I love art. Monet’s Water Lilies make my heart beat faster, my insides somersault, and my mind swirl with words and colors. Few experiences compare.

I don’t love the things that get exhibited in contemporary art galleries. If you prefer: I don’t love contemporary art. It makes me feel empty and bored, sometimes a little annoyed, at best slightly amused.

I’m far from alone in my preferences; among amateurs, they’re the rule rather than the exception. Like many people, I love color, beauty, representational illusion, emotional expression, painterly texture — and these are things contemporary art doesn’t typically give its…

And other North Korea stories.

Image for post
Image for post
Rabbit, with dog for scale. Photo by Stamatisclan.

In 2006, an armored limousine rolled into the driveway of rabbit breeder Karl Szmolinsky. As Szmolinsky recalls, the vehicle contained more or less the entire staff of Germany’s North Korean Embassy.

Szmolinsky prided himself on the size and quality of his beagle-sized rabbits; the North Koreans shared his taste. “22 pounds… 22 pounds!…” one of the visitors kept repeating. The guests explained that they were hoping to purchase some of the rabbits for a breeding program — to help feed starving children in their country. …

Translating a Heartbreaking Poem

Image for post
Image for post
Zuzanna Ginczanka. (All images public domain.)

May 1939. These two words say it all: the spring before the war, the calm before the storm. They form the title of a poem written by the brilliant and ill-fated Zuzanna Ginczanka when she was only 22 years old.

May is the month of love — especially when you’re 22. But history doesn’t care about the seasons, and troubling rumors from across the German border disturbed the poet’s romantic reveries. Throughout the piece, three forces — spring, love, and war — are locked in a perfectly balanced dance. For Ginczanka, it is a dance of uncertainty. …

A new type of meditation helped me reshuffle my memories

Image for post
Image for post

I’ve been doing a new type of meditation — “therapy” is an equally good word. There’s really nothing to it (all I do is set a 30-minute timer and sit quietly with myself), but the effects have been profound.

What I mean by “sitting quietly with myself” is that I let my attention go wherever it naturally goes, while trying to maintain awareness that I am sitting here, now, in the background. Whenever I notice that I’ve lost that awareness, or that I’m feeling impatient or distracted, I anchor my attention in the sensations in my body, then let it…

Why were the polls wrong in 2016 and 2020?

Image for post
Image for post

“Don’t sweat the polls,” The Atlantic reassured us this October. In 2016, forecaster Sam Wang vowed to eat a bug if Donald Trump won — and ended up having to. The memory was still fresh, but in the intervening years pollsters had worked hard to regain our trust. As The Atlantic (and just about every other respectable publication) explained, the 2016 error was due to late deciders and the failure to weight by education. This year, most voters had made up their mind long before the election and pollsters had corrected the weighting mistake. Everything would be fine.

When the…

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Japan’s last great printmaker, captured the spirit of an age of carnage.

Image for post
Image for post
Setting Moon by Tsukioka Yoshitotshi

When Japan opened its borders to trade in the 1850s, inflation, epidemics, riots, murders, executions, and battles ensued. It’s easy to rattle off the sequence of events, tracing chains of political cause and effect, and lose sight of the human dimension of all this carnage. The imagination smooths over the detail, removes individual faces, wipes out the actual blood.

The art of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi puts the blood back in the picture. He was there amidst it all, sketching in the execution grounds and battlefields. His prints zoom in on individual people — beheader as well as beheaded — and condense…

Becoming nomadic helped me embrace inner conflict

Image for post
Image for post

Sometimes I think everything is beautiful. Then I come to a place like this, trees glowing orange over cobalt hills, a beauty so blinding I veil my eyes with clichés — and my worldview shatters.

I had a dream, once, of moving to a cottage in the mountains, but I had settled for city life. I told myself I wanted closeness: to cafés, museums, friends. More importantly, my partner liked the city. (Never mind that he shared my dream of mountains, my inner conflict — it was easier to think that he didn’t.)

Besides, everything was beautiful, people as lovely…

This Is Us

Thousands of people collect hyperrealistic vinyl babies — but how do they sleep at night?

Hyperrealistic baby that is actually a doll.
Hyperrealistic baby that is actually a doll.
Photo: michelle a

I want to stroke Alma’s silky wisp of hair, put ointment on her peeling ankles, kiss the place where a drop of blood has dried on her teeny heel. I keep scrolling. Eloisa stares at me with vacant green eyes, her fists delightfully wrinkled but eerily glossy. I keep scrolling. Red-eyed and deathly pale, Isadora makes my heart stop. Beneath her button nose, the minuscule mouth dribbles blood, sports fangs.

“Adopted,” the caption reads. Painted and designed by an 11-year-old — under her mother’s supervision — Vampire Isadora was sold at a discount.

At reborns.com, anyone can become a happy…

And why I don’t “do” self-care

“For fifteen minutes, welcome everything in yourself. Invite every new experience, offer it tea, send it love.”

Image for post
Image for post

I didn’t have high hopes for this exercise. Don’t I already welcome everything during my daily meditation? Well, it was worth a try; I was having a crappy day anyway.

Almost immediately, I realized that what had seemed a calm mind had actually been composed of a cacophony of voices. Here’s a dramatization.

Cast:

  • Crastie: a lovable, tantrum-throwing child responsible for my procrastinatory tendencies
  • The Auntie Committee: a group of well-meaning but dogmatic matrons who have taken it upon themselves to solve Crastie’s…

Everyone knows that negative feedback is tough to take. A lesser-known fact: positive feedback can be just as painful. Take Vincent van Gogh’s reaction to his first (and last) glowing review:

when I read the article it made me almost sad as I thought: [I] should be like this and I feel so inferior. …

Eve Bigaj

Staff writer at Rabbit Hole Magazine. Harvard PhD. Want to video chat about one of my articles? Pick a slot at calendly.com/evebigaj

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store