Showing posts with label children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children. Show all posts

10.12.20

On the Pleasure of Silence: Remarks from a Modern Human (and Apologies to Alluding to Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation)

In this post, I reflect on the importance of silence and reading in forming ideas. Reading allows for a more immersive and contemplative experience, as opposed to passively consuming external stimuli like TikTok or television. I also speak about the value of storytelling and being called a poet by a child named Evan. I conclude by recounting a story about finding and decorating a Christmas tree in the forest.

On a quiet night in early winter, even in New York, there is an inspiration to read, and think, and look out my window.

No Books at the Dinner Table
The one freedom left to me is silence. In silence, there is the freedom to read, to think. Reading is a form of silence. A silence filled with words. In reading, I choose words like a savory meal; the brain queues words into the mind in waking life, but in reading life, I can choose carefully. Reading a book is sweet indeed. On a train, at the dinner table. Prone on my back. Against a tree. As a kid, I could not read at the dinner table. ”Bad manners,” my father would tell me. ”Put the book down, Greig. It's dinner. Get your head out of that book." Zero in on me looking forlorn. And include a wide shot of how awkward the family dinner became.

I don't fault my father. He was not a reader. But he enjoyed good conversation and didn't like being alone — even at the dinner table. As an adult, I have not turned into my father. But not because I am a reader and he is not — but I let children read whenever they want. Children should never be allowed NOT to read.

The Freedom of Reading
But back to my thesis. The freedom to form ideas is buttressed by silence. Is this the contemplative life? Silence is active in a book full of ideas. The ideas in a book are like taking one bite out of a delicious meal and savoring each morsel. Ideas pumped into the brain from external sources like TikTok, YouTube, random channel surfing on the television — do not have the freedom of “one bite at a time.” It's passive consumption. However, podcasts and audiobooks — I don't argue these are as passive because I find audio more immersive than visual. Don't get me wrong, though. I love the visual. And I love TikTok. I am more or less arguing for reading (and not suggesting one throw the baby out with the bathwater). 

Why read? I read for epiphanies. Not for epiphanies I have had but for epiphanies, I have not had.

I am silent, so I can learn of an epiphany in a poem.

When I Read a Good Story
When a story is told, your eyes grow bigger, and you rest awhile, knowing something good is about to come, and you know the pleasant color of a story put together as I go along is sufficient.

I am a storyteller. I tell stories. And I was confirmed in that role today. He called me a poet. His name was Evan — about nine or so. He called me a poet. I pay attention when kids say something important. Which is most of the time.

I told a story about finding a Christmas tree in the forest. We cut it down, a nice one — it was a sufficient size — and we drug it back home to decorate it. Sort of like that scene in Christmas Vacation 
 the one with Chevy Chase as the avuncular but hapless father -- where he takes his family into the woods to cut down the tree. Something like that. Now that's family.

3.6.20

Philosophy in the Classroom (Or, the Living Room): Five Resources to Get Young People Thinking About Ethics and Moral Decision Making


As we gear up for Summertime and Summer Reading, I am thinking about FIVE ethically-minded resources to share with young people.
A Young Man in the Stacks
Photo by Aw Creative on Unsplash
1. The Ones Who Walk Away from OmelasUrsula K. LeGuin's short(ish) story is about a nearly perfect society. But the inhabitants of this supposed utopia have a dark, hidden secret. The story becomes a thought experiment on moral values and what we sacrifice to live better lives for ourselves (at the expense of others).
Detail of the infamous "Ring of Gyges" that magically grants invisibility to its wearer2. Caught You! The Ring of Gyges from Plato's Republic - Do you only do what is right when others are looking? What if you could do whatever you wanted — would you still be motivated to do the right thing? Get kids thinking about these moral questions with a free "Philosophy in the Classroom" lesson plan I made on fairness and justice. 
Painterly image of Plato's Cave (from the point of view of the prisoner climbing out of the cave and seeing the sun for the first time)
3. Plato's Allegory of the Cave in Plain Language - In this classic story from Plato, the Ancient Greek Philosopher imagines a shadow world where one prisoner longs to be free. Find out what the prisoner finds and the consequences of his discovery when he shares it with his friends. 
Till We Have Faces by C.S. LewisThe Four Loves
4. Two Books by C.S. Lewis - This English author is a creative writer who instills imaginative and ethical thinking in children! I loved the Narnia books growing up — but you may not know Lewis wrote a prolific amount of books that do not include Mr. Tumnuis and the Pevensie children. It may be a little advanced for very young kiddos, but he wrote a beautiful book called The Four Loves. It is an extended essay on the different kinds of love. He also wrote a book based on the Greek Myth of Cupid and Psyche entitled Till We Have Faces — an incredible retelling of a classic tale.

