Editor’s Note: This article was first published in May 2013 as “3 Steps to Rediscover the Lost Art of Mothering.” We wish a wonderful mother’s day to all the moms working so hard and sacrificing so much for their families. Please be sure and check out more of Rhonda Robinson’s articles on family and parenting themes. She’s been such an inspiration and fountain of wisdom in her writings over the years. - DMS
Although it was many years ago, the image of a young woman with a tear-streaked face and blank stare is forever etched into my memory. She sat in front of the television cameras, shredding a soaked tissue, telling her story. Once a happy new mother, now distraught and on trial for the death of her baby — the infant died in her arms. The cause of death was starvation and malnutrition.
The first-time mother said she loved her baby and breastfed her regularly. She cared for the child to the best of her ability. She claimed that she had no idea the newborn failed to get the nourishment she needed. Nevertheless, the baby languished in her arms until she became too weak to suckle. It was only then that help was sought.
Of course the outrage came quickly. Bony fingers of blame pointed in all directions. Some held the hospital responsible, believing the first-time mother got released too soon. No doubt a direct result, others moralized, of the cold, cost-calculating insurance companies. Always pressuring hospitals for earlier discharge of maternity patients. Others cast the blame on social services. The government let this poor young woman slip through the cracks. Over and over, the resounding cries filled the airways.
Their haughty laments over that young mother’s fate still echo in my mind: “Where were the pediatricians? Where were the lactation experts?”
The answers were never found. Perhaps because no one asked the right question.
Where was her mother?
We really do learn to lie from a very young age.
One particular toddler of mine, removed her diaper, wet the floor and blamed it on the dog. I’ve had children become adept liars before they could string three word sentences together. Are my children natural born liars? In a word yes.
As adults, we have to learn how to be truthful. Or better still, we learn when to be truthful–when it doesn’t pay to lie. That’s not to say, that all lies are for sinister reasons.
We become masters at lying to protect our inner selves. It’s a built-in protection mechanism. Who we really are, our deepest feelings and thoughts are kept hidden only to be revealed to our inner circle of close family and friends.
Children master the craft of protecting their inner selves. In high school teens learn to craft the acceptable persona for school, and often another to present to parents.
“By the time we grow up we become masters at dissimulation, at cultivating a self that the world cannot probe. But we pay a price. After years of turning people away, of protecting our inner self, of cultivating it by living in a different world, of furnishing this world with our fantasies and dreams–lo and behold we find that we are hopelessly separated from everyone else. We have become victims of our own art.” — Ernest Becker
Not only do we protect our inner self from the world–we protect it from our harshest critic–our own minds.
We pretend something doesn’t bother us, that our feelings are not hurt. We lie to ourselves about how important our dreams are, and the real reason we are angry.
If we want to take our creativity to the next level, as with any deep relationship, complete honesty with our inner self is a must.
Peeling back those layers aren’t as frightening as you might think. What you unleash might surprise you.
Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Rhonda’s series on Ernest Becker’s ideas:
Part 1: What Makes You Human?
“Once upon a time there lived a little boy name Tom. He was brave, strong and he always obeyed his mommy…” and so each story would begin.
Every afternoon my little hero would meet a bear, a lion, go into the dark woods, or find a treasure. Each story led to a decision to be made, and our hero always chose what was right even when his faithful companion Little Bear (the scraggly teddy) did not. Every story would end the same–”because Tom always”…my voice would soften and fade as my own four-year-old Tommy would drift off to sleep.
When there are mountains of sand to conquer and frogs to capture, little boys find it hard to take time for a nap. However, I needed one desperately, so I made up wild stories to settle down my adventurous boy and feed his imagination. All in hopes of holding him still along enough for sleep to pin him down.
Until I read what Earnest Becker had to say about heroes, I hadn’t given those days of tale-spinning, or heroes for that matter, much thought.
“Two centuries of modern anthropological work have accumulated a careful and detailed record of this natural genius of man: anthropologist found that there were any number of different patterns in which individuals could act, and in each pattern they possessed a sense of primary value in a world of meaning. As we said earlier, short of natural catastrophe, the only time life grinds to a halt or explodes in anarchy and chaos, is when a culture falls down on its job of constructing a meaningful hero-system for its members.” Ernest Becker, [Emphasis mine]
What stories do you tell your children?
Perhaps a more important question we, as parents need to ask, is what stories are the culture telling our children? What are the childhood heroes we, as a culture, are providing?
If in fact, Becker is correct and the only time life grinds to a halt or erupts in chaos is when the culture falls down on its job of constructing a hero system–we could be in more trouble than we thought. Although, I think we’ve always known it deep down–that’s why we are so disgusted with the likes of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber. At one time they held the admiration of young children.
What if Cyrus and Bieber aren’t the problem? What if, it goes deeper than that?
“It just comes down to love. I mean, if you love your child then you should do anything in the world for your child. And it’s as simple and as pure as that.”
