2021
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Monitor Daily Podcast

November 15, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

Why we’re going deeper on difference-makers

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Monitor journalists get to do a lot of listening. We take in all that we can; then the work is about gathering perspectives and layering context, telling stories accurately and with compassion.

Readers and listeners can also find opportunities to hear stories straight from sources. Here’s one: Today we’re launching the eight-part audio series that I previewed in this space last month while outlining our latest forays into audio. (Note to those of you who have emailed me since then: Don’t worry, more Monitor recording does not mean less Monitor writing!)

People Making a Difference has been a Monitor staple since our print newspaper days. Our new effort is a highly listenable extension of that popular franchise. It’s a podcast hosted by Dave Scott, our engagement editor. 

Dave goes deep with difference-makers, allowing them to describe their epiphanies and origin stories, to unspool anecdotes, to open up about triumphs and tripwires and the joy of having agency. In some cases these interviews are deeply supplemental to Monitor stories you might already have read. Others are fresh introductions.

“We really hope this opens a new window for readers,” Dave says. “We hope it gives them the opportunity to hear what we are privileged to hear, and be moved by the power of hearing directly from an inspiring individual.”

In today’s episode we take you back to Madison, Wisconsin, where a difference-maker we first wrote about in June uses old sewing machines to mend lives worldwide. Her work has unfolded in a magnificent way. It highlights empathy and generosity.

Immerse yourself in our full eight-part season and you’ll be taken as far as Uganda, where a returning son has built a city around services. Happy listening.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

A deeper look

Can the US still build – and think – big? The Lowcountry may hold clues.

Our writer carves off a key piece of the sprawling story of U.S. infrastructure: Will the president’s signature bill spur the regional compromise and cooperation needed to finally advance big projects?

Stephen B. Morton/AP
The container ship CMA CGM Laperouse (left) docks at the Port of Savannah in Georgia Sept. 29, 2021. The infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed into law Monday could expand shipping capacity in Georgia and South Carolina.

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Fifteen years ago, South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis had an epiphany. He realized that a massive pile of river dredge in a crook of the Savannah River could become a cornerstone of the state’s economy. A $5 billion project called the Jasper Ocean Terminal was born.

And then it stalled, mired in bureaucracy and regional competition. Now, with kinks in the supply chain that have shipping containers stacked like Legos at U.S. ports, the Jasper Ocean Terminal may move forward – if neighbors Georgia and South Carolina can cooperate.

On Monday, President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill designed to unlock supply chain capacity and bring jobs to places like Jasper County, one of South Carolina’s poorest.

It is a promise of short- and long-term investments, experts say, hewn in steel and welding rods, bulldozers, and routers.

But Mr. Biden’s ambitious outlook also tugs at deeper American questions, including the country’s capacity to think, dream, and do big. It won’t be easy in today’s toxic political climate.

Whether federal dollars can help break planning logjams, infrastructure experts say, will be a longer-term test for a new direction for American priorities.

“‘Why do we need infrastructure?’ is a fundamental question we should be asking,” says Manish Shirgaokar at the University of Colorado Denver.

Can the US still build – and think – big? The Lowcountry may hold clues.

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Given the towers of shipping containers stacked like giant Lego blocks at the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal, President Joe Biden’s signature on a historic infrastructure spending bill Monday comes just in time for Christmas.

The port has nearly run out of room, meaning that more than two dozen ships are at times anchored offshore. It’s a snapshot of a pandemic economy: Supply chains are crimped, prices are up, and containers sit, jimmied by five-story forklifts into every available cranny.

President Biden’s signature opens a funding stream to let the Georgia Port Authority secure five “pop-up container yards” to alleviate the crush. That means that the flow of goods could be improved by the time the holiday caroling starts.

To be sure Mr. Biden, his approval rating struggling, is thinking bigger than presents under the tree. The president a few weeks ago said that the new $1.2 trillion spending package would be “unlike anything we have seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.” 

It is a promise of short- and long-term investments, experts say, hewn in steel and welding rods, bulldozers, and routers. 

But Mr. Biden’s ambitious outlook also tugs at deeper American questions, including the country’s capacity to think, dream, and do big. It won’t be easy in today’s toxic political climate. 

Just down the river from Garden City, in South Carolina’s Jasper County, plans for a long-delayed 1,500-acre port terminal may hang in the balance. 

Whether federal dollars can help break logjams, infrastructure experts say, will be a longer-term test for what is decidedly a new direction for American priorities – not just higher wages and more jobs, but more equitable economic benefits along lines of class, race, and gender.

The bill shows “the value in political actors working together for the benefit of the region, because it makes a lot less difference to individuals whether it happens on one side of a state border or not, as long as there’s a benefit that comes to my side,” says Joseph Schofer, a civil engineering professor emeritus at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. 

The White House has said a combination of spending and tax credits would result in 20,000 miles of rebuilt roads, fixes to the country’s 10 most economically important bridges and up to 10,000 smaller ones, the removal of lead pipes from municipal water systems, and myriad other plans aimed at creating millions of jobs. Those jobs, Democrats say, should ease opportunity gaps for marginalized Americans and bolster the country’s economic strength heading into the future. 

Can $1 trillion make up for 50 years of decline?

But despite the measure’s trillion-dollar price tag, some infrastructure experts balk at calling it transformative. 

That’s because U.S. infrastructure spending – uniquely among large developed nations – began a “monotonic decline” 50 years ago, according to a September paper by Yale University economist Ray Fair. A return to the mean spending up to that point would require about $2.4 trillion in new spending. (The U.S. Treasury is set to spend $550 billion in new dollars. The rest of the infrastructure funds comes from redirecting unused pandemic money and already planned spending.)

The findings “suggest that the United States became less ... concerned with future generations, beginning around 1970,” writes Professor Fair. “The question [of why the U.S. curtailed spending for its future] is probably too big, but the fact is fascinating.”

Perhaps some clues can be gleaned from the polarized politics of the moment – and whether a shift toward a more common national purpose rooted in economic and social fairness is really afoot.

Patrik Jonsson/The Christian Science Monitor
Two fathers converse during a U-16 soccer game in Hardeeville, South Carolina, on Nov. 14, 2021. A recently built sports complex in the struggling timber town has made it a center for travel leagues. It is part of a bigger infrastructure play in the state that has pushed median wages up by $10,000 in about a decade.

