I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about the world, trying to break ideas into pieces I can understand and use. Many of those pieces I find disturbing, dismaying, or depressing. It seems like every time I unpack something, I find horrible people at the back of it. They aren’t horrible in an abject, evil sort of way—just in an unselfconsciously greedy and destructive sort of way. And for some reason, we keep putting them in charge of things, which makes me worry that even if we can change this mistakes we make daily, we won’t.
But here in the U.S. it’s Thanksgiving. So instead of worrying about the horrible people, I decided to take a moment to dwell on the wonderful people. Because, when I stop to think about it, I actually know a hell of a lot more wonderful people, and I practically don’t know any horrible people.
Over my four years in college, for example, I met a lot of people who taught me how to think, write, and investigate the world. Some of you meant to do that; some of you did it by virtue of being smart and curious and challenging. Some of you did it by just setting a good example. Some of you were excellent professors, and some of you were excellent friends.
In Maine, I worked with a fantastic set of people who embodied the whole idea of personal growth, who showed me how to teach it and live it both. I don’t always do it well, but I now know how to try, and how to name it, and how to remember it as something important. I also worked with a bunch of students I never would have known otherwise, but whose ability to grow and change impressed me more than I might have expected. Many of the things I learned are now tied to particular people in my head, and even though we aren’t in the same place any more, I still think about you often.
In grad school I studied with more wonderful people, people who care about the world and want to make positive changes. You all inspired me more than I may have said, because, at the time, the world was feeling particularly overwhelmingly lost. You all made it clear to me that strong community is not necessarily an end goal, but it is a necessary precondition of change.
I’ve also spent much of the past decade exploring caves with people, often very different from me, who encourage me to think about things in new ways and change the way I approach things. Besides being partners in my very favorite activity, you all show me that it actually is possible for people with a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs to work together effectively. There aren’t many other places in my life where I get to see that—so thank you especially for that reminder.
Finally, and most recently, I’ve had the great privilege of working with wonderful colleagues who are excited to learn and teach both. You all make me think in new ways, and challenge me to reconsider and clarify ideas. I love the work I do in large part because I love working with you. It is a rare joy to get to work with people who always exceed your expectations.
At the end of it, since there are so many of you who are so wonderful, I really don’t know why I feel like the horrible people are in the majority. Actually, I am starting to think maybe they’re not. So, this is partly a piece about you, and really a post for me—to remind me that actually, there are good people everywhere. And as my way of thanking you for being those people.