Charlotte's Web
5. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White — Don't be fooled by its children's book reputation. E.B. White has crafted a delicate book about growing up, friendship, and love. The first chapter, alone, is a lesson in moral decision-making skills that any kid will relate to and want to discuss in detail.
Sources:

Le, Guin U. K. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Mankato (Minnesota: Creative Education, 1993. Print.
Lewis, C S. The Four Loves. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 1991. Print.
Lewis, C S. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold. 2017, 1956. Print.

Plato, and Andrea Tschemplik. The Republic: The Comprehensive Student Edition. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. Print.
White, E B, and Garth Williams. Charlotte's Web. New York, NY: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 1952. Print.
Stones of Erasmus has a Teachers Pay Teacher Store that sells products for middle and high school teachers

1.5.18

"Only You're Different!": Notes on Gender Transformation in the Marvelous Land of Oz


Tip is the cap-wearing boy in L. Frank Baum's Oz 1904 sequel.
Gender transformation in literature is nothing new. Tiresias was said to be both a man and a woman at different stages of his existence. And by the way, he said that being a woman is better. So when I read The Land of Oz in the Fifth Grade, it was nothing out of the ordinary to read about it in L. Frank Baum's fantasy novels. It's a motif in fantasy fiction to be sure - just see this TV tropes wiki page.

The Boy Tip

Tip is a fictional character in L. Frank Baum's second installment of his famous Oz books - The Marvelous Land of Oz (later shortened to The Land of Oz). While the Scarecrow, Dorothy, and the Gnome King often get noticed from readers as amazing Baum creations, Tip gets looked over in the Oz canon because he is actually not a real person (well, in the sense that in the story he is not who he seems to be). And his tenure in the Oz narrative is temporary.

*spoiler alert*

19.3.18

"Rats!" by Robert Browning (excerpted from the Pied Piper of Hamelin, 1842)

Do you love rats? Read a delightfully bombastic excerpt from Robert Browning's 1842 poem "The Pied Piper of Hamelin".
Frontispiece, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Chicago, McNally, 1910
Rats!
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats
And even spoiled the women's chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats . . .
Robert Browning, excerpted from The Pied Piper of Hamelin, 1842
Rat in the subway
Works Cited
Browning, Robert. Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Child's Story. Chicago, McNally, 1910. Print.                                                                                                                                                                    PDF Copy for Printing

11.5.17

A Monster Calls (2016) - Movie Review

Production still from "A Monster Calls" (Focus Features)
A boy learns to face his fears (© Focus Features)
Wanna see a movie that gives us a twenty-first-century version of a Grimm's fairy tale?

In the book Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim lays out a psychological argument that fairy tales are useful in helping young children understand adult fears. Fairy tales are couched in childlike verse, but beneath the surface lies deeper, troubling psychological truths.

For example, why is every stepmother in fairy tales evil? Well, according to Bettelheim it is because it is all about the fear children have that our parents don't love us. But. This is too much to bear for the children, so the storyteller replaces this fear with a substitute - the stepmother.

In J.A. Bayona's fantasy flick, A Monster Calls, the logic works similarly. However, the metaphor is not as thickly veiled. There are no evil stepmothers; but, there is a strident grandmother (Sigourney Weaver).

