Monday, December 28, 2009

"You mean, right now?"

Past and future are in the mind only - I am now. ~Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
(via Lori Moreno)

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life. ~Eckhart Tolle
(via Lori Moreno)

Someone once asked Yogi Berra what time it was. "You mean right now?" he answered. (Source unknown)


I was with a school friend and neither of us had seen the other in more than 20 years. I could see changes in both of us - he not so rough-edged, I a little more relaxed. ("After changes upon changes we are more or less the same." Paul Simon, The Boxer.) I don't know what he thought and maybe I won't know. But what impressed me was how gentle and engaged he and his wife were with their son, how relaxed they seemed with him, how much they loved and enjoyed him and yet how clear they were with him on what was appropriate. I contrasted that to my own behavior when my kids were young and how rigid and angry and fearful I was so much of the time. That was the way I was then, that was my makeup.

I didn't feel a great need to reminisce with my friend. I remember those days and how much time I spent at his house and imposed on his hospitality, mostly because I didn't know how to drive a car and didn't make decisions but waited for him to do so. However, today, I was interested in what his life is like now, for instance that he writes for several English-language publications in Japan, that it takes sometimes fifteen hours to fly from Tokyo to here for the three of them, that he plays in a rock band for fun. And at one moment it struck me how little time I may be in another's presence, that at other times I think of the other in my head or look at a picture and that actually being in the other's presence, the living, breathing man sitting next to me and talking with me, what a rarity in life that is, and how true that is with others I know and my encounters with them. Presence is fleeting but how powerful it is when we experience each other's breath and being.

I don't know when I'll see my friend again, but I can write him and maybe visit him, check in on his parents. We don't owe each other anything, but I can be generous and maybe we will have something, another now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

thoughts

"Don't project negativity into the future" - unknown

"I don't need to compare my inside to someone else's outside" - unknown

"Talk about the future, now we put the past away." - Elvis Costello

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery, today is a gift. That's why they call it the present." - unknown

See on FB: "Don't be so humble. You're not that great." - Golda Meir

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Change

I'm not taking this personally, and I've been treated with respect throughout the process. My job, Librarian in the Rowland Institute at Harvard, is ending. The library is closing, and I do not know whether Rowland will keep the books and journals, but for new information sources the scientists will be on their own (maugre the fact that they have access to possibly the richest electronic collections in the world.)

I have no argument with the decision, given the Institute's financial constraints, while I am mindful of a conversation with friend where I was complaining about work. "Is your name on the sign outside?" he asked. "No." I replied. "Then you have no say," he told me.

I've been at Rowland for just under twelve years, my first professional job following library school. It's a one of a kind institution, conceived as a scientific "Noah's ark" by Edwin H Land after he left Polaroid. At that time, the scientists had free reign to do basic research and try experiments that might not have been funded or possible elsewhere. After the merger with Harvard in 2002, the focus shifted, and the Junior Fellows program was created, giving newly-minted PhDs five years to set up a lab and run experiments with full institute support.


When I got to Rowland, I knew something about science libraries and database searching, but I really didn't know beans about science. At my college, there was "Middle Path, " and on the left side were the humanities departments and on the right side the sciences. With few exceptions, I stayed on the left side. Marshall Frady quotes a story told by Jesse Jackson, that when Jesse was young he got bad grades in French, and his mother admonished him to learn French. When Jesse travelled to Africa, to his dismay, most of the people he met with were speaking French. It was sort of like that for me my first days at Rowland.

But direct contact with the scientists, in the library, at lunch, in the halls of the building, gradually educated me. I learned about their experiments, what they published, what they read, and began to deliver a constant stream of related information to them that I discovered through browsing journals, new sites, email alerts, catalogs and eventually rss feeds and social networks.

I was able to buy whatever books or journals the scientists wanted, and organize database and electronic journal access for the Institute. When we merged with Harvard, the scientists now had access to Harvard Libraries' volumnious resources, and the library budget and subscriptions decreased. Having access to so much information made my job easier, but I received fewer requests and fewer people came to the library.

