Interview #1 What did you want to do with your life when you were a kid?
I want to be an engineer. I like to design things–especially vehicle parts. The thing is I am not really sure–but I am sure of how much I like math. Math is really fun for me and I know it plays into engineering.
What was the most adventurous thing you did?
Went to live in Spain when I was in second and third grade—my mom speaks Spanish—my parents wanted to move to a different spot—they were teachers at a school—in Barcelona—they teach high school.
What did you learn from it? it’s fun to try something new—and picked up spanish—was really fun—got to travel to other countries and locations—that would have been pretty far to travel to from here.
What advice do you feel is worth passing on?
That it’s always good to try something new and challenge yourself–
Why do you feel this is good advice? (Put answers here: 50 words min.)
It’s important to know that your life will be boring if you stick to same things—and won’t get any better unless you challenge yourself
THANKSGVING PROCLAMATION FOR THE YEAR 2020
40 WORDS MIN. PER SECTION
- In this year of years—and what a year it has been—with a global pandemic, the black lives matter social justice movements—and a hard-fought tense election with record voting turnouts, we are encouraged to commemorate a very important holiday on our calendar—that of Thanksgiving—when 400 years ago, there was a celebration to honor the meeting of two cultures. The culture that gave the most to the occasion were the Wampanoag people, who had been living in the area of southeastern Massachussetts for over 12,000 years and had come to know the land and area very well. .2 fact/info P-1
- Our history as a nation has been filled with many incidents that have not been fully fleshed out—where not all the information around the past was shared or is more comprehensively examined. For example, with the Pilgrims—well they had already relocated once before coming to the new world—as they had left England to go to Holland. They lived there for 12 years—and dealt with financial problems—which means they might have run out of money. English merchants actually paid them to leave. You usually don’t pay someone to leave unless you want to get rid of them. This tells me the Pilgrims might have been intrusive. This is not something that history has dared to conjecture about—instead insisting they were good god-fearing, hard working souls in search of religious freedom—what could be more idealistic than that—motivating them to bring 101 of them on a boat for 66 days—losing half along the way, arriving at a place they didn’t intend due to the high winds off the Atlantic coast.
- At this time of our nation’s history, it is incumbent upon us that we take a deeper interest in the past—for every current event has a point of origin which preceded it. Nothing we see today came out of nowhere—as with the first Thanksgiving—had it not been for the generosity of Squanto—and his ability to speak English—through the fact he was kidnapped and taken to Europe where he was sold into slavery—then it’s easy to infer that the Pilgrims would not have made it. More specifically, Squanto, who obviously did not hold a grudge against the race of people who kidnapped him and sold him into slavery for four years—before he managed to find a way to escape—was able to teach the Pilgrims how to grow corn and fertilize their fields.
- As we pause to consider the amazing generosity of Squanto, the irrevocable implications it had on the Pilgrims ability to survive in this new world, so strange to them—let us also comprehend the commemoration that followed—how once again the native propensity towards generosity was on display—as the gunshots they’d heard sounded like war—but instead of reacting so, they investigated its source—and found the Pilgrims were merely hunting. Again, their generosity showed—as they offered to help with the hunt—and offered to share with them the bounty. The two groups gathered for a three-day fest and feast, featuring deer, corn, shellfish—that which was around. They played ball games, sang and danced. The fruits of such generosity bore the celebratory collaborations that followed.
- We are grateful for all that has come our way in this life—for all those working behind the scenes on the issues that most impact our lives today—and for families that struggle and find a way to make it without drawing attention to their good works day in and day out. We must be grateful for those dealing directly with the impacts of the coronavirus—those on the front lines of the social justice and environmental movements, those who continue to sacrifice their own comfort in seeking to make life better for us all. And let us all be grateful for the work Abraham Lincoln did behind the scenes in taking an idea broached 17 years previously by Sara Josepha Hale–that what the country in order to become united following the tragedy of the divisive Civil War was a national holiday to rally around—and so it was that Lincoln came up with the idea of Thanksgiving—a holiday for the nation to all get organized in commemorating—one that could trace its history to the earliest incarnation of the American idea—colonists coming to a new world to build a better life—a life we all have the opportunity to also tap into, benefit from and make the most of—which should fill us all with a deep sense of gratitude.
