Tag Archives: learning

“Hey Girl” A Lesson About (Self) Compassion

It’s a rough world.   Life is hard.  There are no guarantees. So, we need each other.  We need others to let us know it’s going to be okay. We need someone to sit beside us and hug us and validate our fears, our failings.  That’s why we have friends and why we take care of each other.

The song “Hey Girl”, out on Lady Gaga’s newest album puts this notion to a musical twist.  It’s a collaboration with Florence Welch and the track is musically reminiscent of Elton John’s ‘Bennie and the Jets” with a hit of a bridge containing some heavenly harmonies.

But, as usual, I look for the deeper meaning and found that the song works well when you sing it to yourself…

“Hey girl, we can make it easy if we lift each other…Hey girl, we don’t need to keep on onein’ up each other…If you lose your way, Just know that I got you..” is some powerful stuff to hear yourself tell yourself.

I’ve recently been turned on to Dr. Kristin Neff’s work concerning self-compassion.  It’s about becoming a friend to yourself, instead of the critic that we all grow up with.  You know, that self-talk which typically admonishes and scolds, instead of helping and caring.  It takes work to change that gig around, to come to the rescue of your self in a moment of hurt or anger.   Most of us go right for the throat of our selves:  “If you made this choice instead, you wouldn’t be in this mess,”  “You deserve this because (fill in the blank).”  “Why can’t you figure this out?”

But – what happens when we approach our self from the side, with an arm around our soul and a voice soft with support?   “Hey girl, if you lose your way, just know that I got you.”

Magic happens.

Suddenly, we become our own best advocate.  Think about how we will pretty much drop whatever we are doing and go help a sister.   Now consider how that same energy can be channeled into self-compassion as we learn to drop everything else and go help ourselves. There’s a peace that is acquired.  More than that, there is a kind of neutrality that can empower a person.   If I know I can comfort myself for my deepest, darkest wounds, then no matter who comes at me or what stands in my way, I will muster through because I know that I ‘got myself’.   I know that I can come to my own rescue.  I know that even if I am experiencing the worst imaginable pain, I can be my own source of solace.

Yes, it is hard.  Damn this life is difficult.   But there is a way to manage, and it begins with self-compassion.  Try it out, at least once….”If you lose your way, Just know that I got you.”

Yours,

Frankie

 


No Religion: What’s to Believe In?

As we continue to progress as a species, more of us human beings are stepping from the dark archaic belief systems of religion to the bright confidence of knowledge afforded us by science.   But the shift from religion to non begs some questions:  What do we do with ourselves?  Where do we put our energy?  What’s to believe in? What becomes our focus?

From my humble perspective, it kind of seems that a default focus would be nationalism; belief in one’s nation and attention to its politics and social/economic issues.  From my humble perspective, we could use a boost in national attention to politics and social/economic issues.   But there lies a danger of jingoism, unabashed love for one’s country without regard for other nations, fervent almost blind belief that ‘my country is the best’.  In a time when we face global challenges such as health epidemics and climate change, we can’t really allow ourselves the pleasure of arrogance.  We must be able to cooperate, to admit that maybe another nation is doing something right and we might consider adjusting our own perceptions.  We are bound together by this planet and its natural laws, we have to work with one another in order to keep our species viable.  While some of our new found energy can and should be focused on national issues, it is necessary to strike a balance with how much energy we invest in our country – there are bigger ideas to focus on as well.

I heartily contend that the biggest idea should be humanism – a focus on mankind and our path of past, present, and future, our connection with one another as dictated by nature’s laws.  If we think about it, we only, always, have each other; and though cultures vary we cannot deny our bloodline and the truth that we are all brothers and sisters.  I believe we owe a certain amount of attention to our race based on this sole premise, with the spirit that we are inherently obligated as human beings to look out for our siblings. As mentioned above, our modern age forces us to examine physical global issues and international cooperation is paramount to finding solutions to these issues.   A humanist focus allows us to set aside cultural prejudices and adopt cooperative attitudes based upon the assumption that we’re all in this together.

Science appears to be the common ground for us all and I’ll assert that the growth of humanism will include many elements of the discipline.   Two plus two will always equal four and no matter where we go in the world we can speak that language to anyone. I am not claiming that science has all the answers although I’m close to agreeing with many modern thinkers who believe it does.  It certainly answers our questions best and provides a universal language with which we can speak to one another, culture set aside.   Besides providing a common language science provides a foundation for finding common solutions to the challenges we face together.  The discipline is a perfect fit with the tenants of humanism.

I’ll even go out on a limb and demonstrate that we already have a vision for the melding of science and humanism and how they work together by invoking the genre of science fiction film and writings.  There are several examples where science fiction has remarkably portended the future as far as gadgets and inventions are concerned.   Even George Orwell was prescient enough to understand that an entirely new language would evolve under political pressures.   Using science fiction as a barometer for the way humanistic tendencies might emerge, one finds an astonishing body of work that illustrates how political and even personal decisions are made based upon available evidence and facts instead of mystical, archaic texts. Pay attention next time you tune into Star Trek, or Dr. Who, or The Fifth Element.

