Sunday, February 19, 2012

Social Networking

Dear Diary, I finally made a meeting of the Monadnock Writers Group; first one this season. Enjoyed seeing everyone and listening to co-authors B. Eugene McCarthy and Thomas Doughton speak about their book, From Bondage to Belonging: The Worcester Slave Narratives. The Q&A sessions afterwards is always interesting too, as you get a sense of what others are thinking during the talk by the nature of the questions they ask. As always after one of these meetings, I feel the itch to get in front of my monitor with a blank word doc before me, waiting to transform it into something of my own.

Back in the car I head to Milford from Peterborough. I need to get the car washed. I have a booklet of car washes I got for Christmas. I love keeping my little car clean. I see I’m not alone with the thought of a clean car. There is a line waiting their turn. I have to make a left turn into the lot. The traffic is heavy and I can’t seem to find a break in the flow to get by. Finally, a pick-up truck flashes his lights and waves me through. As I proceed on through, an SUV behind him stamps on the accelerator and jack rabbits around, nearly colliding with me. With hearts pounding we all sit there momentarily then I move on into the lot. The driver of the pick-up is looking at me with concern and relief and patiently waits for me to get by.

I notice a number of motorcycles on the road today. It is such a nice day for February. I turn over in my mind the rest of the day’s plans and wonder if I too can fit in a ride. After my near collision while trying to make a left hand turn, I remember that this is the doom of many motorcyclists too. I have also noticed how much sand is on the roadways, another thing to be concerned with if you are riding this time of year. As I wait in line at the car wash I try to picture in my mind if the driveway was still ice covered when I left home earlier.

I stop at the market to stock up for tonight’s movie.  An old woman, bent at the waist and hanging on to her basket for dear life, asks me to reach a canned good on a top shelf. She thinks it wonderful to be tall. I smile. I don’t feel exceptionally tall, but I suppose if the average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall, then I guess 5 feet 7 inches would be considered tall.

On the way home, the car in front of me is stopping at every intersecting road to let someone out of a side street. I’m annoyed at first. This is the main drag after all, and no one usually stops to let people out at the side streets. I think of my near miss earlier, and I let my boil calm to a simmer. Then I start cracking up, laughing out loud all by myself in the car. I’m laughing because I remember a friend being in a sour mood, and me giving him some advice to feel better. I had instructed him to do a deliberate act of kindness sure to make he feel much better afterward. Well, he had to stop by Costco and decided to try this with five people. Yet, Costco was unusually empty that night, and he could not find ONE PERSON to do a random act of kindness and left in a mood fouler than when he arrived. Maybe this guy in front of me couldn’t find five people at Costco either! I patiently sit and smile to myself as we continue along, letting people into traffic, one deliberate act of kindness at a time.

I take a walk in the neighborhood along the quiet country lanes, greeting the few people I meet along the way. I rejoice at the sight of the taps in the trees heralding spring and the maple sugaring season. In the evening, we enjoy a movie at home with friends. Good wine, great conversation and a sense that all is right with the world. So ends my own version of a great social networking day.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What the Jedi Teach Us

You might all be surprised to learn that the only Star Wars movie of the trilogies that I have seen was the first release in 1977. Considering my dearest friends are geeks (and I use this in the most endearing term) it’s hard to believe. Often, one philosophy or another is referenced with an explicit mention of Star Wars, and it goes right over my head. I don’t often go to the movies or even rent them, so references to movies going over my head are not uncommon. I usually shrug it off. Yet, Lee uses Star Wars often when trying to explain something to me. When I read Stephen Covey reference it in his book The 7 Habits I started paying more attention.

As time went on Lee often had to tell part of scene to help me understand the particular philosophy he was expounding in the moment. This is time consuming, and some of the context gets lost in the translation. This is how we decided to view the movies together, and watch for particular spots where the philosophies are being exampled. Our first experiment happened last night. Our movie for the evening Star Wars II: The Attack of the Clones. Poor Deb looked bored, as I’m sure she has seen this a million times, and living with Lee must hear these referenced time and again. Andy, while understanding what we were about, was finding his analogies with WWII, Hitler and Mussolini. He began to ponder what moves people to desire total power and dictatorship over mass populations.

With all this we tried to stay focused on our mission. The movie was paused time and again as we spotted concepts of thinking we have talked about in the past or habits we are trying to recognize in ourselves and move away from. We see Anakin warned to guard against his negative thinking. We watch him blame others for his actions, and react to his emotions in the moment. He blames Obi-Wan Kenobi for holding him back, he annihilates an entire village, men, women and children in retaliation for the death of his mother; the anger seething behind his eyes. He jumps ahead in an armed confrontation with Count Dooku, against Obi-Wan’s orders, and loses his hand.

The power of the force is strong in Anakin, yet he doesn’t manage it well. He is reckless. There are moments when we see focused concentration on his powers especially when paired with Obi-Wan. It is then that we see the master’s skill at training his student. Yet once out of sight, the student disregards the lessons, and allows his powerful emotions and arrogance to rule him and misuse the power of the force within him.

We will continue with the trilogies to learn what we can from them. For now, we will watch ourselves so as not to blame others for our own actions and circumstances. When struck by powerful emotions, will not give in to the moment, but think our way through to places that serve us better. After all, when reacting in the moment, we never know what we are really sacrificing. We all need to guard against our negative thinking and to get through life with both hands intact.