This isn’t an official Quick Takes (I don’t know how), but I’ve had a lot on my mind and I can’t wait to share it anymore, so here goes.

 

  1. Focus 2013 Goal 1: Fail.  Well, not entirely, but we set a goal to have the living room decluttered by the end of February and it came and when without us hardly noticing.  I had done a lot of work earlier, and it’s still the best room in the house, but I think we discouraged ourselves when we moved the computer desk into the living room.  That’s just about the hardest place of the house to declutter and keep that way!  I’ll share photos when we finally upload them . . .
  2. My current envy is just about everything in this home. Simple, uncluttered, lots of space, beautiful well-made wooden toys that are well-ordered and easy to use and put away, lots of activities that encourage the competence and independence of the kids, and respect all around.  I am inspired, intimidated, and hungry for more!
  3. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I’m soaking up every page.  Her first focus for making the home happier is possesions and she talks about the other side of simplicity.  The word is quite popular these days, and she points out that her natural tendency is to be lazy and therefor quite simple, but that doesn’t equal happiness.  The right possessions and the right care for them can increase our connectedness to people, which is the real source of happiness.  We still have too much stuff, but it’s good to keep the other end in mind, and it helps explain why I still have a fairly pricy wish list. . .
  4. Parenting.  It’s darn hard. My kids are so wonderful, why do I yell at them?  How can I go from being so proud and happy and filled inside to losing my cool?  I participated in a live webinar with Positive Parenting Solutions sponsored by Power of Moms and I identified with so much of what was on PP I decide to spend the 180 to take the whole online course.  I cannot tell you how light my heart was once we spent the money and even before I started the course!  It felt so good to know that I was about to get a bunch more tools in the toolbox for encouraging my wonderful children rather than discouraging because I can’t handle their messes and spontaneity.  The course promises I won’t remember the last time I raised my voice, and I am looking forward to that.  So far, I am loving what they have to say: praise is discouraging because it creates a fixed mindset and instills fear of losing whatever positive label the praise created; don’t tie allowance to chores, everyone contributes to running of the household and everybody benefits from it’s blessings; time out is not effective and just creates a huge power struggle; children deserve respect, not humiliation; we want to train our kids to be internally motivated, not dependent on external rewards; etc. etc.  I’m only about a third of the way through, but it is so encouraging.  I never would have thought I’d be the type to pay big money for a course like that, but I’m so happy we did.
  5. Joseph and I were putting together the States puzzles saying the capitals. He said “Subtraction Mississippi” – I love it!
  6. Vivienne gave her signature belly flop welcome to Gotte Di when she came to visit yesterday.  It’s so cute, she crawls up nearly to the person she loves then flops on the floor like she can’t go any further, but it’s not a temper, it’s from happiness!
  7. I’m about to be a published author!  Well, electronically anyway. Power of Moms has accepted an essay submission from me.  I’m hoping it will be shown on my birthday in April. ;)  It’s AMAZING what a little bit of encouragement can do.  Stephan didn’t praise me, he helped me get it done because he believes in me – that goes right along with what I’m learning in the parenting course.  We all have people in our lives who discourage us.  I think I’ll give them a collective name and call them “The Discourager.” The Discourager is strong in my life and he makes me sad and depressed – but boy does it teach me the value of encouragement verses discouragement.  I vow to listen to the Encouragers in my life and tune out The Discourager. I vow to encourage people wherever I can and choose to curb language that is discouraging.  Life is hard enough. Don’t we all need someone cheering us on when we’re going in the right direction and loving us anyway when we’re not?  Wait, we have Him. He’s The Encourager!
Posted by harp on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Edit
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What happens when a smart, educated, but musically inept psychology professor attempts to learn guitar and write a book about it?  You get a fascinating glimpse of what it takes to learn music and the challenges it poses for the beginner, learn a whole lot about how and why humans learn complicated skills, and come away inspired that anything might be possible if you put in the time and effort.