The process of lawmakers bringing federal dollars back to their home states has been a bipartisan tradition in the U.S. And while GOP representatives have gotten death threats for voting in favor of bridges, roads, and jobs, the infrastructure bill passed with support from both parties.

“This bill was crafted in the Senate, 19 Republicans voted for it, I was one of them, I think it was good for the country, and I’m glad it passed,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told WHAS radio in Louisville, Kentucky.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also voted for the bill. On the other side of the Savannah River, GOP Rep. Buddy Carter, who represents coastal Georgia, voted no, but last week applauded its provisions for the Port of Savannah.

Plans for Jasper County

Long one of the nation’s poorest states, solidly red South Carolina has seen annual median wages grow by more than $10,000 since 2014, outpacing most other states. It has successfully wooed marquee companies like BMW, Volvo, and Boeing. To be sure, climate and geography play a role. Also key has been a solid technical college system, says Joseph Von Nessen, an economist at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. But the willingness to say yes to federal infrastructure dollars is part of a broader focus on advanced manufacturing.

In and around Jasper County, suburban developments are rising out of the bottomlands. Yankees and Midwesterners are coming in droves to live and work among the live oaks. 

Hardeeville, South Carolina, has long been a struggling timber town. Today, in the middle of rumbling lumber tucks and thrumming freight trains, there is a brand-new sports complex that hosts some of the most competitive U-16 girls travel teams in the country. With them come parents and families and their dining and shopping purchases.

Those glimmers of opportunity underscore support for more federal infrastructure dollars.

“Now is a time to focus on ways to enhance infrastructure to be able to capture that demand,” says Dr. Von Nessen. “There are a lot of aligned incentives.” 

Unlike President Barack Obama’s infrastructure package, designed to alleviate economic pain from the Great Recession, Mr. Biden’s bill won’t solely focus on so-called shovel-ready projects. Over eight years, it will release some $42 billion toward ports and airports in a bid toward building for the future. 

Fifteen years ago, state Sen. Tom Davis, who represents the Lowcountry town of Beaufort, South Carolina, had an epiphany. He realized that a massive pile of river dredge in a crook of the Savannah River could become a cornerstone of the state’s economy. A $5 billion project called the Jasper Ocean Terminal was born.

But early enthusiasm for the project ran headlong into plans for growth at the Port of Charleston, two hours to the north. Longtime rivals Georgia and South Carolina couldn’t meet in the middle. Where would the money come from? Who would get the revenues? Lawsuits came and went.

Consequently, the plan got stuck in marsh mud. In January, after years of lawsuits, the South Carolina Port Authority washed its hands of the Jasper terminal. Now it is up to the Georgia Port Authority whether it wants to partner with Jasper County. 

Patrik Jonsson/The Christian Science Monitor
Retiree Rich Rodman repairs his American flag fixture after bumping it off with his riding lawn mower on Nov. 14, 2021, in rural Jasper County, South Carolina. A political independent, Mr. Rodman "100%" supports the bipartisan infrastructure bill. But he worries that history will repeat: that benefits will go to the rich areas and poor counties like his will remain poor.

Whether the potential for new funding will reawaken negotiations has become a sudden and serious issue, with huge implications for the Lowcountry’s future.

“They could have built this thing 15 years ago. But you’re dealing with money, you’re dealing with thoughts, you’re dealing with competition,” says John Kemp, a Republican county council member in Jasper County. 

At the same time, he says, “this is where you say the iron is hot, because everybody is thinking about new ports and new infrastructure. There’s a lot of pressure to bring us into the 21st century. Everybody looks to the port. At least up to this point, everybody wants to win and nobody wants to compromise. But that’s what government does: compromise.”

Rich Rodman, who retired to a corner of rural Jasper County a few years ago, thinks about infrastructure almost every day.

There’s the road to his house that took 10 years for the county to pave. There are the clogged drain pipes that cause the neighborhood behind his house to flood with just about every big storm.

“It’s like they don’t care about the people,” he says. He’s all for spending money on a new port and roads to get to it.

While Beaufort booms just to the north, and Savannah, Georgia, bustles just to the south, Mr. Rodman says it feels “like here in Jasper County we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

An incentive to move faster

Even when big projects are greenlighted, arduous permitting processes gum up the works. The result is that the U.S., a country that once had dreams that seemed to have no bounds – think the 1969 moonshot – got bogged down in committee. 

“Projects that require collaboration end up with people sitting at a long table and pushing responsibility for hard stuff across to the guys on the other side,” says Professor Schofer at Northwestern. “What may make this different – I hope will make it different – is now there’s a big pot of money sitting on that table. That sort of ... reduces the scale of that critical obstacle.” 

It also means, he says, that “everybody in this game right now has a motivation to move quickly.”

On paper, infrastructure improvements are simply a way to streamline utilities and make it more efficient to move goods and services from factories and farms to consumers, whether in Dubuque or Dubai. 

But social justice upheaval, stubborn opportunity gaps, and growing awareness of how big infrastructure movements like urban renewal have in fact marginalized some Americans may change the equation, says Manish Shirgaokar, a planning professor at the University of Colorado Denver.

“‘Why do we need infrastructure?’ is a fundamental question we should be asking,” says Mr. Shirgaokar. 

“We finally have money to build this out, but where is really the demand? What’s the nature of the demand? [It lets us] ... think really about, how do we connect people to opportunity? The lesson from the past is that we have to have humility.” 

COP26 scorecard: Summit leaves the heavy lifting for later

The results of COP26 were underwhelming, reflecting the difficulties the world faces today when nations are called on to pull together. Still, there were momentum boosters on the sidelines.

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The COP26 climate summit that ended over the weekend will likely be remembered for its setbacks as much as for its successes in charting humanity’s course to avert catastrophic planetary warming later this century.

The negotiations yielded little that moved the world on from the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement; this weekend’s Glasgow Agreement called on governments to set more ambitious targets for decarbonizing their economies next year.

But on the sidelines of the conference, governments, businesses, and banks did launch a flurry of green initiatives – to cut emissions of methane, for example, combat deforestation, and focus investments more on climate-friendly projects.

These sorts of pledges “can boost momentum,” says Harjeet Singh of the Climate Action Network, even though he feels that “COP26 failed to respond to the urgency of acting on climate change.”

United Nations chief António Guterres was disappointed with the summit’s results too. In the end, he said, they simply reflected “the interests, the contradictions, and the state of political will in the world today.”

