At Least We Can Talk About the Weather

This is your weekly letter from me, Berin Kinsman. It’s not quite a newsletter, but a little bit more than and ordinary blog post. I publish one of these every Sunday at around 3pm EST. At least we can talk about the weather.

In This Issue

  • At Least We Can Talk About the Weather
  • The Collateral Damage of Toxic Relationships
  • Travel Broadens the Mind, But…
  • Writing as Meditation Practice
  • Neil Gaiman Reads Inspirational “Make Good Art” Speech
  • Social Media as Existential Crisis
  • How You Can Help

At Least We Can Talk About the Weather

We’re into the month of May, and it’s been snowing again here in central Finland. Last week it was warm and sunny. I was walking around comfortably without even a light jacket. We’d put the space heater and winter clothes into storage. Now temperature are back in the negatives and everything is white again. This is atypical, even for here. I guess one of the effects of climate change is that talking about the weather is no longer idle conversation.

That’s good, I guess, because I feel like life right now is defined by the things that I don’t want to talk about. On one end of the spectrum, politics is overwhelming. That encompasses everything from fraud and corruption to “sincerely held beliefs” about who is entitled to justice and humane treatment, whether science is real, and the rising tide of nationalism. Like many people, I feel that nothing I say is going to matter, that I’m just adding to the noise. Unless I’m doing something that will genuinely create change, it’s not worth attracting the trolls.

On the other end, I feel as if I’m drowning in a sea of pop culture. The thing with all the superheroes, and the other thing with the dragons, and anything else that gets tied up with the word “spoiler”. I understand the need for escapism, I truly do. I work in that field. Sometimes I worry that we’ve forgotten, culturally, that distraction isn’t the point of life. It’s a mechanism meant to help us to better cope with unpleasant realities. The fact that some people are more emotionally invested in fictional characters than, say, kids separated from their parents, kids without safe drinking water, kids without healthcare… is disturbing to me.

The thing that I should be talking about, but truly don’t want to, is the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). Everything is fine when I’m taking action, and there isn’t a day lately when I’m not working on some deadline for my business or immigration that’s related to the goal. This is on top of normal business operations, and the ongoing plans to grow the business. When I stop to think about the BHAG, though, my anxiety kicks in. There is no Plan B. I don’t have the resources for a Plan B.

All of which makes it difficult to find topics to write about in this space. In addition to not having an overwhelming amount of interest or influence, I don’t have time for politics and pop culture. My life is work and self-care. The former, I fear, is probably boring to most, although you do seem to like occasional productivity hacks and such. The latter comes down to getting good sleep, eating right, and taking walks. When you start leaning in to a monastic, cloistered lifestyle, there’s not a lot to report.
At least we can always talk about the weather.

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine

—and shadows will fall behind you.”

—Walt Whitman

The Collateral Damage of Toxic Relationships

Cutting toxic people out of your life is hard. The hardest part is often getting other people to understand the choice you made. While I gained a lot by cutting certain people out of my life, I lost a lot of other people as a result. People stopped talking to me because they didn’t understand, or because the situation made them uncomfortable. They placed the onus of repairing the relationship entirely on me. This piece by Jen Hinkkala at Tiny Buddha resonates with me so much, because it articulates the most difficult part of cutting a toxic person out of your life: dealing with the collateral damage it causes to other relationships.

Travel Broadens the Mind, But…

This sketch from last night’s episode of SNL hilariously drives home the point that a vacation won’t magically solve your problems. It’s not a substitute for self-work. While moving to Finland provided a change of perspective and a ton of opportunities, I still brought all of my emotional baggage with me. You can get a lot out of travel, but you have to maintain the right perspective. I think that Sandler’s character here should be a role model for tour guides everywhere.

Writing as Meditation Practice

At Tricycle, Lauren Krauze has a wonderful article on using writing as a form of meditation. Before I came across this piece I’d started a daily stream-of-consciousness journal to capture some thoughts, feelings, and stray observations. I felt the need to have something that ran counterpoint to the structure and simplicity of my bullet journals. A place to be messy, just like sitting meditation, contrary to outward appearances, can be emotionally messy. The article also made me want to track down as copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and re-read it.

“I think you’re absolutely allowed several minutes, possibly even half a day to feel very, very sorry for yourself indeed. And then just start making art.”

– Neil Gaiman

Social Media as Existential Crisis

Everyone is aware of (and likely tired of) my difficult relationship with social media. While it’s a useful tool, I’m clearly ready to declare it the most destructive force of the 21st century. It’s gone from kittens and porn to memes and disinformation. At least must of us can take breaks from it, if not walk away entirely. I can’t imagine being a researcher and having to dive deep into the most hateful… it’s not even the dark, remote corners anymore is it? The most hateful tidal waves and full-frontal assaults on social media platforms. Paris Martineau at Wired offers up this terrifying and insightful piece.

Thanks and Gratitude

Even though I’m writing this mainly for my own purposes, it means a lot to have people make the effort to read it and leave comments. Thank you.

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