- Let us honor those who not only sacrificed, but shared—let us honor the spirit of collaboration and community that led these two contrasting cultures to create peace, even if it only lasted a generation—and left a legacy of betrayal—so much so that still today the natives gather in its memories at the statue of their ancient leader Massasoit—to honor and remember the one who sought to help—even if temporarily appreciated. Let us learn from the best of these people how we all can learn to get along better with each other.
- Wherefore, I, Joel R. Gillman, do hereby designate Thursday, November 26, 2020 as a day of remembering the past—a past in which we needed the help of others in order to make it, a day of generosity and openness to others—in which we are not afraid to reach out and help and assist as needed, as the situation might suggest, and a day of reflection and healing—in considering the impacts of our actions—did they indeed help or did they hurt—and if the latter, may we also seek to do better in the future. May we continue then to grow as a nation—to seek to know more—to be open and generous, kind and curious with the present and about the past—using it to inspire us to be our best selves. May we also get more unified as a nation—trust the experts—demand change that supports those in need—ask more of our leaders—with an eye and heart towards the future and what it can and needs to be.
Hyde, Lewis. The Gift; Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. London, England: Vintage, 1999.
“The Gift” is a gift. I concur with Margaret Atwood’s appraisal printed on the front cover. She says that “The Gift is the best book I know of for the aspiring young, talented but unacknowledged creators or even for those who have achieved material success and are worried this means they’ve sold out.”
In paying homage to this exploration of creativity’s relationship with commerce through the lenses of anthropology, folk-tales, culture, and the lives of Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound, I hope to shed a shard of light on the mystery-without deconstructing into some tidy little package made exclusively for Walmart shoppers!
Hyde sets a tone in the introduction. when he writes, “…when we are touched by a work of art something comes to us which has nothing to do with the price….The work appeals to a part of our being which is itself a gift and has nothing to do with price.” (9) These words jack their way into my body. More people should think about this kind of stuff. Our lives seem to exist for the most part on very surface levels. We recently spent a week in Ashland at a good friend’s house. He played one CD after another the whole time we were there. There was no quiet time. On our way back we visited my dad in Seattle. He shared his feelings about mortality. A friend of his died a month ago. He had many regrets on his deathbed. He wondered if he would also. It gave him a greater will to get “wake up and live now” as the rasta prophet Bob Marley sang. This is a long way of suggesting that the economics of our day steal the soul, the art from living. We are hell-bent on product at the expense of process. The person who produces the most widgets wins—or who’s got the most Hummers parked in their circular driveway.
The mythology of the market society rewards getting over giving. The hero is self-possessed, self-made. (10). Back to my dad again. He recently attended a gathering in which the host invited 250 of his closest friends. My dad knew a few so decided to go, to find out how those from his high school and college days were faring. I’ve heard that said about many a high school reunion. We say we grow up when we drop the image-making behaviors. The pop-culture guru Ram Dass believes that we spend our first 40 years in “somebody training” and our remaining years in “nobody training”. Writers, mystics, teachers articulate a similar goal, calling it “surrender”-whether it’s to the moment, to a life, to uncertainty, or a story. And in that surrender, the self disappears, in a way, mirroring these words from the Persian sage Rumi, “Instead of being bound up by everyone, be everyone.” For Hyde, the journey of art, the imagination is all about tapping into that freedom space. And contrary to what this country’s administration wants us to believe, freedom is not to be found through consumption and the security of color-coded alerts, but rather through giving, through a giving up of everything from our dogma and ego to our so-called wants and needs-and then there must be a giving in to the one, to the it, to the moment, to being.
The labor of gratitude imbues the gift with a transformational power. The Greeks believed that one did so by giving something to one’s guiding spirit. Respected in this way, one’s spirit responded by helping one to be artistically creative and spiritually fertile (53). Meister Eckhart writes that the fruitfulness of a gift is the only gratitude for the gift (54). The traditional means of worship holds that we should receive God from a distance outside ourselves. Eckhart argues that God should become fruitful in us. This calls for a creating of space. For how can something become fruitful in us if there’s no room. This making of room has to be a conscious effort through a ritual of giving to the spirit, to one’s ‘daemon.’
