fear

40 Days of Yoga, True Selves, and No Fear

I am participating in a 40-Day Yoga Journey with Kula Movement. Today marked day seven of the journey, and included our first group meet-up with all of the participants. We introduced ourselves, we chest-bumped, we partnered up with the person who will be our “buddy” for the remainder of the journey, and we set intentions.

My intention, expressed as an affirmation: I am my true self without fear.

There are certain areas of my life where I’ve been feeling beaten down and marginalized for too long. Instead of finding compassion or support, I’ve been finding the need to defend and justify the things I think and the way I feel. At first, I dealt with this by trying to behave closer to someone else’s expectations of me. But I’ve never been particularly good at that, and so gradually I found myself ceasing to care. Not ceasing to care about someone else’s expectations of me, but ceasing to care… at all. It happened gradually, and so I almost didn’t notice. But caring just became too exhausting. And that is a dangerous place to find oneself.

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ShiaLaBeouf

Shiny Things!

An occasional list of internet finds that have inspired, enlightened, delighted, or merely distracted me by being shiny and sparkly on an otherwise gray day.


Before I saw this video, I had no idea who Shia LaBeouf is (though, I do know enough French to know that that’s a silly last name). I had to look him up on Wikipedia in order to learn that he is an actor who stars in films I do not see – with the lone exception of Nymphomaniac, which I dozed through. When I confessed this fact to Josh, he replied: “Transformers?”

Really. Does that sound like the kind of movie I would watch? Pfffft.

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Reading Non-Fiction, Book Four: Man’s Search For Meaning

More than one person has held this book in front of my face and demanded that I read it. And so I did. And now I’m holding it in your face and demanding that you read it. And when you’re done, you shall demand that someone you love read it too. And forever it shall be. This is the kind of book that gets passed along, person to person to person, until we are all better for it. It is the kind of book that earns a coveted spot of honor on an overstuffed bookshelf where it can be returned to time and time again until it is dogeared and torn and its binding breaks. It is the kind of book that is discussed in conversations littered with words like “life changing” and “paradigm shifting” and “humbling.” It is both emotionally devastating and tragic, and hopeful and uplifting. It is beautiful.

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A bit of background: Viktor Frankl was an psychiatrist in Vienna at the beginning of World War II, until he and his family were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Frankl labored in four different camps (including Auschwitz) until the end of the war. His parents, brother, and pregnant wife all died at the camps. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl uses his experience in the camps as a sort of case study to illustrate his theory that man’s primary drive is not pleasure, but the pursuit of what we find meaningful. He argues that, although we can not escape suffering, we can find meaning it it – and in so doing, we are able to move forward with purpose in our lives.

A few of the bits that especially resonated with me:

“I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.”

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“We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

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“The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.”

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“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life…”

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“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation… we are challenged to change ourselves.”

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“There are two races of men in this world, but only these two – the ‘race’ of the decent man and the ‘race’ of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people.”

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“We have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.”

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“For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best. So, let us be alert–alert in a twofold sense: Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.”

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This post’s song: impossible. Seriously. How does one come up with a song to complement this book. I have no idea. So I asked my fiance, and he suggested The Mystery of Man. Not quite right, but close. And I thought of Firewood, which also isn’t quite right but has some poignant moments that seem fitting. They’ll have to do.

Firewood by Regina Spektor

The piano is not firewood yet
and nothing can stop you from dancing
everyone knows it’s going to hurt, but at least we’ll get hurt trying

The Mystery of Man by Sarah Vaughan

The miracle is the mind asking the questions
Seeking to find itself if it can
Only to see itself endlessly echoed in mirrors

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Hozier

Shiny Thing: Hozier

Normally, my “Shiny Things” posts happen on Fridays, and only if I’ve published a real post earlier in the week. But at the point you’ve gone six weeks without publishing a damn thing, there’s really no point to worrying about maintaining scheduling conventions.

So, I present to you this week’s shiny thing (on a Monday): Hozier.

Hozier

I first heard the single Take Me to Church several weeks (months?) ago. I thought it was meh. It definitely caught my attention, but it felt a little too contrived or overproduced or something. But then SxSW happened, and there were recordings of his live shows making the rounds and that’s when I discovered that his voice is just that amazing. That’s just how he sounds when he opens his mouth. Which is wow. (Yes, I’m aware that “which is wow” is not anything close to a complete sentence, but that’s what is is: Wow.)

Most of his songs are a little more stripped down than Take Me to Church. If I were to try to stick him in a box, it would be one labeled “Irish singer-songwriter with a heavy blues influence.” He does melancholy the way only the Irish can, like writing a love song that includes a dead body crawling back to its love. So, a zombie love song of sorts. But a lovely zombie love song, called Work Song:

And then there’s Someone New, which I find somewhat reminiscent of Van Morrison (always a good thing), and which has been stuck in my head for days without becoming the least bit annoying:

And you can check out Hozier’s entire KCRW live set (which I tried to embed here, but KCRW’s code and my website aren’t playing nice). There’s a bit of interview mixed in, so you get to hear that delightful accent as well. But really, it’s worth watching just to see him do that thing where he makes big sounds come out of his mouth without even trying.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Hozier. Enjoy.

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The Absolutely True Story of Letting My Son Read Banned Books

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I’ll be honest: I had already pegged Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as a potential read for my 12-year-old. Hearing that there are school districts considering banning it only makes me MORE likely to recommend it to him.

A bit of reflexive rebellion on my part? Perhaps. But there seems to be a pretty well established trend that the books parents try to get banned are the best ones. The most important reads. The ones that really SAY something. Something uncomfortable perhaps – but in my humble opinion, that’s precisely WHY they’re important reads.

Adolescent sexuality. Racism. Slavery. Evil atrocities (I’m looking at YOU, Hitler, and the moms who tried to ban Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl). Profane language. Drugs. These are things that to make a lot of parents uncomfortable. But these are all things that our children are going to be exposed to, and probably earlier than we’d like if we had our way. Isn’t it best to prime them? Isn’t it best to let them first experience these complicated subjects through the relative safety of a book?

I think so. I also understand age-appropriateness. But, I tend to think our kids are capable of understanding and handling far more than we give them credit for.

The complaints I’ve heard about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian center around profanity, specifically the author’s use of “the f-word” <gasp!> and talk of masturbation <gasp!>. Honestly, I find neither of these issues particularly concerning. I don’t know about your 12-year-old, but mine is well acquainted with four-letter words. And masturbation? Hardly a startling topic, in my opinion. But let’s not lose sight of the other topics covered. Native American life on the reservation. Disabilities. Poverty. Bullying. And, yes, adolescent sexuality (which I  happen to believe is a useful and healthy topic of discussion for a tween-ager). All written by a premier Native American author who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and just happens to currently live in my lovely city? How is that not worth a few masturbatory scenes and some f-bombs?

Of course, I’m saying all this having not actually read the book myself. Still, I have every intention of recommending it to my son and the news of potential bannings only reinforces my feelings.

I’ll report back if he ends up reading it (and will mostly likely borrow his copy and read it myself as well). In the meantime, have any of you read it? Would you recommend it to your children?

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This post’s song: Indian Lover by Jude

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