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The Routines I’m Not Going Back To

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There is something different for me this year, about this time of the year – this particular end of August. I couldn’t put my finger on it, until I realized that Belle’s graduation from college in May means that for the first time in twenty years, there is no Back to School ® component to my life. The end of summer/resumption of school, the preparation and routine and rhythm of such, it was not so all-encompassing – for both my personal and the family’s schedules – when the kids were in college.  Still, it was…there.   [1]

 

 

 

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I’ve noticed how “out of it” I’ve sometimes felt, during the past four years, with regards to schedules of other families – including even the approaching of holidays – by not having at least one child with a public school schedule. There was no compelling reason for me to keep track of certain things, and so I didn’t…and then I found myself frequently (and sometimes sheepishly) surprised by the mundane.

Why is there less traffic these past couple of morning? Why are there so many kids wandering around in the early afternoon…oh..yeah….it’s probably a teacher conference/grading/”staff development day” off for the schools….”

 

 

DUH

 

 

 

Friends would ask MH and I what we were doing for, say, Spring Break or the President’s Day holiday weekend, and we’d be caught by the question...uh, just when is spring break this year? Did we miss it?

And what’s with all the aisles of boxes of crayons and notebooks and Transformers backpacks front and center at Fred Meyer stores – it’s only August!?  Ahem, you mean, it’s already the end of August, and school starts the day after Labor Day, remember?

 

 

teachers

 

 

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Department of Yet Another Podcast Promo

Arguably my favorite podcast of the past week was the Hidden Brain episode Originals, in which the show’s host, NPR’s social scientist correspondent host Shankar Vedantam interviewed Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant. Grant’s book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,  “investigates who comes up with great ideas, how, and what we can do to have more of them.”

In the latter portion of the interview the host asked Grant about “who gets the chance to be original and how parents can foster this quality in their kids.” This led to a brief discussion between host and guest about a parenting-style dichotomy which has always fascinated moiself: those who parent by emphasizing values-based advice vs. those who instill rules-based behavior.

 

 

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Vedantam: Why is it that rules-based behavior doesn’t produce the same thing as values-based advice?

Grant: When you focus on rules in the family a lot of times kids learn to follow it, which means accepting the status quo and essentially becoming an excellent sheep. When you go to values, kids actually have to think for themselves.

Grant admitted that as a parent it’s easy to find yourself barking, “new rule” every time your children misbehave, when instead you should be talking about the value behind the rule. When asked for an example, he provided a scenario familiar to most families:

We’re sitting at dinner, and one of our family values is respect, so we (the parents)  like for them (the children) not to get up from the dinner table until every is done eating. And they start to get up and it’s, “No, you must sit in your seat.” And then I realize what I need to say is why this is important to us.  It’s not about having the rule, it’s about – look, the reason we all like to sit at our seats is we like to have a family meal and it’s a great way to show respect for each other.

 

 

 

dinnertable

And who wouldn’t want to extend such heart-warming family moments?

 

 

 

K and Belle, MH’s and my two children, are young adults now.  The vast majority of our “active parenting” opportunities, re trying to influence their developing values and behavior, are in the past.  Back when MH and I were doing the heavy lifting in that department, we didn’t didn’t have a name for it – i.e., the particular label the differing parenting styles was given in the podcast – but I’m fairly certain MH and I followed the values-based advice model. As per author/educator/philanthropist Dale McGowan’s excellent series of books, Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers, we thought that teaching our children (and, hopefully, modeling for them) values-based advice seemed the best way to enable their moral, emotional and intellectual development based on reason, vs. unquestioning acquiescence to authority.  [2]

 

 

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RF

 

 

 

In the past few days, since listening to that podcast, I’ve found moiself thinking back to my own upbringing, and in particular, where my parents would have fallen on the values-based advice vs. rules-based behavior spectrum.  I think my parents, like most of their peers, employed (deliberately and sometimes unintentionally) a combination of the two styles. However, my memories  [3] reinforce my notion that, given many factors, including my parents’ generation, their adherence to religious doctrine, their own respective upbringings and temperaments – the latter which included an almost total lack of introspection and valuing consideration of “big” and/or existential questions of Life ® –  their parenting methods tilted most heavily to the rules-based behavior end of the scale.

