See you again on January 9, 2023

Stay warm, stay healthy, and keep persevering

Photo by Richard Asinof

A poster from Bread and Puppet.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 12/12/22

PROVIDENCE – ConvergenceRI is taking a planned seasonal break and will send out the next edition on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.

As ConvergenceRI moves forward into its tenth year, the weekly digital news platform continues to gain traction in the marketplace, expanding conversations and convergence across networks, neighborhoods, communities – and industry clusters.

I want to offer my sincere thanks and gratitude to everyone who has helped us travel on a path toward success, rewarding the decision to choose the road less traveled, sometimes bumpy, often turbulent, a journey much like our own lives. Thank you!

The concept of creating an engaged community of readers, urging subscribers to share the content across their numerous platforms, continues to create a sense of connectivity – of everyone belonging to the same neighborhood, no matter where we reside.

What does that mean? Here is what the readers say: Last week, Beth Macy, author of Dopesick and Raising Lazarus, tweeted this in response to two recent ConvergenceRI stories in which her work had been featured. “Thanks @RichardAsinof for bringing out something I ask myself daily. How do we engage people to READ the data, to be curious about what’s going on? How do we get them to care enough to roll away stones? Thanks for this generous take on #RaisingLazarus and @DopesickOnHulu, too.”

Another reader, a long-time subscriber, reached out in an email to the newly elected State Rep. Tina Spears, copying me, after reading her interview in the latest edition: “Your interview with ConvergenceRI was spot on the issues; heartfelt, clear, and persuasive. My congratulations, both on your election, and your policy priorities.”

Although no longer in “state service,” the subscriber continued: “I do pursue several threads of policies for the RI Academy of Pediatrics, GrowSmart RI, Reach Out and Read, etc. Your election will give us another ally for kids, and for good action on health and housing issues. I’m also [ever more] interested in how we enlist and support grandparents and other elders in advocacy for children.”

A third, long-time subscriber wrote: “Wow, you are on fire [in] this week’s edition. What a great set of connected [emphasis added] pieces this week – the unbelievable CCA situation, the piece by Lisa Peterson [about Optum], the interviews with Steve Ahlquist, with Spears, and with Dr. Megan Ranney. All such important stories that were either under-reported or not reported.”

The subscriber continued: This is a chockfull edition, and your sidebars were, as always, provocative and illuminating. Thanks, Richard!”

Yet another long-time subscriber, the executive director of a community agency, wrote: “Richard, thanks for all your support and superlative coverage of our work.”

Translated, the conversation occurring across the digital platform that ConvergenceRI envisioned 10 years ago is thriving. The watchword continues to be: Share, share, share.

More irritable and cranky
Last year, I wrote: “I admit to being more irritable and cranky, tired and stressed, not the best frame of mind to be writing an end-of-the-year summary, seeking to craft a positive reframe on a terrible, no-good, awful, catastrophic year, as we all blink out into the darkness.”

This year, if anything, my level of irritability and crankiness has grown, in direct relationship to my current health conditions and the different ways that my body has responded to the constant stress by being feisty, fighting back.

Being forthright
As most readers may know, for the last few years, I have been battling against a diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis, which has made it increasingly difficult to walk without stumbling. The on-going infusion treatments, every six months, seem to have kept my stability from worsening. It means that in addition to my being “uniquely abled,” I am also “immuno-compromised” – which translates to the importance of my wearing a mask everywhere I go. [I have experienced no harm from constantly wearing a mask.]

Any decision to attend a press briefings, news conference, or event continues to require a level of gumption and a gritting of teeth that many other reporters, no doubt, take for granted.

Thankfully, the condition has not impaired my mental acuity nor diminished my tenaciousness in publishing ConvergenceRI. But, I admit, it has been a struggle at times in recent months to write, edit, and publish ConvergenceRI.

This year, on the advice of my health team, I am adding an extra week to my regularly scheduled December break, planning to return to publishing ConvergenceRI on Monday, Jan. 9.

Displaced anger, disrupted lives
Last year, at this time, I wrote: “The rollout of vaccines is a remarkable triumph of science and investments in public health.” To repeat what I wrote last year, with added emphasis: The vaccines, by themselves, however, will not solve the disruption of our lives caused from COVID-19. That requires a willingness to change the way we think about ourselves, our communities and neighborhoods, and a willingness to invest in changing the way that we live our lives.

As we celebrate the Earth rotating on its axis, turning away from darkness toward light again, we must remember that we are all interconnected, part of a larger family, rekindling our kindness to ourselves and to each other. I fervently hope that we continue to support each other as we skate on thin ice away from the apocalypse, toward a rebirth of wonder.

The importance of sharing stories
Since I first began writing this column 10 years ago, I have chosen to illustrate it with a poster from Bread and Puppet, purchased nearly four decades ago, when I attended the annual iconic summer festival held in Glover, Vermont, in the natural bowl-like amphitheater carved out of a rural Vermont hills when a gravel bed was dug out of the ground for the construction of Interstate 91. The remaining hole formed a perfect natural amphitheater in which to stage an outdoor circus of performers, puppets, and sideshows.

The illustration, a block print on white cotton cloth, the borders stitched together in an uneven, tilting rectangle, features the word “STORY” in all caps, above an illustration of a chair and a yellow, four-pointed star, set against an azure background, within a thick black border. Call it a rural version of René Magritte’s symbolism, where nothing seems to align except the desire for narrative.

The poster has always captured, for me, the juggling act that is involved in storytelling [and in journalism]: the storyteller is a participant, an observer, and a narrator, requiring nimbleness. Storytelling is as much about listening as it is about speaking, much the same way that music is about the quiet spaces between the notes being played, and painting is always about the temperatures of the colors as they collide on canvas.

This year, as with last year, we are being forced to invent new traditions, to improvise new stories, to develop new ways to stay connected while being socially distant. We must learn how to carry our dreams on our backs.

This past year, on a whim, I gifted the framed poster to a pediatric resident who had been recruited to practice medicine in Burlington, Vermont. Instead of hanging on my walls everywhere I have lived – in Washington, D.C., in Montague Center, Mass., in Manchester, Vt., in Newport, R.I. in Barrington, R.I., and in Providence, R.I., it now has a new and different home, with a new vantage point from which to inspire young storytellers in Vermont. There is wisdom in letting go, in sharing, in encouraging new stories bloom.

The narrative hiding in plain sight
We are living in a time of great peril, from both the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 1.1 million in the U.S. since March 1, 2020, and the autocratic plague that has infected our democracy. For the past three years, most everyone’s personal and political stories have converged around the coronavirus pandemic, disrupting almost all of our accustomed patterns of behavior and discourse.

Our own personal stories are still the most valuable possession we have, and the act of sharing those stories is what makes us more human, attempting to survive in an inhumane world, the glue that holds us together.

I will continue to persevere, if you will promise to do so, too.


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