The famous writer Isak Dinesen once proclaimed that “all sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.” The philosopher Hannah Arendt went further, insisting that our understanding of “reality” requires us to tell our own individual stories while taking account of the equally unique perspectives of others. Only be doing this, can we learn to think “without bannisters”—clichés, ideologies, and untested theories—which prevent us from acknowledging each other and seeing through the fluff that blocks our vision of what a shared world would look like.
We live in an age of intense partisanship, driven by political operations intended to drive home simple, and often dishonest, points of view which often have little to do with the way we actually live. There is an abundant social science literature suggesting that our social lives are more compartmentalized than ever, with social media and even residential and occupational patterns dividing us into little enclaves where we hide out from each other. I want to challenge this in three ways: (1) by providing extensive “provocations” which challenge shallow or disingenuous patterns of thought (2) engaging in short “commentaries” about ongoing political and cultural events which are intended to illuminate and contextualize what is happening and (3) pursuing personal “reflections” which seek to focus on the radical and often surprising things that are happening to our lives which may not be noticed by those engaged in political combat.