Ampersand Gazette #60

Susan Corso
10 min readApr 15, 2024

Welcome to the Ampersand Gazette, a metaphysical take on some of the news of the day. If you know others like us, who want to create a world that includes and works for everyone, please feel free to share this newsletter. The sign-up is here. And now, on with the latest …


I’m one of those people who subscribes to the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s doctrine: “Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life.” To feel at home in the world, people need to see themselves serving some good — doing important work, loving others well, living within coherent moral communities, striving on behalf of some set of ideals.

The great liberal societies that Zakaria [Fareed Zakaria’s important new book, “Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash From 1600 to the Present.”] describes expanded and celebrated individual choice and individual freedom. But when liberalism thrived, that personal freedom lay upon a foundation of commitments and moral obligations that precede choice: our obligations to our families, to our communities and nations, to our ancestors and descendants, to God or some set of transcendent truths.…

… the real absence people are feeling is an absence of meaning, belonging and recognition.

from an Opinion Essay by David Brooks in The New York Times
“The Great Struggle of Liberalism”
March 29, 2024

Do you have true meaning in your life? Do you feel a sense of belonging here on Earth? Do you receive recognition from yourself and others, and do you give the same to others?

If you have followed my work for any length of time at all, you already know that I agree wholeheartedly with David Brooks about Viktor Frankl’s central doctrine. We can live without many things, but we cannot live without meaning.

One of the key secrets to meaning, though, despite how patently obvious it may be, is more often implicit than explicit. Let’s change that right now, shall we?

Meaning is indeed essential for human life, and … all things, and I mean this without exception, mean what you say they mean. Yep, it’s true.

All things have the meaning you assign to them.

Many years ago, the summer after my first year in college, I was scheduled to fly to San Francisco with my mother and have my fourth major eye surgery. The second surgery had gone wrong, and I’d had to wait for my eyes to heal, and then go back under a third time to correct the mistake from the second one. Now I needed another surgery, and I was scared out of my mind, so my mother sought out the top eye surgeon in the U. S. for this particular malady, hence, the trip to San Francisco.

It had also been disclosed, at a regular teeth-cleaning, that my wisdom teeth were impacted and I needed to have all four of them out pronto or else ruin way too many umpty-ump years of orthodonture. So my mother scheduled that ten days before the eye surgery.

Well, I was so scared about the eye thing that having four wisdom teeth out became a scraped knee in comparison. I barely remember the teeth thing at all, and focused only on the rare privilege of living on ice cream for a whole week.

What did I really do? I assigned meaning. Eye surgery = whoa scary. Wisdom teeth = walk in the park. I could just as easily have reversed the meanings, although I didn’t know that at the time.

The assignment of meaning also lies upon what Mr. Brooks calls “a foundation of commitments and moral obligations that precede choice.” It’s this foundation, which used to be a given amongst persons who function within a society, that is currently being shaken loose at its roots. The assumption that this foundation exists, and is common to all of us, isn’t so assumable any more.

Why? Because the foundation was based upon some egregious assumptions, all of which are up for examination right now. What are they? Oh, let’s start with the overarching one: White heterosexual males hold the supreme and determinant position over all others by divine right.

Um, maybe they did at one time, but that’s not a premise that’s working for most of the rest of us who are alleged to belong under that collective patriarchal hegemony. So, from the bottom of the social ladder up, we’ve started asking the questions that challenge all the assumptions. As Barbra Streisand sings in one of my favorite of her songs, “What About Today?,” “once you start, the questions never cease.”

That’s the process we’re all in, Beloved, and of course it’s shaking up our civilization. That’s what it’s meant to do, what it needs to do, and what it will do until a new collective meaning reveals itself.

This is why Mr. Brooks’ conclusion “… the real absence people are feeling is an absence of meaning, belonging and recognition,” is so powerful. It’s true.

So, what to do? Remember this: collective meaning always, but always, emerges as individuals seek and find their own meaning, belonging, and recognition. Sure, the process is undoubtedly a messy one, but there is no process in the whole world more worth it.

Go back to what I said in the beginning: All things have the meaning you assign them. Social change, too. Cultural change, too. It’s up to you to decide the meaning this process signifies for you. Will it be wisdom teeth or eye surgery? You pick.


In her nearly weekly travels as poet laureate, Ms. [Ada] Limón has had a lot of practice delivering this message. “Every time I’m around a group of people, the word that keeps coming up is ‘overwhelmed,’” she said. “It’s so meaningful to lean on poetry right now because it does make you slow down. It does make you breathe.”

A poem is built of rests. Each line break, each stanza break and each caesura represents a pause, and in that pause there is room to take a breath. To ponder. To sit, for once in our lives, with mystery. If we can’t find a way to slow down on our own, to take a breath, poems can teach us how.

But Ms. Limón isn’t merely an ambassador for how poetry can heal us. She also makes a subtle but powerful case for how poetry can heal the earth itself. To remember how to breathe by spending some time with the trees that breathe with us.…

What can language do to save us now? What can something so small as a poem possibly do to save us now?

