Monday, April 24, 2017

'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' Author Robert M. Pirsig Dies at 88

Author Robert Pirsig and his son Chris in 1968.


I am saddened to learn about the passing today of Robert Pirsig, author of one of my all-time favorite books. I read it first when I was a teen, and my idea of a cross-country trip on 2 wheels was #RAGBRAI.

Many years later, I re-read the same dog-eared copy as a 50-year-old cancer patient with a broken marriage, an unfinished dissertation, and a glorious #Road_King.


Reading a book the second time can be an amazing experience, particularly if the intervening years had some character-building experiences...

In my youth, I latched on to the lighter part of #ZAMM which deals with adventure--the open road, and a mechanic's appreciation for the well-engineered machine. 

My second exposure occurred many hard miles later. At that time, Pirsig's dark and desperate struggle to find truth, keep his sanity, and add value to the world--all of that absolutely pierced me. 

I am grateful for my life and all of its lessons. I am grateful that every time I was ready to learn, a teacher appeared.
 
Thank you, Robert, for so much wisdom lurking behind the veneer of a travel story. You taught us to not merely exist but to truly "be in the scene." May your heavenly highways be full of twisty turns. In the afterlife, may man and machine work as one, evermore.



Links for further reading:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Turn the World Down




This is the cover art for the album Black Cat by the artist Zucchero Fornaciari. The album's English version includes collaboration with Elvis Costello on "Love Again" (renamed as "Turn the World Down").

This song--Elvis Costello's words and Zucchero's bluesy rock voice--this is great stuff

Watch a video HERE as you scroll through the lyrics below.



"Turn the World Down"


Now and then
It’s night again
Like black ink pouring from a pen

Curse my eyes
For opening
I’m having trouble just recovering

And in those hours we gazed
Upon white sheets, torn back from a page
My heart is spent

Almost erased
Turn the world down
There’s nothing between?
All this beauty and this suffering?

Please if you know
Get the word out
Let the globe spin
Save everyone and everything.
Like a blade Keen and thin
Scimitar Soft like a maid
Beneath his skin

Upon this scene
Disgrace and sin
Where are you now?
Where have you been?

And in those hours we gazed
Upon red sheets, pulled back by the rage
My hearts are spent

Almost erased
Turn the world down
There’s nothing between
all this beauty and this suffering?

And if you know
Get the word out
Let the globe spin
Save everyone and everything
Turn the world down
There’s nothing between
all this beauty and this suffering?

My mind is all bent
It’s stamping my soul

I’m burning down
To tar and charcoal

To blood and ash
To feathers and trash

I gotta move

Turn the world down
There’s nothing between
all this beauty and this suffering?

And if you know
Get the word out
Let the globe spin
Save everyone and everything

Turn the world down
There’s nothing between
all this beauty and this suffering?

I gotta move
I wanna move
Now and then
It’s night again
It’s night again





You can learn more about Zucchero's 12th studio album and listen to all 15 tracks HERE

The copyright for the Black Cat cover art displyed above is believed to belong to the label, Universal, or the graphic artist(s). Source: Fair use. File:Zucchero - Black Cat.jpg. Uploaded: 24 March 2016.

Begging the Question?




Everyone knows that "begging the question" is a technical term used in logic and debate. The term refers to the flaw of asserting an unproven assumption as if it were true. Therefore, obviously, no one would ever use "begging the question" to mean raising or posing a question that needs to be answered.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Pink Freud Matter: Today's Lesson in Critical Thinking

Have you seen this quote circulating on any of your social media sites?

Quote attributed to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) 


Odds are good that you have seen this quote at least once. It showed up in my news feed again recently. This particular image has 1.2 million shares on just one Facebook site (Fb / The Idealist, as in "idea list"). There may be countless other individuals and groups circulating this same image via Facebook. It's on Twitter, too. And Pinterest. In short--it's everywhere.

Furthermore, plenty of creative people have entered their own versions of the meme into circulation. A simple Google search reveals a multitude of variations.

Not only have you probably seen this exact poster--or one very similar to it--but you may have even shared it with your friends and contributed to its popularity. Oh, we love the sardonic and heartfelt wisdom in the remark. And we'd love to ascribe such earthy wisdom to someone whose reputation validates our instinctive trust. Confirmation bias (the tendency to believe statements because they reinforce our previous understanding) makes it easy for us to accept the attribution to Freud without question--as millions of others have done.

