Last night we were talking about the timeline of life. About the invisible hand of expectations on all of our joy. When are we supposed to be married? Start a family? What's early? What's right on time? What's late? What does any of that mean? We talked about the biological clock of a woman and its tango with career and ambition. About the idolatry of work and career itself. About the value of family as a life goal. We are living inside a modern confluence of historical motivations. One is the ancient allegiance to tradition. To do what was done before us. To start a family by this time. To have a house and a spouse. And if you miss these milestones, you are in some way a failure. Doesn't matter if you're loving your life. Doesn't matter if you're thriving in community and career. These things are more important than your whims. God's order and plan is more important than your fantasy. The other is the American Individualist mythology. It says 'tradition be damned!' The old way is the dead way. Tradition is patriarchy. There shall be no sacrifice of desire. You are a wild burning unique soul, meant for greatness. If you are unfulfilled, that means you aren't doing it right. Don't settle. Don't give up on your dreams. Wait for that one big love. Leap from boring responsibility into the adventure of passion. These two rivers of meaning, shaped by centuries of culture and thought, flow together into our lives. Into our choices. And leave us knotted up like frozen deer. Unable to enjoy walking one path or the other. Because to walk confidently in one is to be ridiculed by the other. And we deify the select famous few who seem to have straddled both. I've seen this hovering nag of expectation in every stage of life. I've seen older people who never became grandparents writhe in their unfulfilled purpose. I've seen happily married people with wonderful well fed children squirm that their career isn't where they thought it would be at 45. Give yourself some grace. You're living in a tug of war.
(Part 1 of 2 ) What does July 4th mean? What does it mean to celebrate America? It depends on who you are. And depending on where you come from, how you think and how you feel, it can be a raucous joy or a frustrating reminder. Or, if you're like me, a confusing combination of wonderful memories, historical fact and propaganda, philosophical quandary, and summer bliss. How can we celebrate a collection of people? To celebrate your family, maybe you must incorporate the neglect, or the molestation by your uncle, the fact that your mother knew, the domestic abuse, the fake smiles. You have to mix that all in to your one-and-only childhood. Where you learned to walk and love. Your grandmother. Your mother's hug. You father's shoulder. And that is just a family. Expand that to millions of people, to your country, and feel it all. The injustices. The murder. The prison-industrial complex. The racial calamity. The brutal loafing of moral evolution. The present destructions. You have to mix those in to the incredible expansions of human rights, life expectancy, economic promise, the fact that the moral imagination has evolved as far as it has... often lead by this rowdy country, the inventions and ingenuity, the national parks, the full emergence of individualism and the radical belief that each life has the right to pursue happiness for itself. In the past, we handled this messiness by ignoring the failures and turning our founders into gods. Turning our past into religion. Humans have been doing this as long as ancestral worship has been around. That worked much better ten thousand years ago, when verbal history was all you had. Now there's a paper trail, and history can be pieced together in its chaotic writhing. . 📷: @samanthamarq
(Part 2 of 2 ) I think the division between 'celebrate or get out of my wonderful country! and 'how can you sing praises to the devil' is a dualistic fantasy. It’s the work of our adolescent mind, sliding to either extreme of thought. We love to do this. This is almost all that Twitter is. But if you, like me, are trying to dismantle dualism in your pursuit of truth... I think somewhere in there is the future of celebration. Of love of one's family. Of love of one's country. Not because you are a consumer dissatisfied with a product, but because you are a member of a collective, as present as anyone else, and it is yours to love and fight for. It is your one and only life. It is your childhood. You can hate it, but only because you longed to love it. Because it is yours. Of finding the spirit of justice and peace that began in those founding documents, that planted seeds of their own rebuke and refinement. The progressive revelation of a just society has been hugely impacted by the United States of America. As important as any country's contribution has been in history. The discontent of the American, the endless fighting for better, is what has brought us this far. That history and that spirit I am proud to call family. . 📷: @samanthamarq
The conundrum of the creative imagination is that it has the gut knowledge that something perfect could exist.... but it must be created in the real world. It is the fantasy prediction and the clunky realization. The imagination is like prophesy. ‘This song could exist. It currently exists in the future. I can feel it. But I have to excavate it. It's buried up ahead... and only I know where to find it.' And so we look to create it. This is art. This is writing. This is a new product design. This is music. But the real thing will be informed, shaped, fucked up, or made surprisingly better by reality. The creative person lives in the tension of fantasy and realization. Gut gravity and sloppy landings. Or maybe some of you find it perfectly. I find the thing as best I can. Like giant fossils. I pull them out of the earth, put them together and guess what color they would have been. I didn't actually bring the dinosaur to life. But I did give a touch a wonder to a kid in the museum. I do hope I turned her imagination on. . 📷: @samanthamarq
I don't know what I believe about prayer. I don't know if anyone is listening, or maybe I do. If there is a listening, a something responding to my existence, it feels too small to give it a human-like personality. As Richard Rohr says, any talk of God is metaphor. But as for prayer, I do think speaking a desire has meaning. Even if it's just putting words to what I want. I believe words themselves affect the world, thoughts have a radiation zone, the ability to push reality. Maybe that's the real equation God always intended. It was never so childish as 'God answers prayer.' Even a quick review leaves that ridiculous on its face. Both sports teams are praying to win. My friend @h_cato said 'God is outside of time, right? So he sees me as a child, as I am now, and as an old woman. And so he may be answering a prayer now that I will pray in thirty years. Or he may be saying 'no' to me now because of how I will change in the future, therefore he is answering my future self with a denial now. He hears all my prayers from every stage at once.' This, no matter what you believe about God, is a productive way of thinking. Also quite true to the science of Time. What I want now is not what I wanted at 19, and not what I'll want at 49. I think it's quite good to pray, to talk to the Universe and give thanks, and speak what I need and what I think I need. But I'll leave it up to the great Unfolding to answer or reject my petitions. The whole tapestry of my life is there, every thread connected, and in its right place. But I am so zoomed in, so up close that I can't tell what it is. I can't see what's next. But that's the ride. And if I speak it out, if I write it down or pray it up to the sky, at least I know what I want and where I'm trying to go. At least I'm paying attention. . 📷: @rrrudya of @h_cato ❤️
