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On many First Days (Quaker terminology for Sunday) I cannot clear the 90 minutes (including travel time) necessary to attend Meeting for Worship, although this morning I most certainly will.  Even on those days I try to take a period of time when I am not "doing" - reading, writing, listening to music, cleaning the house - and just "be" - sitting in a certain amount of stillness and letting my mind settle.  In fact, I try several times during every day to create some space to "settle" like this, and am fortunate that I often have little choice when one or more cats decide my body is an appropriate place to take a nap and I am unwilling to disturb my feline friend(s).  

For my diary today I want to offer a few thoughts on the value of stopping, formally as I do, whether or not in Meeting.  I will share a few ideas on the value of taking time to reflect, not in focused thinking, but in opening oneself up to possibilities perhaps unconsidered.  

This is a political blog.  I posit that taking time for quiet reflection is an inherently political act.  I would propose that it may be as important as any other political act we make.

Let me begin the body by offering a lesson learned in a music class at Haverford.  The late William Heartt Reese, who was a major influence on the campus for a long period which included all three of my times at the College, once asked in a class on the symphony what the motif was of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.  One of the four of us, perhaps the playwright Ken Ludwig, responded "dit-dit-dit-DAH" using the Morse code for the letter V - after all, during the 2nd World War the symphony developed an association with the letter V for Victory.

Dr. Reese responded "Wrong!   It is REST-dit-dit-dit-DAH."   And of course if you examine the score, the time signature is 2/4 and very first measure, with the motif played by the strings and clarinets, the very first thing we see is an 8th note rest followed by the three 8th notes we represent with "dit."

In that brief few moments Bill Reese taught us all something important - that music consists as much of silence as it does of sound, that the sound has meaning place against the background of no new sound, that the moments of silence, however brief, even if only of some instruments and voices while others continue, is part of the overall conception of the composer.  

Since I am a musician by training, I hope you will forgive me what may seem like a pointless excursus.  It is for me perhaps the easiest way to begin my explanation.

In the political part of life we have a heavy preference, even a prejudice, in favor of action, and of words that bespeak action.  We want to know what a candidate or office holder will DO to address the myriad of issues which we can identify, or which the candidate in her wisdom (and desire to obtain our support) brings to our attention.  I would argue that our predilection for action needs to be balanced with a willingness to reflect, to ponder, sometimes merely to listen.

Let me expand this idea by using an important concept from my vocation as a teacher.  It is known as 'wait time."  When a teacher asks a question, there is a tendency not to allow sufficient time for students to react, to want to move the class forward - after all, there is so much material to be "covered" just as in politics there are so many issues to be "addressed" and problems to be "solved."  One reason I do not simply let students call out is that there are those (usually male) who will simply blurt out whatever partially developed thought is in their minds.  Whatever they say, it in some way short-circuits the thinking process of the others who are trying to react to the challenge posed by the question (and I am not here addressing something that merely requires simple recall).  Similarly, if I as teacher am too impatient, my students will not have to accept the challenge of wrestling with the question, of reflecting more deeply.  

What I have just described is something for which I find equivalence in our political processes.  Our politicians are far too quick to offer answers to questions about which they have not yet thought, and we are far to quick to demand fully developed statements on issues that have not as yet been reflected upon in a fashion that would lend itself to a complete understanding.  As a result, far too often what occurs is a statement derived from a purely intellectual exercise, combined with an analysis of the political implications of the statement -  will this gain or lose me votes?  How might I be able to use the statement to position myself with respect to political opponents, whether in primary contests for a nomination or general elections for the office?

In my diary yesterday, entitled We have to do something different here I offered the following thought:

We must be willing to expand our vision to consider new possibilities, new ways of thinking, equally new ways of organizing our thoughts and our actions.

. In my own rereading of the diary and the ensuing thread, and my subsequent reflections upon both, I realized that I had omitted something important, the idea of stepping back and reflecting without cogitation.

Let me see if I can explain this more cogently.  My experience of myself is that unless I am willing to stop wrestling with a problem and allow it to simple ferment on its own, I often miss important things about the problem.  My thought patterns blind me to connections, to obvious aspects that I had not been considering.  If I relate this to my experience of Meeting for Worship, it would be as follows:  when I enter the silence of the Meeting there is no doubt that I am carrying many concerns with me, but if all I do is think about them I am prevented from entering a place where I am open to other possibilities.  In Meeting someone might be moved to share a "message" that seemingly is unrelated to the concerns with which I arrived.  If I am open to hearing that message, because I have entered a place of quiet and reflection within myself, I may without conscious thought or action on my part gain the advantage of a different and heretofore unconsidered perspective that allows me to move forward, perhaps even resolving some unrealized conflict.

The religious traditions that have dominated European and American culture all have the idea of a DAY of rest, of withdrawing from how we normally act.  Within the Abrahamic family of faiths there are also many examples that draw us to the idea of stillness, of reflection on a smaller scale.  The line in Psalm 119 of praising God seven times a day is but one example of this, as is the tradition to stop for prayers to Allah in Islam.  But even that represents an action, and I am struggling to express something beyond that, perhaps more readily apparent in the ideas of the religious traditions of the East, although not unknown in the Occident:  in Psalm 46:10 we read "Be Still and know that I am God."

