Rope knotted around a post

It’s high school, and I believe copyright is ridiculous.

My dad has introduced me to Project Gutenberg, an ever-growing library of books in the public domain, and I am spellbound. Contained within its creaky website are thousands of books that are owned by nobody. Or maybe everybody. After all, I could download one and do whatever I wanted with it. I could republish The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, only with the protagonist’s name changed to something patently absurd like “Benedict Cumberbatch”, and I would be utterly free of consequences, because I own those stories now as much as anyone else. They are free to be remixed, reworked. They belong to none of us, and all of us.

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Garden beds at sunset

I woke up and started my morning on the couch, a hot mug of tea in front of me and my journal in my lap. I’ve always been a journaler, of course, but that’s taken on new importance in the last month, as I’ve felt some duty–as well as a desire–to chronicle what my life has looked like during this historic crisis. I will someday be a primary source, if for nobody more than myself and my people.

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Good evening, friends.

Today, as Rachel reported, our local hospital in Salem gave away sew-at-home kits for locals to make protective face masks. The plan was to distribute enough kits for 10,000 masks over the next two days.

The kits were completely given away within half an hour, and so many people showed up to claim some that a police officer had to direct traffic.

Many of us, especially in the US, grew up being taught a myth: that people are intrinsically selfish and lazy. Remove the monetary inventive to work, we’re told, and we’ll do nothing but sit on the couch or stare at the clouds. You have to be ready to be completely independent, we’re told, because when the chips are down, no one will want to help you.

Alexandra Erin, one of my favorite political commentators on Twitter, commented a couple years ago that our beliefs about “human nature” become manifest in a crisis. If you believe that there’s not enough for everyone and people are “naturally” going to pilfer and hoard, then your natural sense of self-preservation will encourage you to do the same. Like Vonnegut’s ice-nine, when that behavior is introduced into the community, it perpetuates itself: since you’re hoarding, your neighbors will see that there’s less to go around, and they too will be encouraged to do the same. But if you instead act as though there is enough, as if people are generally trustworthy and kind, as if the risk of being taken advantage of is existent but mitigable, then your generosity will create the conditions for its own replication.

It’s the difference between a mindset of scarcity and one of abundance.

Salemites, like many of us, have an abundance of time right now, and the natural human desire to work and help, so they cleared out those mask kits in under an hour. Last week, Divine Distillers, like many distillers across the country, recognized they had an abundance of equipment, know-how, and alcohol, so set to work creating alcohol-based sanitizer to give away for free. No one needed to be coerced. They simply saw their abundances and offered them to help their community.

Don’t believe it when someone tells you humans are naturally selfish. Look at how many people are staying home, sacrificing their free movement and their social lives so that this epidemic might be kept at bay. And don’t believe it when they say we’re naturally lazy–because look at how many of us are eager for something productive to do after only a week or two of isolation.

Take heart in the compassion of your fellow humans. Our world is nowhere near as nasty or barren as some might have you believe–if only we share our abundance.

Dream big and fight hard,
Your buddy Spencer