In-Brief: On Parks and Wildness

Save Our Home, Save Ourselves

I recently applied to a job that asked me to select the best pic of myself in the outdoors. It sounds like it could be an exciting one, a job where I’d be spending time in some of my favorite places, or one place depending on how you look at it. That is, the National Parks or in the broader sense, in nature.

To that point, I’ve come to see them less as individual places and it more as one larger whole.  Our planet.  I like that approach more.    

It’s hard to say which picture could ever be the best, but this is the one I felt like posting–taken almost exactly four years ago.

Ren Michael - South Kaibob Trail - Grand Canyon - Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona - National Park - Quinby & Co.
Ren Michael on the South Kaibob Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Much has happened since then both in my life and throughout the world, and I’ve been fortunate to have gone on many adventures in the time in between. Hopefully I’m a strong sum of those experiences, as each was its own unique reminder of my connection to both land and people.

I’m not unique in that respect, since I know many who have turned to the outdoors and felt a similar way. Restored, replenished, readjusted to the point that their day-to-day ambitions either suddenly feel silly, or are just given renewed purpose in light of the bigger realization that they are a part of something bigger than themselves and their possessions.

While I can only hope it’s enough to help us recognize the importance of preserving these places—since all of us deserve to experience the land in equal measure—above all, I hope we each begin doing our part in preserving the integrity of our environment, for the health of our planet, our one true home, for our physical health, and ultimately for our sanity.

I look back on recent years and I think about people marching against gun violence, or against corporate greed on Wall Street.  I think about people marching for Black lives and for our government’s full recognition of their humanity. 

And I think about two weeks ago, when everyday I stepped out and saw a smoke-filled sky blotting out the sun due to devastating regional wildfires.  In the back of my mind, the fire’s reach had far exceeded the limits of the west coast where I make my home.  Indeed, the larger symbolism was hard to miss.      

The issues of violence, racial justice, environmental justice and economic inequality are, I believe, inter-related.  The dangers of climate change for example pose the most immediate threat to Black and Brown communities, a disproportionate number of which fall below the poverty line in the United States and throughout the world–a reality most clearly demonstrated in food and water shortages not just in third-world countries, but here at home.  

Tackling the threat of climate change will not automatically close the gap on income inequality or accomplish comprehensive racial justice.  Still you cannot adequately address problems in your house when your house is, quite literally, on fire; and truly, the fight for a healthy planet has the power to bring people of different backgrounds and beliefs together, likely more so than any movement we’ve ever witnessed.  More to the point, it’s the understanding of our interconnectedness that will ultimately save us in virtually every domestic and global conflict we experience; and nowhere is that realization more critical than in the necessary global effort to mitigate climate change by cultivating a cleaner and more sustainable world for all people.  

The act of getting outdoors, spending time in our public lands and in the broader wilderness of the world has the unique power to reinforce the fundamental reality of our interdependence and dependence on the land.  It’s just one of many reasons why it’s so important they stay preserved and protected.    

I often reflect on whether it will just be an ongoing battle for every generation between people committed to preserving our wilderness for the public benefit, and the people who seek to exploit the land for their own profit. 

I hope that it won’t.  Maybe the dual threats of climate change and a global pandemic will convince people of their stake in each other’s health and the health of our planet, and the influence will carry over through generations to come.      

I only know that the need for such a realization has never been so urgent.      

As for our wilderness, and it’s unmatched beauty and healing power, for now there’s little more I can say, other than to simply go, as soon as you can, and experience it for yourself.

Let’s please take care of our home.  I am committed to doing my part and I hope you will join me.  The Sierra Club is one of our nation’s most enduring and influential forces for environmental action and awareness.  I’ve been a member for a couple years now and I urge you to consider joining and lending your support as well. 

Let’s get to work.   

 

*Take Action –> www.sierraclub.org

Friends of the Earth Action https://foeaction.org/

Natural Resources Defense Council https://www.nrdc.org/

National Parks Foundation https://www.nationalparks.org/

Talking About Political Correctness

I used to complain about political correctness, even though I’d never actually met anyone who shamed me or embarrassed me due to my incorrectness. I wonder then whether most of the people who complain about it are just insecure people?  

The growing consensus seems to be that everybody everywhere takes everything so personal all the time, which may yet be true.

For starters, the complaint seems far more warranted, say, with respect to professional comedy where part of what makes a joke funny at all is it’s irreverence, its breach of political correctness. If a comedian were constantly wanting to avoid offending people, that comedian would likely lose inspiration and give up the whole thing. 

