Away from convention

When we found out we’d be moving to Berlin, we shared a knowing smile and then headed straight for our bookshelves.

He started on one end and I on the other, scanning the shelves for anything that could be donated or stored without too much separation anxiety. The donation pile was a modest first attempt at thinning the collection, but anything, we figured, would help. I kept reminding myself of what it took to pack them all up in Boston and unpack them again here in Atlanta. Still, we exchanged helpless shrugs as miscellaneous paperbacks, most still with their “USED” stickers on the spines, were mercifully allowed to maintain their places on shelves that would soon be dismantled.

I made it to the center first, pouncing on a pair of matching copies of Augustine’s Confessions.

“We need two copies of this?” And as soon as I asked, I was certain we’d had this conversation before.

“Did you write in yours?”



And then I remembered how we’d managed to combine our libraries and still hold on to the duplicates. The secret was in the overlap—the way we’d been writing in the margins of the very same books before we met.

It’s that same delight in overlapping experience that brings me back to this dispatch each week. Each prompt is an invitation for connection, and over the course of the week, we gather up our stories to share with kind and curious folks from near and far. Each collection of responses is a celebration of different perspectives, and at the same time, a chance to discover how much we share in common. — Lisa


The latest dispatch asked, What is your wish for the last four months of 2013?

Sio wrote:

I wish for time. And unselfishness, in order not to use it up for myself.

Jenny wrote:

I wish to recover my natural rhythm at and outside work. Having just switched from a high-speed job to a much quieter and smaller workplace, I am a bit at loss at the moment. I am reminding myself it's a career change as well as a lifestyle change. Hopefully I will find my pace by the end of the year.

Brad wrote:

My wish is to see this wonderful community of people find a new home with the launch of the interactive adaptation of Uncommon in Common, the website. It may be a nascent version of its eventual self, but I hope to see this already great group of people assemble and share bits of the best that we have to offer one another.

Erin wrote:

We've just returned from a week-long camping trip. I feel a renewed sense of clarity and presence from my eight day technology cleanse. My hope for the coming months is to maintain the same presence, hold strong on my boundaries, and really invest—without distraction—in the people around me.

Sam wrote:

My wish and hope for the last months of September are simple… healthy babies and momma, and sleep. My wife is expecting twin girls in the next month, creating a three girls under the age of 2 environment. Yes, a gaggle of girls. My wish is for health and some semblance of sleep… the latter of which, I hear, will be scarce.

Susan wrote:

I wonder if I can have one wish for each month or is that being too wishful? September: At least one more end of summer, blowout, backyard, bar-b-que with the family. October: To be at our next grand-daughter's birth, to hold her and hug her, and see her come home with her family. November: To sit around our family table and thank God for His many blessings. December: World peace.

Patrick wrote:

Interestingly enough, 2013 has been a little slow business-wise. But the last four months are already jam-packed with photography gigs, art shows, and lots of trips and travels. So, I wish that they are all fulfilling and set me up to have an even more enjoyable 2014!

Ellie wrote:

Now that my kids have returned to school, my wish for the remainder of the year is to get a good start on the book I feel called to write. Since my story is one that will help others, it's becoming difficult holding it in any longer.

Stephen wrote:

As the Texas weather gets less oppressively hot, I'd like to revive the social bike rides that my friends and I began last year, seeking out Austin's most delicious new restaurants every Wednesday night. Our city is evolving rapidly -- gentrification, expansion, renovation -- and our rides explore this slow, steady evolution at the roots.

Mona wrote:

My wish for the last four months in 2013 is healing and nurturing. I'm healing from some recent intense life events and I know it's a long road so I'm not going to get down on myself when it feels progress is not happening. Through nurturing the people I love, I hope to build those relationships and also get back to opening up myself to others. I think the upcoming fall and winter seasons are the perfect backdrop for facilitating small gatherings filled with warm, satisfying meals. I can't wait.

Andrew wrote:

I'm a Junior in Undergrad now, and I'm back to class in two weeks. The plan is to finish some research I've started and present at a conference in November. Hopefully that works out. I'm taking 20 units this quarter and I'm an officer in two fledgling clubs. I'm also joining a D&D group that may or may not involve Vin Diesel (he was invited, but chances are slim). So life is weird, but I'm happy.

Joel wrote:

Get Mom and baby home safely.

Uncommon reads

It's Just a Cassette by Nick Sylvester:

Cassettes are my detox. A way for me to sidestep everything about music that isn’t music. To get back to the very basic propositions of why I make and listen to music in the first place.

It’s Not ‘Mess.’ It’s Creativity. by Kathleen Vohs:

Not long ago, two of my colleagues and I speculated that messiness, like tidiness, might serve a purpose. Since tidiness has been associated with upholding societal standards, we predicted that just being around tidiness would elicit a desire for convention. We also predicted the opposite: that being around messiness would lead people away from convention, in favor of new directions.

How Today's Computers Weaken Our Brain by Tim Wu:

What we need are machines that are built from the ground up purposely to minimize distraction and help us sustain attention for hard tasks. We need computers and devices that return to the project of human augmentation by taking the brain’s limits seriously, and helping us overcome them.

Why Cards are the Future of the Web by Paul Adams:

Cards are a great medium for communicating quick stories. Indeed the great (and terrible) films of our time are all storyboarded using a card like format. Each card representing a scene. Card, Card, Card. Telling the story. Think about flipping through printed photos, each photo telling it’s own little tale. When we travelled we sent back postcards.

Your turn

What could a new friend listen to, read, or watch to better understand you?