Things get problematic when we talk about value. In the marketplace, it exists in relation to some other. Here, Hyde highlights the difference between gifts and commodities. A gift, when it moves across the boundary, either stops being a gift or else abolishes the boundary. A commodity can cross the line without any change in its nature.; moreover its exchange will often establish a boundary where none previously existed–as, for example, in the sale of a necessity to a friend (61). More problematic is the corporation’s value assessment on a human life as it decides whether certain safety measures are cost-effective. Ideally, that which is priceless would not be treated like merchandise. Hyde quotes Che Guevara, “Labor should not be sold like merchandise but offered as a gift to the community.” If that happened maybe more folks would follow their bliss instead of following the money. Then again, what would the pharmaceutical industry do? Would prozac and other “remedies” be as necessary?
In the scientific and literary community, Hyde has observed a greater focus on ambition, whether it be a desire for a better job, tenure, rank, cash, rewards, status. As a result, one finds more specious and trivial research, rather than contributions to knowledge. Much of the literary criticism has been useless. Scientists are out for themselves rather than for the greater good. We want more and more-no matter the shape or form. Why? Why do we as society so easily and quickly trade off the intimate for what’s most cost-effective? Why forego the Mom and Pop store for Walmart? Hyde compares anarchist theory and gift exchange as an economy. Both assume man is generous, or at least cooperative “in nature”; both shun centralized power and both are best fitted to small groups (92). Both rely on contracts of the heart over a codified contract. This reminds me of a Barry Lopez short story in which the main character says that the deepest commitment you can have is that binding contract with your heart. That commitment allows you to give your self away instead of inhibiting and restraining it. In giving it away, community appears.
In the kind of retail trade described above, men gain from one another and not from their union. Yes, they have their own sort of growth but they bring neither the personal transformations nor the spiritual cohesion of gift exchange. People may grow richer and richer in commodities while becoming more and more isolated from one another (113). At the same time, our commodification of everyday necessities such as food and clothing robs them of the full range of emotional and spiritual life (239).
This self-made man survives in the world by adopting the detached style of the alien; he lives in this spirit of commerce, which is the spirit of boundaries and divisions (139). That spirit is the spirit of “cool”-the James Dean, Matrix-Keannu Reaves pose. By contrast, the man with the “bleeding heart” is a sentimental fool. Among the British in
the Empire, it was a virtue not be touched by the natives-and going native meant that one had to be quickly shipped home. And yet, the one with the soft heart calls to us because it speaks to what has been lost (140).
What we really need to lose is self-consciousness. Hyde writes that when we count, measure, reckon, value, or seek the cause of a thing, we step outside the circle, we cease being with the flow of gifts and become, instead, one part of the whole reflecting on another part. We participate in the gift by way of a particular kind of unconsciousness, then: unanalytic, undialectical consciousness (152).
The last sections illustrate the above-mentioned concepts through the prismatic lives of Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound. Whitman exploration of the grass over graves had him conclude that you had to die in order to grow. You had to slay your ego in order to more fully manifest. You had to give away everything you had. I wonder what the critic Harold Bloom would say to this as he argues for a kind of self-absorbed pursuit of knowledge, admonishing his readers to not go out and try to change the world until you have actualized yourself-and that would of course not happen in a single lifetime. Then again, Hyde quotes Whitman as saying that “The noiseless operation of one’s isolated Self” precedes communtiy (195). From this isolation, the poet/citizen will emerge with an appetite for sympathetic contact and an urge to both create and bestow (197). By virtue of the latter, art becomes a political force, not through its issue-oriented prose, but for its faithful representation of the spirit. The American Buddhist poet Allen Ginsberg says we must “abandon being a poet, abandon the idea of careerism, of being a prophet with honor and dignity…You have to make a resolution to write for yourself. (143).”
Does that mean we just go off a la Jack Kerouac and his stream of consciousness narratives? While conceding that such writing is more personal and more of the moment, and at its best, strengthens the imagination while conveying trust to the reader, along with the crazy energy that comes from an unqualified transcription of image and experience, Hyde suggests that something more durable can be produced when the write with a greater trust in “will” works the text. One can simultaneously work at her craft and refine
her imagination as well (223).
