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Archive for February, 2016



He wrote a poem for you that was
the sun and stars. But ever since my father
died the very possibility of love has faded
like an intermittent signal from a friend
on the dark side of the galaxy
gone silent.


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The events that cause our emotions often get us to think in a strange way—as if when faced with some horrible thing, time will stop there and we will be stuck for all eternity. We forget that time keeps going, to the other side. Who will we be, when that happens? And it will happen.


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While I was out skiing today, I thought about the upcoming memorial service for G, a friend of mine who died recently. I found myself worrying that I might run into J my ex girlfriend who also knew G (I met both of them in the same salsa dance troupe and we all performed together on many occasions). Seeing her again, I believe, would be quite painful, as I was ridiculously in love with her once, and asked her to marry me. (She said no, obviously –but that’s not the point here). I found myself worrying about how painful it would be for me to see her again, especially if she shows up with a new boyfriend or (god forbid) husband. Then the thought occurred to me “but what if, by some miracle, in that moment you find the strength to weather the emotional storm, and find that at some later point, beyond the point of the seeing of J, you have developed or honed some skill that improves your life in some way, brings you closer to a heart felt goal, or saves a life?” I traced this thought to something a FB friend said to me recently “pain is just weakness leaving the body.” Will it indeed change my life? Who knows. One way or the other though, both J and G already have.


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Imagine you want to be a school teacher. You build a school and invite students from the surrounding towns. They arrive; you teach; they learn. One day a student shows up who doesn’t learn. You ask them to stay after class one day and say to them “Your lack of learning in my class is unacceptable to me. I’m not going to tell you how it is, nor am I going to tell you what I want you to learn. I am going to ask you to leave my class and not return until you have hired your own teacher to teach you the things I want you to learn. Please leave now.”

This metaphor occurred to me this morning as symbolic of many features of human cultural habit. Countless examples of inquisition and apostate exile can be identified throughout the history of human gathering and, it seems to me, continue to this day (e.g. our so called criminal justice system). In our effort to guard public hope against private irony, I suspect we have very nearly killed our own capacity for awareness, courage, and creativity Has the attempt been successful?



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Today I learned that for me the statement “you have a problem” is a severely punishing discriminative stimulus, and the statement “we have a problem” is a very powerfully rewarding discriminative stimulus. In other words, tell me it’s my problem and watch me walk away, tell me it’s our problem and watch me get more interested in working together.


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