Mindfulness On The New York City Subway

Shortly after I began attending my first and only meditation training class, my teacher began a session by claiming meditation could be done anywhere; the ‘meditator’ should not worry about finding the best or the correct place to do ‘sits.’ Sit anywhere; find a support for your back so you can sit upright; but if you can’t you can meditate lying down. I found this catholic attitude to the position and location of the meditation sit refreshingly non-stifling. I found the last of my many excuses to not meditate melting away: no longer could I complain about the discomforts of meditation sits. So I began meditating. I would meditate at home in my living-room, sometimes in my daughter’s room when our household was busy, in an academic library, at a friend’s home. All I needed was a chair and a quiet spot.

And it didn’t have to be too quiet either.  All I had to do was sit comfortably, close my eyes, and meditate. If noise was present, then I had to be mindful of that too: acknowledge the noise, notice its presence, but don’t dwell on it; do pay attention to what happens if you find yourself trying to ‘process’ the noise. The key was to acknowledge that meditation was about mindfulness, not about escape from the every-day, or beguilement. Meditation asked me to be present in the present, not absent in the present. In a mindful way.

With all that said, one logical venue for meditation became apparent: the New York City subway. I often read in subway cars; indeed, they were one of my primary reading venues in my daily life in the city. But I never thought of them as a place of tranquility even though, quite clearly, they were for an experienced New York City commuter like me. All I had to do was find a seat, open a book, and very often I would be ‘lost’; a reading reverie had caused me to miss my intended station of disembarkation on more than one occasion. So why not meditate?

An opportunity presented itself soon enough: one day, while working in the library, I missed my afternoon meditation session by the stacks. Now, time was running out; I still had to catch the subway back to Brooklyn to pick up my daughter from after-school care. I would have to meditate on the subway if I wanted to get my session in before nighttime parenting duties began. And so it came to be that I took the Q train downtown, scouted for a seat, found one, plopped myself down, secured my backpack between my legs, pushed myself back, and closed my eyes. 

I sat for twenty minutes, while the subway took me from downtown Manhattan to downtown Brooklyn, through Chinatown, over the Manhattan Bridge. All around me I could hear sounds, feel sensation, smell aromas: the train scraping and screeching on the tracks, station and delay announcements, phone notifications, the occasional murmured conversation, french fries being eaten, my body moved and swayed, my head drooped, bodies around me moved and shifted as fellow passengers arranged themselves in various configurations for standing and sitting. 

I was in a subway car; I was present, not absent; I was mindful. I’m a human being; sight is my overpowering sensory modality. With the eyes closed, a different world pops into view. That day, while supposedly ‘checking out,’ I was more aware and sensitive to a certain dimension of the interior of a subway car than I had ever been with my eyes closed. I hadn’t gone anywhere; but I was still in a different place. On the subway, that was true literally, and figuratively. 

 

Vale Jay Jankelewicz (1989-2020)

On Thursday, I learned that Jay Jankelewicz, our young, dynamic, and effervescent office manager of the Philosophy Department at Brooklyn College, had passed away from complications following from COVID-19. Our department is united in grief; we are shocked and appalled beyond measure at the cruel hand fate has dealt to Jay, his parents, and all those he touched during his life.

In the many tributes and testimonials that poured into the department and college following the announcement of Jay’s passing away, there was a unifying theme: Jay’s affectionate and caring personality, his helpfulness, his sincere interest in, and passion for, the college community, which included faculty, students, and staff. No one who came into contact with Jay came away untouched; nor did I. Reading these testimonials, which have brought me to tears as I read them has brought that home to me all over again.

Jay, without exaggeration, made our office a home away from home; it bore his stamp in every fashion. The chair of the department could not do his job without him; we, ours. In the bad old days, before Jay took over the office, there was little administrative assistance available to faculty members; more often than not, we just did the administrative and logistical work of academic work ourselves. All of that changed once Jay–a graduate of Brooklyn College himself–took over; he expertly supervised a skeleton staff of students, assisted the chair in his many functions, and reorganized and revitalized the department’s administrative profile and function from beginning to end, from top to bottom: student assistance in all shape and form, advising materials, interactions with facilities management, content on the department web page, college forms, interactions with other college units including facilities maintenance, departmental events like social hours, movie nights, holiday parties, birthday cakes for his co-workers, the list goes on and on. (Those students who worked with Jay in the office found him a generous and supportive supervisor, one keenly attuned to their challenges navigating their way through college.) On more than one occasion, I commented to my wife on how well our office functioned; no request for assistance went unheeded; every task I assigned was fulfilled promptly and courteously. In the best possible sense, Jay made it possible for me to concentrate on matters that really needed my attention. I could not have asked for a better co-worker.