This is not parental love. This is misguided, tragic indulgence. It’s as simple and pure as that. Parental love prepares a child for adulthood–momentary happiness has little to do with it.
Parental love sees beyond what a child currently wants, or thinks he wants, and gives him what he needs. What this child needs is unconditional love and a chance for his brain to mature and his body to fully develop.
It’s far beyond the comprehension of a child to see himself as an adult. To a child of nine, eighteen is a lifetime away. Neither Keat nor his parents can fathom what his life will be like as an adult. The physical and mental consequences of a chemically altered body through puberty cannot be fully understood and weighed.
What if Keat had Body Integrity Identity Disorder? The same feelings of being born wrong exist. A person with this disorder believes he or she would be happier without the appendages they were born with. Would these parents still be good parents by indulging this disorder with amputation before puberty?
At the beginning of the year, I realized what’s wrong with me–I’m a creative.
It wasn’t until we moved to the Nashville area that I understood that it’s not what you do, it’s a personality type. People from all over the world come to Nashville to follow their dreams and find their own kind. Writers, artists, recording artists and songwriters–all creatives from every area of the arts flourish and wither here.
Living with your creativity is a challenge. Making a living with it is a lot like trying to make two marriages work at once.
Creatives of all genres want a muse. Every artist has watched with amazement as their best work flowed effortlessly through their fingertips as though they were the instrument, not the creator.
Call her what you like. Although she is fickle, selfish and obstinate, she is a most desired companion. She is the whisperer of the words to a song in the middle of the night. She is the unseen hand atop your brush as it glides across the canvass. She is wisdom. She is color, song and prose. She sows thoughts in the mind that blossom at the fingertips. She is your creative self, set free.
Without her, the fields of creativity are rough, rocky and require long hours of toil– often abandoned, and left to lay fallow.
With her at your side, the creative life is a joy and new every morning–but if you wait on her to feed you, you will become an artist all right–a starving artist.
As any marriage partner, she is to be treated with respect, courted and never taken for granted.
But first, you have to know where to find her.
Do you ever wake up feeling guilty or angry with yourself? Contrary to popular belief, anger and guilt aren’t about self-control– they’re catalysts for change.
One of the perks of old age is that I seldom do things that make me feel guilty. The majority of my guilt comes from things I don’t do.
There’s a lot to be said about our conscious. In “Is Self-Esteem a Social Construct or the Soul’s Self-Awarness“ I wrote about how our “self” is stamped with the knowledge of right and wrong, and how it comes with a moral imprint. While this is true, all guilt doesn’t necessarily come from immorality. Nor is all anger wrong.
I’ve battled bouts of guilt all week. Like, every time I look at my dog. Poor girl can’t see me because I’ve failed to take the time to cut holes out of her mop for her eyes. I’ve been guilty of not calling my mother–and getting lost in Facebook when I should be working, just to name a few. All of these things seem minor on the surface. But they do in fact diminish the quality of my life, and those I love–in small and large ways.
Recently, I woke up under a severe reality attack–another failure, I’d been too busy to realize. I failed to continue both my series. The works on Ernest Becker that I began here, and creative recovery which began as a promise to my daughter. While I consider both important for several reasons, guess which one held enough guilt to induce anger at myself?
I made commitments on two levels. First to my daughter who once begged, “Come draw with me mama.” The idea of this creative series was to explore and revitalize our creative lives as artists, and bring our PJ readers along for the ride. Our thirteen-week adventure The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron fizzled out in just four weeks.
My theory is that when we fail to do something that we know is right or would enrich our lives and relationships–it’s more of a spiritual battle than one of self-discipline.
When confronted with failure of any sort Michael Hyatt explains we have three options: recommit, revise or remove.
I chose to recommit. That’s when I learned about anger.
I worried about my son’s inability to read. He seemed far behind other second-graders. When I brought my concerns to his teacher, she brushed my fears aside. ”He is the highest in his reading group.” With her assurance, sprinkled with condescension that hinted education is best left to professionals, my parental instincts were put aside. After all, what parent argues with a teacher who insists a mother should be proud of her child’s hard work and dedication?
Imagine my surprise when at the end of the year, the decision was made to hold the boy back and repeat the grade. The reason? You guessed it–reading. When I pushed-back, reminding Mrs. Professionaleducator of her own words of assurance, she added one small detail previously left out. He was indeed at the top of his reading group–the lowest group in the class.
When he reached the top, she did not advance him to the next level for fear of hurting his self-esteem. He would no longer be the top dog. He would be at the bottom in the new group–with better readers. He would have to struggle to climb back to the top. For this reason alone, the preservation of the boy’s self-esteem, that he was not pushed to the next reading level.
He was reading somewhere around the 1.3 grade level at the end of the second grade. His prized self-esteem, was artificially inflated–something that was quickly and properly adjusted with the news he would not be advancing to the third grade with his friends.