Since I am posting this on a political, and not a religious, website, some may be turned off by my references to Biblical material, especially to the overt references to a deity.  I offer them because they are part of the underlying understanding of human nature upon which I am relying in what I am writing, the human need to in some way step back and find a different way of being in and reacting to the world around us.

I believe that our politics would be far healthier, less discordant, and far more productive, were we as participants willing to allow the time and space to reflect, to not react immediately to ever issue and encounter as if it required an instantaneous response.  I am positive that some reflection, in which we are willing to listen, and reflect for a while, BEFORE we demand answers and actions, might be beneficial.  I am willing to suggest that an unwillingness to explore such an approach might be an indication of a fear that we cannot come up with answers, and a recognition of our unwillingness to trust that even if we as individuals cannot, our collective reflection might empower us in ways that our collective impulse towards action does not.

I do not deny that many situations which we encounter seem to demand instantaneous responses on our part - after all, the longer we wait the greater the destruction to the environment, or a person might be unfairly executed, or an administration might take yet one more action that seemingly will tilt us inexorably towards tyranny at home or widespread conflict, death and destruction internationally.  Surely we must act, and immediately if not sooner, right?

Perhaps I can offer a thought that may help with this seemingly irresistible and legitimate demand for immediate action.  I am not advocating quietism nor am I saying that the period of reflection need be extensive.  I am suggesting that a willingness to wait, to step back, if developed as a part of our regular practice, will empower us to take whatever time is necessary to be open to different ways.  If as a teacher I regular do not allow wait time, my students will learn that they do not have to do the hard work of exploring the challenge of the question - I will give them an answer.  And thus what is most important in my pedagogy, empowering my students to learn on their own, will be lost to the impatience of the teacher, the desire to move forward.  Or musically, the 3 eighth-notes preceded by a rest will instead be distorted into triplets covering the entire timespan of the measure - we will have something very different, and in the case of the Beethoven NOT what the composer intended.

I care deeply about many issues, as those who regularly read my postings well know.  I can be as impassioned - and impatient - as anyone here.  I do not hold myself out as a superior being.  In doing an exploration like this diary, it is something derived from my own failings, it is a reflection upon my lack of success in helping to advance positive "solutions" perhaps because I am myself too prone towards the immediate word or action.

This is my wish for all of us.  That we on a regular basis learn to step back, to reflect without thinking. to let things ferment, especially when we are upset and angry, to allow that space and time for the unexpected still small voice to arise in our consciousness, whether from within or without.  We will have to speak, to take action, but let us try to ensure that we do not do so hastily.

A life in which reflection is a regular portion of our existence is one in which the actions to which we do move and the words which we must speak are rooted in something deeper than an immediate and incomplete understanding.  In the political processes to which this site is dedicated, it may - just may - empower all of us to find ways that will productively advance a positive agenda.  We might be able to understand words to which we initially reacted with anger or outrage in fact offer us a window into an understanding that helps resolve a conflict.

We may also come to have a greater determination to move in the direction to which our first reaction seemed to impel us, only this time with an assuredness that we are not acting too impulsively.  And the more we make reflection a part of our existence, the greater the likelihood that we well have such assuredness, and can be reasonably certain that it is not mere arrogance derived from our sense of superiority or correctness, but rather something else.  Yesterday I wrote that at times we must move or die.  We need to be able to understand that in such cases we need sufficient humility to recognize that our first movements may require much modification, and the reflective person is more capable of making such alterations.  If our political processes encourage reflection, I believe we will find far fewer occasions where those in or aspiring to positions of leadership will or can not admit that they need to change what they have been advocating.

Call this the humility of being human, and hence imperfect.  Label it if you must perhaps as the wisdom of the collective unconsciousness.  I don't care how it is described.  I for one choose to embrace it.  I recognize that we are unlikely to ever have perfect knowledge, even collectively.  I also believe that if we allow ourselves and others the time and space to reflect, perhaps we will also allow greater freedom to recognize that ALL of us, no matter how great our judgment, are imperfect, and thus empower all of us to the humility necessary to make those changes that will prevent ultimate destruction of that we hold most dear.

REST-dit-dit-dit-DAH.     Do not forget the rest, even if it is only a brief 8th note.


Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:06 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It is the middle of a 3-day break for most (71+ / 0-)

    perhaps we can each find a moment to just be, to remind ourselves of what that experience can bring to our own lives and our interactions with others?

    This diary is the product of such a reflection on my part.  It is incomplete, as are all of my thoughts, derived from my limitations as a human. It does not carry the weight of a message shared in Meeting, a message derived from a far deeper silence and stillness.  It is nevertheless from a place not limited to my cogitation.

    It may or may not speak to you.  It may or may not draw a visible response.  But I feel reasonably comfortable that my offering it will be of value to at least one other person.  And that is sufficient.


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:05:41 AM PDT

  •  Reflection. Yes, that is what we all need. (11+ / 0-)

    In the fast paced world we live in, taking the time to truly take care of one's self has given over to taking the kids to practice, running to the gym, etc.  Immediate reaction is what we have learned.  See, smell, touch and then react.  It is no wonder to me that people have less close friends than past generations or that there are more divorces than in the past.  

