Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Cognitive Science

“Prove it. In a relationship. And then in the world. About your greatness.”

Try it. Get organized. Try it over.

Creating a relationship. What has been missing in my life.

Drew Christensen, S.J., wrote about the feeling of the modern world: it always seemed to fall short of the world where I had grown up. Maybe it had something to do with the ideal of how we developed nobility. The world of my father seemed perfect. My first idea of ideals worth saving came from my parents. My first ideals or the past and of “saving” the past, was based upon the world that they had given me.

Even though I was not crazy about their music. Because i came to see life was about your own music. Your own song. With your own lyrics.

The unrealness of it all. Of the world of Noah. Or Abram. Or of the towns of Sodom. And Gomorrah. When something had been missing. The worlds which had ended up in destruction.

The plan then was to try it over. This time with maybe some spiritual direction.

Starting over. When the “start” button on your microwave quit working. And the only solution was to throw it away and get a new one.

Teaching a class. Of 10 people. I was teaching a class these days. And I thought of hearing the author of Amistad, the basis for the Steve Spielberg Amistad movie, speak. Alex Pate told about talking at a bookstore, for a reading, when one person had shown up. Not much different than this February 28th night at the Hamline library, a community library, with 7 people. There in February, with nine people in attendance counting the two volunteers, not much different than the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah?

Yeah, the story about negotiations. Writers. For such a small audience, was it worth the time to write? Who would read this stuff anyway? Was this creation really worth it? For just 9 people?

First Noah. Then Sodom. And Gomorrah. Those Twin Cities. Was it worth it to save the world? Or the towns? For 100 people? For 10 people? For one? Or was the real discussion about relationships?

Where was I in the story? Did you ever have just a bad marriage? Was it worth trying to save it? When your wife wanted more in the relationship? And you did not have a clue what the heck she meant.

Where was I in the story? How had I contributed to this bad marriage? Was it about expectations? Her expectations about me?

Salvation. Was it worth your time?

Teachers. I had teachers who had taught so many doctors, who then learned all the new ways to cure. Finding the good doctors out. With all the expectations for success that people brought to a doctor each day. Not so unlike what people brought to a marriage.

Hadn’t the great books already been written? In trying to write that Great American Novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about themes of youth, beauty and riches. And that was the world of modern pop culture, of America today, ruled especially by beauty and wealth. All the things glamorized by the media, of modern America. All these beautiful young American women. Fitzgerald wrote with characters that keep trying but never really found themselves at the end of the story.

In a world that is rich with possibilities for connectedness and attachment, the heart and soul of intimacy, the lifelong challenge, begins with identity. Over who each person is. Mine was strongly established.

Relationships. Creating a relationship. Enhancing connectedness. To this world. When there had been something missing in my life. About an overall aim of the relationship, with a delicate balance between separate identity and a connectedness– when the going gets rough, to stay together. Developing a common point of view. Union. For the kid’s identity. For their readiness for relationship.

Noah. Then Abraham. And then Sodom and Gomorrah. Navigating closeness. Between humans and God. Or maybe from the Genesis stories, mostly between males and God. The struggle, the ongoing struggle, with cognitive love, concerning relationships. My lawyer says his wife thinks he is insensitive. All American men were, actually. With no real relationship readiness for how to prepare emotionally, psychologically and pragmatically for a committed relationship. The union state, in these United States.

Concerning those relationships. Navigating closeness, with a degree of cognitive love, beyond the involuntary cognitive and emotional state of intense romantic desire. When you were just for the most part unconscious. Or really just trying to figure it all out. With American men too often just numb. When those neurons just did not feel the things we were supposed to. About the hard questions, beyond the involuntary cognitive and emotional state of intense romantic desire. For men too often just numb.

About the hard questions. The greed. All men had it. Some women. People throughout the world wanted to live like I had lived. Like they saw in the movies. Greed fueled by media. For money. And modern conveniences. Where there was not enough to be fairly divided. And it was a helluva battle each day, in the business world, to acquire more. Time saving conveniences. Amid all the serious stresses. At home. And abroad.