For years, I chalked this experience up to the fact that his teacher just didn’t know my son. If she had, she would have known that putting him at the bottom would have challenged him to climb to the top. His competitive spirit and almost untamable drive would have propelled him over each obstacle put in front of him. Instead, she gave him a dunce cap and told him it was a crown, and rewarded him with a false sense of accomplishment as a foot-rest.
This week’s reading of Ernest Becker’s Birth and Death of Meaning reminded me of that first encounter with an esteem-puffer disguised as an educator. Becker made me rethink how self-esteem is actually built.
LifesiteNews.com reported on March 28:
As parents in Germany have protested a new pro-homosexual “sexual diversity” curriculum in their schools, homosexual activists have attacked them by hurling feces and destroying their property, according to the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, which documents anti-Christian incidents in Europe.”
“Protesters were physically attacked and it was felt that the police failed to protect the parents’ basic right of assembly,” said a statement from the Observatory describing incidents at recent rallies in Baden-Württemberg and Cologne.”…
“They were spit at, eggs were thrown, and little bags with feces or color. Cables of loud speakers were torn out,” the organization says. “Pages were ripped out of the bible and used to wipe backsides, then formed into a ball and thrown at the parents.”
Not so long ago, this story would induce little more than a shoulder shrug and a bit of pity for the poor folks living in such a place.
That is Germany–not America right? I’m safely tucked in the Bible belt. Besides, we have enough problems of our own–why worry about what’s going on in another country?
At some point, it’s wise to step out of our own house and check to see if our foundation has eroded. Now is that time. A steady drip over time becomes part of the landscape hardly noticeable, then it erodes more than you can imagine right under your nose.
This incident, although in Germany, is worth looking at a little more closely. Not just because of the shocking depravity of the acts involved, what is more important is to understand the plight of the parents. It’s a good reminder to check our own foundations and compare what is currently happening in our schools to the rights of parents.
Our similarities might surprise you.
Parents of the Plymouth Wildcats had a hard time watching their high school boys play baseball through the chain-link fence that obstructed their view. So they took the traditional American approach to the problem–they worked hard, earned the money to buy raised-deck seating, and then pulled together and installed the seats for all to enjoy.
These parents fully expected the time and sweat they invested in making their own lives a little better would also become an inheritance for future parents to enjoy for many years to come. In the past, that would have been right, good and honorable.
That is no longer the case in an era where the morality of the elite rules the day. It was “not fair” to the girls.
In the process of dismantling a high school cheering section, the U.S. Department of Education has taught Michigan a real life lesson in the new American brand of social Marxism, one that young parents need to learn and understand well. We now have a higher order of right and wrong that is sanctioned by the state.
This sad state of affairs began when one
useful idiot person complained to the U.S. Department of Education that it wasn’t fair that the boys had better seating than the girls. Did I mention that the parents of the boys also bought a new scoreboard? Apparently, that wasn’t fair either–and so it was thus decreed:
“As a resolution to the district’s violation of longstanding Title IX requirements to offer equal athletic opportunities to both boys and girls, the Department’s office of Civil Rights (OCR) accepted the district’s voluntary agreement to address this inequality by constructing necessary improvements to the softball field, or demolishing the baseball structure, or some combination of both. The final decision on how best to comply with the law was made by the district. OCR’s preference from the beginning, was for the district to construct a similar structure for the girls’ softball team.” – U.S. Department of Education spokesperson
Since the school claimed it had no funds for improvements, the girls’ team obviously doesn’t have parents willing to work for it, and the one who “cares” only wanted to whine–the new raised-seating area was demolished under the guise of fairness and equality.
Equality for women, or so the story goes, was achieved with the sexual revolution. When the pill hit in the sixties, it leveled the playing field by giving women a victory over their reproductive systems. At least, so they thought. Now, women could behave as promiscuously as men without being “punished with a baby.”
If in fact this were true, young women today should be living in feminism’s promised land. We have arrived in a world where hook-ups are the norm, at least on most college campuses. However, life is not better for women. In fact, a new study shows it is much worse.
Romantic relationships are becoming more difficult for women to navigate and young couples are putting off marrying until much later.
In spite of the epidemic of young men failing by “all social indicators,” as the video above put it, to adjust to adulthood, males are now in the driver’s seat of the premarital relationship. Before the sexual revolution, however, women determined the course of the relationship. The average woman sought a relationship with the ultimate goal of securing a lifetime mate, not a one-night workout. Her sexual response tended to go hand-in-hand with the depth of the commitment of the relationship. In the hook-up culture that is no longer the case.
The Austin Institute has put out a video explaining the courtship and mating habits of young people in the economic terms of supply and demand. The AI theory is that it is a matter of basic economics.
There are far too many women flooding the dating market with easy sex, thus driving the value down. A sexual encounter no longer costs a man much more than a few drinks or a couple nights out. In order to recover the market, women need to collectively agree to hold out for more.
Interesting, but oversimplified. This still assumes that women are in fact the same as men sexually — a mutual trade for equal goods. In spite of the popular cultural narrative, this is simply not true and the results have been destructive to women for generations. This theory must ignore science and keep hidden one fact about a woman’s body no one wants to talk about — even in college.
