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On the way to work this morning, I saw an elderly asian man out on his balcony. The platform was overflowing with an amazingly green and vibrant garden: there were flowers everywhere, and the foliage was spilling over the edge. And as I watched, the man began studiously kissing the leaves of each plant.

I nearly cried.

It is beautiful out, today.

vocation ii.

What I want to / need to do is not completely unrelated to my grad school work; it’s still involved with person-to-person authenticity and awareness-raising and responsibility-encouragement. It’s just at a group or organization level instead of one-to-one. I want to do what’s known as community building.

There’s really very little that I can find about it online (here’s one piece, which I like because the writer mentions Spiral Dynamics, a theory in which I’m pretty well-versed); basically, it’s a process designed to strengthen the capacity of individuals and organizations to develop conditions that sustain healthy interaction. I hate this description, because it’s a vague attempt to describe an intensely powerful tool. It’s HARD to explain; it’s more something that needs to be experienced.

In any case, it’s helpful for groups who are looking for greater cohesion and awareness, for groups that need to increase productivity, for difficult groups such as though found in prisons, for struggling organizations or companies, or just any collection of individuals looking to learn more about themselves and to feel less lost. I’ve been involved in a few such experiences of community (and they are intense and wonderful and raw) using Peck’s model, but I’d never considered myself becoming a facilitator . . . it seemed such an immense and frightening task. Something deep shifted in the past few weeks, though. I want to take some time this summer either get officially trained or to volunteer to facilitate a group of, say, Stanford students or other local groups in reaching community.

And then I’d offer it in workshop form to businesses and nonprofits and schools and other organizations . . .

I know. This has a total pipe dream feel, and it’s also SCARY work (it’s not easy to be comfortable with the chronic not-knowing involved in those groups) but I feel I have no choice, and frankly I don’t care if I only do it by volunteering. The vividness of true community is an amazing raw and real and vivid and expansive experience and all I want to do is give as many poeple as possible a visceral understanding of what that means.


A few unrelated* things.

1. Psychoneuroimmunology is one of the most fascinating fields I’ve ever heard of. I’d known about the relationship between stress and illness for a while, obviously, but didn’t know that PNI had a name, or that it was so extensively researched, or that neurology and the immune system were so intertwined. Awesome.

2. You know when you have one of those hit with a 2×4 insights in which you realize there’s something else you were meant to do with your life? Ai. I don’t know how I missed this. My calling is screaming so loudly I’m afraid I’m going to do something rash and stupid like quit my job and grad school (both of which I love . . . I know; it’s that intense) and end up totally undone. Expect a few impassioned entries here soon.

3. I got on a scale for the first time in months yesterday. My body has homeostasis down to an art form: I weigh, to the pound, exactly what I did last summer.

* Although ‘unrelated’ is always a lie.


The Sunday Magazine this week is fanscinating. The topic is debt. The opening article — Reasons to Worry — I think, is a beautiful argument for the fact that we do all need to work together. Thinking only of yourself is foolishness; if the economy collapses, we’ll all suffer. It’s a truism to say that the US perspective of thinking in terms of individual gain is backfiring. We’re all of us part of the same social institutions, and the better and healthier those systems are, the better and healthier we’ll be. (And I know; the inverse is true as well. I just happen to think that the latter fact is the one that’s more easily overlooked.)

Though if you want a more personal angle, check out the piece on student loans. The one above it, on the problem of on-line gambling on college campuses, is also excellent. (I think I liked that one in particular because of how much I resonated with the feeling of that trap: addiction is addiction.) But do go have a look.

Because I don’t like spreading bad news, I feel compelled to tack on a little note. Don’t get let yourself be scared by all this. Fear is useful only if it leads to the restoration of a sense of security, and given that the US seems to be in a constant state of fear as is, I think the healthiest thing to do is to try and look for what it is that would make you feel safe. Forget the money angle – if the economy goes; the economy goes – and think about the fact that you have friends and family that care about you. The psuedo-luxury we’ll all used to is nothing when it comes to feeling loved, or to feeling part of a community, and these latter values are dependent only on your own sense of trust.

Love hard, people.

santé d’esprit.

This man is my hero.

Please look. It’s a beautiful interview. I’m glad such sanity still exists.

O’BRIEN: . . But at some point, one would think, is there a moment when you say, ‘I’m glad he’s dead, the man who killed my son’?

BERG: No. How can a human being be glad that another human being is dead?

. . . When Nick was killed, I felt that I had nothing left to lose. I’m a pacifist, so I wasn’t going out murdering people. But I am — was not a risk-taking person, and yet now I’ve done things that have endangered me tremendously.

I’ve been shot at. I’ve been showed horrible pictures. I’ve been called all kinds of names and threatened by all kinds of people, and yet I feel that I have nothing left to lose, so I do those things.

