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Daily archives for October 7th, 2017

Friends and Family

Fall                                              Harvest Moon

The harvest moon and Orion, hanging there in the night sky, suspended as if by magic. No amount of astrophysical knowledge about them, light years away, red giant, suns in themselves, galaxies hidden there, that gray dusty surface now littered with space reaching machines and an American flag or two, can alter the wonder I feel each time, and I mean each time, I see them. This morning. Wonderful. Yesterday. Wonderfull.

Spoke with cybermage Bill Schmidt yesterday. He’s made an interesting circular journey from his days as a novice at St. Bonaventure, through his marriage to Regina and raising a family, back to a spot near that same place where his Jesuit pilgrimage began, now with a lake view and time for contemplation, plenty of time. Those of us who are fine by ourselves, but also love the company of others, don’t need many friends, just good ones. Bill’s a good one.

Kate’s singing the worried song, but I hope she won’t be worried long. Chest x-ray follow-up yesterday. She’s had some more shortness of breath. A medical education becomes a strange sort of curse as aging bears down because each crick and crack can have dire potential. She doesn’t want to worry me, so she keeps her concerns to herself, which amplifies them.

After the x-ray I took her out to lunch at Pho Real, a Vietnamese soup place in “historic” downtown Littleton. It’s a three block, maybe four stretch of older brick stores, much like downtown Stillwater and Anoka in Minnesota. Really just old retail centers before the age of strip malls and Walmart, but beautiful in their pragmatic way and redolent of times not really that long ago, yet culturally far away from Interstate highways, the internet and smartphone, self-contained shopping centers.

Joseph called yesterday. His base commander has tasked him with briefing a two-star Army general in Seattle about JSTAR’s utility. On the 19th. Which is the same day I get to Warner-Robins. He’ll be back later that night or the next morning. Means I’ll have time with SeoAh so we can catch up.



Your Honor

Fall                                                   Harvest Moon


I wrote about the middot (character trait, soul trait) kavod—honor, dignity, respect—a few posts below. With two evenings focused on it, Wednesday at the MVP group, mussar vaad practice group, and the Thursday night Tikkun Middot Havurah, and my preparation for the Wednesday night presentation, I’m ready for the practice.

After considering the trait in group, we then choose a practice for the coming month that will encourage to integrate the trait into our daily lives. As Marilyn said Thursday night, mussar is not self-help since its focus is on relationships with others, of being of service to others. Rabbi Jamie says, “learning how to bear the burden of the other.”

This is not Jewish power of positive thinking, or dress your mind for success. It’s about real change, in your own character, change that makes you better able to be present to the other, the other made in the image of God just as you are.

Practice involves a focus phrase, in my case, Your Honor, and a particular way of inserting kavod into my day-to-day experience. We commit to each other for a practice. I said I’d try—no, not try, I will—each time I read something in the paper that pisses me off politically, which happens a lot, I’ll focus on honoring the humanity of my opponent, or enemy.

Rabbi Jamie thankfully talked me off that precipice. “That may be too much. Try honoring the anger.”

That sort of whipped my head around. Say what? Honor the anger? I agreed with him that trying to honor the humanity of the Trump/Pence/Tillerson/Sessions/Pruitt crowd might be too difficult. But honoring anger? It seems so un-middle class. I mean, we’re supposed to swallow our anger, aren’t we? At least be ashamed of it. So… Honor it? Still, he’s an insightful guy, who has gotten to know me over the course a year plus now, and I trust him. I agreed.

Although I’m only a day into the practice, I’m already very surprised by it. I chose to go with honoring my anger in all situations, not just when reading the blankety-blank news. That means when the guy cuts in front of me and slows down, I honor the anger. “What the hell? You son-of-a-bitch!” Like that.

That last was not a hypothetical. It happened yesterday. I reacted. Hotly. But instead of going into the usual physical demonstration of my feelings, I honored the anger. What made me mad? His behavior put my life at risk and Kate’s life. He violated simple rules, both legal and commonsense ones, for a momentary, unnecessary advantage.

I realized my anger was referented. But in the moment it took to honor my anger, I also allowed a gap between my anger and my reaction. I got to choose how I reacted. That was different than letting the anger surface and take control of me. It put a small pause between a justified reaction and a response. I didn’t have to honk my horn, wave my middle finger, I could recognize the anger, own it, respect it and choose to act, or not.

When I did do the same while reading the news, in one for instance the NRA’s cynical admission that maybe bump stocks for creating automatic weapons require regulation, I noticed again that my anger was referented. Why do they think admitting that one egregious gun modification is too much means anything in the poisonous environment they have created? Why do they insist on adding more and more guns into our social mix? How dare they threaten me and mine with their medieval (sorry for the disrespect middle ages) attitudes rooted in fear?

But. Again, I didn’t have to let the referented anger boil over. It didn’t have to come to invective. To an emotional charge that might raise my blood pressure and not have any effect at all on the gun issue. Calm down and honor your anger. Seems like a good practice for the month






October 2017
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