Yet even with all its excesses of content, our era of algorithmic feeds might herald the actual death of the collector, because the algorithm itself is the collector, curator, and arbiter of culture.
My personal Instagram archive, a decade-long account of my adult life in images, still exists on the platform, but that album of memories feels defunct, relic of an earlier era of the software. When I look back at it, I don’t feel nostalgic; I feel lost.
For Benjamin, the very possession of these books formed his identity as a reader, writer, and human being — even if he hadn’t read all of them. They sat proudly on his shelves as symbols, representing the knowledge that he still aspired to gain or the cities he had traveled, where he encountered a book in a previously unknown shop. Collecting books was his way of interacting with the world, of building a worldview.
What strange math. There is nothing like the tally of a life. All of our accomplishments, ridiculous. All of our striving, unnecessary. Our lives are unfinished and unfinishable. We do too much, never enough and are done before we’ve even started. We can only pause for a minute, clutching our to-do lists, at the precipice of another bounded day. The ache for more — the desire for life itself — is the hardest truth of all.
A bucket list disguises a dark question as a challenge: What do you want to do before you die? We all want, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” But is the answer to that desire a set of experiences? Should we really focus on how many moments we can collect?
To transform the city is first to transform the way we look at it. This means looking at the city as a collection of capacities and of energies to be expanded, and not as an inert mass to be modeled.
You know, I always wanted to be buried in the ground, so that my body would become the nutrition of other living things.
Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.
During the most intense part of a major-depressive episode, what I've felt is nothing at all like sadness. Mostly, it's a kind of numbness, and utter lack of desire and will. Underneath that numbness, there's the sense that something awful is happening - there's a very small voice screaming in the back of your mind, but you hear it only faintly. There's an uncomfortable wrongness to everything, like the world is twisted and broken in some terrible but unidentifiable way. You feel numb, but it's an incredibly bad sort of numbness. This is accompanied by a strange lack of volition - if a genie popped out and offered me three wishes at the depth of my depression, my first wish would be for him to go away and not bother me about the other two. Looking back on this experience, I've conjectured that part of depression might be like some kind of mental "fire sprinkler system" - the brain just floods the building completely to keep it from burning down.
Trying to anticipate what’s best for future you will not help you make decisions, taking care of what’s best for present you will. That’s the person whose needs you can answer.
Another way to frame what I also suspect will be a summer of quitting is this: given the chance, people will buy their way out of burnout. This is both a privilege and a salve. After a year of relative comfort, spent largely observing the impacts of the pandemic without being at risk from the worst of it, what a lot of people want isn’t stuff but relief—from work that is deadening and too much all at once. Meanwhile, the corporate response to burnout has been earnest but superficial: offering meeting-free Fridays and subsidized yoga, plus an extra week or two off—while the Q3 roadmap and OKRs crank along—is like trying to put out a house fire with a glass of pinot. What people really need is months of rest and control and autonomy over their work. What we need is a total reset about what work is for, and who gets to decide how it gets done.