Freedom to Curate Your Life

“What makes a fire burn is the space between the logs.” from “Fire” by Judy Brown


When I teach my Writing for the Environment course every semester at the University of Maryland, I tell my students that I don’t require a textbook. And they are all very relieved to hear that—textbooks are so expensive these days. And then I show them my course website where I have lots of readings, links, and resources for them to use in the course. I make the following analogy.

When you visit a museum, you don’t see everything the museum has in its collection. Museums have curators who select the items for each exhibit and then arrange them so that the visitors have a rich experience. People can linger in rooms where they find an appealing work and then skip the rooms that don’t interest them as much. The collections are limited. You are urged to go deeper into an exhibit, so maybe you see less, but you can appreciate the items you do see. I explain to the students that there is a wealth of information related to resumes, for example, and I have selected resources that I consider the most useful for them to use.

I think our modern lives—so full of social media, online information, email, podcasts, and streaming music call out for us to act as personal curators. Maybe because I am getting older I feel this more keenly than the college students I teach, but I think most of us can benefit from carefully selecting our media choices, our goals, and our activities.

by Judy Brown

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

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