There's self-work, and then there's self obsession. I love Myers Briggs. I love the enneagram and that I'm a type 7. I love what it has taught me about me. That at my core, I avoid pain. That's why I'm always traveling and finding new adventures. That's why I jump from pain to laughter, from hurt to cerebral understanding. That's why I leave the room when someone is crying. It has helped me understand myself. I also did some incredible experiential therapy work. Reconstructing my childhood and seeing what was around me as my brain turned on. The world we wake up to, around age 8, is the world we spend the rest of our lives trying to control. I learned to be super-independent in a home where my single mom was overwhelmed. I learned to bury my confusing sexuality. It could get me in trouble. It could cause a scene. So I learned to disassociate from my body, to float above me at a thousand feet and watch life unfold. Like a scientist. If I was watching from a distance, I couldn't get hurt. This turned me into a writer. Which I'm grateful for. But it also disconnected me from my body, from my emotions, from the right to have needs. All this self-excavation is crucial for living a whole, embodied life. For understanding how I work and how I experience the world, how I am in relationships. But I don't want to get lost in it. I've too often reduced people to their enneagram number. 'You're such a 3!' Or their Myers Briggs. Or I've seen people go to so many retreats, try every new thing and read every new book. A frantic pattern that only walls the soul deeper behind a mountain of knowledge. Of lingo. Of performative self understanding. There's a balance. I don't trust someone who isn't interested in their own excavation. I also feel some type of way about people who overdo it. Who are lost in the labyrinth of themself. I want to be a conscious soul, curious about my make-up. I want to do the important work. But I also acknowledge that I am an animal. Essentially unknowable to myself. And so are you. An honest wildling. Who is hungry and eats. The raven doesn't suffer from existential crisis. The coyote doesn't know too much for his own good. . 📷: @tshivs
This is a visual representation of how I hope my book comes across: Nature and galactic spiritual explosion. I started my next book in earnest today. I've been writing all morning. A collection of essays built around all the thinking I've been doing on here for five years. All the thoughts and processings I've done with y'all, put together and expanded on. My brain’s on fire. . Animation of me exploding by @istockbygettyimages @ludenbach and @azitaloves 🤗
(Part 1 of 2 ) Somehow I came to believe that my job must complete me. It must be my 'vocational soulmate.' It must give me meaning. I read a wonderful article by Derek Thompson about 'Workism' in the Atlantic, and it's done some good table-flipping in my head. I would define Workism as the belief that vocation gives life meaning. Like a religion. We are religious apes, and we look for ethereal meaning to motivate our lives. 200 years ago, we were almost all agrarian. There was no such thing as 'career.' You did what your parent did. You found meaning in God, in God's mysterious plan, in the afterlife, in conversion or virtue. The concept of a 'career',' of climbing the ladder, of reaching VP from the mailroom, is a twentieth century invention. (Derek Thompson worded all this beautifully in his Atlantic piece. Definitely read it. ) And as the work place evolved and changed, the corporate ladder was no longer the goal. It is now finding your calling. Work that satiates your spiritual appetite. And you are not to cease looking until you've found it. For a million years, work felt productive because it was obvious. Food collection. Building shelter. Rearing children. Damming a stream. You put in effort and you saw a result. That result either fed you or protected you. As work became specialized, and money became the most common religion in the world (collective belief that paper or gold has the power to move people ), the direct feeling of work-product disintegrated for millions of people. We shuffle papers and aimed for quotas... for what? To not get fired. To make more paper. This has left a vacuum in the felt-equation of purpose and meaning for homo sapiens. 📷 by @tshivs for @away
(Part 2 of 2 ) In the modern secular world, politics becomes religion too. We organize around sacred principles like border security, or social justice. We develop blasphemy laws ('don't question the second amendment' or ‘don't question intersectionality' ), and we spend collective energy deciding who is in the group and who is to be kicked out. Who is a 'real American' or a 'real ally.' Purity is important to us religious apes. And political action does give us meaning. It is the working gears of civilization after all. But it's all so human, and therefor tenuous. Collapsable. Up to us and fallible. The lovely thing about God is that the course of human history is up to him. Climate change? God's got it under control. We can lean back and trust him. He cannot fail. He has a plan, right? No matter how bad we screw things up, He's got it. I come from the Christian tradition, many of you know this, and that gives me an interesting angle on Workism. I come from the wonderful belief that 'for those who love God, all things work together for good.' The belief that real meaning lies in God's plan, in loving others in Jesus' name. Who cares what your job is. Your real job is to be a child of God. Take that away, and what are people left with? Finding their passion. Their vocational soulmate. Marching in the streets. Sheltering dogs. We can't escape from our spiritual appetite for meaning. I don't know what to do with all this thinking. I have found a job that fulfills me. I have my vocational soulmate. I am a secular dream. I don't know if it's good for everyone to look for it. I think life itself is meant to be our soulmate. The fulfilling collage of community, work-product, and self actualization. Of family. Of service to your friends and neighbors. Writing is a weird job because its very input is life. And its output is life in language. See, I'm disintegrating here. I'm resisting the urge to prescribe a solution where I only have curiosity and unsettled feelings. But a lot of us are here, and we'll find our way by trying. By turning all the door knobs until one opens. . 📷: by @tshivs for @away
I watched the Met Gala on Monday and smiled a lot. At Katy Perry’s chandelier. Her hamburger dress. Kim’s silicon whatever that was. Gaga’s 16 minute silent pantomime entrance. I spent twenty minutes breaking down the meaning and trajectory of each celebrity’s career and choices. . It made me think about the importance of art in a brutal world. Art and entertainment I guess. And playful things. Too much bad news can dull the blade of your mind. Just as the fugitive must run to survive, but also, must include sleep to survive, the mind cannot remain terrified forever. It must recover. It must chance to rest. For the mind treading in global outrage, it needs, on occasion, to lean back on frivolous things. It must talk about the frivolous like they are deadly important. And follow that with a laugh. . Toni Morrison says, ‘How bleak, unlivable, insufferable existence becomes when we are deprived of artwork... the rescue we extend to them is a generosity to ourselves.’ . The time to fight for justice deserves the majority of the day. But there will be no life to save without the reasons to be alive. . A little art. A little laughter and wonder. These things bring the mind back to itself. Indeed they give the self room to exist. The self interacts, judges, assesses art and beauty. It is with that self respect that we can then go into our fights and duties with a wholeness that the task deserves. A humanity. A kindness. An elevation in rebuke of the chaotic animal of fear. . We are not meant to be polarized creatures. To be one thing or another all the time. We are dynamic double helixes of celebration and outrage, laughter and tears. We are most human in our stark juxtapositions. . I’ve been in dangerous and deadly places. I’ve feared for my life. As I hid, I still cracked jokes. I can’t help it. I might have commented on the tacky crown molding in the room.