About Noah. About Sodom? And about Gomorrah? About relationships? Whether I was “relationship ready.” When relationship readiness refers to developing a common point of view, with a delicate balance between separateness and connectedness. With all the weakness in economic relationships. In living arrangements. With labor saving devices. The challenge of sustaining both my separateness and connectedness. When the going gets rough. As the “me” becomes “we.’ In the united state.

My first ideals or the past and of “saving” the past, was based upon the world that my ancestors had given me. Man, had that world changed. The new civil wars. The domestic ones. I had inherited it all. Like Isaac. Like Jacob. Some, through the people I was related to. From their DNA. Some, through material wealth. Earned or inherited. Acquired wealth.

Cognitive science. Those living arrangements. Where no fame is ever won outside a house for living a life with balance. When men, outside the house, must BE someone. Or try to be. And, in the old world, when women must find someone. And then become the experts in relationships. Sensitive to the dominant culture. Sensitive to the gap in the living arrangement. And more attuned to all those gaps, the inequality–than the insensitive American males.

Now about the connectedness to others. The purpose of the union. All this emotional energy to have personal ties –why are women so concerned about upgrading their relationship skills, especially with men? And why are men relatively unconcerned? About the inequality in the power struggle. Over the toilet seat. Who can understand all this new focus on cognitive science. When cognitive science focused on what we read and how we read. Was it really insensitive to ask who really had time to care? It was only a toilet seat.

The imbalance in “relationship work,” my account balance, had become like some kind of tumor. More conspicuous. But not to me. My tumor was starting to cause other people pain. It was not intended. And it was insensitive to ask about just paying a late fee. I was told. A normal reaction to the tumor might be just to move a bit further apart. When I was told the normal female reaction to pain is to look for the source of pain and treat it. Even when it was so invisible. And I never was much for seeing doctors.

Yeah, men often seem oddly numb. About the hard questions. About these unexpected performance reviews. When your emotional energy was affecting my peace of mind.

Yeah, men often seem oddly numb. About relationship readiness. And then thinking that the obligation somehow ceased, when you dedicated your life to someone or something. Once they had one, men are unconcerned about improving their people skills, in a relationship. THE relationship. Because we were from Mars, and rarely ambitious after work, at home, in the cave –about these people skills, in a relationship, with a woman who told me that she loved me. After work, how could I not be measuring up — on the job as a husband? How men hated the subjective part of those unexpected performance reviews.

There is pain when something goes wrong. When tending to relationship had always been predominantly women’s work. Work which seemed like some kind of game that I never really understood the rules. About the languages I had learned growing up– I recognize the body language, even when I missed the class on relationships.

Those sins of omission. I understood the line about sins, and “what I had done.” Now I saw the gravity of those sins of omissions that I confessed to each week. “What I have failed to do.” Just give me a nudge. But I did not feel as bad about nothing that I had ever done. The ones about invisible fruit, from the invisible tree.

Because there was no real theology that her friend had about life, I distrusted her friend’s definition of intimacy. I distrusted her friend who talks about relationship patterns, how they operate, and all the trouble couples get in over issues of power. I never liked seeing this friend in the house. But I did believe in the sacred part of intimacy of a relationship, to truly grow –before the connectedness was all put to the test. I did agree about a need to prepare, emotionally, psychologically and pragmatically. About the capacity for intimacy in a committed relationship.

Relationship readiness. Developing viewpoints. Beyond my own. In a waxing and waning world. I was reading about this for the first time. About the hard work it takes to express the lifetime meaning of connectedness, to build and maintain a satisfying relationship. Or one with stability. When I had been concerned about living arrangements, but unprepared for growth.

