David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs

Have you ever been in a job you thought was useless? Have you said to yourself, I could finish my work in half the time and go home but here I am? Have you stared into the abyss wondering how in the hell this could have happened?

David Graeber wrote Bullshit Jobs A Theory as an answer to these questions and more. You can find a copy at many online retailers and book resale stores. There are even multiple interviews and videos featuring the author on YouTube.

I can’t guarantee this book will make you feel better. I was nearly enraged at some points. But I can tell you it will engage you and you will likely end feeling more informed and equipped to identify and live with this phenomena. Or better yet, maybe you are in a position to help change it.

Great Reads Pt. I of 2019

These are a few of the notable books I spent this Spring and Summer reading that I encourage you to check out. I have provided the title, author, year of first publication, a brief introduction, and some detail on why I enjoyed the book. They are listed by title in alphabetical order.

Eileen Gray. François Baudot (1998). This book is part biography and part exhibition of this artist’s work. Eileen Gray was born in Ireland in 1878 and came to spend her time in Paris and New York. Her expertise was lacquered furniture and her pieces were far ahead of their time. This book includes 52 illustrations.

Eileen Gray side table, couch, and screen. Photo sourced from LZF Lamps Blog.

New Spaces, Old World Charm The Art of Elegant Interiors. Ann Sample (2004). This is another book on design. With 250 full color photos you can look through this as a picture book but there are a great many homes featured that inspired me so much I had to know how they came to be.

Designer Carl D’Aquino. Image by Architectural Digest.

Flora: Inside the Secret World of Plants. Kathy Willis for The Smithsonian (2018). An astonishingly detailed study of plant botany with vivid photos and illustrations. This book will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about how plants work. It held me reading and scribbling notes for countless hours because I had to share what I found.

Image by Summerfield Books.

How to Make a Plant Love You, Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart. Summer Rayne Oakes (2019). This book came out in April this year and I was thrilled to get my hands on it in August. This is not one of those guides that proposes to list the watering schedule and “secrets” of dozens of house plant varieties. Summer invites you to take a far more holistic approach to plant care. She shows you how to reconnect with nature and bring it into your life. How to appreciate, nourish, and cultivate your senses to the needs of life around you.

A detail of the Cook Forest in Pennsylvania, the state where Summer grew up.

Friendship and the Self

Another essay by yours truly. Submitted 10 December 2012.

The subject of friendship has surfaced repeatedly under the titles of prominent philosophers from varying cultures and time periods. From Socrates’ day to C.S. Lewis’ contemporary milieu, friendship has been praised as a moral achievement of human virtue in multiple contexts. Emerson eloquently stated that the essence of friendship is “entireness, a total magnanimity and trust” (232). Seneca cited the “inherent attractiveness” of friendship as a reason for why all men seek it (123). Even Kant had some nice things to say about friendship after explaining his reservations. But my purpose here is not to simply restate what the philosophers have said. I wish to provide a persuasive argument for why and how friendship arises in the self. Ultimately, this discussion will be crucial to forming a theory of what friendship is on both the theoretical and practical level.

My objective at the start of this course was to identify and assess a common thread between the philosophers we studied, but over time, I realized that identifying my own idea of friendship and comparing my experiences to our selections was an equally important step toward arriving at a conclusion. After all, how could I expect to take anything away from our discussions if I did not fully engage myself in the theories? Without a point of reference, I would have been completely lost. And yet, before I even realized what I was doing, my mind was comparing the text against my own beliefs. It was not until I made a conscious effort to reconcile them, however, that I arrived at any truly illuminating discoveries. This is what I will argue: that friendship is the highest engagement of the self in the world and the most accurate meter of truth. My small victories in engaging the authors reflected a greater human trope, namely, that earnest friendliness encourages a dialogue unparalleled in depth and perception.

Whatever medium might come into play, friendship can be rudimentarily described as a conscious interaction for mutual benefit between two same-searching individuals. What I mean to say is that my interaction with the text was friendly in that I recognized the author’s intent and created a dialogue with it that opened my perspective to new avenues of understanding. But I did not have a friendship with the text because it was impassive and non-responsive to my reactions. I did not achieve a true dialogue with the text but a likeness of a dialogue with the author. For this reason primarily, people can only share friendship with other people and not objects or animals. A person also cannot be friends with someone that he has never directly interacted with, including the deceased. This does not exclude people who communicate through medium like letters and texts, however, since a genuine interaction is achievable as long as the two are aware of one another. Still, a relationship based on not-in-person interactions is likely to be quite strained.

