Posted on | March 11, 2014 | No Comments
The act of reflecting on our lives is best accomplished by reflecting, first, on the lives of others and seeing what we can learn from them.
Since the lives of others take many decades to unfold, the very finest way to understand the human situation is to read stories about the way others have chosen to live.
That is why we study literature.
Posted on | February 22, 2014 | No Comments
Life asks us to play, and if that means the living room looks like a disaster zone after a few minutes that’s perfectly OK. It just goes to show that adults have stopped knowing how to play properly. It’s your job to teach them.
Sometimes the wrapping paper and cardboard box really are much more exciting that what’s inside.
Loud noises are scary. But anything that even comes half way close to being music is magic.
Wonder is everywhere.
Join in. It doesn’t matter if you can’t actually speak yet. You can still make encouraging sounds and be part of the conversation.
Tents are fun. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Posted on | February 16, 2014 | 2 Comments
So what is it we teach when we teach literature? What is it that we convey when we engage in discussions about books or encourage our students to write their own stories and poems? What do we allow them to explore when we teach Memoir?
I’ll call all of these activities by the same term, the Study of Literature, since they are all linked.
All literature is predicated on one thing – that the characters or narrators in the stories encounter struggles and then have to choose whether or not to face them. It would be fair to say that literature is therefore implicitly concerned with the virtue of courage – that virtue without which no others can exist. Whether it’s Emily Dickinson asking us to take the step of sharing her unusual view of the world, and risk the puzzled looks of our neighbors, or if it’s Odysseus refusing to give up in his quest to get home, courage is at the core of literature. Reading about it, talking about it, we grow our own courage.
In the outside world we don’t have too much opportunity to examine courage, and see whether or not we’ll actually live up to those standards. And increasingly most of us don’t. We act out of self-interest and expediency. We do tend to play safe – with the exception of the bungee-jumping thrill junkies who think that extreme sports are the same thing as moral courage, as “doing the right thing”. They are not the same thing.
Courage – thoughtful, considered, unselfish actions that are about choosing the humane path – is in short supply in our modern world. Literature can help us grow this virtue.
And that is just one reason to consider literature as a vital area of study for all people, everywhere.
Posted on | January 22, 2014 | No Comments
About a week ago I had the great privilege of being interview by Philip Mereton on his radio show, www.conversationsbeyondscienceandreligion.com . The podcast is now available and you can also access his site for other fascinating interviews… These links should get you there.
Posted on | December 29, 2013 | 2 Comments
You don’t have to respond to someone just because they call your name and want you to do something.
You don’t have to smile on demand.
You don’t have to be what anyone wants or expects you to be.
You don’t have to perform.
Love the people you trust. Trust is a feeling, not a calculation. Ask for what you want.
The people who are paying attention will understand what you mean right away, long before you have to shed tears.
Be you. Everyone who is paying attention to life will love that you’re being you and will become more themselves as a result.
Those who don’t get it won’t get it, ever.
Posted on | December 13, 2013 | No Comments
Has anyone made the link? School shootings are a way that very confused people take out their rage on others. It’s like bullying, only more so. Those who are bullied tend to be the ones who resort to the guns. So if we’re looking for a “cause” and if we actually want to try to reduce the number of school shootings (14 this year since Sandy Hook), or prevent Mall shootings, then we have to go right back to thinking about the causes of child abuse, and ways abused children respond to it.
Child abuse happens when parents are absent or not parenting well, and when children aren’t loved or are exploited.
So yes: I believe that “family values” may need some help in this country. The phrase should not be used as a slogan for a political party that then spectacularly fails to support working class families.
Posted on | December 8, 2013 | No Comments
Even a casual sweep around facebook these days will let you know that with Christmas still nearly 3 weeks away plenty of people already have their trees up, decorated, and presents spread under the tinsel-laden branches.
I used to get a bit annoyed with people who got started on the festive season so early. Now I see it differently.
Each tree, especially when illuminated, creates a sense of wonder and magic. The presents underneath it “From Santa” also speak of good things magically arriving for us. This sense of magic, of warmth and delight, is what is really being cherished – and sometimes it feels all the more of a relief after the strain of Christmas shopping.
People want more magic in their lives. We need to have our sense of wonder nurtured and this is one way to get a glimpse of it, if only for a short while. For those who are fortunate perhaps a walk in the woods and a visit to an actual growing tree would be even better. But for most of us, well, we have to do the best we can.
Posted on | November 24, 2013 | No Comments
I’ve had some interesting responses to my earlier post about trust, so I’ll clarify some things a little further for those who are feeling uncertain.
When we distrust someone we may in actuality be trusting our own inner sense of who that person is. So even though your first grade teacher may have told you conflicting things about who to trust (trust her, trust the administration, but not strangers with candy – so what do we do about administrators with candy?) the point is to honor what you feel, not what is accepted protocol. To accept a party line we feel is wrong is to distrust our own sense of what is right.
Now, somewhere in all this we encounter jealousy. This occurs when we don’t quite trust another person to behave correctly towards us. Is that because we have real reasons to think that way? If so then it is merely a fact, lamentable but true. What makes jealousy so corrosive is that somewhere inside ourselves we may feel we aren’t worthy of good regard, that we deserve to be treated this way. That is the ultimate form of self distrust, and also distrust of the universe. For we are all worthy of good treatment. Every single one of us. If we don’t get it this is no reason to tear ourselves to shreds.
Jealousy – and its brother, envy – is the creation of that wounded part of the self that wants good treatment but is afraid it doesn’t deserve it. It is the result of a lack of self-love.
Posted on | November 22, 2013 | No Comments
Difficulties inevitably arise in everyone’s life. Many of us react to them by wondering what the heck is going on, and so we end up asking: “Why me? Why now?” The only trouble with this reaction is that it spells out just one thing – distrust. We do not trust that there can be a good reason for this event, let alone a good outcome. And so we fall into distrust.
But what, in fact, are we distrusting? We may think we’re doubting our luck, our God, or fate. Actually we’re doing just one thing. We’re distrusting ourselves. We distrust that we can handle this new event, and so we disempower ourselves before we even start. What’s happening is we’re not trusting our ability to deal with what is, and we’re also failing to recognize that everything that comes to us has the potential to help us learn. And so distrust is, in fact, the triumph of the wounded and hurt parts of our damaged egos, the parts that want someone else to come along and make it all OK for us, like a toddler crying for its mother. That’s what distrust is, at its core.
Posted on | November 19, 2013 | No Comments
My son in law Willie was explaining to me how farmers plant corn and beans in El Salvador. They plant the seeds side by side, and that way as the corn stalk grows the bean plant twines its way up it. When the corn is ripe the farmers cut the corn stalk about half way through, so it lies horizontal. The corn kernels get to finish ripening and the beans now have a lot more sunshine so they can ripen faster. The benefit of this is that the bean roots put extra nitrogen into the soil, replacing the nutrients used by the corn and acting as a natural fertilizer. No chemicals needed.
Modern “intensive” farming can’t do this. So we rely on many more toxic fertilizers that wind up in our guts. We get bigger yields and degrade our food.
“Progress” is not always progress.keep looking »