The unrealness of it all. Of Noah’s world. Of Sodom and Gomorrah. Of cognitive science. And the need to change. Or all of this might be destroyed. Was it worth it to save the town? Or the dominant culture? For 100 people? For 10 people? Or for two people? In a marriage? In this house, after the excavating work and the concrete was poured?

When it was never really possible to change me, was it not normal to feel a sense of rejection? When I was told I had to change. But don’t take it personally. Just change responsibly to enhanced the connectedness.

I was getting re-organized. And planning to try it again. About that greatness. Our greatness. In a relationship. To prove it.

At home. And then in the world abroad. This time with just a little more spiritual direction. Because I did not want to end up in the Twin Cities like those guys from Sodom and Gomorrah.
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Bonding

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that writing a novel was a lot like swimming under water, holding one’s breath. It was said as he tried to find a publisher for his first novel that his character never really finds himself at the end of the story. He was after all trying to write the Great American Novel. Often his American character seemed naïve and shocking. In a culture with ideas of unrestricted freedom. But with the consequential isolation.

On Wednesday, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Irish government bond rose to 5.5 percent, more than a full point above the recent low of 4.4 percent on April 5, but less than half of the equivalent Greek yield.

The marketplace. Where the next crisis just started. “Bonds have seen their best days,” Bill Gross, manager of the world’s biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co, said in a March 25 interview with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Radio. Alan Greenspan’s warning that rising yields on government debt will drive up American borrowing costs is resonating with the world’s biggest bond traders, who say the losses in March in the market for US Treasuries are just the beginning. Yields on 10-year notes, the benchmark for everything from mortgages to corporate bonds, climbed from a low of 3.53 per cent in February, to as high as 3.761 per cent today.

The social dynamics. In such a society, when the current situation isn’t good for Treasuries. Because money likes to shift to riskier assets with signs of economic recovery. And then all hell was gonna break loose.

American individualism, and illusions of autonomy. Coming up for air by the end, or drowning. Living in this individualist culture, with a higher rates of suicide than a more community-based culture.

Spring. And the same land. The urgency that went with getting the crop in. Or in times of panic. To work. To pray for another growing season. On lands inherited. The things city people miss. When the current situation was not good for Treasuries. When the focus on the family farm had always been about crop rotation.

In such a society of individualism. Of community. To allow myself in such a society to be touched. Intimately by someone. The theology of it all. Like what was going on in Arizona. Or what crops to get in. And where.

Fear and tension. Superficial wounds in the superficial world. Until the wounds went deeper. Intimacy is challenged most by too much distance, too much intensity, or simply too much pain. Learning the cost of fidelity. Staying faithful to the resulting consequences.

To be moved by it all. To move the entire world. Migrations. In a nation of former migrants, for the most part. Wrestling with migrations. And the tensions that follow.

Temptation. It was not them. It was me. I had become vapid.

April. With an urgency in getting the crop in. The fears that went with the growing season. In the 1970s with the family farms. And all the changes that had occurred. When family farming were now mostly all part of corporate farming.

Spring. And the same land. To work. To pray for another growing season. On lands inherited. The things city people miss. About rotation of crops. And fields lying fallow. Amidst worries about drought. Or floods. When the current situation was not good for Treasuries. Because money likes to shift to riskier assets with signs of economic recovery. Because of greed.

I was growing. And then losing a focus, with so much to focus upon. About true organic food. The urgency that went with getting the crop in.

The marketplace. More and more this urban marketplace was a lot like swimming under water, holding one’s breath. Where yield at 3.761 had to compete against the same 10-year bond of the Irish government at 5.5 percent. And the 10-year bond in Greece, yielding more than 10.0 percent. IF the Greek government did not go bankrupt.

The fear in the marketplace. In a world, more and more this urban world, with so much wisdom now in eclipse when it came to religious foundation, leaving many young men and old women without the resources to cope, at the end of the story. When a character never really finds themselves, as they were ready to surface out of the waters of the business world.