Underwriting his prolific work, his seemingly unbounded work ethic, was his spirit, his humor, his sheer good will and warmth. I took my daughter to work on several occasions; without fail, Jay would greet her, treat her to samples of candy from the office’s collection–maintained and stocked by Jay, of course–engage with her with curiosity, all the while beaming with pleasure at the opportunity to connect with his fellow workers in a personal dimension. He was warm and generous with time and assistance for faculty, students, and staff; he infused our workplace with a warmth all his own. (His brand of humor had something to do with it; all of us traded corny lines with him on every entry to the office; almost all of us, I’m sure, had running gags going with him. In my case, it was his ‘thanking me’ every time I warmed up my lunch in the office! His presentations at the faculty department meetings were a hoot; we would be awed by, and grateful for, his work ethic and organization, even as we groaned at his jokes.) The department’s holiday party was really where it all came together; the way Jay beamed on those days, you could tell he thought this place was his own, in the best possible way, and he loved every second of it.

RIP Jay: you were one of the best, a rare gem, and you’ll be missed by all of us. Thanks for everything you did. We love you very much.

The ‘Irrelevance’ Of The Human World

I remember, quite clearly, the day my mother showed me her cancer. There it was, a curious, nondescript region within the scan, a zone of irregularity to be sure, visibly distinct from the cells surrounding it, its shape and shading setting it apart. And yet, it looked of a piece too with its ‘environment’; in one sense, it looked like it belonged, ‘fitting in’ and making room for itself. That was it, the thing that was killing my mother, slowly, but surely. It seemed remote and distant but most of all it seemed impervious: it just didn’t care. It didn’t care for my grief and sorrow, the horror I felt at the impending catastrophe; it didn’t care for my mother’s pain, both psychic and physical. It merely did its thing, working toward its cellular and molecular teleology, doing what it had to do to stay alive and flourish. At its level, in its world, my mother and I did not intrude. We were irrelevant to the cancer’s considerations; we did not enter into its various calculi for survival and expansion and reproduction. But it couldn’t care about us; it did not know we existed. If only I could have reached into its membranes and given it a good shake, or perhaps written it a strongly worded letter. Maybe it would have listened, persuaded by my eloquence and my visible pain, my need for my mother to survive, my terror at the thought of a life thrown off course by this trauma; perhaps, it would have taken pity on me. But it wouldn’t because it couldn’t.

The virus that stalks us now, across closed and open borders, from sea to shining sea, that hunts down the old, the poor, the infirm, the weakened, with particular intention and direction, seems particularly malevolent. But it isn’t. It’s merely indifferent. It knows nothing of us, of our dreams and hopes and plans and loves. It does what it does according to its telos. At its level, matters are considerably simpler: here is the cell to be reproduced, there is that molecular cluster to be colonized next. The economy of intention is stark: simplicity reigns at the level of execution. We don’t factor into this calculus; we have not been discarded; we were never in the picture.

There is something terrifying about this, and yet something deeply reassuring and beautiful too. Something we’ve always known whenever we’ve seen death come visiting and noticed the world carry on regardless: there are many worlds about us and in us, many besides the visible human one, the one that is the repository of our dreams and fears. This one might end but the others persist; we’ve always lived among and alongside them. As the virus moves on, setting up home, laying claim, conquering and colonizing, laying waste, it builds a new world all its own. One in which we may co-exist or not. Previously negotiated terms of co-existence are of no use; negotiations must begin anew. 

We have been reminded, all over again, of our transience, our embedding in the world around us, our connection to everything else; time to stop everything and listen. 

On Not Being Anxious About Anxiety

There are two ways in which philosophy can help us with anxiety: a specific doctrine may offer us a prescription for how to rid ourselves of anxiety; and philosophical method—self-introspection and reflective thinking—may help us understand our anxiety better. While fear and worry (and their resultant stresses) are grounded in specific objects and circumstances, ‘anxiety’ is inchoate, that formless dread left over after these causes—perhaps, strange new viruses—have been identified. Why do we feel it, and must we suffer it? Philosophy’s doctrinal and introspective answer is that anxiety is a constitutive aspect of the human condition; we must live with it. We, as humans, will always be anxious in some measure, but we do not have to be anxious about being anxious. This answer is empowering rather than debilitating, an insight found in both ancient and modern philosophy.  

