Monday, April 30, 2012

When novels tire

As we get older, it becomes harder to find a story that we don't already know well.  The bar fight when the muscular and gutsy hero defeats two bullies and their leader is old hat -- we've seen it before.  The bookish librarian doesn't realize how clearly Joe Success sees her curves and intelligence, how much he thinks of her.  The wily spymaster is going to be surprised when Grandma takes him and his sidekick down.  We've seen all that before, too.

So maybe you are interested in adding a little breadth to your reading.  I suggest going to a library.  Just about any will do.  Look for book displays, which are usually in two parts, fiction and nonfiction.  Just approach the non-fiction section from a safe distance.  Don't touch yet.  Just look at spines and titles.  See anything that interests you?  Try to find 3 or 4 titles that are on subjects you would like to understand better or are a little curious about.  Lug the little stack to the checkout desk and take the books home.  

Have a little wine after dinner and pick up one of the non-fiction books.  Look over the cover carefully.  Look at the table of contents and read the inside-cover info.  See what comments are on the back of the cover.  If there is a preface, glance over it. If you have handled the book a bit, and nothing has interested you further, move to the next borrowed book.  But if you have a glimmer of interest, try the first paragraph of the book itself.  Look at the table of contents again and see if any chapter seems intriguing.  There is nothing to be lost by reading the end of the book or any parts of interest.  If there is a bibliography, look over the titles to see if the same subject or a related one might be more gripping.  If you do see another title you would like to look at, take a minute to jot down the title and author and put the note in the book like a bookmark.  When you return the book, ask the librarian if the new title is in the library and to borrow it for you if it isn't.

Rather like an art or furniture expert, you put occasional time and energy into finding what is worth your declining reading hours of life.  The search is much like shopping for cute shoes but may pay off better and require less cash.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Sunday, April 29, 2012


A friend who is also a blogger mentioned her difficulty using the Google Blogger layout options to display her recommended blogs list.  I decided to experiment with my dummy blog to see how difficult it was for me.  I added the blog list gadget to the blog and picked some of the blogs I don't usually list on my main page.  One was Sarah Blakewell's cleverly named "Sarah Blogwell's Bake" where she posts "half-baked ideas".  Blakewell lives in England, has three books to her credit and has a web site and a blog.  She was a university librarian before becoming a full-time writer.  Her most recent book "How to Live" walks through the life and times of one of the world's first essayists and philosophers of everyday life, Michel de Montaigne.  

While adding a link to her blog on my experimental site "ABC123", I saw her title "The beast must be free, too".  I thought that was intriguing and took a look.  It turned out to concern a theme that has interested me for years.  Probably in my early college years, I saw a book entitled "Seven Years Solitary".  It was about a Hungarian woman arrested for spying and held in solitary confinement for 7 years.  Considerable research has been published over the last few years about the dangers to mental health of solitary confinement.  Dr. Edith Bone explained in her 1957 book how she worked to give herself structure and duties and tasks to complete, even playing chess against herself with a makeshift chess set to keep her bearings and her mind occupied.

Blakewell's focus was on two different people experiencing a less severe problem but serious still, being held under house arrest.  .  Ai Weiwei is a well-known Chinese artist and activist and Jafar Panahi is a leading Iranian filmmaker.  Both of these men have made the governments of their country nervous.  Ai Weiwei is kept under surveillance by the Chinese government and Panahi is forbidden by the Iranian government from making films, writing them or directing them.  Weiwei decided to go the government one better by installing web cams around his house so that the whole world could see what he was doing all the time.  Panahi and a friend with a camera made "This is Not a Film", explaining throughout that what was produced was not a film because of its limitations, stiltedness, lack of flow, etc.

Blakewell explains the writings of a 1790 young man held under house arrest for 42 days as well as describing the experiences of the Chinese artist and the Iranian filmmaker.  Her title refers to the insight of Edith Bone and the others that their minds are free but the physical "beast" of their bodies needs freedom, too.
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Saturday, April 28, 2012

When is the strawberry festival?

When is the strawberry festival held?  When the strawberries are ripe. (Notice Western practice and calendars would expect a date for a festival and planning and coordination purposes.  We are not used to timing by natural events.)

