Childhood Lessons

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My wife and I have great conversations after sex. The intimacy of sex makes one feel less vulnerable and more in touch with the core personality.

I also can’t think of a more exciting and satisfying way to spend my time, but that’s beside the point.

I don’t remember how we got on the subject, but I flashed back to my early childhood. My childhood was divided into two distinct eras. The years up to age eight were good years when I felt secure and had few obstacles in the way of my development. The years from eight to early teens were very bad years of domestic violence, financial insecurity and continuous embarrassment.

I’ll go to the dark place someday, but in talking to my wife about early childhood, I discovered that the things I learned in those years gave me the strength and wisdom to survive the bad years.

When I was about four or five years old, I had two best friends and a crush on a little girl. My two best friends were twins named Peter and Paul. They were alike in every way except for one important difference. Paul was born blind.

I remember my mother explaining to me that Paul couldn’t see things and I would have to help him when we played together. I don’t know if I was capable of empathy, but what my mother said made perfect sense to me. If someone has a problem, you help them out.

I helped Paul by pulling him around in my wagon, letting him spend more time feeling the toys before we started playing with them and holding his hand when playing games that required running. I never thought of him as a person with a disability, just as a kid who needed a little help.

A year later I entered kindergarten. I know I made friends there, but the only person who mattered to me was Sandy.

Sandy was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, with beautiful blonde curls, a peachy complexion and sparkling blue eyes. She had a wonderful smile and liked to laugh a lot.

Sandy was also confined to a wheelchair.

I spent all my play time with Sandy. I don’t remember what we played, but we were inseparable, and for some reason I developed an intense pride for her. I had probably seen enough TV to know about relationships between the sexes and how important it was to men that they had a beautiful wife. There I was, only five years old, and I had already found my dream girl. I had ended one of life’s early quests at an extremely young age.

The school had a Christmas party where all the parents and children came together for an evening to celebrate the season. I looked forward to that night with great anticipation because I wanted my parents to see my beautiful girlfriend. Sandy did not disappoint, as she wore a little red velvet dress with a bright red bow in her curls that made her more beautiful than ever. I beamed with pride as the two sets of parents watched us together and smiled with what I took to be tentative consent for us to marry someday.

We moved to a different town later that year and I never saw Sandy again. We stayed in touch with Peter and Paul for a little while, but my father was entering his period of instability and there was some kind of falling out between the adults.

My friendships with Paul and Sandy shaped my personality in ways I did not understand at the time. To say that they helped me develop compassion and empathy is not accurate, because I didn’t see them as people in need of compassion and empathy. Paul was a guy who needed some help with a few things. Sandy was simply a beautiful girl who couldn’t walk. I never attached a stigma to either disability, so it never occurred to me to feel sorry for them because they couldn’t do certain things I could do. I helped them, sure, but they helped me by being my friends.

How those relationships helped me survive the bad times is more important. In early childhood, you are intensely curious about how the world works. Once you think you understand it, that understanding becomes a core part of your belief system as to how the world should work.

So, because I believed that the world was a place where people help each other out, I was able to interpret the act of people hurting each other as a temporary aberration, a deviation from the norm. I didn’t need any religious training to tell me that hurting people was wrong, for if helping people was the way of the world, hurting people had to be wrong. The person doing the hurting needed help so they wouldn’t hurt people any more.

Readers may consider that a naive and unrealistic belief in a world full of violence, but I don’t want to change it. I like a world where helping people is simply what we do.

 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Classic Music Review: Woodstock

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Robert Morrow:

A tour de force covering the concert, the social history and the myths that drove Woodstock.

Originally posted on altrockchick:

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I suggest you beg your Baby Boomer parents not to leave you this in the will.

Disclosing My Biases

Look. I’m a city girl. I have spent most of my life living in cities. I spent four years in an L. A. burb while going to college and it felt like I was marooned on a desert island. Except for a few days last year on the Canary Islands, all my vacations during my adult years have centered around big cities. I love the noise, the smells, the sounds, the people, the nightlife, the culture, the food, the crowding, the energy of the metropolis. I like opening my door in the morning and feeling I’m right there in the center of it all. If I get the rare urge to do nature, I’ll take a walk in a manicured city park, head for the baseball stadium (most have grass and dirt…

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Edward Snowden: Hero without a Cause

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My wife and I recently watched the PBS documentary, The United States of Secrets, which describes the unlimited power the National Security Agency received after 9/11 and the eventual exposure of the abuse of that power through one Edward Snowden.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with Snowden at first, assuming he was a publicity-seeking missile like most Americans. I waited for news of his book-and-movie deal to confirm my suspicions.

Instead, he made his exile official, and while he still gives interviews to the Western press, he’s not getting any richer and he still has to live in the massively dysfunctional world of Vladimir Putin.

The only response from the United States government is that Snowden is a traitor and that he should come home, do the right thing and stand trial for his crimes. I don’t know of any idiot on earth that would accept that invitation. The guy is obviously guilty until proven innocent, and he would never be found innocent in the paranoid environment of the United States.

I am now inclined to believe that Snowden acted out of principle. He is a person who “saw wrong and tried to right it.” The American government clearly overstepped boundaries by invading the privacy of millions of its citizens and deserved to be exposed for their gross indignities.

The irony of the situation is that most Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about their privacy. The majority would love to see their privacy invaded. They’d love to see their nude pictures go viral. They’d love to see their absurd family squabbles get the attention of television producers and become the subject of a reality TV show. They’d love to see their talented little girl get some press so they could exploit the crap out of her and waste all their riches on drugs, mansions and trips to Las Vegas.

Edward Snowden is not a traitor but a hero . . . and in the madness of a culture ready to implode from sanctioned narcissism, his efforts were wasted on a people who didn’t deserve him.

 

 

Imagine . . . No Countries

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world soccer ballI’ve been watching the World Cup, and though all the commentators and FIFA’s marketing machine describe it as one of the best tournaments ever, I find the experience rather uncomfortable.

I love soccer, and my discomfort has nothing to do with the quality of play or sympathetic support for those in Brazil protesting the Cup as a wasteful extravagance in a country with high levels of poverty (though I entirely agree with them).

The problem I have with the World Cup is the same problem I have with the Olympics, and I haven’t watched the Olympics in twenty-odd years.

The teams are organized by country. Organizing the tournament by nation-states encourages feelings of patriotism, and patriotism is an antiquated, corrosive force that reinforces the us-against-them mindset at the core of nearly every human problem you can name. Instead of taking advantage of a golden opportunity to advance human cooperation, FIFA follows an old, tired blueprint that validates human division.

Competition between athletes is fun. Competition between countries is destructive, whether the field of competition is athletic, economic or political.

A better way to organize the World Cup is to form teams drafted from the total pool of qualified athletes with the rule that each team can have no more than one player from a specific country. The alliances formed would be temporary alliances for the sole purpose of athletic competition. To win the Cup, though, these athletes from different corners of the world would by necessity have to develop cross-cultural collaboration skills. The team that won the Cup would be admired for their ability to overcome communication and language barriers to achieve a shared goal.

That’s a much better example for both children and adults to follow than encouraging people to shout, “We’re Number One” and extend the false belief in the superiority-inferiority dynamic that has dominated world affairs for centuries.