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The future of palliative care - Summer reading!


The future of palliative care

August 5 · Issue #19 · View online

In many respects, we've arrived. Yet what we know now won't get us to the next level. So I'm looking for signals from the future, & I'm curating them here.

“You have to remember that it is impossible to commit a crime while reading a book.” [John Waters]

He's been writing all his life, and it shows here.
He's been writing all his life, and it shows here.
1. A radically unsentimental view of aging.
The poet Donald Hall is no stranger to loss–he cared for his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995 of leukemia at 47 (which he talked about on This American Life; she came to Seattle for a transplant). Now he writes about a completely different kind of death–not the drama of cancer treatment that fails but the gradual changes of frailty. What makes his account worth reading is that is feels like journalism–he’s stripped away the sentimentality from his experience, and what’s left are closely observed details, and humor. “You are old when the waiter doesn’t mention that you are holding the menu upside down.“ It gets better from here. Made me think again about the deep stories we tell ourselves about the end of life.
A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety
2. Is PC too committed to being a Nurturant Parent?
I recently returned to Moral Politics by George Lakoff, a cognitive scientist and linguist at UC Berkeley, because I was trying again to make sense of the politics we’re living through. Latest example: the money trail, excruciatingly detailed in this podcast by Ezra Klein. Lakoff has a fascinating, empirically based view of morality that completely captures the current moment. We learn morality first from our families, and there are two kinds: Strict Father families and Nurturant Parent families. Strict Fathers are about authority, discipline, and freedom to work; Nurturant Parents are about empathy, personal development, and self-actualization. It struck me that this moral divide is totally relevant to how palliative care is seen: we’re trying to be Nurturant Parents to everyone, and there is a large group of people who ‘don’t get’ PC – it’s about this. Read for the parallels to our work and listen to Lakoff dissect the our President’s tweets.
George Lakoff: 'Conservatives don't follow the polls, they want to change them … Liberals do everything wrong' | Books | The Guardian
3. A vacation (or more) from Facebook?
Jaron Lanier, one of the pioneers of AI, has distilled his views on social media to a very short book. As Franklin Foer noted in the NYT, Lanier’s acronyms (BUMMER = Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made Into an Empire for Rent, to describe the Facebook business model) is a little hokey. But without those literary devices is an important point: that the price of registering our ‘likes’ is really our own spirituality–much more than our buying power. The point, which is perfectly relevant to those of us thinking about the future of PC, is that we’re more than just consumers.
Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now: Jaron Lanier
4. Why we're part of the anger, fear, & guilt around race.
Robin DiAngelo is a sociologist whose been doing diversity training for two decades whose new book, White Fragility, has made a splash. What she has learned is that white Americans are really bad at discussing racism, and tend to react to observations about their own behavior with anger. DiAngelo aims her toughest points for white progressives and liberals (like me), and the way we think about racism. “The most effective adaptation of racism over time,” she says, “is the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people.” The good/bad binary formulation is a big part of the problem. Maybe we need to rethink why African-Americans don’t think PC and hospice are really serving them.
A Sociologist Examines the “White Fragility” That Prevents White Americans from Confronting Racism | The New Yorker
5. The opioid morass, updated.
I read an excerpt of Beth Macy’s Dopesick and can’t wait to get my hands on it (release date: Aug 7). The opioid story has been told before, but what interests me about this book is how it promises to be about what is needed is not just new laws, policies, and treatment centers, but ‘a profound transformation of how we understand who we are in relation to one another’–in short, the deep work of palliative care. You can listen to Macy, right now, on the NYT podcast here.
‘Dopesick’ Traces the Opioid Crisis, From Beginning to Blow Up - The New York Times
6. You don't have to stop swearing.
I loved this book-length inquiry into swearing by Emma Byrne, a British neuroscientist, entitled “Swearing is Good for You.” From the Times UK review: ‘the explosive kind of swearing is…closely linked to emotion-processing areas of the brain. In some aphasic people, who have lost speech because of a stroke or brain damage, swearing even survives when all other language is lost.’ The biological function of swearing? Pain relief!
Book review: Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language by Emma Byrne | Culture | The Sunday Times
This newsletter is made possible by the John A. Hartford Foundation. But the views, recommendations, and opinions are mine alone.
This summer reading issue marks our summer break–the newsletter will take two weeks off!
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