COP26 scorecard: Summit leaves the heavy lifting for later

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Yves Herman/Reuters
Delegates – including representatives of member states and observer organizations – gather during the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 13, 2021. COP26 is the third meeting of the parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The United Nations climate change conference known as COP26 will likely be remembered for its setbacks as much as for its successes in charting a course for humanity to avert catastrophic planetary warming later this century.

A tussle over the compromise deal reached Saturday night in Glasgow was often bitter; it left representatives from some poor and vulnerable countries seething at the intransigence shown by richer countries on issues like compensation for the ravages of an unstable climate. An eleventh-hour dust-up about the future of coal only added to the disquiet.

Regretting that more had not been achieved, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledged that the final agreement “reflects the interests, the contradictions, and the state of political will in the world today.”

But COP26 was also noteworthy for an unprecedented flurry of green initiatives on the sidelines of the main negotiations in a city once synonymous with heavy industry and pollution.

Pledges by governments, companies, and banks to cut emissions of methane, combat deforestation, move away from coal, and make greener investments offered potential models to build on; if they are indeed met, they should help to slow atmospheric warming. More countries also set 2050 as their target date to achieve net-zero carbon, meaning that any emissions after that date would be offset by technology. 

Alastair Grant/AP
Climate activists hold a demonstration through the venue of the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 12, 2021. Negotiators from almost 200 nations were making a fresh push to reach agreements that would allow them to call this year's U.N. climate talks a success, and then added an extra day of talks.

 

Climate activists remain wary of headline-grabbing promises made outside the consensus-based U.N. process, which actually monitors actions. And some of the announcements at COP26 depend on progress on the very issues that bedeviled official negotiations, such as climate finance for adaptation. But their galvanizing effect on countries that are forging coalitions to clean up industry is positive, say analysts. 

The pledges were “a complement to, not a replacement for, multilateral negotiations,” says Bob Ward, director of policy at the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.

These sideline initiatives could prove helpful in lighting a path forward for countries that, under the Glasgow Agreement, will be asked again next year to set more ambitious targets for decarbonizing their economies, says Mr. Ward. Voluntary national pledges “are a floor to people to act. Once they start taking actions, they realize that they’re not as difficult or expensive as they seem.”

Yet as climate scientists pored over the promises made in Glasgow, doubts remain over whether the United States, the second largest emitter after China, will follow through. President Joe Biden came to COP26 promising decisive action while engaged in a drawn-out fight at home over passing legislation to support his climate agenda.

“For America to regain the trust of the world on climate, and persuade others to follow its lead, President Biden and Congress must build on the important, but initial, down payment in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and show that we are serious about delivering on our commitments,” Nathaniel Keohane, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a U.S. think tank, said in a statement.

Negotiations bog down

As host of the climate conference, the U.K. government had lined up major announcements in the first week of talks. These included a methane-reduction pledge by over 100 countries that the U.S. and European Union spearheaded, designed to cut emissions of the potent heat-trapping gas by 30% by 2030.

But the U.S. did not sign on to a U.K.-led statement by more than 40 countries promising to stop building new coal-fired power plants and phase out coal-fired electricity generation over the next few decades, with developing countries afforded a slower transition. A separate agreement would channel aid from the U.S. and European countries to South Africa’s electricity sector so it could replace polluting coal plants with renewable sources.

Daniel Leal/Reuters
Alok Sharma, Britain's president for COP26 and Conservative cabinet minister (left lectern), and Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) hold a news conference following the the U.N. Climate Change Conference inside the Downing Street briefing room in central London, Nov. 14, 2021.

Another deal was announced on cooperation to halt the destruction of forests and peatlands that store vast amounts of carbon. Brazil and Indonesia were among the signatories, and rich countries pledged money to tackle wildfires and support Indigenous communities. Critics, though, pointed to similar initiatives at previous climate summits that failed to stop deforestation.

“You get these promises over and over again. But emissions are still going up,” says Kevin Conrad, a negotiator for Papua New Guinea.

By the second week, the COP26 negotiations had bogged down in disputes over emissions trading, climate finance, and the world’s failure to cut carbon emissions sufficiently to keep global warming this century to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Dueling texts with language changes passed between negotiating rooms, dragging the talks into an extra day.

Delegates eventually agreed on a road map for implementing the 2015 Paris accord, one that both reflects the increased certainty among scientists of the dire risk of overshooting 1.5 degrees and focuses on the main human activity that raises that risk: the burning of fossil fuels.

For the first time, a U.N. climate agreement called upon governments to “phase down” coal power and subsidies for fossil fuels. The language watered down earlier drafts after India and China balked at a call to “phase out” coal, on which their growing economies currently depend. But it marks a break with past reluctance to single out an industry that wields vast economic and political power, including in the U.S.

Rich countries also agreed to raise more climate finance and to direct a larger proportion toward helping developing countries adapt to a hotter world. They had broken their 2009 promise to provide $100 billion a year in loans and grants by 2020, as the agreement acknowledges, and a new target date was set for 2023.

Some failures, some “boosters”

But repeated demands by countries such as Bangladesh for compensation from the largest historic carbon emitters – a form of reparations – ran into stiff resistance, including from the U.S. Little progress was made on how this might work or how to assess any liabilities.

This represents a failure at a conference that paid repeated lip service to equity and justice but left hard-hit communities with nowhere to turn, says Harjeet Singh, senior adviser to Climate Action Network International, a campaign group. “COP26 failed to respond to the urgency of acting on climate change and helping people rebuild their ravaged homes and farms,” he complains.

Other activists slammed the Glasgow Agreement as a sellout to oil companies and others who profit from business as usual. “What we have witnessed here is another trade show for corporate and government schemes to evade real solutions that reduce emissions at the source, while they resist winding down fossil fuels,” Adrien Salazar, policy director of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, said in a statement.

Still, Mr. Singh said that while some of the sideline announcements in Glasgow lacked teeth, others seemed encouraging, including an initiative led by Denmark and Costa Rica to phase out oil and gas production. “I would call these boosters. They can boost momentum,” he says.

The challenge will be to turn these boosters, and the formal COP26 agreement, into action at a pace that reflects the urgency of the crisis.

The Earth can take current CO2 emission rates for only about another 10 years before the 1.5 degrees target becomes impossible to meet. Blowing out our carbon budget would both exacerbate future warming and make the pathway to zero emissions even steeper, climate scientists warn.

The Glasgow Agreement expressed “alarm and utmost concern” that every region was already seeing the impacts of 1.1 degrees of warming as a result of human activities, adding that “carbon budgets consistent with achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goal are now small and being rapidly depleted.”