From "Everyday Sacred" by Sue Bender: Audrey, a friend, owned and treasured a rare Zuni fetish, a carved onyx wolf sitting in the "singing position," with its head raised towards the moon. To honor a friend of hers at a critical time, Audrey lent her the wolf. Her friend assumed it was a gift and Audrey did not have the heart to say, "No. This is mine. I need her!" When Audrey was next in Santa Fe, she went back to the shop where she had bought her wolf and asked for another just like it. A customer, overhearing her, came up and said, "Maybe you don't need it anymore. Perhaps your wolf had done whatever she could for you." [Bender, Sue  Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home (Kindle Locations 843-848). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.]

There is a difference between "having the wolf", say in your treasures drawer or on your display shelf, and growing from the wolf and what she ripens in you.  When you ripen, and become ready, you don't need the little carving anymore.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Google Alert #2 on children [and] meditation

Meditative practices have proven themselves very valuable for both physical and mental health.  I am interested in news that Google can find on the subject of meditation and children.  This is the 2nd set of results of a Google Alert on that subject.  It is the email I tried to send to my usual recipients but was prevented by Google's own scam stopping software.  I think the large number of internal links in the post coupled with the multiple recipients tripped an algorithm and got me labeled a spammer.  I will work on the problem.  In the meantime, I will send this paragraph and the information that my signature will take you to the latest blog page.  It shows the Alert result #2.
America's Sex Trafficking Victims and Transcendental Meditation
Huffington Post
Teaching our children that there are good people in the world is essential to their recovery from horrific childhoods and requires their ability to realize they are not responsible for their own victimization. Through Transcendental Meditation children ...
See all stories on this topic »
Physicians are healing themselves through meditation
Montreal Gazette
... at the Montreal Children's Hospital was finding himself angry or defensive in heated moments with parents. A calm doctor is a better doctor. He knew he could do better as a physician. So he decided - reluctantly - to try mindfulness meditation.
See all stories on this topic »
Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit: Meditating with Dinosaurs... Really?
Huffington Post (blog)
I can still recall my first attempts at resurrecting a meditation practice after having children. I realized, even then, that I'd need to become less rigid in my ways -- that instead of waiting until I could find some Zen-like conditions of purity and ...
See all stories on this topic »
Kids Yoga classes ( Age 6 to 14)
Omaha World-Herald
Kids Yoga is a fun, the kids will learn many simple yoga postures breathing & relaxation techniques, concentration exercises, meditation, healthy food styles. Mental Health Self-Help aftercare for all types of mental health issues.
See all stories on this topic »
Ever mindful: Buddhist monastics practice simple life of meditation in Mississippi
Memphis Commercial Appeal
The final meditation of the day is called noble silence. Though not easily observed by visiting children or chatty teenagers, the monks and nuns don't speak from about 9 pm, after sitting meditation, until after the breakfast dishes are washed the next ...
See all stories on this topic »
Asheville-area Religion Calendar
Asheville Citizen-Times
TAIZE SERVICE: 8 pm every third Sunday, Grace Episcopal Church, 871 Merrimon Ave., Asheville. Music, prayers and meditation. 254-1086. AWANA CHILDREN'S PROGRAM: 6 pm Sundays, Canton First Baptist Church, 74 Academy St. Games, lessons, crafts, music.
See all stories on this topic »
Things to Do
DivorceCare Recovery — 7 pm LakeRidge United Methodist Church, 4701 82nd St. Call to register for free child care. 794-4015, ext. 556. Zumba — 8:30 am Studio 57, 5701 Slide Road, Unit C. All ages. $5 per class. 785-5701. Meditation Classes — 7-8:30 ...
See all stories on this topic »
Family, friends honor man who died in October by recreating Eagle Scout project
Gazette.Net: Maryland Community News Online
To honor their son's memory, Bethesda residents Nancy and Jim Mitchell recreated Saturday a meditation garden their son installed for his Eagle Scout project in 2001. The garden at the National Center for Children and Families had fallen into disrepair ...
See all stories on this topic »
Yoga Good for Teen Anxiety
This type of yoga program concentrates on breathing exercises and deep relaxation, meditation, and physical postures designed to develop strength and flexibility. "Although not causal due to small, uneven sample size, this preliminary study suggests ...
See all stories on this topic »
Physical exercise, meditation can change brains for the better
Practices like physical exercise, certain forms of psychological counseling and meditation can all change brains for the better, and these changes can be measured with the tools of modern neuroscience, according to a review article now online at Nature ...
See all stories on this topic »