(Part 1 of 3 ) We spent our first 200,000 years as homo sapiens living in small groups. Usually 150 people or smaller. We looked like our fellow tribe members. Our skin was mostly the same. Our language the same. Our culture regimented and clear through the unimpeachable authority of oral tradition, elders, and superstition. The tribe that lived on the other side of the mountain was alien and probably dangerous. Perhaps we traded sea shells with them. Perhaps we warred with them. We certainly didn’t understand them. If you ate your neighbor’s fruit, you hurt your neighbor. You watched him starve. If you put poison in the creek, you killed your cousin downstream. Cause and effect were not intellectual feats, they were felt realities. You had to take care of your soil or you would die. It was the only soil you had. This is how we evolved to be. We’ve operated like that for 95% of our time on this planet. Then, just 12,000 years ago, we discovered agriculture, and therefore, dependable food. With a secure food source, we quit migrating and built bigger tribes. We built walls and defended our grain. We organized into groups much larger than our families. We no longer knew everyone’s name. How did we get along? With using our power of belief to extend our family. We systematized it. If we didn’t trust our neighbor because of blood, we trusted her because we worshipped the same god, the same King, the same spirits. We expanded our families with the labels we put on ourselves. You’re the same religion as me, so you are with me. With this dependable food and myth-driven trust, our villages became towns, our towns cities, and our cities nations. We systematized it. We broke our giant tribes into classes. We created ruling elites. We deified them to give them authority. Structural inequality was born. We could no longer feel the impact of some of our sins on the larger group, on strangers, so we systematized feelings again: we codified morality into religion. If your neighbor didn’t see you steal, the all-seeing God did. 📷: @samanthamarq
(Part 2 of 3 ) At our core, we are feeling animals first, thinking apes second. We make decisions based on how we feel much more than what logic and data tell our brains. We can feel the sadness on the face of a starving family member. Our logic and data will help us stop the pain we feel for our child. But it’s hard to go the other way. To start with data and find a feeling. We weren’t built to worry about what was happening to the family on the other side of the mountain. Giant tribes, now called societies, create new problems. The chain of cause-and-effect is too long to feel, and therefore very hard to perfect. These new challenges have a name: ‘hyperobjects.’ These are things too complex to be grasped with our present ape-brain wiring. The global economy is a hyperobject. When I buy a cheap t-shirt, I can be warned that its price reflects an enormous scaffolding of oppression, land abuse, worker abuse, and toxic chemicals. But our brains want cheap things that look nice. This shirt will make me look good in front of my community. I can feel that. I can’t feel a supply chain that stretches across the globe to places I’ve never even heard of. Even if I logically know it. Our impact on the natural world is a hyperobject. The most pressing one to ever face our species. We know this intellectually. All the experts agree. But we have a lot of trouble feeling it. And therefore, change is happening as a trickle. Those wired to feel hyperobjects a bit more, react more. Those wired to ignore them (most of us ), do less. If we do not learn to address massive hyperobject problems, we will greatly suffer. Perhaps collapse. We know this intellectually. But we simply cannot feel it, because so many of us are loving our comfortable lives these days. We’ve been warned about ‘borrowed time,’ we’ve been begged to ‘think of our grandchildren,’ but all these things put the pain beyond the visceral reach of our wiring. Ok lemme quit trying to make sense of our species for myself for a minute and speak very clearly, still to myself, but listen in: I think we only have two ways out of this. Two ways to tackle hyperobjects: expanding our myths, and legislation.
(Part 3 of 3 ) Just as we all somehow agreed that colorful paper would become money and therefore powerful. Just as we got millions and billions of people to believe in a book of Jewish words and laws. Just as we have millions of strangers calling themselves ‘Americans’ and feeling some level of fictional kinship… we must expand the myth of our role in the ecosystem of this planet. We are not separate from it. There is no ‘nature’ and ‘civilization.’ There is only nature. Secondly, if the myth doesn’t work, we must be forced to change through legislation. We must elect leaders who will aggressively tackle fossil fuels, single use plastic, soil erosion, deforestation for cattle farms, all of it. Our monkey brains love meat and comfort. We fought for hundreds of thousands of years for the rare taste of sugar, meat, and soft fur on our skin. We weren’t meant to have it all the time. I believe we need to elect leaders who will make us uncomfortable now (carbon taxes, huge investment in renewable energy, etc ), a comfort we never deserved and only achieved through theft and poison, for downstream success. I don’t know if I’ve ever ranted like this before. But I’m convinced that the biggest challenge of our age is how we tackle or do not tackle the hyperobjects that have long loomed, waiting for us to grow beyond our wisdom, and always promised to kill us. . (If you cant tell, I read and loved the books Sapiens and Homo Deus and recommend them to everyone )
I'm an Enneagram type 7, wing 8. Do you know your numbers? Personality tests are fun. I don't worship them like a prophesy or feel trapped by them like a curse. I see them as giving us a common language to unpack our differences. The "illusion of sameness" often leads me to think others would respond just as I would to a certain situation. "I would never have said that, I can't believe she did!" "I can't imagine going back to him, but he did!" But most people don't think exactly like me. They make different assumptions and want different things. The Enneagram has been a helpful (if mostly playful ) tool to understand how other people think, and how they can think so differently than me. As a 7, I am an Enthusiast. I am fun and excited and always exploring. What's great about the Enneagram is that it builds each of the 9 personality types on root causes. On our basic fears and desires. These building blocks of identity then populate upwards into so many manifested traits. As a 7, my root fear is pain. Is feeling trapped in deprivation. And so, how do I protect myself? I explore, I laugh, I plan the next adventure in the middle of the current one. I consume. I am always on the search for the Lost City of Gold. My 8 wing, a touch of ‘challenger,’ is why I’ve always cussed in church and loved to hop fences and trespass. I am convinced that understanding my basic fears, understanding the what, how, and why of who I am, is crucial work in living a fulfilling life. If I do not know the strings that pull my marionette, I am nothing but a wooden slave, entertaining strangers. And I remain a stranger to myself. There is freedom in the hard work of excavation. 📷: @samanthamarq 👑 #enneagram
“Truth, like love and sleep, resents approaches that are too intense.” - W. H. Auden I would add friendship to that quote. You can’t want it too bad or you’ll poison it. That’s certainly true of love. This is judgmental, or perhaps just ignorant, but I’ve always been suspect of the book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ ...it seems by its very title to promise the wrong kind of both friendships and influence. I haven’t read it so maybe you can tell me I’m an idiot for thinking that. Friendship is not one thing and there is not one type... but it seems to me that desperately wanting it for its own sake kills it. You have to want to be you, to like what you like, to dive into your interests and direction, join clubs, go to Comicon or a film festival, and then suddenly, you’ll look right and left, and see others at your shoulder, moving in the same direction, with so much to talk to you about.
