Archive for March, 2013

Subduing the earth and the Republican war against women

March 31, 2013

They seem to me to come out of the same place, the urge to “subdue” the earth and to interfere with a woman’s self-determination.  When they gets enshrined in religion, or couched in terms of claims to divine support, well, then to me, it just looks like the reduction of religion to an expression of conflicted feelings towards parents.

Some people apparently have difficulty with the fact that they were once dependent on their mothers.  While I don’t think mothers experience this as a power relationship, maybe some adolescents don’t realize that, if they themselves are going through a stage of experiencing their relationship with their parents as a power struggle.  The mothers of some people die in childbirth, and I imagine that would complicate feelings towards one’s mother.  Attitudes such as these I think have crept into accounts of our world and our place in it in religious texts and political platforms.

What I speculate from my layperson’s armchair is that some of this “subdue the earth, restrict women” attitude comes from trying to destroy the thing itself the reaction to which is making the reactor uncomfortable.  “Kill the messenger” is a similar strategy.

A way to avoid doing this is to be more aware of the emotional roots of one’s behavior.

I had a friend who became a widow about three years before I did, and she, an intelligent, savvy, and wealthy businesswoman, used to tell me how she avoided opening envelopes that came in the mail, or even giving them to her financial adviser or accountant.  She was able to gently laugh at herself, and eventually. I think, when she was ready to deal with the tangled issues, she and her team did.  Some of the issues weren’t easy, and she had that widow experience during some of the untangling of feeling, for all the pieces of help one is given, she was still alone in a way she wasn’t before.

With looking into our more abstract envelopes, we may find tangled issues, too, but they are likewise amenable to being untangled.  I think the difficult emotional experience that people may be trying to avoid there is seeing the world as it is.  For all our human desire to have changed things so that we control what we want to control, we don’t and we won’t.  But that’s a good thing, I think, because, really, I think we have no idea what we’re doing because we perceive so little of the big picture.

One particular guide I would offer is to distinguish a painful experience from one that “shouldn’t happen” — the former is an all-too-large category, the latter I’m not sure even exists.  Like water encountering obstacles as it runs down to the sea, the issue is how we respond to things.  I think we’re here to learn, not to enjoy life as if it were some carnival ride, or to try to change the “ride.”  But that’s just my own sense of things.


Feather report

March 29, 2013

I think it’s from the tail of a Wild Turkey.  I found it in the street earlier today while I was out walking.  It’s about 16 inches long, black with a reddish brown horizontal stripe pattern and a lighter reddish brown tip.  It’s also not in great condition — the shaft is splitting and frayed.  It looks as if maybe it spent a bunch of time under a snow bank at the curb where I found it.  But it’s BIG, kind of magnificent despite the wear and tear.  I think the Wild Turkey is our state game bird here in MA, so maybe it pulls at my feelings of respect on that account, too.

Half and half

March 29, 2013

The other day I was being asked about whether I flush easily, for example, when eating spicy food or drinking alcoholic beverages.  I don’t think I do, but then I remembered a story my mother loves to tell about the first time I had a sip or two of wine.

I was probably about nine and the wine was probably left over from a dinner party my parents had had and they were probably finishing it up with dinner the next day.  It was red wine (that I do remember).  Shortly after I had drunk a little, my parents exclaimed that one half of my face had turned bright red (along a vertical axis).  They even sent me to the mirror in the downstairs hall to see.  I remember not being sure what they were seeing when I looked.

When I chose this picture

July, 2011

for this blog and as an avatar for other uses online, I chose it because it was recent and because I liked the expression on my face.  My dad immediately commented about my being half in shadow, which I hadn’t really noticed.

In geometry we can draw a line from two points.  I’m not sure I can draw one from these two things, but I could throw in the mythological associations with my first name.  The moon we see is half in light, half in darkness.

What would I then draw from this?  That there are states of mind that I have achieved that allow me to see both the darkness and the light, and that I have to be careful about keeping the two in balance.



March 28, 2013

I deal with a lot of narcissists, at least according to the lay person’s use of the term.  I sometimes think of myself as a “narcissist whisperer.”  It’s a role with plenty of hazards.  One of the biggest is that the people I work with are characterized by mistaking me for them and them for me in their analysis of who is contributing what to the relationship — call it projection, call it denial, call it Narcissus not recognizing his own reflection, and the person does it all the more.  So I’ve come to think of it as the person being disoriented, in the sense of bewildered.  That helps me feel more compassion for them.  Whether I can help them any more with that conceptualization in mind, I have no idea.

Synchronicity report

March 25, 2013

I took a walk at lunchtime, and on my way to stop at the bank en route home, there they were, in front of a clothing-donation dumpster at a gas station, a few pieces of Duplo in primary colors.  Granted, not Lego, but the primary colors and more juvenile level of the toy did remind me of elements in the photo in this post, too.

