FOUR HUNDRED AND TEN

From Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

“A thriving trade in electricity was under way in dark London, run by those who lived in pockets with power, and Saeed and Nadia were able to recharge their phones from time to time, and if they walked to the edges of their locality they could pick up a strong signal, and so like many others they caught up with the world this way, and once as Nadia sat on the steps of a building reading the new on her phone across the street from a detachment of troops and a tank she thought she saw online a photograph of herself sitting on the steps of a building reading the news on her phone across the street from a detachment of troops and a tank, and she was startled, and wondered how this could be, how she could both read this news and be this news, and how the newspaper could have published this image of her instantaneously, and she looked about for a photographer, and she had the bizarre feeling of time bending all around her, as though she was from the past reading about the future, or from the future reading about the past, and she almost felt that if she got up and walked home at this moment there would be two Nadias, that she would split into two Nadias, and one would stay on the steps reading and one would walk home, and two different lives would unfold for these two different selves, and she thought she was losing her balance, or possibly her mind, and then she zoomed in on the image and saw that the woman in the black robe reading the news on her phone was actually not her at all.”

FOUR HUNDRED AND SIX

From Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

“This has been the persistent pattern of how modern society has dealt with old age. The systems we’ve devised were almost always designed to solve some other problem. As one scholar put it, describing the history of nursing homes from the perspective of the elderly “is like describing the opening of the American West from the perspective of the mules; they were certainly there, and the epochal events were certainly critical to the mules, but hardly anyone was paying very much attention to them at the time.”
….
The sociologist Erving Goffman noted the likeness between prisons and nursing homes half a century ago in his book Asylums. They were, along with military training camps, orphanages, and mental hospitals, “total institutions”—places largely cut off from wider society. “A basic social arrangement in modern society is that the individual tends to sleep, play, and work in different places, with different co-participants, under different authorities, and without an over-all rational plan,” he wrote. By contrast, total institutions break down the barriers separating our spheres of life…”

FOUR HUNDRED AND FIVE

“Yours / The Life That I Have” — a poem code issued to Violette Szabo of the SOE by Leo Marks and used for encryption during WWII.

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours.
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

FOUR HUNDRED AND FOUR

Kate Marvel, from We Should Have Never Called It Earth.

“To be a climate scientist is to be an active participant in a slow-motion horror story. These are scary tales to tell children around the campfire. We are the perfect, willfully naïve victims: We were warned, and we did it anyway. Dark fairytales, of course, are as old as human history, and we tell them for a reason. But here, the culprit is the teller, both victim and villain.

The moral of this fable is murkier than the simplicity a children’s tale demands. At the end of the story, the fear persists. We continue to burn fossil fuels and the gases they make continue to trap heat, warming the air, the land, the shallow seas. The heat is mixed deep into the ocean, a long slow slog to equilibrium. There is no way to stop it.

What do I tell my son? A monster awaits in the deep, and someday it will come for you. We know this. We put it there.”