A couple of hours later, people would begin rousing from this initial slumber. The night-time wakefulness usually lasted from around 23:00 to about 01:00, depending on what time they went to bed. It was not generally caused by noise or other disturbances in the night – and neither was it initiated by any kind of alarm (these were only invented in 1787, by an American man who – somewhat ironically – needed to wake up on time to sell clocks). Instead, the waking happened entirely naturally, just as it does in the morning. The period of wakefulness that followed was known as “the watch” – and it was a surprisingly useful window in which to get things done. “[The records] describe how people did just about anything and everything after they awakened from their first sleep,” says Ekirch.
For almost a century, Kuttiyamma’s daily routine had been much the same. Rising early at home in the village of Thiruvanchoor in Kerala, the 104-year-old would begin her day’s work of cooking, cleaning and feeding the cows and chickens. But now, every morning, there’s something new to get up for. She eagerly awaits the paperboy to deliver Malayala Manorama, the local newspaper.
Knight is now 83, and since founding Nike in 1964 he’s built a fortune worth about $60 billion. He’s hardly the only American billionaire to take advantage of lawful tax-avoidance tricks—filings show JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, Zoom Video Communications Inc. founder Eric Yuan, and many others employ such tools. The family of Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton pioneered one of the techniques Knight appears to have used. But because Nike is publicly traded and both Knight and his surviving son, Travis, play roles on the company’s board and must report their stock transactions, theirs is the rare case that can be examined in detail from public filings, exposing a process that’s usually shrouded in secrecy. Bloomberg Businessweek identified about $9.3 billion in Nike shares and other assets Knight has moved to his descendants, starting in 2009. The full total could be more.
Soaring property prices are forcing people all over the world to abandon all hope of owning a home. The fallout is shaking governments of all political persuasions. It’s a phenomenon given wings by the pandemic. And it’s not just buyers — rents are also soaring in many cities. The upshot is the perennial issue of housing costs has become one of acute housing inequality, and an entire generation is at risk of being left behind.
When you’re an immigrant coming from another country where you may be middle class or upper-middle class and privileged in many ways, you lose that status when you move to the US. All of that social capital that you and your family may have accumulated over the years, and that opened doors for you in your home country, that was your safety net — that no longer exists. No one in your new country knows what your background is. The new culture doesn’t know what to make of you. Back in India, my family was by no means wealthy, but we had a high social status because of education, because my parents had been to some of India’s top schools and colleges. That carried with it a real weight but was not acknowledged or known in the US.
They also missed their humming rituals. As the meetings moved online, two-thirds of the respondents said they wanted to explore new ways to create rough consensus. “We need to figure out how to ‘hum’ online,” said one member. So the IETF organisers experimented with holding online polls. But members complained that virtual polls were too crude and one-dimensional; they crave a more nuanced, three-dimensional way to judge the mood of their tribe. “The most important thing to me about a hum is some idea of how many people present hummed at all, or how loudly. Exact numbers don’t matter, proportionality does,” said one.
We are all guilty of this. Powerful forces are at work.
As Bittman notes, the calories have to go somewhere, and—thanks in no small part to the advertising industry, which attached itself to the food industry like a remora to a shark—they went inside us; we look the way we do because of the need for the Krafts and Heinzes of the world to keep their profit margins growing by finding new ways to get us to consume their limited line of basic commodities. “Global sugar consumption has nearly tripled in the past half-century,” he writes, and so has obesity; the number of people worldwide living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980. “Two thirds of the world’s population,” Bittman tells us, “lives in countries where more people die from diseases linked to being overweight than ones linked to being underweight.”
Despite how colloquial the term burnout has become, the concept originated in a strictly clinical setting. Coined in the 1970s by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, it referred to the consequences of severe stress and “high ideals” within the “helping professions” like medicine and social work. Among the medical community, however, burnout never quite became a serious issue, perhaps because there was no consensus as to how it should be measured, much less diagnosed. The Maslach Burnout Inventory, developed in 1981, was the most commonly used scale, but even then, it became the subject of considerable infighting among academics. In 2003, the researchers Philip Liu and David Van Liew complained that “the term burnout is used so frequently that it has lost much of its original meaning [and] now seems to have become an alternative word for depression but with a less serious significance.”
Technology has allowed us to become easily accessible. The problem is, more often than not, people feel entitled to our time and expect an immediate response. The key thing to remember is to maintain boundaries around your time. Just because you are accessible does not make you available. Don’t feel rushed to reply to the email or text, even if you have the read receipt option on. Minimize stress and anxiety by practicing mindfulness and enjoy whatever you were doing before that call, text, or email came through; especially if it is after work hours and the weekend. Do this often enough and others will learn to adjust accordingly.
I spent just 4 days in office in last 12 months before the lock-down again kicked in India. I miss the casual conversations.
And it’s not just work small talk that we’re missing out on. Chatting with strangers out in public can also prove valuable—though it’s now increasingly rare. Gillian Sandstrom, a psychologist at the University of Essex, conducted one study that found that, when people engaged more with a barista—smiling, making eye contact, conversing—they felt a greater sense of community belonging. In another, her data showed that, the more people mingled with acquaintances or strangers in a day, the better their mood and sense of connection. Sandstrom observed that, in a normal prepandemic day, people interacted with an average of eleven acquaintances; university students interacted with sixteen. But, now, talking with more than two or three people a day seems inconceivable.