However, the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is most certainly not the author of that quote. That's right, we've all been duped! Because ...

Freud never said those words!

Freud was a prolific writer. Many great quotes are legitimately attributed to him. The following links feature quotes gleaned from his writings. At best case, they are properly cited. As you read through them you will notice certain tonal qualities to them that reveal the context and content of Freud's thoughts. Yet no where will you find the "quote of the day."



In Freud's day (the early 20th century), few educated people used offensive gutter terms like "assholes" in serious conversation. Apparently many others have questioned the language of this quote, because a simple search of the Internet turns up many variations of the quote of the day in which the offending term is replaced with something else.
  • I found an "arseholes" version. (Born and educated in eastern Europe, Freud died in London. This term is common vernacular in England today, but was it used by an Austrian ex-pat in 1920?)
  • There are many versions, still attributed to Freud, where the offending word is replaced with benign synonyms: "idiots," "bunch of jerks," or "mean people." 
  • In one version, the offending word is not replaced but boldly over-written with "idiots." This edited version makes it clear that the person circulating the quote did not approve of "Dr. Freud's" language and wanted to substitute a more suitable term without breaking attribution. 
  • Many of the modified quotes are shared anonymously, without attribution of any kind. 
  • Perhaps my "favorite" version is the one published by Board of Wisdom (www.boardofwisdom.com) and credited to someone supposedly named Laura Rose. Neither the Board of Wisdom nor Laura Rose understand plagiarism.  

Nice try, Laura Rose! (If that is your real name.)

Laura Rose: Altering is not authoring!

So far, we've seen how the popular quote has been attributed to Freud without a shred of evidence and despite the inconsistency with his other, properly attributed quotes. We've seen how the language of the quote has been edited by a number of others, and even co-opted by at least one more would-be author. Turns out, Freud is not the only person people want to believe uttered these words. The quote has also been misattributed to  the award-winning science fiction author, William Gibson.


William Gibson (1948-present) did not say these words, either

Compare the Freud and Gibson versions and note the subtle difference in the last phrase: "...just surrounded by assholes," versus "...just surrounding yourself with assholes." The former is passive, and the latter is active. Unlike our friend Laura Rose, Gibson did not change a couple of words and pass the quote off as his own idea. Gibson merely re-tweeted--initially without attribution--something he saw and enjoyed. Others, seeing the Gibson imprimatur, were all too quick to ascribe his authorship and create posters such as the one above. But the fact is that Gibson not only did not write the quote, he has actively attempted to give credit to the (less famous) person he re-tweeted. Yet the misattribution to the more well-known writer persists.

The question of who authored the quote was put to Quote Investigator (http://quoteinvestigator.com) and researchers there scoured the Internet and written records for clues. They actually searched Freud's papers and contacted people such as William Gibson and asked questions. They found a tweet by @debihope published in 2010. When contacted, she said she just wrote what she felt after a bad breakup. The researchers failed to turn up any prior citations.

Based on current evidence, we conclude that Debbie Hope (Twitter handle @debihope) should be credited with composing this saying. The attribution to William Gibson (Twitter handle @GreatDismal) was based on a misunderstanding because he re-tweeted the remark. Gibson himself never tried to take credit for the quote, and attempted to credit Steven Winterburn (Twitter handle @5tevenW) from whom Gibson had re-tweeted the quote. Interestingly, Winterburn has claimed to be the originator, but his first use (May 24, 2011) was 16 months after that of Debbie Hope (Jan 24, 2010). The ascription to Freud has no substantive support.

Note how easy it is to believe that Freud said these words. The words make sense and we want to believe them. We may even want to share them so that we can be affiliated with the wisdom contained in them. But when it comes to credibility, with which person do we prefer to align our opinions? Sigmund Freud? Impressive! Or William Gibson? Popular! How about Steve Winterburn? Debbie Hope? Anonymous? Or maybe we follow the Laura Rose example and put our own name on it?

From evidence, we conclude the attribution to Freud is incorrect. Gibson vigorously denied authoring the statement. Both Winterburn and Laura Rose claimed attribution in error. That leaves Hope, the person who claims the quote. So far, no previous version has been documented.

So the matter is settled. Or, is it? Why do so many people persist in attaching the quote to Gibson or Freud?  

Pink Freud to the rescue! 

Fixed it! Or, did I? Who is Pink Freud?

So, what is the point of all this? Several lessons can be drawn.