As a resource in cooperation with my investigation, I would like to bring in an article from the Journal of Social Philosophy by Kristjan Kristjansson. His article, entitled Parents and Children as Friends, makes a strong case against the traditional philosophical argument that parents and children cannot be friends. Using Aristotle’s model of friendship, Kristjansson claims “well-ordered, loving parent-child relationships…contain with them friendships” and that the incommensurability of these relationships does not necessarily imply incompatibility, a reference to a previous article called Friends and Lovers by Johann A. Klaasen (259). Kristjansson’s article is relevant in my argument not specifically for its treatment of the parent-child relationship, but more importantly for the valuable claims it makes in regard to Aristotle’s account of friendship and this description of the friend as “another self.” The author demonstrates a keen understanding of the issues presented by the Nicomachean Ethics and engages them insightfully by deconstructing the concepts of self-sufficiency and inequality as moral barriers to friendship.

Kristjansson introduces his argument by challenging what philosophers mean when they describe “true” or “real” friendship. He asserts that the prevailing opinion among philosophers seems to be that parents and children cannot be friends in the strict sense of the term, but that this view is considered to be “counter-intuitive to many laypeople and at least some philosophers” (250). Assuming that “laypeople” means people outside of the professional and academic communities, this would appear to be a small nod to the practical concerns of individuals who seek to understand how friendship works in action and not just on the idealistic theoretical level. But is there really such a great need to pit the practical aspect against the theoretical aspect? It is of course very Aristotelian to consider abstract intellectual endeavors as higher than or superior to the common concerns of particular cases, but that does not mean we should dismiss practical claims as non-substantial.

Aristotle often warns about “the many” and their vulgar, common opinions yet he almost always starts his discussions with them. The first chapter of Book VIII, for example, is entitled Common Beliefs and Questions. He goes on to say “but in poverty also, and in the other misfortunes, people think friends are the only refuge” (1155a12). We have heard many philosophers scorn “fair-weather” friends this semester, including Seneca, who described how such a friendship would break down as easily as it started up: “The beginning and the end [of a friendship] cannot but harmonize. He who begins to be your friend because it pays will also cease because it pays” (121). In any case, a constructive account of friendship must take common public opinion for what it is. What we do not realize is that often these opinions are so ingrained in us that we take them for granted. Perhaps this is why Kristjansson thought that denying the possibility of parent-child friendship was “counter-intuitive” to some. After all, Aristotle did cite human beings as the species most inclined out of all others to have a “natural friendship” with one another, especially the parent and child (1155a20).

As he continues, Kristjansson explains that the great majority of contemporary philosophical voices involve some aspect of Aristotle’s account of friendship either explicitly or implicitly (250). I found this to be very true as the themes of virtue, community, justice, and equality (to name a few) resurfaced time and time again. He then begins to recite Aristotle’s account, starting with the distinction of three types of friendship: (1) friendship for pleasure (2) friendship for utility (3) and the friendship of virtue. Kristjansson characterizes the third as the only “complete” friendship, stating that in this kind, “friends love one another because of their respective virtuous characters and wish good for one another, each for the other’s sake” (250). He also says they are the most “stable” and “enduring” type of friendships which are, “to be sure, instrumentally and extrinsically valuable in many ways.”

Kristjansson closes in on his discussion of the friend as another self after he makes the distinction that the friendship for utility and friendship for pleasure are merely friendships by similarity and that this is why they are incomplete in comparison to what he calls character friendship (251). He insists that people in common opinion agree that although we may call certain acquaintances friendships, we all know the difference between someone we casually call a friend and a real friend, that is, a person who is truly deserving of the title. There are people who are friends to others and there are people who are friends of others. Here he offers an anecdote: “my neighbor, the electrician, was a real friend to me when the electricity went off in my flat; but although I hold him dear for that, he is not, therefore, necessarily a friend of mine” (251). The person who is a friend of someone else is the kind of person who is another self.