The story, based on a novel of the same name by Patrick Ness, centers on a young boy named Conor (played sensitively by Louis MacDougall), a waifish boy attuned to the visual arts but prone to being bullied at school. He is dealing with the impending tragedy of his mother's death. 

While his family seemingly falls apart all around him, Conor falls deeper and deeper into a sullen depression. In one scene, he destroys his grandmother's sitting room, tearing the furniture apart. The boy is distraught and anger is an easy anodyne.

In order to help Conor deal with the reality of his grief, every night around midnight an anthropomorphic yew tree monster voiced by Liam Neeson) uproots itself from a nearby cemetery to dole out three fairy tales to the lad. The tales - à la Bettelheim - are meant to help the young boy deal with the very real fear of his mother's death.

That's all fine and dandy. There are lots of films and books that help children deal with the reality of death - take My Girl and Bridge to Terabithia as potent examples.

A Monster Calls is a little different because the plots rend open a deeper and more destructive fear. The inevitable death of Conor's mother also triggers within Conor a kind of death drive. The yew tree monster's stories are meant to help the boy realize his own wish to die and to counteract this drive with a life-giving "yes" living.

So it's intense material. I won't go into the content of the tales - but suffice it to say the film's visuals are stunning and I think the movie succeeds in driving home its central psychological thesis.

I am not one to censor films; however, I would caution against viewing this film with young children. I think the deeper themes of destruction and not-so-subtle hints about suicidal ideation should give parents pause. However, if parents know the content of the film deals with these themes, it could prove to be an enriching experience for both child and adult.

If Bettelheim is right, then fairy tales are meant to ease the more horrific facts of life - death, murder, suicide, decay, entropy, and estimated taxes - and, thus; films just may be our twenty-first-century version of sixteenth-century Grimm's fairy tales.
A Monster Calls (2016)
Focus Features
Directed by J.A. Bayonna
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones, and Lewis McaDougall
Written by Patrick Ness (Screenplay) and based on his book.

12.9.14

A Twelve Year Old Boy's Answer to Conflict


"No more fights, just books." 
— Boy, 12, New York City

7.2.14

Little Girl Talks about Philosophy


I am not sure if this girl is being coached by an adult, but I thought this was a pretty cool video of a young person attempting philosophical questions.

25.8.12

Paul of Tarsus on Childishness


ὅτε ἤμην νήπιος, ἐλάλουν ὡς νήπιος, ἐφρόνουν ὡς νήπιος, ἐλογιζόμην ὡς νήπιος: ὅτε γέγονα ἀνήρ, κατήργηκα τὰ τοῦ νηπίου. 
When I was a child — I spoke like a child, had feelings like a child, and I had a mind like a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away those childish things.
Paul of Tarsus, First century A.D.
First Letter to the Church in Corinth, Chapter Thirteen, verse Eleven.

Sculpture of Paul of Tarsus holding a sword in front of the Church of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, Italy
Paul of Tarsus as depicted by a statue of him 
in front of the Church of Saint Paul 
Outside the Walls in Rome, Italy.

Paul in this quote from a letter he wrote to the church at Corinth (circa 56 A.D.) assumes childish things are something to move away from, to discard 
 and secondly, he assumes he has become a man. All grown up. The Greek word for "man" is ἀνήρ which can also be translated as "gentleman". I can imagine Paul wants us to also shed this notion of Christianity as a baby's religion, as something infants do, crying like children to their grown-up silent gods. Paul is a gentleman and assumes his God responds in kind. Paul loved writing letters  and he loved to extoll his own weaknesses as strength. He was a child! He said childish things! Perhaps he pouted when his mother would not take him to bathe in the salty goodness of the sea  or maybe he prattled on like a child in the way children do? But he is a man, now! Paul surely sees children as mewling, puking, and speaking nonsense, having nothing really important to say  as if faith is something only grown-ups do — what children do is make-believe. To have a mind of a child is in Paul's mind to be imperfect  what we mean when we say childish. But Paul informs us that he has become a man  a full-grown person who has evidently discarded such puerile traits such as insouciant idleness and unabashed temper tantrums. I must agree I prefer the mature man to the mewling babe  but I am somewhat suspicious that in a strident act of becoming all childish things are banished.

