An Abundance of Potions

Day 26 – Softening the Shadows

Good morning to all 227 readers. Tomorrow's letter will be our last. Given how slow and never-ending the days seemed at the start of this, I can't believe that it's already been four weeks. Thank you, as always, for following along. —Jack

Today's challenge: Connect across generations.

Crisis is seen only through its shadows—its effects. When viewed from just one perspective, it elongates, and exaggerates—the way a single light, held too close in a dark cave, throws sinister shadows against the wall. When you introduce a second light, or a third, you introduce new shadows, yes, but each subsequent light also softens the shadows for all.

There are many dimensions of perspective. One easily accessible to most is age. You have elders in your family, and community, who have a more expansive view of history, and a greater context for what's happening right now. Or you may know children for whom life amid crisis has become normal sooner than it has for you—children who don't have a hardened conception of what this all means, other than that they're off from school or daycare, and their family's home too. Both groups are just a phone or video chat away.

Today's challenge is to start, or continue, these conversations. If you're already been having them, but only sporadically, consider making them more regular. For the young ones—nieces, nephews, grandchildren—it helps to have a focal point, an activity you can do together. You could, for instance, schedule a weekly storytime to read to them—or have them read to you.

It can also help to have an intention for your conversations with elders. One such intention can to document their stories. The popular oral history project StoryCorp has recently launched StoryCorps Connect, which helps you record interviews with loved ones remotely. The audio, along with a photograph, eventually become a part of the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress—literally a part of history. Even if you're not recording for the project, their Great Questions list makes for excellent conversation starters.

The point of perspective isn't to obliterate the shadows—isn't to ignore the realities of crisis. Rather, it's to get closer to reality. To shift the focus away from the walls to what's actually before you: a bunch of dancing lights, circling the same existence.