3 min read

12. Our lattice of familiarity

I find great joy in seeing the connections between things or ideas that aren't in the same bubble.
12. Our lattice of familiarity

You're reading The Ponder, and I'm Devin. This is where I connect the dots between seemingly disparate ideas floating around in my head. Thank you for being here. I hope you stay awhile.


Hello everyone, it's been a few months since I sent a newsletter! Thank you for participating in the giveaway (congratulations to Ren for winning!) and/or supporting this project by subscribing. From March-June, I dove into completing a draft of a long fiction project, and my brain didn't have space for almost anything else. After dismantling the cave of books and papers that I'd built around my desk, I turned my attention to The Ponder and have created internal systems to help me show up for and with you consistently. I'm so happy to be here.

The dots

  • The science of relations: "... we have relations with what there is in the present and with what there has been in the past, with what is above us, and about us; and that fullness of living and serviceableness depend for each of us upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of." — Charlotte Mason
  • "Coexistence should not be a passive state. ... Coexistence, rather, should be the active practice of becoming familiar, whether through exposure to works of imagination or through personal interaction, with people who are different." — Laila Lalami, Conditional Citizens

How do they connect?

In the world of homeschooling, there are "box" curriculums, but for my brothers and me, my Mom used a DIY approach that pulled different resources from different places. Charlotte Mason, a British educator and reformer in England at the turn of the twentieth century, was probably the single most significant influence on our education. One of Charlotte Mason's principles of education is "The science of relations." This means how a person finds the connections between ideas, stories, experiences, and in doing so, attaches meaning. When A & B are connected, they mean more, they're easier to remember, they have an impact.

Laila Lalami is a Moroccan-American novelist, essayist, and professor, and wrote the book Conditional Citizens. Written in the wake of the 2016 election, it tells her story of becoming an American citizen and expands beyond her story. The passage comes from the second chapter in her book that starts with Laila Lalami giving a reading of her novel in Arizona and receiving a question from a white woman in the audience about ISIS. Lalami says about the woman, "The hegemony that her country exercised gave her the privilege of being ignorant about other nations, other peoples, other faiths."

I don't know the woman, and I know her. And I wonder if, when she was younger, she was encouraged to read outside her close community, she would have seen Laila Lalami without overlaying her anxieties about ISIS.

Charlotte Mason says that our most whole life depends "upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of." How much we read, how much we listen, how often we find connections rather than divisions.

I underlined the part where Laila Lalami says, "whether through exposure to works of imagination or through personal interaction" because it gets back to reading, watching movies, listening to music. Works of imagination (not filled with rote stereotypes) can be an accessible part of getting to know people different from us.

So often, the world can reflect what we SHOULD like, how we SHOULD think, who we SHOULD be friends with, and that makes the world smaller and more divided and more contemptuous. I find great joy in seeing the connections between things or ideas that aren't in the same bubble.

The Ponder is where I'll document how I'm practicing the science of relations and becoming familiar with people and ideas who are different. I'm inspired by my friend Ida who practices learning in public through her newsletter tiny driver and encouraged by Seth Godin's prompt to stop collecting dots and connect them instead. (Psst: I guest-wrote this week's tiny driver — why don't you subscribe?)

I invite you to consider taking this practice and encouragement to heart, too. I hope that what I'm writing will spark connections and conversations to grow this lattice of familiarity.

It would make me so happy if you said hi or shared your connections in the comments. See you next week — DK


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