Now, take someone who in 1991, who maybe had their family killed by an American bomb, their support system whisked away from them, someone who, instead of being 59, as I was when Nick died, was 5-years-old or 10-years-old. And then if I were that person, might I not learn how to fly a plane into a building or strap a bag of bombs to my back?

That’s what is happening every time we kill an Iraqi, every time we kill anyone, we are creating a large number of people who are going to want vengeance. And, you know, when are we ever going to learn that that doesn’t work?


Today, walking (though I can hardly call it walking; I was dancing; I get in these moods) home, I was the opposite of drunk, and the world was too too clear. I was so absorbed in the beauty of the afternoon; the very air was stunning.

And I passed by a pair of crutches that someone had left propped up against a tree.

I started laughing, and I couldn’t stop, and the whole scene became so sweetly silly — it seemed the evidence of a miracle, or some crazy wink toward the thought.

And then I started laughing even harder, because really, after all, what isn’t?


I just got back from seeing An Inconvenient Truth.

I can’t say enough about this film. Please go see it. (I only wish I could impart how serious I am. If you can’t afford the ticket, or are remotely ambivalent about spending the money, tell me. I’ll buy you one on Fandango.) It had it s problems – what movie doesn’t? – but they’re nothing compared to the significance of the lesson.

I’ve admired Al Gore for years – I read Earth in the Balance shortly after it first came out and the vivid passion and intelligence of the book couldn’t fail to win me over – and this cinematographic synopsis of what he’s committed himself to, and why, is overwhelmingly powerful. The thing that’s the most wonderful is how beautifully inspiring and empowering and motivational the movie is. The facts it lays out are brutal and undeniable, but the vision Gore paints of an accessible future is clear. He manages to present the attainable project of a generation — something that’s truly meaningful, something of such critical importance, and something that concerns not just humanity, but so many other species on earth. It’s a profoundly touching film.

While I’m tempted to write here about I was encouraged to redouble my own efforts to reduce my own ecological footprint, I’ll spare you, and trust that after seeing this movie, you’ll feel similarly inspired. Again, please, please, please go see it. This will, perhaps, sound strange, but I don’t think I’ve seen such a carefully apolitical movie, nor one so responsible, nor one so non-blaming, in ages. And this will sound stranger – given Gore’s reputation – but I’m not sure I’ve seen such a human film either. I don’t know. Go watch it yourself. Please.


Every so often, I run into a small group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, traveling by bicycle around my town knocking on doors and doing their Jehovah’s Witnessing thing. I’ve found myself thinking of what a potentially wonderful practice that would be — that is, to visit the houses of total strangers with the sole intent of engaging in some sort of spiritual conversation. Of course, the conversion angle makes me somewhat less-than-interested in the JW approach, but what would it be like to do the same as mere ‘Witnesses,’ traveling your community to just witness the beliefs of others?

I think it would be incredible to go door-to-door, asking whether you could take a few minutes of the person’s time merely to talk to them a little to find out about what their own sprituality consisted of . . . with no agenda other that the mere process of dialogue.

I’d like to think I’d be brave enough to try this at some point. I’d love to think about what sort of seeds might be planted.


I’m taking a life span development class this quarter. Next week is our last week of classes, and so, because we’ve been working through the life span chronologically, we spent yesterday evening talking about death and dying – and our own, in particular.

I suppose there is something strange about me, in that I enjoyed the intensity of that class vastly more than the kegger I abandoned to attend it. But this is beside the point.

What was interesting is that we took a survey at the beginning of the class. It was about 10 pages, and consisted of questions such as “How would you prefer to die?” and “Where would you prefer to spend your last days?” (each of these were followed by a list of ten or so options, to be ranked in order by the surveyee), along with queries about wills, eulogies, questions about what ought be done with your body, and personal beliefs about what, if anything, happened to you once you died. We all filled out our responses, and then had an open discussion about the sort of issues that were raised by the process. Needless to say it was a powerful three hours.

One of the things I most personally enjoyed, though, was noting my own reaction to the survey. I’d filled out an identical form before I started working with the Centre for Living with Dying, and my reaction then was one of severe discomfort. I didn’t allow myself to think too deeply about that many of the questions, and dashed off a series of poorly-thought-out responses to what I thought about euthanasia and my wishes about life support. It was fascinating, and humbling, to see what an impact grief counseling has had on my reactions and wishes.

I won’t go into that here, but I did want to recommend looking at something like this.

What would you want to happen if you got in a car accident on the way home tonight and ended up on life support? How would you want to be remembered? What regrets would you have? Who would take over your obligations?

I love how this topic makes my heart feel so full that my throat chokes. It reminds me to tell people I love them more often. It reminds me how small my own life is, and how fragile, and how important it is not to squander it.