  • Don't believe every poster or meme--they are easy to make. Deb Hope is not the meme artist known as Pink Freud even though I spent all of 5 minutes making the above poster.
  • Think critically about the information that is pouring into your ears and eyes. Don't be so quick to trust the attribution given by someone else.
  • Avoid confirmation bias by asking challenging questions about what you know versus what you want to believe.
  • Always test what you know and check sources. Don't make up a source or accept an unverified source
  • Give credit where it's due. Do not plagiarize or take credit for someone else's idea.


Thanks for reading PhilosFX. Check out these related links!


Friday, February 24, 2017

Call to Action: Shut down the "Deathtrap"



Tell #NBC that you will NOT watch the March 1st episode of #ChicagoFire because you are a decent human being and it's too soon to make money off of the horror that was the "Ghost Ship" fire.

NBC is planning to air an episode entitled "Deathtrap" which is a realistic depiction of the Oakland warehouse fire that took place just 3 months ago. That fire trapped and killed 36 people and injured 2 more. The community and the survivors and their friends and families are still reeling from this devastating loss!

The synopsis of "Deathtrap" makes it clear that NBC is re-enacting the Oakland warehouse fire in a Chicago setting. The casting call makes explicit reference to "Ghost Ship" and the requirement for actors to re-enact the experience of being trapped in a blazing warehouse. How did this disgusting and crass story get green-lighted? Have the executives at NBC lost their minds?

Call to Action
  • Social media warriors, drive to ZERO the viewership for this indecent episode.
  • Corporate sponsors, withdraw your advertising dollars from this repugnant programming.
  • Dick Wolf, super-star producer, admit that this idea was a crass mistake, and acknowledge the lesson learned: We value life when we respect the dead.
Links to more information on this issue

"We value life when we respect the dead."

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Venus and Mars are Alright Tonight!


This picture shows the view in the west-southwestern sky about an hour after sunset on Feb 20, 2017 in Alexandria, VA. About 30 degrees above the horizon, one notices a brightly glowing planet: Venus. Above and to the left of Venus, about 7 degrees away, is a fainter, redder planet: that would be Mars.

Venus and Mars are alright tonight!





The celestial dance of ultra-feminine Venus and the combative, uber male, Mars has fired up human imagination since time immemorial. The Roman myth of Venus and Mars is familiar to most of us. Venus, the Goddess of Love has a passionate affair with Mars, the God of War. Together they have a beautiful daughter, the Goddess Harmonia. But like love itself, the story of Venus and Mars is much more complicated than it would seem on the surface.

Venus is betrothed to pragmatic and hard-nosed Vulcan, Roman God of Fire, but she finds him too prosaic. She has a passionate affair with Mars. But Vulcan discovers what is going on. Being a blacksmith, he fashions a fine metallic mesh which ensnares Venus and Mars on a couch. They are then both humiliated in front of the other gods on Mount Olympus. 

Yin and Yang. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. In the long run, life did not work out well for these two star-crossed lovers. But tonight? Tonight, Venus and Mars are alright!







Sitting in the stand of the sports arena
Waiting for the show to begin
Red lights, green lights, strawberry wine
A good friend of mine, follow the stars
Venus and Mars are alright tonight


Standing in the hall of the great cathedral 
Waiting for the transport to come 
Starship two-one-ZNA-nine 
A good friend of mine studies the stars 
Venus and Mars are alright tonight






Any time, any day, you can hear the people say that love is blind
well, I don't know but I say love is kind 

Soldier boy kisses girl, leaves behind a tragic world but he won't mind, 
he's in love and he says love is fine 

and love is fine for all we know, for all we know our love will grow, 
that's what the man said









Notes:

Garry Beckstrom's guide to exploring the night sky: http://www.beckstromobservatory.com/whats-up-in-tonights-sky-2/


Charles J. Harwood, the forbidden love of Venus and Mars: https://sites.google.com/site/charlesjharwood/forbidden-love-of-venus-and-mars

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (1992) is a book written by American author and relationship counselor John Gray.

Lyrics for the title song to The Wings' 1975 album Venus and Mars: Paul McCartney - Venus & Mars Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Listen to the whole album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKWZP9dSjIc

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Song to Walt Whitman, Doctor Who, and the Open Road: Allons!



allons



EXCLAMATION

  • ‘Let's go’; (also) ‘come now’, ‘there you are’ (used by way of encouragement, or as a general expression of acceptance, resignation, etc.).

