A 52-year-old ex-Navy SEAL reflects on his first semester as a freshman at Yale

James Hatch is a former a Navy SEAL who has dealt with PTSD for nearly half of his 52 years of life. So it was kind of a big deal when he was accepted to Yale University this past fall as a college freshman. While the Fox News crowd may have been eagerly anticipating the meaty clickbait they could mine from the potential cultural clash of this Real American and those whiney radical college protestors, Hatch beat them to the punch by publishing his own reflection on his first semester. Spoiler alert: it's probably one of the most deeply humanistic things I've read in a long time.

As the younger students started to express their thoughts, the young woman (truly a unicorn of a human) used the word “safe space” and it hit me forcefully. I come from a place where when I hear that term, I roll my eyes into the back of my vacant skull and laugh from the bottom of my potbelly. This time, I was literally in shock. It hit me that what I thought a “safe space” meant, was not accurate. This young woman, the one who used the phrase, isn’t scared of anything. She is a life-force of goodness and strength. She doesn’t need anyone to provide a comfortable environment for her. What she meant by “safe space” was that she was happy to be in an environment where difficult subjects can be discussed openly, without the risk of disrespect or harsh judgment. This works both ways.

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Kindness and Wonder: Mr Rogers biography is a study in empathy and a deep, genuine love for children

History has been kind to Fred Rogers' legacy; the beloved children's entertainer does not have the intergenerational staying power of Sesame Street (thanks in large part to Rogers' relentless focus on making programming aimed exclusively at small children, without any pretense to entertaining their grownups), but touchstones like his Congressional testimony on public TV funding, his remarks after 9/11 and his look for the helpers speech continue to bring a smile and a tear to all who see them, whether for the first time or the five hundredth; Mr Rogers was exactly what he appeared to be, incredibly, and the riddle of how someone could be so sincere and loving has sent rumormongers off to the land of conspiracy looking for an answer. But the real Mr Rogers story -- as chronicled in Gavin Edwards' new book, Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever -- is both more mundane and more amazing than any outlandish story.

The nine rules of "Freddish": the positive, inclusive empathic language of Mr Rogers

From an excerpt from last year's The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, the rules of "Freddish" -- as Mr Rogers' crewmembers jokingly referred to the rigorous rules that Rogers used to revise his scripts to make them appropriate and useful for the preschoolers in his audience. Read the rest

20 year old advice on helping people with computers is still relevant today

Phil Agre's 1996 article "How to help someone use a computer" is full of eternal verities that hold up today: it starts with a section on putting yourself in the mindset of someone who's struggling with something you know how to do already ("Beginners face a language problem: they can't ask questions because they don't know what the words mean, they can't know what the words mean until they can successfully use the system, and they can't successfully use the system because they can't ask questions") and then moves on to practical tips for turning that empathy into successful advice ("Try not to ask yes-or-no questions. Nobody wants to look foolish, so their answer is likely to be a guess. 'Did you attach to the file server?' will get you less information than 'What did you do after you turned the computer on?'.") Read the rest

Amy Walker impersonates Trump to empathize with him

Amy Walker is well known for her celebrity impersonation and accent demonstration video. Here, she practices impersonating Trump as an exercise to better understand him. This video fascinated me. I love it when people experiment on their own nervous systems like this.

This is not a parody. It's an exercise in #CourageousCompassion. Empathy. To understand President Trump from the inside out, that I may know myself better - especially any part of me that I'd not identified with and projected onto him. To see all as equal. As one.

As Meryl Streep said, "We have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy."

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The narrative lottery at XOXO

Glenn Fleishman reports from Portland's beloved arts and technology festival, where a darker sense of mission and meaning took hold in the event's third year.