The Lost Generation and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Lost after World War I. With life in the Roaring Twenties. And the ensuing fear in the marketplace. In a world, when it came to religious foundation——more and more this urban world— with so much wisdom now in eclipse, then and now — leaving many young men and old women without the resources to cope, at the end of the story. As the Roaring Twenties gave way to the Great Depression. Among the astonishing spiritually inarticulate, when a F. Scott Fitzgerald character never really finds themselves, as they were ready to surface out of the waters of the business world.

Copyright © 2010.

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The Old Barber Shop

I got my haircut yesterday. And for the first time I found my 68 year old barber preaching. He does not know my name. I never knew, until recently, his, as he now has his name on the awning over his shop.

I still go back to the barbershop where this barber was working when I was in high school. I have learned a few things about the neighborhood, from him. Things that had occurred over the years. Like about the Bamboo Hut down the street that is no longer there. It was a massage parlor, which had been replaced by a fire station. A massage parlor with all the vices associated with the profession. Those were the things we normally talked about. Or such as how Sandy Stephens had led the Minnesota Gophers to the Rose Bowl when he was a college student at the University of Minnesota. Most people under fifty would have a hard time believing that as fact. It seemed so unreal.

My barber had been talking to the previous customer about Iran and Israel, and about the end of the world. He was reading this book called Heaven, which had accelerated his discussion. He was telling the man with the newly trimmed locks that he did not see how God would allow either Israel or Iran to blow up the world. I had been waiting in his chair for a couple of minutes, wondering where the scissors were, and interjected. I asked him how his theory about God explained Hiroshima, if you happened to be Japanese.

Born a Baptist, he now was just some kind of Christian who never danced. Born again, betting the odds that there is a God, he said he was no longer praying with Baptists, but he still went to church. He thought it was too much like those games of chance, as in gambling and playing cards.

He talked about the book he was reading, about heaven. About how everyone who ever lived was coming back here at the end of the world. And with their pets. I asked if the author was an academic. Or what his curriculum vita was. He did not know.

My barber thought that the stories of Genesis had really happened. Like the manner that he cut hair, he was, I noticed as he was lacerating my hair today at the beginning as if it was a war, a strict constructionist. There was a certain amount of violence, as he grabbed a handful. I could tell in the first 60 seconds that there must have been some kind of inner tsunami going on, that I was feeling, as an after affect to the prior customer. No one had pulled my hair like this since I was in high school. And it had been a sister.

I had my own theory, I told him 10 minutes later. About something in the Bible. After hearing about the Book of Revelation. I asked him if he really understood it. The Book of Revelation, that last book. “Your own theory!” I told him someone had to have a theory, like the author of Genesis. He seemed surprised to think a human actually wrote the book. I asked him how he thought that the Bible was created? He asked if I went to church. Or if I had a church affiliation. When I told him I had attended the closest school to his barber’s chair, he was able to figure out my religious affiliation.

Eventually he mentioned the genealogy in the Bible of Jesus involving Joseph and the House of David. I expressed my belief in the irony of all this focus on Joseph’s genealogy, when none of Joseph’s DNA ever made it into Jesus. He went on to say that there was a genealogy of Mary written in the Bible. And I begged to differ. I had wanted to make a wager, but realized respectfully that Baptists do not bet. And he had said he had never quite escaped from the beliefs of his youth. Nor had I.

The barber’s preaching, about how only a soul could be saved through the Messiah: the barber’s opening line to me when he cut his first strand was how he did not like to be judgmental. But his theory of heaven judged every Muslim, Jew, or Hindu on earth. To say nothing about all those born into a family without belief, and never went in search. I wondered about the kid in the next chair who was to be 25 years old. The barber had attempted to bring him into the discussion. The kid claimed not to have heard, avoiding controversy. Because people did not talk about this stuff on a Saturday unless maybe you were born again.

The barber’s preaching: the 68-year old who had never danced, still did not partake in those games of chance, but he had married. He told me there was no difference between the beliefs of a Baptist in Minnesota and those Southern Baptists.

