Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I saw an interesting movie recently. I believe the title was "Cashback." It's about an art student struggling with a kind of depression after breaking up with his girlfriend. The premise of the movie is that he finds in the midst of his depression that he is able to stop time. And by doing so he discovers that love, that beauty, often is in hiding -- that we have to stop and notice it or else be swept along by the nonstop current of life. I enjoyed it.

Recently my six year old son, Jacob, started complaining about school. I really didn't think too much about it, figuring that he was just getting used to the idea of working for so long. Then a day or so ago, he lied down on the garage floor before school, crying and complaining about how he dislikes all the time they spend on reading exercises.

This caught me off guard. The reports from his teacher have been fine. He seems to be making good progress academically, and they haven't noticed him being particularly stressed out at school. Part of me wonders if it is a struggle with sustained attention -- staying focused on something for that long? Or maybe he doesn't feel confident in it yet, and dislikes the feeling of struggle (even though his progress is OK)? Maybe he is miserable at school but suffering in silence?

These thoughts weighed heavily on me all day, and I spoke to his teacher about them. She seems as concerned and puzzled as I feel.

But regardless, I was struck by how easily I disregarded his earlier reactions, how I only took it seriously after he had the day where he cried in the garage. It makes me feel a bit guilty, a bit ashamed.

But my hope is that this incident will be a reminder -- a kind of encouragement to myself to be more open, more present, more centered.

Peace to you all.

Friday, September 26, 2008

on disdain

I had a fascinating conversation with someone about disdain the other day. It had to do with why we sometimes cling so tightly to this emotion, this habit. Basically, we discussed how disdain allows us to maintain a sense of superiority (or at least of not being something that we dislike), but at the same time sets us up for a kind of self-loathing. Since there is almost always some part of ourselves that recognizes, understands, or contains what we dislike -- we are setting ourselves up to harshly condemn that part of ourselves, to set up a kind of war on ourselves.

Some people resist giving up their disdain because they equate doing so with acceptance, with agreement. But learning to have compassion for those who, say, have prejudices, doesn't mean that we must become prejudiced ourselves. It merely means that we can understand the fear and false assumptions that underlie prejudice -- that we can appreciate how toxic and difficult these can be because we have experienced them ourselves.

In other words, getting rid of disdain involves an acceptance of our shared humanity. It means joining with, being a part of, the human race. It means working to create change through dialogue, understanding, and peace -- rather than through rejection, hostility, or anger.

Friday, September 12, 2008

political musings...

I have to admit, I'm a bit surprised that Palin is getting as positive a reaction as she has so far. A brief review of the concerns:

1. She advocates teaching creationism in public school science classes.

2. She clearly wasn't even aware of what the "Bush doctrine" is! (Which is only a minor thing, really, given that it's been the basis of our foreign policy for the past seven years. Yeesh.)

3. She actually expects people to believe that her decision to fire the local librarian when she was mayor wasn't related to a desire to censor books she finds objectionable -- despite the fact that her decision to fire the librarian came within days of a talk they had where she specifically brought up the issue.

4. She has repeated blatant lies (even after profoundly shown to be lies by all media outlets) about her so-called rejection of the "Bridge to Nowhere."

5. She accepted some of the most extravagant earmarks for the state of Alaska, yet has promoted herself as being "a reformer."

6. She has denigrated those involved in community organizing.

I could go on. But it seems to me that what we're dealing with is a reasonably photogenic individual who is clearly from the far right wing of the Republican party. Somebody with little knowledge of (or experience with) policy issues on an international level (or even of issues transcending those of the State of Alaska). And someone who calculatingly heaps praises on Hilary Clinton, but who would be among Hilary's harshest critics if Hilary were to be the current Democratic nominee.

This is not change. This is precisely the kind of campaign put forward for Bush in 2000.

We all know how that turned out.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


On this, the 39th anniversary of my entry into this world:

I took the day off from work.

I golfed 18 holes at a very difficult course about 30 minutes from here.

I had my "Phil Mickelson" moment: three separate attempts to chip the ball onto the green, with each one rolling back to within three feet of where I stood.

I went to an IEP meeting for my younger son, focused on how to help him stay focused at school.

I ate a yummy dinner.

I got to enjoy having my boys blow out candles on the cake with me. Three times!

I thought often of my own father, thinking his reactions were probably much like my own when he had his birthdays.

I was aware that the true joy of the day was not the golf, not the day off, not the cake, not the present -- but the simple joy in my sons' eyes as they wished me happy birthday.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My 6 year old son, budding existentialist?

So a day or so ago, I walked into a room, and my six year old looked a little tense. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"Dad," he replied, "I'm not for sure I know who I am."

I paused, briefly, trying to make some sense out of his question. Then I just figured I'd respond directly.

"Well, I do!" I told him. "You're Jacob. You're my son."

He looked up at me, seeming relieved. Then he started talking about Power Rangers.