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The Headwind I’m Not Appreciating

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Department Of Future Aspirations

Yoga teacher giving instructions on how to perform Supported Bridge Pose:

* Place a yoga block by your side and lie supine on your mat, arms at your side.

*Bend your knees; rest your feet flat on the floor, hips width apart, toes and heels in a line, heels as close to your sit bones as possible.

* Exhale, press your feet into the floor. Inhale and gently lift your hips off your mat, just enough to slide the block underneath you.

* Position the block low against the back of the pelvis, so that your sacrum is supported on the block and your fleshy buttocks are just off the edge of the block….

In my next life I want to be a yoga teacher, if only to have a legitimate, professional reason to use phrases like,  fleshy buttocks.

*   *   *

Department Of Simple Pleasures That Have Me Humming Like An Idiot
For The Rest Of The Day

Last Friday, a few hours after last week’s blog was posted live, I was driving to yoga class, listening to The Local Radio Station With The Eclectic Playlist I’ve Mentioned Before ® (in the 2-24 post). I had to take time for a driveway moment  [1] when I got to my destination (or perhaps in that case, a parking lot moment?).

Whatever the name of the pause, I had to take it. Because, apropos of nothing, the station had begun playing the theme song to the cartoon series, Underdog.

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve even thought of that show, or heard the theme song? [2]

 

 

 

underdog

♫… speed of lightning, roar of thunder/  fighting all who rob or plunder….♫

 

 

 

 

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Department of Privilege Schmivelige – Appreciate The Reality Of Your Tailwinds

 

No, this is not an elaborate set up for a fart joke.

 

 

astonishedspock

I find your assurance quite unnecessary, given the fact that all known sentient species appreciate  fart jokes.

 

 

Ahem. I instead refer to the Freakonomics podcast I recently listened to (the March 15 episode). The episode has the provocative if whiny title , Why Is My life So Hard? . This podcast has, IMHO, performed a public service by giving us another metaphor with which to understand the much-debated concept of privilege.

It seems that some white men feel put upon when it comes to any discussion of the white male privilege thing. Or perhaps I should say, some “men who believe that they are white,” as author Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it, in his wonderful book, Between the World and Me.  Coates reminds us that DNA and genetic analysis show there is no such biological reality as ‘race;” rather, the invention of race (and thus, racism) come from the human need to construct a social hierarchy.

Once again, I digress.

It seems that many….

 

 

confusedspock

For example, the Tellarites consider flatulence humor a necessary overture to the establishment of successful diplomatic relations, as I discovered when the Tellarite ambassador mistook my greeting as an invitation to pull upon my outstretched digits in expectation that he would subsequently hear the sound of emissions of a gaseous nature passing through an unobserved part of my anatomy….

 

Yeah. 

I’ll start again.

It seems to moiself that there are white men who feel put upon by any mention of white male privilege. It also seems that most of the men I know personally – compassionate, empathetic and intelligent dudes that they are – do not feel that way.  [3]  For those who do, perhaps it might help to try to understand the reality of social privilege through the metaphor of headwinds and tailwinds.

The stated purpose of the particular podcast to which I refer was to try to understand why it’s so easy for many people to “…feel put upon, to feel resentful, to feel that life has made things harder for them than it has for other people.” The podcast features two psychologists, who study how people make judgments and decisions in their everyday and professional lives, discussing their recently published paper, The headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry: An availability bias in assessments of barriers and blessings.

 

 

 

angry spock

You needlessly complicate matters! Had you heeded my original admonition, you could be entertaining your patient yet bored readers with the “Lethal Atmosphere” video by now.

 

 

 

Thank you for your suggestion, Commander. I’ll keep that in mind.

AS I WAS SAYING….

Both competitive and recreational runners and cyclists know that when you have a headwind, it’s not very pleasant. You’re aware of it the whole time; it impedes your progress and you can’t wait until the course/road changes so that you can get the wind at your back. When you reach that 180 turn and have the wind “on your side,” you are relieved and exhilarated…but only for a little bit.

You remain conscious of a headwind the entire time you’re fighting against it, but you quickly stop appreciating the boost a tailwind gives you – you take it for granted, even to the point of forgetting that it exists.