Comedy thrives on irreverence. Even so, the best comedians still grasp the basic concept of knowing how to read a room.

When people look at their life and really think about the number of times they’ve been slapped on the wrist by a friend, family member or acquaintance for using the wrong word or making an insensitive remark, is that number actually few and far between, if at all?

The way I see it, political correctness is a fact of life and always has been, no different from any other form of etiquette that will change depending on where you are in the world. The only difference now is that it’s been given a name, and stigmatized in the one sphere of public life where it’s probably essential–politics.   

I wonder then whether people who complain about having their head bitten off for breaching that etiquette, who yearn for some comprehensive, universally agreed upon rubric for what’s ok and what’s not, and who then further expect it to never change, ever again—at least while they’re alive—are simply operating in some other reality; as if anything like that ever existed at all within the long span of human history and the diversity of cultures that make up this planet, let alone the ones that make up this country.   

They’ll mention how it used to be different years ago, how somethings were ok and others were not—as if the ideal sort of history of language and expression is a static one.

People once used words like ‘thee’ and ‘thou’, words like ‘colored’, just as men once wore stockings and wigs out in public. And yet if you spoke or dressed that way today, you’d look like a jackass. Why? Because things eventually fall out of fashion. And yes, it might be a phenomenon but if we can’t accept it, then we might want to find ourselves another planet.

The complaint ignores the fundamental truth that language changes because people change.  It ignores the fact that larger, free-thinking societies are quite naturally heterogenous.  The bigger they are, the more diverse they will likely become, with each community and sub-community developing their own customs and standards of decorum. Political correctness, then, at the very least seems to represent that basic truth in the matter of how we converse with one another, when each of us comes from a different background and our own sphere of personal experience.  

I’ve noticed that people who travel a lot typically have no problem understanding this, because they’ve spent a good amount of time in communities other than their own. They learned to adapt, and often a part of them even enjoys navigating the complexities of different cultures.

They don’t get upset over the fact that they have to learn a new language, they embrace it as an opportunity. If something changes in the country or community they visit and they have to adapt yet again, they don’t dismiss the people as petty and refuse to budge any further.

They are often driven by an appetite for learning new things, and a wonder before all the intricacies of the world and its many points of view.

They don’t get hung up on the possibility of making a mistake here and there, because they’ve already accepted the high possibility that they will make one sooner or later.

However, that leads to another point of discussion.

Could those who are hip to the changing tides of fashion be more polite about it? Do they have to be such a dick about it? Is being woke, for example, nothing more than a matter of bragging rights, one that ultimately involves shaming all those who are out of the loop?

I’ve never encountered anyone like that, but if and when I do, I don’t think it will surprise me. I used to complain about political correctness because I’d automatically bought into the notion that these types of people were everywhere and running absolutely wild…even though I never met one.

I think it had to do with insecurity. My own fear of making a fool of myself led to a defense mechanism against the enemy I had never actually seen. If these woke people exist–and I do think there are a few out there–then I imagine they are likely motivated by the same fear. Fear of not being hip, fear of looking like an idiot, or just someone out of step with the times. An outsider.

I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with being ignorant. I think the real pity is either burrowing yourself in your ignorance, or over-compensating in the direction of righteousness or enlightenment, all for the sake of never being wrong and being some kind of insider.

Personally I think it’s more fun being a little bit of both, having one foot on the inside and another on the out.

It’s one reason I like to travel.  I like knowing that I can adapt easily enough to changing surroundings, and I know doing that involves a flexibility of perspective, a willingness to listen and an actual openness to being wrong every once in a while.

It’s something I’d forgotten about myself, but I think it’s a good lesson for all of us to remember. It might make life a little more complicated now and then, but with the slightest tweak in perspective, if we can set aside our ego, it might also make life a whole lot more enriching.

When is Enough Enough?

There are those who will simply not listen, who will try and talk over you, shout at you, and maybe even say something ugly to you before they’re willing to even consider whether they are wrong.  In all likelihood, it stems from their own insecurities.  I don’t think you have to be a psychoanalyst to see it.

Granted, some voices out there will encourage you to keep fighting the good fight.  If you think you can do that, then by all means go for it.

But if you find that continuing conversations with those people is adding stress and sadness to your life, people who continually put up a block and care more about being right than the egoless pursuit of truth, then is it still a good idea?

