Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Another Year is Coming!

Another year is coming. not much we can do about it , except stop marking time.  Time, in many ways, is a concept invented by fairly modern men.  I say men because when they started marking time I don't think women had much influence, but I can't be sure. Some wife in ancient Babylonia may have told her husband not to come home late.  He might have answered, "Late?  I don't know what you're talking about.  I'll get home when I get home.  That's what happens."  But they didn't have Apple watches then, which do tell the time somehow, and also show the text message from your wife reminding you, and the  pop-up screen that tells you when to leave and what the traffic is on the way home, as well as the weather, and emails from work that tell you what you have to do when you get home -- so that being home with your wife won't be the same as she hoped it would be.

Others, like some physicists I know, explain that time is not invented, it is the fourth dimension, and it has existed as long as our universe has existed, and it may or may not have existed before that.  In our universe, the physical laws insist that time can only move in one direction, so that if you get home late, then you can't rearrange things and get home early. But that may be possible to do under the laws of a different universe.  There may, or may not be an infinite number of different universes (multiverses). One of the laws of our universe is that we can't get to another universe, not even using Star Wars warp-speed.  But if there is a unipole -- which allows for an opening into another universe, you may be the one to be drawn into it.  However, if that happens no one knows if you will be able, or if you will even want to come back.

Most of us just go along counting time in the usual way: seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and then years.  A year signifies, roughly, the time it takes for the earth to take a trip around the sun.  We go through all the seasons, those of us who still live in places where there are seasons. So marking the end of the year, after 365 days -- 366 next year, is an occasion for a moment or two of reflection, and to regain the hope that the world will be better and that we each will use this demarcation in time to reprioritize our own lives so that we may live happier, healthier, more creatively and do things that make us pleased to be who we are.

So here is my brief list of New Year's resolution Do and Don't:

1.  lose weight -- if you've already tried to do this, and if you were not too successful, then don't bother.  The odds of any individual losing weight and keeping it off are very against you.  There are so many reasons, from genetic to physical to psychological that make it very difficult.

2. Exercise -- this one is a bit more achievable.  Anyone can get up from where they sit and walk around the block, go up and down a flight or two of stairs, do some push-ups, or strike some ago poses.  Exercise, moderate to vigorous, is good for your body and brain. There is a line, especially at my age, when instead of building up muscles, heart and lung capacity, I find it hurts and I get injured. Pain is a good indication of when what you're doing is wrong.

Have joined gyms in the past, not now.  To me they are boring.  The only good part is I got to listen to music, but it takes so much time to get there, change, shower and go home.  It's easier to walk around the block. I know a lot of people who have always exercised either through some activity they enjoyed or sports.  There are just as many who find that regular exercise is unpleasant and boring. It seems that the ones who like doing it, do it.  The others don't.  Changing from being one of those to the other is very difficult.

3, Mindfulness -- Boy is that the thing, isn't it.  Seems like a good idea, but I'm not sure if it is another health fad, or has real benefits that last.  They say it can clear your brain if you get good.  It's difficult to learn how to do it right if you're pretty anxious to begin with, and those are the people who it's supposed to help the most.  Try it if you wish.  There are many sites that will teach you how.  Be suspicious of the ones that try to sell you stuff.

4.  Blogging.  I'm going to blog on this site twice a week next year.  I now have the time to do it, and I find what I have to say quite fascinating.  I also want to see if I have the discipline and capacity to follow through.    I don't think I'd be a high pick on a fantasy-bloggin site.  We shall see.

But do this for me.  Try to enjoy yourself, in both ways that are important.  Way #1 is to have fun: laugh, be with people you like, do things that are easy and interesting, whatever it is for you -  movies, sports, kids, music, sex, staring out the window, hiding in the closet, tickling a three year-old.
Way #2:  Do something that brings satisfaction, that feeling of doing something for others, doing something that was difficult, figuring something out that was useful, fixing something that was broken, or creating something new that serves a purpose.  If you do #2, you will enjoy doing #1 much more.

2016 -- Wow -- Who Know!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Winter Sing

In constrast to my last post, I will now report that I have just returned from a delightful experience. Of course, being who I am, I felt the mirror image of what I saw, and that troubled me.

This morning I went to the "Winter Sing Concert"of one of my granddaughters at her nursery school. The singers ranged in age from 3 to 5, and were all smiling, giggling, active beautiful children.  They sang songs of  snowflakes melting on their faces, and other songs of the seasons.  Many of the songs were accentuated with hand gestures or body movements.  Most of the kids were paying attention most of the time.  They were smiling and waving at their parents and grandparents who filled the audience.

