Thoughtful Thursday

Because it’s Thursday morning.

Because it’s been a busy week (when isn’t it?)

Because my brain is overflowing, here are a few things I’ve been thinking about.

  1. Promised the Moon by Stephanie Nolen: I just finished reading this book and it was awesome. I found it when my friend and I went out dancing at the Double Door in Wicker Park, realized that reaaaaaallly wasn’t our scene, and ended up at Myopic Books right before closing. I randomly picked up this paperback about the first female astronaut candidates, who despite being well qualified for astronaut training were completely shafted by old-timey sexism. It’s a great story that describes the interplay between strong personalities (both men and women) and social norms, set against the backdrop of the Cold War. And the timing could not be more perfect, as NASA just announced a record number of applicants in the latest open call for astronaut candidates.
  2. “Ulysses” by Tennyson: This poem is so bad-ass it hurts (in a good way.) I’ve been thinking for awhile (casually for years, seriously for about 6 months) that I want to get a tattoo of the closing line: “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” My initial motivation was from the Kennedys – they often quoted “Ulysses” in their impassioned pleas for social justice initiatives. I thought reading more deeply into the source material would reveal unsavory connotations and turn me off of this tattoo idea. But the opposite happened. The poem is incredible and several stanzas ring painfully true. (I am a part of all that I have met, yet all experience is an arch wherethro’ gleams the untravell’d worlds…) And the literary context works for me as well. The line “to strive…” became a rallying cry for Victorian romantics seeking the frontiers of pure knowledge, beyond the stifling murk of bourgeois conformity. How baller is that?
  3. Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” There’s some good stuff in Proverbs 16 about humility and righteousness and wisdom, but this line in particular has passed (a little bit altered) into common usage. I see in my friends and in myself that, when things go well, we attribute success to our natural abilities. But the flip side to this belief is that, when things go badly, it means we are inherently flawed. Every failure is a deeply personal one: the haughty spirit, then the inevitable fall when you pin your self worth on what you think you are, instead of what you work to do. Better, perhaps, to remember that we are a product of many factors, genetic, environmental, accidental. Better, then, to let go of an illogical pride in things largely beyond our control.
  4. “Don’t Worry, I Checked My Privilege” on McSweeney’s: The satirical online magazine McSweeney’s is one of my favorite reads, but this piece in particularly stuck with me. In it, the author humorously describes how he “checked his white male privilege” and found it delightfully intact. It starts with him interrupting an office meeting with derisive snorts and slurping noises. “When the meeting breaks, I am taken aside and told I have management potential. The fact that I don’t work there is never brought up.” It just gets weirder from there, but not as weird as reality. Prompted by this article, I checked my privilege and realized that it was … fading fast. Princeton fostered my belief that I was pretty much white and privileged, but, outside of the Orange Bubble, I’m realizing that isn’t quite true. I notice, and it deeply bothers me, when my white male colleagues make misinformed comments about domestic violence or suggest I contact a female recruit to our lab “because she’d probably like to hear from another woman.” I pick up on micro-aggressions. I make note when my black, female adviser is disproportionately hard on the one black, female student in our group. I ask myself if I should to go to med school to directly fight for the reproductive rights of poor women in the American South. You know who doesn’t ask themselves shit like that? White guys from Connecticut. I know because I spend a lot of time with white guys from Connecticut and they spend a lot of time talking about the day-to-day fluctuations in the stock market.

Fuckfuckfuck. I’m losing my privilege and that is terrifying.

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