An event that went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media in 2012 perked up the ears of the Obama administration when it sparked a movement that ignited the hearts of 40,000 young evangelicals. Today the “End It” movement, fueled by a new generation of social conservatives, could impact the culture in ways their elders only dreamed.
Louie Giglio, a pastor in Atlanta, is the founder of the annual Passion Conference that launched “End It.” The young people behind the movement are a new brand of abolitionist. They don’t need to stand on a Bible to raise awareness that slavery is wicked. Nor do they have to convince the general public that kidnapping young girls and selling them into the sex trade is wrong. This is an opportunity for the church to shed a light into the darkest corners of the earth in a way that impacts lives.
“End It,” along with a coalition of 12 other non-profits like LOVE146, are raising awareness, and the money needed to do something about it–like wading through the darkest cavities of human depravity to rescue these girls. Reaching those lost without hope is a chance to bring everyone to the table and put right vs. left aside. That is, if both sides truly care about real justice.
However, that’s not always the case.
From a recent article over at BuzzFeed titled, ”A New Mission for the Religious Right“:
“The event received only marginal press coverage, but the White House took notice. A few weeks later, senior Obama adviser David Plouffe sat down in the White House with Joshua Dubois and Michael Wear, the president’s ambassadors to America’s believers. Plouffe had seen data that suggested young Evangelical voters were up for grabs in the upcoming election, and he wanted to know how the president could appeal to that demographic, according to someone with direct knowledge of the meeting. They discussed a range of tactics, and at the end of the meeting Plouffe asked which single issue could make the biggest difference in courting young Christians.
“Human trafficking,” Wear responded.”
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in July of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…
In recent posts I revealed a few personal pieces of our lives, mostly focusing on the economic impact of a health crisis. However, life-changing events such as these seldom come in isolation. This perfect storm arose out of our lifestyle and diet, devastating my husband’s health and testing our faith.
In the span of a weekend my hard-working husband Mike went from a “Top Gun” insurance-fraud investigator to a bedridden patient, while I morphed into little more than a trembling caregiver. Without our realizing it, his lifestyle of constant traveling and eating on the road along with my budget-conscious (rather than health-conscious) efforts at home created unthinkable consequences.
Without any real symptoms, over a period of years he quietly developed chronic deep vein thrombosis. After a stint in critical care, surgery, and high-power medications, we exhausted all medical avenues to dissolve the clot.
The surgeon came in sporting a “you-did-this-to-yourself-big-guy” attitude and handed us a one-way ticket into a nursing facility. He declared that nothing more, medically, could be done. He explained, in a clear “good-luck-with-that” tone, that Mike’s body had to heal itself. He needed to “forge new veins.”
The finest health-care system in the world could only stop the progression of the clotting — which, arguably, is profound. Nonetheless, medicine had nothing further to offer us other than opiates, Warfarin, insulin, and around-the-clock, skilled care.
No cure, not even an injection of hope.
The fluid in his legs wasn’t going away “any time soon.” Which translated to him not getting out of bed any time soon. What fluid remained in six months, they said, would become permanent — an inconceivable thought.
My oldest daughter developed a theory and a plan. In the process we discovered these simple principles that had a profound impact on Mike’s recovery and my life.
From The Boston Globe:
“They were making the white-knuckled trip from Connecticut because 14-year-old Justina wasn’t eating and was having trouble walking. Just six weeks earlier, the girl had drawn applause at a holiday ice-skating show near her home in West Hartford, performing spins, spirals, and waltz jumps.
But now Justina’s speech was slurred, and she was having so much trouble swallowing that her mother was worried her daughter might choke to death.
Justina had been sick on and off for several years. A team of respected doctors at Tufts Medical Center in Boston had been treating her for mitochondrial disease, a group of rare genetic disorders that affect how cells produce energy, often causing problems with the gut, brain, muscles and heart.”
At the advice of her specialist Dr. Mark Korson, Justina was taken to Children’s Hospital, rather than Tufts Medical Center where she had standing appointments and ongoing care. Korson wanted her seen by the gastroenterologist that had treated Justina for some time, until he left Tufts to practice at Children’s.
Much to her parent’s dismay, Justina was never allowed to see the doctor, in spite of the fact he knew her case well. Instead, she was assigned a new team of doctors.
Within three days her diagnosis was completely disregarded and her parents were informed that the new team was withdrawing their daughter from her medications. In spite of the fact Justina was physically deteriorating, the Children’s Hospital doctors believed Justina’s problems were psychiatric in nature.
When Justina’s parents objected, they were met with a letter demanding acceptance of the new diagnosis and treatment. The letter also forbid the parents any outside consultation, transfer to a different hospital or even a second opinion.
When Justina’s father arrived he was more than a little upset:
“We have standing appointments for her at Tufts,” he said. “Enough is enough. We want her discharged.”
