What the hygge?

I can feel the pride of my Danish ancestors for bringing the concept of hygge to the world at a time when it is sorely needed. There is probably no single word in English that encompasses the meaning of hygge, but it can be described as a kind of coziness, conviviality and comfort that fills you with feelings of contentment. The word hygge is etymologically related to the English word “hug.”

My great-grandfather John (or “Jens”) emigrated from Denmark in 1872 and married an Indiana girl whose parents were Swiss, and eventually he fathered my maternal grandmother. My Danish roots, however, do not help me with the correct Danish pronunciation of hygge, a sound that defies English phonetic spelling. It goes something like “hue-guh.” Ask a Dane.

The pursuit of happiness may be an “unalienable right,” but I might settle for the pursuit of hygge. It is a huggy concept about finding pleasure in small, simple things, such as the comfort of warm woolen socks on a cold night. Atmosphere is everything.

Although hygge has seen a discouraging commercialization of late, it seems to me that what strikes your hygge chord is an intimately personal matter. What is hygge for me may not be hygge for you.

Hygge has its time and place. Maybe the best hygge is unexpected. Not every time and place can be made to conform to a hygge-ish ideal. Our world is full of hardships and suffering, injustices and difficult choices, controversies, annoyances and conflicts. It is hygge to turn off the nightly news, but that world does not go away.

Still, we do well to remember that it is the thunderstorm outside that magnifies the hygge moments in our personal refuge.

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Something So Wrong: November 2017

  • Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, sued the agency multiple times when he was the attorney general of Oklahoma. He has denied that the release of carbon dioxide from human activity is the main driver of climate change. He has said that the EPA should not regulate carbon dioxide emissions unless specifically directed by Congress, despite a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are air pollutants that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act. Under Pruitt’s direction, the EPA has removed references and resources related to climate change from its website. On November 3, the US Global Climate Research Program issued its Climate Science Special Report, which found that “human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” and that “there is no convincing alternative explanation.” The report addressed global climate changes in response to human activities, including “changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapor.”
  • In September, Trump nominated Brett Talley to be a United States District Judge for the Middle District of Alabama. Talley has practiced law for three years and has never tried a case. The American Bar Association unanimously rated Talley as Not Qualified to be a federal judge. The ABA rating system includes three categories: Well Qualified, Qualified, or Not Qualified. Talley is the fourth Trump federal court nominee to be rated as Not Qualified. Trump’s previous Not Qualified nominees are Charles Goodwin, Steven Grasz and Holly Teeter. On November 9, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved both Talley and Teeter, despite the Not Qualified ratings. Talley is married to the Ann Donaldson, who is chief of staff to White House counsel Donald McGahn. Talley failed to disclose this possible conflict of interest to the Judiciary Committee.
  • On November 13, Trump nominated Alex Azar to be Secretary of Health and Human Services to replace Tom Price who stepped down from that office in September after reports that he spent over $1 million improperly for travel expenses. From 2007 to 2017, Azar worked as an executive for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.
  • On November 21, Ajit Pai, Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, proposed repeal of regulations that ensure equal access to the Internet. Repeal of the regulations would allow giant Internet service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, to charge users more to see certain content and restrict access to some websites. Pai’s proposal undermines the “net neutrality” policy under which the large broadband and telecom companies would be regulated as utilities.
  • On November 24, Trump named his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, to be the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to replace retiring director Richard Cordray. Cordray had named his chief of staff, Leandra English, as deputy director. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, that established the CFPB, specified that the Deputy Director would become the acting director until a new director has been nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Trump relied on his authority under an earlier law, the 1998 Presidential Vacancies Reform Act, in naming Mulvaney to the position. Mulvaney has criticized the CFPB as a “sick joke.” When he was a Republican congressman from South Carolina, Mulvaney co-sponsored legislation to shut down the CFPB.
  • On November 27, Trump used his Twitter account to post videos from a British extreme nationalist group falsely portraying Muslims committing acts of violence. Press secretary Sarah Sanders later defended the president’s action saying that, even if the videos falsely attributed violence to Muslims, “the threat is real” and needs to be addressed. Sanders justified the president’s tweet as an expression of “the need for national security and military spending.” Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke applauded Trump’s tweets, himself tweeting “thank God for Trump! That’s why we love him!”

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