    Taking the time to ingest what you've seen, smelled, touched and then coming to a conscience decision as to what that experience really means to you and to others is so important.  Yet, in the fast paced world we live in.

    Adequate resources are necessary for feasible tasks. -6.00, -6.21

    by funluvn1 on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:13:48 AM PDT

  •  Now this is a surprise - recommend list (14+ / 0-)

    and with only 5 recommends, including one by my wife.  Must be a very slow morning!   I will be surprised if its tenure on the list is extensive.  I am more than pleased that among the early readers some felt that it spoke to their condition.


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:23:41 AM PDT

  •  Your point is well taken. Too many times (10+ / 0-)

    I take the "shoot from the hip" approach to life and its myriad problems. Your diary is a good reminder to slow down and empty the mind of all the clutter of the day or of the moment. Thanks.

    The only smarts I have are that I'm smart enough to know I can outwork 'em- Woody Hayes

    by Mighty Ike on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:24:36 AM PDT

  •  Great Diary and sad but true. (13+ / 0-)

    Americans seem to want answers now. We are not a patient people. And the older the Country gets the more impatient we become. This may be compounded by the speed of phones, TV's and of course the Computer. Those quiet times are hard to find with the speed of the Country. I find it riding bike. My senses have to be aware of my surrondings but my mind is free to soar where it wants. Some of my worst problems are solved on that bike. Rec'd and an A+.

    "Though the Mills of the Gods grind slowly,Yet they grind exceeding small."

    by Owllwoman on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:25:59 AM PDT

  •  You're speaking of spiritual space, I believe. (14+ / 0-)

    The time between challenge and response. I have observed that some of the wisest folks I know even develop physical habits to help them enter that space: beard or chin-stroking, gazing away for a moment, even laboriously loading, tamping and finally lighting a pipe.

    Entering the spiritual space  is probably the best means I know to avoid being harassed into accepting a false choice, rather than being open to other possibilities:

    "You're either with us or against us!"

    "Ummmmmmmm, don't think so."

    Call it what you like, it should be taught early. Wish I'd had you for a teacher. But then you'd be a hundred years old  now.


    by perro amarillo on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:26:03 AM PDT

    •  some of my kids think I am over 100 (13+ / 0-)

      since for many adolescents their sense of time is not all that developed -  on the one hand they have trouble grasping that I am old enough to be their grandfather, and some think I am, despite the abundance of gray hairs on head and face, only in my forties.  On the other, they will sometimes ask how I reacted when I heard about Hiroshima, or Pearl Harbor -  beyond about 40 years many lack a real perspective of time.

      And hey, sometimes our best teachers are not those standing in front of a classroom?

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:29:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  kids and age.... (11+ / 0-)

        my five year old told me, on my last birthday (48) that I was "too old to have birthdays, but too young to be a grandfather".  

      •  Always learning (4+ / 0-)

        Everyone has something to offer, which one might learn from.  I find that listening with open ears and an open mind allows me to discover amazing things about other people.

        (Whether it's what they might wish I'd learn from them is another matter.)

        And there are countless things to learn from simple observation of the world around you, from plants and animals, as well as inanimate objects.

        I wonder if a personally distorted view of time is a relatively new phenomenon, or if it's simply exacerbated by the relentless technological game of speed-up.  Your thoughts?

        •  I think more of the latter (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          perro amarillo

          which is why it may seem more of a new phenomenon - certainly I can remember my own early adolescence as a period when I tried to grasp the expanse of the time of history. I can remember earlier than that going to the home of my mother's parents for Passover and having her  paternal grandmother present -  she had been born in Poland while Lincoln was president, and that seemed like an incredible expanse of history - I at least had some concept of that, even if not fully developed.

          I certainly think our loss of leisure has been affected by our technological "advances" - and the resulting inclination to try to do even more.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

          by teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 08:37:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Bertrand Russell and Felix Frankfurter (11+ / 0-)

    would be proud

    Russell wrote an essay "In Praise of Idleness" which I must re-read (after waiting a bit... :-))

    Frankfurter once said that he could only think for 2 hours a day.

    Nice diary.

  •  You are so right (10+ / 0-)

    Stillness and reflection are critical acts - spiritually and politically.  It is to tame our emotions and allow our reason to process.  It is the exact opposite of a political system, aided and abeted by the media, that stirs emotion, particularly negative emotion (fear, anger) rather than sober analysis and reflection.  Peace, brother.  You have started my sabbath well.

    A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. - Aristotle

    by DWG on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:36:12 AM PDT

  •  For what it's worth, (11+ / 0-)

    We better stop, hey, what's that sound
    Everybody look what's going down
    Stop, hey, what's that sound
    Everybody look what's going down
    Stop, now, what's that sound
    Everybody look what's going down
    Stop, children, what's that sound
    Everybody look what's going down

    (In case anyone ws wondering, the subject line double entendre was intentional)

  •  Thirteen Days (10+ / 0-)

    Over a year after a move--and the arrival of our first baby--I'm finally getting our books organized.  I came across a copy of RFK's Thirteen Days, which my husband bought last year.  (I should add that we currently live in Cuba.)  I said to myself, "Now there's a book I can read!"  It is only about 100 pages long, fitting perfectly into my sadly shortened attention span (again thanks to SneakyBaby).