Kristjansson further makes his case of the friend as another self in an important passage where he combines his idea of the privileged parent-child relationship and his theory of moral (character) development. According to him, all identities of the self are gradually formed in late childhood (in general, children start thinking in complex terms of justice and fairness somewhere between the ages of 8 and 12). Hence the moral self and the social self arise together and are inseparable from the start. Furthermore, he argues that this formation of identity does not necessarily impair the child’s ability to become autonomous in regard to other people who have helped form their identity:

“It is only by taking the role of the other (in particular, at the beginning, the role of the parent) that the child’s self acquires its reflexive quality and attains self-consciousness. Our lives as human beings are, by necessity, intertwined…if my sense of myself requires me to seek recognition from others, and my social existence and social relations are essential rather than contingent parts of my personhood, it is unreasonable to insist that because someone else has helped me shape my identity, I cannot be fully autonomous with regard to that person” (255).

The self, then, is only defined by comparison to the other just as the other is only defined in comparison to the self. The two are like reflections of one another, mirror images that are complementary and not merely the exact same thing. In friendship, the self and the other both have their own intrinsic value but they appreciate what each brings to bear because they are equal in virtue. Being equal in virtue, however, does not mean that two people have the exact same kinds of virtue. A virtuous person with a correct desire of the good will recognize both what he has and what he lacks so that he will understand that the virtue of another person, his friend, is also desirable in itself.

In chapter four of Book IX, Aristotle discusses what he means by self love and how it is an important part of friendship. He calls “the defining features of friendship that are found in friendships to one’s neighbors (others) would seem to be derived from features of friendship toward oneself. For a friend is taken to be someone who wishes and does goods or apparent goods to his friend for friends own sake” (1166a). The same can be said of how the person who is a friend treats himself. He wants to be virtuous and achieve great things, so he is kind to himself and wishes goods to himself for his own sake. The virtuous person finds pleasure in his own company because he finds himself not only tolerable but also pleasant in himself. Thus the decent person “is related to his friend as he is to himself, since the friend is another himself” (1166a30).

Kristjansson interprets Aristotle’s argument to mean that the virtues of self-love and love of friends develop at the same time and are inseparable: “It is not as if we first learn to love ourselves and then incorporate others under the same umbrella; rather the capacity to love ourselves and the capacity to love others (family members, friends) arise together ‘in the same way as he is related to himself, since a friend is another self’” (256). Moreover, according to Aristotle, “if someone is always eager above all to do just or temperate actions or any other actions in accord with the virtues, and in general always gains for himself what is fine, no one will call him a self-lover (in the morally shameful manner) or blame him for it” (1168b25-27). This is because friendship with oneself is an outpouring of virtue in the same way that friendship with another self is an outpouring of virtue. Self-love is not selfish if a person is virtuous, since he will go to great lengths for the sake of another self just as he does for himself.

Kristjansson concludes his article by stating that Kupfer’s claim (parents and children cannot be friends because children are “incapable of full-blown friendships, even when the children have reached adulthood,” 253) did not live up to its goal. It failed to prove that parents and children are completely unable to form anything that resembles a “true” or “real” friendship because his structural and moral arguments were too weak—his points did not hold together very tightly. For example, his claim that inequality based on the superiority of parents to children was not entirely refuted by Aristotle, who “states explicitly that within each of the three types of friendship are some that rest on equality and others superiority” (254). In the end, Kupfer’s argument produced an “overly restrictive conception of friendship…that did not bar parent-child friendships for moral reasons, as it is commonly taken to do” (263).

Ultimately, I agree with Aristotle’s account of friendship more thoroughly than any other philosopher we have studied. As a consciously reciprocated goodwill and love of another, friendship should be seen as self looking in on itself, virtue for the end of virtue. Friendship is the “highest external good” because it does not praise the accidental or coincidental qualities in man but instead fosters and nurtures virtuous behaviors in the self and in the other. Two people who posses what Kristjansson refers to as the “character virtue,” Aristotle’s most complete and most desirable type of friendship, posses one another fully and most intimately. A true friend is a friend of someone else’s instead of a friend to someone else. A real friend treats his other as the treats himself, for such a person is a self that has grown with and alongside another to the extent that the two have become indistinguishable.

I agree with Kristjansson that the role of parents is crucial in the moral development of children, and I wonder if the successes or failures of the parent-child relationships set the stage for the child’s future adult relationships. But proving the viability of this kind of relationship in Aristotle’s account was not my focus. The purpose of Kristjansson’s article was to bring a new voice to the discussion of friendship in regard to the self. Kristjansson’s argument was valuable because his interpretation of Aristotle’s account showed how the self is defined by and defines the other. He took this a step further by claiming that the concepts of self-love and love of others arise in the individual at the same time so that they are indistinguishable from one another. He emphasized the parent-child relationship because it is in this relationship primarily that we first form the idea of the self and the idea of the other as well as the concept of love, justice, and equality.