What about with family?  At what point should we decide that enough is enough?  And how should we navigate our relationship with these people considering our different points of view?

Of course, there’s no clear answer because how much of it we’re willing to endure is something only each of us can know.  And while I certainly don’t think it’s necessary to part ways over differing points of view, I do wonder whether it’s more practical to part ways with people who are either unwilling or unable to listen, especially when it’s bringing you pain and eating up both time and energy that could be invested elsewhere.

For one thing, if they’re unwilling to listen, then what kind of relationship is it?  And if they go so far as insulting you, then how responsible are you really for continuing any sort of conversation?

Anyway, what I’ve noticed about these people is that they’re typically the kind who can only work things out themselves, in their own time and their own way.  Besides, maybe there’s a lot more going on with them than you realize.  Then again, maybe not.  Maybe they just don’t want to listen.

Either way, the reasons are mostly–if not entirely–out of your control.  So unless you’re a congressman or lawmaker, if you find yourself giving up on trying to talk to them, don’t beat yourself up over it, because it’s better to save your energy for those who have the mind and the courage to hear out a differing point of view.  And there are plenty of those people who exist, by the way.

One of the greater problems in our society is that many of us are convinced otherwise, as we automatically assume that the people with whom we disagree are hopeless and unreasonable.  It’s a myth, in my humble opinion; one that is encouraged by the manner in which so many of us access information–mainly through social media and the big cable news networks.  But that’s another topic for another time.

Anyway, can we maintain a relationship with people while avoiding certain conversations?  Again, I think it depends on the standards we each set for ourselves, on what we essentially want out of the relationship.

No matter what we decide, I think what’s more important is making the decision not to judge them, or spend any more of your time and energy resenting them or being angry.  Mostly because it’s not going to make anything better.  In fact, it’s only going to damage your own well-being.

Ultimately, what another person believes is their business.  Perhaps what’s most important then, is knowing when it’s time to get back to yours, and seeing to it that your voice is heard.

No matter how we decide to do that, it ought to begin with respect.

A respect that translates into listening.

A personal statement

In recent years, as a rising number of voices far more qualified than my own began speaking out on racism from the standpoint of their personal experience, in movements like Black Lives Matter, I thought it more appropriate to speak less and listen more.

While it was mainly an act of deference, it also partly came from a fear that my own voice might further add to what I viewed as a dangerously monotonous chorus perpetuated by social media, a superficial facade of allegiance rooted less in justice and more in fashion, something I saw as alarmingly characteristic among people–particularly in the white community–in this rising technological and social media age.

While this point of view had some merit, it’s one I can no longer fully practice. I’ve had the opportunity to educate myself more deeply over the last few years, and while that experience certainly continues, my silence has reached it’s end.

I am a musician. I play American music. I often play what some people call Roots music. The term is typically used to group together folk music, jazz and the blues—art forms unique to America that shaped the music we enjoy today, an enduring tradition through which we continually express ourselves.

As such, it’s a useful conduit to understanding the broader history and dynamic character of this country. While all communities have shaped and continue to shape that character, it is critical to understand that Black people specifically laid down this country’s foundations—both literally and to a large extent, culturally. For me, a great part of understanding that foundation has been through the music they’ve given to America, and to the world.

This wasn’t an act of mere patronage on my part. It wasn’t done out of pity or wanting to better understand a community that I viewed as separate from my own, much less from me. It was an act of studying my country and by extension, myself. It’s been an intensely personal, at times painful, and ultimately gratifying experience.

Still, as I continue along this road, which often feels cyclical as well as linear, I’ve returned to one specific realization over the past few weeks. It’s simply impossible for me to continue playing American music without actively speaking out against racism. To do so would be a betrayal of my personal and artistic roots and to the generations of people who profoundly shaped our country and way of life, one that I celebrate every time I sing, or strum the guitar.

I recognize that they aren’t my ancestors, but without question, they are my musical forbearers; and I cannot, I will not turn my back on them. To do so would be to turn away from myself.

So while this is just a brief summary of my own personal experience as an artist and American citizen, my ultimate intention is that is serves as a call to action for anyone still ambivalent about their stake in this country, in something bigger than themselves.

We must fully recognize racial justice as a cause relevant to more than just one community, and recognize the necessity of it being no longer their fight, but our fight. What happens to one of us will and should affect the other. The riots in our cities are living proof of that universal reality, and while I don’t advocate violence, I implore everyone to communicate, openly and with respect, preferably face to face.

