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Human Parts
A publication about humanity from Medium: yours, mine, and ours.

PAST IS PROLOGUE

If we want to work better, first we need to think better

“The Seasons” by Pieter Brueghel the Elder from the Metropolitan Museum of Art online collection. Image: Public domain via

We spend much of our lives working. And much of the time we are not working, we spend talking about work, recovering from work, fretting about work, or wondering if we should work more or work less.

But less often do we stop to think more deeply about work. What, after all, is work? Why does it loom so large in our lives? And when it comes to questions like these, philosophy can help throw more light on what work is and why it matters.

What is work?

In , Lars Svendsen says that work, at the…


Past Is Prologue

I own the table of my dreams because someone was desperate

A rounded wooden table with a vase of flowers on it in a living room.
A rounded wooden table with a vase of flowers on it in a living room.
All photos courtesy of Meg Conley

Round tables are big in a way a long table never can be. Maybe it’s a thing. No one can be at the head of a round table, so everyone sits equally around it. Maybe it’s the . Food on a round table is always within reach and so everyone is fed. Maybe it’s just how close you can scoot chairs together. Without any corners to get in the way, there’s always room for one more.

We’ve always wanted a big round table but new ones are difficult to find on a budget…


Past Is Prologue

A photographer’s perspective on recent events at the Capitol

All photos courtesy of the author

If the last four years were a Hollywood screenplay, January 6th would have been a scene in the series finale. The moment where characters of seasons past reunite in a climactic moment four years in the making.

Around me, in a sea of strangers, were familiar faces from earlier episodes of this administration: Proud Boys and street preachers, white supremacists and QAnon conspiracists, pro-lifers and anti-vaxxers. Seeing them conjured memories of years’ worth of news stories — Charleston, Pizzagate, viral videos of suburban moms being thrown out of grocery stores for defying mask policies.


Past Is Prologue

And other examples of why more is more in Italy

The Statue of David in Florence. Photo: iStock

In Italy, you’ll find signs about face masks with 40 words in bureaucratic language. No smoking signs consist of 109 words of legal text, and simple toilet signs can be . What reasons can we find for this in Italian society?

Among the novelties the Covid-19 pandemic has given us—in addition to face masks and awkward elbow bumps—is a variety of new signs instructing us how to behave. …


Past Is Prologue

An analysis of astronauts, the French revolution, and the future of space exploration

As part of the near-constant onslaught of new things releasing everywhere all the time, Disney+ recently released a new adaptation of , Tom Wolfe’s seminal 1979 saga about the Mercury Seven and the sociopolitical context that buoyed them to greatness. The Right Stuff was originally adapted into a three-hour film epic in 1983 that remains widely regarded as one of the best Space Race-era movies ever made. The folks at Disney+ seem to have felt that, once again, it’s time to revisit an unquestionable American triumph — the beginning of victory in the Space Race.


Past Is Prologue

White America may be meeting Donald Trump for the first time, but Black people have known him for centuries

Left image is Donald Trump obscured by low lighting, right image is a black and white illustration of a praying Black woman.
Left image is Donald Trump obscured by low lighting, right image is a black and white illustration of a praying Black woman.
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“Wade in the water, wade in the water, Children. God’s gonna trouble the water.” — Traditional

“My soul looks back and wonders, how I got over.” — Mahalia Jackson

1

Months ago, I turned on the TV and saw a white mom at a protest in Portland dragged across the pavement and abused by the cops who surrounded her, her white flesh handled with no more care than Black flesh is usually afforded in this country. For a moment, my mind flinched from a lifetime of conditioning. I thought, “You can’t do that to a middle-class white woman!” But under a…


Past Is Prologue

Love is strange

Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California, September 11, 2020. Photo: Sela Shiloni

I fell in love with a guy from New England before I knew anything about him, except his art. This is a dangerous practice, as anyone who has spent time with an artist of any sort can surely tell you.

I should know better. I do know better. But I swear this time it’s different.

I found out everything I could about him through the usual channels — not obsessively, mind you, nothing creepy. I made certain inquiries. I’m like that when I’m interested in somebody, as a friend or otherwise. I want to know where they came from so…


Past Is Prologue

Working-class white people in the South have better stories to tell than the Lost Cause

Woman in Graham, North Carolina counter-protesting a Black Lives Matter march this past July. Photo by author.

I think she is trying to stare me down. Her eyes are leveled right at me.

In another space, at another time, we might be friendly. We might chat. I might say, “Excuse me, ma’am, my apologies,” as I bumped into her on my way to pay my bill at the diner. And she might smile at me and say, “No problem, hon.” She might comment on my tattoo, and I might tell her I like hers. Maybe she has a butterfly that makes her think of her mother or a bit of script reminding her to be strong. She…


Past Is Prologue

I don’t share a history of enslavement with Black Americans — but what we do share transcends oceans and generations

Colorful portrait photo of the author.
Colorful portrait photo of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.

“Story, story, time, time.” The echoes of my childhood reverberate in my mind, reminding me of when I would sit with my African Giant of an aunt as she retold Urhobo folklore to wide-eyed Black children in 1990s Britain. It was different from what we were used to in our south-east London classes. We sat with our legs crossed on the carpet, poised and ready to journey to story-land, but to our surprise, our beloved aunt-teacher was not reading from a book: instead, she reiterated stories passed down many generations from the connected consciousness.

Soon we were transported to a…


Past Is Prologue

How ‘How are you?’ (and other meaningless phrases) came to dominate conversations everywhere

Paper cut out of mouth with speech motif graphics.
Paper cut out of mouth with speech motif graphics.
Photo: Tara Moore/Getty Images

“You see someone that you know and they ask you how are you, and you just have to say that you’re fine when you’re not really fine, but you just can’t get into it because they would never understand,” as Katy Perry once said in an interview that will .

In fairness to Perry, she weaves a tale that most of us can probably identify with. Say you’re suffering from insomnia, your credit card got declined at the coffee shop this morning, and now your significant other has just sent an ominous…

Human Parts

A publication about humanity from Medium: yours, mine, and ours.

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