I’ve been thinking about the hundreds of traits that make up who we are and how we move through the world. Beauty. Race. Charisma. Family. Economic privilege. Zip code. Physical abilities. You know those huge mixing-boards they have in recording studios, with tons of sliders and knobs to turn this up, that down, all the way, or just ever so slightly, to find the perfect mix… that’s how I see all of us. I think of my own mix: A white Christian boy from Tennessee. Gay. A kid with a soft body and acne. Teenage hotness? - turned down. But a nice smile? - tick the hotness up just a little. Throw in a quick mind that adjusted to rejection with humor. A natural disposition for optimism, which colored my humor playful instead of cold and cutting. Funny and charming - turned up. A feminine voice? I had it, but got mocked for it, so I turned that knob down myself. I grew up with divorced parents and a family constantly in flux. Stability - middle position. Adaptability - turned up. But both my parents loved me unconditionally and supported me in absolutely every way. Self worth - turned up. The traits play with each other and become greater than their sum. Beauty is nice, but if you don’t have social skills, or have depression or abuse, life can be very difficult. Or you could have a lot of circumstantial dials against you (female, poor, black in the deep south, abuse… *see Oprah ) but have your discernment, intuition, charisma, ambition, and mastery of language turned all the way up. Those factors are practically religious virtues in an individualistic society like the United States. And so, she is a god. What am I talking about.. I guess I’m trying to challenge the essentialism of the human mind. A gay man like me, who was able to hide by changing my voice and body language pretty early on, is very different from another who couldn’t. We are both gay, and therefore share internal scripts that others don’t… but there is not a perfect overlap. This is true for any group, any slider on the mixing board. It is informed by every other dial. Every human is part of a thousand groupings and stereotypes, and in their uniqueness, the destruction of any one of them. 📷: @tshivs
It used to be that courtroom judges had to believe in God and an afterlife. It was required because the people worried that judges would abuse their power if they didn’t have fear of judgment from on high. They may cheat the world, but they can’t cheat God. . This belief is gone. Rightly so. But I wonder what integrity looks like without belief in a ‘watcher on high.’ And we certainly know that worrying about God’s watchful eye has hardly curbed sinister behavior in the past. The potent evil perpetrated by priests and church leaders is almost a feature of organized religion as opposed to a defect. . But I do believe that integrity in the smallest things has some kind of cosmic dividend. The measure of good character is how you treat the people that can do nothing for you. . Here’s a dumb but relevant story: More than once, I’ve sneezed in my hands and wiped them on the seat of an Uber car. What’s horrible is that only now, in thinking about this, have I ever felt bad for doing it. Something subconscious directed me to wipe my fucking snot on a stranger’s car, that they personally own, simply because they’ll never know it was me that did it. My lizard brain took the opportunity for granted. It said ‘no one is watching and therefore there is no consequence.’ . I don’t believe in a tally-keeping moralized God like I did before. But I do believe that God is watching, whatever that means. And when I am selfish, to the secret detriment of another, the Universe is listening and sending rotten ripples into the whatever. I am not innocent of those actions. Even if it simply means that they accrue in my heart, to make me feel like a coward and a phony... and that has terrible consequences. When we ultimately decide that we are cowardly, or beyond repair, we acquiesce to slothful hedonism. We hurt others and throw up our hands and say ‘what can you expect, I’m trash.’ . Who we believe ourselves to be is who we become. I don’t mean to say who we pretend to be, or hope to be. But who we sincerely believe ourselves to be is a curse or a calling. . 📷: @tshivs the king.
I think we need to broadly implement regular digital detoxing. It should be as socially encouraged as exercise, eating right, quitting smoking, etc. . I just did eight days with no internet. No texting. No push notifications. No lazy distraction. No scrolling or news addiction or explore pages or twitter rage. I realized how rarely I’ve done this. Maybe since 2007, I haven’t been phone free for more than a week, ever. Even on my bike trip... I think my longest stretch of zero WiFi was a week. . I have developed pain in my thumb joints from scrolling for ten years. . I spent Friday with several wonderful mom’s of fifth graders. 10-11 year old kids. I asked what their policy was for screens and social media. I heard, ‘I absolutely don’t want my kid to have a phone. But my son is currently the only fifth grader without a phone... it’s hard because it’s hard to be left out’ and we talked about adolescent desires, and at that age, ‘belonging’ is life. Anything that makes you ‘other’ is terrifying. The zero sum game of protecting your child from screen addiction on one hand, and causing them to be left behind on the other. The memes and jokes and references and compounded understanding between the kids with phones and texting and social presences... and those without. . A hero of mine, the social-psychologist Jonathan Haidt (check out his books ), believes that no child should have social media before high school. Our brains develop foundational social skills from age 8-13, and our hardware evolved for face-to-face computation. Saying something mean and feeling the kid’s face distort in hurt or anger. Wrestling in the grass. Pushing or sulking or crying. Volumes of information flowing from the real world. Integrated existence: body and mind. . Social media short circuits this. An eleven year old might not understand how to compute gossip on Instagram. Or cruelty. Or mockery. Or posturing. Or worse: concern over personal branding. . I’m so curious how parents are navigating these waters. . Whatever the age or generation... integrated life is key. I think a week of total disconnection should be prioritized at least one a year. Twice?