Origin

Mid 17th century; earliest use found in George Tooke (1595–1675), army officer and writer. From French allons, 1st person plural imperative of aller to go from post-classical Latin alare, ultimately a variant (with loss of the unstressed medial -u- and subsequent assimilation of consonants, although the exact phonological history is unclear) of classical Latin ambulāre to walk.
-------------------------------------------------------------

"Allons-y? It means, Let's go!"
--The Tenth Doctor Who



--------------------------------------------------------

"Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless....” 
--Walt Whitman

--------------------------------------------------------


Perhaps you have seen the Volvo commercial which begins with the phrase, "Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road." The stunningly gorgeous commercial imagines a modern day Walt Whitman, voiced by actor Josh Brolin, wandering the wonderous world in his S90 luxury sedan.  

Anyway, I heard Josh Brolin's melodic voice and those words really spoke to me. A quick search landed me on the full version of Walt Whitman's "Song of the Open Road," a poem from his 1856 collection, Leaves of Grass.

The original poem is 328 lines in 15 sections. I quickly realized that Josh Brolin reads but a few lines from the poem and some are presented out of order. I also noticed that the original contains many instances of the word, Allons, all edited out of the Volvo ad. Being a Doctor Who fan, my appreciation for the original Walt Whitman text deepened. 

The TV spot is superb, but you really must invest the 2 minutes and 47 seconds it'll take you to watch the extended version. This longform video is part of Volvo's "Our Idea of Luxury" series featuring artful, cryptic, non-linear story-telling. I defy anyone to watch it only once. It took me a couple of viewings before I noticed the explicit reference to Walt Whitman. Can you spot it?



I love the stirring poetry of Walt Whitman, the campy fun of Doctor Who, and the endless appeal of the open road. Volvo makes a nice vehicle, but I'll take my Road King. 

Song of the Open Road

Related Poem Content Details

1 
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 
Healthy, free, the world before me, 
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. 

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, 

Strong and content I travel the open road. 

2 
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here, 
I believe that much unseen is also here. 

6
Here is realization, 
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him, 
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them. 

5 
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me. 
I inhale great draughts of space, 
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine. 

I am larger, better than I thought, 
I did not know I held so much goodness. 

All seems beautiful to me.

9 
Allons! whoever you are come travel with me! 
Traveling with me you find what never tires. 

The earth never tires, 
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first, 
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d, 
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell. 

Allons! we must not stop here, 
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while. 

13 
Allons! to that which is endless as it was beginningless, 

To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them, to gather the love out of their hearts, 
To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you, 
To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls. 

You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it, or though it has been built for you. 

15 
Allons! the road is before us! 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Veteran Homelessness: Conway Residence

The John and Jill Ker Conway Residence on North Capitol Street, Washington, DC


Today's post is about an important milestone in the fight to end veteran homelessness and expand affordable housing options in the nation's capitol.

On Thursday, January 12th, 2017 in the city of Washington, DC, 10 blocks due north of the US Capitol and a 10-minute walk from Union Station, I had the great pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting ceremony and official opening at the Conway Residence. I was the invited guest of a good friend who is now working with Community Solutions, co-developer of the residence.

This outstanding achievement is at the center of a Venn diagram of special interests:
  • Architecture and urban planning; 
  • Military service and veterans affairs; and 
  • Public administration and government. 

I was thrilled to attend, see my old friend again, and meet some fascinating new people. I was impressed as I listened to the remarks made by organizers and developers, new residents, officials from federal and local government, and financiers. In addition to hearing the comments by officials and residents at the ceremony, I was also able to take a tour of the facility and environs. I write to share my experience on the day and to raise awareness about this important and impactful work.

This is the first in a planned series of posts. Soon, I will publish a photo-journal of my experience. Photos are often wonderful souvenirs but to convert photos into effective motivators requires context. So that will be a separate post. I would also like to develop a stand-alone post on the metrics being used by Community Solutions to under-gird their surprising claim that ZERO homelessness among veterans is achievable. I had a brief conversation with  Roseanne Haggerty of Community Solutions on this question, and that deserves special treatment. Meanwhile, for those of you interested in learning more about the Conway Residence, I will conclude this initial post with 6 quotes from various sources which describe the intent, development, and impact of this project.

1. From the home page of Community Solutions
At Community Solutions, we work toward a future without homelessness, in which poverty never follows families beyond a single generation.