To abstain is to compromise not only the welfare and prosperity of one people, but the soul and lasting integrity of our country.

Until these virtues are fully realized, so long as people of color continue to suffer under the tyranny of systemic racism, persecution and oppression, we should–at the very least–expect people to kneel when we sing the national anthem.

____

Resources to Take Action

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

Quarantining Solo

We’re all in a similar situation right now regardless of where we are in the world. Stay at home orders are in place, we’re practicing social distancing and patiently waiting for the world to get back to some form of normalcy.

In the spirit of honesty and vulnerability, which can be scary and even physically difficult for me, I’m here to admit that, after seven weeks into self-isolation, when I thought I was totally fine and could handle it all alone, I had a debilitating panic attack. 

Let me preface by saying I’ve never had a panic attack or anything remotely close to one before.  I have even judged others for saying they’ve had one because I never understood the severity of it until now.  It was, by far, the scariest day of my life.  

I’ll spare you the play-by-play details of the experience and sum it up for you like this:

After beginning to feel out of breath while driving, I pulled over to try and slow it down. Then, all at once, I couldn’t control my breathing at all, my heart was pounding harder and faster than I’ve ever felt, my vision began to blur and I could barely feel my body.

For the first time in my life, I thought, “something is terribly wrong and I might be dying.” I began to think about my life, all the people I love the most, my dog waiting for me at home,  that this might be the end and that I was going to be found alone in my car on Vermont Ave. 

Clearly that was not the case, and I later understood the reality of what had happened. I suffered a panic attack.

Thankfully, my boss was nearby and was able to drive me home where I proceeded to stay on the couch for the rest of the day, feeling completely drained and weak. 

This is all difficult for me to admit, and I honestly didn’t really take time to process much of the experience until the next day, after some much needed rest.

For one thing, I’ve always considered myself the “strong friend.” The person my loved ones can seek out to fill their cup, to consult for advice, to whom they can vent whenever they’re going through a bad time.

Even now, with the stress of a global pandemic changing our lives, I’ve had friends and family tell me how “brave” and “strong” I am to be handling everything on my own, but I never really felt like it was that big of a deal.

“I’m fine,” I thought.  “I can handle this, I’m strong and independent and this is all temporary anyway.”

Though this whole experience was definitely a surprise for me, it’s not too hard to understand why it happened. I realize now that I’ve been overburdened and stretched so far thin that my body just broke down. I’ve been doing this whole quarantine alone for the last seven weeks, separated from my partner, my family and my closest friends.  In the midst of these uncertain times, I’m still working full-time, maintaining a home, taking care of my dog and still trying to take care of myself and my own mental health. Reality check, I DON’T GOT THIS LIKE I THOUGHT I DID.

It pains me to admit that I can’t handle it all, that I can’t be superwoman all the time, that maybe sometimes I have to say, “I need help, I need support.” Being in quarantine alone–that is, with no other person or people to be alone with–is really hard.  So now, I realize how essential human contact is for someone like me. I love to love on my people.  I love hugging and holding hands and being held and cuddling and affection and who knew that not touching a single person for over seven weeks for the first time in my 32 years of life would push me over the edge?! Definitely not me. 

Me in ‘Park Avenue’ at Arches National Park, Utah

So now what? What did I learn from this experience that might keep it from happening again?

Well first off, I had an extremely vulnerable conversation with my partner. I opened up to him emotionally in a way I’ve always been too afraid to do, and I immediately felt an immense weight lift from my shoulders.  As obvious as it may seem, I am not quite as infallible as I thought, and simply admitting this fear both to myself and to my loved ones has alleviated that self-inflicted judgmental pressure, the kind that says I need to have everything under control at all times. Ironically enough, admitting that is actually allowing me to take more control than before. I can look at my situation far more objectively, and give myself the break I didn’t know I needed. 

A key to self empowerment is admitting your weaknesses. When you face a fear or personal judgment head-on, you remove its power over you. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but, “what you resist, persists,” and if there’s one lesson I can take from this whole thing, it’s to quit the resistance, let go of expectations and learn to surrender. 

We’re all in this together, so ask for that help when you need it, set those boundaries that give you a break; and for goodness sake, listen to the cues your body is giving you. 

Going forward, I know I will.

