This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.
Marilynne Robinson - The Gilead
Making my annual pilgrimage through my favorite testament to faith.
But there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being led into empathy with a consciousness very different from one’s own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation. Among my catalogue are some books that I am sure I was—to use an expression applied to elementary-school children—decoding rather than reading. Such, I suspect, was the case with “Ulysses,” a book I read at eighteen, without having first read “The Odyssey,” which might have deepened my appreciation of Joyce. Even so—and especially when considering adolescence—we should not underestimate the very real pleasure of being pleased with oneself. What my notebook offers me is a portrait of the reader as a young woman, or at the very least, a sketch. I wanted to read well, but I also wanted to become well read. The notebook is a small record of accomplishment, but it’s also an outline of large aspiration. There’s pleasure in ambition, too.
And so I’ve had to spend a great amount of energy teaching my son to lose, to explain to him that you can play hard and play well and still have the misfortune of losing. I need to get him to accept the value of losing, which is frankly counter to how losing is portrayed in the American mainstream. Losers are shunned. Losers are ridiculed. “Loser” is Donald Trump’s favorite insult, which is just so telling. Jürgen Klinsmann publicly stated that the U.S. men’s soccer team couldn’t win the World Cup, and for that obvious assessment, he was scorned by Michael Wilbon and other assorted members of the Hot Take Collective. For Wilbon, even acknowledging the reality of losing is itself a way of losing. In his eyes, real competitors don’t anticipate loss. They delude themselves into the possibility of winning even when that’s stupid. This is why he told Klinsmann to get out of America. Americans do not think this way. Americans compete…
I was trapped in a parenting netherworld. I have a hard time striking the middle ground between zealous overparenting and hippy-dippy crunchy vegan artisanal parenting. But this is a polarized culture, so it’s hard to avoid being painted one way or the other. Ask your kids if they won and suddenly you’re Marv Marinovich. Say it doesn’t matter and you might as well live on a commune. There’s not much in between, and it’s the principal goal of the competitiveness industry to ensure there isn’t. You’re either extraordinary or you’re useless. And once you’re into that sort of mentality—trying to pile up excellence on top of excellence—it’s hard to pull yourself out of that slipstream.