The only green shoots in the backyard are from crabgrass, apparently immune even to the coldest temperatures. But the birds are busy; we entertain dozens at a time. Mostly sparrows and house finches, but today I saw many robins -- headed south, ominously -- and even a northern flicker.
I finished up Jodi Picoult's Sing You Home, which disappointed me with its predictability and lack of nuance. It's a novel with a sound track, if that helps in your deliberations about reading it.
Leo Babauta has a good post about how to increase focus. I like the desk clearing idea, but I already have a couple of unyielding little boxes of things in my office. Would it really be a good idea to add another to deal with "later"? I'm thinking.
Bob Sutton discusses an article from an academic journal -- peer reviewed, no less -- about it. Try to read it.
The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has gotten involved. I like their site.
Above: he loves me. If he didn't, he wouldn't have spent his whole day off trying to fix a defective massage chair for me!
The topic has been on my mind.
From a corporate standpoint, BP stumbled out of the starting gate in the Gulf. Carnival Cruise Lines, albeit in an event that was a difficulty not a tragedy, isn't doing much better.
The corporate responses evoke a phrase that probably has been heard by anyone who has ever had dealings with a customer service department: I'm sorry you feel that way. I can't think of a more infuriating response.
But at a personal level, sometimes I wonder if the contemporary emphasis on self-forgiveness leads to believing that forgiveness is something to which we are entitled. But victims of broken trust do not owe forgiveness to a transgressor. I like what this article says about rebuilding trust:
...[it] is a process, a staircase to climb at times, not an event.
What rings hollow about Carnival's offer of a comparable cruise is that it assumes its victims someday will want again to set foot on a Carnival ship. Carnival offers what many will not want to give: another chance to prove its trustworthiness.
So it is with each other. I used to think forgiveness implied reconciliation. I no longer think this is the case because reconciliation can be a platform from which the offender has a new opportunity to take another whack.
I have come to believe that the onus is on the transgressor. The victim -- the one to whom the transgressor is in debt -- owes nothing, least of all a second chance.
Life is a funny old thing, so I guess I can't rule out the possibility of ever meeting Bob Sutton. Sitting here on a snowy day in northern Colorado, behind on school work and befuddled about other work, it seems unlikely.
But maybe some day I'll get to hear him lecture. It would be a treat. I really admire the wide range of sources from which he takes in information and his straight talk about what it might mean. Take, for example, his blog entry from yesterday:
This research is also fascinating to me because it shows how, so often, when people say they are too busy, don't have enough money, or there will be resistance to change that these are excuses, or worse yet, negative self-fulfilling prophecies.
Read the entire entry. In various ways, it might save your life.
But some terms included strike me as mighty useful: meta ignorance (being unaware of what you don't know); dog-fooding (forcing programmers to use their own product); shoot the puppy (take unpopular action, e.g. "We're cutting health benefits by 40%, but I don't want to be the one who announces shooting the puppy.").
Five years ago or so, Ray Murphy passed two pieces of wisdom to me. One is that at my age (then about 52), he would have tried harder. The Skit Guys make that point here.
Another young singer/song writer: Mike Vitale in SoCal. Check out his preview of We've Been Down This Road Before and his fun blog. He seems not to hold much with blowing up whales; perhaps he's wise beyond his his years. Greg Holden recommends, which is probably all you need to know, one way or the other.
And speaking of musician's blogs, Greg Holden has a spot on blog entry about um getting stuck as an artist. I like his ideas for getting going again. (PS to Greg: cold coffee works almost every time.)
Little ways can encourage good fortune.
Five steps to being absolutely miserable: a course you shouldn't miss!
23 years ago now, the Rev. E. C. "Al" Ludwick died. I am one of just a few people still alive who remember him: my father. He was a minister of the Conservative Baptist Church; that's the actual name of the denomination in which he was ordained. By the time he died, though, his theology was broadly Christian.
Somebody mentioned recently that he must have been very upset when I was received by the Church. Honestly, not that I ever knew. Among the papers found in his office after the deaths of both my parents was some venomously anti-Catholic literature, but that was from many years before. It was buried in old things, things at which he obviously had not looked in many years. Several times a year he attended Mass with me and on the day of his burial, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a Mass was offered for him. He would have been beyond pleased that the Gospel of the day was John 3:13-17: God so loved the world...
There was an obvious epitaph for this man and it is the one I chose for his headstone: good and faithful servant. May he share his Master's joy forever.
Ash Wednesday. In thinking about a penitential practice, about what I can give up or take on for my spiritual benefit, one thing comes to mind: my excuses.
There's a difference, of course, between reasons and excuses. Lent offers me an invitation to reflect.