“Will” should walk a kind of tightrope. When it’s used to do the work of the imagination, one turns of necessity to dictionary studies, syntactical tricks, intellectual formulae, memory, history, and convention-any source of material, that is, which can imitate the fruits of imagination without actually allowing them to emerge. The will by itself cannot heal the world, cannot create (229). Hyde believes that Ezra Pound’s giving over of his imagination to will, to the Mussolini dictatorship, broke its own spirit. For neither the gift, nor the imagination can survive as servants of the will toward order (243).
Welcome to this class–here’s some sage and incense to stoke the fires of ceremony–may this gathering prove fruitful, beneficial–inspiring and motivating to what you seek to tap into with your work.
- Introductions (Six minutes) : Use this link–for the first writing: https://fairhavenmiddle.padlet.org/joelgillman1/r7ih47coc3ne5gtk
Reflection/Discussion (five minutes) –what did you notice/what came up for you/how did platform affect voice/content—what choices did you make
- Writing and You ( Six minutes ) https://fairhavenmiddle.padlet.org/joelgillman1/v8e1iuvp5wvyuku4
What did you notice–what came up for you–what else do you want to or should you or can you say?
- Responding to literary content– Read the following poem—and respond using the link at end of poem 6 minutes and discussion for five more
I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad
I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the nile
I am a beautiful woman
I gazed on the forest and burned
out the sahara desert
with a packet of goat’s meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can’t catch me
For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
He gave me rome for mother’s day
My strength flows ever on
My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save
I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are
On a trip north
I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off
the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid
across three continents
I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended
except by my permission
I mean . . . I . . . can fly
like a bird in the sky . .
Three minute break–get out of your chair and do some pushups or something.
- Sharing work/Reading aloud–presenting it in a way that makes it come alive—Introduce the context—and set the scene—pace it so we can absorb it—share screen so we can see the content as you read along.
We’ll go in two minute chunks–with five to eight minutes for discussions—and rotate around that way—so that each person will get at least two rotations–maybe three.
Some things to think about–more on this as we make our way
The language, the narrative style and voice–the vision–the level of engagement–what’s capturing you–characterizations, descriptions
- Reflection on class–goals for next two weeks
Dear Michael Lilliquist,
P-1: My name is _______________ and I am a seventh grader at Fairhaven Middle School, and we have been creating our own social movements in social studies. It has been really cool, because my social movement is about using an activity that everyone can do and having it permeate into a lifestyle that empowers and contributes to our personal well being–and the collective health of society. The activity is running—with a nod to the spartan and minimalist ethics–less is more–and character-strength building from within. I have learned a lot from being a long-time runner—lots about myself and lots about what’s possible physically and mentally–as well as seeing it as a bridge to the larger community of the outdoors and other runners.
P-2: I will say, it was cool to cool to click on the link to your name and read your little biography, where I found out three awesome things about you. The first was how you got interested in government through years of volunteer work through many channels and sectors. That shows how caring of a person you are–that you make that effort to give of your time to others.
Secondly, I liked finding out that you acknowledge how the area is growing while recognizing the need to responsibly protect our shared resources–such as our drinking water from Lake Whatcom. And lastly, I was impressed by the fact that you also take in the concerns of the public as you decide what to prioritize as our city’s next steps–with affordable housing and an economy that deals with climate change being at the top of the list.
P-3: These things show me that you are the type of person who really cares about this area—and you want to do right by it–you understand that we need to support and protect the environment–and that regular working-class families need to be able to afford to live here.
P-4: With my social movement, I am also seeking to be the type of person who wants to make a difference–and in regards to my topic–I want to challenge myself to become a person of stronger mind and body–while more efficiently harmonizing my daily life into the beats and needs of the natural world. I also want people to see how when you do get out there and run, you have a direct contact, experience and understanding of how you are physically part of a larger community.
