At the moment there’s only really one thing that makes me happy.
Breathe In (2013)
Accept your symptoms, don’t complain of them; immerse yourself in your suffering.
Eartha Kitt by Gordon Parks, New York 1952
The hardest thing to do when you go back underwater, is talk about what the sky was like.
Sometimes I look at people and make myself try and feel them as more than just a random person walking by. I imagine how deeply they’ve fallen in love, or how much heartbreak they’ve all been through.
Roger Federer, ambassador for Moet & Chandon champagne
I did not like to be touched, but it was a strange dislike. I did not like to be touched because I craved it too much. I wanted to be held very tight so I would not break. Even now, when people lean down to touch me, or hug me, or put a hand on my shoulder, I hold my breath. I turn my face. I want to cry.
Robert von Haug. 1857-1922. Ein Abschied. 1890.
Nick Dunne, you’re probably the most hated man in America right now. Did you kill your wife? - Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)
i’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
i’m gonna fly like a bird through the night
feel my tears as they dry
i’m gonna swing from the chandelier
but i’m holding on for dear life
won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
keep my glass full until morning light
'cause i'm just holding on for tonight
San Bernardino alle Ossa
San Bernardino alle Ossa is a church in Milan, northern Italy, best known for its ossuary, a small side chapel decorated with numerous human skulls and bones.
In 1210, when an adjacent cemetery ran out of space, a room was built to hold bones. A church was attached in 1269. Renovated in 1679, it was destroyed by a fire in 1712. A new bigger church was then attached to the older one and dedicated to Saint Bernardino of Siena.
The church’s origins date to 1145, when a hospital and a cemetery were built in front of the basilica of Santo Stefano Maggiore. In 1210 a chamber was built to house bones from the cemetery, next to which a church was built in 1269. It was restored for the first time in 1679 by Giovanni Andrea Biffi, who modified the façade and decorated the walls of the ossuary with human skulls and tibiae.
The church was destroyed in 1712; it was replaced by a new edifice designed by Carlo Giuseppe Merlo, featuring a central plan and larger size reflecting the increasing popularity of the ossuary. The new church, connected to the former one by an ambulatory, was entitled to St. Bernardino of Siena.
The façade was completed in 1776.
The interior has an octagonal plan, with Baroque-style decorations. The several chapels have paintings from the 16th-18th centuries.
The ossuary’s vault was frescoed in 1695 by Sebastiano Ricci with a Triumph of Souls and Flying Angels, while in the pendentives are portrayed the Holy Virgin, St. Ambrose, St. Sebastian and St. Bernardino of Siena. Niches and doors are decorated with bones, in Roccoco style.
In 1738 King John V of Portugal was so struck from the chapel, that had a very similar one built at Évora, near Lisbon.
Low-income people are often criticised for making ‘poor decisions’ in the eyes of observers who think they have a better understanding of how poor people should live their lives, prioritise their spending, and live within their own communities. Yet, these criticisms are often made with a lack of understanding about how income levels influence decisionmaking, and how certain habits can become ingrained even after years; if you have lived with insecurity at some point, you are likely to continue to retain habits that reflect the experience of financial insecurity, even if those habits are actually detrimental to saving money, developing more independence, and living securely.
The thing about being poor is that it requires a radically different approach to life, and one that often doesn’t involve a long-term view, because you can’t afford to take such a view. When poor people are criticised for ‘bad decisions,’ it’s often for things like not buying in bulk (the econopack problem rides again), not renting more affordable housing (yes, because people choose to live in expensive rentals), not buying things that are more expensive in the short term but pay off in the long term (‘why keep buying crappy $20 shoes when you could buy a $100 pair of long-lasting shoes?’). So many of these judgments involve how poor people use their money, and they betray a fundamental lack of understanding about some basic facts of being poor.
When you are poor, you do not have savings, money in reserve, or a safety cushion in your bank account. It’s not that you’re being cheap and refusing to buy those $100 shoes, it’s that you have $35 in your bank account until next pay day, and your child needs shoes today. You don’t have access to credit, and if you did and chose to put those better shoes on a credit card, you wouldn’t be able to pay them off anyway, because most of your next paycheque is already allocated to expenses like rent and utilities that must be paid immediately (and in some cases are overdue).
When you are poor, there is no safety net, and this is something many middle class people do not understand. They confuse broke and poor, and don’t understand the genuine difference between their way of life and that of others. Those who retain cushions of hundreds or thousands of dollars start getting nervous about ‘not having enough money’ when they still have more in their accounts than poor people make in a month—and while one might argue that savings and maintaining such cushions is an example of good financial planning and a good idea, it’s only accessible to people who make enough money to do it.
And who have trained themselves to have the habit of doing it. One of the facts of poverty is that you become accustomed to spending money when you have it, and it becomes hard to check your spending habits in the unlikely event you do start making more money; consequently, it becomes very hard to save money, or to use your funds on practical things. Thus, a poor person might buy something like a television instead of bulk foods for the pantry, attracting disdain from critics, simply because she wants a television, and she has the money. Next month, when her income fluctuates and an emergency eats up her extra cash, she’s right back where she started, but at least she still has that television (for now, until she’s forced to sell it to pay the water bill three months in the future).
Decision making is complicated when you’re poor, and you have a very different rubric for decisions that other members of society do. Being poor isn’t mysterious and noble, but it’s not the fault of people who are poor, either; and it’s not necessarily something that people can magic their way out of just by making ‘the right choices’ as deemed by other members of society.
Decision making while poor can involve being forced to choose between two important expenses with the knowledge that you can only cover one. Food or electricity? Rent or garbage bill? Water or phone? Copay for the doctor’s office or transit pass so you can get to work? Car insurance or parking tickets? While many people are familiar with constant demands on their finances, people in the middle classes can generally handle these needs routinely as they come up; pay it off, move forward, maybe shift the budget around a little to accommodate unexpected expenses. When you are poor, even five dollars more or less can make a huge difference in your life.
The role that poverty plays as a looming shadow in the lives of many people is often discounted. To be poor is to make decisions solely on the basis of money, sometimes in the active knowledge that they are bad decisions but that they are also the only choice; this raises questions about the nature of whether they are truly decisions, or could be more accurately termed forced sacrificial moves. And to have been poor is to fear poverty again, to attempt to pull yourself out of harmful set habits that you recognise, but don’t necessarily know how to address, because you’ve never known anything but finance-induced decision making.
Is the money there? Spend it, quickly, before it slips away. Address immediate needs as they arise, because everything is a right-now crisis, and try not to think about the future. If the car breaks down, hope that it’s an easy fix, because the thought of buying a new one is insurmountable right now. If you can’t fix it, buy another old clunker even though you know it’ll break down too, because it’s all you can afford. Or search for a new job that will let you take transit, and hope that you don’t end up short on bus fare at the end of the month in that awkward period when all the money’s gone out and nothing has come in yet.