HOW TO GET YOUR FRIENDS TO STOP TREATING YOU LIKE A THERAPIST


When you’re talking to your friends, avoid asking “How did that make you feel?” When conversing, face them directly. Don’t let them lie down and start at the ceiling while you sit nearby, holding a note pad and a pencil. Do not bill them for your time. If they suggest sexual activity with you, do not protest that doing so will cause you to risk losing your license. If you’re not interested, just say so. If you are, go for it.

In fact, trying to maintain any type of stereotypical image is a barrier to true partnership with others. Even if you haven’t the faintest idea of who you really are, try your best to be that person. Stop acting. Drop the foreign accent, the expansive mannerisms.

What might at first seem interesting or evocative might prove tedious and false in the long run. Leave acting to actors paid to play a part. Unless someone calls “action!” and later “cut!” do not assume you’re on stage or in a movie.

If someone confides to you that he is angry with another who cheated him, or broke a promise, do not say “Does this bring up any issues from your childhood?” It’s none of your business. Try to focus on what this person is telling you here and now. Forget about fifty years ago. It was another time and another place, and you weren’t even there.

No, you would do better to keep the focus on yourself, and if engaged in conversation with another, do your best to truly listen. Drop the scramble to come up with advice before the other person even stops talking. Relax. You’re not a therapist. Not really.

MUSICAL MUSEUM


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As museums go, it was a real sleeper. Somebody had walked off with all the portable instruments, and the piano and organ were covered with mold. But I enjoyed the setting, nestled deep in several vacant lots.

 

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The groundskeeper was neither talkative nor helpful, but he did cast a menacing air that might curb further vandalism.

 

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There was a lunchroom just  down the road where the food was as cheap as one could hope for in these uncertain times.

 

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Apparently, the museum’s director is a graduate of Moscow State University, but when he returned to his home country for “continuing education” he was never seen again.

 

GREECE. Mani. Pirgos Dirou. 1962. Woman at graveside. "A Greek Portfolio"

 

I’ve heard his wife took it pretty hard, and is now housed in a nearby rest home, at the end of the one of the vacant lots.

So Excited


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We were so excited by the three new bridges across our divided highway. So this was the Progress we had been promised ever since the War ended! Just think of the high standard of living we’ll enjoy thanks to Atomic Energy and Free-Market Capitalism!

Let’s face it, motels used to be so modest as to be dumpy by today’s standards. There’s a new energy that is seeping into everything, a new confidence in a better future. I guess you could call it a “Hope In A Better Tomorrow!”

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Of course, not every building can be exciting. Sometimes, if you can’t see the sign you can’t tell what a building has been designed for. Is this a real estate office or a vacuum cleaner repair shop? No, there’s the sign, it’s coffee shop, or cafe as they say in France! Here in the Midwest, severe conformity and lack of imagination have their way with almost everything you see. That’s just who they are and they’re proud to let their buildings let you know!

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But drive a thousand miles to the southwest, and things perk up! Vacationing families can tuck the station wagon behind a saw palmetto bush and enjoy themselves at the pool, relaxing later at the piano bar. Like exhausted families, you can bet that lonely sales representatives need a good night’s sleep after a hard day of cold calling, and this is just the kind of place they can find it!

Hot Off the Kindle Press!


 

The family-friendly, feel-good book of the summer. A real page turner, even though no one falls in love or receives an unexpected windfall. Reading this book is guaranteed not to tax your brain, nor result in suicidal impulses! This tome contains the distilled essence of centuries of human experience, yet retails for less than a dollar! So you don’t forget, download today!

 

 

 

IQ AND ME


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When I was twelve, I took an IQ test and scored a 75. The nun who administered it took me aside and sadly informed me that I was borderline retarded and should not attempt going to a college preparatory high school. She said I would be better off pursuing vocational training, like small engine or shoe repair.

Turned out she was right. A few years ago I took the MENSA test and passed, so I guess I got smarter in the interim. She was right about the vocational training suggestion, though. In the long run, I would have done better learning how to do something practical, and might have prospered if there had been an established need for my services.

Instead I tried to enter the world of college teaching and never secured a full-time position that would lead to tenure. I took social security early and live on a pension that would not permit me to live as anything but a charity case in America. Today, I live in Thailand, where my social security pension is enough to live without having to eat my lunches along with my homeless neighbors in church basements.

The reason I scored so low on the IQ test I took when I was twelve is because I was very angry. I had been repeatedly humiliated and stifled by schooling and it was all I could do not to leap out the window like young Jim Thorpe and run off into the woods. I could read better than any of the other students in my class, but reading facility wasn’t something the nuns measured. We were learning to diagram sentences, a grammar game I could never get the hang of because I saw no point in it.

To this day, I am very sensitive about the notion of IQ. Testing and schooling are not high on my lists of activities. From my time in academia, I never met a college professor I thought was especially intelligent. I met many people who knew how to follow rules, play the game, and kiss ass, but I met very few brilliant people.

THE FOLLY OF TEACHING LITERACY


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Can literacy be taught? I don’t think so. You have to enjoy reading and writing and the thinking that goes into it before you can be taught anything, and even then you’ll probably end up being self-taught because you’re already interested. Being taught rules won’t help. Rules just take all the fun out of it.