22.8.12

Yes, I'm Ignoring You

Just ignore the math! Photo by Peggy Sirota Copyright 1992 AVANTI
EZ Link to the Image (for printing and downloading)
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com
Find Teaching and Education Resources
on my Tpt Store

11.8.11

Report from the Schoolyard: Joy to the World the Teacher's Dead

The Hidden Banter of the Schoolyard
    Inside the inner circle of school-talk lies an entire world closed off – for the most part – to the outside, adult world. In elementary school, we used to say that if we could find the person who invented school, “we’d kill ‘em.” At recess, huddled in our peer circles, after gossiping, the banter became indictment of school in all of its ugly designs. That’s what we thought. Partly because that is the way school children are supposed to think about school, at least amongst themselves. Adults were horrified when they caught us singing the maladaptation of the Christmas carol "Joy to the World."
Joy to the world!
The teacher's dead!
We bar-b-que'd her head.
What happened to her body?
We flushed it down the potty!
Heaven and nature sing!
Heaven and nature sing!
Magistricide Horrors
    Adults were horrified that we would fantasize about magistricide.
    Now that I am a teacher myself I understand the latent aggression towards teachers (and how it sometimes flare up and becomes less than latent).
    Students respond to their teachers as figures of authorities. As a student there is a low level of power; at every level there is someone in a higher position, a pecking order. Teachers represent the upper echelon of the order (even though we don't get paid much).

To fantasize about killing your teacher is a fantasy about control.    We sang the song because we wanted to hold onto some sense of control. In middle school, a child is at the mercy of bigger kids, janitors with mops, nasty lunch ladies, assistant principals, bullies, school food, bus drivers: there is seldom a moment of absolute freedom from authority.
    Except at recess. And that is where we sang our lilting dirge.
Joy to the world the teacher's dead.
    I don't think we meant that literally. If our teacher did, in fact die, I am sure we would have felt guilty. Just like the little kid who wishes privately his parents were dead — and they do in fact die — has to go through a lot of therapy afterward.
    Perhaps what underlies all of this is the education of power. Is growing up the education of using and balancing power?
    Even as middle-schoolers we understood power structures even though we had never picked up Michel Foucault's book Discipline and Punish.

26.6.11

Are Philosophers Inspired by the Figure of the Child?

In this post, I discuss one of my favorite topics: how have thinkers, writers, and philosophers been inspired by the figure of the child?