Jay O'Callahan, a master story teller who runs workshops to help others improve their story telling skills, has a technique called "Appreciations". Bottom line: when people hear clearly what works about what they've done, they steer that direction and away from what is less effective. Read about it.
I think this might have happened to me the other night. Someone I respect spent a fair bit of time looking at my recent work. About several pieces, he positively radiated enthusiasm. I'm thinking about other things, too, but I'm really thinking about the pieces he appreciated.
If you're interested in story telling, you might like to read this interview with Jay O'Callahan. It was published by NASA's ASK Magazine, which has its archives organized into "lessons" such as Change, Communication, Learning From Failure and 26 other topics.
My google quotations today include this gem from P. J. O'Rourke:
A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.
The always provocative and often entertaining Merlin Mann asks: If, tomorrow morning, you had 60% of the time and resources you needed to start making anything you wanted, what would it be? And, what would you do first?
He asks the question, naturally, when he is being interviewed. Read about it.
Sometimes I've heard myself think (that's what introverts do), "S/he doesn't get it" or "They don't get it". Often the thought comes fast and with some annoyance, when I judge that you haven't figured out something that should be fairly obvious to you.
That's arrogant. Honestly, I can't peer inside your brain to say with certainty what you do or do not understand. But it's easier to tell myself that you don't get it than to admit that maybe you get it perfectly well and simply disagree with me.
There's also the possibility that, if I think you didn't get it, I didn't really give it to you. If you truly don't get it (which ultimately is not for me to say), maybe I failed to make a sufficient expository presentation.
If you hear me say "You don't get it" or "They don't get it", do me a favor and remind me that probably you do and maybe they do, too.
Each day lengthens a little; above, looking west from 28th and Pearl in Boulder at 5:13 pm.
Imagine a world where that wasn't heresy, but an article of faith.
There is a field beyond right and wrong. I will meet you there, threatened a bumper sticker I saw on my way back to the car today. I clasped my wallet more tightly and stepped smartly along.
Yes, I know that this is from Rumi, and I weigh its wisdom accordingly.
My grandfather died suddenly in 1928, just 25 years before I was born. To put food on the table for four young daughters, my grandmother took a job as a laundress in a small town's grand hotel. I have a photograph of this small woman working a huge, horribly dangerous mangle for the sheets.
They are meant to be invisible to guests, but there is an army of people working here in order to feed their families, just as my grandmother did. When I lie down at night I think of them.
Borrowing money is like wetting your bed in the middle of the night. At first all you feel is warmth and release. But very, very quickly comes the awful, cold discomfort of reality.
For the rest of my life, I'd like to remember how well it works to try to "make" someone "understand" anything.
Three or four years ago at this time of year I remarked to Ray Murphy, now of blessed memory, that I was beginning to feel old. "How old are you?" he asked, a bit sharply. I told him. He shook his head and muttered, "If I were that age again, there are so many things I'd do differently."
That got my attention. "What would you do, Ray?" I asked him. "What would you do differently?" He looked at me hard, but didn't reply. "I'd really like to know," I said. "It might be important for me."
He looked into the distance and said, "I'd have to think about it."
"Would it be all right to ask again in a week or two?" He allowed that it would be and said that he'd give the matter some thought.
Several weeks later as people milled around after church in the warm summer evening, he was leaning up against the dark red van, waiting for his wife Janie to come and drive them home. We could have a quiet word, I thought.
"Did you think about it?"
"Two things," he replied, without preamble. "I would have thought a lot more about my family, especially my wife, and I would have tried harder."
"Tried harder? At what?"
Janie was walking toward us, so I thanked him. Tried to thank him as sincerely as I could. This good man had accepted a hard question in response to a comment I'm sure he'd meant to be a throwaway remark. He'd thought about it and had given me a painfully honest answer.
Few conversations in my life have meant more to me. I've tried to live, especially since Ray's hard death a couple years ago, with his words in mind.
Lynn Johnston at For Better or For Worse nails it again.
It comes to me again, what I wrote a while back: that we are seldom as successful as we think at hiding from people our true opinions of them.
Sometimes there's a lot not to say.
Why take the high road?
Because the view is better.
Late night, head-achy thoughts: no one has ever written about mortality with more unnerving clarity than Jane Kenyon. See?
This Lynn Johnston classic is permanently affixed to my mind's bulletin board.
One of the aggregators I follow is liferemix. For me, it's a kind of water cooler because many of the bloggers are work-at-home types and/or various kinds of creatives. There's a new one in the mix: The Art of Manliness is a title that gave me some pause, but it makes a case for itself. I am not responsible if you look at the blog and not simply at the "about" page.
Lessons to learn from the Papal visit -- erm, these would be of a PR nature, not a spiritual one, although the effect was, as I think John Allen makes very clear, that a "teachable" moment was well used.