Capstone: Complete

After a semester of reflecting on a year-long religious journey, I can confidently say that I am finished. My capstone project offers a glimpse into the world of someone who observes the Sabbath by fully disconnecting from technology every week, from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown. Where I will be in 10 years, who knows. But I am happy to have documented my current level of religiosity so that I have something to look back on in years to come.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me — through countless revisions, peer reviews, and being open to new ideas and rituals. And thank you to Shelley for being such an awesome instructor.

If you are interested in checking it out, find my site at this link: https://hberson.wixsite.com/secularsabbath

Semester Reflections

When I applied to the Minor in Writing, I had essentially zero expectations for what to expect. Naturally, I figured my experience in the Writing Minor would be equivalent to my experience in any other minor at Michigan. I had never heard of these “Capstone” or “Gateway” courses. Nor was I familiar with the concept of developing my own website. Within the first Gateway course, I realized that whatever expectations I did have were far from true. The Minor in Writing gives you what many students desire, and many others fear — freedom. You are free to put in as little or as much effort as you choose. One of my experiments was nearly 20 pages, and the next was just about 5. It was my choice to stay up late at night editing my Wix website, which offered more opportunities for me to choose. I chose which colors I wanted to incorporate, which themes I wanted to use, and what topic I wanted to write about. It was through this freedom that I was able to grow as an individual, as a student, and as a writer.

The Power of Questions

Classes at the University of Michigan tend to feel large and impersonal. This was not the case in Gateway. Each day we began the class by discussing some abstract, personal question. An example of which may be — “If you could live in another decade, what would it be and why?” We were also asked to share more intimate information through questions like, “On a scale of 1-10, what is your current level of panic?” It was through these questions that our class became unified, allowing us to know each other on more personal levels. They also paved the way for smooth, exciting transitions into the class instruction. These questions ultimately defined my Gateway experience.

Emotional Implications of Writing About Grief

Having written extensively about grieving the loss of strangers, I have gained significant insight on a very peculiar topic. At times, I felt I had been so zoomed into the content that I began to view everything in regards to how it related to grief. Every time I received a high school newsletter about a family passing, I began to analyze how I was reacting, versus how others were reacting. I started studying my own habits and comparing it to everyone else’s. In a certain sense, I committed myself to this topic and used myself as a sponge for knowledge. The problem was that I was focusing solely on grief. At times I would force myself to remove myself from the topic and distract myself with any other topic. But in the end, I am incredibly happy with how everything turned out. I am excited to continue working on my project and see what happens in the future.

Tracking An Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Throughout the semester, I’ve dedicated a lot of time and effort towards uncovering the human tendency of grieving the loss of strangers. Some of you may relate to this phenomenon, and some of you will not. Regardless, I highly encourage you to read the original content that provoked my gateway content. Last year, I read a heartbreaking piece entitled You May Want to Marry My Husband, written by the late author, Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I need to advise you that this piece is devastating. But it is also incredibly beautifully written and truly changed my life. If you want to read it, you can find it here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/style/modern-love-you-may-want-to-marry-my-husband.html?_r=0.

And if you have, or haven’t, experienced the phenomenon of grieving the loss of a stranger, please consider reading my Gateway piece (https://hberson.wixsite.com/writing). You may find it very relatable. At least, that was my goal.

Following a Writer: Billy Bush

Just yesterday, Billy Bush spoke out against President Trump’s denial of his horrifyingly offensive, sexist comments—you know, the one where he said, “Grab ‘em by the pussy.” Billy Bush himself was there to hear the comments, he even admits that he “laughed along.” But he writes this piece to distance himself from the President—to highlight how he, Billy, was no longer on the wrong side of history. A changed man, if you will.

I respect Billy Bush for coming out of his silence and speaking up for women’s rights. I do. But the tone of his language—the simplistic way in which he mansplains sexual assault—seems belittling. And he says that he was “highly critical of the idea of a Trump presidency.” But why didn’t he criticize Trump during his overtly sexist, horrifyingly perverted stand-up routine in 2005?

And why are we just starting to listen now? Why when he who enabled it 12 years ago speaks up, we suddenly feel ready to take this issue seriously? Us women have never doubted that “this is not a women’s issue.” We’ve known that all along. It is you, Billy, who needed that wake-up call.