Web5 new results for children meditation

A simple breath awareness meditation helps kids focus and calm ...
A simple breath awareness meditation helps kids focus and calm down. Research confirms that breath awareness meditation can reduce stress, increase focus, ...
Mindfulness, Children and Thich Nhat Hanh | Teaching Children ...
article on thich nhat hanh and teaching children mindfulness.
Children of the Night Transcendental Meditation
Through Transcendental Meditation children victimized by prostitution begin to feel their inner strength and shed bad memories. By reaching inside their inner ...
Children and Meditating | Early and Medieval Buddhism
Children and Meditating. I found David's visit to class today very interesting, but was really intrigued by the fact that he teaches first graders to meditate.
911experiments - Teaching Meditation Techniques to Your Children
Meditation techniques provide benefits for children. It allows these phones tap into a good inner peace, enhances concentration, builds self-confidence,.

from How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

Normally, I send only one post a day but my choice for today was rejected by so many mail systems, I am sending a 2nd one.  If you want to see the 1st one, visit the web page of the blog listed below.



This is a part of the passage of Arnold Bennett's "How to Live on 24 Hours a Day" that I really like.  It's his language and word choice as much as a call to be aware of our hours' value.

[Time] is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it. You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself!

For remark! No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive. Talk about an ideal democracy! In the realm of time there is no aristocracy of wealth, and no aristocracy of intellect. Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day. And there is no punishment. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. No mysterious power will say:--"This man is a fool, if not a knave. He does not deserve time; he shall be cut off at the meter." It is more certain than consols, and payment of income is not affected by Sundays.

Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.

I said the affair was a miracle. Is it not?

You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use, its most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling actuality. All depends on that. Your happiness--the elusive prize that you are all clutching for, my friends!--depends on that.

Strange that the newspapers, so enterprising and up-to-date as they are, are not full of "How to live on a given income of time," instead of "How to live on a given income of money"! Money is far commoner than time. When one reflects, one perceives that money is just about the commonest thing there is. It encumbers the earth in gross heaps. If one can't contrive to live on a certain income of money, one earns a little more--or steals it, or advertises for it. One doesn't necessarily muddle one's life because one can't quite manage on a thousand pounds a year; one braces the muscles and makes it guineas, and balances the budget.

But if one cannot arrange that an income of twenty-four hours a day shall exactly cover all proper items of expenditure, one does muddle one's life definitely. The supply of time, though gloriously regular, is cruelly restricted.

Which of us lives on twenty-four hours a day? And when I say "lives," I do not mean exists, nor "muddles through." Which of us is free from that uneasy feeling that the "great spending departments" of his daily life are not managed as they ought to be? Which of us is quite sure that his fine suit is not surmounted by a shameful hat, or that in attending to the crockery he has forgotten the quality of the food? Which of us is not saying to himself-- which of us has not been saying to himself all his life: "I shall alter that when I have a little more time"?

We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Relaxation to mind awareness

First, the body.  Alan Bennett had it right when he titled his play about sex and philosophy "Habeas Corpus" or "You have the body".  This phrase has enormous importance in America, England and the history of individual rights and freedom.  But that is a very different story.  When considering a human, start with the body.  It is probably no news that if the body is lifeless, little will come from it.  

So, understandably, when Prof. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School was asked by people using and promoting "transcendental meditation" to study the effects of the practice had had on them, he thought in terms of the body.  He studied the parasympathetic nervous system, and uses the term "the relaxation response" for what the body does when tensions in it are noticed and relaxed.  But the practice of meditation relates to many things, not just the body.  A body scan, where the mind is used to check each part of the body successively, is often used as a meditative practice.

