Archive for May, 2014

A perfect summer life

May 29, 2014

8,611 steps through the neighborhood this morning, some of them thoughtless (in a good way), others accompanied by and productive of thoughts about optimism. For many of us the constructively hopeful habit of mind is learned, not innate, and regular walking is one of its best teachers.

Wrapping up his experimental sojourn at Walden, Thoreau recounts the tale of a long-dormant “bug” resurrected from his “well-seasoned tomb” in an old wooden table and then asks: “Who knows what beautiful and winged life… may unexpectedly come forth from amidst society’s most trivial and handselled furniture, to enjoy its perfect summer life at last!”

That’s a good optimist’s question. (And, a self-therapist‘s). I’ll bet it came to him on his way to work.

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The best things

May 27, 2014

Summer! Our Memorial Day highlights included pool reconstruction followed by a family outing to the Cineplex and Million Dollar Arm. Four thumbs up, and fie on whichever critic called it “pleasant to a fault.” It was faultlessly lovely and life-affirming. The real Jon Hamm is not Don Draper, he’s a Cards fan from St. Louis. “Hello old friend.”

Later we caught up on the latest and possibly most affirming episode ever of Mad Men. Those of us who remember being there recalled the excitement of global “connection” when Neil Armstrong took his giant lunar leap in ’69.

And fie on whichever other critic said Robert Morse’s closing dance number was lame. It made Don smile, and me too. It also gave me my thinking theme for this morning’s 8K-step dawn walk, also free.

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Squalid success

May 23, 2014

Already logged 10, 539 steps this morning and it’s only 7:25 a.m., thanks to Older Daughter’s work schedule. It’s hard not to feel virtuously smug about my new dawn ritual. Makes Ben Franklin’s “morning question” easier to answer. “What good shall I do this day?” We’ll see, but whatever it is will be frosting.

The centering subject of this morning’s ramble was “Success.” William James still gets the first and last word on that, in my book.  He wrote to H.G. Wells in 1906 of “the moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word ‘success’ – is our national disease.”

I think TB-B missed that one.

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Walk and enjoy

May 22, 2014
7,933 steps before breakfast this morning, and countless moments of elevated, unmediated perception. That’s important, because we’ve conspired with the makers of our phones and devices and social media platforms to turn immediacy into an increasingly scarce commodity. 

Did you hear George Clooney on NPR yesterday, lamenting his inability to actually meet and greet his public because they’re all shielded by a self-imposed screen of archival urgency to record the moment? We’re too busy framing and documenting experience to actually have, enjoy, and properly remember it.

Was there anything truly memorable about this morning’s walk? Nothing in particular, I guess. Didn’t meet any movie stars, just a few other early-rising pedestrians (bi- and quadra-pedal). It was really the best sort of walk, without specific purpose but full of immediate and lasting significance for my ongoing health, happiness, and what I choose to call my sanity.  I won’t forget how much I enjoyed (as my neighborhood milestone says) “enhancing the quality of my life.”

“Regular walking can strengthen your heart and improve your general health. Walk and enjoy yourself as you enhance the quality of your life.”

It’s an enhancement that needs no memory upgrade. Vital habits are hard to forget, if you’re paying attention. Walk and enjoy.

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Walk your path

May 21, 2014

It’s not yet 8 a.m. and we’re back from a lovely long ramble through the neighborhood, after rising at 4:30 (!#@!) to share Older Daughter’s ride to work and retain the car for Younger Daughter’s trip to school for a Biology final.

The clouds were beautifully suggestive this a.m. I may finally have to join the Cloud Appreciators, after lurking so long in their twitter stream. Kevin Kelly says data not shared is practically non-existent, these days. “A naked bit is worth less and less.” I’m not so sure about that. The most important information stream is still the direct mainline from the world into one’s own sensorium.

Aside from clouds, what did I think about this morning?

Prompted by Tom Butler-Bowdon‘s “literature of possibility,” I helped myself to a round of randomish thoughts about the therapeutics of “flow” and the search for meaning, about the Dalai Lama’s “art of happiness,” about Emerson’s “self-reliance, even a bit about Wayne Dyer and women who run with wolves.

I also thought (but mostly didn’t) about just moving on down the road.

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Follow your bliss

May 20, 2014

Back to the keyboard.

I’ve enjoyed my blogging holiday, an opportunity to step away from the virtual lectern and just give it a rest. An honest teacher must confess, there comes a time (typically early in May, if not sooner) when even he has had enough of his own voice and can’t or won’t profess another word.

And then comes a time, later in May, when pleasant disengagement begins threatening to become slothful inanition. If he’s not soon commencing summer school or some other formal and remunerative scholarly commitment, that’s when the sabbatical ends.

But this sabbatical has returned me to an earlier routine that will now be ritual. Still rising at dawn, give or take the first few moments of earliest light, I’ve been grabbing my coffee mug and heading straight past cat and keyboard and out the door. Greeting Aurora wordlessly on her turf, first thing each day, the dogs and I have been luxuriating in longer and earlier morning rambles. We like this new pattern. We’re sticking to it.

Returning to the keyboard, then, will mean reporting to this journal a little later in the day. Morning is still more a state of mind than a clock-time, and its verbal progeny can be committed to electrons whenever “I’m awake and there’s a dawn in me.”

I’m inspired again by Richard Powers, whose protagonist in Orfeo finally learned his “greatest art”: to “walk two hours before the neighborhood woke. Moving his legs left him blissful.”

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Making the grade

May 5, 2014

Final exams begin today. I’m popping out of my grading mole-hole just long enough to respond to all those student queries about their grades. Some are legit, some are annoying, almost all are distracting and premature.

Many want to know if they can pull an A in the course even though they’ve earned less than an A on previous exams. (One had earned an A, and an exemption from the final, but wanted it in writing. Future lawyer.)

My slightly irritated blanket response: “I haven’t calculated final grades yet. In general, though, if you want an A you need to strive for excellence in every facet of the course. 80-something is good, but it’s not an A.”

The best short answer to the perennial question:

How do you determine a student’s grade?
“Well, I add up the grades for the essays, quizzes, the midterm and final. I average them out. Then I consult my stomach.”

It’s not about the grade, it’s about the effort and the motivation. And, y’know, the learning.

See you at the exam. One way or the other.

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Smartest thing Einstein ever said

May 2, 2014

Or a close second, to the “important thing”…

“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

Einstein on Kindness, Our Shared Existence, and Life’s Highest Ideals | Brain Pickings:

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