[Justina's father] assumed it was their right as Justina’s parents to remove their daughter and take her to the hospital of their choice. But behind the scenes, Children’s had contacted the state’s child protection agency to discuss filing “medical child abuse” charges, as doctors grew suspicious that the parents were harming Justina by interfering with her medical care and pushing for unnecessary treatments.
When it became obvious that Justina’s parents were not going to comply, but rather looked for ways to transfer her, the hospital placed a “minder” in her room around the clock to monitor the parents.
Filing charges allowed the hospital to get an emergency order to strip away all parental authority and protection. Justina’s parents were then escorted out of the hospital by security.
Justina has spent over a year in the hospital, locked away on a psychiatric ward, beyond the reach of her parents. Once Justina was locked behind the doors of a psychiatric unit, parental visits became more and more restricted.
As a ward of the state, there was basically no supervision of her care– and the hospital bill is allowed to spiral out of control. One can only imagine what it costs to live in a hospital for a year.
As troubling as this family’s plight is, what’s more worrisome is the fact that this is not an anomaly. Within 18 months this hospital was involved with at least five different cases the Globe could find,where a disagreement over a medical diagnosis resulted in parents losing custody of their sick children.
“It happens often enough that the pediatrician who until recently ran the child protection teams at both Children’s and Massachusetts General Hospital said she and others in her field have a name for this aggressive legal-medical maneuver. They call it a ‘parent-ectomy.’”
The Blaze reports that Massachusetts State Reps. Marc Lombard and Jim Lyons have begun circulating a resolution in hopes of persuading the Department of Children and Families to start the process of reuniting Justina with her parents.
“Parent-Ectomy” is a profound abuse of children, parents and moral authority.
Can you think of a more immoral abuse of power than a hospital that will use the legal system as a weapon to capture and steal sick children away from their parents until every last dime is squeezed out?
Photo taken from Justice for Justine
From the AP via Yahoo:
A Kansas lawmaker is proposing a bill that would allow teachers, caregivers and parents to spank children hard enough to leave marks.
Current Kansas law allows spanking that doesn’t leave marks. State Rep. Gail Finney, a Democrat from Wichita, says she wants to allow up to 10 strikes of the hand and that could leave redness and bruising. The bill also would allow parents to give permission to others to spank their children.
It would continue to ban hitting a child with fists, in the head or body, or with a belt or switch.
Finney says she wants to restore parental rights and improve discipline.
Under the guise of “restoring parental rights and improving discipline,” this bill neutralizes parents’ authority and their ability to protect their children from harm.
To say that it is permissible for teachers and babysitters to strike a child with up to 10 blows opens the door to child abuse.
Parents don’t need permission from the state to discipline their own children– and parents need to stop asking for it. The state has cast a shadow of fear of prosecution over parents. In doing so, it has created a generation that feels powerless to control their children–so many of them abdicated their responsibility. Giving teachers and babysitters the right to leave whelps and bruises won’t fix that.
If the state really wants to restore parental rights and improve discipline in schools, it needs to get out of the way. Stop viewing children as if they were a national resource to be regulated and cultivated. Give parents the respect and support they deserve.
Discipline is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. A course of discipline that’s needed to keep one child alive can destroy another. Parenting is a skill, one that is learned through trial and error and can only be tempered by sacrificial and unconditional love.
Here is a recent Facebook post from a mother,
He’s not even 2 yet and he’s so hard to keep up with! I’ve never had to take naps until now! In ONE week, he had a cold, then an ear infection, flushed my bra down the toilet, swallowed 2 marbles, set my stove on fire, (long story), choked on a sucker (which was the hardest and scariest moment. Never had my [paramedic] husband say LET’S GO TO THE ER NOW! That was scary. We ended up not going-he was fine, thanks to his daddy! Then tonight he stuffed 3 popcorn seeds up his nose. I’m sooooo tired, need prayers for strength…Thank you for understanding why I haven’t done much to the house.
You can’t legislate parenting any more than you can pass a law that will create good kids.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock, Sofi photo
Once upon a time, we raised our children in the quintessential Midwestern town of Atwood Illinois.
Just as you would imagine, mom and pop businesses lined Main Street, which of course ran through the center of the town. Only the local bars rivaled the number of neighborhood churches. Even the police department closes up shop on Sunday nights. To this day, it’s still a close-knit community. But it’s been fighting a slow death of poverty for years.
Just a few years ago, the one-and-only grocery store within 15 miles closed its doors. Just this year the community said farewell to their high school with its last Homecoming game–a devastating blow to the spirit of a small town.
When an outside company wanted to help, by bringing in their grocery store, renovating some empty buildings and generating some high-paying jobs the town leadership rejected it flatly. The fat, white good old boys started a letter writing campaign. They whined that this store carried too many ethnic foods–it would not serve a primarily white population. The predominately lower middle-class neighborhoods might see a more diverse, or affluent people move into town. Most of all, it would increase the desirability of the neighborhood, and who wants that?