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As a professional musician who doesn’t even remember learning to read music, I was not once bored by this account that is accessible to people who know nothing about music.  Since Marcus learned even the basics of music as an adult, his take on something as simple as a scale is thought-provoking.  As one unfamiliar with the pop and jazz traditions, most of the names and songs mentioned were unknown to me, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book (and the names I did know usually came with an explanation – go figure.)  Guitar Zero is an engaging account of Marcus’s journey first to find if it is even possible to learn music as an adult, and then inspiringly, to become a musician who could improvise and compose (if not make big bucks).  His story acts as a skeleton on which to hang all sorts of information related to music and the science of learning.  He discusses such questions as whether kids are better than adults at learning music and other complex skills; what’s the best way to teach music; what makes good music; what makes a good musician and which skills are necessary and which are not; whether talent exists or practice is all that matters; and whether or not music is closely related to language and as such whether we are born with some predisposition for music making or not.  He discusses each of the questions with plenty of examples, studies, and opinions of accomplished musicians of all kinds.  With 27 pages of references for a 234 page book, this is no mere “how I did it” account, which leads me to one of the main reasons the book works so well.

 

It takes a colossal amount of humility to learn something as complex as music for the first time when you’re nearly 40.  Marcus never mentions this (how can you mention humility without destroying it?), but he has a good share of it, as evidenced by his willingness to be the underdog with group of 11 year olds for the chance to play in a band.  That is something most adults would never contemplate and I believe such an attitude of childlike acceptance is part of why Marcus was so successful and why so many famous musicians accepted his requests for interviews and helped him on his journey.  The book is also blessedly free of anything close to profanity, which for a modern book about (much more than) rock music, is exceedingly rare.  Not to mention the fact that if anything is to elicit cursing, surely learning to contort your fingers on a fretboard for the first time (not to mention everything else involved in learning music) is one of them!

 

Guitar Zero provoked so many thoughts I cannot possibly share them all, but here is an attempt to get a few down.

 

 First, I must apologize for calling him “musically inept” at the start of this review.  As a child Marcus may never have had a teacher willing to stick with him despite his lack of talent, but he was always an avid listener, and as he concludes at one point in the book, listening is the critical foundation necessary for learning any kind of music.  From this perspective, he had a leg up and was by no means ignorant, though he lacked formal music training, but as he also points out, in music, lessons are optional.  Many famous musicians never had a lesson in their lives, or never learned any music theory, or learned it late in life.  In this and other observations Marcus is spot on, much to the embarrassment of professionals like me trained in the classical tradition, but he lets us down gently, which I appreciate.  For example, he starts the section about teaching music by lavishing praise on a gifted Suzuki teacher and naming all the elements of her teaching that make her great.  Only after several pages of praise for this teacher and her students does Marcus go on to name a few of the drawbacks of Suzuki training.  It’s worth quoting:

“Another drawback of Suzuki instruction is that it typically tends to teach children little or nothing about improvisation.  Much as in the classical conservatory tradition, the emphasis is largely on playing the great works as the great musicians played them, rather than developing a student’s own ideas, and while there is indubitably value in that, there is also considerable value in each individual student learning that he or she can make his or her own music.  In my own case, the discovery of the joys of improvisation have outweighed virtually all else, yet many musicians trained in the classical style (be it through Suzuki or lessons at Juilliard) feel that they have never learned to improvise.  I can’t help but feel that they are missing out on some of the greatest joy that music can bring.  Another common complaint about Suzuki, which worries me less, is that children trained in that method often don’t learn to read music; true, but to my mind not as essential (as I will explain later.)”

I find his words painfully accurate.  As much as I appreciate my music training, I have often felt only half a musician because I don’t compose or improvise.  (Thankfully Marcus doesn’t call me half a musician, he just says I’m “missing out”.)  Being an excellent sight-reader gave me a number of gigs and was indispensable in orchestral playing, but I still felt the lesser musician amongst my Irish-American friends who could play for hours from the music in their heads.  If you put me in a room without a music stand, I could hardly play a note, and in that I was not alone.  What’s worse, the more you know about music, and the better you play, the more you know any improvisational and compositional attempts you make to be vastly inferior.  I’m reminded of my English students in Japan who could hardly speak a word of English, but not for lack of knowledge.  The all knew the mistakes of any poor kid who dared open his mouth, but could do no better themselves.  In this case I think ignorance is bliss.  You must practice production early on in the process of learning something, or you will be forever trapped by your increasing knowledge of how inept you are.  Here is where I wish I had Marcus’s humility.  Who cares if what I compose is junk?  It won’t get better if I don’t practice!