The barber’s preaching, but for me, not real convincing. As I had first asked him how his theory about God explained Hiroshima if you happened to be Japanese, I left him in his muddle about salvation for the non-Christians, or about 75% of the planet. The planet where everyone including our pets would one day be coming back to, according to the author. In that book about heaven. The Creator, this God of Love, was not real generous to 75% of the people on earth, if you believed in the barber’s theology. Like the Southern Baptists had not been real generous to Sandy Stevens, and black Americans from the South, maybe because salvation in their eyes was restricted to people of the same beliefs, who looked like white barbers.

When he mentioned the Roman Catholic belief in such things as purgatory, I told him that I thought everything he had said today I had heard from priests over the years. I made reference to the fractured Christianity in all these denominations, as I had picked up a silent scorn for Catholicism. Like it might be my fault, about purgatory. If there was one. I told him, as I gave him a tip and was ready to leave, that all the discussion had today had yet to involve the various Christian dogma. Until now.

Listening. To the born again. With the perspective a lot like that Beattles’ song that was playing. As the orthodox listen, I had become one of the orthodox. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I was silently humming, as the barber’s was preaching. About games of chance, trying to figure out the house rules. But not real convincingly … to me. Or maybe for himself.

I had gone more than 13 years in my life without visiting a professional barber. Like many 18-year-olds, my fling with the unaffiliated barbers had started in college. A woman I knew cut my hair. And for free. Those unprofessional haircuts started just after I had sat in the same barber’s chair more than 25 years ago.

Having a real haircut for the first time in years. Like the Beatles affected forever the well-being of barbers, with a quietly developing hostility towards the next generation.

The family was more excited than I was. About my return to orthodoxy. And haircuts. Those thirteen years had become a family jokes. I had returned for a professional haircut when my sister got married. Yeah, she had asked. And then I just kept going. But only for the high holy days, as it were. Christmas. Earth Day. Over those thirteen years, Phil the Barber had become my father’s barber. (I think that his barber had either died or been affected by more than just the music of the Beattles.)

Yeah, I had my own theories. Now I know why there were no longer Playboy magazines where there used to be in this barber shop. And not many men waited on a Saturday for a haircut, any more. Maybe hair no longer was growing as fast.

Yeah, I had my own theories. And the Bamboo Hut was closed.

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Out of the Ashes

It was this generational thing……on Easter. The unstated things. In the story. An earthquake? An eclipse? Recording it all. Passover.

Now what? After Passover was over. After the ritual, after the commemoration of the meaning of Passover. In the Seder dinner of the day. Along with instruction how to eat the lamb; in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The command to “eat like those who are in flight.”

Passover that was all about identity, of a Chosen People. A Chosen People, who had left an identity of slavery behind and survived. With a new identity. In a confused world.

Peter. This fisherman. Who had until this point never had left his identity behind, but after 3 years of following, now what? With a wife, however they had survived so far. Now what, after that crucifixion that had ended the week? The fears of the times, never well conveyed by those history teachers. What was it like to face the end? Of someone you had staked your whole existence on? When everything seemed lost. When your own identity was challenged.

The Gospel of John, which was not written by the John the Apostle, but this John the beloved, another fisherman …now what for him? After they all had assembled for the commemoration of the meaning of Passover…now what, after that crucifixion?

In a confused world. All of these humans trying to make sense of it all, in a confused world. In a confused world, trying to grieve. Together, at the time of commemoration of the meaning of Passover. Living and eating “like those who are in flight.”

“You are one of them!” All of the participants, with their identity crisis — a crisis that never would end. These theological Jews, in search of an understanding, all eleven of them married. When you lost everything, suddenly. It was so much like Kristallnacht, for Peter. It was like the sudden Great Crash that led to the Great Depression.

In search of an understanding. All of the Passover stories over the past 3 years. All of the time Jesus had been challenging the identity of the people. Individually. Communally. If you had ever assembled the stories of what had happened on the three final Passovers in the life of Jesus. One year in the temple, overturning tables.