I am stuck on this topic of the child as a figure of philosophical thought or inspiration. The question writ large is this: how can the child be both a muse and tabula rasa? In other words, how can the child be a figure of inspiration, yet at the same time, not capable of the label philosopher? The philosopher, artist, thinker, writer, goes to the child for their inspiration, but the paradox is this: the child is seldom seen as a locus of philosophical import. How can it be both? Both muse and empty of content? We call the child innocence but what we mean is empty, according to Kincaid. And i agree. The label of innocence creates a bind. A problem. Innocence maintains the status of muse but creates a problem by which the child is only able to miraculously appear through nostalgia and leaves whence she came. William Blake trumpets the child as a muse. Blake writes of a poet/piper in the introductory verse of the Songs of Innocence who is visited by a child on a cloud who commands him to write: "Piper sit thee down and write / In a book that all may read." Is the child merely an apparition for the romantic poet? Notice it is the poet and not the lofty nude boy cherub who puts words onto paper. How can it be that the child inspires the poet to write but is bereft of his own song?
I can name three famous instances where a child appears in the margins of the history of philosophy. In Plato’s Meno, Socrates employs a slave child to demonstrate to Meno that learning is recollection. Meno assures Socrates that the boy has no previous knowledge of geometry. The question is if the child has no prior knowledge of geometry can she still learn it? Socrates asks the slave boy questions. He does not supply him with answers as if his mind were an empty vessel. Socrates is notorious for asserting that we come upon the quest for knowledge at an instance of nothing. We know nothing. Nothing is a starting point. Just by the guidance of a question, the slave boy is able to come up with the solution to the problem of halving a square. Plato does not indicate the child's age. I would guess he is no older than sixteen. No younger than seven. Is it a coincidence that Socrates uses him as an example? To use a child to illustrate a philosophical point suggests something about the status of a child. In this case a slave child. To be a slave and a child at the time of Socrates was to be afforded little political privilege. Neither the child or the slave were properly thought of as citizens of the state. Philosophy is adult business. Citizen business. So to demonstrate the boy's ability to know, to recollect knowledge, as a priori to learning itself, is to present the child as exemplar, but still leaves us to question the concept of child as philosopher.
Nietzsche famously invokes the figure child in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in tandem with the lion and the camel, as the third stage in the metamorphosis of philosophical progress.
Augustine in the Confessions opens a random selection of sacred scripture whereby he is inspired by Saint Paul’s words to put on the person of Christ and rid himself of wanton desires. When the child enters the scene of philosophical history she becomes an example, as we can see in Socrates’s use of the boy, or as metaphor for something “new” and “fresh” as in Nietzsche. Or simply inspiration as in Augustine’s anecdotal story of his conversion.
For the most part children are excluded from the annals of Western Philosophy in the main along with discussions of sex, the body, and anything related to our finitude. Philosophers in the main have traditionally been more fond of loftier topics such as mind, reason, and clear and distinct ideas. Children are far from such sophisticated concepts being as they are undeveloped intellectually. While we can grant the child her own special status as philosopher who has not heard a child ask why? it is still fairly common to assume philosophy is meant for grown-ups. The long-standing view of children is that they are extensions of adults. Thomas Hobbes excludes the child as having the status of person in the Leviathan. Along with madmen and fools, the child is a brute beast, with no claim to the law or sovereignty. For Hobbes, the child is not a person. According to Phillip Aries, the concept of the child as independent from an adult only recently became adopted in the West in the nineteenth century. For centuries children were seen as diminutive versions of adults. Homunculi. The great modern revelation, it is said, is that children embody a consciousness that is temporally defined and authentic to childhood itself. How far have we come from Hobbes? But how uneasy it is for us to ask the child muse to speak her own voice. Children grow up. They become adults. And it is usually adults who provide the child's voice. The word "infant" means "without voice." The Romantic view of childhood, as seen in the Blake poems, and also with Rousseau, privileged the child as possessing a unique access to experience that becomes lost after the emergence of puberty. What Freud would later call the stage of latency, the period after infancy leading up to adolescence, becomes a period in the development of the human person infused with a new sense of interest and curiosity. Jean-Jacques Rousseau breaks the silence and places the figure of the child front and center, but he too retains a nostalgia for something lost. We vacillate, I conjecture, from positing the child as an empty slate to embodying all truths, but in each event, we are foreclosed to the child qua child.

9.12.10

On the Manufacture of Childhood Innocence

In this post, we present a quote by James R. Kincaid on the production of childhood innocence in contemporary culture.
The Author as a Child From a Department Store Photo Shoot (c. 1980s)
Few would question that the innocent child was manufactured by Rousseau, with refinements by Wordsworth and thousand lesser writers, interior decorators, and producers of greeting cards.
— James R. Kincaid
Source: Kincaid, James R. Child-loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Literature. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.

