Interviewed by John Haggerty

Read Amy Stuber’s nonfiction piece, Ambulances on My Block

John: Are ambulances the height of civilization—a great signifier of our willingness as a society to care for complete strangers? Or are they just a feeble emotional barrier between us and a paralyzing knowledge of the inherent insecurity of life?

Amy: Unfortunately, I’m probably too cynical to answer this question! On so many days, I’m just like, “Ugh, civilization. Can I go live in a field away from everyone but my family?” But, yes, there’s something really nice about a service that comes to care for you when you’re in great need. Then again, you have to pay for it. So. 

If, as Pema Chodron asks, death is inevitable but the time of death is unknown, what is the most important thing?

The best I can hope for, I think, is small joy every day, as in walks with my kids, laughing at something with my sister, being outside, that kind of thing. Also, I’m reading about philosophy a lot for a book project I’m working on, and I just read about Diogenes of Sinope whose life advice was to (and, sorry, real philosophers, I’m sure I’m getting this wrong or oversimplifying) reject convention and shame and reject interest in comfort and property and live simply in nature and in accordance with natural impulses. For context, Diogenes apparently lived in an abandoned tub. I’m too soft to go that far probably, but I’ll take it as loose inspiration. 

And would it help if we knew the time of our deaths, or would it just make things worse?

I would be okay with that if it’s a long time in the future but far less okay if it was soon. I think generally, though, knowing when we were going to die would make things worse. I am way too morbid already and walk around in this dumb, unhelpful state of pre-worry and pre-mourning about people’s deaths. Knowing exactly when all of this was coming would probably totally undo me. 

Avengers movies—sequential or not?

I wish I knew the answer to this, and my kids, both teenagers who’ve watched all of these movies at least twice, will probably feel some small shame on my behalf for not knowing. But I think, having absolutely zero basis for this, I would say non-sequential just because right now I’m sort of into things being jumbled, experimental, and out of order. I like coming into a story and not knowing all the facts and piecing them together.