    Here's where this fits into the topic of pause:  I found it quite incredible that during what was perhaps the most dangerous political crisis in U.S. history, both JFK and RFK took time to reflect.  Indeed, the morning before the crucial meeting with Russian Ambassador Dobrynin (in which he communicated that Kruschev would dismantle the missles), RFK took his daughters to a horse show.  

    I don't know if such pause would be possible today.  Probably not--the 24 hour news cycle and all that.  But it certainly is a political act.

    "I'm not interested in that same liberal claptrap. That meow, meow, meow, ironic detachment." -- Stephen Colbert

    by SneakySnu on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 05:40:50 AM PDT

  •  Truly excellent diary.. thank you.... (8+ / 0-)

    I've tried to keep early Sunday mornings for thought and contemplation.  I normally need some sort of music in the background, and I'm lucky enough to have a deck that looks out onto huge tall trees and various other plants.  During the week, I'm mainly in reaction mode and value Sunday mornings very much.  The music background comes from the Berkeley Pacifica station, kpfa, with their Sunday music program called "A Musical Offering," which usually plays quiet, classical and sometimes, a mix of classical, new age, and world music.  It's streamed on the net, from 8am-noon EST.  

    I have been thinking of attending a Quaker service and your diary is a reminder that I need to walk the five blocks and do that.

    Thanks for this diary. Peace is hard to feel these days.

  •  does time with my guitar count? (11+ / 0-)

    It seems to recharge and invigorate. Or is introspection and investigation required?
    I especially liked your remark that silence is part of music, or is a sound of its own. Makes my silent screams more understandable.
    Another fine offering teach, good First Day to you too.

  •  Quakers, Tao ,Peace (7+ / 0-)

    All the right messages for today and everyday..

    Peace to all- it can be found in our hearts and we need that collective energy now more than ever.


    "Time is for careful people, not passionate ones"

    by roseeriter on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 06:01:36 AM PDT

  •  A beautiful reminder for our Sunday rest. (7+ / 0-)

    Thank you, teacherken. There is a poem by Robert Bly in fixxit's friday diary that spoke to me. It's a sweet poem with a tiny edge of alarm in explaining why one might do well to sit and be quiet every now and again.

  •  I will approach (4+ / 0-)

    church today in a new frame of mind.  As a church musician, I can often get side-tracked by the mechanics of it all.  I am always there early, when it's quiet and empty.  Instead of fussing around, I'll take the opportunity to spend a little quiet time with my soul.  It's been a bit neglected/assaulted lately.

    In the classroom, I am sometimes guilty of the behavior you describe.  I do like to keep things moving.  It doesn't take long, though, for me to see the same kids, answering in the same ways, to get me back on track.  They do tend to just "vomit out" the first (often silly) thing that comes into their heads, don't they?  :-)  I love the kids.  They keep me young.

    "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 06:22:37 AM PDT

  •  This ties in well with teaching and education (6+ / 0-)

    though I know that's not your focus in this diary.

    So many of my students are so rushed--college students are no longer "just" students, but are also workers.  Many of them, be they 18 or 40, have full-time jobs, and "getting a degree" is something they cram in between work shifts.

    This leads to a decline in simple reflection over the material we study.  How can a student absorb Locke's natural rights concepts and see how Jefferson applied it in the D of I if Locke just becomes a study point, and they're rushing to cram for a test because their job added an extra shift?  

    And then adults and parents who try to cram eveything in--quality time with kids, jobs, etc.--as they chase the debt monster, often started by student loans and poor youthful choices.  Or medical bills.  So there's no time to think about world events, to analyze political action critically, to involve oneself in lifelong learning for the sake of learning and growth.

    So many policy decisions and the impacts of those decisions strip the American public of time.  And without that reflective time, what kind of mass thought do we get?

    Proud liberal, secular homeschooler.

    by mbzoltan on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 06:23:28 AM PDT

    •  not alien to my focus - which is why (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dharmafarmer, AnnCetera

      I offer example of wait time in the classroom.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 06:26:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Quality time is usually not enough (4+ / 0-)

      of either quality or time.  Some parents consider time spent driving from dance to soccer with kids in the car as "quality time."  It shows in the kids.  They think that always being "busy" is the way to live, and they don't always learn how to have a discussion or to share important feelings.  While we can do some of this at school, it is much more important for them to do it with their families.  Whenever I hear "quality time" I immediately suspect a guilty conscience.

      "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

      by luckylizard on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 07:05:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  tell me about homeschooling (0+ / 0-)

      Do you really homeschool? How does that work? Do you truly feel qualified to teach everything from English lit to Chemistry?

      I was thinking of taking my three teenaged kids to Europe for a year and homeschool them along the way, putting together a ciriculum based on the places we were visiting. But I wouldn't want them to return and be a grade behind.