 

And speaking of practice, Marcus doesn’t find the 10,000 hour idea of Anders Ericsson (made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’) to be very convincing.  He gives an impressive list of counter examples: some people just get it faster than others.  Some people never hit the big time despite the hours.  Good practice is still essential, and Marcus defines it in a more helpful way than “perfect practice makes perfect.”  He defines effective practice as targeting your weaknesses and learning new skills (as opposed to just rehearsing what you already know.)  What’s more, the set of complex skills needed for making music requires significant changes in the brain, and that takes time, both of intensity and duration.  He realized his only hope of learning to play would be to become immersed himself in it.  A few minutes, or even hours once a week wouldn’t cut it.  You just forget what you learn in the space between sessions and have to do the work over again.  Here’s one quote related to what happens in the brain as you practice.

 

“Alas, the only known way to defy the speed-accuracy trade-off is through practice, using the only technique that the brain can bring to bear, a process known as automatization or proceduralization, in which the brain makes a transition from explicit or “declarative” knowledge, which can in principle be verbally articulated (albeit slowly), to implicit or “procedural” knowledge, which can be executed rapidly.  As knowledge becomes proceduralized, we sometimes feel as if we know something in our fingers or muscles but lose the capacity to explicitly explain what is going on.”

 

The last thoughts I’ll share (if you’re still with me) are more question than opinion.  In the teaching section Marcus concludes that the teacher is more important than the method.  I find this terrifying.  Does a method only work if the teacher is talented?  I guess that answer is fairly obvious, no method can survive a bad teacher, but if it’s not method, but teacher, is teaching teachable, or not?  How many students have bad teachers because most teachers wanted to be performers, not teachers, and what’s that doing to our kids?  If the teacher is more important than the method, would parents make the best teachers because they know their kids the best?  Marcus cites a study that kids learn best when the have success 80% of the time.  If it’s too easy or too hard they get bored or frustrated.  It seems to me as a parent you have the best chance as gauging the 80% for your child, and it surely seems that this study spells doom for classroom teaching.  How on earth could you keep each kid at 80%?  Of course the idea of teaching your own kids begs the question of how much musical ability the parent needs.  For a teacher to point out a weakness or share a more efficient fingering, the teacher must know at least a little bit more than the child.  How much more?  Suzuki uses the parents to help kids practice effectively (and regularly, which is also key for making progress) by keeping them one step ahead of their child and it works.  Do you just need to know when you’ve reached your limit?  Remembering the observation that lessons seem to be optional, and it seems that anything goes as long as the student has drive.

 

And speaking of drive, what makes someone put in the thousands and thousands of hours to learn music?  Marcus squarely refutes the Freudian idea that we make music to win girls.  Music making brings a high that is far above sexual fulfillment.  Hurray for him!  I can’t do his arguments justice here, but it was refreshing to read such a clear and scientific explanation of why Freud’s ideas are simplistic and misguided.  Marcus concludes (and I heartily agree) that the reason why we make music is a far more complex and subtle question, and it’s worth reading the book to find out.

Thanks to Monica who let me borrow the book!

Posted by harp on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Edit
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I would love to share my thoughts on this article about irony, but since both my daughter and I are sick, it is not a wise use of time.  Yet I can’t let this article go by unshared.  I’ve long been suspect of irony and its evil twin sarcasm.  Various people have tried to sway me away from my stance, but though I’ve been seduced for a while, people who love irony too much have always eventually lost credibility.

