Welcome back to The Highlighter, and thank you for opening today’s issue! I’ve been hearing from many of you that you are enjoying how I’m experimenting with the format of the newsletter. One trend lately is that I’m paying closer attention to how articles talk to each other, trying to bring them to
Welcome back to The Highlighter, and thank you for opening today’s issue! I’ve been hearing from many of you that you are enjoying how I’m experimenting with the format of the newsletter. One trend lately is that I’m paying closer attention to how articles talk to each other, trying to bring them together when it makes sense. Today’s issue, which focuses on the theme of grief, includes four outstanding pieces that explore the various ways we come to terms with losing someone we love.
It’s hard to pick which article I’d urge you to read first. They’re all excellent. But I chose “One Family’s Struggle To Make Sense of 9/11” to lead this week’s issue because it’s a beautiful piece of writing. No matter how many articles you’ve read about 9/11, this one is different, and very powerful.
The rest of today’s newsletter is solid, too, with articles on grief as it intersects with artificial intelligence, social movements, and sibling relationships. Please enjoy!
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Bobby McIlvaine was 26 years old when he died on September 11, 2001. He had a mom and a dad, a brother, and a girlfriend he loved deeply. He kept a diary and wrote drafts of novels on yellow legal pads. He was a dreamer, a charmer – ambitious but moody, ruminative and philosophical.
In this tender story, brilliantly told, Jennifer Senior captures the different ways that Bobby’s loved ones have mourned and made sense of his death. As we know about grief, each person has made their own path. “We are always inventing and reinventing the dead,” Ms. Senior writes. But at some point, she adds, “The dead abandon you; then, with the passage of time, you abandon the dead.” (58 min)
Eight years after his fiancée Jessica died from a rare liver disease, 33-year-old Joshua Barbeau, still could not escape his anxiety and depression. The loss was too much to bear. So when he discovered Project December, a website that uses GPT-3 to manipulate human language, Joshua had to decide: Did he want to communicate with an A.I. version of Jessica, one that could replicate her style of speech, one that approximated her personality? Why, of course he did. (50 min)
Malkia Devich-Cyril: “Death is a natural part of every life cycle. Our bodies will die. Our organizations will die. Our movements will die. Likewise, the specific conditions that oppress our families and communities will also come to an end. Endings are not to blame. Loss is simply an element of change. Change is the heartbeat of social movement. But, on either side of change is loss. Reimagining the world requires that we release the parts of the system and ways of being that are ready to die, and mourn the destructive losses that we could not control, despite our best efforts. Something is dying, and we are desperate for something new to be born.” (14 min)
“It’s hard for me to admit that I didn’t really know my brother,” Marc Inman writes in this poignant essay. What begins as a playful account of growing up with a prevaricating older sibling grows darker as we learn about Jon’s mounting struggles of faith and sexuality and his capacity to inflict pain on his younger brother. Even still, Marc maintains empathy for Jon, hoping that they can rebuild their relationship – until it is too late. (22 min)
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