First, consider that Buddhism’s First Noble Truth notes the undeniable existence of suffering, an acute human dissatisfaction with existence, an indelible component of which is our anxiety. The Buddha then noted that our first step toward ‘relief,’ as expressed by his Second Noble Truth, is a true, unblinking understanding of the nature of the world and of human existence’s place in it: if we misunderstand the nature of the world we will be anxious, and suffer, in ways far worse than need be. A clue to a crucial characteristic of this transient, dynamic, world, one in which our wants can never be satisfied, is supplied by the American pragmatist William James, who described his struggles with anxiety as “a horrible dread at the pit of my stomach … a sense of the insecurity of life.” This profound “insecurity” James speaks of is generated by two foundational facts about the human condition James was acutely aware of and sensitive to: we—even the wisest and most knowledgeable—are uncertain of what the future will bring; and this uncertainty is facilitated by the choices we make, by the freedom we ‘enjoy.’   

Soren Kierkegaard, a patron saint of philosophy’s existentialist tradition, claimed our freedom of will and choice makes us responsible for our self-creation; he imagined us artists, bringing a work of art, our evolving self, into being with our actions. Our choices are destructive of an older self and life; what awaits is an unknown entity, our new self, our new life. This freedom to ‘construct’ ourselves promises us relief from a future written out for us, our parts in it predetermined and known; without such existential freedom, our existence would be little more than a cruel windup play. But such freedom comes with a price: to be free is to experience anxiety because we must reckon with the uncertainty of outcome and consequence associated with our actions and choices. For Kierkegaard, anxiety informs us of the possibilities of our lives, of the uncertain and not yet decided future to be determined by us. This is a gift we cannot decline, because to refuse to choose is also a choice. We are, as existentialists noted, ‘condemned to be free.’  

Kierkegaard’s take on anxiety insists that to be human is to not know, and to not know is to be anxious. A crucial component of the classical theist definition of God was omniscience, from which followed God’s beatific calm: how could a being assured of all-encompassing knowledge be anxious about any eventuality? If we were not ignorant and uncertain, we would be as gods; because we are not, we are humans, anxious ones. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes spoke of anxiety animating our curiosity as we sought to push back the darkness that enveloped us: “Anxiety for the future time, disposeth men to enquire into the causes of things.” We romanticize this inquiry by calling it ‘the love of wisdom’; philosophy itself then, is an expression of our anxiety: ‘I’m anxious, therefore I inquire.” Our theories of the world, our illuminations of the unknown, are our antidotes to our anxieties. Our search for knowledge pushes back the unknown that encroaches, making the world more predictable, making us less anxious. And as we continue to live with anxiety at the edge of the unknown, its nature informs us of the directions we may seek relief in, the trajectories of lives we may live. Anxiety is not mere pathology; it is an active part of our selves.  

There is a reason then, a preternatural calm overtakes those confronted by catastrophe; the human mind can reconcile itself to anything when known; that ghostly, unnamable disaster that underwrote our anxiety is now upon us, and we can call upon our lifetime’s acquired resources to face it.  The perennial injunction ‘to stay in the moment’ works as an antidote to anxiety because it bids us be unconcerned with the unknown and unknowable. Accepting our constitutional uncertainty and its crucial role in driving our onward inquiries and actions is the key to understanding that we cannot not be anxious—so long as we are human.   

Our age, like others before it, must confront the optimism of material progress with the sinking feeling that none of it matters very much; the powerful, rich, and famous, are struck down in mid-flight; you can buy your children the best education, but you cannot protect them against all misfortune. The realization that our growing technical mastery of nature leaves our fundamental predicament untouched is cause for terror; there is no way out. ‘Common unhappiness’ is the realization that this anxiety will not, cannot, go away; ‘hysterical misery’—to use Sigmund Freud’s pungent phrasing for these states of being—occurs when we refuse to accept our anxiety; neurosis is the failure to accept constitutive conditions of our being.  

The Buddha was most concerned with our inability to accept crucial aspects of our limited human condition. He famously spoke of the ‘second arrow,’ a pointless inquiry that did not address the original angst of suffering—the ‘first arrow.’ Anxiety about anxiety is the second arrow; it is what we do not need to suffer.  