Kristjansson cited that Aristotle gave more space to his discussion of friendship than any other particular intellectual or moral virtue in the Nicomachean Ethics (251). As such, the significance of friendship in our lives can never be too greatly praised or exaggerated. Out of every account, Aristotle’s phrase “a friend is another self” best describes the condition created in the unity of two virtuous individuals. We can say that someone is another self to the extent that we love this person like we love ourselves. Friendship is a model for itself without comparison, an engagement of the self in the world, and a great outpouring of virtue. As Emerson explained, “[he] who hears me, who understands me, becomes mine—a possession for all time” (221). We transform the opposition of the self and the other in friendship for when we are friends with another, “the not mine is mine” (219).

The Question of Being

This is a final paper I wrote for my Philosophy of Being course in college. Old papers can be embarrassing but I think this one isn’t too bad. There is definitely a bit of philosophical jargon in it but I think it’s still comprehensible if you are new to philosophy. Let me know what you think.

The Question of Being (May 3, 2011)

“Silence accompanies the most significant expressions of happiness and unhappiness: those in love understand one another best when silent, while the most heated and impassioned speech at a graveside touches only outsiders, but seems cold and inconsequential to the widow and children of the deceased” (Anton Chekhov, Enemies 1887).

            It is human beings among all forms of life, and as far as we understand the world, for whom the question of Being is most engaging. Humans as teleological, social, and political beings stand on the edge of this question as if they stood on the edge of a gaping, mysterious void. No one is sure how deep it is, how dark it is, or where it leads. Yet eventually, we all find that we are a part of this void. We shift around uncomfortably and toss our hands wildly from side to side in an effort to grasp the thing nearest to us. Because we lack sight in the abyss, we convince ourselves that the effort is futile, and in a gesture of bewilderment, we simply shrug our shoulders and blow out a heavy sigh. This is our premature resignation of defeat, for although the world still turns, the soft rays of light that peek in on us every so often fall upon down-cast eyes, and the sounds of the world fall upon ears made deaf by years of desensitization.

The question of Being is the most fundamental question one can ask, for surely to ask any other question prior to it, we would be assuming a great deal about the nature of that which we speak. For example, one might compare this to asking a congenitally blind person his favorite color. Since he has no experience of color, he will not be able to relate to the question, and his understanding will only go as far as to wonder what the meaning of color is. Although this is an extreme analogy, it is intended to demonstrate the absurdity of our backwards reasoning. It is not uncommon for a person who has little to no knowledge or experience of a subject to engage in discussion of it or to ask another person about it. In fact, we humans do this on a daily basis. What does this imply about us, the insatiably curious beings who display some of the most peculiar behaviors of any life form?

It is an audacious desire to touch the very threads of meaning and existence, and to ask what can be fashioned of them. Even then, we find that only a particular type of individual is well suited for examining such questions. By common societal standards, the individual must be able to communicate intelligibly in a human language, including comprehensive speaking, reading, writing and receptive hearing. In certain cases, however, some skills may be compensated by others. These abilities are thought to be indicators of reasoning, the pinnacle of Western philosophy. If one possesses a masterful, enticing skill of reasoning through language (like that of the sophist), he is likely to persuade even the staunchest of skeptics.

In the Metaphysics, Aristotle claims that Being is necessarily “metaphysical,” literally meaning that it is beyond physics, the study of material substance; Metaphysics is the inquiry into first principles (1029a28-31). His discussion not only proposes that the question of Being itself is metaphysical in nature, but also makes excessive attempts to draw out the truth of Being. He does this through elaborate theoretical arguments based on semantics and thought experiments, although he had already expressed doubt about the human capacity to understand even the slightest portion of such an abstract concept.