“…you’re grateful for about a minute. And very quickly, you no longer notice the wind at your back that’s helping push you along. And what’s true when it comes to running or cycling is true of life generally.
We have to pay attention to the barriers in front of us because we have to get over them, or get through them in some way. We have to overcome them. We don’t have to pay attention to those things that are boosting us along. We can just be boosted along. And that fundamental asymmetry in attention is the headwinds/tailwind asymmetry.”
 (Tom Gilovich, Cornell University Professor of Psychology,
known for his research in heuristics and cognitive biases)

In our society, white males – even those born into poverty, as was my father – have had a tailwind for hundreds if not thousands of years. As marginalized groups begin to make gains in access and power, WMs may begin to believe that their advantages – which they probably don’t even think of as advantages, but merely as their “lot” in life or their circumstances – are diminishing. That belief is not entirely incorrect; their advantage is diminishing…just a smidge.  But it’s still there; it’s still an edge they have, over someone not born into their social potential and advantages.  [4]

“…What we’ve shown in the lab is directly applicable to some of the discussions going on in the country right now. There’s this term that “there’s a war on white males these days,” white Christian men, and channeled through the headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry, you could see why that group would think that. That is to say, the influence they’ve had has decreased, and of course that’s the focus of their attention. That decrease. At the same time, if you look at it from the outside, what you see is an enormous advantage that had existed for hundreds of years being reduced just a little bit. And from an outside perspective, it doesn’t look like at all like a war, it looks like just a little bit of rebalancing and we even need to rebalance some more.
(Tom Gilovich, from the Freakonomics interview, my emphases)

 

 

Here. Are you happy now, Spock?

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you appreciate the wind when it is at your back;
May you appreciate the headwinds with which others have to contend;
May you always root for the underdog;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] You are likely familiar with the concept if not the term: a driveway moment is when you just can’t leave your car after returning home, but turn off the engine and stay for a few minutes with the radio on, because you’re captivated by a story – say, something on NPR, or perhaps a Serial podcast – you’ve been listening to.

[2] And the masses respond, their voices raised in unison, Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve cared?

[3] Or at least they do not admit to feeling that way.

[4] Even my father, 4th of 6 children born to a pair of marginally educated, impoverished tenant farmers, had an advantage and potential:  over his sisters and other females, by being male, and over the other tenant farmer families, who were the descendants of African slaves. My father’s father was illiterate, to the point that his wife, who had all of a 5th grade education, had to read his farm contracts to him and then he would sign them with the proverbial X. Yet was made foreman over the other (black) tenant farmers, most of whom could read and write, because, as my father once told me, “You would have had a riot back then if you put a black man in charge of a white man.”

The Bohemian Like You I’m Not Like

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And Now You Know

This is the song I’d write, and play rhythm guitar on, if I wrote alt-type songs and played guitar.

 

 

*   *   *

And Now You Know Even More

And this is the song, I told MH as we were listening to the radio in the car on the way to run some errand, that I would learn to play if I played bass guitar.

 

 

*   *   *

Although You Probably Didn’t Know This

I have written a song. It’s a C & W ditty, titled, If You Can’t Live Without Me Then Why Aren’t You Dead. It remains (mercifully so, in the eyes and ears of some) unpublished and unrecorded. Ah, but the year is young….

*   *   *

If You Read Only One Book This Year…

Well then, shame on you. Put down your screens and read one more.  And make sure it’s Between the World and Me, by journalist-author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I won’t write a review because y’all know I neither write nor read book reviews. Suffice to say I think you’d enjoy this book (I’d like to add, you need to read this book if you’d like to consider yourself a Good American Citizen ® , but that would be too dogmatic), especially if you’re one of us who “think they are white.” [1]

 

Enlightened minds are amused by the concept of race.

Enlightened minds are amused by the concept of race.

*   *   *

Department of The End

…of one of my favorite weeks of the year, that is. I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. [2]  New Year’s Eve, however, is another thing. I have a somewhat bipolar relationship to the day. Over my adult years it has seemed to be either been really fun or really dull. I’ve (almost) outgrown the We’re Supposed To Be Having Fun – Are We Having Fun Now?  mentality – the notion that somewhere out there, everyone is having a gay old time except for moiself, who is home polishing furniture or something. [3]

 

Please do tell me when I'm having a jolly old time.

Please do tell me when I’m having a jolly time.

 

Today we’ll have a few close friends over for dinner. We’ll be serving a variation of my father’s beloved New Year’s Day meal: you must have black-eyed peas and rice, aka Hoppin’ John, and cornbread and collard greens, in some form, on the first day of the year.

It’s a Southern Thing ©: eating black-eyed peas on January 1 supposedly brings good luck for the coming year (black-eyed peas were supposedly seen, by several cultures, as resembling pennies or coins). And as even the most cursory glance through the pages of an American history book demonstrates, if you’re looking for a culture synonymous with good luck, you can’t go wrong by picking a tradition from The South ®  and following it to the letter.