(Part 1 of 3 ) I've watched Leaving Neverland. I watched the Oprah special after. I watched Living With Michael Jackson on Youtube. And I watched the other Oprah special with Michael from 1993. When something confuses me, or hurts me, I switch into research mode. My heart coils up and hides while my mind busts through walls promising to protect it with understanding. As long as I can remember, I've heard the rumors that Michael Jackson abused children. But also the defenses. He was acquitted by a jury. He never had a childhood. He is so famous, so 'other,' so different, that we shouldn't expect him to behave normally. And why should a documentary bring justice? Why not the law? And as with anything we like, willful ignorance is often a cozy chair. How many times have I pulled into McDonalds late at night, knowing that industrialized farms torture cows and pigs, and ordered a double cheeseburger. I love cheeseburgers. And so long as I can't hear the cow's cry, I can pretend that they're not. I can fill my belly and smile. . But watching this documentary was stepping into the slaughterhouse. I am an adult now. I watched Leaving Neverland, and I believe those men. I believe they were abused. And once I put down my defensive love of Michael Jackson's music and what my memories with that music held, I saw those traumatized men. I saw the amusement park. I saw the most powerful celebrity in the world using his power on young children. . I do not believe genius and virtue are related. I do not believe genius and character are linked. I do not need Isaac Newton to be a good person. I do not need Einstein to be a loving dad. If the architect of the Golden Gate bridge was a horrible anti-semite or murderer... the bridge would be no less useful. It would still be beautiful. Though complicated, we wouldn't tear it down. Its utility is so great that most of us don't even know who designed it. (Cont’d )
(Part 2 of 3 ) But slide the scale from utility to art, with entertainment somewhere in the middle, and things get muddled. I like Adele songs precisely because I believe Adele and her heart when she sings. It's about HER perspective on life and how I connect with it so deeply. Lemonade is believed because Beyoncé is a black woman in America who has lived that uniquely American experience. The auteur's perspective is hugely important. If Lemonade had been made by Taylor Swift... it would have been received... differently. . If Michael Jackson sings about loving children around the world, about wanting peace and kindness for all, especially the 'innocent children,' all the while he is abusing children in the towers of his hidden castle... that changes the art. . That said, music, unlike most other forms of art, is unique in that it maps on to your life. With a movie, a painting, a book... you can't do other things while you consume the art. You are looking at it, absorbing it. With music, you are almost always doing other things. You're making out in your bed while Rihanna grinds. You're driving through the mountains while Sufjan plucks. The music becomes the soundtrack to your real life, therefore making it more yours than any other form of art. This is why the complexity of a musician's personhood is so acutely challenging. They are characters in your life, in the room with you during some of your most important moments. . In that way, they are much more like family than distant celebrities. They have been with you while you grew up. They helped make you. They taught you how to dance. And like family, sometimes we learn that they are deeply flawed. Loving fathers abuse their children. Mother's abuse their children. Aunts and uncles abuse. Crooks and liars. They can simultaneously be charismatic sources of love. How many of us have had to learn to love our family in spite of their direct wounds upon us? . I believe we can recognize genius and the impact of genius art on our own lives, while not ignoring the broken artist and the wake of that brokenness. I think we have to learn that life is not dualistic. Good or bad. It is both. (Cont’d )
(Part 3 of 3 ) Humans are social apes. We evolved to belong in groups, and rejection from that group is the ultimate punishment. When one of our group members does something unacceptable, unforgivable, we ostracize them. We band together and kick them out. This is both to protect the group, and also to teach the unoffending group members what not to do. So long as we allowed power and celebrity and genius to override the trauma of young boys, we sent a signal to our species: this is ok. I believe we're finally evolving beyond that in real time. Public shame is part of the immune system of our species. . My heart breaks for Michael Jackson. I feel for him. I know what it's like to live a compartmentalized life. But the hurt he caused is a horror that must have a real response. My heart breaks for those abused men. They still love Michael Jackson. He manipulated their hearts, probably forever. He traumatized them. I still love what Michael Jackson’s music meant to me. But there is a letting go now... I see his beauty the way I see the beautiful grounds of a southern plantation.
I’m so glad #worldbookday exists. And I effing light up like a firefly seeing some of you including my book on your lists. I’m slowly transitioning from imposter-syndrome to cozy gratitude, and plotting what’s next. . What books are you reading? What books changed your life? Tell me why you love them as well, because I need a little info to see if it’s up my alley. (Check my story highlight to see my favorite books... I love Steinbeck and Wendell Berry and Zadie Smith and Yuval Harari and James Baldwin’s essays and Joan Didion and Anais Niin to give you a flavor ). . Grateful for all you readers. Stay curious fellow humans. . 📷: the amazing @flerish #toshakethesleepingself #bookstagram
This is a reminder you all! Enter the @bankofthewest #CaptureTheChange photo contest I told you about. Post something about taking positive steps to protect our environment and improve our lives. Something right in your neighborhood or maybe from your travels. Something about energy transition, renewables, sustainability, from composting to fashion. . I'm proud to be a judge for this contest, because I love to support companies that are committed to sustainability. @bankofthewest believes banks are in a pivotal position to foster environmental stewardship. I agree. Check their Instagram for the full rules of the contest. You could win a paid three year lease on a Tesla Model S. Wish I could win. I guess I'll just help pick the winner. . If I COULD enter, I'd post this. I took this photo while biking through the endless wilderness of Patagonia. I wondered how so much beautiful land could be so empty, so wild, and I heard about Douglas Tompkins and Kris McDivitt Tompkins. They are renowned conservationists who committed themselves and their fortunes to preserving the beauty of Patagonia. They bought and conserved more than 2 million acres in Chile and Argentina, and have committed to secure up to 14 million acres for national parks in those countries. What a legacy. As untouched habitat dwindles on earth, its preservation is imperative. This is why I support what @bankofthewest is doing. Just like the McDivitts, they don’t just support this stuff, they drive it. #capturethechange #sponsored #sustainability #imajudge #impressme #ad #sponsored
Whenever I spend time with family, I'm reminded of the ever-present ghost of the unsaid. The hardened hearts. The brothers who no longer speak, the life choices whispered and worried about in private. It is remarkable how hard it is for families to talk about things. To shine sunlight on the wounds in the basement. . I also see this in spouses. Tiny cuts accumulate into a tone that colors their every conversation. As if perpetually annoyed. As if pinching their little brother in the back seat and telling mom that nothing happened. There is a special rudeness here. Especially when it's performed in front of friends. 'She won't even let me near a motorcycle!' - 'That's not what I said!' They litigate their conversations in front of you, trying to shame the other one with an audience. A power play. A zero sum game. . And this stands in contrast to the way we treat our friends. We listen. We share our every thought. We take in new information and give our best. We light up with attention and care. We are hard to offend. . What is that? I think it has something to do with the 'essence of identity.' A family member, a spouse.... they are hitched to you. Attached to you forever, or foreverish. And therefore, prone to cause a type of claustrophobia. Something in us wants to be chosen, not bought. A bird on a branch, not a rooted tree. . But then when all goes to hell, those unbreakable bonds, those tethered to you in history or covenant... they are often the ones that save your life. That provide a ground zero. They are home. . I wonder what it takes to give our bright-shining best to those we're bound to. To treat our family like friends. To overpower the instinct to retract and avoid, and embrace. I don't know. I still love to slam the door to my basement and put in head phones to drown out the banging. . 📷: the one and only @sahiltner
