Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Yesterday was a sort of undifferentiated blur of chores, meals, and deep sighs from the most ill child, a sort of "groan[ing] too deep for words."
Today, I had to inform the kids that our planned trip to see dear friends was called off, which left everyone in the house out of sorts. Was sickness and sniping all we'd take away from our week off?
Fortunately, I have a three part formula for turning around blah, boring days. Screens are all turned off until every child has met three conditions:
1. Spend some time outdoors.
2. Do something helpful for the family.
3. Do something creative.
Since I also felt in need of reset, I dug through my arts and craft supplies and realized I still have a largeish canvas left over from a spate of family art projects several years ago. Why not get the kids involved helping me fill this one?
It took a little discussion to decide what to put in our painting, but fortunately, there is one topic we are all quite enamoured of--our puppy, Brynn.
While the kids painted smaller pictures of their own, I sketched out the proportions in a favourite photo of Brynn, then lightly blocked it out on canvas.
The kids helped me fill in the blocked out shapes with base colour. Then I added detail to the figure of Brynn while they added grass and dandelions to the background.
It needs a touchup here and there once it is dry, but I'm pretty happy with it. More importantly, this just became "the time we painted that picture of Brynn" instead of "that time we were all sick and didn't get to go on vacation."
Monday, March 11, 2019
I've been enjoying reading everyone else's blogging so much, I've yet to finish any of the half dozen posts in my drafts folder. So instead, here's a taste of what I've been reading.
1.One of my favorite news pieces this week. Believe it or not, this headline is not from The Onion.
A man threatened to sue a technology magazine for using his image in a story about why all hipsters look the same, only to find out the picture was of a completely different guy.
The story in the MIT Technology Review detailed a study about the so-called hipster effect — "the counterintuitive phenomenon in which people who oppose mainstream culture all end up looking the same."
The inclusion of a version of a Getty Images photo of a bearded, flannel-wearing man, tinted with a blue and orange hue, prompted one reader to write to the magazine: "Your lack of basic journalistic ethics in both the manner in which you 'reported' this uncredited nonsense, and the slanderous, unnecessary use of my picture without permission demands a response, and I am, of course, pursuing legal action."
But it wasn't actually him.
In all the fun of laughing at the hipster who couldn't tell that a generic picture wasn't actually him, I don't want to miss pointing you to the original piece the picture ran with, titled The hipster effect: Why anticonformists always end up looking the same, which concludes,
Hipsters are an easy target for a bit of fun, but the results have much wider applicability. For example, they could be useful for understanding financial systems in which speculators attempt to make money by taking decisions that oppose the majority in a stock exchange.
Indeed, there are many areas in which delays in the propagation of information play an important role: As Touboul puts it: “Beyond the choice of the best suit to wear this winter, this study may have important implications in understanding synchronization of nerve cells, investment strategies in finance, or emergent dynamics in social science.”
Go and read it, and then, if you find the topic at all interesting, go pick up this fun little novel by Connie Willis, which plays with chaos theory and group trend patterns in highly entertaining fashion, sweetened with a dollop of romantic comedy.
3.I don't even remember how I stumbled across the following blog, but every once in a while the pseudonymous Latin scholar/medievalist author of A Clerk of Oxford points to some weird and wonderful piece of the past that resonates across the centuries. For example, this piece on the demon Titivillus, who collected sinful words.
From a glance at the Middle English Dictionary's entries for jangler and janglen, you can see that this concern about harmful words was a very wide-ranging one. It covers all classes of people, from bishops to schoolboys, and all kinds of destructive speech: snide carping, drunken boasts, unnecessary arguments, ignorant gossip, and many forms of excessive, wasteful words. Since the onslaught of email and social media in the past few years, it has sometimes felt as if our culture is drowning in words - billions of words, most of them of no lasting good to anyone, and many of them actively doing harm. (Appropriately, you can see in the MED entry that one of the uses of jangle was to refer to birds' chatter, to which noisy human speech, then as now, was often compared, and so 'to twitter' is in fact one of the definitions of the word.) But perhaps it felt the same in the Middle Ages.
And a few pieces from my fellow bloggers:
4.From DarwinCatholic, some thoughts on Earth's "hopeful monsters": us.
We should see each person, not as another problem, but as another solution to the problems which face humanity.
5.This whole blog renewal thing had me catching up with some of the backlog on my feedreader, including this next piece that Erin from Bearing Blog wrote last month, pointing to St Francis de Sales as a guide to true self-care.
I love St. Francis de Sales's tender regard for the human self, not a kind of disappearance of the self in favor of the divine, but recognizing the value of the human person as a creature that can be taken up to participate in the divine.
