
32 beautiful early dust jackets for iconic books:
The always entertaining and captivating Estelle Caswell breaks down John Coltrane’s "Giant Steps" on the most recent episode of Earworm and it’s worth watching whether or not you know anything about jazz. It is a truly fascinating and groundbreaking piece of music.
I’m off to listen to more Coltrane to start my Thursday. Have a musical and joyful weekend ahead, my friends.
Oh yeah. You can find this and so much more over on the blog. You should check it out.
You just read issue #27 of Weekend Reading : Flashing Palely in the Margins. You can also browse the full archives of this newsletter.