You may know that "mindfulness" is all the rage in many circles.  Western medicine has been closely connected to Western science and the search for causes of disease and discomfort and disability and ways to eliminate or control or lessen them.  No one can be aware (mindful) of everything, not even everything in their body, their immediate environment or their lives, finances and business and hobbies.  One becomes aware of something by paying attention to it.  That focus of the mind, the attention, is a fundamental part of our mental life, even though many things are in our minds on the periphery or actually below our conscious level.

Modern life, academic life, political life and much else these days is shot through with talk, or substitutes and relatives of talk such as text and captivating images both moving and still.  So, a natural path to explore is the opposite of talk, silence.  Sitting still quietly for a moment or several can be very refreshing.  But quiet or not, many processes proceed all the time in the body: heartbeat, hormonal and digestive processes and breathing.  Ancient people, especially in India, noticed a special property of breathing: it is an essential process but it is also controllable.  We can hold our breath, breathe more deeply or more rapidly at will.

Stilling or quieting the mind is not really possible, like it is not possible to stop one's heartbeat or digestion.  As various ideas of worship, sacrifice and body exercise arose, the practice of restfully focusing the attention on a single target was found to be helpful in a number of ways.  Since the mind is a thought-producing organ, why not give attention to a single target and practice for a while, say 10 minutes or so, keeping the attention on the chosen target.  The attention, often as well as the focus of our eyes and the awareness of sounds, smells and touch sensation, shifts constantly.  However, as a practice, why not try keeping the attention on a target and noticing when possible that it has shifted to thoughts of the grocery list or whatever.  When such a notice happens, bring the attention back to the target.

The ancients realized that always has one's breath so what a great target for concentration!  All sort of psychological benefits, along the line of knowing oneself, one's foibles and habits, come from daily practice of focusing the attention on a target for a short time and patiently bringing the attention back to the target during the practice.  There are health benefits for the body but the one I like is the increased awareness of what I am choosing to think about and whether I currently approve of that choice or not.
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Faith without a plan 2

Yesterday, I mentioned sources (McWilliams, Murray, Goethe, Joseph Ranseth, Thoreau) who wrote about the idea of the difference between armchair consideration of a project and the view of that project, its possibilities and resources to work on it from inside it, after it has been begun in earnest.  But what actually got me onto that subject was a book that was published in 1910 that I consider to be about what we now call "time management".  The author was Arnold Bennett, who was a literate man.  It is called "How to Live on 24 Hours a Day" and is available on Kindle at zero cost.

Here is the quote that got me thinking again of having faith in a project while being aware of missing parts and unanswered questions:

Briefly, get up earlier in the morning. You say you cannot. You say it is impossible for you to go earlier to bed of a night--to do so would upset the entire household. I do not think it is quite impossible to go to bed earlier at night. I think that if you persist in rising earlier, and the consequence is insufficiency of sleep, you will soon find a way of going to bed earlier.

Bennett, Arnold (2000-08-01). How to Live on 24 Hours a Day (Kindle Locations 40-43). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

There is an example of an invitation to play and explore.  Once an adult mind tries something, the monkey-like, scattered, nervous, jerky mind can play with it: toss the idea around, twist it, taste it, drop it, boil it and on and on. When we used to say "Now put on your thinking caps", we could have said "Put on your playing caps and fool around".

Don't underestimate the value of play.

(Just as I enjoy reading or hearing the wording of the King James Bible, I enjoy William James and this Arnold Bennett fellow.  Language from a century or more ago has a ring and twist to it that I like.  I can't easily write like that or think like that but I can understand it.)

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Monday, April 23, 2012

Faith to try without having all the answers

I am a typical order lover.  All the books in alphabetical order by title?  Yay!  Impressive and satisfying.  Of course, my books aren't like that.  Well, once in a while they are but mostly I don't feel like bothering yet again with arranging.  I no sooner get them arranged in great order and entropy begins its creep again as I use three of them and don't want to replace them just yet.

I understand the value of a good plan.  However, over time, I have learned respect for and fascination with what might be called "faith without detailed planning" or maybe "just in time planning."  The manufacturing practice called "just in time" refers to making or delivering things just when they are needed instead of stockpiling a large inventory for use or sale later.  

