In the Midst of Chaos

Hey there,

I’m Hugh Hollowell, and this is Life is so Beautiful – a weekly newsletter lovingly curated to demonstrate that, despite what you may have heard or even seen, the world is ablaze with beauty. If somebody forwarded this to you, you can get your own subscription here.

I don’t know how it is where you are, but here in the US, it’s exhausting. And scary. For those of us involved in justice work, watching the fundamental freedoms that we have fought for over the last 150 years slowly be peeled back, the fallout of that erosion, the holding together of fragile systems, and the work of catching those who fall through the ever-widening gaps of our failing social safety net produce the sort of weariness one feels deep in bones.

But even as this goes on, the world is still filled with beauty. The sun still rose this morning, birdsong filled the air, children sang songs in the backseat of the car on the way to school, and miracles happened on the playground. The world is a mess, friends, that story is true. But it is also true that our species has a near limitless capacity for good, for love, for meaning-making. There is, as my friend Gareth likes to remind me, far more friendship in this world than there is war.

None of this takes away from the horror of what’s happening or the very real dangers that vulnerable people find themselves in. But 15 years of justice work has taught me that positive change happens slowly, that the Power concedes nothing without demand, and that the most important thing we can do to change the world for the better is to make sure we are around long enough to stay in the fight. Burned-out people effect little change. Dead people effect even less.

In other words, we have to find ways to be resilient in the midst of chaos.

There are first-aid things we must do – stay hydrated, get as much sleep as we can, laugh when we can, and eat good food with people we love. But more than that, I think we must hunt for and fill our souls with beauty, to sustain ourselves for the periodic droughts when the world seems harsh and dry.

This work of building a better world than the one we have now is a marathon, friends, not a sprint. And we need beauty, and each other, to sustain us for the long haul ahead.

Take care, friends. I’m rooting for you.

Here are five things I thought were beautiful

The Netherlands Bach Society is putting the entire oeuvre of Johan Sebastian Bach online in high-quality recordings, and I’m in love. Here is the Aria from The Goldberg Variations, perhaps my most favorite piece of music, ever.

The heat index in Central Mississippi hit 110 yesterday, and the actual temperature was 100 degrees. I don’t really like winter, but these photos of ice caves from the Canadian Rocky Mountains stirred something in my soul.

These photos of Black women from the Victorian era, dressed in white, upper-middle-class attire, remind me of the danger of a single story, and how much history we have is written from only one perspective.

Earth.FM is a website that contains recorded nature sounds from around the world and allows you to build a playlist. It’s pretty amazing, and well done.

Once upon a time, the internet was just… fun. The website reminds me of that gentler era, from the retro UI to the animated gifs and long load times and downloadable wallpapers. But not to be lost is the high-quality images and the incredible talent that underlies this work. (The creator is also on Instagram).

Suggested reading

Check yourself before you wreck yourself – wisdom on recovering from burnout by Jocelyn K Glei.


June is Membership Month here in what a friend lovingly calls The Hughniverse, and I wanted to remind you that I created a membership program to support my publishing and that together, my members and I are publishing a narrative cookbook. I explain more about the cookbook project in this link, and how members will get a chapter a week in their inbox as I write it, and then get a print copy for free.

More on the membership program, including how to join, can be found here.

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