1.12.10

Lesson Plan: World's Most Valuable Thing

See the end of this post for a
printable version of the World's Most Value Thing.
It's very simple to use this game designed by the folks at The Philosopher's Magazine. A few years back they did an issue devoted to children and philosophy. The issue has a game a teacher can organize with their students called "The World's Most Valuable Thing."
    I provided a scanned image of the handout above you can use, or if you are feeling creative you can use your own handout with your own world's most valuable things.
The rules are simple (click the link to read more):

22.11.10

Monday Morning B&W Photo


Unfortunately, I'm not certain to whom I should cite the above photograph, but I post it anyway, as a valediction to Monday Mornings. People to see. Places to go.

2.11.10

Analysis: Freud, Derrida and the Magic Slate

Do you remember playing with a magic slate as a child? Learn how Sigmund Freud uses this device to talk about the unconscious mind.
Do you remember this toy from your childhood? It’s charmingly called a “Magic Slate” or an “Etch-a-Sketch”. In German, the Wunderblock. I had a version of this toy as a kid. The novelty of the apparatus consists in the ability of the pad to retain impressions, such as drawings, and like a normal slate, the impressions can be erased, but not by an eraser but by simply lifting the page. Presto. Freud and Derrida loved this thing. Freud liked it because the Magic Slate is a model for the human mind. Psychoanalysis! Derrida liked it because Freud's reading of it seems to suggest the unconscious is inhabited by writing and is prior to speech acts. Deconstruction!
Deconstruction!
The stylus is used to write, scribble, or draw on the transparent plastic sheaf which creates an impression on the middle thin layer. The magic slate I had as a kid was a simple plastic, red stylus. The slate itself was a flimsy plastic backing with the “magic sheaf” part lightly affixed to the backing.

When the sheaf is lifted, the thin papery layer which exists beneath it is erased of its impression. At the bottom, a resinous wax layer exists which retains etched into the resin the residuals, or traces of all the previous impressions.

Freud on the “Magic Slate”
Freud wrote a short seven-page essay called "A Note Upon The Mystic Writing Pad." He wrote the essay to explain his theory of memory via the working apparatus of the Wunderblock. The outer coating represents the protective layer of the mind. The layer protects the mind from too much excitation. Notice if the thin paper layer is torn or contaminated the Wunderblock ceases to work in the same way that trauma can irreparably damage the psyche. The stylus represents a stimulus from the outside world. The papery layer is the conscious mind and the wax resin is representative of the unconscious.

The memory of the present can be erased, but like the mind, retains the impressions in the unconscious. The Wunderblock can both destroy and create.

Freud thought the Magic Slate was the closest machine-toy resembling the human mind. The only difference between the Wunderblock and the human mind is the mind's waxy resin layer can come back and disrupt the psychic life. Notably in dreams and trauma.

Derrida On Freud
Derrida, in an essay called "Freud and the Scene of Writing" was astounded that Freud, as a metaphysical thinker, could have inadvertently stumbled upon a machine that is a metaphor for the techné (production) of memory.

Derrida wonders how Freud could have imagined the Wunderblock to represent the psychic life while not realizing that the fundamental essence of the toy, like the mind, is its reserve of graphical traces, not phonetic signifiers.

17.10.10

The Stages of Life According to Erikson

Erik Erikson, the accessible psychologist, child of Freud, conceived of an eight-layered schematic to illustrate the entirety of human development —  first marked out in his groundbreaking book, Childhood and Society. In this book, he maps out a continuum from birth to death of the struggles of human development. Even though they are not meant to be like a grocery list, I list them out here:

