Amazing Thinking & Amazing Insights from BrainPickings

My Osteopath introduced me to Brain Pickings.

It’s hard to put this eclectic, philosophical, introspective and intriguing site into words but founder, collator, researcher, writer and bottle washer, Maria Popova offers this description:

“Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.”

Every week, when I click through a link in Popova’s newsletter, I feel like I imagine Alice felt when she fell down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. But this Wonderland is more of a literary and intellectual salon — a place of good food, good wine, good conversation and always, good insights.

In one of these rabbit holes, I discovered why I did what I did for a living despite the fact that it was mind numbing and simultaneously self important.  I worked in corporations. I know how much there is to do, how good it feels to cross off items on your list of work.

I could never articulate just how intellectually and spiritually deadening my work environment was.  Then Popova shared a passage written almost 70 years ago by writer Willa Cather who was writing in response to her long time companion, Sarah Jewitt:

My Dear, Dear Miss Jewett;

Such a kind and earnest and friendly letter as you sent me! I have read it over many times. I have been in deep perplexity these last few years, and troubles that concern only one’s habits of mind are such personal things that they are hard to talk about. You see I was not made to have to do with affairs — what Mr. McClure calls “men and measures.”

If I get on at that kind of work it is by going at it with the sort of energy most people have to exert only on rare occasions. Consequently I live just about as much during the day as a trapeze performer does when he is on the bars — it’s catch the right bar at the right minute, or into the net you go. I feel all the time so dispossessed and bereft of myself.

My mind is off doing trapeze work all day long and only comes back to me when it is dog tired and wants to creep into my body and sleep. I really do stand and look at it sometimes and threaten not to take it in at all — I get to hating it so for not being any more good to me. Then reading so much poorly written matter as I have to read has a kind of deadening effect on me somehow.

I know that many great and wise people have been able to do that, but I am neither large enough nor wise enough to do it without getting a kind of dread of everything that is made out of words. I feel diluted and weakened by it all the time — relaxed, as if I had lived in a tepid bath until I shrink from either heat or cold.

Popova finishes these observations with this very salient quote from Parker Palmer, “… “the tighter we cling to the norm of effectiveness the smaller the tasks we’ll take on.”

That was my life; don’t let it be yours.

 

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In Honor of ALL Differences & In Celebration of Black History Month

The poem below focuses on being different because you are black.  I share it in honor of black history month, in honor of all the wonderful women I have met in my life whose skin was a different color than mine but whose soul was my mirror.

I share it for Rosella Clemmons Washington, my soul sister.  She sang like an angel, laughed with her whole body and still makes me smile when I look at her pictures.

Jazz singer Rosella Clemmons Washington.

I share it for  her mother, Mama Rose, who taught me how deep love can be and how long it can last.

I share it because this beautiful poem goes to the heart of what I have said all my life. I cannot imagine how very many lovely souls I would have missed had I stopped at color, or weight, or height, religion, sexual orientation or any of the myriad ways we categorize each other.

We are all so much more than the wrapper we live in.
Please treat people the way you want to be treated.

The Black Prayer

Why Did You Make Me Black Lord
Lord .. Why did you make me black?
Why did you make someone
the world would hold back?
Black is the color of dirty clothes,
of grimy hands and feet.
Black is the color of darkness,
of tired beaten streets.

Why did you give me thick lips,
a broad nose and kinky hair?
Why did you create someone
who receives the hated stare?

Black is the color of the bruised eye
when someone gets hurt.
Black is the color of darkness,
black is the color of dirt.

Why is my bone structure so thick,
my hips and cheeks so high?
Why are my eyes brown,
and not the color of the sky?

Why do people think I’m useless?
How come I feel so used?
Why do people see my skin
and think I should be abused?
Lord, I just don’t understand.
What is it about my skin?
Why is it some people want to hate me
and not know the person within?

Black is what people are “Labeled”
when others want to keep them away.
Black is the color of shadows cast.
Black is the end of the day.

Lord you know my own people mistreat me,
and you know this just ain’t right.
They don’t like my hair, they don’t like my
skin, as they say I’m too dark or too light!

Lord, don’t you think
it’s time to make a change?
Why don’t you redo creation
and make everyone the same?

God’s Reply:

Why did I make you black?

I made you in the color of coal
from which beautiful diamonds are formed.
I made you in the color of oil,
the black gold which keeps people warm.

Your color is the same as the rich dark soil
that grows the food you need.
Your color is the same as the black stallion and
panther, Oh what majestic creatures indeed!

All colors of the heavenly rainbow
can be found throughout every nation.
When all these colors are blended,
you become my greatest creation!

Your hair is the texture of lamb’s wool,
such a beautiful creature is he.
I am the shepherd who watches them,
I will ALWAYS watch over thee!

You are the color of the midnight sky,
I put star glitter in your eyes.
There’s a beautiful smile hidden behind your pain.
That’s why your cheeks are so high!

You are the color of dark clouds
from the hurricanes I create in September.
I made your lips so full and thick,
so when you kiss…they will remember!