 

Issue #4
Q&Co.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of a Chef #1

Typical Family Photo – 1992
One day, as per usual, I was scrolling through Instagram and stopped at this post by @briannamadia (by far my favorite person on IG.)  I’ve always loved her writing but this particular caption struck a chord.  In fact, one line stood out from the rest. 
“Not only do we grow up and in to who we are…we grow up and in to who we’ve always been.”
When I think back to being a little girl, I was fearless and uninhibited. I loved to be the life of the party and refused to conform to social norms. I grew up as the only girl in my family and so I received a lot of attention, which was fine by me.
Countless family photos show everyone smiling for the camera with me jumping into the shot making funny faces, throwing my hands up and being silly.  At four years old, when my brother and cousin were playing video games, typically shirtless, in the living room, I’d go and join them until my mom came in and reminded me, as she’d done a million times that I had to keep my shirt on because I was a lady.
I’d stand up to boys on the playground who wanted to steal my toys and share my young opinions with little thought as to what people might think about them.
Of course, as is often the case with kids, everything changed around adolescence.  I became a shadow of who I was, really only showing my true self to those closest to me, which was mostly family. I’d grown shy and deeply self-conscious, scared to speak to people I didn’t know, scared to say what I really thought for fear of rejection. I conformed to those around me so I wouldn’t be labeled different or weird.  Never once stopping to remember the little girl who was so unabashedly herself.
I spent a ridiculous amount of my young adult life questioning myself, living in a state of perpetual self-consciousness and eventually placing my self-worth in the hands of whoever I was in a relationship with at the time. In short, I had forgotten who I was.
Furthermore, I always had a vague picture of the woman I wanted to be, but it felt unattainable. It felt like I could never change, like I’d be stuck in a spiral of insecurity for the rest of my life.

 

Big Sur Adventures 2016
Fortunately that turned out not to be the case.  I didn’t realize it then, but it had less to do with becoming something I actually wasn’t and more to do with letting go of the limiting beliefs and doubts I had placed on myself.
Thankfully, at 32 years old, I am happy with who I am.  Though of course, that’s not to say this is it, since I continue to reflect on who I am, who I used to be and where I’m going from here. Change isn’t always something happy or easy to go through, but I would always rather evolve than remain stagnant. I am no longer in that shell I lived in for so long, hiding behind a mask of what I thought I should be. 
What’s more is that I hadn’t really considered my experience as a shared experience at all until I read that line.
“We grow up and in to who we’ve always been.”
It made me think of that little girl in the family photos, and I couldn’t help but smile.  I’ve done a lot of growing, especially over the last decade (that’s a longer story for a later time) but those words made me realize something extremely important. 
I am becoming who I always was.

Issue #3
Q&Co. 

Washing Our Hands

The COVID-19 outbreak leaves me with more questions than revelations about human nature. 

I’m wondering what effect it will have on the world beyond people’s physical health or the global economy, and whether it will change the way we think. If so then how?

Like many people, I’ve long been convinced that the root causes of the world’s most pressing problems are systemic, and not exactly the kind that can be resolved through any sweeping piece of legislation.

That’s not to say the solutions aren’t simple. However, systemic change requires everyone making individual changes not because they are being made to, but because they have internalized, often through personal experience, how and why they should be making the change at all, because they are personally invested in doing so, because they realize they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

That universal realization would most definitely require a shift in the current collective consciousness; and while the shift itself might be simple, how we go about creating it has always proven complicated, because it has less to do with the laws we pass and more to do with how we educate ourselves with respect to the human experience, how we contextualize that shared experience and reinforce it to ourselves on a daily basis.

We’ve always seemed to know theoretically that compassion and respect, listening and sharing each help to create happier, more healthy relationships, and a more sustainable environment for everyone. It’s only in the practical application where we seem to have difficultly.

What’s more is that it only seems to get harder for us as the world’s population grows. How do you get everyone, everywhere, so suddenly and simultaneously, to internalize deeply enough just how tied they are to the person next to them? That the idea of each of us going at it alone, with little to no regard for the other person’s welfare and prosperity, is and always has been a delusional fantasy, especially as the world’s population grows?

It’s likely an easier concept to grasp, say, for crewmen on a ship, or people in a village, or a family in a home. Anyplace where the physical space is smaller and interactions more frequent and visibly consequential.

On the ship you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who ever questions the point in doing their part, or who gives up on the rest of the crew because they’ve suddenly grown cynical and bitter and tired. They do their part because they know if they don’t, the operational integrity of the ship will suffer.