      Any ideas? Thanks. :--)

  •  so beautifully thought out diary - thanks /nt (4+ / 0-)

    "False language, evil in itself, infects the soul with evil." ----Socrates

    by mimi on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 06:23:41 AM PDT

  •  ...just lovely (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    frandor55, RiaD, dharmafarmer

    simply wonderful thoughts, beautifully written

    You don't know the REAL Homer! It's all burping and neglect! -- Bart Simpson

    by Pandoras Box on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 06:25:18 AM PDT

  •  building on our house (5+ / 0-)

    Our builder knows we would like everything done quickly, but only has construction five days a week. He feels the family needs quiet, and also the rest allows us to walk around, look at things, feel the space.In this time, we have found errors that were corrected, but we also rest in the new space, feeling how life will be changed.

    An unexpected place I have found quiet this summer is by taking my son to the pool. It is a noisy swim club, but I get in the pool, float on my back with my ears in the water, and the noise of screams and splashes goes away.

    In these times, especially, quiet is even more essential, to strengthen us, the rest our voices so they can be strong when needed.

    Dear America: We told you so.

    by Chun Yang on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 06:28:54 AM PDT

  •  From the Jewish Prayerbook (7+ / 0-)

    A great pianist was once asked by an ardent admirer: "How do you handle the notes as well as you do?"  The artist answered: "The notes I handle no better than many pianists, but the pauses between the notes—ah! That is where the art resides."

    —Likrat Shabbat

    'Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.' --Vernon Law

  •  On the importance of "wait time" (6+ / 0-)

    From my college days...
    I was taking a final exam (stochastic processes) and, as we should, I first read all the questions.  Then, as we should, I re-read all the questions, answering those which could be easily answered, and thinking briefly about the others.  After the end of the second pass through the exam, my answer sheet was blank, and I had no idea how to answer any of the questions.
    So, I spent the next ten minutes looking out the window.  It was a nice spring day.
    A deep breath and one more try...
    On one question, I thought of an approach to answer it, and it paid off.  I got an answer that made sense (to me).  Then, shortly, another question succumbed.  And, with ten minutes to spare, all the questions were answered.
    Hard problems demand and deserve quiet consideration.

    Don't be a DON'T-DO... Be a DO-DO!

    by godwhataklutz on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 06:45:29 AM PDT

  •  A few thoughts (0+ / 0-)

    First, a minor quibble. I think you meant to say

    What I have just described is something for which I find no equivalence in our political processes.  Our politicians are far too quick to offer answers to questions about which they have not yet thought, and we are far to quick to demand fully developed statements on issues that have not as yet been reflected upon in a fashion that would lend itself to a complete understanding.

    The difference one little word can make.

    Second, a passage from Lois McMaster Bujold's "The Curse of Chalion" that fits in with the idea of taking time to reflect.

    Quietly, Cazaril laid himself prone upon the rug, arms out-stretched. He told over the couple of spring prayers he knew three times each, but then gave up trying to fill his mind with rote words to keep his thoughts out. If he let his thoughts run their course, perhaps some silence would follow. And in it he might hear ... what?

    He changed the subject, Betriz had charged, when the answers were too difficult for him. He'd tried to do so to the Gods. He hadn't fooled them either, apparently.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 07:05:58 AM PDT

    •  no - I meant to omit the two-letter word (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sardonyx, xaxnar

      that is, I am advocating an equivalence within the political processes, that it will have a somewhat equal effect.  Sorry if that is not clear.

      Thanks for the rest of your comment.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 08:39:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I see... (0+ / 0-)

        You weren't uttering a complaint; you were expressing a hope.

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 09:20:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Lovely diary, Ken (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, bwren, dharmafarmer

    I like this approach for DKos too.  There are days, even weeks where I just lurk and read then think about what I've read.  It's a bad way to keep one's TU status, but it does tend to put things in their proper perspective.  

    I also find that sitting down at the piano and going into that other place when I play keeps me sane and short circuits the circular daily tapes that play in my head.

    dress for dinner and be discreet.

    by moodyinsavannah on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 07:33:34 AM PDT

  •  Unconscious work (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, dharmafarmer

    is what I reference the time when you put something  aside and let it percolate on its own.  Often "unconscious work" is where my best ideas come from.  I think this sense of "letting go" releases our intuitive side (or the collective unconscious) and allows us a much broader scope.  It gives us much needed perspective.

    Nice diary.  Thank you!

    •  re: unconcious "work" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, dharmafarmer, Readrock

      It's interesting that you need to define it as "work" in order to justify doing it, as if only work has utility in our culture. If you called it unconcious idleness, it wouldn't have the same heft. It may be a matter of semantics, but the turn of a word is important, is it not?


      •  Very good point (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, dharmafarmer

        I did discover it when trying to do something "work related" like coming up with a slogan or title.  I noticed that rather than continuing to PUSH if I "let it go" I had better results.  Over and over, folks have realizations or "light bulb" experiences in the shower for this very reason.

        I also do this when I have done an exhaustive search for something I have lost.  When I truly let it go I often find it!

        "Letting go" can be incredibly difficult for our over active and controling minds.  But learning to do this can be so healing and helpful, not just to the individual but to others engaged in "whatever" as well.

        It is a great form of Zen meditation!