Abstract rules

March 25, 2013

During our first year of law school, I suspect in the context of complaining about the work, we used to discuss things like which classes we liked or which we were having the most trouble with.  As I participated in these conversations, I came to realize that I appreciated Civil Procedure because it was pretty explicitly about a set of clearly ennunciated and formally created rules.  Torts to some extent was predicated on a certain way of thinking, even if that was never admitted, and if you didn’t happen to think that way, you were left to puzzle out a lot of implicit assumptions in the doctrines.  Contracts and Property were somewhere in between, Contracts closer to Torts, and Property closer to Civ Pro, along the spectrum I envisioned.

I wasn’t all that surprised not to be on the same wavelength of the people who had developed Anglo-American law case law in areas such as torts.  I had found even before this that for better or for worse, I don’t make a lot of the same assumptions most people do, and that when I am forced to try to guess what they are, I am often wrong.  This comes up when I’m trying to fill out forms or navigate websites.  Not making common assumptions does, however, come in handy when you’re doing academic research, because sometimes you see things in the evidence that prior, conventional thinking has missed.

If nothing else, codes give us a common text from which to follow, a same page on which we can all be at the start.  So I can see how they are convenient.  But I think their use has drawbacks, too, at least some uses in some contexts.  Maybe like many other things, they are just another tool — to be used more or less helpfully.


No one listening

March 25, 2013

I can’t say I have no one listening to me, but I can say that I have a limited audience of people who make it their business to listen to me in person, to read what I write, etc.

There are other people who have a similar message to mine — I don’t pretend I am a unique source — so in that regard it doesn’t much matter whether people listen to me in these ways.

But I think the real action comes through other means of taking up the message, through the subconscious, because that’s the means through which the subsequent learning itself will come.  How do we reach people in their subconscious?

I think it may actually involve mechanisms that are considered dysfunctional in other contexts: enmeshment, lack of appropriate boundaries, interpenetration, etc.  People affected by the disease of alcoholism are particularly good at this.  If you do it with the wrong person, however, you just get somebody else’s garbage, and that’s not helpful.  But throwing out the method entirely I think is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The further goal is for people to be reached in their subconscious by forces beyond ourselves, but people who already have been reached in this way can sometimes share a little of something helpful through the subconscious themselves, I think.

Teaching issue or learning issue

March 25, 2013

Teaching and learning are obviously interactive processes.  When the learning does not take place, it’s sometimes difficult to locate the source, or sources, of the problem.

Maybe it’s a matter of inadequate texts, or deficient teaching materials of other sorts, maybe it’s a matter of inapt teaching methods or teaching devices ill-suited to the learner.  Maybe we need direct modeling by the teacher of what the student needs to do.  Maybe, even, the teacher hopes they can provide, if not a teaching method tailored to the student’s learning style, some kind of short-cut to the desired goal.

But what if the problem arises out of a lack of willingness on the part of the student?  In spiritual learning, that’s necessary — willingness.  What if the element that is missing is nothing the teacher can provide?  What if all any teacher can do is to try to coach the student into enough awareness to locate their own internal learning device?

I think what we get in this case is too much external intellectual apparatus for what is essentially an internal process involving becoming as simple and innocent as a baby, and, like a baby, crying out for help.

Putting the teacher up on a pedestal and falling in love with them

March 25, 2013

That’s my reaction to Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for today.  I think I’ll leave it at that.  It’s a time-honored problem and found in many religions’ histories.

“No dialogue”

March 24, 2013

While they were growing up, our kids were very close despite the fact they’re not that close in age.  Jonas really really wanted us to adopt Jordan (and more kids after that, too).


They played a lot of Lego together, is one of my basic recollections.  They also watched a lot of Zorro, Batman,* Marx Brothers, and Robin Hood videos and PBS kids programs together, which is relevant here.

They had this habit at the dinner table of lapsing into exchanges of dialogue from some entertainment they both knew, and for some reason, Willy and I both had a negative reaction to it.  I think Willy objected to how mindless it was, and to me, it was like humming — fine if you’re doing it, annoying if someone else is.

We imposed a rule, “No dialogue,” at the table.  This rule was also applied in the car.  Dialogue could be discussed, just not recited as if it were a conversation in and of itself.

Anyway, as an adult I object to being expected by another person to have particular reactions to their behavior or to respond with particular words; it feels like being handed a script with written dialogue to memorize.  With some family members, we actually do repeat the same conversations, years apart, each time we talk.

What occurred to me is to wonder whether the superficial annoyance of hearing children parrot dialogue from entertainment was tied to a deeper-seated issue about repeating unhelpful patterns within relationships.


*These were the versions of Batman from the 1960s and from something like the 1920s.