Yet whether it’s the age-old global issues of war, poverty and racism, or the more recent and very real threat of climate change, the problems we continually face seem directly attributable to the fact that we as a planet lack any real sense of investment in one another.

One might be compelled to look up toward the heavens now in surrender, as if only some sudden, cataclysmic event might serve as the last remaining instrument in creating such sweeping behavioral change.

You’ve probably guessed it by now, but that is exactly what the coronavirus can be; and though it has left many of us justifiably worried, I can’t help but see it as a critical opportunity.

‘2020 Reboot’ by Ren Michael

As the world’s population has skyrocketed over the past 100 years, so too have our technologies.  With our additional advancements in medicine, it’s safe to say that we have grown more inclined to simple solutions for complicated problems, more or less adopting a ‘magic pill’ solution–be it legislation or an actual pill–for problems that can be more effectively, if not even permanently, remedied through fundamental changes in our lifestyle and our collective point of view. 

As technologies have made our daily lives easier and done more of our work for us, whether it’s in how we obtain our food, care for our bodies or solve our geopolitical differences, we have grown less accepting of complication, ignoring the fact that complication doesn’t necessarily mean ‘more difficult.’

And though technology has long been replacing manpower and, by extension, increasingly reducing human interaction and cooperation, the consequences of that trend only seem to grow more evident and critical with every year, leading not just to the atrophy of basic, interpersonal skill sets but more so to the already broadening disregard of our own basic interconnectedness, understandings which are no more spiritual than they are practical and essential to the long-term sustainability of any society or ecosystem.  

Sure enough, that disregard has filtered out to virtually every sphere of public life in the industrialized world.  Remember only a month ago when you’d go out to a restaurant and likely see people at the table looking at their phones instead of each other? 

Remember when images of people walking around in face masks seemed like some distant reality, like something that could never and would never happen here? 

Remember the last time you walked amongst a crowd of people not giving it a second thought?  Without ever considering that someday soon, and for the immediate days following, you suddenly wouldn’t be able to do that?

How often and easily we took our daily lives for granted, our extraordinary privilege to walk alongside each other as friends, strangers, lovers, brothers and sisters.  Personally, I can’t wait to stand in a crowd again without worrying about getting sick and simply walk as just another citizen, another human being, one of many throughout the world who live under one sun, inhabiting a very precious and unique planet.   

I can’t help but feel that physical isolation from one another in recognition of a greater good, in which we are so suddenly allowed time to ourselves if not with the people we love, is exactly what we need at this pivotal hour in our history.  For in taking away something so essential to everyday human life, we may yet learn to appreciate and utilize it more.

In Barcelona, every night at 8:00, residents stand outside their balconies and look out over what is typically a congested street and applaud the country’s healthcare workers. 

While Spain has long been marked by tension between its autonomous communities and the national government, any sort animosity people once felt toward each other, and particularly toward their government, is now gone.

They applaud in Madrid, Seville, Valencia and Pamplona, and in many other cities throughout the country, in a sudden and resounding show of support and solidarity.  

Things have changed.  Circumstances have dramatically altered what once seemed to be an indomitable perspective. 

More than once I’ve pictured myself locked in some conflict with a person I love, with whom it seems there is no conceivable reconciliation until that person is thrust into danger.  An accident occurs and they lie in a hospital bed, at which point all our past disagreements are suddenly revealed to be petty and ridiculous.

Our planet faces a turning point now.  We stand at a crossroads unlike any we’ve encountered before.  Indeed unlike crises of the past, it involves all us, everywhere.  It pays little attention to race, religion, rich or poor, left or right.  East or West.  No, it comes for us all and we can face it together or we can continue as we’ve been, divided. 

So long as there is one good person out there in the world, then there is hope for it.  Fortunately, there is more than one good person.  Fortunately, there are millions, and they form the oldest silent majority in history.   

I’m sure you’re one of those people.  I am one of those people.  Our brothers and sisters are in trouble.  They’re sick.  They’re suddenly out of work.  They’re overwhelmed.  They need us.  I need you. 

We can do our part by staying home not only for ourselves but for others, for those who are in hospitals, and for everyone out there every day because they have to be. 

We can remember that we’re in this together, and that our actions do indeed affect one another. 

If we each do our part, we can and we will get through this.  

Truly now more than ever, there is no them, no they

There is only us.  

Issue #3
Q&Co. 