Your stature is strong,
your bone structure thick to withstand the
burden of time.
The reflection you see in the mirror,
that image that looks back, that is MINE!

So get off your knees,
look in the mirror and tell me what you see.
I didn’t make you in the image of darkness.
I made you in the image of ME!

by RuNett Nia-Ebo

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Mating in Captivity Isn’t Just About Sex

Therapist Esther Perel offers insights into some of our funny and often unworkable coping mechanisms for sex.

Perel has spent twenty years as a couples therapist; Mating in Captivity (subtitled Unlocking Erotic Intelligence) is the result. On its pages, Perel explores what interferes with intimacy and sexuality in a long term relationship and what it takes to keep one alive and healthy.

That alone would make this book worth reading for many people who love their significant others, love their relationships but miss the passion of the early days.

But this book offers so much more than insights into keeping a long term relationship healthy and exciting.  In the following excerpt, I found Perel as insightful in the area of parenting as any of the so-called parenting experts currently “selling” their ideas on rearing healthy and happy children.

Throughout our lives we grapple with this interplay between dependence and independence. How artfully we reconcile these needs as adults depends greatly on how our parents reacted to the stubborn duality (hold me-let me go) in our little selves. It is important to point out that our parents’ behavior, what they actually do, is only one part of the situation. Another part is our interpretation of their actions.

 Each child brings an individual resilience to the lottery of life. What might feel good to one will feel overwhelming to another. Some of us may wish our parents had been more involved, while others may cringe at memories of their parents’ scrutiny and intrusion.

 Every family has its preferred responses to dependency and autonomy – what’s rewarded and what’s thwarted.  In the give and take with our parents, we determine how much freedom we can safely experience and how much our connections will require the subjugation of our needs.

 In the end, we fashion a system of beliefs, fears and expectations, some conscious and many unconscious, about how relationships work.

Perhaps what Perel writes about  the “…interplay of dependence and independence” rang true for me because my ex son-in-law just ran head on into my beautiful and only granddaughter, she of the artistic, capricious and oh so creative spirit.

Exercising his usual style of parenting — a combination of bluster, volume and physical size (which he used on his sons, as well), he tried to force her to do what he wanted her to do.  The result was not to his liking and it certainly was not to hers.  Trying to bully a 16 year old girl (who is going on 30), resulted in an explosion that tore their relationship and his “second family” in half.

If he had read Mating in Captivity, he would have read how eloquently Perel captures how different each child is and how very different his daughter, my granddaughter is. Perhaps every parent should remember what it was like to be moving from child to adult and how our parents helped or hurt us.  Perel’s point is that the way this pivotal part of each of our lives is handled affects all of us in our adult relationships.

If you’re a parent, this is a golden insight.

BTW – Perel has delivered a number of very interesting and insightful TED talks which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

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Abundance Without Attachment – The New York Times

Thank you New York Times and Arthur C. Brooks who is a contributing opinion writer and president of the American Enterprise Institute.

This editorial in the Sunday Times perfectly captures the way I feel about the buying, buying, buying insanity that hits this country every year at holiday time!

In this article, an interview actually, Brooks hears these words, “There is nothing wrong with money, dude. The problem in life is attachment to money.” from his interviewee  (who, himself is a bit of a surprise).

How do you break it?  How do your children take the break?  Easy on both counts per Brooks.  Stop collecting things: start collecting experiences.

And there it is.

So, with many thanks….please read this article and pass it along if you want to make a start at changing the “things” you are attached to and beginning to enjoying the holiday season in a whole, new way.

Source: Abundance Without Attachment – The New York Times

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Gun Control: People Mag publishes Congressional phone numbers

I don’t read People Magazine, even in doctor’s offices but I may have to start!

People Magazine published all the numbers of our Congressional representatives, all of them.  And People is asking people – that’s you and me – to call our elected officials and demand that they start the process of controlling access to guns.

With the most recent slaughter (yes, folks, slaughter) of those innocent people in Oregon, I feel compelled to jump in with both feet.  Quoting People Editor, Jess Cagle, “So far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 10,006 gun-related deaths in the United States, and the CDC says firearm injuries and deaths are ‘a significant public health problem.”

Gun ownership world wide

Clearly guns are out of control in the US.

Why are so many people being shot in the United States?  Guns and a whole lot of them. Just look at the map showing rates of gun ownership by country.

Want to see our numbers in color with pictures?  VOX has assembled statistics on guns and gun violence from the CDC, Harvard’s School of Public Health, Mother Jones News, Pew Research and several other venerable resources.  Read the numbers, please. If you read nothing else, read the Vox compilation about guns in America.

And remember, the people who died did so because they made the mistake of just being somewhere where there was mad man with a gun.

Bottom line, stacked up against the rest of the so-called” countries We kill more people with firearms per capita than any other country.

Mass shootings in the US

People are dying…for gun control.

Since Sandy Hook, in 2012, there have been 986 mass shootings in this country.  More than 1200 people have died and 3565 have been wounded.

