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A proper sailing craft like the ship the Polynesians developed makes a near-perfect metaphor for the larger powers we gain through culture. It gives our malleable genomes, imaginative minds, and clever hands the power to transform even the strongest forces in our environment—wind, water, current—from threat to opportunity. Let the wind rise to a howl and raise a great sea; we needn’t stay home or become flotsam, for we can change tack, trim sail, and become what amounts to a different vessel. To the Lapita looking out from the eastern tip of the Solomons, a vast ocean before them, such a boat would offer something like a new set of legs. Tiller in hand and new isles in their minds, they could press on in their journey around the globe.

It’s enough to move even a Max Planck geneticist. Ana Duggan, telling me of these boats in Leipzig, confessed she was by nature not the sailing type. But this bigger boat we were talking about—just the idea of that boat—seemed to rouse her inner mariner.

“If someone pulled up to shore in one of those and said, ‘Look at my big fancy boat. I can go far,’ ” she mused, “I’d get in.”

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"Man made a prisoner by the love of a woman, and a woman made prisoner by the love of man are equally unfit for Freedom’s precious crown. But man and woman made as one by love, inseparable, indistinguishable are verily entitled to that prize."

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

"One day, someone will need to lean on you. They will have a hurt in their life that makes them feel everything they may have been trying to numb. And that day, you will be strong. Because strength isn’t a quality that we are all expected to embody individually when a bad thing befalls us. Strength is something we all share, that we give and take as needed, that we loan out with the intention of borrowing back later on. And when we are the yin to that yang, when we are crying instead of consoling — that is fine, too. Because a life without sadness and loss is a life without happiness and worth, and we all deserve to feel the full beauty of our lives."

"There are all sorts of implications for a society that understands valuation but not value — not least of which is that it winds up degrading actual value. But there may be something even worse: It can lead to valuation of people. When everything is being rated by its price or its salary or its power listing — which is how many folks have caricatured the obsessions of Hollywood — it is not surprising that people will fixate on those things that create the highest personal valuation and skimp on things that have traditionally been more important: things like talent, morality, compassion. You become empty."

A man feeding birds from a snowy river bank in Krakow, by Marc Ryczek.

A man feeding birds from a snowy river bank in Krakow, by Marc Ryczek.

It’s not perfect, but this winter is pretty dreamy. Living with a wonderful man a few minutes’ walk from the Mediterranean. My days are filled with writing, dancing, eating as much tahini as possible, and sunshine. Sorry for the lack of updates. Come visit.

The days are short but the coast is long.

The days are short but the coast is long.