 

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Department Of Happy To Have Slept Through It, Thank You Very Much

An earthquake and aftershock have been reported off the coast of south-central Oregon.
The United States Geological Survey says an initial quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 struck just after 1:30 a.m., more than 170 miles (264 kilometers) west of Coos Bay, about 220 miles southwest of Portland.
Robert Sanders of the USGS says there is no tsunami threat associated with the quake. He says people as far away as Portland reported feeling the temblor.
(8-22-18 Oregon Public Broadcasting)

 

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Department Of More Musings Sparked By Podcast Listening
Sub-Department Of Morning Walks Are Time For Reflection…
Or Sometimes Just Snickering

Dateline: yesterday, 7 am. Listening to a Freakonomics podcast, Two (Totally Opposite) Ways To Save The Planet (episode 346) , in which the host (Stephen Dubner) interviews Charles Mann, a journalist who “…writes big books about the history of science.” Mann speaks about the decades-old debate between environmentalists (“we’re doomed if we don’t drastically reduce consumption”) and  technologists (“human ingenuity can solve just about any problem”). Mann titled his latest book The Wizard and the Prophet, which are his embodiments of those two respective worldviews. The book’s subtitle is Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World.

It was a misty morning at the coast. My mind was wandering as I walked on the pathway heading toward Nehalem Bay State Park; I was thinking more of blackberry-picking than the “prophets vs. wizards” presentation coming through my earbuds,  [4] and wasn’t paying the closest of attention to Mann’s comments about “the prophet” of his book, WilliamVogt, “the progenitor of the modern environmental movement,”  and Vogt’s influential (in 1948) but now largely forgotten book, The Road to Survival:

MANN: “Much of (The Road to Survival) is a passionate screed for population control, sometimes written in language that makes you cringe….”

DUBNER: “So when you say that his discussion about population growth makes you cringe, was it from a classist perspective…or racist — how would you describe it?”

MANN: “… it’s hard to avoid noticing that although he was very, very hard on rich, white people being wasteful and destructive and so forth…the brunt of the population-reduction stuff he’s talking about are on poor, brown people…And he sometimes described them in language that is really kind of appalling — he talks about Indians breeding with the irresponsibility of codfish….”

That certainly got my attention.  Codfish – any cold-blooded aquatic vertebrate, for that matter – have never come to my mind as exemplars of anything other than being codfish., and certainly not as examples of human traits, particularly those related to responsibility.

Are not codfish merely yet profoundly the gold standard for being codfish? And why shouldn’t codfish breed prolifically? Considering that they are a highly-preyed-upon species, it would be irresponsible of them not to breed like…codfish.

 

 

codfish

It’s none of your business what we’re doing. Besides, it’s not like we can get a room.

 

 

 

 

I thought about this for a lot longer than perhaps I should have. Then I thought about my thinking about it: is this an example of my propensities for both being easily amused (read: distracted)  and easily stimulated to ponder the existential questions of life? And what would a codfish think of such drawn out deliberations  – would she consider them to be a responsible use of my intellect? Or would she use me as an exemplar to her fellow codfish of how warm-blooded, land-going bipedal vertebrates waste valuable mental energy that could be used to devise strategies to convince people to eat less codfish?

 

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May you rarely cast metaphors of irresponsibility upon species other than your own;
May you find ways to value the routines you may one day forget to miss;
May you treasure those incidents you are Happy To Have Slept Through;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

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[1] Son K graduated three years earlier.

[2] Sure, we had rules, but it was never, “Because this is a family rule, that’s why, and we are the parents/authority and you therefore must respect us and obey our rules.” We explained the “whys” behind the “rules” – the values behind the guidelines.

[3] Which include years of fruitless attempts to get them to engage in healthy discussions (or so I viewed them, as an optimistic if not yet out-of-the-closet freethinker teenager and young adult) about the basis for living ethically in this world.

[4] The prophet (environmentalist) sounds the alarm and wants us to reduce consumption, population growth, and habitat destruction. The wizard (technologist) pushes for us to keep going and invent/use even more, believing that history shows us that technology will solve our problems.

The Announcement I’m Not Applauding

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Department Of Why Aren’t You Listening To This Podcast?  [1]

I refer to Hidden Brain, hosted by engineer/journalist/NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam . The podcast aims, as per their website, to help “…curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.” Linking research from fields including psychology, neurobiology, economics, anthropology, and sociology, Hidden Brain aims to provide “… insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.”

If you’ve ever wondered…

-Why is our tendency to associate with those who share the same interests, sense of humor and political views demonstrably not the best way to cultivate creativity?

– What causes mild-mannered people turn into fearsome mama and papa bears?

