Archive for June, 2015

Different translations

June 30, 2015

I wrote a comment this morning, to a David Brooks column about how Christian social conservatives could change their mission from advocating about sexual mores to helping the poor, and noticed that someone else had made a similar point to mine in their comment posted about a minute before mine was posted.   They call themselves HDNY and they are “verified,” so their comments post immediately, without moderation, so it is likely that HDNY and I were writing at the same time.

I talked about “some other strand” in Christian socially conservative thinking, HDNY talked about “bigots” and “self-righteousness.”  We were both talking about how there seems to be something more going on than just a matter of choosing what part of a Christian message to emphasize.

I’ve seen overlap in comments before, my mother, long before the days of online commenting, used to say, when she had an idea for a letter to the editor, that she was confident that somebody else would write the same thing and she would read it in publication.  What interested me this time was the differing treatments two people gave the same basic theme.

Applying labels to this other thing apparently going on with Christian social conservatives I suspect gets the back up of the people so labeled, unless they like to wear such labels proudly.  Translating the same concept of something else going on into broader and less judgmental terms I think opens up the possibility of seeing some of the attitudes and behaviors as being rooted in self-protective maladaptive coping devices, and that, in turn, could allow people to deal with what ails them that lies behind this perceived need to protect the self.

I admit that my approach is the less popular one, outside of certain circles, but I think it has the virtue of getting us to stop playing a game in which we exchange damaging words with one another.  If it is the case that a lot of difficulty arises from self-protective but maladaptive coping devices, why would increasing the sense that self-protection is needed improve the situation?

I have no real conclusion, only the observation that it is interesting in own right to observe how different people express, or translate, the same basic concept.  I think how we express concepts has a lot to do with which of our own issues we have effectively addressed.  Maybe it also has to do with how deep our perceptions go, how much of the iceberg we can see with the apparatus we have developed, I don’t know.  I do know that one doesn’t buy a well-developed apparatus off the shelf, that the way of thinking it allows can’t be successfully imitated, and that it “costs” plenty.  So maybe it is not surprising that more people don’t use one.


Getting the crowd to sing

June 28, 2015

I wanted to say one more thing about President Obama’s eulogy of Rev. Pinckney, something I said in a news comment online a few days ago, in response to someone else’s comment about it:  I liked the way President Obama’s singing worked as a sort of invitation or prompt that got the audience to sing too — we’re not going anywhere good without those of us in the cheap seats singing too.  President Obama wasn’t there to give a concert or to present a solo performance for us to admire but to lead and to guide us into getting up and taking action ourselves, it seems to me.

Open hearts

June 28, 2015

I listened to President Obama’s eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney twice.  Towards the end President Obama talks about how important having an open heart is, and as sad as the occasion for the speech was, I was so thrilled that someone of such a public stature would talk about that, and talk about it at such a high-profile event.

It reminded me of my gladness and relief that someone of Pope Francis’ stature came out as an advocate for the Earth, in his recent encyclical, and of a similar reaction I had some years ago when I read some of the Dalai Lama’s books addressed to a more universal audience.

I don’t think change comes, ultimately, from the top down, but I do think that influencing what we talk about and sharing ways we might think about the issues can be helpful.

And in the case of talking about having an open heart, I think the posture of having an open heart is an important part of a process that people use to make their own individual progress.  So I see talking about it as a boost to the grassroots part of the dynamic for progress and positive change, and the grassroots level is the part of the human project I think often gets too little attention.


June 26, 2015

I saw a rainbow the other evening (I think it was Wednesday), as I looked out my backdoor.  I didn’t even think to connect it to the same-sex marriage decision released by the Supreme Court today until I noticed the rainbow banner across my WordPress page.

Red, not so wild roses

June 20, 2015

I wrote about the wild roses that grow on my property as a kind of more interesting sort of weed.

I have also recently noticed a new red rose bush, of the sort one buys at the nursery, has sprouted up among the rosa rugosa planted along the edge of the back path.  It’s not a rugosa, which do spread, by runners, I think, but more like a floribunda, with bright shiny dark green leaves, more-discretely-placed thorns, and more-sharply-shaped petals.

This is the third red rose bush to pop up.  One I think was a stow-away transplant in a block of earth we moved years ago from the backyard to the front in order to transplant a pink azalea it contained.  The pink azalea I think was near a red rose bush the previous owners of this house had planted.  So when a red rose bush started growing out from the pink azalea we transplanted, we were surprised but we could trace how it probably got there.  One was new growth from root stock after the pink rose grafted onto it had died back one winter.  This third one must have started from whatever roses germinate from — pips?

This third red rose bush started itself among a group of rose bushes, in a small bed in which pink cone flowers and orange day lilies have also appeared of their own accord.  A landscaper I hired one year to replant grub-infested areas of the back lawn had mulched in between and around the rugosa, creating a flower bed where before there had been just individual plants.  When Joe performed carpentry repairs on my house last summer, he unearthed a bunch of rocks, and I distributed some of them as edging around the mulched area.

At some point during Joe’s repair work on the house, I got out an old photo of the area near the shed, in order to figure out something or other, I can’t exactly remember what it was now, maybe it was to see how high an old shed door had hung — and Jordan was struck by how bare the area of the yard looked then compared to how it looks now.

That’s probably how the unexpected plants strike me, as part of an increasingly lush development of vegetation.