Nevertheless, Aristotle develops his argument into a war of the material versus the form. Both are persuasive opponents which can easily trick a person into favoring their side, but Aristotle posits that Being is instead the dynamic combination of the two known as “substance.” He specifically addresses substance in book VII, providing arguments claiming that substance is matter and that substance is not matter. He states that “when everything else is removed, clearly nothing but matter remains,” indicating that the two are one and the same, whereas he insists that “separability and individuality belong especially to substance,” making a distinction between the two (1029a14, 27). He appears to support the distinction between matter and substance further through his discussion of composites and generation. His example of the bronze sphere (a composite of bronze and sphere) illustrates that before the object existed in actuality, it existed as a potential substance in the mind of the artisan who produced it (1034b10-15).

The concept of mind in Aristotle’s discussion of Being is limited based on what one defines as “mind.” If by “mind” one means “intelligibility” (indicating the use of applied reason) then perhaps the form or essence of a thing are most pertinent to the question of Being, for “learning is always acquired in this way, by advancing through what is less intelligible by nature to what is more so” (1029b5-7). What one readily perceives is the material through sight. The essence of a thing, however, is knowable only when one has “knowledge of the individual” (1031b21-22).

As a conclusion to the Metaphysics, Aristotle argues the point of Being in the sense of truth: “truth and falsity are as follows: contact and assertion are truth (for assertion is not the same as affirmation), and ignorance is non-contact” (1051b24-26). This statement presents a unique challenge to the question of Being, as it responds in a manner similar to Heidegger’s response (one may certainly interject that it is Heidegger’s account which resembles Aristotle’s). Both cite a particularly critical connection between Being through beings and the observer or [in Heidegger’s language,] the Dasein, yet fail to clarify whether this connection is an experiential, sensible (and therefore material or physical) state or an automatic, transcendent state of reconciliation between the two. According to them, the answer once again seems to lie somewhere in the middle, a moderation stranded from certainty and absoluteness.

Furthermore, Aristotle describes that which is true as a particular unity (the “what-it-was-to-be”), and of truth itself, he says “truth means to think these objects, and there is no falsity or deception, but only ignorance- not however, ignorance such as blindness is; for blindness is like a total absence of the power of thinking” (1051b34-1052a3). But how should we say that the blind cannot think and that they are inferior to the human ideal merely because we find the metaphor of the “mind’s eye” clever? Aristotle himself criticized the early philosophers for having poeticized their accounts, thus deifying and shrouding the origin of truth (982b13-15, 27-32).

Heidegger’s approach to the question of Being begins with a question of its own: why is there Being at all instead of nothing or non-Being? In a manner similar to Plato’s discussion of the alphabet of Being in The Sophist (of which Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics is a response), Heidegger examines the role and limitation of linguistic structures as the fundamental building blocks of this discourse. He insists that our language expresses and shapes what we think and that this influence is inseparable (rather crucial, in fact) from the questions we ask [42]. He radically deviates from Plato’s approach, however, since he would not consider the paradigm of the fisherman as an adequate means of transition into genuine questioning. He prefers to tackle the question of Being as it would naturally unfold according to the observer.

If one assumes that the world is, then one will ask how it “is” and why it “is.” Heidegger claims that it is through polemos (confrontation) that the world first comes into Being. He concludes that only under certain circumstances can something reveal itself as a being. Although it first comes to be through polemos, a being does not cease to be after polemos has ended. It is instead hidden in a sort of transitory state, and one considers it as a “finding” or an “object” rather than a being [48]. It appears then, that such a thing is never guaranteed to become or to always be considered as a being since it may only experience polemos for a limited time or even not at all. When it does come about, polemos is described as a “struggle” or “strife” [47, 48]. Heidegger cites a passage from Heraclitus to develop this idea, offering his interpretation of originary struggle, a concept he believed Heraclitus hinted at. Originary struggle is a coming to be of an unfolding being’s potentialities [47]. It makes opposition possible, and because of this, the world is allowed to come to be.

The originary force of polemos begins with the unfolding and emergence of the thing when the right conditions are met; this is when phusis “comes to a stand in what comes to presence” [47]. The foremost condition is the meeting of a natural force and an intelligent force. Each potential being (the natural force) requires the attention of a Dasein (the intelligent force), for it is the initial participation of the Dasein which coaxes the thing out of concealment and the interaction of the two which sustains Being itself [47].

Heidegger’s theory appears to give primacy to the Dasein since it must recognize a thing, interpret it, and decide whether to reach out to it. The Dasein’s action [or inaction] ultimately determines the possibility of Being (although once a being has revealed itself, the Dasein cannot change it [22]), whereas the potential being only needs to make itself accessible to the curiosity of the Dasein [63]. This suggests that the Dasein holds a far greater power and sway in the emergence of Being.