Apparently these racists would rather buy their milk at the gas station.
Actually, that’s a lie.
That would never happen in Atwood. The town is in trouble. But there is no hope on the horizon, no offer of something as wonderful as a Trader Joe’s offering to be their new neighborhood grocer.
That honor went to a community in Portland. Unfortunately for them, my fairy-tale is their reality. Only the colors have been changed.
According to the AP it all started here:
“The Portland Development Commission had offered a steep discount to the [Trader Joe's] grocer on a parcel of nearly two acres that was appraised at up to $2.9 million: a purchase price of slightly more than $500,000. The lot is at Northeast Alberta Street and Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and has been vacant for years.”
The Portland African American Leadership Forum ran them off saying it would “perpetuate income inequality” and ”increase the desirability of the neighborhood.” Exactly.
How is this a bad thing?
Of course Trader Joe’s had the good sense to not go where they’re not welcome. So the California-based company took their discount health foods and products along with their $10-20/hr clerk jobs elsewhere. Did I mention that their supervisors make $45k-75k and reportedly the store managers bring in six-figures?
The Portland African American Leadership Forum would much rather see empty decaying buildings in their neighborhood than give up their victim card.
In the meantime, farming communities are fading away, left alone to suffer the same fate as coal-mining towns.
In spite of the fact that the new WWII flick The Monuments Men is peppered with Hollywood royalty like George Clooney, Bill Murray and Matt Damon, its idealism and patriotic tone has induced mental vomiting among the cultural elite.
Case in point is Philip Kennicott’s scathing criticism of the film in the Washington Post titled “George Clooney saves Puppies from Nazis.“ Ironically, Kennicott misses the point of the movie and then uses the same point to argue his case against it.
In yet another twist of fate, our new series exploring the works of Ernest Becker beginning with The Birth and Death of Meaning sheds a different light on the movie, Kennicott, the Allied Forces and Hitler.
Let’s start with Kennicott, who writes:
“If you care about art, you are obliged to loathe the film “The Monuments Men,” a star-studded history drama that purports to tell the story of American efforts to rescue and repatriate art stolen by the Nazis in World War II…“Monuments Men” is so bad I will save you the trouble and expense of seeing it with the following summary. To make the film a bit more coherent, I’ve substituted the word “puppies” for art.
Over in Europe, the Second World War is raging, and Clooney is very worried about the puppies. He takes this concern directly to Franklin Delano Roosevelt… He explains to the President of the United States the basics of the allied invasion of Germany. He uses a big map with arrows on it, with the Russians coming in from the east, and the allies moving in from France and Italy. Caught in the middle of these armies are a whole lot of puppies. Clooney says he doesn’t want to live in a world without puppies.
Roosevelt tells Clooney to go save the puppies and there ensue several derivative scenes in which Clooney rounds up a rag-tag gang of misfit puppy lovers who all agree to help him return the puppies to their rightful owners.”
His opening with, “If you love art you are obligated to loathe the film” should give you your first whiff of a fermented ideology. The basis of his argument begins by informing us of our obligation to accept his emotions and condescension as the standard of righteousness, and our allegiance to art. Then Kennicott proceeds to obscure the gravity of the facts by replacing it with warm fuzzies–then ridiculing the absurdity.
Like a fresh gulp of air in a stale room of smoke and mirrors, this film is based on American history not yet rewritten–even in Hollywood.
And that alone makes it worth a closer look.
Have you ever gazed into the eyes of a newborn? Could you feel the pull of your soul into hers?
Hold your answer. We’ll get back to that.
At the sincere behest of a respected reader, I’ve begun a new series; the exploration into the works of Ernest Becker. Our introduction to Becker begins with Birth and Death of Meaning: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Problem of Man.
At first blush his point seems overly simplistic.
“[D]ualism of experience–the fact that all objects have both an inside and an outside…It is one of the great mysteries of the universe, that has intrigued man since remotest times. It is the basis of the belief in souls and spirits. Man discovered it and elaborated it because of his own self-reflexivity, the real and apparent contradiction between the inside of his body–his thoughts and feelings, and the outside…These are hardly new or startling thoughts, but they help us to introduce the problem of man’s distinctive interiority…”
Becker goes on to explain that this reality “presents a poignant problem that dogs us all our life.” I would suggest that not only does it “dog us” it also imprisons or sets us free. How we view the “inside” of man, is directly related not only to our own value and happiness but our right to pursue that happiness.
I met Norman Rockwell in Nashville last week.
Throughout my life, I’ve brushed by his artwork and admired it just like countless other Americans. However, his delightful mixture of realism and caricature are nothing short of captivating on their original massive canvases. I don’t think I could have appreciated him more as a person or as an artist if he were alive and standing in the midst of that exhibit. His lifetime of artwork left behind footprints pooled with deep, reflective waters.