Fun with Al & Dean: Climate

Al and Dean are two old friends and neighbors who live across the street from one another. Every so often, they’ll get into a little discussion over things. What follows is one of their more recent conversations.

Al: Dean!

Dean: Al!

Al: I got a question for you.

Dean: Shoot.

Al: Let’s say you’re in your house and you’ve got a problem with your pipes. And on the matter you have the option of consulting a plumber, a tailor or a zookeeper.

Dean: Ok

Al: To whom would you be most inclined to listen?

Dean: The plumber.

Al: The plumber, right? Me too. But wait, let’s say the zookeeper came in afterwards, just as you were about to get to work, and said “Ahhhhh. Pay no attention to what the plumber says. It’s all a bunch of mumbo jumbo.” Just to be sure, you consult more plumbers, and they all pretty much agree on what’s causing the problem. Yet still, that zookeeper remains steadfast in his opinion. Who would you be most likely to believe?

Dean: The plumbers.

Al: Me too. But wait, how do you know that the plumbers aren’t just nickle-and-diming you, cheating you, bamboozling you? I mean, they would say there is a problem, right? A pipe problem is good business for them after all, right? They can turn a profit and make some money from the problem.

Dean: I suppose that’s possible, but I figured that was part of the reason I consulted more than one plumber.

Al: Right.

Dean: If they arrive at the same consensus, then there’s little chance they’re trying to trick me and more than likely, they’re just doing their job. More than likely, the simplest explanation is the right one.

Al: Cool, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Dean: Well that’s why you have me.

Al: Too true. So now let’s say that in today’s current world, that an overwhelming majority of scientists across the world arrived at a consensus which acknowledges that climate change is happening, that it’s caused by human activity, and that it’s changing the planet in a way that is less hospitable to human beings.

Now, mind you, I’m not saying that it is the reality, but let’s just say that it was.

Anyway, scientists around the world arrived at this consensus, and not long after, we began hearing from politicians and businessmen around the world who said ‘Ahhhhh. Pay no attention to what those scientists said. It’s all a bunch of mumbo jumbo.’

Now, if that were the situation, who would you be inclined to believe? Let me ask you this. Historically, who has a better reputation for trustworthiness? Scientists, or politicians and businessmen?

Dean: Let’s just say I would trust the scientists.

Al: I would too. Cool.

Dean: Cool.

Al: But wait! How do you know those scientists are even telling you the truth? How do you know they aren’t cheating you, bamboozling you? I mean, they would say there is a problem, right? That puts the spotlight on them after all, and they so are likely to turn a profit, right?

Dean: Wrong.

Al: What do you mean?

Dean: Well for one thing, like in the situation with the plumber, that’s part of the reason why you would consult more than one scientist. If they seem to arrive at the same consensus, then there’s little chance they’re trying to trick me and more than likely, they’re just doing their job, as the simplest explanation remains the right one.

Al: Ok.

Dean: But even more so, scientists have been and remain anchored in their work by fact. They work to establish objective truths. That’s what they do, and have always done, for societies. That’s why they exist. And so they aren’t beholden to private motivations or opinions, unlike politicians and businessmen.

Al: So now that we’ve ironed out those hypotheticals, I can say here and now that I’ve accepted the fact of climate change indeed happening and being caused by human activity, as it is the scientific consensus of the planet.

Since we have just ironed out those hypothetical conditions, the only possible remaining point of contention between us–the only thing we can possibly debate at this point–is whether or not it is in fact the scientific consensus that climate change is real and being caused by human activity.

And to that point, I will provide for you now a list of sources who agree that our climate is changing due to human activity, and that it’s changing the planet in a way that is less hospitable to human beings. Afterward, if you are still so inclined, please feel free to do your own research using the same deductive reasoning we have here established.  (Below these links are additional resources to take action)

American Meteorological Society (AMS)
https://www.ametsoc.org/index.cfm/ams/about-ams/ams-statements/statements-of-the-ams-in-force/climate-change1/

Climate at the National Academies
https://sites.nationalacademies.org/sites/climate/index.htm

NASA
https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/

The Geological Society of America (GSA)
https://www.geosociety.org/gsa/positions/position10.aspx

American Geophysical Union (AGU)
https://www.agu.org/Share-and-Advocate/Share/Policymakers/Position-Statements/Position_Climate

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
https://www.aaas.org/news/aaas-reaffirms-statements-climate-change-and-integrity