 

The Pinceton author points out one of my main problems with irony: it is a way of hiding and avoiding risk.  You cannot have relationship without risk, so if you are never forthright and instead are always or mostly ironic, you cannot cultivate deep relationships, and if you think you are, you are putting the burden of risk fully on the shoulders of the other person.  That is plain cowardly.  But I said I wouldn’t write about it.  Without further ado, here’s the article.  I must also admit there is much I don’t understand in her writing.  For one, I didn’t know what a “hipster” was, but she says much I identify with.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted by harp on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Edit
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The smell of freshly made grape nuts fills the air.  Our two-year old and two-month old who were both born at home are asleep for the night in our bed.  The baby settled down nicely after going #2 in the toilet.  Freshly planted herbs decorate our kitchen balcony and lettuce and onion are planted in the plot outside.  Our home-made yogurt is running low so tomorrow’s schedule includes a walk to the farm to pick up some raw milk.  The baby will be wrapped on my back and the toddler will walk until he gets tired at which point he can sit in our posh stroller made for two.  Walking is a good way to entertain a kid when you have no TV.  But more to the point, I made the granola that sits in our cupboard, too.

 

When did I get so “granola?”  A friend recently asked me who influenced me the most to make the decisions I have.  I had a hard time answering.  In high school, and maybe even college, I still thought granola was just a breakfast cereal.  Strangely, I don’t identify much with anything that looks like a movement.  I’ve always gotten a bit of a thrill out of doing things differently, though I did realize already in elementary school if you always do the opposite of what’s in fashion you are just as much a slave of fashion as its followers.  Still, I have to admit I get a buzz from shocked expressions.  That bit of pride in being different helps me get through the lonely existence of being different.  Fortunately, the are so many more things that I have in common with most everyone that it doesn’t matter too much that I do things so differently in a few areas.  I’ve learned not to talk so much about where I’m different and just let it come out when it happens naturally in the course of life.  It helps that I can’t sound intelligent when I try to explain myself anyway because I have to do it in German.  Living in a foreign country is quick way to get some home-grown humility.

 

I’m not sure where I’m going with this post.  I plead mommy-brain.  In the end, I answered my friend thus: my mom, my sister.  Their ideas and their beliefs resonated with me.  I think I make my decisions on my own, but really, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I’m not sure how I got here, and I’m not sure where I’m going.  I’m just trying to be the best wife, the best mother, and the best child of our Heavenly Father that I can be.  I’m always thinking of ways I can do better.  I have all my life.  I’ve changed a lot for the better, but God can always be counted on to bring me back down on my knees as I face how impossible it is to lift oneself up by the boot straps.  The times I’m flat on my face aren’t exactly enjoyable, but I somehow treasure the dance of working hard to do better, making great progress but always coming face-to-face sooner or later with my complete inadequacy to do it myself.  Falling isn’t fun, but it makes God’s grace and provision all the sweeter.  The one who’s run a marathon enjoys water and rest more than the rest of us.  I strive, I fall, I’m lifted up.  My strivings cease and I rest in God.  My worth comes not from what I do or who thinks I’m swell or a swine, but from Jesus, who covers me in worth because He is so full of worth.  The moment is sweet, but then the next day comes with all its chores and challenges.  We’re not meant just for rest.  We must carry on with our work, and with our striving.  I used to think this periodic rhythm was wrong - that I should somehow perpetually be in a state of rest in God without struggling on my own two feet, but now I’m not sure.  Is it possible that such give and take is necessary for our growth in this life on earth?

 

This mommy-brain musing must end.   I need to go join those two angels in our bed.  God bless you all in your own dances of work and rest.

Posted by harp on Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Edit
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‘Way back in September I gave an incomplete review of Mortimer Adler’s “How to Read a Book” and said that last point would have to wait.  It’s a topic rather dear to my heart, so I find it hard to find the right words to express it.  I've worked on this part on and off for a while and I’m not in a position right now to do it real justice, so I’ll just have to settle on some quotes and comments.  Sorry to disappoint those who wanted more, but if I don’t get something in before the baby comes it won’t happen at all!

 (More)

Posted by harp on Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Edit
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There are many thoughts flying about my head, but Joseph’s nap won’t last forever and there are more important things to do, like prepare ourselves to welcome the Savior of the world.