Our trip to the Norman Rockwell Exhibit at the Frist Center started out to be this week’s “Artist Date” as prescribed weekly by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. It turned out to be more than just looking at the work of a master illustrator; it caused me to consider what it means to love your work, and what impact our creativity has on the world around us.
The dragon ate my week. It’s gone, along with my left sock. There’s not a trace of artwork and very little actual writing to be found; nothing was left behind but a few crumbs of productivity scattered around my office.
In the very first chapter of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron details two indispensable tools for creative recovery: morning pages and the artist date. I am happy to report that together with my daughter, Emily, we have managed to integrate both practices into our daily lives over the last couple weeks. That’s how I discovered the dragon.
Every morning I’ve gotten up, poured my coffee and sat down with pen and paper to produce the assigned three pages of “stream of consciousness writing.” The theory is that by doing so, you drain off the daily debris of life, thereby clearing the pipeline into the deep resources of your creativity, even spirituality. (There’s also the added benefit of improving your penmanship.)
My morning pages have been nothing short of life changing. From them have emerged the critical missing element in a book I’ve been developing for years. With several major projects nipping at my heals, I’ve been productively immobilized–the literary version of a deer-caught-in-the-headlights. Over a three-day spread of pages, the answer and clear direction surfaced.
Most shocking however, was the unexpected creature that also came crawling out into the light and found its way onto my pages –the aforementioned dragon living in my house. Skeptical? Evil is real.
This dragon follows me. The creature obscures my vision, eats my time and steals my productivity. In the War of Art Steven Pressfield calls him “Resistance.”
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
Although I can’t kill him, as he is reborn with every sunrise, I did learn how to render him toothless.
Once upon a time Disney captured my heart. As an artistic little girl, Disney stirred my creative spirit. Sadly, Disney didn’t do that for my children. Then along came Pixar, and picked up the torch–now it’s time to give it back.
Disney has reclaimed my heart with their newest animation Frozen. It’s well on its way into the hearts of an entire generation.
Simply put, Frozen got it right.
Not because it’s nominated for 2 Oscars. In fact, its already scored 18 wins with a running total of 32 nominations. Honestly, that’s nice and I’m thrilled for the creatives behind it. They deserve the recognition. But for us parents, that really doesn’t matter in the least.
Frozen won a place in my family’s Hall of Fame because it does what fairy tales are supposed to do. It reveals real life truths to children through the safety and beauty of a well-crafted story. In Frozen, Disney goes one better by telling it in brilliant animation laced with innocent humor and perfect timing.
Here’s what Rotten Tomatoes will tell you about the film:
Featuring the voices of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, “Frozen” is the coolest comedy-adventure ever to hit the big screen. When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna, a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna’s sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, a funny snowman named Olaf, Everest-like extremes and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction. (c) Disney
Personally, had I read that summary, I most likely wouldn’t have given the film a chance. That description is not the story I saw. While that might be the official summary it looks like it was crafted by someone that only watched movie trailers.
Here’s what I saw.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Now, adults are hoping for answers like, ‘I want to be an astronaut or I want to be a neurosurgeon’… Kids, they’re most likely to answer with, ‘pro-skate boarder, surfer, Mindcraft player’…us kids are going to answer what we are stoked on, what we think is cool…that’s typically not what adults want to hear.
…When I grow up, I want to be happy.
Young Logan stands out for several obvious reasons. Not only because of his outstanding performance on stage giving a TEDx Talk, a feat that would make most adults’ stomach turn, and not because he dispels the myth that homeschoolers are social misfits. It’s more than that; Logan cracked open the door and allowed the world to peek into home education at its finest.
Educators and parents, many perhaps for the first time, got a glimpse of what an adolescent boy looks like when he’s thriving in an environment that nurtures and values his unique potential.
The type of schooling that Logan is experiencing is actually second-generation “Delight-Directed” learning.
Gregg Harris introduced this philosophy of education to the homeschooling community in the 1980s, around the time I brought our oldest children home. The Delight-Directed theory rests on the idea that children learn best when academics center on their interests and talents.
The thrust of a child’s education is around real world situations in which they have an interest. In our family that meant my eldest daughter spent the bulk of her junior year in high school shadowing a veterinarian in her clinic, which equipped her to land a job in the Necropsy Lab at the University of Illinois, where she spent the majority of her senior year. For my son, it meant working on home construction sites from the age of 12, which equipped him to launch his own crew and become an employer just barely into his twenties.
Most doors were closed to homeschoolers then, and dial-up Internet was the height of technology. We just scratched the surface of what this young man called, “hack schooling.” In essence it’s really Delight-Directed 3.0.
Today there is a universe of knowledge to draw from, right at their fingertips. Creativity and innovation coupled with the ability to work without a foreman looking over their shoulder, will be the most valuable skill sets to master for this generation. I’ll wager the market will demand it, but few will be able to supply it.
Logan has a great shot at achieving his goal of health, happiness and the career of his choice. Although his message needs to be heard he’s talking to the wrong audience. A government-controlled educational system is incompatible and incapable of producing the kind of education that will put students on the same path. It’s fatally flawed at one critical point: its view of humanity.