The concert was given in small but beautiful auditorium, on a small but beautiful campus, set on a hill overlooking the woods and a lake.   After the songs and dances were over we were taken back to my granddaughter's classroom for little snack and a look at their accomplishments.

My immediate reaction to the classroom was that I was jealous.  I wish I could go to a room just like that for three to six hours a day.  They had almost everything conceivable to encourage anyone to explore, play, create, express feelings, attempt new things, find new ideas, relate to others, work with others, work by yourself. or just sit and stare.  They had separate but overlapping areas for painting, coloring, drawing, music, writing,sculpture, piles of natural objects, piles of building objects, rolls of string, and shelves full of books.  There was room to use all of those things, and to combine as many as you wish.  There were very few rules, very few assignments,  nothing rigid, nothing judgmental, no dogma, no right or wrong. It is just a  fantastic place to come and play and see what you wanted to do and be with people to do it with.  And, the place is surrounded by paths through the woods, big and small sculptures, and fields for games and just running around.

Oh, of course, there was nothing electronic.

It was clear that the kids loved the whole thing.  They liked being there, they like each other, the teachers and the activities.  They ran around, they made pictures, stories, skits, games, and all kind of projects.  They worked alone, in small groups and in big groups. They resolved their differences.  They helped each other, the added on to each other's creations.   No, it wasn't perfect, but it was close.

It is in an environment like this that toddlers turn into children and take that with them when they become people.  They learn how to operate in the world and how to operate the world. They get some idea of how to get long, how to lead, how to follow, and how to go off and do their own thing.  Mostly, they learn that world is fun, fascinating, and that they can contribute.  This becomes part of them.

So, what's wrong with that.

Nothing. There is so little wrong that I wish every child could have that. Really,I wish I could be doing that.

The only thing that bothered me was seeing that 95% of the children were white.  100%  came from families who were at least in the top 5% of wealth. Every child had at least one parent or grandparent there, usually two, three or four.

I don't know all of the children and families, but the ones that I do know are really good people.  The kids are not spoiled, too much.  The families seem to have some sense that they are fortunate, and that they can have these kinds of privileges.  I don't fault them at all.

My realistic hope is that my granddaughter will realize how fortunate she is, and use her special opportunities to do good things that benefit more than just the few people around her.  At least she will see that the world is not really like that, and she should appreciate that she landed in the right spot.  It doesn't make her better or more valuable than any other child, but in some ways gives her a greater responsibility to be a good citizen.

My unrealistic hope is that somehow, our society, which at this moment,  is so crazy, competitive, divided and fearful, will realize that it would be worth it to find a way to give every child a opportunity to begin their lives in such an open, caring, accepting, encouraging and explorative atmosphere.

If we really want America to be the greatest, most innovative, creative, caring, prosperous, society, with a sense of unity and pride, then we should be eager to give everyone this kind of equal opportunity to stretch the limits of their talents and abilities.

The kids I saw today are all marvelous children.  Almost all of them will go on to have happy, secure, prosperous and healthy lives.  Many of the children from this area have gone on to do much more than that, and to use their skills and talents in the wider world.

From my work I know that as 3,4 and 5 year-olds, these kids are no greater or more special than any other kid.  If I could put any child into that room for three to six hours a day, and bring their families there too, 95% of those kids would grow up to be just like these kids, and the country and the world would be much better off for it.

We are, each of us, unique. We are each just as valuable.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Call me Crusty

That's Crusty, not Rusty or Grumpy. It's a variation on the theme.  It's an attempt at self-definition, because, as the transition continues, defining my place in the universe becomes elusive.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I had been so selfishly well defined for so long that it is an adjustment to be so free-floating.

Two days ago I spent the day being my old self.  I was back in my office being the good therapist. I still am a good therapist, which is still gratifying.  The people who came to see me are really pulling their lives together. Almost all of them will no longer need me, which is my goal. Sure, they would almost all continue to come, because it's always good to see a therapist. But they really can do as well without me, and I want them to realize that, and believe in their own judgement.

Even though I feel I m still good at what I used to do I no longer feel that doing that is good for me. Sitting too much is bad for my neck and my old, expanding prostate.  I also feel that there should be better ways of doing what I was doing, and I want to spend my time figuring out how that might happen.  I have some pretty clear ideas of what needs to be done and why.