The world has a hard road ahead, Mr. Guterres warned the conference. “Success or failure is not an act of nature. It’s in our hands,” he said in a videotaped closing statement. But, he added, “the path of progress is not always a straight line.”

All work, no play? Chinese millennials opt to ‘lie flat’ instead.

Hard work is a pillar of China’s value system. But youths there are now questioning the premium put on industriousness, and rethinking – in a nuanced way – how success is defined.

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Competition in China is so legendary it has a name. China’s “996” work culture refers to the expectation that employees work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. But in recent months, resistance to China’s ultracompetitive culture has surged among young people across social media, centered around online calls for people to “lie flat” or tangping and do the minimum. 

The phenomenon has caught the attention of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has moved aggressively in recent months to lessen the pressures on young people by limiting homework, banning for-profit cram schools, bolstering worker protections, and curbing runaway housing prices. But the pushback may be deeper than any simple policy can address.

Increasingly, burned-out millennials are questioning why they are living the way they do, experts say. “People know this is not what life is about,” says Xiang Biao, professor of social anthropology at the University of Oxford, “and yet they cannot find a way out.”

All work, no play? Chinese millennials opt to ‘lie flat’ instead.

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Koki Kataoka/Reuters
Workers at China's biggest retailer, JD.com Inc. in Beijing, on Nov. 9, 2021, prepare for Singles' Day, known as the largest shopping day in the world. A culture of competition and a typical schedule of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, is leading to a reexamination of those values by younger workers.

From his gleaming advertising office in China’s southern city of Guangzhou, Cao Sheng reflects on reaching a peak in his profession – and his Sisyphean battle to stay there.

An account director handling ads for big auto companies, Mr. Cao wistfully recalls earlier years of easy profits and weekends off, when he enjoyed jogging and swimming. Today, with a slew of new competition and young talent flooding the industry, his team toils ever longer hours to eke out a small return.

“We are so tired,” says Mr. Cao, speaking by phone from his office around midnight. “It’s a kind of involution,” he says, using the popular Chinese term neijuan to describe the feeling of being stuck on an accelerating treadmill going nowhere.

“I want to escape,” he admits, withholding his real first name to protect his identity.

He’s far from alone in wanting to push that off button. In China today, especially among urban millennials and members of Generation Z, unease is growing over the intense stress and extreme competition of daily life. They call this “involution,” which literally means to coil tightly inward, like the whorls on a shell. It is leading to widespread commiserating, from office suites to university cafeterias to chat rooms – and prompting a backlash.

In recent months, resistance to China’s ultracompetitive culture has surged among young people across social media, centered around online calls for people to “lie flat” or tangping and do the minimum. Other youth are experimenting with alternative lifestyles, such as co-living communities that are springing up around the country, for a more tolerant, laid-back existence – pushing boundaries of what’s socially acceptable in this industrious nation.

Increasingly, burned-out millennials are questioning why they are living this way, experts say. “People know this is not what life is about,” says Xiang Biao, professor of social anthropology at the University of Oxford, “and yet they cannot find a way out.”

No 9-to-5 hours here

Competition in China is so legendary it has a name. China’s “996” work culture refers to the expectation that employees work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. China’s labor law holds that workers who put in more than 44 hours a week should be paid overtime, but enforcement has been lacking.

The pressure starts as early as kindergarten, as children are groomed by their parents to compete for high scores in university entrance exams. The stress contributes to mental health concerns, with a quarter of Chinese adolescents experiencing depression, according to a national mental health report for 2019-2020 cited by the official China Youth Daily.

Unlike their parents’ generation, today’s younger Chinese workers feel their long hours aren’t paying off in terms of higher living standards, especially amid slowing economic growth. “My parents ‘tasted bitterness’ and so do we,” says Mr. Cao, using a Chinese expression for hard work. “But we don’t make any money!”

That’s why a young Chinese man in shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and a baseball cap recently drew attention online. He lies on a couch strumming his guitar and singing about the joys of a life of leisure. “Overworked 996. Hair is gone. Lying flat is the antidote,” croons the office worker-turned-musician, in a video posted under the moniker Zhang Busan. “It’s nice to lie flat; it’s wonderful to lie flat.”

“Lying flat” resonates with many on social media. “All efforts are in vain. Lying flat is the right way,” reads one typical post on the popular social media platform Sina Weibo.

The phenomenon has caught the attention of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has moved aggressively in recent months to lessen the pressures on young people by limiting homework, banning for-profit cram schools, bolstering worker protections, and curbing runaway housing prices.

These steps are part of a broad regulatory campaign aimed at reining in big Chinese private companies – both to curb capitalist excesses and consolidate Mr. Xi’s and the Communist Party’s grip on power. The young people’s complaints about overwork have helped legitimize Mr. Xi’s crackdown, experts say.

“The government needs a new alliance to control these larger corporations’ powers,” says Professor Xiang.

China must avoid both “involution” and “lying flat” as it makes a broad push for “common prosperity,” Mr. Xi stated in a speech published late last month. He said China should “create opportunities for more people to get rich,” but also stressed that hard work was essential and key to a happy life.

Indeed, the government appears nervous about the possibility young people will opt out of the workforce, as China’s rapidly aging population creates an urgent need for more workers. Censors have banned some social media posts praising “lying flat,” including the Zhang Busan song.

Some Chinese corporate leaders have rallied behind Mr. Xi, both by accepting new regulations aimed at reducing pressure on students and workers, and by joining his call for youth to avoid “lying flat.”

“I advise my ‘lying flat’ friends to get up once more and courageously … keep going,” said Yu Minhong, a billionaire and founder of New Oriental Education and Technology Group Inc., in a video posted online this month. The company was hit especially hard by Mr. Xi’s crackdown on for-profit tutoring.

But for many young people, experimenting with a more laid back existence holds strong appeal.   

The search for balance

Jiahong, a graduate student in electrical engineering at the South China University of Technology, is pondering his future and how to maintain a work-life balance. It’s not easy, he admits.

Andy Wong/AP
Students receive flowers from relatives at the end of China's national college entrance examinations, known as the "gaokao," in Beijing, June 10, 2021. Millions of students take part in the high-stakes annual exam.

“I am a relatively ‘lying flat’ person,” he says, asking to withhold his last name for his privacy. “I have a lot of hobbies in my spare time. My classmates spend the vast majority of time studying or doing research.”

