Sometimes the Abyss Has Nice Weather
+ Buddhism, BoJo, and America's most American burger!
Happy Friday and welcome back to The Crunchwrap!
Sorry I missed you last week; I was on my way to the Midwest to eat my weight in cheese curds. (Mission accomplished.) This week we’re contemplating the abyss, joy, and hamburgers.
I’ve been thinking a bit about a short essay by a clinical psychologist named Mary Pipher from last week. Here’s how it starts:
In the morning, I sit with a cup of coffee and organize myself for the day. I watch the sunrise over the lake by my home, and I listen to the sounds of the sparrows and wrens. Orioles come and go from our grape jelly feeder, and each one makes me smile. I breathe deeply for 10 breaths to ground myself in my body. I remind myself of my many blessings and set my attitude to positive. My old calico, Glessie, sits by my side. Even though I am ragged with grief at the news of the world, I am ready to face whatever happens next.
When an essay starts off with a paragraph like this, I usually skip right on ahead to the comments to dwell in the collective annoyance and knee-jerk of the readers out there who hate being told to relax a little bit by someone who finds peace in sparrow song.1
But last week, I was in a frame of mind to listen. The news has been and continues to be terrible and managing (or even allowing a capacity for) joy/calm/yadda has been a steady fixation of mine. So I kept reading and let the demand for irate commenter comeuppance fly away like a larded oriole that’s just left a grape jelly feeder.
The essay, which is short! and good!, makes the case that to be of any use to the causes and dilemmas that are depressing and depleting us, we have to find pleasure and connection in the world amid the sadness.
Psychology teaches that the best way to cope with suffering is to face it. We must feel it in our bodies, explore its meaning and then muster our inner resources to move forward. We find ways to balance our despair with joy. We reach out to our friends and family. We find a way to help another person. Action is always an antidote to despair.
Even if we already “know” this, it’s still an important thing to hear from time to time. I suppose that’s why I’m sharing it. That’s also why I’m proud to announce that The Crunchwrap will now be a newsletter strictly devoted to Buddhist philosophy. I really look forward to taking this journey with you!
But in ALL seriousness, as we sink into the dog days of summer, I’m eager to avoid letting despair (to which I’m genetically and environmentally predisposed) from take over. I promise I won’t write about it too much.
And if this all sounds a bit cloying, may I suggest a longer, less tidy, and more nihilistic version of this idea in “Find Your Beach,” a truly excellent essay by Zadie Smith from 2014. (You may have to surrender your email address to read it.) Namaste.
Lest you all think I’m soft (I’m not!!!!), I would like to devote this week’s Video Break to Tom Walker, whose alter ego Jonathan Pie gave a send off to British PM Boris Johnson this week that should be classified as modern art.
For a less frenetic and similarly cathartic American version of this rant, this excerpt from Mark Leibovich’s book on Trump’s enablers may scratch a similar itch.
Snack of the Week: Hot Dog-Shaped Hamburger
Speaking of letting things go, I should have expected backlash when I recently suggested that people try English Muffins as their burger buns. “That’s straight up unAmerican,” one reader from Miami wrote in.
And you know what? FINE. You want irrepressibly American culinary culture!? You want to wow the folks with fireworks this July? Mold your beef patty into the shape of a hot dog, throw it on the grill, and serve it on a hot dog bun. Tell your guests that Ben Franklin did it too.2 And if someone says it kinda looks like a kebab, hit them directly in the face. No jury in America will convict you.
Nu, What Else?
This week I got around to watching Norm MacDonald’s final special (“Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special”), which was recorded informally in one take before his death last fall. It’s on Netflix and is very good.
W.S. Merwin has long been a favorite of mine since I was an insufferable grad student. How insufferable? I went to see Merwin at the 92Y in the aughts and asked him his advice for a young writer. He simply said listen. Anyhow, as we contemplate the abyss, here’s “Rain Light.”
This ENORMOUS fried chicken content package from Eater is wonderful.
That’s it for this week’s Crunchwrap. I’m fine, thanks for asking.
Have a great weekend!
And to be clear, many comments were along the lines of “how nice you have a lakehouse!”
This claim has not been independently confirmed.