Aristotle, Heidegger, and Plato provide a vastly comprehensive survey of the question of Being, the nature of ‘that which is’ and the complications that it presents. Although they may overwhelm and confuse the reader as often as they enlighten him, each generally agrees that Being is not an eternal, static state that can be bound by a single, universal definition. In an effort to avoid taking a stand in favor of one definition or another, for fear that this choice might be wrong, many philosophers, statesmen, and sophists alike merely conclude their inquiry in a sweeping circumlocution of events. For human beings, the question of Being is the single most fundamental question we can ask because the world indeed pushes back when we apply pressure to it.

A great multitude of people attribute the world’s Being as the result of a celestial, divine force acting on (or interfering with) our daily lives. Human beings among all known beings are the only individuals with such creative, self-deluding, and inquisitive tendencies as to make gods of ourselves. By our own decision and at our own risk, we dive into the completely unknown. When we observe other beings, a shocking perplexity comes over us, and subsequently, we are inclined to examine them. Within our minds we artfully create and destroy as we please. Our reality melts into subjectivity the moment we ignore the world and turn into ourselves for a simple, pre-fabricated ideology dictated by society.

At the bottom of the abyss, it becomes obvious that we have weaved a most inconsistent fable from the threads of the world. Now we are finally alone to ourselves. Yet it is only through this state of isolation that we arrive at an indifference to our prejudice since, after all, we have lost ourselves in total aporia. Only from that moment forward can we begin to truly reflect on Being, for our inquiry reveals far more about us than it does of anything else. In this deepest, blackest void we startle at the bright beams of light that flicker in above our heads and the louder, bolder thumps of noise that reach us. To be awakened to the world’s life we must first take a stand, no matter what it may be. Our first step is always the precedent to our own unfolding being.

Meditation I.

A collection of short texts, sometimes poetry, that give you cause for pause to wonder upon their meaning.

‘–Night is drawing nigh–‘

For all that has been–Thanks!

To all that shall be–Yes!

Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings

This text is from a book I have yet to finish. Markings is certainly is not light reading but its verses are often enlightening. I find Mr. Hammarskjöld to be a bit severe at times but I appreciate his stern morality. His dedication to self-reflection and self-discipline are inspiring. Markings is Nietzschean in its formatting and it makes for a quick read in that aspect. Small verses and proportional maxims are pleasant to the reading eyes which yearn for some stopping point.

Verse 8 The Highest Good

The highest good is like water,

nourishing life effortlessly,

flowing without prejudice

to the lowliest places.

It springs from all

who nourish their community

with a benevolent heart as deep as an abyss

who are incapable of lies and injustices,

who are rooted in the earth,

and whose natural rhythms of action

play midwife to the highest good

of each pregnant moment.

Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, Translated with commentary by Ralph Alan Dale

The Tao is hands-down one of my favorite texts of all. I turn to it when my life feels uncontrollable. I turn to it when I am fulfilled. It has wisdom for every stage and every emotion of life. I’m not good at meditation at all– it takes practice and concentration, but I’ve found that meditating on The Tao comes naturally.

As goofy as it sounds I like to meditate in the bathtub. Close yourself in and draw a warm bath. Use candlelight or an indirect light source to create some calmness in your room. Let the water wash over you and clear your mind. Read your verse slowly out loud. Concentrate on your breathing. Let everything else melt away. All that is left is you and the text.

Heike’s Window at Nightfall, from Versailles Cemetery

Perhaps the dead can see in Heike’s window

and, after dark at dinnertime, sit

upon their stones in rows mesmerized

as at a picture show, watching

through the narrow glass, slivers

of lives: Irwin’s arm reaching

a jug of tea; Harck’s boy arm extending

a cup that water fills; Heike

capping berries at the sink, then lifting out

the bread the toaster raises. These gestures

fascinate the dead who watch that glass

as unforgiving and as hard as molten sands

they’ve crossed. On my own path

falls the light from Heike’s window,

a flattened, grave-shaped shining

I step into.

Jane Gentry Vance, A Garden in Kentucky collection

Reading this poem I can hear her voice. I don’t know how to explain it. When she speaks it’s like I’m home. You can learn more about her life and listen to her read another one of her poems, Night Beasts in the Backyard.