The answer lies in poetry’s great intimacy, its invitation to breathe together. We read a poem, and we take a breath each time the poet takes a breath. We read a nature poem, and we take a breath with the trees. When the trees — and the birds and the clouds and the ants and even the bats and the rat snakes — become a part of us, too, maybe that’s when we will finally begin to care enough to save them.

from a New York Times Guest Essay by Margaret Renkl
“How to Breathe With the Trees”
April 1, 2024

“A poem is built of rests.” As is music. As are the chakras. It’s the in-betweens that give the meaning to the lines, the melodies, the centers of energy.

Poet Laureate Ada Limón is right. So is Margaret Renkl.

Trees make us breathe. In fact, at a simple scientific level, trees are quite literally responsible for what we breathe. There is a grounded holiness about trees. They slow us down.

And slowing down is really what the whole world needs right now so that we stop feeling overwhelmed. The fear of missing out that impels so many of us is a silliness. Yes, of course you’ll miss out. If I’m in Kingston, I’m not in London. It’s as simple as that.

You see, meaning doesn’t often arise out of speed. It arises because we slow down enough to notice the mystery. Huh, we say to ourselves, Wonder what that means? The question itself slows us down, but first we get to notice the mystery.

Once we notice, we must attend to it. If we dismiss a mystery, we won’t find out what it means, but if we’ll sit with it, breathe with it, be with it, its inherent meaning will be revealed from within itself. Because that’s the true meaning of mystery: revelation.

Ah, a mystery. Huh, a question. Exhale. What does it mean to you? Now tell someone else, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll have the chance to slip into wisdom, and then, breathe again.


Here’s a universal affirmation. It works every time, for everyone, always and forever …

Abraham Hicks


And in publishing news …

Well, Mercury is still in Rx — retrograde — so I got a weird, legalistic reply from my original specialty reader, and have had to send another inquiry to someone else, so publication day is … pending.

I also haven’t heard back from the cover artist in more than a week, which is really unlike her, unless she’s gone on holiday, so … publication day is … pending.

Happily, I have a resolution on the Amazon muddle — IT CAN’T BE DONE! So the one-half serious muddle on the series page for The Subversive Lovelies will remain at least half right.

Did I say that Mercury is still Rx? Jeez. (Till the 25th for those who want to know.)

So, if you want the paperbacks, look carefully. There are two volumes for each title. If you want the Kindle, there’s one file for each title.

The first two of the tetralogy, Jezebel Rising and Jasmine Increscent can be found at these live links for ebooks and paperbacks.

I’m still teetering on the verge of diving into writing Jacqueline Retrograde, and the story is unscrolling more and more every day. I’ll let you know when I get the GO! I learned the hard way that if I begin to write before I get the cosmic Go, I’ll just have to trash it all anyway, so I hold still till I’m certain.


Because we completed the out-loud proofreading of Gemma, and the Energy Leaks project is on simmer, we’ve had a lot more space to talk about my burgeoning ideas for the new top-secret series I’m already researching. I can comfortably reveal one major subject in the eight, or nine, book series is the AIDS crisis.

I’ve just reread Randy Shilts’ masterwork, And the Band Played On. I am amazed at a nonfiction book which reads like a fast-paced novel all the while detailing the horrid, cruel neglect on the parts of government bureaucrats, business executives, and research scientists. Did you notice what I did? Each of those categories is comprised of people, yes, persons, persons who, for their own self-interested reasons thought nothing of sacrificing the lives of other persons. I shake my head in disbelief every day.

It’s led to some wild dinner conversations, especially since I’m now reading Sarah Schulman’s Let the Record Show, which is a (so far) brilliant treatment of the extraordinary grass-roots activism accomplished by ACT UP/New York.

Tony was part of the San Francisco ACT UP, so when I talk about what I’m reading, he’s got his own on-the-street version of similar stories. May I encourage you to reach out if you need book-husbanding? His participation in my ongoing creative process makes his work invaluable to mine. If you need anything in your writing life, Tony Amato is the person. Find him here.


I’ve just begun RuPaul’s 1995 autobiography — I always try to read something a little out-of-the-realm-of-the-ordinary on my exercise bicycle, which I use faithfully for thirty minutes five days a week. The photographs of little Ru in kindergarten, first, second, and third grade are sweet as can be.

It also thoroughly intrigued me to read Ru’s own description of his process to metamorphose from RuPaul Andre Charles to the Supermodel of the World you see on his cover here. He holds back no trade secrets at all. Every little thing he does to become the Other Ru is written out in spectacular detail.

The tone of the book makes me feel like Ru is lying on the bed next to Smooch while I ride my bike. He’s a lot of fun, whether you always agree with him or not.


You’re looking at an image of the center of our
kitchen table —
it’s easy to lose sight of our best dreams, our best selves,
especially during what my husband calls, and I quote,
Be sure you put something you see in your everyday
life as a reminder of who you are and how you want to be
in the world.
Ours is a rainbow of glittery goodness.
What’s yours, Belovèd?

I am, without doubt, certain that And is the secret to all we desire.
Let’s commit to practicing And ever more diligently, shall we?
Until next time,
Be Ampersand.




Susan Corso

Dr. Susan Corso a metaphysician with a private counseling practice for 40+ years. She has written too many books to list here. Her website is