So. In defiance of the good luck that will not be coming my way in 2016, I’ll be tweaking the traditional menu. I’ll make black-eyed peas and rice cakes with roasted red pepper sour cream sauce, cider vinegar sautéed collard greens, and cornbread.

 

I see not the slightest resemblance to coins and would never attempt to use these objects in vending machines.

I see not the slightest resemblance to coins and would never attempt to use these objects in vending machines.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Why Do They Do That?

“Our culture is not the only one that had slavery/Slavery has been practiced by all people around the globe/Native Americans took slaves from neighboring tribes/….”

Make that, Department Of Rhetorical Questions.

I know why “they” (people in general, moiself included) do “that,” which is to joke, distract or “play the devil’s advocate” when Certain Subjects ® are raised. It is an attempt to hide discomfort and/or distance yourself from unpleasant topics, particularly those that may make you feel defensive and powerless yet complicit.

The italicized comments above were evoked when I attempted to recommend the previously mentioned Book I Read But Did Not Review ® to a couple of light-skinned menfolk. Their immediate (and interruptive) comments –  the kind of Oh yeah? Well what about ___? defense-as-offense remarks which strike me as the intellectual equivalent of an eight year old sticking his fingers in his ears, nyah nyah I can’t hear you – should  have come as little surprise, given the subject (racism in America).  Still, it frosted my butt.

First of all: Hello, I was merely attempting to recommend a book I think you would enjoy reading. I was not attempting to discuss the book – which negates the kneejerk, devil’s advocate defense (“it’s no fun if everyone is agreeing…”). What would be the point of wanting, or even trying, to discuss a book with people who haven’t yet read it?

Second of all: Geesh.

If your daughter ran into the kitchen, blood gushing from her nose, and said she’d been punched in the face by the neighborhood bully, you should (1) tend to her injuries and (2) consider paying a visit to the bully’s house. I would hope your reaction would not be to tell your daughter that there have always been bullies all over the world, that Julius Caesar bullied Marc Antony, and that she isn’t the only kid who’s ever gotten punched in the nose – we know of kids in the next block and across town who also got bloody noses….

 

nyah

*   *   *

Department Of Am I Missing Something?

I refer of course to watching Home Alone on Christmas Eve.

One thing led to another during our family dinner table conversation on December 24, the Another being Movies That Take Place On Or Are About Christmas.  It turned out that none of us – not moiself, MH, son K or daughter Belle –  had ever seen the so-called classic, Home Alone.

 

HA

 

We’d each been privy to a few scenes or outtakes from the movie. I pride myself on being somewhat [4] culturally literate (if only to be better equipped to do crossword puzzles), and thus was familiar with the movie’s general plot. So. After dinner we downloaded HA (either Amazon or Netflix, can’t remember) and watched it.

Really, how lame is that movie? And why does everyone [5] say it’s a classic?

MH offered a week defense of HA, with which I, at first, weakly agreed: you need a suspension of reality; i.e., pretend you’re watching a Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner cartoon, and you might be able to enjoy HA on that level. Nah. That ultimately and only made me wish for a Looney Tunes adventure, and did nothing to alleviate the loathing I felt for the excruciating “clever”, sitcom-ish, written-by-adults-trying-to-pretend-a-clever-8-year-old-kid-would-talk-like-this dialogue spewed by HA’s pint-sized protagonist.

 

scream

*   *   *

Department of Last Day Quotes of the Year

This is the disadvantage of being tall – people can look up your nose.
(MH, 12-31-15)

*   *   *

May you try to engage topics that make you uncomfortable;
may you feel free to avoid classic art that sucks;
may your height bring you nothing but advantages,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Happy New Year, and  Au Vendredi!

HNE

 

 

[1] This idea – of “race” as a construct and thus, e.g., people think they are white but in fact are not – is directly, obliquely and poetically addressed in Coates’ book.

[2] Well…I love it during those years when I’m not bogged down/distracted by the it’s a new year and what the hell have you done with your life and why did the last year leave skidmarks? kind of issues.

[3] An actual New Year’s Eve activity I did one year, a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away, as a one-woman protest of the hype and commercialism of the eve and to prove to myself that the event was overrated and that I could be satisfied with simple, contemplative activities, even an activity I would never otherwise undertake (wax the furniture?). And yes, it was also/partially because I hadn’t been invited to any of those overrated and hyped parties…and yes, it was also/partially lonely, and it sucked.

[4] Read: sometimes barely.

[5] Yes, everyone. When I meet people from overseas, it’s the first thing they say (well, after mumbling in their broken English some variation of “where’s the toilet?”): “So, does you are enjoying ze American classic, Home Alone?”