Office Heroics

The last sentence in David Brook’s August 28 column reads, ” It’s possible to be heroic if you’re just sitting alone in your office. It just doesn’t make for a good movie.”

I don’t look like George Clooney, so the heck with the movie. I am going to accept this as good news.

 

Fascinated by Darkness, Me

Spiritual joys come only from solitude / So the wise choose the bottom of the well / For the darkness down there beats / The darkness up here. / He who follows at the heels of the world / Never saves his head.

–Rumi, Solitude

Do you want to be at the bottom or the top of the well? I must not be wise because I would have chosen the top for reasons of sanity. I know it up here, I am trapped down there.

But the point is well taken, up here I am either tempted or coerced to follow the world. So I choose to be in the well of my head and never leave home without it. This way I can be me, but not too much.

Oscar Who?

Oscar Levant said to George Gershwin, “Tell me George, if you had to do it all over again, would you fall in love with yourself?”

It must feel good. Who am I kidding, it does feel good. Don’t all of us fall in love with ourselves at least once?

When does this become  a bad thing? Ever? I suspect if done in excess it would be a problem. A constant demonstration of it and we would appear selfish. When is confidence self love? Can we be confident without falling in love with ourselves?

At least with Gershwin, the result is that most of us know who he is. But who is Oscar Levant?

Getting Ready for Dr. Peter Quigley

Dr. Quigley in his book Housing the Environmental Imagination, quotes Thoreau, “We are wont to see our dooryard as a part of the earth’s surface.”

I surely do, it is why I offer up so many photos of the view from my office. I used to think that my dooryard could be anywhere. My first apartment was as a studio.. I knew from the get go that it wasn’t large enough. I needed more than a dorm room.

The good news is the studio had a huge balcony on which I could grill. I had learned from a friend known as the “food scientist” that eating like a king at breakfast and a pauper at night could enable me to lose weight.

First thing in the morning, I grilled either pork chops, lamb chops or steak and added it to three eggs, bacon and toast. I surely made my dooryard as part of the earth’s surface just by the animals I brought there albeit they had already been butchered.  I don’t remember if I lost weight.

Not sure I can tell that story with any success when I meet Dr. Quigley for dinner next week, but I surely enjoyed the memory his book provided.

 

The Place In-between

James Hillman writes, “The place that analysis and theology have in common is the soul. But the soul is a ‘non-place’ for neither theology or dynamic psychotherapy regards it as its main concern. The one studies God and God’s intentions, the other studies men and women’s motivations, while the place in-between is too often left unoccupied.”

From Hillman’s book Insearch:psychology and religion.

In the Monadnock area of New Hampshire, we have group called Monadnock Area Psychotherapist Services (MAPS). They are a group of psychotherapists whose aim is to include in their therapy practice the place in-between.

How appealing is that to you? Do you feel an in-between place?

 

My Column Today in The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

After you’ve confronted the dragon, comes the bliss

Annie Neugebauer graduated from the University of Texas in 2007. A favorite professor devastated her by asking why she hadn’t been in the honor’s program. A question posed even though she graduated with “highest university honors.” The professor thought she had taken the easy road and should have enrolled in honors courses. She had not done so because the regular course requirements fit her schedule. After much self-examination she concluded what she had done didn’t require someone else’s permission. She writes about her experience at annieneugebauer.com.

Having just experienced my own commencement in May, I resonated with Annie. During my 10 years of graduate school, I had two C’s. Both bothered me. The first one came about five years ago, and I justified it by thinking I asked for it. The course required memorizing. You might as well have told me to cut the lawn every day. It isn’t going to happen.

When I found out what the course demanded, I gave myself permission to just pass. Just passing for me is a C. Back in the day it is how I did all of school. Have fun, maybe show up for class, and get by. The new more mature Bob sought to graduate with the “highest university honors.”

I just missed. As others were called to receive their diploma “with honors” I cringed a bit. Then I remembered a question asked me by a friend when I told him about my C’s.

“Bob, what do they call a doctor who graduated last in their class?”

I thought about it, but had no answer.

Then he smiled and said, “A doctor.”

His words are how I got over the earlier C, but they didn’t get me by the more recent one. It was the grade given to me for a self-directed course. A course I designed to make up one and a half credits. I even picked the professor. Completing the curriculum demanded that I read four or five books and write a 15-page paper.

The professor gave me a C with the comment that my writing was not academic. He thought my writing sounded more like a sermon. I emailed him that I would like to talk about it. He acknowledged receipt of my email, said he would get back to me, but never did. The next time I saw him was at graduation.

After the diplomas were received, my class exited from the sanctuary. One by one we paraded past the professors. The last professor in the academic line was professor C, a man who has a perpetual smirk on his face. This day he looked particularly smirky. He said nothing, nor did I.

I left commencement with the issue of a C unresolved. It made the event less celebratory. It had me feeling fraudulent.

No matter that I spent 10 years in study and had a grade point average far exceeding C.

It did matter that I wanted this degree in part for self-esteem. Having not been an academic in undergraduate days, I wanted to prove I had the right stuff. For me this meant a report card unblemished by C’s. I wanted all my professors to think I was the greatest student ever.

It took just one professor to throw me off track. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want to be an academic writer. This was about confronting dragons. There should be a course on it.

Then again, I think there is. I took it.

Now its time to apply it to bliss.

Marking Territory

What makes home, home? After growing up in one place, I left home at seventeen never to return. In part because when I left so did my parents. I went off to college in Massachusetts and they moved to San Francisco from the Camden area of New Jersey.  Once there, they made it their forever home.

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