On understanding our crisis

img005Men want to be in charge, but they do not want to expose themselves to risk.

We are taught in school, and on the job, and by the rules of society to disable our curiosity and sense of wonder. The same discipline is available in church as I remember, but I have not been in one for a long time. Things might have improved.

We are taught by every source of authority to “tone it down.” And we obey.

We pay an enormous price for that alleged safety.

I like to browse Tumblr for photos of women displaying their charms. I marvel at their sense of freedom and their joy. Men limit such displays of gusto to flattering professional athletes at public events by shouting and waving.

The United States was formed in an act of rebellion. The British were the masters of obedience and conformity. We have forgotten, I believe, the lesson in that, our learning experience.

There are areas of culture and life where I would enjoy more innovation and curiosity. I offer this short list:

  • Opening our imagination to expanded definitions of decency and morality. Why are boobs considered evil?
  • Why does skin color matter to so many people, and what can we do to influence their thinking?
  • Why do we eat meat? And beyond that, why do we obsess on doing that?
  • Why do we give so much authority to employers? They are ordinary mortals like us.
  • What moves us to consider being a servant a demotion?

I welcome your comments.


In defense of pleasure

Nude signI just finished Mark Haskell Smith’s wonderful book Naked At Lunch.

The subtitle is “A reluctant nudist’s adventures in the clothing-optional world.”

In it he examines our cultural values relating to nudity. He addresses our deep seated resistance to experiencing pleasure, much of it expressed as fear and suspicion about the human body. In the book he examines very thoroughly the origins of our fears about nudity, and he analyzes the debates that circle around this subject.

The book is 298 pages long and is, in my opinion, quite intense. It is well researched, and his writing never failed to entertain me. I like the sass and edge he brings to the subject.

I was raised in a family that was suspicious of pleasure and knew very little about it. My dad substituted alcohol in place of genuine fun. I tried to devise my own appreciation of pleasure, but it was a clumsy effort.

So, essentially, if some random dude, like a park ranger, finds your breasts erotic in some way, then it’s your responsibility to cover them.—Mark Smith

Pornography teaches us about our shared views about pleasure. Pleasure is deemed wrong, off-limits, and being wrong is touted as a way to enhance the experience. Porn informs us about our collective culture that is suspicious of pleasure.

I think guilt is a common view of the nature of pleasure. Mr. Smith defines a Puritan as anyone who is fearful that somewhere someone is happy.

Mr. Smith sets a standard for us in regard to examining our fundamental values. If we brought the same degree of intensity, wit, and humor to our exploration of all of our values and judgments I think we would do our society and our individual selves a tremendous service.










Steven Spielberg: My all-time favorite speech

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

I like teaching experiences. One of the best ways to teach is to speak. This speech by Steven Spielberg at the 2016 graduation ceremony at Stanford is my favorite speech ever. It even transcends the speech Steve Jobs presented at the same event. And that is saying a lot.

This blog generates no comments or guest posts. I do not know how to change that. If you watch the speech, and if you are inspired to share your impressions, I will welcome them.


Movies to save the world

HeartChurches, so far as I know, merely increase our risks by emphasizing guilt and adversarial relationships. The real solution, in my opinion, is the movie.

Today I watched Love Actually again. Hugh Grant narrates in the introduction that love, actually, is all around us.

At my house we own hundreds of films on DVD. We are drawn to movies that carry a message of hope, optimism, generosity, and kindness. The opening scene of Love Actually features people arriving at airports, and receiving and giving hugs, while wearing enormous smiles.

We would do well to honor movies for their messages of hope, patience, and optimism. Another favorite of mine is It’s A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Does it get any better than that? And consider Field of Dreams. It’s totally about feeling connected and valued.

And A League of Their Own? Amazing. Inclusive. Sweet.

My suggestion is give up on messages from an angry past and embrace the delicious sweetness that comes to us today. Blessings on Michael J. Fox in Doc Hollywood.

On guilt

preacherThe United States obsesses on guilt.

We pay a very high price for that in terms of anxiety, our eagerness to punish with or without justification, and lost opportunities that would otherwise come to us if we exercised our curiosity.

One of the wisest counselors on abandoning guilt was J. Krishnamurti. We do not easily abandon guilt for several reasons. Perhaps the most compelling among them is that we are driven by fear. In this context we credit guilt with restraining us from wandering off the path of righteousness. But who defines righteousness? Are they people we trust?