1. Trust and Mistrust  
The first stage begins at the moment the infant meets the outside social world for the first time. Our first experiences with the world forms the basic trust/mistrust dyad. It’s kind of like the father who tosses his daughter up in the air and catches her. Trust: he catches her safely. Drops her? Basic mistrust forms.
2. Autonomy and Guilt
The struggle between autonomy and guilt – that nasty fight between independence and the debilitating fear of the all-seeing eye that threatens to swallow you alive with its judgment, catapulting a person into shame and doubt.
3. Initiative and Guilt
Then, of course, there is the whole question, “what do I do with myself once I’ve achieved autonomy?” that either gets us going to self-actualization or we become mired in the things we should have done or said – in a word: guilt. 
4.Industry and Initiative
Every child has to learn what to create with their bodies after they’ve decided they can actually get off their haunches and express themselves – and added with that, the internal feeling of being loved and the inner worth that goes along with creating work worthy of pride.
5. Identity
You can have an identity, it seems, without struggling through those forgotten visceral experiences of infancy; adolescence merely pokes its ugly head in to confuse us all over again – and we thought the womb was tough.
6. Intimacy and Isolation
But once we get a firm grounding on who we are as individuals we can really enter into genuine intimacy with another, although rocking precariously with the threat of isolation; this is where boundaries are set and committed relationships begin.
7. Generativity versus Stagnation
  And once we accomplish these mile markers we feel we have to give something back; we feel mortality nipping at our heels and generativity rushes in as a contraposition to idle stagnation.
8. Coming to terms. Or not.
The final hurrah is accessing whether the whole thing was worth it from the womb to the final tomb. We struggle at this point in the journey between feeling satisfied that we have gained much from life and whether or not we have nurtured the seeds for our children’s children. If we feel we've failed, death is a painful process, and we sink into the depressing cavity of despair, hopelessly casting off any hopes for immortality.

24.8.10

Essay: How to be Generative Without Having Kids

Learn how my Uncle gave me his set of matchbox cars to me when I was young and how this influenced my understanding of passing something down from one generation to the next.
image credit: Tilt-Shift Photography
   When I was a boy my uncle gave me his complete set of diecast matchbox cars.
   There is a photograph of me as a toddler hanging on to our family coffee table, grinning in the flashlight of the camera’s aim, illuminated – darkening the background where you can see strewn on the carpet a multitudinous display of diecast cars. Not only did my uncle give me his entire set of matchbox cars but he and my aunt would take me on Saturdays to the flea market to scout out hidden diecast cars buried underneath piles and piles of junk. I was especially in love with the Matchbox brand, which started out in England as the Lesney company in the 1940s as a cheap way to sell toys to children during the war. I had Hot Wheels too. And I liked Corgi's models. But, my heart, in the end, was stuck on Matchbox.
    Visiting the flea market was a big deal. My aunt sold fashion for porcelain dolls. When she and my uncle frequented the flea market stalls, they were looking for deals on doll fashions. My aunt instructed me on the first day I tagged along to help them pick out fabrics. "Don't touch anything," she told me. She put her arms behind her back and turned around to show me, saying, "this is how you walk. Hold on to your arm so you can catch it if it tries to grab something on the shelf." She was right. The flea market stalls were filled with items that screamed "tangible!" The musty smelling curtains and chain-smoking clerks, ogling collectors handling precious prints of Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe's and 1950s Hugh Hefner Playboys were for me, a boy's wonderland. I obeyed my aunt, though, and tried not to touch. Besides, I had no interest in handling thin veined china or opaque Depression-era glass. I wanted the toys. While my aunt and uncle felt and measured lacy fabrics, I would look for cigar boxes and glass cases filled with diecast cars, hoping to find the prized Matchbox models that would add to my collection.

3.6.10

Poem: "Guilt-Gift"


A mother’s guilt gift to a
future man on her knee
is to enjoy his giggles, fun-loving mirth,
only to demand it back in his
trousers and school-books, his sullen smirk.




image credit: "Remember" by Telenous

13.5.10

Poem: “Backyard Fantasyland”

We hop around bridges, we dance with
trolls. We have a blast with ants. We
meet with nymphs and fairys.

Rabbits show the way. It is so nice
to know they have something to say.

A Badger invites us to tea, with a little
sponge cake.

A faun entertains us with a dance in
a meadow filled with dew.

All of these things happened in a five
year old’s backyard.





All you need is an imagination

See the mind, see the bridge, see almost
anything. All you need is an imagination.
Say, you are doing good.


January 13, 1994