But Stephan’s 7-takes lead me to an article which I think is as important as it is horrifying: Mother’s who decide not to be mothers anymore.  Full-time mothering is tough no matter what outside commitments you have.  It’s difficult to express all that goes into it being a very demanding and stressful job, especially when it’s much better to focus on all the joys it brings.  Yet I think it’s dangerous to underplay the difficulties to women who are not yet mothers.  They need to count the cost.  Examples of women who found it to be too much to give up their careers and so much time and energy can be a good way to hit home the sobering truth of just how tough a job it is without having to whine all the time trying to express it.  It can also be an encouragement and warning to current mothers: don’t take on more than you can handle outside the home.  Your work inside is of infinite importance and is not “nothing” but requires an incredible amount of energy and strength – even if people around you don’t ever “get it.”

Posted by harp on Saturday, December 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Edit
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I’m still slowly making my way through “The Habit of Being” (the letters of Flannery O’Connor) and since I won’t be reading it again I thought I’d record some of the gems I find here

 

“I don’t like to criticize the work of people who are strangers to me.  You never know when something you may say might make them go jump in the lake.  I don’t mean I go around saying things that make people jump in the lake, but you might just step on a deep wound or something.” (page 396)

 

Posted by harp on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Edit
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I've long been wanting to write about joy and how husbands can encourage or distroy it in their wives and to thank my husband for all the emotional work he's put into understaning me (though it took us both many months (years?) of work!).  My sister wrote a post on joy that I decided to comment on rather than write my own post.  If you're interested you can read it all here.

Posted by harp on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Edit
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I recently mentioned that Dr. James Schall failed in only one book recommendation so far, but that is not wholly true.  I run into a few jems while reading “The Habit of Being” (the letters of Flannery O’Connor) which is why it is still my bathroom reading.  I came across a quote I’d like to share because I identify with it, but I’m sharing it mostly because I know my mother will identify with it even more than I do.  It’s worth mentioning as an aside the lost art of letter writing.  The book is nearly 600 pages long and not nearly all her letters were published.  The lady she is writing to here is a dear friend she met through the mail and hardly ever got to see in person, and yet they shared at the deepest level.  Sometimes I yearn for the days before Facebook, email and cell phones!  “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink” comes to mind.  But on to the quote:

“After the interview with the Time man I am very much aware of how hard you have to try to escape labels.  He wanted me to characterize myself so he would have something to write down.  Are you a southern writer? What kind of Catholic are you? etc.  I asked him what kinds of Catholics there were.  Liberal or conservative, says he.  All I did for an hour was stammer and stutter and all night I was awake answering his questions with the necessary qualifications and reservations.   Not only will I look like Bishop [the idiot child in her novel “The Violent Bear it Away” and a reference to the photos the Time photographer took] but will sound like him if he could talk.”

Posted by harp on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Edit
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The other day I was walking back home after taking Joseph for a swim when I saw a garbage man sweeping up spilled garbage with a broom and dustpan.  I’m always seeing Swiss state employees cleaning up the messes people leave around and it’s made me re-think the idea that the Swiss are clean.  Are they any cleanlier than other folks or do they just pay for people to pick up the mess?  Probably they feed on each other, as folks are less likely to trash a place that’s clean than one that’s already messy.  But for whatever the reason, I appreciate Swiss cleanliness, especially now that I have a child who wants to explore everything on the ground.  Thinking of all this in the time it took me to reach the man cleaning up the mess I decided to thank him.  He looked up from his work startled and speechless but recovered just in time to say “bitte” before I was out of ear shot.  His look said to me “Why are you thanking me?  I’m just doing my job, lady.”  Well, in some countries, a garbage man’s job description doesn’t include cleaning up after irresponsible citizens who can’t pack garbage properly.  He might never have imagined that garbage men around the world are any different from him.  Why would he unless he’d spent significant time in another place or talking with foreigners?  I appreciated his graciousness despite my odd and unnecessary thanks.  It occurred to me that musicians have to learn this graciousness from an early age.  We’re thanked for doing our job much more than the average garbage man and our natural reaction is something like “We’re just doing our job and that comment shows you know nothing about it.”  Mom taught me that that’s not nice.  We have to learn to say “thank you” and be content knowing that doing our job brightened someone’s day.  That’s a compliment anyone should be happy to receive.

Posted by harp on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Edit
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. . . is another smashing hit for Dr. James Schall, author of “Another Sort of Learning: Selected Contrary Essays on How Finally to Acquire an Education While Still in College or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advice about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to Be Found.