Note: An edited, shorter, version of this essay appeared in Forge on March 26th. 

The Soldier And The Policeman’s Trained Attention And Its Pathologies

In the chapter ‘Focus’ in his book of essays,The Examined Life, Robert Nozick writes:

The ability and opportunity to focus our attention, to choose what we will pay attention to, is an important component of our autonomy. [p.122]

In a footnote appended to this sentence, Nozick continues:

What we presently focus upon is affected by what we are like, yet over the long run a person is molded by where his or her attention continually dwells. Hence the great importance of what your occupation requires you to be sensitive to and what it ignores de jure or de facto, for its pattern of sensitivities and insensitivities–unless a continuing effort is made to counterbalance this–will eventually become your own.

Consider then, the soldier and the policeman, and the pathologies that are said to famously exist within these professions (each of which has been reckoned a pinnacle of masculinity in some dimension or the other): trauma, anomie, depression, rage, anxiety.

The soldier and the policeman are required to constantly detect danger, manifest in person and place and situation and object; they are taught to respond with hostility, with armed and dangerous bodies. (Some soldiers, if they are unlucky enough, work as policemen in occupied territories; counterinsurgency work and such patrolling and policing must surely count among the ‘dirtiest’ occupations of all.) They are finely tuned to turn their attention persistently and consistently in these directions; they return from tours of duty of urban spaces and warzones with their danger-and-hostility detectors turned on. They are on edge, irritable and tense and taut, filled with rage and fear, all easily manifest in domestic violence and suicide. They bring older selves to their professions and return with newer ones created in the crucible of their new work, where their focus and attention has been systematically diverted and focused, as it had been taught to, in the academy, in advanced training. There, they had been taught, repeatedly, to ignore many human qualities–for instance, the humanity of those they kill on the battlefield or those they capture, interrogate, handcuff, or imprison. It is, indeed, one of their ‘core competencies,’ the hallmark of their profession, and one they must perfect through practice over the course of their careers. They must be competent, at finding targets and perps, who are now not humans any more, but ‘enemies’ and ‘criminals.’ (On a related note, consider the anecdotal reports that oncologists are notoriously unsympathetic doctors. They might well be; after all, they are exposed to death all too often; all too many of their patients simply do not survive. This could result in greater sensitivity to death, but their work would be too onerously affected were they to let it affect them in deeper, more emotional ways.)

It should not surprise us that soldiers and policemen are ‘damaged’ thus by their work. Their ‘patterns of sensitivities and insensitivities’ have been altered, with little effort to ‘counterbalance’ them. Sometimes their enemies and opponents suffer the brunt of this; unfortunately, on many other occasions, it is their family, their neighbors, and friends and loved ones that do. We, as their parent society, bear some measure of responsibility for those we have so created and trained. A different society might eschew the need for such professions; till then, we remain with the pathologies we have set in motion.

The Hidden Pain Of Others

A few years ago, as I walked down the street that I live on in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park, toward my home and my waiting family, past a row of restaurants and coffee shops with their happy and contented consumers, I spied a pair of friends and neighbors of ours. They were sitting outside a local eatery, waiting for their wood-fired oven pizza to be brought out to them. The husband sipped on his wine while his wife chatted on the phone, smiling and laughing as her conversation ensued. I stopped and stared for a second, wondering whether I should stop by and throw out a quick hello and make some small talk. I moved on; they looked busy and preoccupied, enjoying their meal, each other’s company, and the fine late summer weather. They looked, for all anyone could tell, happy and prosperous and content. Elegant glasses of white wine; outdoor seating at a not-cheap restaurant; they looked exactly like the people who were supposed to be living in my neighborhood: Brooklyn thirty-somethings, successful and intelligent, well-educated, with adequate privilege and comfort underwriting their lives.

But I was in the possession of some knowledge about my friends that complicated the sunny picture above. For a few months prior to this spotting, they had lost their only child, their daughter, a toddler scarcely two years old, killed by a piece of falling masonry from the eighth floor of a building in Manhattan. It was the worst parental nightmare of all: the loss of a young child to a freak accident, one that you could have done nothing about. It had devastated them with grief and regret and anger in ways that I could scarcely comprehend, and yet, here they were, seemingly oblivious to this fact of their own lives. They would so easily have been the targets of envy at the moment I espied them: good-looking, happy, content, well-fed, prosperous enough for leisure and good cuisine and wine, connected with friends and family, savoring life’s gustatory pleasures. Someone might have congratulated them on their good fortune: “You guys have got it all!” But they didn’t. They were like all of us, who don’t have it all.