Do you know why our brains are so much bigger than our primate cousins? Or bigger in ratio than practically any mammal? It’s not so that we might solve enormous equations. It’s not for structural engineering or applied mathematics (though those things are certainly amazing ). . Our brains are enormous so that they can compute human social interaction. . Ever notice how you can watch a press conference and the smallest squint of an eye, the subtlest tone of voice or word choice, and your gut says ‘he’s lying!’ Ever go on a first date, and feel the free flow of good conversation and notice that his knee touched yours under the table, perhaps for .02 seconds instead of .01. The latter could have been an accident, but the former felt like exploratory affection. Meanwhile, above the table, you’re still talking about Broad City. . Our schools and our tests look for aptitude in a side effect. Whether we’re good at calculus or chemistry. They want to test for skills that can be measured and tallied. Perhaps more valuable, whether we can structure a sentence properly. . But this leaves many a brilliant mind left out. I remember people in my high school that struggled to make Cs and Bs, but I would argue that they were social-savants. The tests and the pressure and the memorization were counterintuitive challenges for them. But they ran the school with relationship advice and gossip and perfectly timed wit. They could maneuver a conversation or convince a teacher to let them off like Rachmaninov playing the piano. . I guess what I’m saying is, some of the most obvious geniuses I’ve ever met would never have scored high on the SAT. And I hate that they don’t know how smart they are. . I’ve seen them craft a text message conversation between their friend and the friend’s crush that should be studied by science. The nuance. The empathy. The imagined perspective and channeled flirtatious energy. The impossibly perfect word choices. The fullness of the evolved human brain computing ten thousand emotions and expectations in a millisecond, and launching the text like a grenade. It’s genius at work. . 📷: @tshivs
This is @margiedillenburg I call her my ‘second brain.’ As if my soul is living two lives and gets twice the experience and twice the reading and twice the knowledge. I benefit immensely from seeing what my soul would learn in the body of a woman. She has a PhD in Empathy. Seriously. She actually does. She is a ‘systems thinker.’ Aka she can intake an enormous amount of information and zoom out to see the pattern in it all. We live on opposite sides of the country but when we reunite, it’s like our conversation paused at the end of a perfect sentence and started again as if time and distance were fake. I don’t miss her when she’s gone, which is an odd thing to say. But I can only attribute that to the fact that I feel we are somehow one thing, and therefore not apart. Like two parts of the same body. The hand doesn’t miss the ankle. . We went to Marrakech this month. To explore an unknown city with a soul-copy... I highly recommend it. Follow her if you want to benefit from her brain. . 📷 by the incomparable @tshivs
Y'all, I've been asked to judge a contest. I said yes. I love judging. And I love what this contest is about. Here's the scoop: . I'm helping out @bankofthewest with their #capturethechange contest. You know I'm big on changing personal behavior to help the earth. Stopping single use plastic, etc. That's individual responsibility, that's bottom up. But I also believe in top down. I think industries and companies and governments need to establish policies to encourage better stewardship of our one-and-only planet. And when they do, we should celebrate that. @bankofthewest is doing it. They're divesting from Arctic drilling, from fracking, and investing in the transition to sustainability. A billion dollars to be exact. It boggles the mind that more companies aren't doing this. But the ones that are need to be heralded. . @bankofthewest is holding a contest to see who out there is improving our world. And I'm joining them as a judge. Yeehaw! If you win, you may get a paid 3-year lease on a new Tesla Model S. . Post a photo of someone or something making a positive environmental change in your neighborhood or wherever you see it happening. Something that falls in one or more of these categories: Sustainability, Environmental Consciousness, Energy Transition, and Green Technology. . So do this: . 1. Follow @bankofthewest 2. Post your photo on your public account by 3/29 3. Tag @bankofthewest in the post caption 4. Use #capturethechange and #contest in the caption and explain to us what's happening in your image. . Two Grand Prize winners will get a paid 3-year lease on a new Tesla model S. . I'm excited to see what y'all post. This photo is from the Italian Dolomites, one of the most magical places I've ever been. It's a great example of how beautiful this planet can be. A planet that deserves better from us. #sponsored #ad #capturethechange
What is it that makes you love the books you love? There are so many books, what makes certain ones stand out? I asked my friend Nicole this yesterday over lunch. She reads about 30-40 books a year. Her answer was ‘I want rhythm. I want it to be visual, to go on a journey, somewhere international. I also want the story to rip my heart out.’ . This is why it can be hard to recommend books to friends. Each is received so subjectively. Each gives or doesn’t give those specific things you are looking for. . On the podcast Hidden Brain, I heard a scientist explaining what humor is. Why we laugh at stand up comedy. They very forensically described it as ‘the brain’s recognition of a private truth uttered in public for the first time.’ When a comedian talks about the weirdness of sex, or ‘the terror when you see yourself in an airplane bathroom mirror’ ...we suddenly laugh from the fun shock of recognition. Of ‘someone else knows!’ . This is what I’m looking for in a book. . Not to laugh per se, though I often laugh. But to feel that thrill of recognition. That someone else’s brain, better than mine, cracked the code of living by putting the ineffable into words. . . . @nicolerichie , Morocco is very much the type of place you’d love to read about. I wonder what books have been set there. 🤔
I believe pursuing diversity is as important a virtue as hard work, as building character, as honesty or kindness or courage. The idea of 'virtue' is grounded in overcoming the damaging instincts of being human. It's easier to be slothful, but overcoming that impulse and choosing hard work is what changes your life. It's easy to lie to cover your ass when you've screwed up. But building character through a commitment to radical honesty pays dividends for the rest of your life. It's easier to be scared than courageous. It's easier to eat junk food, but in the end, it just might kill you. . I feel this is the same universal truth that compels us to pursue diversity. It is easy to hang out with people that look just like you, that come from your same background, that talk and think like you. It's harder to step into another experience and learn from it. Especially if that experience is hidden from you because of de facto segregation, economic shut-outs, the social walls of 'train tracks,' the perversion of ‘the American Dream’ as an explainer for poverty and lack of opportunity. . I went to a private Christian school in Nashville without a single black student. I heard it was 'a good school, and the public schools are too dangerous.' I understand a parent's desire to keep their kid safe, and if diversity isn't a key foundational virtue, a rich school that happens to be a mono-culture sounds great. But in the end, I was deprived of the crucial lessons of other experiences, other lives, other humanities. I was taught to be color-blind, and from that, joined the infrastructure of injury. . Diversity ought to be as highly valued as any classic virtue. The rain forest is swarming with a billion types of life. The desert is alive, but far less so. . For Black History Month, I'm reading only black authors. These are some of the books I've read or am reading and enjoying. This month is not enough, but it is a helpful reminder of the importance of diversity. Of our seemingly endless cultural growing pains and missteps. Of giving respect and homage where they are faaaaar overdue. I hope you'll grab one or some of these books and read them with me.
