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Photo by Dave Lowe on Unsplash

One of the first people I met while living in New York was a funeral director named Michael Fengullo.

The Brooklyn-born, broad-shouldered, fifty-year-old man has made his living burying the dead for over three decades. The life-long Italian bachelor has helped thousands send off and put away their loved ones. When it comes to funerals, this typical, loud New Yorker has seen it all.

That was until the pandemic hit.

Mr. Fengullo’s world has been completely upended. Before the pandemic, Michael’s team usually took care of seven funerals per week. …

What we’re doing wrong and how to be authentically thankful

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Photo by Morvanic Lee on Unsplash

Amidst the pandemic, so many of us have been encouraged to express gratitude.

The belief is that this emotion properly resets our value system for the better, helps us understand what matters most, and powers us through dread. Gratitude promoters tell us that showing appreciation for what we have curtails our anxiety while distracting us from potential despair in the future.

Gratitude can also make us better social animals. Two psychologists at Northeastern University conducted a study among 150 people to see the impact of gratitude (i.e. appreciation for what they have and the practice of being thankful). Half were encouraged and assisted in being more grateful for over two years. …

Since the creation of this cohort, millennials have been perpetually scolded for their perceived unhealthy financial habits.

Critics argue that this group is an entitled bunch of constant pleasure-seekers who sacrifice long-term financial security for short-term luxuries. Many pile up debt by living in pricey cities with low paying jobs that have minimal upward mobility.

While the criticism may not always be valid, there is no doubt millennials are in a pinch. According to The Economist, those under 35 have, on average, just $35,000 in assets (far below the $100,000 most financial advisers suggest people should have by this age). Those born between 1981 and 1996 own 7% of all assets. This pales in comparison to the 26% of the pie baby boomers owned when they were of similar age. …

How to weed through dodgy data

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Image by CustomInk

Knowledge seeking these days can be a tumultuous task. An influx of propaganda, false stories, and proliferation of dumbed down news has made the search for truth harder than ever. A deeply polarized and charged election will likely amplify this problem.

The only way to wade through the barrage of bullshit peddled our way is to build a better internal mechanism to discern between legitimate and illegitimate sources of news, take in new information, and analyze information astutely.

Many have tried to build an optimal framework for proper decision making. In 1952, Isaiah Berlin’s essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Berlin divided people into two types of thinkers: the hedgehog, the individual who views the world through an individual lens, and foxes, those attempting to be more nuanced by drawing upon a wide variety of experiences. …

Hi friends,

Thank you for being a willing follower of my work. I have enjoyed hearing your comments and feedback. I have decided to make the switch to a newsletter…

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Amidst a pandemic with no end in sight, Trump’s obfuscation and viral fibs have prompted a number of liberals to call for the cancellation of the presidential debates. They argue that engaging with a pathological liar on national television amounts to an exercise in futility.

As enticing as the thought of not having to witness President Trump slobber all over our norms may sound, this prevailing belief is deeply misguided.

I’ve spent the past few weeks combing through the past eight debate cycles, which included Obama’s tussles with McCain and Romney, Al Gore’s lock box, Reagan’s annihilation of Mondale, (Bill) Clinton taking down the elder Bush, and Jimmy Carter standing quietly as Ford shoots himself in the foot. …

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“If the spirits are not aligned, then there is nothing I can do. I am only here to carry out God’s work.”

This, along with a number of other meme-friendly one-liners from Mumbai-based matchmaker Sima Taparia, has marked Indian Matchmaking as must-see quarantine TV.

Like a Whatsapp group chat with aunties, these eight episodes chronicling the romantic adventures of Indians set off a number of debate and questions:

Are harmful qualities like sexism, colorism, and caste bias still prevalent in Indian culture? If so, should they be chronicled? (Yes)

Are young Indian men and women just as tightly rigid and narrow in their search for a significant other as Americans? …

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Representative John Lewis, who passed away last Friday, will be remembered as a key figure and moral authority in the blood-drenched civil rights era when Black people were systematically deprived of their basic human rights.

Mr. Lewis left us a template to passionately disarm hate and take part in what this icon deemed ‘good trouble.’

As powerful as his legacy will be, there is so much more we can take away from his time on earth. Representative Lewis’ inspiring life was due to being a well-rounded figure. Outside his fight for racial equality, Mr. Lewis strived to be holistically enriching. …

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The first few years after my father died, I felt like I was slowly climbing out of a deep well. Despite an immense sense of trepidation about how to move forward, I believed the worst was behind me. No matter how cruel the future was, it would not hold a candle to those agonizing years. This tragedy would ultimately be a permanent springboard to brighter days. Through therapy and my first genuine hardship, I instilled a mental strength that was unshakeable. I felt like the poster child for resilience.

But years of more disappointment ensued. Myriad health issues, professional challenges, broken dreams, and the loss of other close friends demystified the fantasy that I was personally immune to despair. The notion I was capable of quickly rebounding was also divorced from reality. …

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During a December 2014 episode of the critically unacclaimed VH1 reality show, Love and Hip-Hop: New York, cast member Cisco Rosado, exhausted and finished with the actions of her love member, tells Diamond Strawberry during a fight, “You’re canceled.” Shortly after, a surge of social media members took up the ethos of Cisco, and “cancelling” people became a larger part of the internet lexicon.

Since then, ‘cancel culture’ — an uncoordinated effort to mute, shame, or indefinitely exile a public figure who has acted heinously or espoused offensive rhetoric — has become a common tactic to assign blame. Various comedians, actors, musicians, celebrity chefs, and politicians who committed language malfeasance have experienced attempts to nullify their cultural cache or to squash their careers. …


Shounak Bagchi

Founder of Honest Wednesdays and pragmatic optimist.

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