I’m good at learning foreign languages but have no interest in rules of grammar. I think I’m good at it because I don’t care about the rules of grammar. Correct usage will come from practice, but the first steps are to have fun communicating in this new lingo.

School and schooling are a way of killing any natural interest and resultant delight that comes from interacting with the world. Standardized testing is the ultimate distillation of schooling and all that it entails. If you don’t get off on taking tests, then you’re probably not going to do well in school, anyway. Might as well start a garage band or learn to work on your own vehicles.

Certifications are false promises delivered by educators and enforced by those empowered to police the marketplace. The missing ingredient that cannot be taught is “get up and go.”

If I really want to learn something, I’ll find someone who’s good at it and ask him the explain it enough to get me started. Then I’ll go it alone.

WINNERS KEEP ON WINNING


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Losers rarely climb out of the hole they find themselves in. Often this is because they haven’t finished digging. The longer we stay stuck, the harder it is to see what’s holding us back. The more we keep winning, the harder it is to understand why we’re enjoying such good luck.

In most cases, there are forces at work which we undervalue. Looks, race, hair color, eye color, straight teeth, pleasant speaking voice, good personality, all matter more than high intelligence or moral character. Look at our politicians for examples.

Definite turn-offs. A hint of desperation. The glimmer of mental illness around the eyes. Bad nerves, jitters, bouncing leg under the table. Forced enthusiasm.

Going to a prestige school matters more than what you learned there. Who you know matters more than anything. You meet people at a prestige school who will go on to be very successful. You can reconnect with them after graduation and let them know you’re “available.” But by all means, don’t act desperate.

When I was a child my father was out of work for a long time, and during that period I happened to watch a televised version of the drama “Death of a Salesman.” The excellent Lee J. Cobb played Willie Loman. It was, as was intended, heartbreaking, but held special resonance for me. The scene where goes to one of his son’s friends and begs for a job almost made me swoon with nausea.

Better to not risk too much too late in life. What seems adventurous and fun-loving in a twenty-year old seems reckless and foolish for a forty-year old. For a sixty-year old, the scope of acceptable behavior narrows dramatically. By seventy, people begin to suspect dementia.

THE SEDUCTION OF EVIL


 

 

All the absurdity and stupidity displayed every day on the news, then amplified and echoed on social media, has the ability to distract us from developments more worthy of our attention. Yes, our government is corrupt, surely everyone is aware of this. We could consider the present state of affairs a crisis, or we could simply acknowledge that there are problems for which we will need to find solutions and move on.  To allow ourselves to be absorbed by horror and anxiety serves no one. Maybe this permanent state of emergency is the plan the tyrants had all along. We can immunize ourselves by directing our attention at things that empower us.

 

I’m not talking about limiting ourselves to “happy news.” Being absorbed by the news in general, just like being too rabid a fan of any entertainment, is a large step on the path to powerlessness. What did people do with their free time before the Internet? Lots of different things that are still available to us now, if we can only look away from the fascinating horror that tempts us online.

 

 

 

 

Way Too Much


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Too much already so nothing matters
 
I keep thinking I should start a project that would take me months to finish, write and photograph a long piece, and then find somewhere to publish it. But then I look at the steady stream of detritus that flows through my laptop every day and realize that nobody needs any more writing or pictures. Nobody needs any more of anything.
 
I could delude myself into thinking that my diligent and purposeful activity would eventually make some sort of difference to somebody, but I think it would at best amount to self-deception.
 
There are too many choices for my limited attention. I subscribe to Netflix and there’s a lot out there for which pay a paltry sum. Last night we watched one of  the worst movies I’ve ever seen on Netflix. Last month we watched one of the best TV series I’ve ever seen, three seasons worth, thirty-nine, one-hour episodes.
 
I saw a movie in a cinema last month, but it was the first time I’ve been out to see a movie since we started up with Netflix.
 
I no longer “read” anything. I skim. I’m always browsing, hoping that something substantial and evocative will grab my attention for longer than a few seconds. That rarely, if ever happens.

Catholic or Buddhist?


 

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I grew up Catholic, baptized shortly after birth, educated in Catholic schools until I was eighteen, first by nuns, then by Jesuits. Our neighborhood revolved around the parish church and school. In St. Louis, people would judge your social class by your parish. “She’s from Our Lady of Lourdes.” Oh, that speaks volumes.

 

Now I live in Thailand, and here in Chiang Mai, Buddhist temples are even more omnipresent and important to the community than were Catholic churches when I was a boy. All directions are given regarding the nearest temple. Fundraising parties that last five full days abound. There’s literally a  temple every half mile in all directions. The first morning sounds I hear through our perpetually open windows are the gentle gongs of  monks walking down lanes, seeking alms.

 

There are school classrooms attached to many temples, but most education is done in public schools. Uniforms are compulsory here, up through University level. Thais love uniforms. Even employees of companies wear uniforms. Nurses wear nurse uniforms like we used to have in America before about 1960. Boy and girl scout uniforms abound.

 

Conformity is not frowned upon in Southeast Asia. There’s an Asian expression, “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” I chafed under the regulations that demanded I wear a uniform for the first eight years of schooling, but here I take comfort seeing students in uniforms.. It reminds me of home. I remember having the same feeling when I went to Ireland in 1971. I saw Dublin school girls waiting for a bus who were wearing the same color skirt and blouse the girls wore back at our Lady of Lourdes, in St. Louis.