If any of you have been waiting to make the switch from throwaway cups to a reusable one because you couldn’t find one that was the right size, and fit in your hand or cup holders right... well blammo cappow we just released 20oz bytas! So now we have a bigger size for y’all who want more draaank but still like the sleek light design. . Remember, I don’t care if you buy a byta or a mug at goodwill or use one you’ve already got, I just hope you’ll consider making this little change in your life, to help diminish all the crap and trash we make as a society. I designed this cup because I wanted to make that change but couldn’t find one I liked enough to make changing my habits easy. So, if you like @mybyta , get one! (at mybyta.com ) If you don’t, use whatever you like! . Ok speech over. Love to you all. Hope I run into some of you at a random coffee shop soon and we can cheers our reusable cups. ❤️
The private labor of making-it-through-today is around us, always. In every restaurant. On every street. Someone you walked by just found out about a terminal disease. Another is a single mother with the flu trying to feed her baby. The couple on the park bench just decided to get a divorce. The invisible weight that so many people carry shows itself in indirect ways. Through wrinkles on the face. Through sunken eyes. Through the gravity of staying in bed. Through rudeness to the waiter. Or road rage. Or snapping at a friend. . Makes me want to find a term for the empathy I feel put into action. Maybe ‘sonderkindness.’ Combining those two ideas: ‘sonder’ being that made-up word for the sudden realization that everyone you see in public is the star of their own movie, and to them, you are the extra in the background. And that J. M. Barry quote, ‘be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.’ . Sonderkindness. Makes me want to move through life gently. I can already feel it inoculating me from the tit-for-tat rage of someone’s future rudeness. . I just got back from Marrakesh, Morocco and the market was swarming with people. Bumping into old ladies and children and everyone. Energies and joys and sadness and exhaustion and stories vibrating through the narrow streets like radiation. The people there seem to practice sonderkindness as a cultural virtue. I saw strangers helping strangers over and over. I saw abundant love and brotherhood. We found this spot in a hotel outside of town, to catch our breath and slow down. To recharge and then dive back in to that sea of human electricity. Morocco is now one of my favorite places on earth.
How do you know if you should be a writer? A musician? Start a business? How do you know if it’s worth the risk of trying? . I can almost trace my nascent writing career back to one person. An acquaintance named Brian. I met him once on a trip to Colorado and we became Facebook friends. That’s it. . I had started a blog. A journal that existed in public, with zero readers. But the thrill of it being online colored the way I wrote. It made me journal in such a way that I imagined a distant reader, and made efforts in clarity and explanation. . I posted one of my entries on Facebook. It was some brain-dump on faith and God and whatever I was processing in my mid-twenties. I wrote it reflecting on conversations I was having with my friends. I wanted them to read it, so I posted it. . This guy Brian, who I didn’t really know, read it. And messaged me. He told me that I put words to his thoughts. He told me how much it helped him. He told me to keep writing. . That did something to me. It wasn’t just my friends encouraging me. It wasn’t my mom’s wonderful biased love. It was a vague acquaintance, who had better things to do, responding to my writing. . The writer Seth Godin talks about this a lot (I really recommend his podcast ‘Akimbo’ ). If you make something good, it will spread. First you must put it somewhere that it can be seen and shared. And then, if your friends *really* like it, they’ll share it. If they don’t, they won’t. But if they do, others might respond. Friends of friends. Then, maybe, friends of friends of friends. If that starts happening, maybe you’re on to something. Maybe the art itself has legs. It doesn’t need your personal connections, your beauty, your money, your sweet friends. It only needs itself. . There’s your clue. If it doesn’t spread, perhaps you’re meant to keep working at it. Perhaps it’s meant just for you. Keep loving it. Keep refining and sharing if you want to. Sooner or later, you might spark a fire. . . . Thanks Brian for writing me back then. That moment was a turning point in my confidence. A tiny turn in the bow of a ship will, over time, send it to a different sea. . (If you like someone’s art, tell them ).
A poem for Mary Oliver today. Written while feeling a lot: . I heard that our sense of self is constructed in the brain, the bottom of it. The illusion of ‘me’ vs the world. I am not the world. I am me, separate, driving this meat walker through the room. . There are chemicals found in plants and fungus and animals that break down this illusion. They were waiting to be found. Ancient people did and called them ‘spirit’ and ‘magic’. They turn off this part of the brain like a light switch. The ego does dark. And you diffuse into the world as if you were not apart from it. You see time as an inside joke with outer space. You forgive everything. . I wonder if Mary had this chemical in her. Not ingested. Inborn. Or chosen and woven in. . She seemed to play with the bigness of life like a mother in bed with her baby. Lounging. Caring. Giggling at the silliness of coos and chubby legs. . She forgave everything. No, wider... there was nothing to forgive. . When I was seven, I found a black widow in the barn. I played with her on a stick. She would walk toward my fingers and then I would flip the stick over. I did not know she was deadly. I just loved how beautiful, how sleek. The red hour glass too perfect to be believed. I had such a good time, and let the lady outside after a while. . It is dangerous to be alive of course. So much to lose. But to fit into the wind like one of a million blowing reeds, to bow on cue, is the best feeling in the world. To finally break and not blame the storm.