“Artist” is one of those words that can mean one thing by the speaker and then transform mid-air into something completely different for the person hearing it. For example, in my corner of the world, around Nashville, when one speaks of being an “artist” they seldom mean it in the traditional sense of drawing, painting or sculpting. It’s usually a safe bet to assume they are talking about a recording artist.
In the book The Artist’s Way the author Julia Cameron is referring to all art forms but her specialty is the blocked writer. The heart and soul of writing, as it is in the creation of all artwork and music, is creativity. The point of conception of a brainchild is deep within the human spirit.
If we are made in the image of God, the creator of the universe, then creativity is part of our DNA–our spiritual DNA.
“For most of us, the idea that the creator encourages creativity is a radical thought. We tend to think, or at least fear, that creative dreams are egotistical, something that God wouldn’t approve of for us. After all, our creative artist is an inner youngster and prone to childish thinking. If our mom or dad expressed doubt or disapproval for our creative dreams, we may project that same attitude onto a parental god. This thinking must be undone.
What we are talking about is an induced–or invited– spiritual experience… We undertake certain spiritual exercises to achieve alignment with the creative energy of the universe.”
We are all gifted with it. The problem is that many of us became creatively paralyzed at some point in our formative years by harsh criticism or discouragement. Then again, many of us simply succumb to the demands of adult life, and our creative spirit becomes crippled under its weight, its voice becomes too weak for us to hear.
The author offers two essential tools to begin your “creative recovery.” This week my daughter Emily and I began using both; they have become a vital part of our lives.
Every parent has heard it — that dreadful lament of “I’m bored!”
Although it’s usually accompanied by dramatizations of actual pain, few parents have patience for it. Even fewer view it as something to be concerned about. That could be a deadly mistake.
I certainly didn’t view it as more than an annoyance. My children learned very quickly and early on that to complain of boredom was a bad idea. At least expressing it to me, that is. The first time those words would come out of a child’s mouth, I simply replied, “Oh that’s great. I have plenty of work for you to do. If you don’t know how to fill your time wisely, I will happily fill it for you.”
You would be amazed at how fast a child can figure out something else to do besides extra chores. One full dose of work instantly cures childhood boredom.
What about children who are never taught what to do with boredom? What do they grow into?
This week’s reading of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning brought to light what could be the answer to a problem not yet conceived of at the time of its writing. Frankl explains,
The existential vacuum is a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century…man has suffered another loss in his more recent development inasmuch as the traditions which buttressed his behavior are now rapidly diminishing. No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people wish him to do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism). ….
The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom.
In most cases, when children announce their boredom, parents give them placebos rather than cures. They think it is not really a problem at all. By dismissing the issue as unimportant, the parent takes the path of least resistance and too often offers entertainment as a cure. (This is evidenced by the large sums of money willingly paid for gaming systems.)
However, if Frankl is correct, and it is a real issue, then we are in essence training our children to seek amusement rather than meaning. This could have deadly consequences.
Growing up in California just minutes away from Disneyland left an indelible mark on my life.
Each week Walt Disney himself sat in our living room, on primetime television, introducing us to The Wonderful World of Disney. He always captivated me. Then of course there was the Mickey Mouse Club, to which, in my imagination–I belonged. To this day what strikes me so deeply, is not the Disney empire itself, but the creativity that oozes out of every crevasse and permeates the air. It made me long to be a creator.
Although I was born with a pencil in my hand, it was Disney that made me want to be an artist–their artist.
That’s it. That is all I ever wanted to be while growing up. I had little use for anything that did not further that ambition (such as math or spelling). My parents fed that monster by using me for party entertainment. They would have me sit and draw a characterization of their guests, just like the street artists in Disneyland.
Becoming a Disney cartoonist faded long ago with my childhood.
Then once again in the early eighties I found my creativity. Photorealism portraits in graphite and charcoal rekindled my desire to create. Who needs Disney now? I had beautiful children to draw.
My first (and last) art show was in 1983. That date is etched in my memory because of two significant events that came to light during that show.
First, there was the brief encounter with a woman that set the bar for what I wanted my art to achieve. This unnamed woman, meticulously groomed and tailored, with a briefcase in one hand and a clipboard in the other, whisked by me and my display. Her stride was long and as swift as her spike heals would allow. It took her about two extra steps past me before she could come to a complete stop. Then she pivoted, took those two steps back and stopped. For just one moment she gazed at one of my drawings. Her face softened as a quiet “Awe” slipped out. Then off again she went.
It didn’t matter that she didn’t buy my work. What she gave me for it was priceless; the highest compliment I could receive as an artist–it stopped her in her tracks. The demands of the day bowed for just a few seconds to enjoy a moment–it touched her.
From that day forward, I wanted to give all of my art that same “Awe” quality.
The second thing that came out of that art show ended my art career, and set a new course for my life.