On working with pain

I don't believe life is meant to be simple or easy.

I don’t believe life is meant to be simple or easy.

My circle of Facebook friends often post about their physical and emotional pain. I read several such posts today. Some of them asked for guidance. I expect they all seek mercy.

I have studied this subject for many years. I have been to workshops, including yoga, many, many times. I also have read some excellent books. I will mention three of them in this post.

The most dramatic title might be Full Catastrophe Living. Subtitle is Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. The author is Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. He describes wholeness as “a vague feeling or memory left over from when we were children.” That says it for me. Wholeness is a major theme for the author.

Many years ago I went to a workshop guided by John Bradshaw. His book is titled Healing the Shame that Binds You.  He described shame as a false self. I was deeply shamed by my family. There were three suicides and a murder, and some divorces. He introduces the phrase toxic shame. I know something about that. It’s not an easy challenge.

The third book is Care of the Soul, by Thomas Moore. His friend James Hillman, whose work I also respect, wrote this: “Years pass. I get to read a lot of psychology but the sincerity, intelligence and style—so beautifully clean—of Tom Moore’s Care of the Soul truly moved me.” He advises us to see the significance of myths, and to see how those stories describe us. I think that is good advice.

I have been rejected several times by people who were my friends for several years. It is an informative experience, but not because they are willing to talk to me. I am left to wonder about my place in their myth. Have you had such an experience?

On sending the elevator back down

Parker PalmerKevin Spacey tells us that if we succeed in life we are obligated to send the elevator back down. He elaborates on this in his short video about how he teaches acting skills and techniques. The video.

Aaron Sorkin teaches screen writing. Werner Herzog teaches film making.

These three experts teach us a valuable life lesson. The videos are short, informative, and entertaining.

As a young teacher, I yearned for the day when I would know my craft so well, be so competent, so experienced, and so powerful, that I could walk into any classroom without feeling afraid. But now, in my late fifties, I know that day will never come. I will always have fears, but I need not be my fears—for there are other places in my inner landscape from which I can speak and act.—Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

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.


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 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.



Thanks, Opie


Andy Griffith and Ron Howard.

Ron Howard loves life, and by extension, his creativity. Or maybe it is the other way around. I don’t know.

I loved him as Andy Taylor’s young son, Opie, along with Aunt Bee, in The Andy Griffith Show. He is seven years younger than I am, and very successful.

This video is inspiring. It’s about caring, kindness, and self-expression. It contains a quote that advises forgetting about happiness and pursuing what we love. That probably is happiness.

Mayberry RFD was the sequel to TAGS.

Mayberry R.F.D. was number four in the Nielsen ratings the first two years of its run. While its ratings were strong enough for renewal at the end of its third season (#15), it was canceled despite public complaints. That year CBS, seeking a more urban image, canceled all its rural-themed shows including Green Acres, Hee Haw and The Beverly Hillbillies in what became known as the “rural purge“.—Wikipedia

Men are devoted to purges. It makes them proud of their vigor and authority. They purged “rural themes” in 1971, and we are still looking for things to reject.

Creating a better future starts with a conversation. —Bryce Dallas, daughter of Ron Howard

It’s well worth 10 minutes of your time.