P-5: I do want to tell you that I have learned some powerful ideas through this project–such as the many ways people have used running to bring awareness to issues affecting their community or even in their own lives. Native people have created running events to draw attention to the threat their way of life is under–due to environmental attacks and land grabs orchestrated by the U.S. government. A college kid started running a 5k everyday for 100 days as a way to raise money for the illness his grandma has–Alzheimmers. His efforts ended up bringing a ton of publicity and way more attention than he imagined–with nearly everyone at the college participating in it for at least one of the days.
P-6: We have also learned that social movements from the past have led to changes in society and changes in society’s laws. Related to my topic of running and character building, I think it would be great to have our society become more focused on self-reflection and self-improvement–as well as engaging in a continuous process whereby they are evaluating the impact of their life and lifestyle on their surroundings.
P-7: And related to that, I also think it would be great if there could be a way for/program for/ a greater opportunity for kids to join running clubs–clubs that also focused on personal growth, self-development, character building—so that kids got habits of success taught to them—such as personal responsibility, accountability, persistence, determination, and generosity towards others–and one’s self.
P-8: Thank you so much (name of person you are writing to) for taking the time to read my letter. I would greatly appreciate if you could write back to me if you had the time, and tell me what you think about what’s happening with the social justice movements happening right now–and do you think that we need to put more resources into creating healthy communities–rather than in policing them?
TOOK A ZOOM WRITING CLASS THROUGH THE HUGO HOUSE IN SEATTLE–WROTE THIS OFF THE PROMPT ‘YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH AUTHORITY’–YOU HAVE 20 MINUTES–GO!
It was, without a doubt, very special to be able to get my butt sent to the principal’s office back in third grade–how sick it was–being the bad boy sitting in that chair—bashing the wall of the classroom–not knowing then the edges of my frustration over my dad’s lack of participation in our home life–me not having seen him in over a week–at least–or was it the past two years–heading into two more, before he told my mom over a drink at the popular hangout–en route to the weekly cocktail party with their posse group from the early 70’s—that he no longer loved her and he wanted out–and he’d be moving out shortly–and I’d help him do it.
Didn’t know then how my mom took it on the proverbial chin all the days and nights prior to that moment–waiting up past two a.m., noting that he’d leave his wedding ring behind before heading off to work in his green 911 Porsche—a piece of masking tap across the top of the front window–”I will not procrastinate today.” One thing led to another–sure I had the structure and dependability of a paper route, and was able to knock on John Ehrlichman’s door before he was about to be sent to prison in New Mexico–and then onwards to launching water through a syringe I’d copped from the middle school science lab, my aim too perfect, its destination the back of our poor driver’s neck.
That put me on my feet and bike for the last three months, forced to endure the 9% grade one mile climb to the school on the hill, whereby two weeks in, I pedaled past a blind corner and hit the rich kid’s new ten speed, straight on–crumpling his bike into an origami design, leaving mine intact. The principal decided to have each of us pay for our own damages–not a happy outcome for me. The dude eyed me for the next ten days–nervously I avoided him–still showing up to this alienating learning institution–having to go by his ‘palace’ on my way ‘home’–the fifteenth day is when the pressure got relieved–him tearing out his front door, sprinting to catch me on an afternoon I was on foot–and pummeling the shit out of my paltry frame–a foot shorter and at least fifty pounds lighter than his.
I mean–listen, I got to go to ‘school’ in peace now–no longer worried about the penitentiary of authority–of those who held power over me–yes, much better to get it out there–and get it over with–then learn how to go on–if you can–and hopefully I could. I didn’t know what character meant back then–the next year, I’d walk out of high school basketball practice on rainy winter night and never return, never respond to the coach’s request to have a talk–had no more need or want for authority to be raining on my ever-diminishing parade–or reigning over it–needed to get those voices out of my life–dropped out of the Honors Humanities–and out of the AP Calculus–took English with a bunch of stoners and a teacher who rarely showed up. Freed I was–but into ‘what’ I wondered–and would not have a clue about for years–and maybe decades.
Do you realize how cool it is to get tapped into the variegations around the methodology of disappointment—how cruel and appetizing can then be a revisionist history–that the adage attributed to a Tom Robbins novel I am not proud to remember might actually be the truth of truths–that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood–and that it’s like this virus, man–and the quarantine, and isolation–you’ve got to spin it if you can–have to find a way to elude the misery and embrace the opportunity. Taking this all in I am—all of it— getting me to realize more and more how it’s like the streetcorner prophet keeps bellowing in my browbeaten ear–the first world is a life of luxury, boy–and folks elsewhere they have no such choice–they have to step up, have to, have to–if they don’t, they don’t eat. Our bellies, bro, being the ultimate authority.
