Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Between The World And Me

In the past year, I can't recall how may articles I have read about habits and routines of successful people. The focus on sleep hygiene is probably the common theme across them all. There seems to be the presumption that people have unlimited discretion on the use of their time and to that end they can just snap out of their loser-like habits and become a winner. Any full time working parent of an overbooked high schooler will tell you such is simply not the case. My friends with more than one kid have it much worse than I do. Every hour of time to be used at our discretion has to be earned with great effort. If I need to be on work related calls past 11 pm and still need to drop my kid off to swim practice at 6 am the next day, the math of my sleep hours is not within my control anymore.

But the constant admonitions of the experts on how not to become sick and a loser by way of sleep deprivation and being tethered to electronics served me well. I was able to change a few habits that fell in the "worst offenders" list. It also became clear in the process that I was not reading nearly as I much as I would like on topics that had nothing to do with my work. The absolutely luminous prose of Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between The World And Me was a prefect detox for my acquired bad habits over the last few years. Coates covers a lot of ground between personal narrative, history, reportage and race relations. There is very little if any anger in how the most troubling topics are discussed. Instead the reader is challenged to think about larger themes and the burden of history.

This is not a book about parenting but that was what resonated with me the most. He tells his son "You need to know that I was loved, that whatever my lack of religious feeling, I have always loved my people and that broad love is directly related to the specific love I feel for you". This is only one of the many memorable lines that made this one of the best parenting books I have read. Coates does not try to tell me how to be a good mother but helps me understand my mistakes and motivations as I try to be one to my fifteen year old.

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