I'm not a developer or an engineer, but rather a consumer of technology. When blogs and social networks became commonplace, I adopted these tools first as information sources and second as a way of marketing the library and making connections with like-(or even different-)minded people for potentially mutual benefit.

My friend Bill Mayer, librarian of American University, visited me in September, and said "you could do great things with this space." In many ways, I missed opportunities and didn't take full advantage of the freedoms and resources at Rowland. However, I was focused on my patrons, any bit of information that might help them, and I didn't wait for them to come to me. What I've done at Rowland, getting an intimate and detailed knowledge of my patrons' work, can be replicated throughout Harvard and anywhere else, I know.

So what lies ahead? A period of uncertainty (life is uncertain), an opportunity to figure out what I want to do next, and, I've been told, some work for me at the Harvard College Library. No guarantees, but a chance.

I'm a lucky man. What a beautiful building and what great people I've worked with, and the science, especially by the fellows, has been nothing short of extraordinary. Nothing like it in the world, that I know of.

Life on life's terms.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hope

"You gotta give 'em hope!" - Harvey Milk

"How do you hope for people who have no hope?" - Eugen Kullmann

"hope not being hope / until all ground for hope has / vanished" - Marianne Moore, "The Hero"

Monday, August 31, 2009

Blog Day

I read on Twitter that this is International Blog Day, or something of that nature. Maybe I got the date wrong.

But I don't read too many blogs these days. I'm mostly reading Twitter.

I really enjoy this Twitter feed. One of my favorite posts: "You know, sometimes it's nice having you around. But now ain't one of those times. Now gimmie the remote we're not watching this bullshit."

The guy who tweets this stuff seems to be enjoying himself too.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

writing

I have no stamina for writing. I stop as soon as a thought is half-formed. Once I only saw in other people's success my own failure. But I don't feel the need to compare myself to someone today. A certain degree of acceptance goes a long way. I was the way I was, I am the way I am, though I believe I can change. It's a practice, like many in my life (prayer, meditation, yogurt.)

"I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't
you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write"
— W.S. Merwin

Update (8/27/09): Guess I need this.

Road rage

I spend a lot of time in the car: travelling to work, schlepping kids, running errands (errants). I used to accelerate and then brake really hard. I'd get upset at someone making a difficult turn in front of me or when traffic wouldn't move at the pace I expected. Today it's different, and I'm not sure what happened. I leave more time to travel and get somewhere even a little early. I drive in the right lane unless I'm going to pass. What used to really frost me was when I would let someone in or let someone cross in front of me and they would not acknowledge me. "You're welcome, bitch," I'd say out of earshot. Today I realize that nobody owes me anything and that I needn't expect acknowledgement or recognition. Just let the other person go, make room, anticipate crosswalks or other cars entering traffic. And slow down, relax and try to be conscious- of my breath, of what I see and hear, what's around me.

Happy where I am

Tick Happy Where He Is.

Me too (though I don't suck blood or excrete spirochetes.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blocked from following

I tried to re-follow someone on Twitter and found out that I had been blocked at the user's request. Maybe it's because I sent a creepy direct message "I like your new picture." I'd sent this person a lot of medical links which I supposed were of interest. Maybe I was a creep, and I sent an apologetic e-mail and that will probably be that. It's not personal if someone doesn't follow me or drops me on Facebook. It's the other person's decision. I've found Facebook good for reconnecting with folks from my past, but beyond that, it's not much. Oh sure, I follow what they're posting, but can scarcely have a conversation with any. It is what it is. If somebody doesn't call me or return my call or e-mail, I call somebody else. "the only way to have a friend is to be one."

Update (8/21/09): Got some spam from a Twitter person. Maybe someone hijacked his account, and maybe someone hijacked mine. I won't know.