It was time, obviously, to relearn some old lessons. We imagine all too easily, that others are happier than they are (the chief cause of our unhappiness, as Montesquieu famously said.) We wear masks all the time; we are brave, more resilient than we imagine; the surfaces that are presented to us, and that we present to others, in our daily lives and social interactions, offer the barest hint of what lurks beneath; we should never presume too much about the happiness that we find exposed to us–for it sits alongside a great deal else–anxiety, fear, grief, self-hatred–in those interiors that we have no access to. Every life when viewed from the inside, as George Orwell said, is but a series of small failures; viewed from the outside, we are prone to imagining that life as enjoying the fortunes that passed us by. The truth lies elsewhere.

Parenting As Refuge From Writing

Writers who are parents love to complain about how parenting takes up writing time; so many great books, essays, plays, short stories, screenplays and the like remain unwritten because caring for a child is time-consuming and emotionally draining. Other members of the writer’s tribe–or sometimes the same folks–will readily admit that parenting provides great material for writing. So many reflections on the art and skill and science of parenting; so many confessions of humility; so many observations of grace and candor and existential discovery in the presence of unsullied human innocence (within which occasionally lurks a id-driven monster of desire and ill-formed reason), the child.

The original complaint about the pressures of parenting on writing time contains within it a disguised acknowledgement of one of the greatest reliefs it provides the writer: distraction from the task of writing. For if there is one thing the writer needs more than anything else, it is the excuse for not writing. Your avowed vocation and calling and passion and obsession is writing; why then, do you not write? Why, instead, do you do everything but write? Every writer has faced this question; and parenting provides a wonderful apologia for not writing.

For parenting is the most perfect form of procrastination devised for the writer: its tasks are innumerable, and always make their presence felt; it is work that carries positive moral weight; a parenting task well accomplished is guaranteed to provide a certain varietal of deeply satisfying validation. And so the writer who is confronted with a blank page, a disordered passage of text, a jumbled and incoherent argument, finds suddenly, relief at hand. Put down the pencil or push away the mouse and keyboard and head for the childcare section, there to immerse yourself, if lucky, in the adoration of a child, and in the pleasures of someone else’s achievements vicariously enjoyed. And there is no guilt here to be found or reported. Why did you stop writing for the day? I had to take care of my kid. There just is no arguing with that.

The clever writer-parent has found the right sort of relationship with parenting: plunder its experiences for story ideas and material; complain about its demands as an explanation for diminished ‘productivity’ and failure to complete all those half-written drafts tucked away in folders marked ‘Drafts’; but most importantly, use its availability as psychological comfort from the anxieties and terrors of the unfinished writing task. Your child awaits, perhaps the gratitude of your partner in parenting; there really is no downside to giving up writing in favor of parenting. There is, of course, the risk of regret–“I coulda written so much if I hadn’t been so busy attending to domestic minutiae”–but that is quite easily dispelled with the honest acknowledgement to oneself that writing is pretty unpleasant work at the best of times, and that if we had any choice in the matter, we’d take up something far more rewarding and enjoyable. Like parenting, occasionally.

 

Walking Far Enough To Find Our Way Back To Ourselves

In ‘Running Through Fear,’ an extended excerpt from her memoir Running Home, ultra-marathoner Katie Arnold writes of the aftermath of an assault she suffered while out on the trail:

Afterward, in the disorienting fog of sorrow, everything scared me: my babies, so small and vulnerable and precious; my own body, once so strong but now ancient and aching with grief….My anxiety lasted more than a year. I tried everything, but the only remedy that worked was the one that had always worked: running. On the surface, it seemed like the least logical choice. I lived in constant terror of my body breaking down, but I pushed my limits every day, clocking long miles alone in the wilderness. I didn’t know the first thing about training for a 50K ultramarathon, but deep down it made sense. My father had raised me to find solace outside, on camping trips and bicycle trips and river trips, on long rambles through the Shenandoah Valley, up mountains in Maine, in musty tents in Nova Scotia. Maybe, I reasoned, if I ran far enough, deep enough, into the trail networks and hills, into myself, I would find my way back to the fearless girl I’d once been.

