Light in Dark Times

A Bright Christmas #3

This year I got involved in yet another podcast – SCAS Talks. The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study apparently has had plans for starting a podcast for a while and this year, due to the pandemic and the cancellation of all physical events, they decided to go for it. 

They already had a concept and a name for the podcast, recording equipment and brilliant researchers willing to contribute with their knowledge. Just one thing was missing: a person who could lead the conversation and edit the material. 

When they called to ask if I was interested in being that person I immediately knew that this was a match made in heaven. 

The first three episodes focused on different aspects of the current pandemic. For me, this helped to see some hope in the pandemic mess. The combination of scientific facts and the knowledge that there are plenty of scientists who are investing a lot of time and energy to develop better diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines is very calming to me. Also the bigger perspective, both how the pandemic can contribute to change society in a good way and how pandemics have been in the past, somehow had an air of hope. I could see some light, and after all summer was approaching and the covid-situation seemed to get a little better. 

Then came the autumn and with that more episodes of SCAS Talks. And as it was getting darker and colder outside and the US election was approaching I got familiar with the work of Alisse Waterston, professor in Anthropology at the City University of New York, and her latest book “Light in Dark Times – The Human Search for Meaning” (you can take a sneak peak at the book by clicking here). The book is a beautiful graphic novel and while reading it I travelled along with Alisse Waterston and the artist Charlotte Corden on their journey through knowledge. 

From darkness to the light. 

I don’t want to reveal too much, but rather encourage you to listen to the podcast. Alisse Waterston does a much better job than me talking about the book, the work behind it, and why we have to embrace the darkness to find the light. 

I was editing the material just before the US election. There was worry and darkness and for me this got reinforced by listening to the recording. For a while I was a little down, I have to admit. But after some intense work with this episode, and regular contact with Alisse Waterston, I realized how much I appreciate that there are researchers who are willing to dive into the darknesses of this world, explore them and finally find the small cracks of light which we then, with united force, can force open. 

In the end it all comes back to the same thing, no matter if we think about treating physical diseases or the ills of this world: researchers devoting their time and energy to create a better world. That is my light in the darkness, what I cling on to when things get a little too heavy and gloomy. Science has got our back, and we can all do our part to contribute.

Blogg post by Natalie von der Lehr

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