American Chemical Society (ACS)
https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/policy/publicpolicies/sustainability/globalclimatechange.html

American Physical Society (APS)
https://www.aps.org/policy/statements/15_3.cfm

Fourth National Climate Assessment
https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/

Climate at the National Academies
https://sites.nationalacademies.org/cs/groups/internationalsite/documents/webpage/international_080877.pdf

Australian Government – Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
https://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/climate-science/greenhouse-effect

IOPscience
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002

Climate Change Adaptation: What Federal Agencies Are Doing
https://www.c2es.org/site/assets/uploads/2012/02/climate-change-adaptation-what-federal-agencies-are-doing.pdf

International Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers (2014)
https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers.pdf

 

*Resources to Take Action

 

Join and Donate to the Sierra Club

https://www.sierraclub.org

 

Guides to Taking Action in Our Everyday Lives

https://www.climategen.org/take-action/act-climate-change/take-action/

https://www.activesustainability.com/climate-change/6-actions-to-fight-climate-change/

 

critic at the pulpit

by Cal Corso

Art belongs to the people. It always has and hopefully always will.

It’s an important relationship, essential to the human experience.  Still it’s most consistent threat comes in the form of the intellectual asserting their expertise and implicitly suggesting some greater understanding of the art than the average person, even though we all have eyes and ears.

It’s a role that really shouldn’t exist unless it celebrates the work and it’s potential value to society.  If the work itself is no good then why talk about it at all? Wouldn’t it just add more noise to something that isn’t worthwhile to begin with?

Conversation and debate, more so than criticism, should arise from the ideas suggested by the art, and not dwell on whether the work is any good.  Any real complaint or criticism, then, would still manage to stimulate further discussion instead of stifling it.

“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
-George Orwell

I can’t help but notice how these critics are a lot like some religious leaders who take a universal experience, plainly accessible to everyone, and suggest that their perspective on it is somehow more credible than our own, that they are more aware of its complexities–even though these are typically complexities of their own creation.

Most of them have never made a film, written a novel, composed music, or contributed anything to the field in which they claim expertise.  What they have done is invent a vocabulary, spontaneously and without any great need for one, a lexicon uniquely tailored to the craft, to a collective experience, that only further reinforces the illusion that they understand it more deeply than we do.

Jargon complicates the experience for the layman, reserving it for the elites who invent the language, evidently to perpetuate their own sense of self-importance.

In the late 1940s, William Faulkner criticized Ernest Hemingway for his terse style of writing, his limited choice of words.

“He has no courage, has never crawled out on a limb,” Faulkner said. “He has never been known to use a word that might cause the reader to check with a dictionary to see if it is properly used.”

When Hemingway heard about the criticism, he had his own choice words for Faulkner.

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

Very often I’ve met people who find art overwhelming, even intimidating, just like they do poetry and certain types of music, like jazz or classical, because they feel it goes over their head.  They get discouraged by their seeming inability to figure out what the artist is trying to say, as if there’s some great big point to it they cannot grasp.

Ultimately it’s a product of our own making.  We’ve cultivated a whole industry that assumes the right to decide for everyone else what is good and what is bad, even though there has never been a science in determining something like that, and suggesting otherwise only reinforces the idea of there being some secret language to understanding it in the first place, a language reserved only for the esoteric few instead of the many.

There is no big secret, or code, or convoluted way.  The language is universal.  There is only the reaction, our own individual connections to the art, every bit as legitimate as the reactions of the self-proclaimed scholars.

I emphasize this because, in this magazine, we’ll be talking about music and films and painting and all kinds of art that we enjoy here at Quinby & Co. We’ll be talking about why we enjoy it too.

We will never be talking about something just so that we can give it a bad review and shoot it down.  If you hear any kind of criticism, it will more often address a specific point we feel the work in question is making, one that we feel has broader societal and philosophical implications.

If anything, it will try and stimulate debate not on the merit of the work but on the larger points that we have interpreted from it.  Most often, it will be a conversation over ideas.  We are not experts here, but we are passionate about telling good stories that resonate with people, about the tradition of telling stories and understanding why, since the dawn of man, we’ve even bothered to do it all.

To that point, we’d like to emphasize our belief that any work of art that stimulates such discussion is still, at the very least, something worthwhile.  Something worth experiencing.  In our humble opinion, it makes for a significant contribution to the times in which we live.

Issue #2 / Quinby & Co.