The purest form of escapism

Everyone has a show, that one show you love completely. Quotes from it find their way into your bio and punctuate your conversations and advice. When the question of favorite television show comes up around people who know you well, they get up to get a drink before you've finished the first sentence of your answer. "This is going to take awhile. Anyone else need something?"

For me, that show is Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing.

I recommend it at every turn. I've studied scripts and may have briefly used the theme song as a ringtone. I find profound insight in its dated, sometimes cornball, dialogue. When I learned that someone created a website dedicated to a single episode, I felt like a kid waking up on a snow day.

I have a weakness for presidential storylines and a predilection for optimism. It's fair to say that little of The West Wing is realistic, but it is a hopeful place and I enjoy being inspired now and then.

Since the show features speechwriters in lead roles, it spends an unusual amount of time on the writing craft and the power of well-chosen words. So when I write about Uncommon being a place for wonder and whimsy, all I can hear in my head is this gentle critique of a speech:

You're alliteration happy: "guardians of gridlock," "protectors of privilege." I needed an avalanche of Advil.

As you might have guessed, I've watched the show a few times now. As when you revisit anything, there are new things to appreciate and previously undetected flaws revealed. Recently, one line of dialogue has been replaying in my head.

I'm just saying that there's a way to be a person.

I hear that whenever I'm debating between two options and resisting the one I know is right. For some reason, it resonates with me now, but I hardly noticed it before.

Unlike movies and books, we spend week after week with a show. Over the years, they become part of our own story—the people we share them with, the binge watching, and theme parties. There are shows that end far too soon, characters that thrill and infuriate us, and finales that we debate endlessly.

The best shows give us one of life's great pleasures: turning to one of your favorite people late at night with mischievous grin and saying, "C'mon, let's watch one more."

Prompted

The latest dispatch asked, What's your favorite amusement park ride?

Radhika wrote:

My favourite ride is the roller coaster! Free fall and G-forces, all from the safety of a tight and snug seat. I'm not quite the one who sits in the front row of one of these, but I'll eagerly find my way to the line and feel the thrill of the wait all the way up to getting into the carriage. Plenty of butterflies in the stomach going up that first hill, and sometimes I'll wonder if the whole thing might come undone. The fall is the part that takes me away, and the rest is just pure fun.

Adam wrote:

My history with rides is similar in that at the raw age of 9 or 10, I was coaxed by my family onto "The Racer" at King's Island, with the promise of no hills on the ride (apparently my eyes were glued shut and my critical thinking not yet developed). I screamed and perhaps sobbed for the entire duration of the ride - only to be horrified upon our return to the loading platform, that due to a malfunctioning system (or employee), we were being sent right through for a second trip. Whether by the grace of God or a merciful park employee, someone pulled the emergency break. Alas, my terror still wasn't complete just yet. They did in fact pull the break, saving me from another tormented trip around and up and down. Where they pulled the break caused a new type of terror, however. We were perilously perched at the top of the first hill. We were then "invited" to undo our safety restrains, step out of our cars, and climb...down...the hill. Traumatized.

But that's not the question you asked. My favorite ride? The next one. Just a few years later on a school trip, ever-seeking the buzz of being included, peer pressure convinced me to step onto "The Beast", a still-ferocious wooden roller coaster known for beating the tar out of you, while accomplishing the feat of being the longest wooden roller coaster in the world. I loved that ride. I have never looked back and I've loved every ride since. Higher, faster, longer.

Epilogue: I eventually worked at Cedar Point one summer. "Pull the trigger, shoot the water, win the prize!", I shouted through a loud speaker in my best megaphone voice. But echoing my experience on the Racer, I pulled the emergency break and headed home after just two weeks. I couldn't stomach the culture and environment of living, eating, and breathing the carnival-barking lifestyle for an entire summer. Two weeks was more than enough.

Ryan wrote:

I haven’t been to an amusement park in probably a decade, but to me the quintessential roller coaster will always be The Beast at King’s Island, near Cincinnati. I grew up about an hour from the park, and teens in Dayton frequently bought season passes for the summer so they could take short day trips down on weekdays to avoid the long lines of Saturday and Sunday. The Beast was an old wooden coaster that would almost certainly seem tame to anyone now, but twenty years ago it provided a reliable 120 seconds of dark tunnels and swooping turns. Somehow it never got boring, but we made sure to scream anyway.

Uncommon reads

The Tortoise is (Wo)man’s Real Best Friend by Lucy Jones:

When I watch her plod around, and marvel at the way she moves, the way she’ll still be moving in 2150, things seem less significant. It’s like looking at the sea, or a birds’ eye view of a city, or a waterfall, or an amazing painting – the purest form of escapism. It shifts perspective from yourself, out of yourself. My worries seem inconsequential. They leave me and enter the soil under her as I just stare, transfixed and enchanted at her tiny wet pink tongue licking water drops from the petals of a dandelion. A tongue that evolved from a creature related to the dinosaurs. It is clever and perfect and beautiful.

Ordinary plenty by Jeremy Keith:

Centuries later, the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh would write about the desire to “wallow in the habitual, the banal”: Wherever life pours ordinary plenty. Isn’t that a beautiful description of the web?

Want Great Longevity and Health? It Takes a Village by Dan Buettner:

They get together every morning for coffee, again in the afternoon to play dominoes and at night to drink homemade Cannonau wine. Two of them were living alone, but as one told me, “We’re never alone.”

When it comes to longevity, the long-standing support of a community is significant. In the U.S., you’re likely to die eight years earlier if you’re lonely, compared with people who have strong social networks. In Sardinia, “One hand washes the other, and they both wash the face,” as Mr. Pinna told me, summing up the social symbiosis.

Meta-Moments: Thoughtfulness by Design by Andrew Grimes:

User Experience Design strives toward frictionless flow: removing impediments to immediate action and looking to increase conversions at all costs. This approach delivers some great results, but it doesn’t always consider the wider story of how we can design and build things that sustain a lasting relationship. With all the focus on usability and conversions, we can forget to ask ourselves whether our online experiences are also enriching and fulfilling.

Your turn

Which shows do you love to recommend?