Saturday, May 28, 2011

Validation Therapy

Here is a clip of Naomi Feil working with a woman who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. It's a short and simple moment demonstrating the power that can be found when someone recognizes the experience of another.

Minute Man National Historical Park

It finally stopped raining yesterday. Unbeknownst to me, that also meant that the temperature was going to top off above 90 degrees. As you can see to the left, Maggie found the temperature a bit too warm for her liking. We took lots of breaks in the shade for water.

Despite the rather sticky conditions, it was a nice day for a trip around the corner to the Minute Man National Historical Park. The park offers an opportunity to walk through the land where the opening battle of the Revolution was fought on April 19, 1775. Also of interest is the Old Manse which was built by William Emerson and housed various leaders of the Transcendentalist movement. Interesting that in this same place, once in the 1770s and again in the 1850s, American's fermented against English rule and then the treatment of Native American's and slavery. I wonder if one day this area might again produce another intellectual revolution?

Minute Man Statue
Old Manse Boathouse
Working Farm
North Bridge, where the first shot of the Revolution was fired

Saturday, May 21, 2011

John Is Not Really Dull: WPA Posters from the 1930s

Sometimes the Internet allows one to get a little carried away. Take this evening for example. I discovered website of the Library of Congress. Who knew they had a rather sizable collection of digitized images of our shared American history. I've spent the wee-hours of the morning looking at their images of old WPA posters. 

For those of you who don't know, the WPA was (prior to 1939) the Words Progress Administration and (after to 1939) later called the Work Projects Administration. It was one of the most ambitions parts of the New Deal--designed to employ millions of out-of-work Americans during the depression. Among other things, the WPA built public buildings and roadways, lead various art and educational projects, and helped feed, shelter, and clothe children.

Look carefully around your town. There are likely still structures near you that were built by the WPA. The program spent over a billion dollars a year on these projects--providing jobs for unemployment men and women. In the process, the face of the country was changed.

My favorite remnants of these projects are the posters. The images provide such a great glimpse what was important and talked about in this era. Here we have a poster encouraging parents to get eye examinations for their children. The poster was sponsored by the town of Hempstead in 1937. For more information about it, check out the reference at the Library of Congress.

John here might really be struggling in school because he can't see--not because he is dull. It's interesting to think for a moment about what message the past is giving to us in this graphic image. How many people were labeled as "dull" because they needed corrective lenses? How many people failed to live up to their full potential?

How did we care for children, anyway? If this public awareness poster produced by a WPA artist is any suggestion, we needed a little attention to child care. As the poster points out, babies can't go on strike. What does this image tell you about how babies were thought about. This somewhat alien looking creature with a very unhappy expression is called an "it" on the poster. It depends on your care. When this poster was created in 1939 were babies its? Were they seen as creatures that needed to be tamed (or ignored) and left to grow on their own? Check out the reference if you want more information about this particular image.

Moving from dull children and alien looking babies, some of the messages delivered to American's sound rather modern and familiar. This poster, published in 1938, appeared somewhere in Ohio. I know Yellow Stone was created in 1872. I never really thing of a conservation movement as having happened until the 60s. I'm wrong about that. Here we have an image asking Ohio residents to save trees--and in particular the Buckeye tree with is the state tree. There reference for this image is here.

I'll leave you all with a few more images to think about. What do they tell you about this era of history. How is the government communicating with us now? Is it? Should it?






Sunday, May 15, 2011

Photo of the Day: Lilly of the Valley Edition

Five Finger Mindfulness

When I first started running I got fitted for a proper pair of running shoes. Every six months or so I return to the store, have a discussion with one of the staff, and without exception depart with another pair of the same shoes. Six years, twelve pairs of shoes. They work for me. In fact, they work so well for me that I've not really thought about my feet at all.

These strange little shoes pictured on my feet have caused me to pay very close attention to my feet. At first I was paying close attention because I was terribly concerned my little toes would get sucked into the belt of the treadmill. As soon as I realized that was a ridiculous thought I went about the business of logging in my time running for the day.

Running, for the most part, is generally an experience of mindfulness for me. After I pass through the first few miles my mind gets (mostly) swept clear of thoughts and gets filled with an ongoing process of noticing what's around me and in me. It's a nice meditation.

These strange toe-slippers (actually called Vibram Five Fingers) changed it up. For the first time in I don't know how long I paid attention to my feet. Who knew how much information our feet provide us about the world around us. It all started with my first step on the treadmill. I could feel the rollers under the belt. As I turned up the speed I became even more fascinated. For example, my left foot strikes the ground in a totally different way than the right. The left has a way of rolling slightly out and with each strike comes a wobble that transmits all the way up my body. When I alter my foot strike my body becomes more stable.

Another thing I noticed was my toes. When my feet strike my toes slightly curl and grip the ground. When my foot comes back up my toes spread open a bit. Each step provides a bit of a stretch. Comforting--and relaxing.

As I got more comfortable and less concerned about breaking my toes I turned the speed up on the treadmill. The faster I went, the more I noticed there was a natural rhythm that ran from my toes up to my head. I could feel different adjustments through my spine depending on if it was the right or or the left foot striking.