– Can the way you park your car reveal crucial details about you?

– Why do we think back to turning points in our lives and imagine, ‘What if….?’

– Do unconscious biases keep people from finding interesting jobs?

 

…then this is the show for you. And if you never wonder about such things, then you need to get interested in Life.  [2]

 

 

 

martha

 

 

 

From the seemingly mundane to the profound, here is a sampling of recent subjects and questions Hidden Brain has tackled:

* Who Gets Power — And Why It Can Corrupt Even The Best Of Us

* Baseball Umpires Don’t Get Overtime. Does That Affect Extra Innings?

* Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus: Why and How We Eat

* Admit It, Parents: You Play Favorites With The Kids

* Don’t Panic! What We Can Learn From Chaos

* Looking Back: Reflecting On The Past To Understand The Present

Probably the most interesting topic the show has presented involves the origins and purposes of the world’s religions, and how religions “evolved” to help human societies survive and flourish. Most interesting is, I realize, a subjective qualifier, which is used by moiself due to both current and ongoing events and experiences which makes this topic of particular interest.

If you’ve taken part in a religious service, have you ever stopped to think about how it all came to be? How did people become believers? Where did the rituals come from? And most of all, what purpose does it all serve? This week, we explore these questions with psychologist Azim Shariff, who argues that we can think of religion from a Darwinian perspective, as an innovation that helped human societies to survive and flourish.

For most of human history, we lived in small groups of about 50 people. Everyone knew everybody. If you told a lie, stole someone’s dinner, or didnt defend the group against its enemies, there was no way to disappear into the crowd. Everyone knew you, and you would get punished.

But in the last 12,000 years or so, human groups began to expand. It became more difficult to identify and punish the cheaters and free riders. So we needed something big — really big. An epic force that could see what everyone was doing and enforce the rules. Since individual people could no longer police large groups, the policing had to be done by a force that was superhuman. That force… was the popular idea of a “supernatural punisher” – also known as god.

( excerpts from “Creating God,” Hidden Brain, 7-16-18 )

 

 

angrygod

Cue the wrath.

 

 

The development of religions as a cultural tool is not a new idea (to moiself) – I’ve encountered similar theories across a wide spectrum of disciplines and scientists, including psychologists and cultural anthropologists. Still, this podcast contains one of the most accessible explanations I’ve ever read or heard for the evolution of group religious practice.  [3]  Of course, the answer(s) to the opening questions about the origins of religious practice, if posed to religious believers and not scientists, would be along the lines of,  Because it’s true!, and/or Because my god is real and gave our belief to us! and other simplistic non-answers which fly in the face of the reality that one believer’s religious truth is another believer’s heresy.  [4]

“… Besides the psychological studies, there is evidence from history and psychology that shows modern religions evolved to solve problems related to trust and cooperation…  All the world’s major religions today arose at times when human societies were struggling with the problems of size, complexity, or scarcity.”
( “Creating God,” Hidden Brain, 7-16-18 )

Religions arose as a mechanism – like fire and agriculture – to help us survive as a species. The historical period known as the Neolithic (or Agricultural) Revolution saw the creation and rise of towns and cities.  As humans transitioned from living in small, mostly nomadic, family bands to living in larger groups of unrelated people, we needed a way to get along with strangers. We needed a way to determine who was “one of us” and trustworthy to, say, trade with or intermarry or share water rights and other finite resources…

But, not just any old religion or deity would do, when it came to regulating group behavior amongst strangers.  And how much you believed in a god mattered less then what kind of god you believed in.

The more wrathful/angry the god, the more successful the religions were, in spreading across large groups, and maintaining control of and adherence to social norms.  Correspondingly, the more “costly” the rituals and rites associated with public declaration of adherence to the religion  – i.e. physical and behavioral modifications (e.g. circumcision, clothing and dietary restrictions, sexual practice proscriptions) the more confidence the others had in you as being one of them (and not just faking it to gain access and trust).

 

beard

So, you’ll trust I’m one of you if I cut off the tip of my…what ?!?!?

 

Interestingly, our ancestors who remained in hunter/gatherer groups – which did not have the stranger danger/trust issues – tended not to develop belief in larger, punitive gods. 

Scientists who study (the few remaining) modern day smaller tribes, whose lives resemble those of our ancestors in the pre-civilization/Agricultural revolution days – who live in small group where everyone is known to everyone else – note that these tribes’ gods tend to be “smaller and weaker and less morally concerned…they are more like trickster spirits… that don’t have the power nor the punitive ability nor the concern (to enforce) moral issues.”