        Thanks for pointing out the "work" part as justification...which of course should not be necessary.

        •  The Journey (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, Readrock

          I completely agree about letting go. Our subconcious mind is very powerful, as in the case where we wake up with the solution to a problem, like magic!

          As for the zen meditation aspect, it goes back to the discussion of savoring the journey rather than being too focused on the result. Indeed, you could say that if you enjoy the journey, the outcome will take care of itself.

          My dilemma, like many people I know, is that there are so many things I want to do--hey, we live once--that I tend to overbook myself and get burned out, with the result that I enjoy none of it. But the alternative is doing too little and missing opportunities.

          I'm feeling inspired by TeacherKen's comments about the need for a Sabbath, maybe allowing one day of "unconcious work"--ie: idleness.

          What do you think?

          "80 percent of success is showing up." --Woody Allen

          by Catherine Rhodes on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 09:21:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  "The Journey Itself Is Home" by Basho (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is a quote that hangs over my desk and I ponder on a regular bases.  If we can find ways to "let go and let God(dess)" we can still stay engaged and chill at the same time.

            I do like to walk away on Sunday...and ponder.  In The Artist Way which I highly recommend she recommends two daily practices:  Writing three long hand "morning pages" when you first wake up, completely uncensored and never to be read by anyone.  This let's you get out stuff that is holding you and you do not even realize it is there.  The second is going for a walk OUTSIDE to broaden your awareness...which folks like Emerson advocated as well.  There is a quote on my refrigerator that says "A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world".  Going to the ocean helps me also.  As does watching the moon rise and set.

            But I must admit I have a problem with the computer...I have come up with all sorts of reason why I need it with me 24/7...I have been told there is medication for this!

            •  medication for this - the off switch? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              sometimes I turn off my blackberry and leave my computer wherever it is.  If I am not absolutely current on "BREAKING" methinks the world will not end

              perhaps having spent up to a month in Monasteries on Mount Athos in Greece without seeing a newspaper, watching a tv, or hearing by word of mouth the events of the day has given me some confidence that the world will survive without my constant attention  :-)

              Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

              by teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 09:35:47 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Sharpening the Axe--and how it applies to Iraq (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, dharmafarmer

    A quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln says, "If I had a week to chop down a forest, I'd spend six days sharpening the axe."

    "Sharpening the axe" refers to preparation before a period of intense activity. Preparation in this case could include everything from devising the best forest-clearing strategy, to resting one's muscles before retrieving the instruments.

    People who are busy "chopping" and not "sharpening" may get kudos for taking charge, but ultimately their result is most likely inferior. To bring this concept into the political arena, I recently saw "No End in Sight," the brilliant documentary on Iraq, where it became clear that lack of planning was responsible for the failure of the invasion. BushCo had no idea what would happen after the toppling of Saddam's statue. The team that was assembled to plan this phase met for the first time only 50 days before the invasion!

    To carry the metaphor forward, the "six days of sharpening" would have represented intense, careful diplomacy and meticulous post-invasion planning, which fatally, did not happen. Iraq, then, becomes an example of too much chopping and not enough sharpening.

    I loved TeacherKen's diary, especially as I'm reading it at 7:14 on a Sunday morning, the day of "rest"--and contemplating my schedule for the day, which is starting to feel like an overstuffed suitcase.

    A note to TeacherKen, you should never apologize for invoking Biblical or religious references. Stories from the Bible make up the cultural mythology of Western Civilization. They are our touchstones. Whether we believe them literally or as fables, we cannot deny their importance.

    •  we have had some harsh exchanges here (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      whenever any issue of arises - my words are far from an apology, merely a recognition that some may choose to be offended by a specifically religious reference.

      While I myself am not a Christian in any conventional sense, I have a healthy respect for a variety of religious traditions and no hesitancy about referring to them, not only those that are a part of the background of Western culture, but those further afield from which we might yet also learn.


      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 08:42:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am going to my hammock to contemplate (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, dharmafarmer, AnnCetera

    the deep wisdom of your message.   Instead of "seizing the day", I may let it come to me, and see what joys it brings when I follow that strategy. [he rests here]

    Because everyone has one. Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

    by SpamNunn on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 08:00:45 AM PDT

  •  I hear ya. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But I can never stop thinking.  That drives me batshit.  Heh.

    •  try meditation (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, dharmafarmer, shaharazade

      Count your breath to four and start over.  Breath in one, breath out one.  Breath in two, breath out two.  When you lose your place start over.  You can do it in traffic, in meetings, while blogging.  It is like a oasis allowing your mind to relax. And it helps you clarify your thoughts.

      •  Okay; I'll give it a shot. But knowing me... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dharmafarmer, Readrock

        ...I'd be tempted to count by twos.

        •  Visualization, perhaps? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, dov12348


          As you enter an alpha level, you begin to go within yourself to find your own answers -alpha is the trust nature of your subconscious mind.  Being in an alpha level feels like a flowing, rhythmic sensation where you're in tune with yourself.  

