A surprisingly amicable self-interview Part 1: Ristening, hurricanes, DACA and an alternative metaphor.

 Barnett Newman, The Stations of the Cross

Barnett Newman, The Stations of the Cross

About time don’t you think?  It’s been, what, a year?

Okay, but let's keep it short.  I’m a busy executive director with problems to fix. Plus I feel like you're shouting at me with those all caps.

Just a setting on the blog template that I don't know how to fix. How about one-sentence keep-it-real answers.

I can try.  I’ll fail. I just did.

Yes, you’re a surprisingly palaverous man of few words, so I’ll enjoy watching you try. But this way we can include at least some part of the kitchen sink and still cram it all into two blog posts.

Two. Hmm. Okay, but let’s dispense with the semi-hostility this time. I’m trying to be gentle with myself--trying out a new guiding metaphor.

Which just turned into a metaphor fishing for an inquiry.  I’ll take the bait in a second. Pleasant can also be patient. Let’s start with books: what are you reading?

Technically almost nothing but I’m doing the audio thing.  Is there a word yet for listening-reading? Ristening? 

The last 3 books and anything current:  I'll name them and you respond.  What We Talk About When We Talk About Running by Murakami.

Good—although I missed the cats—so I picked up IQ84. It’s got to have cats, right?

Nutshell by McEwan

Like Shakespeare performed in a Wes Anderson set on three floors in the womb of a murderess. Preposterous and hilarious.

Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung

The first few and last few chapters fascinated me, but the travelogues (Henry Miller he is not) went into high-speed helium-voice mode. 

You're at least paying more attention to your dreams

Last night I dreamed my mother had bought a new food processor with an espresso component and hose-like cappuccino-frother attachment; I dripped coffee all over the kitchen.

Hmm.  Sounds like we should turn to Freud for that one.  The New Jim Crow by Alexander

I caught myself fantasizing about our Attorney General and the DOJ doing a book group on it—and then I caught my breath: maybe they have!

The Divine Dance, Richard Rohr

Kind of like Paradiso after the Inferno—comforting, reassuring, inspiring but then it floats through my head .  Sometimes I wonder if I'm not old enough for certain books.

Autumn, Karl Ove Knausgaard

I almost cried when it I realized it was not even 5 hours long—but then it turned out to not be Book Six as I expected, but the beginning of a whole new series--a Four Seasons quartet.

Baroque a la Vivaldi?

Maybe.

Passionate Marriage by Schnarch (I saw you re-reading it on your Kindle.  Is there a problem?)

Gentle, remember. Not that I know of—but what a name for a shrink, and who else can make fidelity in marriage sound so transgressive; plus I get a kick out of the genre of shrink-authors (Jung included) who are the savior-heroes of every therapeutic interaction.

All about archetypes.  And semicolons for those sentences.  How about Growth Hacker Marketing by Holiday

Just trying to improve my skills.

Light in August by Faulkner

A flashback to my youth when I read Faulkner the way I later read Roth—and, wow, what a disconcerting reminder of how little has changed:  racism,  misogyny,  self-hatred and self-deception burrowing into false religion and weaponizing into a bludgeon or machete. There are times I can barely stand it. It's a brave book.

And any themes across them: 

Maybe just making friends with our own mysteries. I suppose that’s what a lot of literature is about.  Jung seemed concerned that we’re destined to repeat world wars and holocausts—and maybe lynchings—if we can’t figure out how to integrate hidden parts of ourselves. 

And the news.

Shocking how close it imitates Faulkner. I’ve been sobered hearing first-hand some refugees' reactions to the political changes in our country.  Many of them have seen what happens when people start dealing with their own fear by externalizing it on to others.

Okay. We can circle back around to that in a moment. What about TV?

I’m pretty addicted.  Most recently I’ve liked Trapped Season 1, Mr Robot Season 2, and Narcos Season 3. 

There's time and a season for everything, perhaps.  Not House of Cards?  

For the life of me I can’t seem to remember what happens from one episode to the next.  I wonder if it’s all too preposterously tame compared to our own political world right now.

Podcasts?

Maybe even more amazing than TV. Plus they make the gym tolerable, so I’m sure they’re extending my life. Krista Tippet’s On Being interview with Mary Catherine Bateson (Composing a Life) was the invitation to change my metaphor.

Ah, and this is why you’re trying to be gentle with yourself?  You get 5 sentences.

She was talking about how some of the metaphors that working moms rely on like “a juggling act” serve them so poorly because who would ever want to live a life of constantly throwing the things you care most about in life up in the air and then trying to catch them again.  The alternative she proposed was “composing a life," which right away made me wonder if I could ever approach my work as composing or maybe creating a big art-project. For years, I’ve thought of (and described in one of these interviews) my work founding a start-up/non-profit as "building a flying-machine in mid flight” (equipped with duct tape a pack of chewing gum, I sometimes added.) I know it's not original.  But while it captures what this work feels often like, bottom line it's an even more punishing metaphor than “juggling act.”  Any flying machine being built mid-flight… well, it’s going to crash isn’t it?  I don’t plan to crash.

It's also kind of an ego-obost

Savior-hero-MacGyver.

And you’ve always hated chewing gum.

Too true. Knausgaard has a chapter about a hiding a wad of Juicy Fruit in his palm which almost creeped me out more than the murders of the Cali Cartel. But there is so much of what we are doing in Beautiful Day that feels like a opportunity to create a home for difference, for co-working, co-appreciation, interdependence, for stretching our own capacity for difference and inviting others around us to enjoy that experience rather than be afraid of it.  Making friends with our mysteries too.  We all need more of that. 

And then you can indulge your inner Yoda.

That’s the idea.  No more MacGyver. I can get energized instead by a sense of wonder. Although even while I’m taking the time out to write this, I have that gnawing sense that the ship is floundering and I’d better run and fix it.  It’s going to take some time.

Okay. How about A few hot issues before we take a break. Hurricanes?

I’m pretty convinced that human displacement and climate change will be the two things that will determine the future of our children.  And that they are interconnected. I also used to think of them as bi-partisan, equal-opportunity concerns which could draw diverse people and countries together and help soften our hard hearts. But it doesn’t look like we’re heading that direction. Regardless, something about seeing people lose everything they have and trudging waist deep through water shakes me up.  I’ve decided I need to read about it rather than watch it on television. I’ve also wondered how resettled refugees in Texas and Florida have fared in all the chaos.  I suspect their resilience serves them well.

DACA and the Dreamers

I’m not sure you should even get me started. I realize that growing up in other countries has influenced my views on patriotism or nationalism but the animosity of some people (and politicians) against minorities dumbfounds me.   All this fear and blame must be an externalization of something dreadful happening on the inside, because almost everyone who has had an opportunity to live in diversity begins to treasure it.  Finding a home in yourself amidst otherness opens up opportunities for amazing curiosity. If we can’t embrace Dreamers then we are surely building a terribly small, narrow, self-centered world.  I get the feeling some people aspire to driving through life in a heavily armored Cadillac—staying safe and in control. But that Cadillac just becomes prison.  The truth is we're all minorities inside.  We’re all the children of immigrants. And that’s wonderful news.

Let’s take a break. You go fix something with your chewing gum or sense of wonder, and we’ll get back to this in a couple days.

What makes you so sure?

Because, sense of wonder aside, I know you want to sell granola

Be nice.

...That’s just being honest.  I haven’t even let you promote the new #teamgranola subscription plan yet, which was the one place I'd planned to take off the sentence limit. 

Okay. See you in part 2.