Mary Oliver, you were my favorite poet. And now you’ve gone on to the sunset. To the geese. To the black sand beach. To be one with all the oneness you so generously exalted. You taught me how to walk through the forest and make only soft sounds. I hate how it took this, your death, to snap into place just what you meant to me. Something just smacked clear. My love for you. I’m sure you would tell me not to fuss about a lesson learned too late. You’d say everything in its right time. You’d tell me not to walk on my knees, repenting. You’d say something beautiful using the endless metaphors of nature. I’ll be reading your poems today in the rain. . “When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn; when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse . to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; when death comes like the measle-pox . when death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades, . I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness? . And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, and I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity as another possibility, . and I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular, . and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, tending, as all music does, toward silence, . and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth. . When it's over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. . When it's over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. . I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. . I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.” . - Mary Oliver “When Death Comes” #maryoliver
"Do what you do with another human being, but never put them out of your heart.” - Kabir. . I love these words. Because they at once validate activism, anger, and demanding change, but also encourage the oppressed to avoid using the tactics of the oppressor. I see this a lot. The dehumanization of the other side. Calling conservatives monsters or beasts or devils or whatever. The wholesale mockery. The shitty memes. . There are so many reasons for expression. Some is simply exasperation. To shout out and feel heard. Some is to rally your own team (most I'd say ). Some is meant to persuade. To change minds. But we know that angering the mind you want to change with mockery and contempt seals it shut. Prevents it from taking in new information. We often think that if we rally enough people on our team, show frightening numbers and force, the other side will back down, cower and retreat. But this is clunky change, more of a pendulum swing than transformation. . Winning through force causes the loser to regroup, double down, turn their loss into an identity, and simmer until they strike again. The Civil War was won by force, and the confederate flag still flies. . Often in history force was necessary. Revolutions of freedom. And thank God for the positive changes it brought. But I wonder if that will ever change. If we are doomed to war. . Every type of response to injustice has its place. The ragers and the warriors are the boldest. They bring attention first. They throw their bodies on the fire. They burn down the buildings they mean to save, to light the darkness. But the persuaders come in from the side. Learn from the rage. Feel the truth behind the pain. And then win the trust of those who have caused it. With the intent to earn their ear, and show them. It is like diffusing a bomb. Like solving a puzzle. . Every response belongs. But I can't stop thinking about that quote. Do what you must, rage and rage, but do not take your enemy out of your heart. Do not make your brother into an animal. In so doing you become one too. . 📸: @samanthamarq
When I was ten, I saw some special on TV about the great pyramids of Egypt. Some guy said that the stones were too big to move without cranes, and their construction was a mystery. He said that humans only use 10% of our brains, and that perhaps the Egyptians used 100%, thereby giving them the power of telekinesis. Aka moving objects with their minds. . Cut to 26 years later. I still pretend I open every automatic door with my mind. I still, I swear, I still sometimes picture lifting up a car and throwing it across the street into a building. Actually, I do this often. I think ‘if I just BELIEVE’ ...it might happen. Someday. I’ve many times sat and wondered what I’ll do when it finally happens. The burden of that power.
Starting the year with big hopes, but not fantasies. Every good thing you dream of comes with a bad thing in tow. Every light has a shadow. It is the demand of the universe: balance. I try to look at all my hopes and dreams with that in mind. It keeps me from worshipping them. From creating idols. When I dream of finding a partner, I remember that marriage is hard. That the cost of warm companionship and a proud life together is the sacrifice of my whims, the lordship of my unfettered desires. When I dream of having kids, I remember that raising children is brutal. When I dream of writing books that have an audience, I remember that some people will hate it, and that I will feel like an imposter. When I think of fame, I temper it with the loss of camaraderie with the world. . My friend @rebekahpahl said that she wants to ask people who’ve achieved their dreams, ‘tell me about the shadow.’ Think of the relief it’ll bring people to discuss it. The shame they feel for hating parts of the things they thought would save them. The freedom of honest exhale. . I keep my dreams from becoming perfect untouchable gods. I keep them here on earth. I keep myself from the fantasy of perfection, of finally meeting them with their natural earthly blemishes, and not recognizing them for the beautiful balanced thing they've always been. They've never been anything else. . 📷: @samanthamarq on our glorious trip through the Alps.
For Christmas, if you’re home, a throwback: Whenever I come home, I stay at my mom's house. The house I grew up in. . She puts out her seasonal decorations. She tidies my old room. She washes the dogs. She plans a family dinner. She walks me into the dining room to show me the place settings. . She wants to say 'I love you more than anything and I would do anything for you and I wish you would move back to Nashville and I'd love to see you everyday and hear all that you're doing and be best friends and we should write together and plan some trips in the motorhome and I'm getting older and time is precious and I'm so proud of you and I don't want anything to be unsaid,' . but she knows if she said all that, I would shut off. I would get quiet and freeze up. I would make an excuse about having to go work at a coffee shop. I still have that teenage instinct to leave the nest when I am around her, to find my mother's affection and attachment as fuel to leave. I can't help it. I hate that I can’t help it. . She wants to watch me eat the breakfast she made me. . She wants to say all the things in the world. But she cant. So she asks, 'do you have any laundry you need me to do?' . I want to say, 'You are the best mom that has ever lived. You have made me who I am. You are clever and kind and true and generous and a living example of the type of person I want to be.' But I don't say that. . I say, 'No mom. I'm all good.' . 'Well...ok,' she says. She pauses trying to think of some other way she can serve me. 'Let me know when you do.' . . . (Mom, I know you’ll read this. This is me telling you. In my cowardly masculine round-about way. ) . (Also, when I look at old photos of my mom, it still dumbfounds me to remember that my parents were teenagers once, were confused and rebellious, and they never arrived at some perfect understanding of adulthood, they just got older, and had kids, and remain human. ) . Merry Christmas babies.