Scene 1—You’re getting set to leave the house again—for your daily two hour outing—so you have time alone to be, think, and reflect on your own.
Your Parent: So I can see that you’re headed out the door–were you going to say goodbye–or were you just taking off—how do you do this–go out for an hour or more each day on the trails—well, it’s a good thing. I realize that–if not for you–our dog would barely be getting any exercise—so thank you, son, for being so motivated that. It’s supposed to rain by 5:30–so make sure you’re paying attention to the clouds–or dress for the inclement possibilities–okay?
You: As you know, I like to get out there–in the elements–it clears my head, for sure, but I also like the physical challenge–and I like knowing it’s just me and no special equipment–that after I’ve been out there for an hour or so, I start to feel like I am part of the forest—that I am an animal too–pure essence–and pure willpower–and not some boy with a name, who goes to school and is known through this and that as a person with a reputation for x and y. What happens is that all that gets peeled away when I am out there–it gets recognized as surface details–and how I am much more than that and much less–being pure willpower as my essence.
Your sibling: Yo sister/brother, what is it that you do for that hour or so when you are merely putting one foot in front of the other–and not really going anywhere in particular. It seems so hard and so boring. How do you stand it? I can’t even believe I used to like to run when I was a toddler. I don’t know what happened—but now it just seems like such an unenjoyable activity.
You: You two just need to understand that running is the most natural thing we can do–that our earlier ancestors had to run in order to hunt and catch their food. They were able to outlast the animals they chased–and so it was seen that they had more endurance than the other animals. Their endurance also had an impact on their brain development. Studies were done on rats when they had them do some running–and they noticed the development of more brain cells and networks.
Scene 2—One hour later—.by a river, mountain, forest, cave, trail, beach, you hear a voice call you out—the voice of (Your topic here)Running, spartanism, minimalism.
Your Topic: : Hey (jdawg!) I have something to tell you, for I can see that you are the type of person who….20 words min. …has conviction, integrity and motivation, who prefers to lead by example and who seeks to break personal boundaries in the most self-effacing way possible, not needing the attention nor adulation of others–yet earning their abiding respect through such diligent and determined work ethic.
You: Who is talking? Where are you? What is it I am hearing right now? Is it someone or something that knows me–knows who and what I am–and how do you come by such information? I cannot see you, yet you seem to speak with so much clarity and confidence, a voice wholly different in content and context than my own—and yet I cannot see where its source is, from where it emanates.
Voice of Your Topic: I want you to tell the world something about the topic of (running and cultivating a spartan attitude towards life). You should tell them that they can achieve more than they think they can–that it’s okay to be uncomfortable–that in fact as is how you learn. That kind of learning is rich and deep–for it shows you more of life–and that is what you are here for–to experience and explore the interior edges of being–through the hard work you do. There are no short cuts.
You: You can’t be real—this is crazy! Are you saying that I should be the voice for some kind of social movement–that I should lead it and organize it? That’s crazy–I don’t have those kinds of skills–why are you picking me? Passion is not enough–what if I get rejected early–what would make me want to go on–and woud I have to give up my current life? What if I don’t want to do that?
Scene 3—Back at home two-and-a-half hours later
Adult at your house: You’re back! We were wondering what happened to you. You look as if…20 words min. …you had some sort of crazy experience–did you get hit by lightning or something– I don’t remember hearing any thunder–and it seems as if you avoided the rains. You are dry–yet there is some sort of odd sheen to your skin–and a kind of eerie glow to your eyes.
You: : The most incredible thing happened—you see I was busting it on the trails and as soon as I hit my turnaround point by the giant cedar, I heard this voice–no lie–telling me that I was the chosen one–to be the messenger to spread the gospel of running and its more empowering lifestyle–around mental toughness and minimalism.
Sibling: So it seems you’re saying that you had an hallucination–that you saw ghosts of some kind—I mean–did you actually see a person, what or who was behind the voice? I always thought your running was a bit crazy–and this confirms it, brother.
