life continues to go extraordinarily well


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Daughter Sarah texted me telling me she was sorry to hear that my work was  a bit trying last week. I should clarify that my life is going extraordinarily well these days.

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I am feeling copacetic.

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After an excellent vacation, I am trying to continue to stay in a good place.

Part of doing this is examining my own work habits and maybe more important my a continual examination of my own emotional habits. I have been giving a lot of thought to the ideas of Daniel Siegel. I’m trying to finish his book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human. In addition, I have listened to a couple of videos he has on YouTube. I plan on asking my therapist just exactly how he came to know about Siegel.

When I told him I was reading one of Siegel’s books, he said he hadn’t read any of them. I had the impression that he had either watched him online or probably more likely went to a workshop he gave.

I want to stay in a good place but I also want to grow. Self understanding is a high value for me at this time in my life. Siegel and my therapist help me understand myself better.

Last week was a learning experience for me and I am still processing it and thinking about how to handle myself at church this year.

My books came in the mail from the D. C. bookshop, Politics and Prose. In the meantime I am re-reading both Pale Fire by Nabokov and Song of Solomon by Morrison. The second read in each case is proving very rewarding.

The simple bottom line is that I would like to spend more of my time reading and thinking. Since I only have so much time, I am looking for ways to do my job efficiently and with less effort so I can more time for reading and thinking.

It also helps that I have been exercising daily since May 1 of this year. Yesterday, Eileen had an Alto breakfast, so I had to go the Farmers Market by myself. Then, I decided I needed to go in person to Meijer to pick up a prescription. While I was there I went ahead and picked up everything on our list (on a Saturday!!). Then, after lunch with Eileen I went to church to prep for this morning.

It was interesting that I didn’t feel run down by all this activity. I think I may have a bit more energy probably directly connected with exercising.

Getting back to the Siegel ideas, something that I am finding intriguing is the value he gives to sending positive thoughts toward the people you care about (and others). I went through his Wheel of Awareness the other day while doing my daily running (link to the video I listened to on Youtube). This is kind of a bogus way to do it, but I was curious just what it was. I put on this video and it turned out to be Siegel taking a group through the exercise, so I just went along as best I could while running in place.

It’s really just a systematic exercising of focusing one’s attention  and awareness on 1. your senses, 2. your body, 3. your thinking process and awareness, and 4. others. In the relational section 4, Siegel asks you to send thoughts of kindness and love to people. It’s kind of new agey but it got me thinking.

He is big into quantum physics. You know the drill. There is a theory that the act of observation determines whether a phenomenon exists as a wave or a particle.

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So there exists the possibility that focusing our attention can change physical phenomena. Link this idea to the concept that mind exists between us as much as it is localized in one body. In this linked video, Siegel talks about mind and teaching children the concepts of naming their emotions and then learning self-regulation.  I think this implies some good old self-differentiation. The result is that our emotions and the way we regulate them exists in a real way and have a physical effect on ourselves, those we are in contact with, and even just those we think about.

This starts to remind me of the idea of prayer. Weird, huh?

Anyway, it has me reassessing my self now and how I have behaved in my life.

I know I’m not expressing this stuff clearly, but it’s just something I’m working on. Siegel’s area is called interpersonal neurobiology. I’m fascinated and plan to learn more if I can.

Now to go read and think.

back at work, Nabokov and Morrison


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I am guardedly hopeful that I will be able to figure out a way to survive continuing to work at my job. Yesterday, our first Pastoral Staff meeting left me in a very typical state of interior mental fugue. The complexities of interaction throw me into an odd unpleasant state as I experience and process them.  I am thrown off balance as I process and contribute to conversations realizing that I am more intense than the situation may warrant.

This intensity is very much who I am and relates to my own self image as an introvert. Yesterday I was successful in not proceeding to a stage of self recrimination and then self pity at my inability to meet other people’s expectations no matter how much I disagree with these expectations.

I am intent on staying as far away from my own personal trap of self pity as possible. My family has a tendency towards this and I have it in spades. But yesterday as the day wore on (and unfortunately throughout much of last night) I felt a mild sense of depression as I processed the new situation at my work of having two new staff people and a temporary commitment to weekly meetings of them, myself; Rev Jen; Mary, the parish administrator; and Rev Jim, our assistant priest.

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I think it is Jen’s intention that these meetings will take the place of our private weekly meetings for a while. I sent her an email this morning with a couple of suggestions on how these meetings might be improved. My stance is to try to be helpful but at the same time not develop ownership or frustration about things that I don’t actually care that much about. I have agreed with Jen to try to give input to her no matter how uncomfortable it is for her. This is our private understanding. Some of this was functioning in the larger group  yesterday as I found myself doing a bit of co-teaching with her and then doing some bits of challenge to everyone in the room (including Jen).

I think this is what Jen needs from me.

But I have been thinking about what I need, hence my suggestion email.

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On a happier note, I have now planned hymns and anthems through the last Sunday of November. This leaves Advent for this year. I’m hoping I can continue to chip away at prep without devouring hours of my time.

I think that Toni Morrison and Vladimir Nabokov have taught me to revisit their novels that I have recently finished. I’m also doing this with James Joyce.

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My interlibrary loaned copy of Brian Boyd’s Nabokov’s Pale Fire arrived yesterday. I continue listening to videos of information about this book and Toni Morrison. I feel that I am drawing closer to deeper understandings of these books as well as James Joyce.

I keep thinking about Scott Bradfield’s primitive approach to reading. His little metaphor of “Reading in the Bathtub” seems to mean not using notes or other books to understand the books you are reading. I can’t understand how he would ignore the idea that books and ideas are in conversation with each other. In fact, I’m not sure he does ignore it only profess that one should simply throw oneself at the text. I do admire that part.

Brian Boyd’s book on Pale Fire is an exception for Bradfield but he recommends it with mixed reviews. He (Bradfield) keeps telling people to reread the book. On this I am sure he is correct. Nabokov and Boyd have a beautiful idea about reader as co-creator. As the reader is drawn into the perplexities of Pale Fire and begins to reread creatively and ponder the problems of the narrative, the satisfaction and insight of solving problems in it are like solving a chess problem elegantly.

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This is not an idle metaphor. Boyd describes Nabokov’s love of concocting chess puzzles and quotes at length from Speak Memory. 

Here’s the passage in Nabokov’s own beautiful prose.

“It should be understood that competition in chess problems i not really between White and Black but between the composer and the hypothetical solver (just as in a first-rate work of fiction the real clash is not between the characters but between the author and the world), so that a great part of a problem’s value is due to the number of ‘tries’–delusive opening moves, false scents, specious lines of play, astutely and lovingly prepared to lead the would-be solver astray.”

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Boyd then quotes from an interview where the interviewer asked Nabokov about this passage. Nabokov insisted that he had not written “author and the world,” but had written “author and reader.” Boyd thinks that this is his true meaning.

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I buy all this. But Boyd has a bit of disdain for James Joyce along the lines of Bradfield. Both men seem to realize the beauty of Joyce’s prose (especially excluding Finnegans Wake). I am interested if I can learn about Nabokov’s attitude toward Joyce. I think that Bradfield and Boyd miss something about Joyce. Since they are academics they cannot resist rancor at what they see at Joyce’s willful obscurity. I and others I have read who love his entire opus see much more playfulness and humor in Joyce than they seem to.

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Regarding Morrison, I listened to an excellent lecture by David Carrasco this morning.  He describes visiting Mexico in Morrison’s company and her amazing visit there which included meeting Marquez and seeing Frieda Kahlo’s garden and home. I like Carrasco.

He also talks about Song of Solomon which I am still processing.