Blog posts July 26 - July 31

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A life (July 31)

This photo of Valerie Finnis is my new favourite picture of a life well-lived.

Lower the bar (July 30)

Conversational gambits (July 29)

Jim Carroll is dedicated to high quality conversation.

The absence of ambivalence (July 28)

This is familiar. I love a crisis. Or a to do list:

"I have the reputation, at least among some friends and family, of being 'good in a crisis' – such as (to give a somewhat minor example) the day last year, deep in lockdown, when a shard of flying flowerpot ended up halfway through my partner's hand, sending her to hospital and upending our finely calibrated work and childcare plans for the week. In such circumstances, I never get stressed by having to change my plans, or add to the anxiety of the situation by freaking out. I just get on with whatever needs doing, calmly and resourcefully.

Naturally, I'd love to attribute this to my being a stunningly compassionate, courageous and flexible person. But the real explanation, I've come to realise, lies in the contrast with what I'm like the rest of the time: prone to second-guessing myself, wondering whether or not what I'm doing right now is what I ought to be doing, and whether I'm trying hard enough – to the general irritation of myself and anyone else involved.

In an emergency, that whole tangle of self-absorption lifts, because "what needs to be done" is usually so obvious that nobody, not even my inner critic, could reasonably disagree. For a certain kind of person – and I'm definitely one of them – this total absence of ambivalence feels freeing, even disconcertingly elating, never mind the fact that what's unfolding around me is unquestionably bad."

Oliver Burkeman

Different not better (July 27)

"A talent for speaking differently, rather than for arguing well, is the chief instrument of cultural change."

Richard Rorty

Good streams: Irenebrination (July 26)

A correspondent asked me if I could share 'what I follow' because they were interested in spreading the range of their own reading. My instant thought was to just issue a dump of all the RSS feeds I follow. But glancing through it so much was defunct or hijacking I thought perhaps I shouldn't.

Instead I've decided to try and notice when I come across a bit of stream that delights me and write about it here.

Here's one: Anna Battista's blog about fashion, design, architecture and whathaveyou.

Here's a great post about the Olympic opening ceremony.