You: Not quite, brother/sister—what I’m truly saying is that this really happened–but I will have to verify it to see if I wasn’t just imagining it–but it felt so real–so vivid, being told of how to empower others–and how there needed to be more effort that people put into being fit of mind and body—and that you can’t have a fit mind without having a fit body.
Scene 4—Two days later back by the river, mountain, forest, cave, beach where you had the magical encounter
You: Voice, are you there? My family thinks that you really don’t exist–that they think I need to provide you with more proof–just know that you need to see me once a week–and I will be sharing information about these topics that I want you to share with the world.
Voice of your topic: Remember that I picked you out of everyone, for it is time for the people of the world to….20 words min. Awaken to all that is within them– For example, did you know there are over 7,000 nerve endings in the foot–so that when you allow your foot to experience physical contact with the ground, you are exciting 7,000 nerve endings, which sends messages directly to the brain, stimulating brain activity.
You: I will do what you say, I will find a way to persuade others that….you exist–and hopefully you will provide me with relevant, useful and inspiring information–that will teach them and motivate them to want to put more effort and energy into their physical life.
Voice of your topic: I thank you my servant—I thank you for being the one who….will take this on–and I leave you with some inspirational quotes—one is about the will to win pales in comparison to the will it takes to prepare, and how the real purpose of running is to test the limits of the human heart. How about this one–that when you run, everything is perfect. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, when the sun comes up, you better be running–that running is how you survive, my brother. That’s all for now!
First off I want to tell you that I have been doubling down on what it means to be strong of mind and body–taking the focused effort I am putting into my daily runs on the new high school turf field–and translating that directly into my actions and activities, now realizing more and more without a shred or shard of doubt, that each day will provide with gusto its own set of obstacles, challenges, setbacks, ordeals, hassles–and that we must step up and realize that–and then handle this stuff with grace and embrace. Don’t resist any of it–take it on with the full force and might of your universal willpower combined and intertwined with your collective intelligence. Fake it if you have to–that is fake your confidence and equanimity–fake and blunder your way towards beatific states of dignity–stumble towards an effervescent glow–and by all means, do not quit–do not buckle or fold in any way shape or form. Just keep going forward–a little bit at a time. Learn to live with discomfort–and unease, if that may be the case. You can handle and you need to handle it–think of others and what they are and have to deal with as their normal state of affairs–if you need a comparison to get you refocused into that more steely and toughened mindset.
For one small example–in the book I finished yesterday–the tenth since this quarantine started back on March 17th—about this high school kid in his senior year–who deals drugs at school to pay for his uncle’s morphine supply–the uncle who has cancer and no health insurance–the two live together–as the boy never knew his dad–and his mom is in jail. The uncle was the only one who would take him. The boy has no role modeling for being successful–he only attends to school in order to be able to deal–and does just enough work to be able stay above 60%. The author is a high school English and Drama teacher–and based the uncle character on his own uncle–and the kid on a composite of students he’s taught over the years. He wanted to give voice to those without privilege–and for them, just showing up takes effort—either due to their family situation–or their academic propensity–or a combination fo both–in the case of Matt.
Their lives are miserable inside the decrepit trailer–and Matt is incapable of thinking about the future–unless it includes a picture of him going to jail for dealing–especially when he’s forced to transport a stash across the border for the dude who supplies him with the ‘party bags’ he sells to his classmates–as Matt needs more money to afford the morphine for his uncle. With this, we are shown that Matt isn’t totally recalcitrant or hopeless–that he actually cares for his uncle–and wants to do what he can for him–even cleaning up defecation that ends up anywhere and everywhere due to the man’s inability to control his bowel movements–as his health further disintegrates.