6.My friend Deirdre wrote on grief and grieving:
Burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy. Praying for the dead is a spiritual work of mercy. Life is pain, and anyone who tells you anything different is trying to sell you something. (Hey, it’s canonical work of scripture now, right?) Instead, we live in a world that has rejected the rituals of mourning from ages past. The Victorian rules may have been elaborate, but they had a point.
7.The last panel in this Wondermark strip sums up my productivity problems fairly well.
Saturday, March 9, 2019
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
It fits, then, that the founder, Frank, was recently asked to talk about trust-building. How do you get people to trust you with their secrets? Naturally, Frank turned to other people to ask them their "secrets" for building trust, some of which he shared this week in this post. Notice how the different tips reflect the people giving them:
Use a non-judgmental compassionate voice.– Suicide Prevention Hotline Trainer
Physical contact and talking about something besides hair.– My Barber
Crouching down and speaking to someone at a lower eye level.– Founder, Humans of New York
The ability to keep a secret makes you trustworthy.– My wife
(One a related topic, if you read HONY at all, it's worth watching this video about how Brandon approaches people to elicit those amazing stories and photographs. The tip he shares here--getting down low--is just a small part of it.)
Frank's post got me thinking about what inspires trust in me. I took a minute to jot a few thoughts down, and I figured it was worth sharing them here, as well.
My trust-building tip is this:
"Treat friends, enemies, and yourself with the same compassion and the same fairness in your speech and actions. Don't have separate standards for people you like vs people you dislike."
I was bullied as a kid, and a transformative moment in my life was realising as a teen that the bullies weren't monsters--they were just ordinary kids who let themselves believe it was ok to have one set of standards for their friends and a different one for the weird, nerdy kid they didn't understand. They didn't think of themselves as "bullies." From their perspective, they were just kids goofing around with their friends.
What this realisation did for me is convince me that the measure of a person isn't how they treat their friends, it's how they treat everyone else, especially the people they dislike or don't understand. I look for people who try their best to keep their word regardless of who it was given to, who try not to demand any less in the way of consistency and principle from themselves than they do from others.
It's probably pretty obvious that this is nothing new: it's an application of the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."These are the verses that immediately precede today's Ash Wednesday reading, which cautions, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven..."
But Christ comes back to the Golden rule very quickly, embedding a version of it in the prayer he taught his disciples.
"This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."Or, as this lesson is paraphrased elsewhere, "by the measure you use, it shall be measured to you."
I don't know about you, but I have a long way to go yet before I'm ready for that measure.
*** I'm back to blogging for Lent! And I'm not the only one. Check out the list here.
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Sunday, March 3, 2019
It's been much too gorgeous a day to spend composing a post.
But maybe this isn't such a bad way to start a new blog.
This is what is true, good, and lovely in my life today: sunlight on fresh snow; blue skies with wispy clouds; deep breaths of crisp air; the good, living feeling of stretching muscles and moving--the gift of embodiment. The dog romping and the kids laughing and shouting and bouncing off each other, searching for walking sticks and rushing ahead or lagging behind.
More than anything, the joy of doing something together.
Tonight, we will eat rich food and try to make beignets, and indulge ourselves a bit in anticipation of Lent, the coming season of self-denial.
I'm sure I will have more to say this week. But it can wait.
Saturday, March 2, 2019
The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion. A conclusion is but an opinion; it is not a thing which is, but which we are ‘quite sure about;’ and it has often been observed, that we never say we are sure and certain without implying that we doubt. To say that a thing must be, is to admit that it may not be. No one, I say, will die for his own calculations: he dies for realities. This is why a literary religion is so little to be depended upon; it looks well in fair weather; but its doctrines are opinions, and, when called to suffer for them, it slips them between its folios, or burns them at its hearth.
Life is not long enough for a religion of inferences;
we shall never have done beginning, if we determine to begin with proof. We shall ever be laying our foundations; we shall turn theology into evidences, and divines into textuaries. We shall never get at our first principles. Resolve to believe nothing, and you must prove your proof and analyze your elements, sinking farther and farther, and finding ‘in the lowest depth a lower deep,’ till you come to the broad bosom of scepticism. I would rather be bound to defend the reasonableness of assuming that Christianity is true, than to demonstrate a moral governance from the physical world. Life is for action. If we insist on proofs for every thing, we shall never come to action: to act you must assume, and that assumption is faith.
Now I wish to state all this as matter of fact, to be judged by the candid testimony of any persons whatever. Why we are so constituted that faith, not knowledge or argument, is our principle of action, is a question with which I have nothing to do; but I think it is a fact, and, if it be such, we must resign ourselves to it as best we may, unless we take refuge in the intolerable paradox, that the mass of men are created for nothing, and are meant to leave life as they entered it...."