More Things: December 22, 2013
Put plainly, our brains think that acquiring new stuff will make us happy, but we’re not entirely sure why our brains work this way. I’m not, however, happy about the course of the word “hack.” I am not generally a bomb-thrower, but I wrote this piece in a deliberately provocative way. I’d never heard of the south Hamptons, and here the term was, charged with exotic meaning! I don’t know. “Don’t you have a little passage memorized?” I ask. “A little Shakespeare, maybe? ‘Oh, for a muse of fire,’ something like that?” I want my watch, glasses, toaster, light switches, thermostat, and door locks to use connectedness to make the world a better place–by reducing energy usage, decreasing waste, and improving my happiness and convenience. Put another way: While our designs are more sophisticated, they are, as ever, progressive enhancements on top of a story that must be able to survive without them. Lest my curmudgeonliness be mistaken for misanthropy, let’s be clear: There’s nothing wrong with happiness at work. Certainly the promise of continual human progress and improvement is alluring. But there is a danger there, too — that in this more perfect future, failure will become obsolete. My motivation to publish stories that reveal my ugliest moments has less to do with bravery than with bearing witness. Young women are often barred from feeling the easy pleasure that comes with reading and identifying with the classics. But we also benefit from a critical perspective on these books that many of our male peers don’t have. We don’t see ourselves in them, so we grow up challenging them.