          Find a comfortable chair to sit in that supports your neck, or a couch where you can stretch out.  Begin to relax by breathing deeply.  Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly.  Focus your attention and your awareness on your breathing for a few moments.  Notice how the simple act of breathing begins to relax you, and notice how calm you're beginning to feel.  Listen to the sound of your breathing as you breathe in and breathe out, slowly and naturally.  Begin to imagine that you're breathing in a feeling of relaxation and a sense of well-being, and that you're breathing out all the tensions and unnecessary thoughts that crowd your conscious mind.

          Breathe in the relaxation...breathe out the tension.  Breathe in the calmness and the quiet...breathe out the noise and the disturbances.  Breathe in the relaxation and feel it flow naturally through you.  Feel all your muscles beginning to relax, as they let go of tension and tightness.  Feel the relaxation flowing through your entire body...feeling all your muscles relax...feeling all your nerves relax...feeling every part of your body become totally relaxed and comfortable.  Enjoy feeling calm and quiet...relaxed and peaceful.


          As you continue to breathe slowly and naturally, feeling relaxed and peaceful, and calm and quiet within yourself, imagine a very beautiful rainbow above you.  The rainbow has been formed by an early morning rainfall, and by the sunshine that filters through the clouds.  The colors are vibrant and pure...a shimmering spectrum of colors that blend into one another.  It's the most beautiful rainbow you've ever seen.  It surrounds you like a perfect dome that touches the sky and the earth.  You feel like you could almost reach out and touch the rainbow.  You feel like you could breathe in the colors and you could be inside the colors.   You feel like you could travel the rainbow from beginning to end, and go into the sky and the universe at the top of the rainbow.

          You can feel yourself rising up into the rainbow...floating upward...rising slowly and naturally into the color red at the bottom of the rainbow.  You can feel the color all around you, and as you breathe in the color, you begin to experience the color inside of you.  As you absorb the color within your mind, you feel your mind opening up and expanding into the color.  You feel your mind becoming more and more aware, and you experience a wonderful feeling of energy as you begin to travel the colors of the rainbow.  As you breathe in each color, you feel yourself become part of the color.  You feel the color inside you and all around you, and the color makes you feel like you're standing on the earth and in the sky at the same time.

          As you absorb each color, within your mind you experience an exhilarating feeling of freedom.  You've allowed yourself to begin to experience your soul, and to understand all that is within you.  As you reflect on what you experienced as you felt your mind opening up and becoming more aware, you feel like you've discovered a special treasure within yourself.

  •  This is kind of Zen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, dharmafarmer

    My husband is giving me Zen lessons as I care too much. Thats not wrong but I'm learning that the energy I'm creating is negative and pushes away others and positive solutions, blinds one to the whole. Letting go and just allowing yourself to chill does help. Yesterday I got really tweaked and simply did damage to my soul and was blinded by fear and rage. As an artist and designer I get in trouble visually when instead of working and integrating the air I frantically cram images every where. Although I do love Jackson Pollack who went so far dense and intense that it becomes the universe. Thanks for the quiet time here, air is good, Let it be.  

    "And if my thought-dreams could be seen They'd probably put my head in a guillotine" Bob Dylan

    by shaharazade on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 08:12:42 AM PDT

  •  Mind clearing during activity? (4+ / 0-)

    Teacherken, I find your concept to be similar to the kind of quiet contemplation I get when I’m weeding the garden.  It’s first thing in the morning, no sounds of traffic or many signs of other people awake yet.  It’s cool, and usually the air is still.

    While the hands and body are occupied with the relatively minor task of weeding, the mind is free to become still.  I often will not quite realize how still my thoughts have become until I stand up, to empty the basket into the compost heap.  I have to remember how to move, how to blink, how to breathe.  It’s amazing what the non-focus can do, toward clearing out thoughts from my cluttered mind.

    Sitting on the front porch, and observing the birds and other wildlife is similar.  Just simple observation, not attempting to process data into something more meaningful, not attempting to solve world hunger... just watching.

    And that reminds me; I need to find a good place to sling up the hammock!

  •  have long thought that the Quakers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, dharmafarmer, shaharazade

    have already embraced what the rest of us will know someday.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    The vice president is the single greatest threat to American and international security in the world today...Scott Ritter.

    by lisastar on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 08:18:41 AM PDT

  •  To what extent is true rest, perhaps, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, bwren, dharmafarmer

    the one thing that by definition one CANNOT multitask?

    And on the music theme...
    I play handbells with a community group, and the resonance of the bells makes the rest in the music a deliberate action.  If you play a bell and then do nothing - just hold it out in the air - it's not a rest.  You have to deliberately stop the sound by placing the bell against your body or the table-padding.  

    Thank you for this diary!

    "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not." -- Dr. Seuss

    by AnnieJo on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 08:26:37 AM PDT

  •  It's the pause that refreshes. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, dharmafarmer, Readrock

    No, not pepsi.  No, not consuming.

    Thich Nhat Hanh:

    Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning shower.

  •  Omit..... (0+ / 0-)

    Teacher Ken:  I have a homework assignment for you. Please re-write this diary omitting two words: 'I' and 'my.' Then re-post it, and see what is the reaction? I am serious; it would do us all a world of good! And I shall be very interested to see how you would go about doing this!
    Best wishes,
    JIM/santa fe

    •  while an interesting exercise (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I do not have the time, nor do I think it would be intellectually honest, since it is drawn largely from my personal experience.

