One thing I’ve learned in my 10 months of blogging, or as I like to say “writing in public,” is just how much any site, even a fairly quiet one like mine, attracts spam comments. Ads for medical treatments, sexual aids, long nonsensical posts where I suspect someone is being paid by the word, and many offers of help – to generate more traffic, solve technical problems, or improve the content of my site. You don’t see these comments because an internal process lets me “cut them off at the pass,” so to speak.
Every now and then, they make me laugh. My favorite so far is a comment posted to the page where I give some background on myself, “About me.”
I’m pretty sure of my source, though she still surprises me.
But the “conclusion”?
Well…I try not to pretend it won’t ever come, but ultimately it remains one of those big mysteries.
Sometimes a sentence or a phrase jumps out of context and stands on its own. As I read an opinion piece in the New York Times recently, a sentence did exactly that. In a very short time it has settled into my mind as a useful signpost, pointing me to possibilities beyond the current moment. “A forgotten story,” the author wrote, “teaches history’s most beautiful lesson:
The world we know is not our only option.
In the column, historian Jon Grinspan wrote of the days in the 1830s to 1900 when young people in the U.S. voted in droves, “speechified,” and rioted in wild elections. “Reading 16-year-olds’ diaries,” he said, “you can see the way they bundled political involvement with their latest romance, their search for work, and the acne on their foreheads. Public participation soothed private anxiety. Youth politics worked because it was so messy, blending ideology with identity, the fate of the country with ‘fun and frolic’.” The forgotten story is captured in the title of his book, The Virgin Voter: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century. “One of our political system’s weakest links used to be the strongest. Young people did vote. They could do so again.”
“The world we know is not our only option.” In more ways than youthful voting alone, the future opens up if we are convinced as we face it that new options are possible and that we have a part in creating them.
Photo by Anton Trötscher, Houston, “Butterfly plant”
Jon Grinspan is a historian at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. His column in New York Times, “Virgins, Booze, and Politics,” ran on April 10, 2016.
Last month, my granddaughter Livia and I visited the Suyama Space, an amazing, one-of-a-kind space for artist installations, located in the heart of an architecture firm in downtown Seattle. The installation in the space was “Seattle Floor,” by Viet Stratmann, currently living in Paris. What would you do if you walked in?
Or maybe . . .
Or . . .
Or maybe you’d inspire one of the architects to join you.
With many thanks to Viet Stratmann and the folks at Suyama Space!
Trying to do everything often feels like this – all over the place, heading in many directions, and all at the same time right now! It’s work for pay underway, little projects waiting their turn, new ideas to explore, archives to look through and learn from, conversations that matter, things half done so far, and almost all with other people. It can be hard to find the center.
Sometimes I get pulled one way . . .
and sometimes I pull off in another.
And sometimes I settle into just one and let the rest wait.