A little book titled On Fear contains some of his advice. I find K a difficult read, and this book is no exception. One of the points I did glean from it is that we are taught to compare ourselves to others, and doing so binds us to fear, fear of not being good enough, not being as good as they are.

I discovered Tumblr recently, and the website contains many, many galleries of photos that feature ladies at nude beaches and other textile-free locations. I noticed that I feel guilty browsing these sites. I winced at my own enjoyment of them.

I decided to enquire into this fear. I deem the guilt to be foolish and absurd, but there it is. I can learn something from this, and then I will delve into my other fears. I have plenty of them.

We have never, as a nation, worked at reducing our angst. Angst is defined as a feeling of deep anxiety or dread. We have, in my view, come to view angst as an expression of loyalty to our collective values. K challenged our loyalty to collective values. He urged people to be original and authentic. I’m working on that.

On failing, with style and grace

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

I have many heroes.

Two of them are Kevin Spacey and Aaron Sorkin. They offer classes on the field of their great talents. As Mr. Spacey tells us, if you reach success you are obliged to send the elevator back down.

Mr. Sorkin says the great sin of an author is to tell the audience what they already know. Mr. Spacey says the big challenge is to stop thinking your way, and go with the character you are playing.

I have not written scripts for The West Wing, nor have I won two academy awards. I’ve been laid off three times by big-name companies. That counts for something.

I have only reached the second floor of this skyscraper I am in, but I am still committed to sending the elevator back down. That what this blog is about.

Our collective challenge, as I understand it, is to embrace the love and wisdom that are offered to us, and to shout out our discoveries so we attract the attention of others.

I am more or less failing at my chosen assignment. I am not Kevin Spacey, or Aaron Sorkin, but I match them in their caring and sincerity. That matters to me.

Please shout out your gifts. The world needs that from you.



Why we think we suck

DanWe live in a nation and world where most people think they suck. I’ve made a study of this in order to recognize the forces at work, and how, possibly, I could have a better relationship with my own sense of self.

In this post I share what my study has revealed to me.

Number 1: Other people pass binding judgments on us. This starts in grade school with letter grades and playground monitors. It continues with employers and annual reviews, and the IRS with tax filings and audits.

This thinking is embedded deeply in our culture. They tell us who we are, and they assess our value, if we have any.

Number 2: We judge ourselves on our ability, or lack of it, to “read” the universe. Who is God? Does God love us? We assume God to be male. That is a clue to our deeper problem. God, we are told, is distant and judgmental.

Number 3: We appoint authorities who we empower to make us feel helpless and guilty. I was given this message about Jesus when I was not yet logical. It was imprinted deeply on me, and by many people. The messages put me on the defensive, both about his suffering, and the possibility of my own.

Number 4: We are told of the superiority of the male point of view. We men exaggerate our importance, and we discredit the feminine spirit. The consequences are tragic.

We are always at war because we claim to know more than anybody who would ride a camel, or run short of drinking water. We are profoundly condescending, making the world we live in today the painful place it is.

Number 5: We endorse wealth at the total expense of wonder and curiosity. Day dreaming is considered a vice and a distraction. Wonder is proof of foolishness. We are expected to have direct, simple answers to the mysteries of life.

Number 6: We scorn physical enjoyment. We categorize physical delight as a fondness for pornography. We drink too much alcohol. We put people in jail for experiencing marijuana. We are entirely anti joy and amusement.

Number 7: Our first choice is to rebuke people. We see this particularly in our bulging prison population. There are alternatives, but we judge them as weak and evasive.

Number 8: We lack appreciation for conversations. Bosses are expected to know it all, and to take charge. Our organizations demand and reward that behavior. We hold the opinion that rank equates with knowledge and competence. There appears to be no remedy for this.

Number 9: We tell people, often indirectly, what interests of theirs are acceptable. I have long had an appreciation of ladies’ feet, and I have chosen to conceal it. There are countless photos on the Internet that show me that other people share my interest. I finally give myself permission to be me.

Number 10: We expect lists to have 10 entries. I offer you this. Do what excites you. Take that chance. My two college degrees have zero value, but they cost Yvette and me a lot of money.

And Number 11? Say something on this blog if you are so inclined.