      Besides, the diary has already had plenty of traffic, and my use of the 1st person pronoun forms hardly seems a barrier for people to connect with the underlying idea.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 08:58:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why Omit? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cali Scribe, dharmafarmer

        Not sure what Jim from Santa Fe is getting at? Is it somehow narcissistic to speak from one's own experience?

        I loved Teacherken's diary. In fact, I'm trying to find a way to introduce the concept of a Sabbath back into my secular life, although I doubt I'll spend the day washing dishes!

        Cheerio, and happy Sunday, people.


        "80 percent of success is showing up." --Woody Allen

        by Catherine Rhodes on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 09:39:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  A H.S. English teacher once made our class (0+ / 0-)

      write essays without using the word "there."  It was a challenging assignment.

      My Karma just ran over your Dogma

      by FoundingFatherDAR on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 09:46:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Osho is another favorite of mine (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cali Scribe, dharmafarmer

    for meditation techniques.  His very large volume The Book of Secrets has thousands of ways to practice "mind clearing".

    One favorite that I enjoy is called the "stop" meditation.  While going about your day, engaging in the serious pursuits of living, occasionally say to yourself "STOP".  When you do this pause, both physically and mentally.  Just stop your thoughts and your physical movement midstream.  And observe YOU.  If you manage to really sneak up on yourself and do this well it will cause you to have a bit of "flutter" several frames catching in a video or a song sticking...If you prepare and brace yourself for a "stop" meditation it won't work.

    Improvisational folks have used this technique in movement for years.  But using it as tool for your thought process can raise awareness and your PERCEPTION and can an amazing eye opener.

  •  One of the reasons I don't care for people (0+ / 0-)

    who talk incessantly, whether they're friends, relatives, or co-workers.  Besides the fact that I'm an introvert, I have a hard time dealing with people who monopolize the conversation.  I wonder if they actually are really comprehending what they are saying.  Are they just so insecure that they need to hear their voice constantly?  Or are they so egotistical they believe that their statements are superior?  Can't they just STFU for a moment and think about what they're saying?
     I've worked with people who were hailed as "brilliant" because they talked a lot, when in reality all they did was say the same thing multiple times (but in just slightly different ways so that it sounded as if they were pontificating.)  In contrast, I would say the same thing more precisely/efficiently than they did, but be overlooked or scorned because I didn't say it as "well" (according to some people.)

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 09:43:53 AM PDT

    •  When I was in high school (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      a wonderful teacher, the late Phil Bliss, gave a group of us an assignment -- to spend an entire day in silence. I tried really hard, but I couldn't do it; I need to be verbal. He accepted that as long as I wrote an essay about my experiences and my revelations.

      I'm not quite as loquacious as I used to be (at least not verbally; writing is another story as can be seen from most of my comments); I have learned how to shut up once in a while, but I'd still make a shitty Quaker. ;)

      "If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy." -- teacherken

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 10:13:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If someone has something meaningful to say, (0+ / 0-)

        great.  I've been known to be quite verbal at times, if the topic is intriguing. But I've known too many people who seem to have a need to talk, talk, talk, without ever saying anything in particular.
         One time I was having a conversation with a neighbor friend that got on the topic of a tax issue.  They guy went on and on, as if he were an expert in the field (which he wasn't.)  No matter what I tried to say, he wouldn't listen.  He was so consumed in monopolizing the conversation to get his view across that he forgot one important fact - I'm a C.P.A. with a specialty in taxation.  

        My Karma just ran over your Dogma

        by FoundingFatherDAR on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 10:57:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If you cross a street (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    without stopping to rest and look both ways, you're bound to find yourself mowed down by an SUV.

    And of course we've seen what happens when a President plows ahead into an invasion without stepping back and considering the worst-case scenarios.

    We've lost the entire concept of rest, and of leisure -- highly ironic on a weekend that allegedly celebrates Labor. Too many Americans are working 7 days a week to make enough money to keep a roof over their family's head...while others barely "work" 3 days a week, just sitting back and reaping the fruits of others' labor.

    It's easy to look back and ridicule the old "blue laws" that regulated the hours of many businesses, and the remnants that prevent the sale of alcohol in many parts of the country. But at the same time, those laws did serve a purpose -- they gave businessowners a chance to relax, to spend time with their families, and to return to work refreshed.

    How many of our current ailments are caused by our lack of rest time? High blood pressure certainly -- and several others probably...

    "If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy." -- teacherken

    by Cali Scribe on Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 10:08:32 AM PDT

  •  An excellent reflection on Labor Day (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Ken, once again, an exceptionally thoughtful and well-written Diary.  
    As a candidate for a Congressional race next year, it was a good "gut check" on Labor Day.  
    I think we all know our nation needs politicians who represent change, new ideas, and can reflect ... who aren't focused solely on their day-to-day race.  We need leaders that are also focused on serving ... and that requires reflection, introspection, new ideas, experience, and leadership.  I look forward to your sage advice in the future, during my race and my during my service, because as George Moore said many years ago, "After all there is but one race-humanity."

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