Every now and then, I see an interesting reference to just-in-time planning and problem solving.  The first and best quote on this topic I saw was in a book by Peter McWilliams.  It was one that has been attributed to Goethe but seems to rightly have come from the Scottish Himalayan expedition book by W.H. Murray:

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too . A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!'

The "couplet" referred to as Goethe's is often attributed directly to Goethe, but it should be noted that it is actually a rough paraphrase of some of Goethe's writing which was originally written in German.

(The inserted material is a copy from Joseph Ranseth's web pages.   He also stated a similar quote from Henry David Thoreau's famous Walden:

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.

In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

Henry David Thoreau, Walden (Chapter 18)

Steven Johnson's exciting and inspirational "Where Good Ideas Come From" repeatedly gives instances where an invention or innovation in one field serves a completely unforeseeable use in a very different one.  When we have the courage and brains to try something, we often find that in the midst of that try, ideas and resources come to mind that we could not have noticed had we not taken a few initial steps.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Changing communication modes

I have found that emailing my blog posts to a group of relatives and friends (now n = 68) seems to get a little more of them read than merely posting on the blog page.  That is an example of changing communication modes.  You could also say "communication types" or methods or channels.  I think 'channel' is getting to mean more and more things so I will use "modes" for now.

One reason to use Google Voice is that you can send a text message to any US phone if you know the number and the phone is capable of receiving text.  If you send a text to a phone that is not capable of receiving text, you will get a message in Google Voice that the message was not delivered successfully.  Why text?  Because you are changing communication modes.  For some people, text is immediate and ok while email is slow, passé, or difficult to handle on a tiny keyboard.  But for others, it is cheap or free, immediate since they have the phone in their pocket or bag and very fast.  

Until you experience the difference between your friend's rare and tardy responses to your emails and the immediate response in less than 1 minute with a text, it is hard to believe there is much difference.  Some people do get their email on their smartphone so for them there may not be much difference.  However, the person with an old computer that is at home and turned off finds the immediate text message that arrives with an alerting signal entirely different.

Google Voice has a slate of settings with options to receive texts in your own email, on your phones that you choose.  You can reply to a text in that person's email to avoid the character limit of text or send back in text.  Voice lets you know continuously how many characters you are still allowed while making a text message.  It is easy to forward a text message to someone's email if you set Voice to send texts into your email.  

Letting your phone tell you a text has arrived but looking at it in Google Voice costs nothing on the phone bill.  You can delete multiple texts on your phone without opening them, avoiding all phone cost.

If you contact me by email, text or phone and I don't respond, I may have lost the message, never opened it or forgotten about it.  Trying a given mode three separate times would enable 9 contacts overall.  If I don't respond by then, forget about me!

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Listening to Martha Herbert, I heard her calmly mention email alerts as a tool:
"If you start putting your email alerts onto gut-brain interactions, you get a lot of new science."  Email alerts?  If I start putting them on something?  What was that all about?  I was interested in looking into this tool she was mentioning as though everyone already uses.  So, as usual, I put "email alerts" into Google and was led to the Google Alerts page.

There are just a few choices: what subject, just the best or everything Google can find, how often do you want a report and where should it be delivered.  

Because meditation for 10 minutes a day is so possible, so inexpensive, and pays off in so many ways, I am fascinated to watch knowledge of its uses slowly spread around the world.  This is a process that has been at work since the days of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) and William James (1842-1910).  But as modern Americans will do, they are interested in starting their kids on the practice since it can pay off so well in so many mind, body and spirit ways.  I am cautious about leading kids into things too early and putting too many burdens and assignments on them.  However, the possibility is important.  

So, I made an alert on "children meditation" and asked for just its choice of the best results (whatever that means) to be delivered once a week.  I put the result of my first report on a web page on my KirbyVariety site:

You can create multiple alerts and it does seem to be a very valuable tool to gently concentrate on something you want to follow.  The results can be delivered to your current email address using the "feed" choice.  A weekly result will bring you back to the subject rhythmically.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

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