Arnold’s final sentences above strike a deep chord within me. I’ve always been anxious and fearful, and for such a person the ‘great wide world outside our doors’ is full of reasons to be anxious and fearful. But walking in the outdoors always made me less anxious, more calm, more inclined to sleep deeply at night. (Except when I was alone but that feeling has changed.) Indeed, when I stayed out on a trail, I was possessed of a curious vision, one that came to me in my other physical exertions, and which I imagine, must be shared by many: it was a feeling that if I did this long enough, every single weakness and impurity and imperfection, whether physical or psychological, would be swept out of me, flushed out by the relentless flood of physical exertion, of perpetual movement. The trails I walked on, whether flat or downhill, or uphill, all seemed in one important sense to head ‘upwards,’ up toward a zone of deliverance and clarity where all the  muddled thoughts and feelings of the ‘lower’ regions would be made more distinct and pure. The feeling of being cleansed–internally, even if not on the ‘outside’–by the walk was euphoric; the simplicity of the solution was stunning. All I had to do was keep walking; my steps would take me closer to that state of mind and being that I so desperately craved. This was a ‘stairway to heaven’ that seemed real, not fantastic, right here on earth. Just put one foot in front of the other; repeat.  For as long as it took.

Things don’t work like that, of course. But to possess this powerful vision for change, for relief, was in itself empowering and relieving. It is one I carry with me every time I leave the city, head to the trail, and start walking. Always upwards.

On Becoming A Second-Class (Train) Citizen

I was nine years old when I became a second-class citizen. At least as far as train travel was concerned. Before then, before another day of infamy that lay in December, the date of my father’s retirement from the air force, my family and I had always traveled by first-class on our train travels. My father was an air force officer, entitled to discount first-class travel for himself and his family; when the time to buy tickets came, we filled out the mandatory ‘D’ form required of all government employees who traveled and submitted it along with our train reservation requests. Just like that, we paid less than half of the full fare, and we were off. First-class was luxurious; we, a family of four, traveled in a private sleeper cabin with padded bunks. We had privacy; we had ‘room service’ of a kind for at periodic intervals, when the train stopped at stations, we bought food and drink through the bars of our windows. There was, most importantly of all, no crowding; certainly none of the chaotic, teeming, masses who were always present at Indian train stations were present in our cabin. We were insulated, quarantined, safeguarded.

I knew what the alternative was: second-class (or worse, third-class.) The second-class coaches seemed impossibly congested and messy, bordering on squalor. (This was especially true of third-class coaches.) There were no private cabins that slept four; instead, a series of metal and wood barriers cordoned off six bunks at a time, three on each side of the enclosed space. The folks who traveled in these trains looked crowded and unhappy; they appeared resigned to their fate.

I was not, at that early age, too sensitive to my social class. But I was dimly aware I was more fortunate than many around me; in some subconscious corner of my mind lurked the thought that I had lucked out in the great Indian sweepstakes of fortune, and happened to be born into a family that could take vacations every summer and winter, live in government-subsidized housing, and travel by first-class coaches for overnight journeys all over the country. But my glimpses of those who traveled in second-class and third-class did more to convince me of my great class-related fortunes than any other privilege of mine. I knew I didn’t want to be like ‘them’; my life was incomparably better, just because I traveled in first-class.

And then, disaster struck. My father decided his life in the armed forces was over; twenty years was enough. But when he handed in his papers, he also handed in his privileges. We went to being run-of-the-mill civilians, moving from a two-bedroom flat to a one-bedroom one. My brother and I began sleeping on folding cots in the living room; we had lost our ‘boys bedroom.’ But these were exceedingly minor blows compared to the disaster that awaited us on the trains. That winter, as we made plans to visit my grandfather’s home as usual, I learned we would not be traveling first-class any more. That family train journey in that private cabin, in which our family sat together and shared meals and jokes and stories and affection, was no longer ours.

The night of our journey, when we arrived at the train station, I was uncharacteristically subdued; I used to look forward to train journeys. But not this one. Something of the magic of the train was gone; a trial of sorts awaited. A tribulation that would remind me all over again of my fallen station in life.

 

A Constitution Should Help A Country Govern, Not Hobble It

My short essay ‘A Constitution Should Help A Country Govern, Not Hobble It‘ is up at Aeon Magazine. Comments welcome. (Many thanks to Sam Haselby, my editor at Aeon, for all his help.)

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