 

trickster

 

Anyway, I highly recommend this episode of Hidden Brain. Go listen to it yourself,      because I could go on and on about this (and yep, I already have).

 

 

confusedspock

“That’s putting it mildly.”

 

 

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Department Of The Afore-Mentioned “Current And Ongoing Events And Experiences Which Makes This Topic Of Particular Interest.”

I’ve been thinking about the development/role of religion a lot recently – before, during and, especially after an out of town trip to attend a family wedding last weekend. While I was happy for the adorable young couple to be starting their married life, the marriage ceremony itself was – like all conservative Christian services are, for me –something to be endured, not celebrated.  Once again I found myself walking the ethical balance beam: trying to avoid attracting attention to moiself while trying to maintain a shred of integrity and not have my presence nor my silence be taken as acquiescence to the preacher’s words and the scripture readings – which essentially amount to a sermon (to a captive audience) on primitive, Bronze Age  blood sacrifice and patriarchal theology.

 

 

 

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You just gotta take those small opposition opportunities when they arise, like my refusal to join the clapping after the couple is introduced by the officiant, after he has pronounced that they are married.  In a mere 30 minutes the woman has gone from being addressed by her first and last name to having her identity announced as the mistress of the man.

It gives me great joy to introduce to you, for the first time,
Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s first name/husband’s last name!

And, holy patriarchal poopfest – the preacherman at this wedding actually read the bible verses about how wives should be submissive to their husbands, and went on at some length about how his god created Eve for Adam (as if they were real people) and thus women for men and how that is the only relationship (man-woman marriage) that is   approved (and mandated )by his god and the only path for happiness….

When I find myself in a church-type venue (either a wedding or a funeral, these days) I always maintain open eyes during the let us bow our heads and pray moments. I pass the time by looking around at the audience (? guests? Whatever we are), noting who does the same. I sought out one of the Eyes Wide Open People  [7]  after the wedding concluded –  someone I’d seen stifling a flinch at a particular rhetorical low point during the ceremony – and ventured to ask his opinion.  He too was surprised by the waaaaay conservatism of the ceremony.  He said couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard such archaic speechifying,  “…and I’ve been to a lot of Catholic weddings recently.”

The overt sexism (and concurrent if covert anti-LGBT sentiment) in (many, but not all) Christian wedding ceremonies is not new to me. But this time, knowing the personal histories of several of the guests and family members, it made me sad in ways I cannot fully articulate.  As the preacherman orated about the Christian god’s plan for marriage and men and women, women and men, blah blah blah, I felt the sense of exclusion, intentionally or otherwise, which the ceremony cast upon  gay family members/guests.  In that world, you’ll take a seat at the back of the bus… if they let you board at all.

 

oneman

Thank you for celebrating our special day! However, if you’re gay, we will not help you celebrate yours.

 

 

 

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Department Of Musical Interludes, Via One Of The Best Covers
Of An Already Really Good Song

That would be Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell’s rendition of Spanish Dancer, a song written and originally recorded by Patti Scialfa on her album, Rumble Doll[8]

 

 

 

 

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Department Of Unexpected Bonuses

Moiself has notice that, besides the retail outlets and weed growers themselves, the legalization of marijuana in Oregon has give rise to other businesses offering correlated services.

 

 

stoner

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May all of your announcements be applause-worthy;
May you find your own ways to maintain integrity during institutionalized absurdities;
May you never stop asking the
how did it come to be/where it come from/what purpose does it all serve? questions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] That is, if you’re not. And if you’re not, you should.

[2] And don’t show up at one of my dinner parties and just talk about the weather.

[3] The origins of religions as just that – evolutionary tools – is the only origin story that makes sense of the otherwise implausible and downright silly post-Iron age belief systems.

[4] And then if you posed the questions to a room of believers in different religions you could watch the fundamental fur fly as they try to sort out why the one god they claim to believe in would give vastly different dogma, rituals and practices to its peoples.

[5] Or, as many a religion-free observer has noted about the various religious proscriptions on sex and diet and attire,  “If you can get people to give you their balls, they’ll give you anything.”

[6] And it has links to interesting/relevant research and other articles.

[7] As usual, there were several of us.

[8] Yet another example of a person who might be more well known – and appreciated on her own merits – were she not married to someone famous in the same field (in this case, Bruce Springsteen. Aka – in a just universe – Mr. Patti Scialfa).