In search of an understanding. Over all that had been witnessed in 3 years. Maybe about some kind of plan to begin again. Now what, Peter? After Passover, which was the paramount generational thing. Passover was not just a family thing. It was THE family thing. Generation after generation.

Passover. The unstated thing of Passover. And moving the rock. Generational things……on Easter. Not so much unlike Passover, this brunch today. That Seder. With a few generational thing……on Easter. This Easter, my brother-in-law prepared a Easter brunch on the day. With others. It had become in his adult life ritual. What was missing this year was an Easter bread from his mother. It was noticeably absent as she had suffered health challenges over the last 12 months. Post breakfast, I had spent about 30 minutes reviewing a new book, recently published, that my brother-in-law had given to my sister. The book had made mention of my father’s role in the history of an organization that helped to give an identity, to this region. I am not so sure that the main author had an understanding to be writing the book. And I was now at the point in life where my father’s health changed, which can have a major effect, a sudden effect, on a point of view of things.

Now what, Peter? In a confused world, the sudden effect. Looking for meaning in it all. A lot like on the original Passover. With all of the dead. All of the first born. And then this issue of inheritance. The unstated thing of Passover. The generational things……on Easter. Would these 11 people come back? Any of the disciples? What difference does a teacher make? Or a rabbi? Or a journalist for that matter? What difference did a blog writer make? What difference did knowing the truth mean? In my life? What meaning was there to this life, if the Truth was never known? So what? It was the same question that a rabbi or a priest asked each weekend; or a parent. Would these people, the young, your loved ones, come back? To what always had looked to be the Truth.

So there was Peter. And his friends. “Next year in Jerusalem.” Left wondering this morning. About their God. About their own Jewish traditions, of burial, of belief. About what looked to be the Truth. And now Mary Magdalene, with her story. Whether Jesus would come back again, after Mary reported seeing him. It was a much better story, with a lot more suspense than the people in church yesterday ever appreciated. The fear freezing into something visible, like the chilling process of water into ice cubes. Peter forced to begin his thinking and writing. With the others. After three years of public ministry, what difference had the Messiah made in personal identity. Or in the context of these chilling times.

The confusion of so many people, over personal identity. In the context of these times, to have your own identity marked in some way. If you believed in the Son of God. The challenge of Easter was always about identity. And that challenge included the doubt. A lot like Peter’s on the original Easter Sunday, during the seven days of Passover. The challenge in passing on a way of life, when you had lost everything. Or when you seemed to have suddenly lost everything. Passover as the ultimate profession of love, not so much as protection from the plagues, but about the solemnity of worship.

What difference had the Messiah made in personal identity? After the ritual, after Mass? In the context of these times. What was the communal identity of a Christian, in 2010? After 40 days of Lent? After Easter Mass?

Now what? In the context of these times, after the ritual…..after Mass? With what appears these days, if I might say, to be a very confused pope and his college of cardinals. The 400 or so who thought their troubles triumphed the story of Easter, this year. Or Peter’s troubles. And in the shame that he woke up with on Easter morn.

Passover. Easter. To move populations. This generational thing. The next generation. The Easter bread. These meals which were a quiet kind of love story. God who in a sense had destroyed Himself, in a world with so much self-destruction. And then this time through the Messiah, God reveals what this identity of the Messiah meant, could mean, in the real world. Really again overturning tables. It was all about identity. And the “now what” question. For the next generation.

Individually. Communally. Now what? That generational thing called identity. That point of view of where I fit in, in this confused world. In a world that challenged a communal identity of a Christian, not so unlike Peter and the other followers had been challenged over their own identity as Jews. What was the meaning in why Moses and his followers had been redeemed? What was the meaning in this generational thing called identity. As a Catholic generation today as well as the 42,999 other branches of Christianity tried to come to grips, like Peter, about what of this identity to leave behind.


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