America’s Most Widely Misread Literary Work by The Atlantic

‘Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” is often interpreted as an anthem of individualism and nonconformity, seemingly encouraging readers to take the road less traveled… But as Frost liked to warn his listeners, “You have to be careful of that one; it’s a tricky poem—very tricky.” In actuality, the two roads diverging in a yellow wood are “really about the same,” according to Frost, and are equally traveled and quite interchangeable.’

Photo by John Barkiple on Unsplash

What Happened to American Childhood by Kate Julian in The Atlantic

‘As I contemplate the likelihood that my kids’ lives will be more stressful than mine, my mind keeps wandering to two children’s drawings reproduced in the pediatrician W. Thomas Boyce’s book The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive. Both depict California’s 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which killed dozens of people—and also, as chance would have it, occurred midway through a study Boyce was conducting of whether stress increased local children’s susceptibility to illness. Naturally, he and his team expanded the study to incorporate their reactions to the disaster, and they asked each child to “draw the earthquake.” The kids’ responses varied dramatically. Some produced cheerful pictures—“homes with minor damage, happy families, and smiling yellow suns”—while others generated scenes of destruction and injury, fear and sadness. To Boyce’s fascination, children who drew darker scenes tended to stay healthy in the weeks that followed, while those who drew sunny pictures were more likely to come down with infections and illnesses.

Boyce now believes it was protective for children to create “honest, even brutal depictions of a no-doubt-about-it disaster.” We talk about things that scare us, he ventures, “because it makes them gradually less scary; about sadness, because it makes the sadness diminish a little each time we do.” ‘

Researchers Doubt That Certain Mental Disorders Are Disorders At All by Alison Escalante (from Forbes)

‘Mental health recovery in part, depends on whether patients believe they can get better. Telling our patients that their symptoms may be tied to a healthy response to adversity could be very encouraging.’

Welcome to the New Midlife Crisis by Corinne Purtill (from Medium)

‘In a completely hunch-based and unscientific analysis, I think there is a high correlation between people who find the protagonists of midlife chronicles like Fleishman to be insufferable, self-indulgent narcissists, and people who don’t feel they have permission to allow much room for their own emotions. Listening to middle-aged people bitch about the stress of fundamentally comfortable lives can be an exercise in patience under any circumstance. If no one has extended that courtesy to you, it can be intolerable.

But to brush off introspection at this stage can be as shallow and short-sighted as upending one’s life to indulge it entirely. “When we trivialize the rough patch as a ‘middle-aged cliché,’ we are actually trying to find a way to disarm the intensity of the forces we are grappling with,” Daphne de Marneffe writes in The Rough Patch: Midlife and the Art of Living Together.’…

In Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, the MIT philosophy professor Kieran Setiya offers some deceptively simple advice for navigating the doubts and questions of this phase: Invest energy in causes greater than oneself and find joy in the process of doing things, rather than striving for glorious ends.’ (underline mine)

David Bowie quoted in To Reach an Audience of Millions, Create for an Audience of One by Srinivas Rao (from Medium)

“Never play to the gallery. Never work for other people in what you do. Always remember that the reason you initially started working was there was something inside yourself that, if you could manifest it, you felt you would understand more about yourself. I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations.”

Oliver Burkeman’s last column: the eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life by Oliver Burkeman (from The Guardian)

The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower. It’s shocking to realise how readily we set aside even our greatest ambitions in life, merely to avoid easily tolerable levels of unpleasantness.” (bold his)