But that doesn't mean that the world, or even more than seven of my colleagues will stop and listen, or really have any interest in what I have to say.  My profession, like every profession, has people who are respected and have risen to a place of authority. And, like other professions, those people are much more invested in keeping their ideas going than in exploring new ones.

Now, I have never cared much about respecting those who have become the visible leaders. There certainly are some of them who have done some great work and some very helpful thinking, and I have respect for them.  However, IMHO, most of those who are well known, are those who have the best marketing skills, or have latched on to someone who does it for them.

It is quite clear that marketing has not been my strong suit. Yes, I did what I needed to make my practice work, but after a bit of a push things ran smoothly. But beyond that I did little more than yell from the back bench.

No trumpeting Trump am I. Yet, if that kind of momentary garbage succeeds, do I want to be part of that parade. Makes me sad.  To see people so easily mislead, especially in this time when there are so many real, exciting, uplifting discoveries.

But primitive comes naturally, thought, refection, planning, walking up hill, looking for empirical evidence, takes more energy, and a bit of discipline.

So now, as I try to spread my own gospel, I have to wonder, am I just another old man screaming crazy ideas in the wilderness, or will persistence and fortitude, aided by the truth of my message eventually be persuasive.

It is the ancient therapist
   And he  stoppith one of three.....

Thursday, December 03, 2015

An Almost Civil Disagreement

Max and I disagree.
But we are civil enough to at least attempt to discuss our differences.  We both admit that neither of us should expect to sway the other one at all.  We also will try to present our ideas in terms that could possibly be consistent with the other person’s values.  But really, since we certainly don’t share values, we have a tough time understanding why the other person is such a moron, especially when the truth is so obvious.
However, to begin with, we actually both agree.  We agree that our great country, the land of the free and home of the brave; home of the creative, the entrepreneurial; beacon of hope to the world, with a government of the people, by the people and for the people, — is a mess, and headed in the wrong direction.  We also agree that part of the problem is how terribly divided the population is, and that this division has become more hostile and disrespectful. 
We disagree about America’s priorities, more specifically about what to do about taxes, health care, big government, wages, education, race relations, immigration, refugees, war, weapons, guns, banks, the Fed, welfare, climate control, energy policy, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, All of the Bushes, Israel, Muslims, Christians, Jews, China, the Middle East, the whole defense budget, cities, suburbs, sex, the electoral college, the right to vote, abortion, transgendered people, soda and salt, and many, many other ways in which people care, govern and relate to each other.
We have some overlap in our ideas about Russia, job training, Ben Carson and gay people.
If you want to know more specifically what his positions are, then watch Fox News and read the Wall Street Journal.  He has those positions down pat, almost word for word. My ideas, which I like to think are the result of hours of thought and refection, after reading many sources, are actually close to what you get from the New York Times and NPR.
Not surprisingly, Max was raised in a rich semi-rural suburb in Virginia.  I was born in Brooklyn, NYC.  Really, that’s all you need to know.
Here are some of my generalizations of where we disagree.  If you want to read what Max  thinks, then you can go find his web page. He believes that people should be self-reliant.

Max believes in good and evil.
I believe in cause and effect.

Max believes that the most basic American freedom is the opportunity to make as much money as you can, and that the government should stop messing around with that.
I believe that America’s greatness comes from how it guarantees freedom of speech and thought. The government is there to protect us all equally from being exploited, intimidated or harmed by anyone. I also believe that the government should do whatever it can to help all of us improve our lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Max says he believes that all people are created equal and are free to do whatever they want with their lives.
I believe that the rich and powerful have always, always, exploited those who are poorer and weaker, and that they very rarely give up their advantages without a struggle, often with violence, but not always.

Although he hides behind euphemisms, Max believes that some people, mostly those like him, are intrinsically worth more than others, due to their native endowments.
I believe that we are all equal in our insignificance.

Max believes that men and women are equal, but also that they are basically different, and they should both keep to what they are best at doing.
I believe that is bullshit, sexist and exploitive.

I believe in science, and in using data to see what is going on and to help make the best decisions.
Max feels that science can be confusing and can be used to prove anything, and that good, common sense is enough to decide what should be done.

I believe that due to rapid advances in science and technology, shifts in population dynamics, and climate change, this country is going through a major transition, and once all of those things are recognized and accepted, and we learn how to integrate all of these new things into how we live and work together, our country will be much better and stronger.

Max agrees with all of that except that last three words.  He would substitute weaker and worse.

I think we both would like to find some common ground, but we don’t know where.

We have tried talking.  We have even tried listening.  But we both have very strong core beliefs that we can’t give up. It makes compromise difficult.