“‘The important thing about imagination is that it gives you optimism,’ said Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Positive Psychology Center there.
His work is dedicated to studying human agency, which is predicated on efficacy, optimism and imagination. …
The hours spent fantasizing and daydreaming about future plans are valuable, Dr. Seligman said. They allow people to escape routine, and cultivate hope and resilience. …
‘Imagining the future — we call this skill prospection — and prospection is subserved by a set of brain circuits that juxtapose time and space and get you imagining things well and beyond the here and now,’ Dr. Seligman said. ‘The essence of resilience about the future is: How good a prospector are you?’
And that’s the case regardless of whether one’s imaginings of the future are over-the-top and unbelievable, or seemingly mundane. …
…Dr. April Toure, a psychiatrist who specializes in working with children and adolescents at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn [said] ‘Even though it’s not considered a core symptom of depression, the absence of hope is a common symptom.’ … Future thinking, or “the imagination and belief that something better is coming,” is crucial to getting through hard times.Tariro Mzezewa, “Go Ahead. Fantasize.” NY Times (January 16, 2021)
Some points of reference from a pandemic-stricken NYC.
News is coming out faster than I can process. Here are some articles, podcasts, and other references on my mind lately.
Someone close to me was spit at, in a Sinophobic, coronavirus-fear-fueled incident, last weekend in Manhattan. The next day, I read this:
“Spit On, Yelled At, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety” by Sabrina Tavernise and Richard A. Oppel Jr. (NY Times, March 23, 2020).
It is disheartening beyond words. There are so many things to be upset about:
- As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough bad news, humans turn against each other.
- The flattening dehumanization of racism—the racist doesn’t care if you’re Chinese or any other Asian nationality, whether your family has been here in the US for generations, whether you are actively serving society as a doctor fighting coronavirus, or whether you work in a community organization around belonging.
- This is happening even in liberal bastions like San Francisco Bay Area and NYC, with large Asian and Asian American communities.
- Attackers are weaponizing the very thing we’re all terrified of right now—aerosolized or projected bodily fluids—in a perverse act. Paradoxically, the racists could be asymptomatic carriers spreading coronavirus to those who they claim to be guilty of spreading disease.
- When the attackers are other POC or immigrants, the rift in racial solidarity can feel especially hurtful.
- Scared Chinese families resorting to arming themselves—aided by loose gun laws and fear mongering, and possibly under-educated about handgun safety, self-defense legal and moral issues, and systemic analyses.
- Bystanders did nothing.
The dearth of leadership from the White House
A corresponding disaster compounding all of this. I really feel for the nurses and doctors who have to salvage a mess that could have been managed better.
What to do about rising Sinophobia
- Report anti-Asian incidents at standagainsthatred.org and caasf.org.
- Some of us have racists/xenophobes in our families. We have to pick our battles, but consider that these attackers probably have family members who might have pre-empted these attacks with reason, empathy, and gentle disputation.
- Asians and Asian Americans need to show up for other immigrants and POCs, not just our own self-interests. We can’t expect racial solidarity when we don’t show it.
Learn from the Center for Anti-Violence Education.
- Sign up for “Bystander Intervention Training: Responding to COVID-19 Scapegoating and Hate” this coming Monday and Tuesday. Check the Center’s website for more online classes.
- See their tips, especially the third image on what to do if you see someone being attacked or harassed.
Proactive politicians & arts institutions
Not waiting for leaders to lead
In contrast to the White House, S.F. Bay Area and NY politicians have been more proactive in restricting movement.
Arts institutions have also been more assertive, closing museums and studio programs before reluctant, slow-moving bureaucrats call for such closures.
I’m grateful to be allied with arts institutions who have taken leadership when leadership was lacking.
I’m also glad to see institutions heeding the call from artist-activists to donate gloves and masks to local hospitals, just as MAD Museum did last week.
If you have PPE to donate, or need donations of PPE, visit GetUsPPE.org. It’s the combined efforts of several grassroots, DIY acts, such as Mask Crusaders.)
New Podcast: Staying In with Emily & Kumail
Humor, relatability, psychology
A new podcast by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, with proceeds benefitting those affected by COVID. You may know Kumail from Silicon Valley or his woke tweets.
What I love about the first episode is listening to a funny couple that loves to be funny together. I also really related to some of their personal story. (You never know who is immuno-compromised, and how much this impacts the caregiver.) And finally, Emily’s advice is grounded in her background as a therapist.
Free Face Mask Patterns
I’m offering them for free to front liners, essential needs workers, seniors, people with compromised immune systems, people with underlying health conditions, or their caregivers. I’ve been sending them directly by mail.
Next week, I’ll donate 20 to emergency food pantry workers at Make The Road NY, an immigrant-rights organization.
I figure that something is better than nothing, and the less masks consumers use (and the more we can launder and re-use masks), the more masks will be preserved for doctors and nurses.
I’m using materials I already have, rather than order online, in order to preserve supplies. I’ve been using yardage leftover from home sewing projects, as well as past art projects. It’s been satisfying to re-purpose things that I made with positive intentions around happiness or human flourishing into something that might help people in tangible ways now.
If you’re interested in making masks, check out artist Stephanie Syjuco’s findings from prototyping various mask options. She’s using a modified “Deaconess” pattern, as her aim is for volume.
Here’s a nice article about this grassroots movement: “A Sewing Army, Making Masks for America,” by David Enrich, Rachel Abrams and Steven Kurutz (NY Times, March 25, 2020).