Teaching himself computer programming in his free time, he’s applying for jobs at big tech firms such as telecommunications giant Huawei. But he says he avoids what he considers senseless competition, such as writing a 30-page paper when his teacher only asks for five pages.

He also makes time to perform as a standup comedian. “I’m not very great. I am just an amateur,” he says.

Jiahong’s main concern? “If I join a company like Huawei, my own personal time will be squeezed a lot. I won’t be able to control my spare time anymore.”

While such balancing acts may work for some, a more fundamental solution to easing China’s social pressure lies in greater diversity, says Professor Xiang.

After China’s 1949 communist revolution, China developed a strong streak of egalitarianism under Mao Zedong. In contrast with more stratified societies such as India and Brazil, people in China believe they have more opportunities to advance. Yet China’s homogeneity also means people conform to a narrow definition of success, he says.

“You have this very standard criteria for judging people: You must get married. You must have a car. You must have three-bedroom apartments in cities. So everyone’s life goals are very homogeneous,” says Professor Xiang. “It basically means the entire Chinese population is fighting for the same thing.”

What is needed, he says, is “a diversity of life choices.”

The search for community

When Mr. Ren, a tech worker, returned to his hometown in China’s eastern city of Jinan from travels abroad last year, it was not the high-rises and concrete that alienated him, but what felt like programmed conversations with his friends.

“They are all talking about the same thing. ‘OK, I have a nice car. I am getting a nice house,’” says Mr. Ren, who asked to withhold his first name for his privacy.

Mr. Ren didn’t want to “lie flat” – but he wanted to be in a place where he and others could be themselves. After some research, in November 2020 he moved into a small youth community in Dali, a picturesque, lakeside city in southern Yunnan province with a reputation for attracting free spirits.

There, Mr. Ren joined a small subset of other Chinese in their 20s and 30s who are experimenting more boldly with alternative lifestyles that, if allowed to flourish, could lead to greater diversity.

“People are quite chill here, and a lot of people live in the moment,” he says in a video call from Dali. “No one really cares about who you are or your status, or if you work today or not.”

Mr. Ren says Dali’s diverse tribes include New Age believers, hippies, artists, hikers, and digital nomads like himself.

Living on his savings currently, Mr. Ren usually rises midmorning and takes a walk around the community to greet people. He spends much of the day reading or writing in a cafe.

“We talk about interesting stuff,” he says. “We are trying to go back to the natural state of humans just being humans, connecting with people, finding people we trust.”

Worker shortages: Is access to child care a key solution?

Matching parents with child care is an idea that some groups serving the trades are using to woo women to their ranks. Advocates wonder if that approach could also work for other U.S. industries facing labor shortages.

Courtesy of Moore Community House
Participants in the Women in Construction program run by Moore Community House in Biloxi, Mississippi, train to work in the skilled trades in August. WinC pays for six months of child care for enrolled mothers, and has graduated more than 700 women since it began in 2008.

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Brianna Crusoe, a mother from D’Iberville, Mississippi, set her sights on being an electrician after a union leader visited the Women in Construction initiative she was attending. The program offered her child care for six months while she trained and entered the profession. 

“They know how it is a struggle to have a child and work without child care,” she says about WinC, which she graduated from in 2018. She’s now an electrical apprentice who appreciates having a 401(k) and health insurance.

As employers try to get a grasp on labor shortages, child care is an important piece of the puzzle. Within the skilled trades, open jobs and an aging workforce have prompted some groups, pre-pandemic and now, to focus on recruiting women and assisting with child care. Organizers say such initiatives are vital, but difficult and expensive to run. They welcome federal assistance if the Biden administration’s Build Back Better provisions are passed. But even without that funding, the growing emphasis on child care suggests that the trades, like other industries, are trying to fill open jobs by wooing and supporting workers who are parents.  

“I love what I do,” says Ms. Crusoe. “It feels good to tell someone I have the experience to fix electricity.”

Worker shortages: Is access to child care a key solution?

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Brianna Crusoe no longer frets about how she’ll provide for herself and her two young children after moving from a low-paying casino job into a union electrical apprenticeship with a strong salary and benefits.

Ms. Crusoe, from D’Iberville, Mississippi, is a graduate of the Women in Construction (WinC) program sponsored by the nonprofit Moore Community House, which paid for six months of child care while she trained and entered a skilled trade.

“They know how it is a struggle to have a child and work without child care,” says Ms. Crusoe, about WinC, which she graduated from in 2018. She’s now an electrical apprentice who appreciates having a 401(k), health insurance, and a job with above-state-average wages.

Around the United States, other trade groups are emulating programs like WinC as they try to add more women to their ranks. In Boston, a coalition of labor and community groups launched a pilot program in September 2020 that helps trade workers find child care for nontraditional hours. A program in Oregon provides child care subsidies for those enrolled in pre-apprenticeship programs. 

As employers try to get a grasp on current labor shortages, child care is an important piece of the puzzle. Women have left the labor market at higher rates than men since March 2020. Recovery in the child care sector lags other industries. Child care provisions in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan are popular in polls, even as Democrats’ ability to pass the spending bill remains in doubt.

Within the skilled trades, labor shortages and an aging workforce have prompted some groups, pre-pandemic and now, to focus on recruiting women and assisting with child care. Organizers say such initiatives are vital, but difficult and expensive to run. They welcome federal investment in child care if the Build Back Better provisions are passed. Even without that funding, the growing emphasis on child care suggests that the trades, like other industries, are trying to fill open jobs by wooing and supporting workers who are parents. 

“Child care has been a particular barrier for women, especially for single moms who get into this industry, so we want to make it easy for them to surmount that,” says Mary Vogel, executive director of Building Pathways, a pre-apprenticeship program in Boston, and one of the founding members of the city’s new child care coalition.

Courtesy of Brianna Crusoe
Brianna Crusoe, a mother of two, graduated from Women in Construction in 2018. She's now an apprentice with an electrical union in Mississippi.

Researchers debate exactly how much a lack of child care is impacting current labor shortages in the overall economy, with other factors such as early retirements also at play. But a lack of affordable and quality child care has been a longstanding barrier for mothers who wish to participate in the workforce. 

“It’s fair to say you can’t pin child care on the entire issue of what’s going on with the economic recovery, but … high child care prices have been a barrier for people who want to work outside the home for decades,” says Sam Abbott, a family economic security policy analyst at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. 

In the trades, efforts to help with child care are showing some success. 

