Maria Popova is the patron saint of powerful curation. She consistently surfaces beautiful + prescient works of art, writing, poetry. Popova is a profoundly compelling thinker in her own right who adds valuable insights or unique reinterpretations of pieces that have been lost to time or are so familiar that they become historical or cultural caricatures. She recently wrote an article that centers on a 2010 book by Adam Philips + Barbara Taylor called On Kindness. The authors' core claim is that kindness is simultaneously central to our humanity, core to our survival, and terrifying. They frame the extension of kindness as an intimate exchange that requires enormous vulnerability as we expose our needs and desires to others. There is also a portion toward the end about the potential of the internet to nurture this exchange if we change some of the incentives + norms that currently form the foundation of social media platforms. This also reminds me of Jaron Lanier's decades-long quest to remake the internet. Anyway, this was one of the quotes from Adams + Taylor that moved me.
If there is no invulnerability anywhere, suddenly, there is too much vulnerability everywhere. […] It is not that real kindness requires people to be selfless, it is rather that real kindness changes people in the doing of it, often in unpredictable ways. Real kindness is an exchange with essentially unpredictable consequences. It is a risk precisely because it mingles our needs and desires with the needs and desires of others, in a way that so-called self-interest never can… Kindness is a way of knowing people beyond our understanding of them. [[Adam Phillips]] [[Barbara Taylor]]
I could watch a 10 part docuseries on this Vox piece by Jerusalem Demsas. Demsas investigates the puzzling question, "Why does it cost so much more to build transportation networks in the U.S. than the rest of the world?" That might seem kind of boring (to some!), but it is genuinely fascinating. The answer isn't cut + dry; it involves lack of coordination, lack of data, lack of in-house expertise, among other things. But one of the most fascinating (and troubling) aspects of the problem is obstructionist actions taken by wealthy individuals who don't want to see new transit projects for reasons entirely independent from environmental and economic concerns. These individuals or advocacy groups use environmental protection laws to stop or severely slow down new projects. Each time a lawsuit is filed on environmental protection grounds, the city/state/federal government has to produce an Environmental Impact Statement, which costs an enormous amount of money and can take between 4.5 + 17 years. In the meantime, the lack of access to efficient transit infrastructure has both (actual) environmental and economic costs. Research indicates that more efficient urban transit networks could increase aggregate economic growth by roughly 10%. In Montgomery County, Maryland, it has taken 20+ years to build 40% of a train line. The lack of access to efficient kinds of transit networks has a substantial impact at the individual level. According to Gustavo Torres, the leader of a local immigration rights advocacy group,
"Right now, for a domestic worker to go to Bethesda to work, it takes two hours because they take three buses," he said. "On the Purple Line, it is going to take between 15 and 20 minutes."
I highly recommend reading this whole article. Demsas does an incredible job of making a complicated and potentially dry topic required reading for the layperson.