Mondays at The Variegated Life: links to some stuff I’ve liked …
At Grist, Greg Hanscom interviews Florence Williams, author of Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History. In the interview, Williams explains why she believes that human breasts did not evolve for men (which is, believe it or not, the dominant theory), discusses toxins in breast milk, and shares her surprising (to both her and me) discovery that many women are interested in implants. Her takeaway message:
The human body is really more permeable than we thought, and breasts are just one obvious and visible and in some ways fun example, but all the organs in our bodies are sensitive to environmental change. And breasts in some ways are just a metaphor for environmental health in general. So I think if we can try to take care of our breasts we will also be taking care of our bodies and also be taking care of the planet, because we now know that those things are interconnected. We’re not going to be able to take care of our bodies unless we take care of our environment.
As it happened, in my notes this week I found a quotation from an old essay by Barbara Ehrenreich on her experience with breast cancer. I am forever grateful to her for this essay, in which she deconstructs the pink-ribboned bullshit that has enraged me since my mother died of breast cancer. Ehrenreich writes:
For me at least, breast cancer will never be a source of identity or pride. As my dying correspondent Gerri wrote: “IT IS NOT O.K.!” What it is, along with cancer generally or any slow and painful way of dying, is an abomination, and, to the extent that it’s manmade, also a crime.
Abomination or crime, cancer “is as natural a part of the animal kingdom as birth, reproduction and death,” write Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers for the New York Times’ Sunday Review, in a fascinating essay adapted from their forthcoming book, Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing. The essay underscores the truth that we are not separate — no more from our cousins in the animal kingdom than from this Earth, our body.
From Andrea Scher, Because — I love you:
Because I don’t know where to go from here. Because I’m trying my best. Because I want to be a better person. Because something about this is not mine, but has been handed to me. Not my crazy, somebody else’s. Because I want to do better than they did. Because I love my boys. Because I want to feel the real love coming my way. Because there is so much in the way. Because I feel like damaged goods. Because I want to move past that. Because this is my work and I’m tired.
And, from Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech at the University of Arts, via Leslie at Lights and Letters, one way to get from here to there (boldface mine):
Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.
Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be — an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words — was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.
And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.
How I love the mountains. Yes, I’ll keep walking that way.