Update 2 (8/21/09): "What someone else thinks of me is none of my business."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

good essay

Lisa pointed me to an excellent essay written by Laura A. Munson in the New York Times. Her husband tells her he's going to leave her, and she shows great fortitude realizing that it's not about her, it's about him. She writes: "Although it may sound ridiculous to say “Don’t take it personally” when your husband tells you he no longer loves you, sometimes that’s exactly what you have to do." She keeps the family together in spite of her husband. And that's a thing I've not been able to learn throughout my life, that it usually isn't about me and that I'm not responsible for someone else's feelings, or that I can't make someone feel a certain way. Happiness comes from within, Munson tells us, and relationships may enhance life but they are not the end of it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"to speak of woe that is in marriage"

There's been a lot of material posted on marriage lately, from Sandra Tsing-Lo's "Let's call the whole thing off" to Caitlin Flanagan's "Is There Hope for the American Marriage?", not to mention Meghan O'Rourke's "Crazy in Love", a review of Cristina Naering's A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-first Century. Flanagan argues that the traditional marriage is best for children's well-being and quotes a number of scholars who purport to show this. The data may indicate such, but Flanagan does not demonstrate exactly how. (See her earlier piece "The Wifely Duty" for an exploration of the sexless marriage populated by two career professionals who just don't have the energy for sex after a twelve-hour work day and absorption in their children. Also see "Put your marriage before your kids" by David Code, Episcopal minister and life coach.) Tsing-Lo, on the other hand, questions whether a lifelong commitment is somewhat quaint in today's times; "Sure, it made sense to agrarian families before 1900, when to farm the land, one needed two spouses, grandparents, and a raft of children. But now that we have white-collar work and washing machines, and our life expectancy has shot from 47 to 77, isn’t the idea of lifelong marriage obsolete?"

Well, is it? I don't know. I don't have the answers for countless couples. From my two experiences of it, it is "work" (an expression for which Tsing-Lo expresses humorous distaste.) I get criticized. I make mistakes. I do selfish things. I sit and smoke instead of doing the laundry. My wife doesn't often initiate sex, and recently revealed that my girth made it difficult for her. Also, she's tired, and the fact that I willfully refuse to wear my CPAP mask makes her more tired and less interested in sex. I don't think we have the emotional distance that was characteristic of my first marriage (and not uncommon to many couples, as Code discusses in "How emotional distance ruins marriage." There's lots of emotion; my wife is expressive and out-there. I wouldn't say her rejoinders "break like the Atlantic ocean on my head." I try not to take it personally. I have my own baggage, quirks, failings. There's an anti-social streak in me that's gotta make a joke, no matter how inappropriate. Code advises: "Recognize that we've already chosen the perfect spouse. Instead of a No, we would NOT choose better next time." And further, Code elucidates: "As long as you believe your life is your spouse's fault, a new partner will always seem attractive. But once you begin to see your role in the ongoing, lifelong problems of your marriage, you'll recognize that if you started over with a new partner tomorrow, you'd still be carrying all your personal baggage into that relationship." I identify with that; I've followed the same patterns of behavior in both marriages. I'm passive and I don't take the initiative. I'm not a stand-up guy; I'm a lay-around guy.

I'm grateful for the skills Cassie possesses; throwing a party, organizing an outing or a vacation; making a beautiful home; getting shit done; getting people to do shit; her powers of observation. I am leery of her desire to control. So maybe I react passive-aggressively by not doing what she wants. It's complicated. We tried to blend families, but it didn't work, due in large part to my unavailability. So I tell myself there's always more work, even as I try and grab a bit of rest.



Update (7/9/09): Salon's critique of Caitlin Flanagan's Time piece.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Intro

Quit Taking It Personally (QTIP) is a concept used in different modalities of therapy. I chose it as the title for my musings because whatever it is, it usually isn't about me. I cannot comprehend another life - the thoughts, the paths taken to get to this moment (imagine trying to map them, and yet it's still the same person), the chemical and biochemical processes ... I don't know what's going on in your head unless you tell me, and even then it's a fraction of what's there, what's driving you and me, what we want, how we act. From Cid Corman: "The hatred the bum greeted me with in passing /brought tears to my eyes/ now, years later/I see I met a friend." I may remain offended and the other has forgotten. From another point of view, see: this story.