That which is beautiful is magnified by being shared with others. That which is painful is often moderated by being shared. Both are logical. – Spock, from Star Trek (as written by Allen Dean Foster)
I love this, because it clearly articulates the problem with what I feel is unwarranted optimism right now. It will be that bad, and clearly is for lots of people. The question is, what are we going to do in light of that? 
(The artist is Brenna Quinlan - more info in the first link today)

Good morning!

I am Hugh Hollowell, and this is Life is So Beautiful, a newsletter about finding the beautiful when it's hard to - and maybe especially when it's hard to.

Many years ago, I lost my marriage, my job, and my apartment inside the same year. It was pretty devastating, and eventually I found myself in therapy, and part of that therapy included sitting in a group each Thursday night.

There were 10 or so of us, and we sat on grey metal folding chairs in a dusty room that was also used for 12 Step Meetings, with the obligatory coffee urn in the corner. This particular night, we were talking about looking for the things that sparked feelings of happiness in us, so we would learn to notice them.

The group leader said, “We are going to go around the circle, and I want each of you to tell us about the best day you ever had. Share as much or as little as you like, but make sure you tell us why it was a good day.”

The stories I heard that night! People shared stories of their wedding day. Of their kid’s bar mitzpha. Of the day the lump in their breast was pronounced benign. One lady told about the abusive relationship she left, and the day her divorce was final.

I learned two big things that day.

The first is that our best days are defined by us – that we are the best interpreters of our stories. What makes a good day for me may only be yet another memory for you. We get to feel what we feel, and we get to decide what those feelings mean.

But the other thing I learned, and subsequent research has backed this up, is that none of those people were alone on their best day. Every single story involved someone else. Even the shyest, most introverted person finds that joy is magnified when it is shared.

Nothing I do gives me as much joy as sharing this newsletter with all of you – it somehow makes the things I find more real. No one has their best days alone. We are, biologically, primates, and like other primates, we are social creatures. We need other people.

Which has made this pandemic hard. The thing we most need to thrive – other people – have become the thing that can kill us.

I don’t have good answers to this, but I can tell you that no single thing is on my mind more these days than trying to figure out how to be safely around other people, how to have real meaningful conversations, and how to connect.

This weekly letter to you folks has been a big part of what has gotten me through, and I don’t want to take you for granted. Thank you for reading my stuff. Thank you for sharing it with your friends. Thank you to the person who sent me books off my wish list this last week and thank you to the two new patrons I have gotten this month that make this work sustainable. (Note: Links to do all of those things are found in the last paragraph of this letter - HH)

I am so grateful to you all.

Five Beautiful Things

  • The picture at the top of today’s email is from Brenna Quinlan, an Australian artist who uses her skill to make what she calls Illustrations with Purpose. She is heavily involved in the Permaculture world and I love her art, as it encourages us to imagine a world better than the one in which we now live. Here is her Instagram page.
  • When I was a little boy, I loved the book The Borrowers, which assumed there were tiny people living in the walls of our homes. If they were real, I imagine them loving a tiny apartment like this one.
  • In Italy, they have lifeguard dogs. This is the coolest thing ever – they jump out of helicopters, pull drowning people from the water, drag stranded boats to shore. They have a rigorous 18-month long training program – I love everything about this.
  • A delightful short film about a 90-year-old Balinese fisherman who removes plastic from the ocean these days in response to the pollution driving away the fish. When he said that he just wants his island to go back to the way it used to be (before the pollution) my heart nearly broke.
  • The Midnight Zone – a film from BBC about what is found in the waters a mile deep. It’s the largest habitat in the world, and we know relatively nothing about it. It feels like another world completely, and it might as well be – this is all alien to our daily lives.


I love reader mail. If you see something that you think I should see, please send it on. Or if you just want to share something that resonated with you, or you want to interact with something I wrote. I love newsletter writing because it is so intimate, and I am only writing for a few thousand of you, and not the whole internet. I don't always reply in a timely manner, but I always read it, and I always answer questions. 
* * *

Well, that is it for this week. I hope you have a great week, and that your life is filled with beautiful things. If you see something beautiful this week, I hope you will let me know about it, and if one of my five I shared today struck you in a special way, I hope you will let me know about that, too.

If you want to support this project, you can sign up to be a Patron or buy me a book or throw me some cash or, especially, forward this email to your friends. And if someone did forward this to you, you can get your own subscription here.

Take care of yourself. And each other. 

Hugh Hollowell Jr

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