We’ve come a long ways since the days when science and religion walked the same path of curiosity together, searching for answers to the same questions.   At some point their paths split and one has gone on to answer those questions with solid evidence.   As we continue to progress as a species and more of us also leave the anachronistic beliefs behind, we are faced with the necessity of filling the void.   Humanism does so with a neat and comfortable fit.  Here’s to our future and the place that Humanism has within it.

Yours,

Frankie


Questions, and Answers

Two inquisitive minds set out with similar questions which obliged each to begin from the same point, and on equal footing. It wasn’t a race or competition they anticipated, mind you, but a quest instead.  A search for answers to curiosities springing from a well that would not be stopped.

Their shared questions:  What this?  Why that?  How come?   When?  Why here?  gave them a momentary sense of camaraderie.  As they floated along in the same stream they traded suspicions and congratulated each other on specific observations.  For a while, then, the two could amicably and happily content themselves in their common search.

By and by, they arrived at a fork in the stream and there was great discussion about which direction to take. One stream was slightly wider and its current more brisk as a consequence, the other retained the same width and flow as the original. One inquisitor felt that answers were probably best obtained in the wider stream, the other felt more comfortable with the status quot.  Imminently, there was no reconciliation, the two parted ways and stayed the course they thought would best answer their questions.   They never saw each other again.

For a time, the streams continued on without change, answers refused to be found, but the curious contented themselves in their individual decision and pondered what it might mean, if anything, that they chose differently.

After, say, a fortnight, one of our seekers discovered a profound answer, a vigorous stream itself feeding into the original waterway, fortifying it with the new information – its banks were widened, its flow increased, its current quickened. Steadily, almost consistently, creeks and other streams, in the form of answers, found their way to the questioner.  Before long a wide river of knowledge stretched out on either side and ahead.   There was life with this river.  Green trees stood solid and sure on each side. Birds and bugs filled the air.  Fish and algae dominated the water.   Vibrant; enviable; this river would continually be fed with new streams, leading the seeker to countless, continuous, and beautiful discoveries.

I wish I could report that the other seeker shared a similar fate in success at finding aswers.  It seems the stream of this questioner had no other resources to keep it flowing.  Sure, seasonal creeks would donate their runoff, but the crucial steady supply of new water was absent.  The queried mind worried somewhat about this lack of new energy and it was left to contemplate only the answers it had so far acquired.  Those would be recycled continuously for want of fresh information and as a result the stream eventually dried up.   This curious seeker then, wandered a desert-land bereft of life and the dawnings of new days.

It is an easily observed case from my perspective.   I stand on the mountaintop of time and history.  I can see precisely where the two parted ways.   My eyes savor the beauty of the wide silver gleam that morphed into a behemoth river and they track stream upon stream of answers flowing into its arms.   I scan the valley to find the other seeker.  Ah, just there. Only recognizable by its origin, where it diverged from its companion.  If I trace its route I can see the gradual shrinking and final ending in a small pool of a lake whose only source is the one stream.  There is scant evidence of life and when the lake fills with sediment and dries, as all lakes with only a single feed are wont to do, that life will dissipate, allowing desert to arrive.

Observing these two is an exercise in the profound contrast of outcomes.

Science and Religion set out with similar questions which obliged each to begin from the same point, and on equal footing. Their shared questions:  What this?  Why that?  How come?   When?  Why here?  all attempted to define man’s place in the universe.  From the mountaintop of time and history, we witness the destiny of each.  This is a story about Questions, and Answers – an exercise in the profound contrast of outcomes.


The “Art” of Multi – Tasking: We Can’t Even

Talk and drive, walk and chew gum, or carry on two conversations at once – we are familiar with the idea that while we can participate in two things at once, we suffer from the inability to do both of them well since our brains aren’t wired to multi-task.

These examples deal with superficial activities that we participate in every day, however, I challenge us to look at the idea of multi-tasking at a deeper level, at the level of creativity.

Take this real-life example:  as a writer, I am grateful to not be “working” at the moment and the difference in creative production compared to when I was working is tangible.   BUT there are bills to pay, student loans primarily, so my leisurely days of writing are now interrupted with tweaking resumes and scouring craigslist.  As I’ve focused on job hunting these past few weeks, I’ve definitely noticed my creative outlet is stifled. I can’t apply my emotional energy and investments into writing when I necessarily must funnel those elements into resumes and interviews.   We can only do one thing at a time.