Not everything has gone in that direction, of course — the summer sweet in the large garden has died back a bit after this winter, and the butterfly bush is regrowing from its roots, while its old branches still bare.

I knew a prize-winning gardener, who told me that a lot of gardening is determining which, and how much of, plants should grow where, that it’s not about, “This plant is good, that plant is a bad weed.”  She, of course, maintained more control over her gardens than I do, and could coax growth and flowers from plants that need more care.  (On the other hand, after she sold her house and moved, the new owners of her house ripped out her gardens there and sodded and paved over the areas.  Sic transit gloria mundi.)  Her point about having a looser way to think about garden growth I have found helpful.

My reaction upon first realizing that a red, more refined-looking rose bush was growing among the hardy and slightly wild-looking rugosa was that it had strength to emerge in such a context.  I suspect, though, that it, too, is hardy in its own way, as the other two red rose bushes that popped up are quite effusive in their own growth  —  although two of the previous house owners’ red rose bushes have, over the years, succumbed (to too much shade, mainly).  So maybe that will be my take-away, that hardiness, maybe I could even characterize it as spunkiness, may lurk in seemingly decorative or delicately growing plants.

News reaction

June 18, 2015

I woke up to the news about the shooting of African-Americans in a church, and I don’t deny that it put me in a foul mood.  It’s surely the act, but it’s also the “big event”-mode news coverage and the pious reactions.  Why can’t people do something more helpful in race relations every day?  Saying the right thing in a time-limited context is preferable to some other options, but it’s not the same thing as doing what a person could do to improve the situation on a more regular basis.

Bunny and the Buddha

June 17, 2015

I’m sure it’s the clover and not the statuary that drew the rabbit, but I’ve often had a sense that a statue of a holy figure and one of a small animal should be paired together, although I don’t know why;  here the small animal is animate …


Word association

June 13, 2015

I wrote a comment Friday night in which I used the word “amanuensis.”  I even replied to a reply about my word choice Saturday morning.  And, as I said there, the word was something that “burbled up” from within me, and when I thought about it after it did, I liked it enough to use it.  It was in reference to Gov. Scott Walker, in a comment on a Joe Nocera column.

It occurred to me later that there was probably an element of word association going on.  Earlier on Friday evening on I had watched Washington Week on PBS, and one of the participants was Manu Raju, senior congressional reporter at POLITICO.  I see his first name on my television screen and I immediately think of the Latin word manus, particularly in the ablative case, manu.  And I wondered if there was any connection between the two words, what with all the branches and roots on the Indo-European language tree.

Manus in Latin means “hand.”  I am particularly attuned to noticing the word because of its usage in naming a particular type of Roman marriage, marriage with manus, since I spent some number of years worrying about Roman marriages and inheritance practices and such.  Whether or not the marriage was with manus was significant for determining whether the woman would inherit from her father or from her husband.

So I think one of the ingredients in the stew that produced “amanuensis” in my comment was my earlier mulling over the name of POLITICO’s reporter.  I don’t whether to apologize or to say thank you, I mean no offense and I am grateful for the word choice coming to me.  I think my larger reaction is to be interested in how things seem to ebb and flow (or maybe go up and down, surfacing and descending, like bubbles in boiling water) and mix within the mind.


June 9, 2015

I learned today that the large wild rose bush growing next to the stump of the pear tree is considered an invasive species.  I was looking it up online to see how big it is likely to grow.  Here’s how it looks now:



Three to five meters, is what I read.

My other welcomed guest that is considered a pest are the rabbits that have been happily eating the clover in my lawn (which is probably itself also a pest).  The rabbits I’ve also seen eat leaves off the rose bush, I might add.

Anyway, another couple of wild rose bushes are growing in front of my house, among the foundation shrubs, near the front stairs.  I am actually kind of grateful for those as well, because where they’ve taken root I don’t think I would have been able to get anything that I bought at a nursery to grow.

I enjoy the low maintenance of the wild rose bushes and the wild bunnies.  Of course I am aware that there may come a point when the balance changes and I find I am having too much of what I had considered to be a good thing.  I read that to get rid of rosa multiflora, I will have to dig it out by the roots.  In the meantime, I am enjoying my pest ecosystem, if I can call it that.

Rings of keys

June 9, 2015

I heard the song “Ring of Keys” for the first time when I clicked on the NYTimes “In Performance” feature about the Tony Awards nominees.  It was the first song in the video, and Sydney Lucas certainly gives a riveting performance — love the mobility and expressiveness of her face.

But the song took me a while to follow.  The ring of keys moment startled me, for example.  I actively dislike my ring of keys.  It’s a pain in the neck, it doesn’t always fit into my pockets, it reminds me of people places and things and experiences that I don’t always want to be reminded of, including particular people I have known who relished their rings of keys and wore them, as I am assuming the woman in the song must, on the outside of their clothing.  Yes, they can symbolize power but that kind of power I don’t cotton to.

Years ago, when I first found myself with a sizable ring of keys, I thought about the ring, its keys, and what it meant to me.  I related it sometimes to the idea of “keys to the kingdom,” and I thought that, in that regard, it’s all wrong:  there is only one key, and it’s listening.

But I like the song, it has sort of grown on me.  In that particular video, the child actress’s face seems at times so worldly and so much older than her years, and I find it interesting to observe those flashes.

I also find it interesting to put my experience of keys along side the song’s use of the object and the narrator’s experience of it.  It helps me understand why I don’t fit in with the joyful keyring bearers of whatever gender and orientation.