“The program has pushed employers in our area to pay more attention to gender equity, and to be more willing to hire women,” says Carol Burnett, executive director of Moore Community House, which runs the WinC program. 

WinC has graduated more than 700 women since it began in 2008. A majority of participants are low-income single mothers of color, and 74% of program graduates have found industry jobs.   

Trying to recruit more women

More women serve in skilled trades than ever before, yet represent a small percentage of overall trade workers, according to research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), a think tank in Washington. In 2020, women made up 4% of construction-trade workers, with about 300,000 women in trades jobs. A forthcoming 2021 survey of current women in the trades by IWPR found that 63% of respondents were mothers.

Women aren’t competing against men for scarce trade jobs. There were 344,000 job openings in construction in the U.S. in August 2021, compared with 250,000 the year before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A 2021 report by Angi (formerly Angie’s List), found that 77% of tradespeople think there’s a labor shortage, compared with 71% the year before. 

“There is a need to replace skilled workers because of demographic change, and what you’ve gotten over the last five years or so, is the industry has become more diverse,” including more women from across different racial and ethnic backgrounds, says Ariane Hegewisch, program director of employment and earnings at IWPR. 

Courtesy of Moore Community House
Women in Construction participants take a break from their training in May in Biloxi, Mississippi.

In Boston, a group of labor and community groups launched a pilot child care program for trade workers called “Care That Works” in September 2020. They established a network of child care providers who agreed to offer nontraditional child care hours in exchange for a monthly stipend.

The providers open as early as 5 a.m. to accommodate trade parents. In exchange, providers receive a monthly $700 stipend from the coalition. Parents don’t receive funding for their child care costs, but get help finding care providers. 

The pilot program is scheduled to run for three years and in September received a $300,000 grant from Boston Children’s Collaboration for Community Health, a philanthropic arm of Boston Children’s Hospital. Funding also comes from coalition partners and the city of Boston. In its first year, 10 child care providers enrolled in the program and five families participated. 

Men have also benefited from the assistance. Two of the first five parents to enroll in the Boston trades child care pilot were single fathers. 

Ajay Chaudry, a research scholar at New York University and co-author of “Cradle to Kindergarten,’’ says national child care policies haven’t yet caught up with general labor patterns, but might if child care subsidies and universal pre-K are passed by Congress. Both are designed to lower child care costs for families and raise wages for child care workers. 

“As much as we want to say [child care] is a family responsibility, we’ve had an untenable situation that hasn’t supported our modern economy and modern workforce and the disconnect between those families who can afford to invest in their kids and those who can’t has become more apparent,” Dr. Chaudry says. 

Rachel Greszler at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, disagrees about the impact of President Biden’s proposed child care policies, writing in an October report that subsidies “would do nothing to help the majority of families that prefer family-based childcare, and could limit options by crowding out smaller, faith-based, and more accommodating childcare providers.” 

The goal: economic security

The WinC program in Biloxi is especially geared toward Mississippi’s single mothers, 75% of whom are in the workforce, but are often caught in low-income jobs, says Ms. Burnett of Moore Community House. She sees construction, with its solid salaries and benefits, as a solution for breaking cycles of poverty among some single moms and their families. 

Single moms need more than just child care, says Ms. Burnett. “They also need to earn a decent wage. If they are getting child care just so they can go to a minimum wage job, that’s only taking them part way to economic security.” 

Ms. Crusoe, the electrician apprentice in Mississippi, says her WinC training classes were “sweaty, challenging, and fun.” She got into electrical work after a leader in a local electrical union visited her program. 

Even so, life in the trades isn’t always easy. Ms. Crusoe says she’s faced sexism on the job, and child care remains tricky. She was laid off from one electrical job for leaving work to pick up her sick son, she says, and took a leave of absence from her apprenticeship to care for her kids during the pandemic. 

She told her union in September that she’s ready for new work now that her son is enrolled in kindergarten and she expects to complete her apprenticeship in the spring of 2023.

“I love what I do. It feels good to tell someone I have the experience to fix electricity,” she says. But she wants trade leaders to focus more on equality and offer flexibility when women need to tend to their kids. “They need to have a better understanding that people are full-time [workers], but sometimes people need to be a mother.”

Difference-maker

Riding with the wildlife rescuers: No creature too big, small, or wild

Many people worry about the wildlife squeezed out by urbanization. Lisa Bates lets her love for all animals, from bunnies to javelinas, guide her daily work. (See our photo tour of her Tucson Wildlife Center in the Viewfinder below.) 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Dr. Sara Wyckoff (left) prepares a tranquilizer with help from vet tech Mariah Spicer as they rescue a javelina for the Tucson Wildlife Center in Arizona on Oct. 15, 2021.

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Most people have never heard of a javelina. But for Lisa Bates, the beloved, boarlike animal that calls Arizona home is a familiar friend – as are the 5,000 or so animals a year that come through the doors of her Tucson Wildlife Center. Jack rabbits, bats, hawks, and coyotes all call it home temporarily while their wounds – often a result of coming into contact with humans, or our speeding cars – are tended to. 

In the world of wildlife conservation, there is regular debate about how much humans should interfere – whether nature should be left to simply “take its course.”  

The problem with this idea, Ms. Bates says, is that it assumes a “natural” ecosystem – a place where humans haven’t squeezed animals’ habitats, where we don’t drive cars across hunting ranges, where we don’t put toxins on the land and excessive carbon in the air. Tucson is a real-life lesson in human expansion creeping into natural environments, and the collision that brings. 

In a pristine environment, maybe she could turn away from an injured owl or bunny. Maybe. But that’s not what we have, she says. We have a land and ecosystem dramatically changed by humans. So humans need to help. 

“It’s our nature to save a baby,” she says. Javelinas included.

Riding with the wildlife rescuers: No creature too big, small, or wild

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The call came in on a Friday morning. A javelina, a beloved boarlike animal that frequents this desert region, was lying in Vi Conaty’s front yard. It had been there since the night before, nestled between a boulder and a garden sculpture of St. Francis, and it still hadn’t moved.

“This is the middle of town,” said Lisa Bates, founder and executive director of the Tucson Wildlife Center, the organization Ms. Conaty had called for help, thanks to the advice of a 911 dispatcher. “Javelinas should not be in the middle of town.”  

Ms. Bates squinted at the iPhone pictures Ms. Conaty had sent. “It’s hard to know if it’s napping. Or anything,” she said. “Maybe it’s been hit by a car.”