 

Website Exploration

As someone who is not so technologically savvy, playing around with the Wix website creator is pretty stressful. I am confident that I want my website to be one page with the scrolling down feature. Grief is a complicated topic not just to talk about, but to face altogether. If I were to break my website down into smaller subtopics, it would create a larger sense of distance between the topic at hand and the viewer. Having one page allows the viewer to scroll without feeling the need to take any actions or make any decisions. My only concern with this format is that I want the viewer to be able to reflect on their own thoughts as they read my content. When the website is not broken down into subtopics, the website is at risk of rushing the viewer. I need to find a way to force the reader to slow down as they view my content, while still having the website be formatted in a singular page. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Tracking an Author

Maggie Haberman consistently produces honest, direct reporting for the New York Times. Haberman has been providing coverage on Trump’s presidency from the very start, prior to the election. Her writing depicts a more nuanced view of today’s political age. Instead of evoking fear and concern in her readers, she provides coverage that is somewhat calming. At many points in her career, Maggie has interviewed trump and relayed the content of their conversations in her articles. Look to her article, “In Call With Times Reporter, Trump Projects Air of Calm Over Charges.” She has a relationship with Trump in which he appears more normal and human-like. Instead of reporting her personal opinions, Haberman sticks to the facts. Her unique reporting style makes staying updated on Trump’s presidency a more enjoyable experience.

Below you will find the link to the White House Correspondent’s New York Times articles:

https://www.nytimes.com/by/maggie-haberman?action=click&contentCollection=Politics&module=Byline&region=Header&pgtype=article

Tone of Experiments

My first experiment was a personal narrative exploring my reaction to an essay written by a terminally ill cancer patient. I then described the grief I experienced upon reading that the author had died ten days later. The experiment was written in an informal tone, as I allowed myself to freely express the progression of emotions, without monitoring the structure of the essay. For my second experiment, I looked outwards and identified the subconscious ways in which humans grieve the loss of strangers. The tone of this experiment was more informative and less personal, as I intended to provide a new understanding of a very specific human tendency. The problem with the second experiment was that many of the arguments were solely speculative. I can only guess why one person grieved the loss of one individual, while another person grieved the loss of a different individual. I still tried to provide as many responses and reactions as possible, but doing so successfully would require longer interviews and less short answers.

In preparation for my third experiment, I want to utilize more creative approaches to dealing with grieving the death of strangers. I was considering doing an audio recording of myself, directed towards the individual strangers who have died who have most impacted my life. I would not want to prepare any talking points beforehand, as I would like this to be more of a free-flow of thoughts. I am hesitant to pursue this idea because I worry that there would not be enough to say. This should not discourage me from trying though because the point of an experiment is to go beyond your usual boundaries.

Trustworthy and Authoritative Writing

An example of a trustworthy but not authoritative article is Nicholas Kristoff’s Opinion contribution, “Are Your Sperm in Trouble?” Because Kristoff usually writes about political happenings in Washington DC, male reproductive health seems to be outside of the confines of his forte. I trust that what he is writing is accurate but it is solely based on external facts and studies. This form of writing is not Kristoff’s expertise or primary focus as a writer, which is why he appears less authoritative in this article than he does in “Dangerous Times for Trump and the Nation,” for example. He appears trustworthy in his article about male reproductive health as he does not simply throw out ideas and make surmises without crediting outside studies. Yet this need to rely on external information is the reason why he does not appear authoritative.

By contrast, an article that is written in an authoritative but untrustworthy manner is Daniel Sokatch’s New York Times piece, “Congress’s Un-American, Bad-for-Israel Agenda.” Daniel Sokatch is the chief executive of the New Israel Fund. This organization has been deemed as controversial given its willingness to fund organizations supporting the BDS movement. Sokatch’s article discusses a gag-bill in the US Congress which penalizes people for opposing the BDS movement. I understand and agree with his reasoning for opposing this bill, but he does not appear to be very trustworthy in the article. As someone who is largely criticized for internally supporting the BDS movement, and continues to deny this sentiment, it seems unfitting that he would choose to write about this specific gag-bill. I wish he chose to write about a bill that would better serve our congresses relationship with Israel and the BDS movement. Instead, he just shuts one idea down without presenting another option in a meaningful way.