Recently, two friends described the deeply challenging situations they were going through as “really interesting”. They are both artists, and we thought, ‘Ah-h-h just like them to view difficulty from a different lens’.

We’ve been trying on the idea, with which we’ve become increasingly comfortable since we started writing ‘the improvised life’. Instead of just reacting, we’re trying to really LOOK at the difficult situations we find ourselves in, shift the view, see what possibilities they hold, what is interesting about them.

Easier said than done.

Then we read The Good Short Life, an astonishing essay that appeared last July in the New York Sunday Times. Dudley Clendinen, a former national correspondent and editorial writer for the Times wrote candidly about his diagnosis of ALS, a painfully fatal disease:

We obsess in this country about how to eat and dress and drink, about finding a job and a mate. About having sex and children. About how to live. But we don’t talk about how to die. We act as if facing death weren’t one of life’s greatest, most absorbing thrills and challenges. Believe me it is, This is not dull. But we have to be able to see doctors and machines, medical and insurance systems, family and friends and religions as informative –not governing–in order to be free.

It’s a stunning and provocative piece of writing, well worth reading. It offers a kind of redemption – however short-lived –  from events we could think of as devastating: a radical and courageous change of view from the usual.


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3 replies on “when ‘disaster’ gets interesting

  1. thank you for the link to Dudley Clendinen’s article. There are a rash of nice articles posted here- they are hitting my sweet spot. Thank you!

  2. um, there IS a rash..? like a flock..yep, there is a rash.. sorry

  3. Disasters happen. I remember in 1967 I was down in the Wall Street area working on my MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business when the lights went out. We waited a while and then gave up and left the building. The subways weren’t running and the buses were packed. At that time, I lived on Long Island in Syosset and the train was my only way home. We had three small children and it provided a much better environment for our children than Manhattan.

    I walked up to Penn Station in the dark and found an amazing spirit of camaraderie. I walked through neighborhoods I’d never seen before.

    There was a bar across the street from the station that had gas and candles. I had a great roast beef sandwich for dinner with a beer. Hunger is always the best appetizer. I spent the remainder of the night sitting on a step in Penn Station waiting for the trains.

    I got home around noon the next day.

    As I said, disasters happen. How we respond is the challenge…

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