Wildlife veterinarian Sara Wyckoff and veterinary technician Mariah Spicer grabbed their truck keys. “We’re going to get her,” Dr. Wyckoff announced. 

Ms. Bates nodded. 

“Let me know,” she said.

Ms. Bates started the Tucson Wildlife Center more than 20 years ago to help wild animals like this: creatures in need, and especially those injured by encounters with the expanding human population of Tucson. 

At the time, she had recently retired from her career in plant science, and wanted to go into wildlife rehabilitation – a job that had become increasingly professionalized throughout the 1980s and ’90s. She had always loved the creatures of the desert, she explained. The first animal she rescued as a child was an orphaned raccoon. She would eventually raise coyotes and javelinas and bobcats – any animal, really, that she found struggling. “I love every species,” she says. “From the little javelinas and big javelinas to a skunk.”

She opened her nonprofit organization in 2000, mostly taking in larger animals that other wildlife centers in the region couldn’t handle, like bobcats and coyotes. But one by one, she says, those other wildlife rehabilitation centers closed. The people who ran them retired, or they moved to other regions. By 2015, hers was the only wildlife facility left in southern Arizona, and she decided to build a wildlife hospital. She also agreed to take the 1,500 or so smaller animals – from baby birds to orphaned bats to injured jackrabbits – that had been under other rehabilitation centers’ care.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Lisa Bates started rescuing wild animals as a child. Today, she helms the Tucson Wildlife Center.

The Tucson Wildlife Center, she was determined, would help all creatures. “We have a respect for all life,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a little lizard or an elephant. If it needs help, we’re here for it.”

Today, that means the nonprofit takes in 5,000 animals a year. About 200 are on site at any given time, from the animal intensive care unit to the flight rehab enclosure. A handful of animals that cannot return to their natural habitats, whether because of injury or because of their acclimation to humans, stay at the center; the resident bobcats serve as “foster moms” for orphaned cubs.

Often, the first step for the Tucson Wildlife Center’s staff is to retrieve animals in distress. After all, as Ms. Bates says, “We don’t think it’s a good idea for a member of the public to put a full-sized javelina in their car.” 

Which is why that Friday morning, Dr. Wyckoff and Ms. Spicer drove to central Tucson.

Emergency response

Unlike domestic pigs, javelinas, which can weigh 60 to 90 pounds, have sharp canine teeth and are prone to charging if they feel under attack. To fully examine the animal in Ms. Conaty’s front yard, then, Dr. Wyckoff knew she would likely have to anesthetize it and bring it back to the wildlife center. “We’ll assess the situation,” she said from the passenger seat as Ms. Spicer drove toward town.

The animal was still a few feet from Ms. Conaty’s porch when they arrived. It did not run when Dr. Wyckoff approached, but it clacked its teeth softly – a weak warning behavior. Dr. Wyckoff decided that she would use a blow dart to sedate the animal. 

The center’s veterinarians and techs encounter their patients in all sorts of ways. A raven flies into a window; a motorist hits a coyote; a jackrabbit is found in a trap. Sometimes people bring the animals themselves to the Tucson Wildlife Center, which sits on the eastern edge of town, nestled in ranchland by the Saguaro Mountains. Ms. Bates has met people who have taken injured animals on the bus because they didn’t own cars, walking the rest of the way to the center; she knows people who have driven for hours in the hopes of getting help for a suffering bunny, a downed starling.

The center runs a 24-hour emergency hotline. Two full-time wildlife veterinarians take lead on the recoveries, but Ms. Spicer often goes out on rescues.

“I had this one day when I went on a rescue to get a woodpecker across town,” Ms. Spicer recalls. “Then there’s a call – there’s a bunny. So I figure, I’ll stop and get the bunny. And then I get a call about a bat. ... And we’re driving and I got a call for a great horned owl. So now I’m holding this great horned owl, wrapped in a towel. It’s like a joke but it wasn’t. Oh! And there was a box of baby quails, too.”

That day, the javelina was the only call. Dr. Wyckoff walked slowly toward the animal, crouched down, and blew the dart into its side. It was 10:02 a.m. At 10:07 she checked the animal. Almost out, but not quite. A minute later, she hoisted it up and brought it to a carrying cage in the trunk.

The closer evaluation made her worried.

She suspected it had been hit by a car.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Veterinarian Sara Wyckoff, seen carrying a tranquilized javelina, rescues wild animals for the Tucson Wildlife Center.

“It’s our nature”

In the world of wildlife conservation, there is regular debate about how much humans should interfere – whether nature should be left to simply “take its course.”  

Ms. Bates has thought about this. She has. But the problem with this idea, she says, is that it assumes a “natural” ecosystem – a place where humans haven’t squeezed animals’ habitats, where we don’t drive cars across hunting ranges, where we don’t put toxins on the land and excessive carbon in the air, and where we don’t take the water – so much water – for our own needs.

If that were the reality, then maybe she could turn away from an injured owl or bunny. Maybe. But that’s not what we have, she says. We have a land and ecosystem dramatically changed by humans. So humans need to help. 

“It’s our nature to save a baby,” she says. 

But in wildlife veterinary medicine, “saving” can be complex. Dr. Wyckoff explains that her decisions would be different if her patient were a pet dog, who would be cared for through recovery, and fed even if he limps. If a wild animal is injured to the point where it might never be able to live in its habitat, or might face complications down the line, she often decides that the kindest act is to end the animal’s suffering. 

And that was her decision as she examined the X-rays of the javelina.

Ms. Spicer bent over the animal. “I’m sorry, sweetie pie,” she said.

They left the examination table. There were dozens more animals to help. Dr. Wyckoff reviewed the list of patients. She checked on the great horned owl in the intensive care unit, running her hands through its feathers. His wing was recovering nicely. 

The red-tailed hawk, whose X-ray had revealed a dozen buckshots, was also healing, although its wing would need more time. The jackrabbit in intensive care was doing well. Across the treatment room another staffer fed a nighthawk. A turtle was recovering beside them. 

This, Dr. Wyckoff says, is how she and the others at the Tucson Wildlife Center can live their commitment to the world around them.

“I think you just have to do what nature says to do,” Ms. Bates said. “To save, wherever you can.” 

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A win for clean governance in Europe

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Europe’s decadeslong project to unite the Continent on both shared commerce and shared values took a big leap Sunday. In Bulgaria, which is the European Union’s poorest and most corrupt member state, a new political party focused solely on ending official graft won the most votes in a parliamentary election.

