The Last Word

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December 26 – 30, 2016

Last week, Craig’s house lost power. And in the darkness, Craig reclaimed the winterI turned the place into a constellation of oil lamps and candles. The wood stove flickers, sending shadows across the globe and behind the rocking chair. This feels like the best way to witness the heart of winter rise up and blot out the sky.

Ann tells a story about particle physicist Sidney Drell, who died last week, and gives the world more reasons to miss him: Consideration of the moral questions begins when science suggests applications; but the considering must be done by society, in a social debate.   “And having a debate on these things,” Drell said, “that’s what I call the moral obligation of the community.”

If you are considering your options for a New Year’s Eve date, you might find advice in surprising places, like the animal guidebook Sarah found at a thrift store: The challenge is identifying just which kind of nocturnal creature you are encountering. This may not be the same kind of creature you thought you had swiped right on. “Note particularly the length of the tail and ears,” the book cautions “and the shape of the head and body.”

Guest Emily Underwood writes from Greece, where she is working on stories about mental health in refugee campsI asked a 24-year old literature student and poet from Damascus, Mohammed Abbas, what he gets out of his weekly appointment with psychologist Zoi Marmouri. Someone to talk to, to tell the private things he can’t share with his friends, he said. . . Does talking make him feel better, I asked? “A little,” he said.

Erik writes about that “placebo holiday,” New Year’s DayBut think about it, just like with a sugar pill, the first of the year is an arbitrary day that we have convinced ourselves has power and meaning. And just like the pill, it can actually have positive effects on our bodies. After all, what is New Year’s, if not a time for self-improvement?

See you in 2017.

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Photo Credit: Jay Huang

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