To Be And To Last #39

This week we enjoy the complexity of reality, the simplicity of a perfect buzz cut, and the random beauty of our world.

📚 Single stories are convenient, but misleading

I'm a storyteller. And I would like to tell you a few personal stories about what I like to call "the danger of the single story."

The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story, and to start with, "secondly."

I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called "American Psycho" -- (Laughter) -- and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. (Laughter) (Applause)

I would like to end with this thought: That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.

- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TED 2009

I’d first come across Adichie’s work a couple years ago, when I enjoyed the TED talk excerpted above. It’s well worth a listen for anyone who wishes to understand, deeply breathe in, the complex reality of any person’s or group’s story.

More recently, a friend recommended Adichie’s novel Americanah. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the book, which offers glimpses into lives I’ve not lived while affirming some of the common experiences I have seen in my own immigration. And all the while offering a perspective on race in my home country of the US and in Nigeria.

🏜️ How well do you know your world?

GeoGuessr’s street view game is my new favorite thing. You get dropped onto a random street, and try to guess where in the world you might be.

With travel disrupted by covid, I’ve found this surprisingly fun (and not surprisingly, very difficult). Their free account seems to allow for 1 game per day, which is just the right amount for me.

💈 The perfect buzz cut

And my main buzzer, the guy I’ve been back to more than anyone else, is something of a bodhisattva buzzer. Looks like a surfer, late 30s, purposefully fried, dyed-brown hair, working with his mom in a barber shop build 40 years ago and not touched since. Each time I enter he nearly falls over in surprise. Then I sit, and he places the bib upon my body with such strange delicacy, such care, as if I were a spider web he was trying to wrap up in a napkin without breaking a strand.

- Craig Mod, Ridgeline

Those who have been long-time readers know I’m a tremendous fan of the beauty of the mundane. Mod’s extravagant account of his favorite buzz cut does not disappoint.


To Be And To Last: Thinker Nate Desmond’s weekly roundup of long reads, contrarian thoughts, and hidden jewels that aren’t getting enough attention.

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