The results were a success for the thousands of civic-minded protesters who rose up last year to demand clean governance in the Black Sea nation above all else.

“Whether you are right or left is not important; what is important is integrity,” said Kiril Petkov, co-founder of the We Continue the Change party, before the election. “We are here to work with honest people, whatever their political bias.”

The election also revealed the depth of the civic awakening among Bulgarians. Mr. Petkov formed his party only in September, just weeks before the election. With little of the usual party apparatus, it won about 26% of the vote, or enough to give it the lead in forming a coalition with smaller parties that oppose corruption.

The EU project of instilling values such as transparency and honesty in governance remains on track.

A win for clean governance in Europe

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Reuters
Kiril Petkov, leader of Bulgaria's new centrist party, "We Continue the Change," reacts after the first results of the Nov. 14 parliamentary elections.

Europe’s decadeslong project to unite the Continent on both shared commerce and shared values took a big leap Sunday. In Bulgaria, which is the European Union’s poorest and most corrupt member state, a new political party focused solely on ending official graft won the most votes in a parliamentary election.

The results were a success for the thousands of civic-minded protesters who rose up last year to demand clean governance in the Black Sea nation above all else.

“Whether you are right or left is not important; what is important is integrity,” said Kiril Petkov, co-founder of the We Continue the Change party, before the election. “We are here to work with honest people, whatever their political bias.”

The party’s electoral success was built on more than promise. Earlier this year, Mr. Petkov served as economics minister under a transitional caretaker government and exposed political favoritism in public procurement during the long rule of ousted Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. He said Bulgaria, a post-communist democracy of some 7 million people, had become the EU country with the most public contracts awarded without a tender.

The election also revealed the depth of the civic awakening among Bulgarians. Mr. Petkov formed his party only in September, just weeks before the election. With little of the usual party apparatus, it won about 26% of the vote, or enough to give it the lead in forming a coalition with smaller parties that oppose corruption.

The appeal of Mr. Petkov, a successful entrepreneur with a Harvard business degree, may also lie in his promise of quick results in battling graft. “I want in the next four years to be a success story of how one small country eradicated corruption in a super short time,” he told The Financial Times.

One reason for cleaning up Bulgaria’s political culture is that the country is due to adopt the common currency, or euro. The 27-member union cannot afford another near-collapse of the eurozone as happened in 2009, when corruption in Greece led to official lies about the size of the country’s debt.

Greece has since turned a corner on curbing corruption. Now Bulgaria may do the same. The EU project of instilling values such as transparency and honesty in governance remains on track.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Our ageless connection to God’s healing, ‘playing’ thoughts

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If we’re feeling ill or tired, joyful activity may seem out of reach. But God is always sending the inspiration we need to live and love more fully and freely – just as God created us to.

Our ageless connection to God’s healing, ‘playing’ thoughts

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

When my two sons were a preschooler and a toddler, my youngest came to me crying with a painful and inflamed ear. I put him in bed and comforted him until he fell asleep, as I did what I’ve always found effective when healing is needed: I prayed. His older brother soon came to the door and I asked him to pray, too.

He looked at his little brother with compassion for a moment and then yelled out, “Hey! Let’s go play!”

The little one immediately woke up and ran into the next room. When I joined them, they were laughing and jumping. The younger one’s ear was perfectly normal; the pain and redness had simply dissolved.

“How did you pray?” I asked my older son.

“Well,” he said thoughtfully, “I just prayed to God, and God gave me His playing thoughts.” (See Micah Korinek, “God’s ‘playing’ thoughts,” Christian Science Sentinel, June 1, 1998.)

This healing held a lesson about childlikeness that I continue to draw on again and again. Childlikeness is all about receptivity and innocence, which are so necessary for the spiritual growth that leads to healing. It is a spiritual quality that we all have as children of God. As the Bible says, “You are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness” (I Thessalonians 5:5, New Revised Standard Version).

Mary Baker Eddy, founder of this news organization and discoverer of Christian Science, writes on childlikeness: “Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 323-324). Our willingness to claim our inherent innocence has much to do with discerning the “advanced idea” – the spiritual reality that we are made in God’s image – and leaving behind false concepts of ourselves as vulnerable mortals. And this shift in thought replaces pain and suffering with boundless joy, healing, and progress.

As my little sons glimpsed that day, we were made to “play” – to be joyfully active – and to love each other fully. We can never lose our connection to God, our pure and ever-fresh relation to divine Love itself, who is constantly communicating to us. Embracing our inherent innocence burns away the fear, doubt, and other distracting baggage that would try to dull and weigh down our lives. It clears the vision, helping us to see ourselves and others in our original, God-given, spiritual purity. This purity includes harmony, an inevitable consequence of divine Truth, another Bible-based name for God.

No erroneous element can enter a consciousness that is filled with Truth. Seeing ourselves and one another through divine Love’s eyes, we are more apt to cultivate our ability to live and love more actively and unselfishly. Our thought naturally shifts from a material view to spiritual understanding and conviction, with healing effect – from sickness to health, discord to harmony, sorrow to happiness.

We can even experience this shift in our relationships – rather than being critical or feeling bereft of companionship, we can explore with childlike joy what it means that we exist in God’s love now. And there is healing in this joyful, inspiring, and essential exploration.

We can never age out of our childlikeness. We are created as spiritual representatives of Love itself. We are each others’ reminders that Love is here, spiritual adventure is here, health is here, wonder is here. Regardless of how many times we have circled the sun, we always have the ability to listen for and hear God’s “playing thoughts” that rejuvenate and heal.

Viewfinder

Bearing witness to kindness for wildlife

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
One of the perks of being a photojournalist is that I never know exactly what each assignment will bring. On a recent trip to Tucson, I hid behind cactuses in a concerned couple’s front yard while Sara Wyckoff, a Tucson Wildlife Center veterinarian, used a blow dart to tranquilize an injured javelina. People who dedicate their lives to helping animals are heroes in my book. Vet schools teach how to care for cats, dogs, the usual domesticated creatures. But wildlife vets have to learn how to treat everything from a Gila monster to a bobcat. In this photo, Dr. Wyckoff examines a red-tailed hawk. Click the "View gallery" button to see more photos.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Thanks for starting your week with us. U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet (virtually) tonight, and tomorrow we’ll look at whether or not that might mark the beginning of the end of the downward spiral in U.S.-China relations.

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