I’ve picked a number of books from his list and only one has disappointed me (but I’m still reading it – it’s been in the bathroom nearly two years and is several inches thick).  All the others have been challenging, refreshing, and well worth the read.  I was nervous about “How to Read a Book” since it sounds a bit boring and even my mother couldn’t get through it, but I have achieved a childhood dream: I’ve completed and even appreciated a book that my neither my mother, nor my sister, nor my father had ever read.  I remember trying to read “Little Women” once because nobody else had read it and it look like a big, adult thing to read.  I didn’t last a few pages, but with How to Read a Book I was riveted nearly from the start enough to find the time even as a young mother to read it in about a month.

This review, however, is longer in coming because I don’t know how to do it well.  I’ll take the cop out and say I won’t try.  I’ve mentioned on Stephan’s blog how it gave me permission to intelligently skim through books that I suspected weren’t worth the time it would take to read them thoroughly.  Adler’s commendation to “read well, not widely” gives me permission to pick a few good books, keep them around, and know them well rather than worry about covering all that’s out there – an especially difficult task when I don’t live in an English speaking country and have limited access to English books.  I’m a slow reader and various attempts to learn to speed read have all failed, but Adler points out that every part of every written document requires more or less speed.  There is no one right speed.  Some things require a very slow reading or you do it an injustice – like the Bible.  Others require a fast reading or you’re wasting your time.  Even within the same book some parts need a more careful reading than others.

I keep using the phrase “gave me permission” as an attempt to express that these are things I’ve felt for a long time but haven’t been able to express or consider valid.  Adler encouraged and challenged me, and I’m excited to dive into a good book.  He has a book list as well, so between Schall and Adler I think I’ll be set for a good while.

I’ll leave you with a few quotes – less than I’ve marked, but time is limited.

First, a few that made me think of specific people:

“Ordinary conversations between persons who confront each other are good only when they are carried on civilly.  We are not thinking merely of the civilities according to conventions of social politeness.  Such conventions are not really important. [thought Jon would like that]  What is important is that there is an intellectual etiquette to be observed.  Without it, conversation is bickering rather than profitable.” p137-8

“Teachability is often confused with subservience.  A person is wrongly thought to be teachable if he is passive and pliable.  On the contrary, teachability is an extremely active virtue.  No one is really teachable who does not freely exercise his power of independent judgment. . . The most teachable reader is, therefore, the most critical.”  p140 That’s for all my teachers (especially my mom) who had to put up with my contrariness.  I’m aware I’m not the easiest student to teach, but I dare to plead this as my excuse.

“There is no more irritating fellow than the one who tried to settle an argument about communism, or justice, or freedom, by quoting from the dictionary.  Lexicographers may be respected as authorities on word usage, but they are not the ultimate founts of wisdom.”  That’s for YKW. p.180

For parents, especially homeschoolers: “Children ask magnificent questions.  ‘Why are people?’ ‘What makes the cat tick?’  ‘What’s the world’s first name?’  ‘Did God have a reason for creating the earth?’ Out of the mouths of babes comes, if not wisdom, at least the search for it.  Philosophy, according to Aristotle, begins in wonder.  It certainly begins in children, even if for most of us it stops there, too.  . . . the questions philosophers ask are simply more important than the questions asked by anyone else.  Except children.” p270+291

And now, for a topic dear to my heart.  I’ve long wondered why some conversations work and others don’t.  Why? Where did it go wrong?  What could I have done differently?  Why do some people understand me so well and others never seem to?  How can I better make people feel understood and not attacked?  (An accusation I’ve born with sadness all my life.)  How do you tell people you love that they’ve hurt you without hurting them?  Why can’t people in American talk about politics without yelling but people in Europe do it all the time?  The list could go on and on.  Adler has a section about agreeing or disagreeing with the author of the book you’re reading, but it could easily be an introduction on how to have a good conversation.  At least my from my point of view.  I’m quite convinced that there are a good number of people out there who would find other points more important.  If you care about the topic, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  But alas, it is time for bed, and I’ll have to make a separate post for it.  I’m not at all sure if anyone will be holding his breath . . .