A discussion of shoes (or my feet) isn't really my point here. This is a post about mindfulness. Most of you probably don't think about running as mindfulness. Maybe you think of someone sitting in the lotus posture on a meditation cushion or perhaps a room full of yoga students chanting. Our popular culture certainly works hard to promulgate this image of mindfulness = peacefulness.

Mindfulness, however, isn't really any of these things. It's simply paying close attention to whatever is on hand to be experienced. You can be mindful on the subway, in the dentist's chair, or on the corner of a crowded intersection. You can be mindful in the real world--try it out--while it's nice and all to find a peaceful moment on a meditation cushion it's even better to be present with all your senses wherever you might be.

I think sitting on a cushion is a great way to be mindful--it's different from what we usually do so it makes us notice things in a different way. The problem is that we've come to expect a certain experience from cushion sitting: we are supposed to be "mindful" or "peaceful." Rather than noticing we end up trying to do something. That's not meditation. Try to do something new--something that you haven't done before. If you put yourself in a position where you are doing something that you don't have a reference for you can be more mindful. You can be more aware of what your are doing and notice the experience rather than fit the experience into something that you think it should be.

That's mindfulness.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

File Under: It's a Small World

Marting Hall
Every few days I will review the new people who have joined Maggie's Facebook page. It's been interesting to watch as fans from around the world join. It's even  more interesting to learn something new about the world. As of the morning I'm writing this post her fans come from New Zealand, Austria, Singapore, Jamaica, Peru, Brazil, Iraq, Uganda, France. Botswana, Israel, Canada, Mexico, Jordan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Egypt, India, and the United States.

Today I came across a little tidbit of information that was so interesting. A gentleman from Bangalore India joined the page. His profile page listed the educational institutions he attended. Among them, he listed that he earned a graduate degree from Baldwin Methodist College. The name instantly caught my eye. The irreverent psychologist got his start years ago as a student at another college rooted in Methodist values: Baldwin Wallace College

Deitch Hall
Could this be some long lost cousin of my undergraduate college? Apparently so. John Baldwin, one of the founders of the two institutions that would become Baldwin-Wallace College, got around. It appears that in his later life he donated money to found some educational institutions in and around Bangalore. Who knew?

Why is this important? One of the things that I enjoy about Maggie's presence of Facebook is that the world has become a smaller and more accessible place. People from all walks of life, from all corners of the world, interact, play, and think together. We have impact on each other and in this small spot in cyberspace, we see how we are interconnected within our incredible diversity. 

It was nice to be reminded of this when I made the connection between Baldwin Methodist College and Baldwin-Wallace College. The genealogy of my educational history is one way that I'm deeply connected to people, places, and ideas around the world.

What are the ways you are connected? 

Winter Reverie

I was sorting through some old photos and discovered this reflection. I've not yet decided which version of this image I like best. Anyone have a favorite? Why?

River Deep, Mountain High: Aging and Wisdom

The other day I was walking Maggie in Cambridge and came across the most curious scene. An older gentleman--maybe about 70--was trying to parallel park his Subaru. There was a woman standing on my side of the street complaining, a woman on the other side of the street complaining, and a couple inside of a car complaining. Admittedly, the gentleman was having difficulties--no doubt exaserbated by the nearly constant complaining of the people on the street. The complainers were inconvienced. They wanted to pull their car out and had to wait.

The man finally gave up and drove away. The complaining woman on my side of the street--maybe 20 or 25 years old, said, "People who are over 50 should just have their license taken way." I flapped my mouth open and closed for a few moments while I contemplated a response. I wanted to tell them to stop their complaining. I wanted to tell them to find some compassion and patience. I wanted to tell them that 50 was far from old.

I decided it was best to keep my mouth shut (a surprise, because I usually don't). I realized that for the first time in my life I felt old. I felt the distance between me and a younger generation. They were there, and I was clearly somewhere else (on my way to being over the hill). Not a very pleasant feeling. Particularly since I'm still years away from the age when they think my license to should be revoked.

Wait a minute. How did Tina Turner get into this blog post? Since I got the Private Dancer LP for my birthday years ago I have not missed an opportunity to mention Tina Turner. That's one reason why she showed up in this post. Another reason is that  I just so happened to bet listening to River Deep Mountain High while I was walking and stumbled upon this scene. Tina was well over 50 in the above clip. While according to the people I saw on the street she should have her drivers license revoked, she clearly was still able to sing.

Of course, we can rewind and listen here to a woman much younger than 50 sing like no one else can sing. I've still not yet decided which version I like best. Do you have a preference?

I do have a point here. Before I get to it, one more digression. This one summer, when I was in summer band camp, my orchestra director Dwight Oltman threw his baton at me. "You young people have no passion. You haven't lived an have no idea was real emotions are." I was so annoyed at him. Clearly a 16 year old hormonally charged adolescent boy knew all about passion and emotion. Right?

Not really. I don't hold it against myself for thinking  knew everything when I was 16. I was supposed to feel that way. I also don't really hold it against the people on the street who had such harsh thoughts about the older driver. With their young age comes a rather narrow world view. I think it has to be this way: the younger absorbed in their own internal perspective viewing the world from their internal point of view and the older absorbed in an outward perspective viewing the world from multiple points of view.