What to watch when life is looking grim and you’re searching for a story of resilience and hope? Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) spins a dreamlike fable. It starts in a magical landscape that’s facing a great flood. It’s about the redemption of feeling, and the family as the crucible of initiation. And it introduces us to some fiercely proud people who know a lot about loss and survival.
In her new book, Wall Disease, Jessica Wapner considers how living up against a border creates stress, fear, mistrust and a host of serious health conditions, including trauma and early childhood development issues, and even a subtle reshaping of the brain—in particular, the area that contains our compass for survival.
Americans of all stripes have been in a state of great distress, wondering what the future will hold—yearning for a vision, new or old, that will help resolve what I term “cultural complexes” that divide us on issues of immigration, race, gender, abortion, health care, the relationship between rural and urban populations, between the individual and the broader community, and our views on the role of government today.
America is in transition, morally, economically, and socially. We’re facing globalization and climate change, racial injustice and economic inequality. Says Jungian analyst James Hollis, this is producing a high level of fear and anxiety, an increasing dread that we are no longer in control of daily life. The question is, How is this time of transition calling us to stretch and grow?
Samuel Butler was one of the greatest literary intellectuals of the Victorian age. After a miserable childhood, his life was, in large part, a search for a happy home. Butler was raised at the Rectory at Langar, a scrap of a village in Nottinghamshire, in a gracious, spacious, pleased-with-itself Georgian mansion with an ill-tempered clergyman father who was home all week, and a fluttery, manipulative mother who trapped him on the sofa until he confessed to some infraction.
In England, Shelley’s health was poor and he was deeply depressed; he blamed his ills on living there, on “the smoke of cities, and the tumult of human kind, on the chilling fogs and rain.”
Shelley believed that moving to Italy would change everything. “Health, competence, tranquility,” he wrote a friend “all these Italy permits, and England takes away.” His chief pleasure in life was “the contemplation of nature” and Italy’s natural beauty would satisfy him as no other place could.
My father wasn’t born a tyrant. In his youth he was beautiful, with a round and vulnerable face framed by neatly combed wavy brown hair. He had a deep dimple in his chin, full lips and wide eyes as bright as a pair of newborn stars. In one photo from the family album, he is a cocky, dapper lad leaning his elbow on a tree trunk beside his brothers and uncle. In another, he is a commanding young aviator standing on the runway with his flying buddies as they prepare to board a Douglas DC-4.
Story time with dad can enhance language skills and inspire children to explore a broader range of reading materials, says Nancy Flanagan Knapp, associate professor at the University of Georgia, “And perhaps most important, it sends a message to boys that reading isn’t just for girls.”