My second son recently graduated high school.  He barely made the grades to do so, but I didn’t push him too much about tunagradmeit.   He is a highly creative individual, and although he wasn’t reading class assigned prose, he was (still is) reading Thich Nhat Hahn and Eckhart Tolle.  He didn’t participate in prom and loathed school assemblies, he sought instead a form of spirituality through the third eye and wrote rap lyrics about a higher calling in life.  His energy and time were vested in creativity, school took a secondary seat and this mother was unwilling to bridle his ventures into the mysterious for the sake of a four-point-oh.  We can only do one thing at a time.

Think about it in terms of living with an addict, of any kind.   I lived with an alcoholic for several months and I’ll never forget that my energy and creative flow were robbed in order to deal with the addiction and its fallout.   Writing came to a near stop and the ideas kept their distance, knowing they would be thrown away in the face of having to survive the consequences of walking on egg shells.  We can only do one thing at a time.

If you’re frustrated in your writing.  If you’re anxious over the slow pace of your manuscript.  Give yourself a break and examine your life at the moment:  is there something else taking up your emotional energy and drying up the creative outlet as a result?   Don’t beat yourself up over it.  Acknowledge that we aren’t able to multi-task at the emotional level where writing is grounded if our attention is called to other places. And then, be mindful.  Stay open to the creative tap so that when those creative moments do come up (they can’t help themselves, can they?  it is a curse we live with as writers) at least get them down in shorthand form on your iPhone note app so that you have the thing for later. Keep track of your progress, it will help you find the time.   My personal ‘game’ is to keep a running total of the number of words I write each day.   Some days my goal consists of a mere five hundred new words added to a working script, some days I can afford to increase the goal to two thousand.  The idea is to keep the work cooking and maintain the creativity spout on at least a drip output level.   Some is always better than none.

A writer’s life is not an easy road.  Creativity takes time, investment and an unoccupied mind, yet a thousand other details compete for our attention.   May we find a balance between the two and may we give ourselves a generous amount of grace in the process:  We can only do one thing at a time.

Write on, kids.

Frankie


Cheating Teachers: Ain’t No Surprise To Me

In a big mess of a deal, several Atlanta teachers and school administrators were sentenced (too harshly in my opinion) to jail time because they cheated on the State Standardized Tests.

We shouldn’t be surprised.  At. All.

Several years ago I went back to college after having all my babies with the lifelong goal of teaching in my sight.  There is always something about academia that excites me and I couldn’t wait to get into a classroom and passionately share my enthusiasm for….History!  I was so looking forward to igniting at least a handful of bright minds about the subject, I was so looking forward to making History at least ‘not boring’ for the rest of them.

Then something happened that caused me to seriously reconsider my career choice:  No Child Left Behind.  My observations of classroom transformations, witnessing my own children navigate through them, and long talks with teachers who were stuck implementing the legislation convinced me that I would never make it as a successful teacher within the new parameters set down.

You see, successful teaching is largely a creative venture.  There is really no right way to go about it except to hold high expectations and be observant of one’s students at all times.  That way we are aware when an “A-ha” moment is about to occur and can help the pupil to it.  Lev Vygotsky, a renown child development psychologist, keenly observed the teacher’s role as providing a bridge for the learner to be able to ‘connect the dots’ as it were. Writing sage Kahlil Gibran echoed the sentiment in his work “The Prophet” when he says “No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.”    It’s work to make those connections happen.  It’s bleeding, investing, time-consuming creative work to set down the kinds of paths needed so that our students can learn. Those paths were blocked, blown up, and utterly demolished with the advent of NCLB.

Tests are everything now, thanks to No Child Left Behind. They determine whether or not a school gets funded.  They determine whether or not a teacher is successful. They make lots of money for the test makers who have a close ally in DC. They remove any sort of creativity from the teaching experience and put our educators in positions to cheat in a system based on monetary values.  They have robbed our children of the value of learning to think.   They have eroded our schools so that they are nothing more than faceless information factories.

nclb

This group of Atlanta educators have a fair slice of my personal empathy. I’ve not been surprised at all that cheating of this kind has occurred.   Not one of us should be.  The confining, restrictive, and narrow paths of standardized testing necessarily invites criminal activity.

Teaching is a creative process and should have wide spaces to work with.  Anything less is detrimental to learning. Hopefully – Maybe – Fingers Crossed – one day this stain on our national education system will be removed, hopefully, maybe, fingers crossed, without too much residual damage.

Here’s to all those teachers out there who managed to stay in the classrooms after NCLB was implemented.  You are braver than I am and you have my utmost respect.  And to the group in Atlanta, I understand.

Frankie


Chaos and Creating…..

One of my favorite professors EVER used to have us rearrange desks in  a classroom from straight lined columns to a mish mash of seating all over.  While we moved, she was heard yelling over the squeaking and clanging:  “Learning is messy and chaotic.”

I’ve come to understand that creating….anything…is messy and chaotic…from a small fiction short story to a web site designed for education…we creators live in a world of chaos….

I think my professor would be proud of my writing desk……

messy desk

Here’s to the chaos of writing and creating….Have a great week kids!

Frankie