How is it possible that we can continue to call this an argument over the right to bear arms?  Isn’t it really an argument about the right, my right, our right to be protected from people with “arms” who should never have gotten them?

At what point do we figure out that GUN CONTROL IS A PRIORITY.

I am not saying take away guns. My sisters both have guns and concealed carry permits.  I own a gun.  We were taught how to shoot before we hit 3rd grade and the best birthday present I ever got was my own rifle.  I was 11. Guns are not the problem folks; gun control is.

How many more men, women and children will die before the courage to create a gun control system is summoned?  How quickly would you want gun control if your child was gunned down while sitting in the lunch room of her school?

I started with People Magazine; I will end with part of the article they ran with the phone numbers.  And I will ask that each and every one of you use these phone numbers before it is your child, wife, sister, brother, husband, mother or father who is killed for not more reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

From editorial director Jess Cagle’s note: As President Obama said, our responses to these incidents — from politicians, from the media, from nearly everyone — have become “routine.” We all ask ourselves the same questions: How could it happen again? What are we doing about gun violence in America? There are no easy answers, of course. Some argue for stricter gun laws, others say we should focus on mental health issues, some point to a culture that celebrates violence. But this much we know: As a country we clearly aren’t doing enough, and our elected officials’ conversations about solutions usually end in political spin. [People] Cagle goes on to urge readers to contact their representatives by devoting two entire pages of the magazine to a list of all 535 phone numbers of the voting members of the House and the Senate. That could mean a whole lot of phone calls: “We need to know that our representatives in Washington, D.C., are looking for solutions and not giving up, and they need to know if we agree or disagree with their strategies,” Cagle said. “Let’s make sure they know from now on that routine responses just won’t cut it.” 

Pick up the phone. Make the call. Before it is too late.

 

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Silence in the Face of Political Aggression & Abuse

I have been silent here, not wishing to talk about the politics of the United States because, for the most part, our political leaders, Congressmen and Senators disgust me.

No more silence.

Thanks to Robert Reich who I loved when he was in Clinton’s cabinet and who I love still as a Professor, political commentator and author, I will begin to bring issues to the table that need airing. Like many of you, I have been silent, too long.

Here, without edit, is the Facebook post from Robert Reich that opened this door for me, again, and made me walk through it and begin to fight for the rights of all those in this, supposedly the most glorious country in the world, who do not have a voice, the power or the money to fight back.

I’ve been thinking about Martin Luther King Jr.’s admonition that we repent not merely for what the bad people say and do but also for the “appalling silence” of the good people.

We are at a point in American history when candidates for president of the United States are telling voters abominable things – justifying and legitimizing hate. Why aren’t the decent Republican members of Congress and Senate, or former members, or former Republican presidents and vice presidents repudiating this? Where are the news anchors and opinion makers – the Edward R. Murrow’s of today’s national conscience? Where are the priests and rabbis and ministers? The editorial boards? The university presidents? The foundation heads? Why do they remain silent in the face of this untrammeled public bigotry?

Where are they when a Republican candidate says Muslims cannot be trusted to be President, another says the current President is a Muslim and wasn’t born in America, and another that Muslims in America and other Western countries are creating “no-go” zones where Sharia law is practiced?

Why do they remain silent when a Republican candidate calls Mexican immigrants “rapists,” several candidates urge that undocumented workers be rounded up and “expelled,” and another asserts that Mexico intends to “merge” with the U.S. and Canada?

Why do they say nothing when several Republican candidates say women – even those who have been victims of rape or incest — should not be allowed to terminate their pregnancies, and one candidate says women who rely on government-assisted contraceptives “cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government?”

Why are they silent when several Republican candidates assert that public officials don’t have to sign marriage licenses for gay couples if the officials don’t believe gay couples should wed, one says homosexuality is a “choice” because “a lot of people enter prison straight and come out gay,” and another says being gay is like being an alcoholic?

The silence of good people in the face of such brainless intolerance only serves to legitimize it, and ends up debasing our entire society.

Reich asks at the end of this Facebook post, “What do you think?”

I think it’s time that we all get off our buts and start fighting to take back this country from bigots and bullies. I repeat, like many of you, I have been silent too long. No more.

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Heat Wave: Do Not Speak Poorly Of Your Life | Bedlam Farm Journal

Jon Katz had found a way to say something I have tried to say for years – you become what you think!

Author and animal rescuer, Katz says he learned this while writing about (and riding along with) Billy Graham.

Before you click back, neither Katz nor Graham pound bibles or demand undying love to their God or their faith.  What Billy Graham does is help Katz understand that thoughts, our thoughts, have lives.

Our thoughts make a difference as Katz clearly states, “Speaking poorly of your life corrodes the soul, makes for a bitter spirit, breeds fear and anger and resentment, it drowns out hope and snuffs out the creative spark. It is a sad way to live…”

I hope you enjoy this beautifully written essay on why we should all love our lives, love the good days and especially love what we think are the bad ones.

Heat Wave: Son, (Or Daughter) Do Not Speak Poorly Of Your Life | Bedlam Farm Journal.

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