There's one more part of the book I'd like to bring out, but it's time for bed so it will have to wait for another post.

Part II is now availible.

Posted by harp on Monday, September 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Edit
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I’ve been making more of a point to read recently, and “The Plug-In Drug” happened to be the book of choice.  I found it an encouragement to keep on limiting my computer time and focus on getting “real” things done.  I know computer work is real work too, but it tends to suck and suck and suck and give diminishing returns on investment and I hate that feeling.  Of course the book is mostly talking about TV, but author Maire Winn says the same goes for all electronic media.  She has many insightful things to say, but is not bashing people with TV’s or people who like the time they spend with electronic media.  In her conclusion she writes

“Television’s attraction is so powerful precisely because it gratifies the passive side of human nature that everyone is endowed with in differing degrees.  Thus an important step toward a more satisfying family life is to become aware of this passive pull, to assess its power, and to consciously struggle against it.  For most parents this requires a true dedication to the family over all personal pursuits, and a firm resolve to make their children’s childhood a rich and distinctive experience, one that will serve as a resource for the rest of their lives.” (Page 298)

Covey would call the passive pull our draw to “quadrant IV” activities: those that are not important and not urgent, but we often find ourselves there because we’re exhausted and need a break.

I see in much of her urging more support for my desire to homeschool.  That is how I envision making our “children’s childhood a rich and distinctive experience.”  This is probably the furthest thing from Winn’s mind, but that’s the power of books and ideas.  You never know where people will take them.

One such implicit endorsement for homeschooling occurs when she describes the importance of free-time in a child’s life.

 (More)

Posted by harp on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 10:40 am | Edit
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Category Philosophical Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

My attempt to imbed a video:

Video Link

In this TED talk by behavior economist Daniel Kahneman there is a fair bit of psychological talk that I’m not sure I get, but his discussion of the difference in happiness of our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” gave me some insight into what to expect from childbirth.  An example of how these two selves see happiness differently, he tells a story of a man who listened to 20 minutes of glorious music only to have a horrible sound come at the very end, which he claims ruined the whole experience.  Of course it had no influence on the 20 minutes of enjoying his experiencing self had had, but all he was left with was his memory, so his remembering self could only look on the experience as a bad one.  The fact that the end experience influences greatly the view of the whole experience given by the remembering self lead me to the conclusion that I cannot use any descriptions given by mothers to prepare myself for what childbirth will be like as I actually experience it.  I fully intend to forget all the pain and remember the most beautiful moment in the world when my tiny baby is placed in my arms, and maybe living that future memory in my head during labor will decrease the discomfort (a lovely word often used to describe labor pains) for my experiencing self, but it’s unclear how much this knowledge can change the happiness of the two selves.

As for earning money, at the end of the video Kahneman shares a statistic that shows that the less one earns per year the more unhappy the experiencing self is.  The catch is that once income reaches $60,000 (for an American) the line is flat: there is no increase in experiential happiness.  It’s all in the head: the happiness of the remembering self still continues to increases with increasing income.  So I say get your satisfaction with your life from other sources and you’ve saved yourself years of work at the office.  Use the extra time to make a load of memorable experiences and the happiness of the remembering self (the one we mostly live out of and base or view of ourselves and our lives on) will be better than a millionaire! 
 

Posted by harp on Monday, March 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Edit
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Here lies, extinguished in his prime,

a victim of modernity:

but yesterday he hadn't time---

and now he has eternity.

 

-Piet Hein, poet and
scientist (1905-1996)

Posted by harp on Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 9:48 am | Edit
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I know I should be getting ready for my folks - they come in 12 hours - wahoo!!  I saw this statement praised, but it scares me.  It doesn't sound like Biblical wisdom either.  I'm for creative imagination and brilliance, but it needs to be tempered by wisdom.  It does not equal wisdom.  Can you think of any leaders who were creative and brilliant and did a lot of damage?  I think that's important for a presedential candidate to understand.

 "[C]reative imagination . . . coupled with brilliance, equals wisdom."

Posted by harp on Friday, February 1, 2008 at 10:58 pm | Edit
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