2. From the Community Solutions blog post about the 2014 ground breaking ceremony for Conway Residence
Good design can turn a house or apartment into a home, but too often, homeless and low income populations miss out on well-designed, high-quality housing. We're determined to change that.

3. From an Architect Magazine article about the design and construction of a new DC residence featuring permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless Veterans.
After breaking ground in 2014, the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence with permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans and for households that make less than 60 percent of the area median income opened this week. Designed by Washington, D.C.-based firm, Sorg Architects, the 14-story structure features 124 efficiency units with a gym, conference room, and ground-floor retail space.

4. From a report on Permanent Supportive Housing and featuring the Conway Residence by National Homeless Organization
This report examines one housing development which is nearing completion to help address these needs, the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence located on North Capitol Street in Washington, DC. This 124-unit complex includes 60 Permanent Supportive Housing apartments for formerly homeless veterans, 17 apartments reserved to tenants referred by the District’s Department of Behavioral Health, and 47 apartments available for other low-income residents making 60% or less of area median income. Once operational, it will be the largest Permanent Supportive Housing development in the District dedicated to serving veterans struggling with homelessness


5. From the Washington Post article about homeless vets in DC getting a new home to call their own

The first of its kind in the city, it was constructed with a combination of federal, city, private and nonprofit funds. The $33 million building houses 124 one-bedroom efficiency apartments, including 64 additional affordable and low-income units. The veterans pay 30 percent of their income as rent and have on-site supportive services such as social workers, job and education counseling, and mental health specialists. Their average age is 62, and their services are coordinated by case managers who work directly with the D.C. Veterans Administration Medical Center staff.


6. This article about the ribbon cutting ceremony appeared on DC Housing's website.  
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser joined advocates and housing professionals to open the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence, an architecturally striking apartment building with 60 units of permanent supportive housing for veterans exiting homelessness and 64 affordable and low-income units. The 124-unit mixed income building is among the first of its kind in the country to have full-time, onsite VA case managers. The soaring structure represents an unusual effort to bring outstanding architecture and design to housing for low-income and homeless populations.

Part One: Veteran Homelessness: Conway Residence
Part Two: Veteran Homelessness: Conway Residence Photo Journal TBP
Part Three: Veteran Homelessness: Conway Residence Getting to Zero TBP


Please join us in supporting this and all efforts to end homelessness among veterans! And, as always, thank you for reading PhilosFX. Comments welcome!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 11

On the 11th day of Christmas
My BeerPal gave to me




Double good, Double Jack Double IPA
An out of this world Imperial IPA
As an Imperial IPA, you can't handle The Truth IIPA 
Destruction, demolition, ravage, and Ruination
An extravagantly hopped West Coast DIPA
The purest bliss of Pure Hoppiness
CALLING INDIA PALE ALE!
A spiny, bitter-tasting, crab-eating fish
A spiny, grapefruit-flavored, crab-eating fish
Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 10

On the 10th day of Christmas
My BeerPal gave to me





An out of this world Imperial IPA
As an Imperial IPA, you can't handle The Truth IIPA 
Destruction, demolition, ravage, and Ruination
An extravagantly hopped West Coast DIPA
The purest bliss of Pure Hoppiness
CALLING INDIA PALE ALE!
A spiny, bitter-tasting, crab-eating fish
A spiny, grapefruit-flavored, crab-eating fish
Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 9

On the 9th day of Christmas
My BeerPal gave to me





As an Imperial IPA, you can't handle The Truth IIPA 
Destruction, demolition, ravage, and Ruination
An extravagantly hopped West Coast DIPA
The purest bliss of Pure Hoppiness
CALLING INDIA PALE ALE!
A spiny, bitter-tasting, crab-eating fish
A spiny, grapefruit-flavored, crab-eating fish
Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle

Monday, January 2, 2017

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 8

On the 8th Day of Christmas
My BeerPal gave to me





Destruction, demolition, ravage, and Ruination
An extravagantly hopped West Coast DIPA
The purest bliss of Pure Hoppiness
CALLING INDIA PALE ALE!
A spiny, bitter-tasting, crab-eating fish
A spiny, grapefruit-flavored, crab-eating fish
Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Five Questions for Crossing the Threshold

This year, instead of writing New Year's Resolutions, I opted to follow an approach advocated by Parker J. Palmer, a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal.





