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“Authors have many images to describe distorted mental states, but that of a glass enclosure, which warps vision and sound, is among the most common. In his searing essay on the loss of his daughter, Aleksandar Hemon uses the metaphor of an aquarium to describe the detached sensations caused by profound grief. Sylvia Plath’s titular bell jar is her symbol for the airless perceptions of suicidal depression. The intercession of glass between human sight and the world is present even in the New Testament, when, in 1 Corinthians, we are told that earthly life is seen “through a glass, darkly.” In a heavenly future, no glazier’s hand will intercede before the face of God.
Anxiety, too, can have this distorting, glassy quality. When I had my first panic attack, in Russia in the summer of 2010, the entire world shrank to the size of my frantically pulsing aorta. I could feel nothing beyond the hammering in my wrists and neck, the freezing sweat that burst out on my forehead, the swishing thrum in my ears. I called emergency services from my host family’s couch in Kazan. Russian EMTs pronounced that an impromptu EKG had shown me to be in perfect condition, and gave me a decoction of “herbs” to drink. At dawn I nodded into uneasy sleep. For the next week, smoke from forest fires igniting all around Russia descended on the city, and my heart intermittently skittered in my chest like a rat. Each time it did I thought I was going to die, although death, unaccountably, never came.
When I came back from Russia to my family’s home in New Jersey, I was a small being hobbled by fear. In the ensuing years I have experienced these moments of pure compression—the universe eaten alive by dread, consisting only of me and my own death—with some frequency. Other passengers on the subway are reduced to shadows, the rattle of the train a faint echo of my own deafening heartbeat, and the glass-haze of terror blots out light.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."
"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."
"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."
"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."
"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."
"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."
"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."
"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."
"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."
"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."
"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."
"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."