Consecutive and Slow

There is a lot happening these days.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s likely signing into state law one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation both confounds and saddens. Game of Thrones comes to a predictably cold-comfort, power-corrupts end this Sunday after eight seasons. Somehow these disparate events–one all-too-real, the other fictional–seem weirdly, if not tangentially, related.

The bright spots in the news cycle seem superficial or just sad: Today is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day and the poet Emily Dickinson also died 133 years ago.

There is a lot to process if you pay even the slightest of attention, regardless of America’s beloved cookie and Massachusetts’ native daughter’s words: “Ruin is formal — Devil’s work / Consecutive and slow.”

So, as we mull the day’s news and our eventual downfall, let us also review some of the more surprising tidbits as we bide our time.

A listicle to keep us warm, you might say. A reminder that even when things look bleak, life does not always find a way, contrary to Jurassic Park, but life does overthrow oversimplified “truths.”

  • A team of scientists from Arizona State University, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the Center for Coastal Studies in Massachusetts and nine other learning institutions have revealed that even though humpback whales have a large percentage of body fat, they are not more likely to develop cancer. Peto’s Paradox, or the lack of correlation between body size and cancer, continues to build on researchers’ previous findings regarding lower cancer rates in elephants and dinosaurs. More research is needed to determine how cancer-suppressing phenotypes behave and how we might create or use whale-derived human cancer drugs in the future.
  • That Dickensian stereotype about Ebenezer Scrooge being a jerk may be founded in science. The Cut reported on the research of Sandra Matz, PhD, of Columbia Business School and lead author of a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Joe Gladstone, PhD, of University College London. In Matz and Gladstone’s 2018 study, they discovered that “agreeableness was associated with indicators of financial hardship, including lower savings, higher debt, and higher default rates,” Gladstone told the American Psychological Association. Thankfully, financial hardship does not have to be a foregone conclusion for those of us who are “agreeable;” however, income plays a protective role in preventing financial inequity. Yet, as Matz said to the APA, “Being kind and trusting has financial costs, especially for those who do not have the means to compensate for their personalities.” Super curious how this study plays out not just with personality traits such as “agreeableness,” which may also be related to gender, race, and other identifying variables.
  • Lastly, writer and memoirist Lacy M. Johnson, meditates on toxic masculinity and the bystander effect in her LitHub essay, “Is Masculinity a Terrorist Ideology?” This central question explores how “private” domestic abuse scenarios ultimately hinder and hurt the public good as much as what happens behind closed doors. Reading Johnson’s essay asks us to connect how violence perpetuates itself at home and in society. It is a worthy read and one that reminds all of us that taking a stand, whenever possible, is often necessary, our inherent placating thoughts be damned.