Parker describes his approach like this: he first pondered the Anne Hillman poem (below), and then he identified some questions or wonderings which the had poem evoked in him. After identifying five such wonderings, he decided to follow Rainer Maria Rilke’s famous advice about "living the questions." He wrote out responses to each of those wonderings.

Parker claims his responses inspired new growth and direction in his life in a way that typical resolutions never did. Parker implied that this approach works because it gets after the all-important "why" question. Most resolutions focus on the "what" or the "how" (lose weight, exercise more, sleep better, pay off debt, get the new job, take the trip, etc.). Such resolutions typically fail because they don't connect to purpose--to "why."

I tried Parker's approach, and I was floored by the powerful insights that I gleaned. I thought PhilosFX readers might also be moved by this novel technique, so I decided to share Parker's idea here. At some personal risk, I added my own responses to Parker's leading questions. My hope in sharing not only the process but also my own discovery is that my example will spark some of you to work through this vigorously. So let's give it a try. Read the poem, and then develop personal responses to the wonderings. Let's see what insights emerge as we prepare to cross the threshold into a new year.

We look with uncertainty
by Anne Hillman
We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
clear-cut answers
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.

In bold blue text are the wonderings Hillman’s poem evoked in Parker. My responses are appended in light grey text but of course I'd like you to ignore them in favor of your own personal responses.

• How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?

I am analytical, skeptical, rational, and pragmatic. In contrast, Nature is glorious, mysterious, timeless, and unforgiving, I believe in my gifts. I also believe life is more than my gifts. I believe living out my questions involves pausing to recognize that life can be random, nature is uncertain, my attempts to bring order out of chaos may at times be quite futile, and that I will be more alive when I can release my need to control, and then be more present, more accepting, more like Nature herself. I will write in my gratitude journal daily. 

• What is my next challenge in daring to be human?

What does it mean to be fully human? What is blocking me from being the fullest realization of myself as an optimally functioning human? What can I do to overcome, bypass, or mitigate the obstacles? Doesn't "daring" to be human imply pushing out of and beyond my comfort zone? There is nothing daring about living the same old routine. For my next challenge, I need to deliberately take on experiences that force me beyond the analytical cocoon in which I've wrapped myself up.  I will go to the retirement home in my neighborhood and seek out a harmonica teacher.

• How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?

I see the pattern of my life. I awaken still tired, already late. I hustle from my condo cube to my car cube and--after a stressful commute--settle into my cubicle cube. I exchange time and talent for just enough treasure to pay for the upkeep on my various cubes. And the days, months, and years roll by. How often to I break out of the cube and wander in the forest or the park? When was the last time I caught my own food? I will learn how to fish, and catch me a nice bass.  

• Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?

This is easy. I could start by loving myself for once. It is time for me to treat myself as if I actually like who I am and care about my own well-being. Like most analysts and logicians, I am hyper-critical. As an analyst, I naturally look for gaps and shortfalls. As a perfectionist, I often focus my most critical gaze at myself. I will lighten up on the harsh inner voice and replace the nagging with more supportive and positive self-talk. 

• What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?

I am at a point in life where my construction has provided me and those closest to me some shelter and even a bit of luxury. Now I must enter into a phase of helping and enabling others to design and build their own habitats. The new creation is a shift from me and mine to yours and ours. At this point, I must consider more of an outside perspective, an outward orientation, less hands-on and more helping hands, less competitive and more networked. I will go out of my way to be of service to others. 


Conclusion and Call to Action

As we prepare to cross the thresholds that lie before us, may this meditation inspire us to wonderings of our own! Let's make the time to explore those wonderings and document our answers. In this way, those things we resolve to change will be rooted in purpose, and thus more likely to succeed. Onwards and upwards!

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments! And as always, thank you for reading PhilosFX.




H/T: I am a long-time fan of Krista Tippett and her rich, sophisticated, and ever-evolving program called On BeingParker Palmer's recent article for On Being was the inspiration for this post. 

Twelve Beers of Christmas: Day 7

On the 7th Day of Christmas
(Which is also New Year's Day)
My BeerPal gave to me





An extravagantly hopped West Coast DIPA
The purest bliss of Pure Hoppiness
CALLING INDIA PALE ALE!
A spiny, bitter-tasting, crab-eating fish
A spiny, grapefruit-flavored, crab-eating fish
Fresh brewed fresh hops in my fresh belly
And an auburn-haired mermaid in a bottle