Thinking Big

March 16 2015

Hello, Internet strangers (and my good friend Denise: hi Denise)!

Like many former winners, I thought long and hard these last 36 hours about what to write. I considered:

… Trying to express why I think it’s so important for human beings to continually and consciously attempt to think at scales that are beyond (unassisted) human perception—atoms, global warming, space—while at the same time accepting (even taking a certain kind of pleasure in? well, I do, at least) our limits … That’s why I love movies like Tree of Life and Melancholia that either jump-cut between the mundane events of a single human life and, say, the surface of the sun -or- require something crazily vast to tell a story like a rogue planet about to crash into the earth. Or books like Climate Changed: A Personal Journey through the Science (graphic novel) or a poem like “Unnamed Dragonfly Species” by Juliana Spahr (she’s amazing) in which her singular speaker, referred to using the pronoun “they,” sit(s) at a computer night after night obsessively watching videos of glaciers collapsing and trying—failing—to turn their confused feelings into knowledge or action… Anyway, I think ethical action lives in these limits. Not fully knowing. Failing to totally see and not letting that stop you. I don’t know.

… Writing about my mom, who is one of the dearest people to me on this earth. Smart, funny, kind to everybody, and possessed of a truly weird sense of humor, which she insists is not weird. Trust me, it is: and I love her all the more for that.

… Writing about my two sisters, who, also loving and courageous and smart and weird, are dear to me in the same way.

… Confessing to 25,000 people how—and this relates to my first point!—how my tendency to engage in what is called “catastrophic thinking” makes me worry perhaps too much, too often about the deaths of people closest to me. All my recurrent anxiety dreams are either large-scale disasters (tsunamis, planes falling from the sky) or something mortally bad happening to my younger sister.

So those are the things I thought about writing about. But then I decided, rather than anguish at my computer for way too long, I’d rather sit outside in the warm sun and read a book. So, Listserve, that’s what I’m going to do!

A few parting thoughts:
- I work for an amazing organization called The Nonhuman Rights Project. We are working through U.S. common law to achieve the recognition of actual legal rights for great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales. If you think nonhuman animals who have been scientifically proven to be self-aware and autonomous don’t belong in captivity and shouldn’t be considered merely legal property, please check out the NhRP’s work!

- My older sister is a chef in Philly. If you’re around, go eat at South Bowl!

- Nick: I love you! I can’t imagine life without you.

- Ramón: I haven’t forgotten to send you a postcard!

- From Anna Karenina: “Lying on his back he was now gazing at the high cloudless sky. ‘Don't I know that this is infinite space, and not a rounded vault? But however I may screw my eyes and strain my sight, I can not help seeing it round and limited, and despite my knowledge of it as limitless space, I am indubitably right when I see a firm blue vault, and more right than when I strain to see beyond it.”

Thanks, everyone, and take care!

Lauren Choplin
Los Angeles, CA
[email protected]

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