[Friday Flow #31] Fiction rules reality
Fiction, money, coughs
Hey, what’s up?
My stethoscope finally fell apart and I replaced it this week. I bought my old stethoscope in med school and it lasted me over 15 years. My last one was a plain black, so I decided to go a little more colourful with this one—a Littmann’s Classic III—and went with purple—this newsletter’s official colour. It came with free laser engraving, too, so I had ”Doc Ayomide” inscribed on it—can you see it in the image below?
The Littmann brand is like the Levi’s of stethoscopes: recognised, reliable and likely to last years. With luck, this one will last me another couple decades, maybe more. (And no wonder, too—they’re made by 3M!) There are much more sensitive steths, of course, but I’d need to spend at least £100 and more on top of what I paid for this and hey, I work in psychiatry, not cardiology—my job doesn’t involve trying to distinguish between heart murmurs.
Essay: Fiction makes reality rock
This week, I wrote about fiction. I read a ton of fiction, and I’ve wanted to write for a long time about why I think it matters. Here’s how the essay kicks off:
Every now and then I run into one of those misguided souls who think fiction is not serious reading. (They might be the same ones who think action films and video games aren't art.) I feel a bit of pity for them, because they don't know what they're missing. I mean, I can empathise with struggling to read, or to make time for reading. But that's not the issue with these poor souls who dismiss an entire category of reading.
And I'm very specifically referring to fiction, not just stories in general. I know people who will happily read biographies, but balk at fiction, often with some declaration along the lines of, "I just like real stuff."
I’m not writing primarily to convert such people, though. (And there are more of them in the wild than you might think.) Sure, I hope to get some of them to take a kinder view of fiction. I’ve even written a whole other essayto argue for words as being every bit as important as actions. But the more I’ve thought about why fiction matters, the more I’ve come to believe that even we who like fiction could use a reminder of why stories matter and what we gain from our investment in them.
Click the button to continue reading:
I linked to a number of previous essays in this week’s essay, so I won’t be sharing anyone from my archives this week. But I’ve lately come across two essays about money that are worth your time.
Why Asians Aren’t Drowning in Debt (But North Americans Are), by Roxine Kee, explores the difference between how Americans see money compared to Asians, but I resonated a lot with it as a Nigerian in the UK. Wherever you’re from I think you’ll find a lot here to think about. Roxine is a fellow writer at Compound Writing and fellow mentor in the upcoming cohort of Write of Passage. An excerpt:
You see, my parents have a different perception of wealth than the North American version. For the past 25 years, they drilled into me that wealth isn’t just about vacations. Or about having a certain amount of money in the bank. Or driving a Tesla just because you make enough money each month to pay it off.
They taught me that true wealth is about having the cash and the financial skills to pay off your credit statement in full each month, not just the minimum. Never just the minimum.
True wealth is about having a long-term plan for your financial status that hedges you and your loved ones from unforeseen circumstances — like a worldwide pandemic — and unsavoury people.
Finally, true wealth is about having peace of mind and freedom to prioritize the things in life that are the most valuable to you, whether that’s family, experiences, or — sure — driving a Tesla.
The second essay has the (to me, who hasn’t ever watched The Office) unassuming title of The Michael Scott Theory of Social Class, by Alex Danco. It turned out to be absolutely fascinating in how it explores US social classes as a function of 3 general ladders especially because I found it broadly applicable to the UK and Nigeria alike. It’s the kind of essay that gives language to stuff you instantly recognise but couldn’t name. Here’s an excerpt:
Climbing the labour ladder means making more money. At the bottom are really tough jobs, typically paid hourly, informally, or with tips. Above that there are stable, but modest blue collar jobs; then high-skilled or good Union-protected careers. Finally at the top you find “Labour leadership”, which doesn’t mean being a union boss, but means, “You’ve made it. You own stuff. You drive a new F-150, you have income properties, you enjoy nice things.”…
The Elite ladder has a lot in common with the Labour ladder: it’s straightforward. You move up by getting more money and more power. The only fundamental difference is that you climb the Labour ladder by working hard, whereas you climb the Elite ladder by acquiring leverage.…
The middle ladder works completely differently from the other two. This ladder isn’t about money or power; it’s about being interesting. You climb this ladder by being more educated, and towards the top, by having costly habits and virtues.
You might want to save both to Pocket or Instapaper, so you can highlight them to your heart’s content—just don’t abandon them there. Thank me later.
Proverb: Cough, cough
In this week’s essay, I noted that stories help us empathise with one another, this week’s proverb is about the universal nature of pain:
Languages differ, but coughs are the same.
In this time of COVID, that proverb takes on newly literal meaning, doesn't it?