Interesting to have been reading a book about a dude who has cancer alongside what I read from ‘Cured’ as well–in which it described this incredible story about a 25-year-old man who was diagnosed with a brain tumor so advanced he was told he had three to six months to live–if he submitted to chemo treatment. If not, he had thirty days max. This got him to do the chemo–and he’s lying on the table as they are preparing him for the first treatment–placing this weighted pad on his stomach–and he’s not liking it–and he’s wondering why he would want to be doing this several days a week until his death–so he’d never actually feel good–it was pointless. He suddenly pipes up with, “No!” He explains why and how and leaves. When he gets home, he does some research—and this leads him to try out this keto diet. He fasts for three days to clean out his system–then gradually integrates elements of this whole food, raw foods based diet into his eating regimen. He gradually started to feel better. He went back to the hospital–on the day he was supposed to have died. His tumor had shrunk. A year later–he was still alive. His tumor shrunk so more. Can we just say the dude is cancer free–and it has been more than three years–and he was supposed to be dead in a month.
There’s a couple things I want to say to connect this to your, Resilience–first being my original reason for the digression–how others have it way worse off–and we need to count our blessings—and more–as in we need to do more than just count them–we need to court them and act on them–becoming better and stronger and more present within the challenges of our life, rising up as necessary. Then, there is the matter of how resilience can play out and be applied in these various contexts–with a sidebar tangent kind of thing about food–as Matt and his Uncle Jack had the poverty-culture diet of processed foods–and those are the foods that the author of ‘Cured’ describes as being catalysts for a host of cancers. The diets that heal and transform are whole foods based and raw foods based.
What changed things for Matt and for the 25–year-old man with the tumor in his brain was this thing of ‘want’–of wanting to get better–and wanting to take matters into their own hands. Towards the end of the novel, Matt tells his guidance counselor that he does want to apply into tech school—and that he wants to go to summer school so he can get the credits he needs to graduate. The counselor remarks that that is the first time he’s heard Matt say a sentence that begins with “I want…” That really is striking to me–as it is exactly what went down inside the man’s mind just before he was set to have chemo treatment. And that is also the key line in that great Thom Jones short story I have cited before, “I Want to Live” in which the main character also has cancer–and is weighing out that existential question–and realizing so beautifully that that is the one question each of must dig at at the most root and core level—do we want to live–truly? How badly? What are we willing to do and sacrifice in order to do so? This, to my mind, is what that famous piece ‘The Invitation’ is saying or advising, or implying–or putting towards–that of personal sacrifice–how badly do want it–and what are we willing to sacrifice for it–the ‘it’ being the ineffable ‘it’ around being fully alive–and yes, Resilience, what you have to offer us, we need to be embracing fully.
Sincerely yours, Gill
THIS IDEA WAS BURNING A HOLE IN MY BRAIN–HAD TO SEE WHAT I HAD TO SAY ABOUT IT—1400 WORDS IN 35 MINUTES!
I am learning so much about expectations–and it’s tripping me out so much, I just want to get this out right now before it burns away—relates to how my son is back on the bike training–and how he went to where the Tuesday night ride was the other day and stormed it up in the loose company of some of the best local talent. I had asked him upon his report of that experience if there was any races scheduled for later in the summer. He said he actually had no interest in racing—no bang for the buck–too risky with the possibility of crashing. The day before that, he had told me how getting hurt riding two years ago, which started this whole string of injuries–was actually a blessing for him–that it got him focused on school at a whole new level. He now knew the path he wanted to take with his life–and he understood the commitment and mindset it took to be on that path. It took time and focus–determination and patience. The boy easily puts in 40 hours a week on his class work–studying and learning the material–doing the work, the virtual labs etc.
As I’ve said before, watching him work humbles me—seeing it, being in the presence of it–every single day motivates me to expect more out of myself—to reduce the shades and textures of my hedonistic entitlement complex that we’ve been acculturated into embodying and embracing–without questioning its value or legitimacy. Last night my son did two hours on the bike and 30 minutes on the treadmill–he has been trying to run and bike everyday—except one–maybe two, depending on how he feels–at which point he’ll do one of those only—or just take a recovery day. What’s different about this block of training–is that he has no goals. He just wants to train–he’s not looking for PR’s–he just wants to do the work. So there is no rush, panic or anxiety around how it’s going.
It’s doubly interesting as this has come up twice in the past two weeks–as I’ve read articles about two elite runners who have now adopted this mindset and how much it has changed the game for them. Both were former Olympic runners, who dealt with injuries that sideline them for a duration of time. One had been out four years–and he just started back in early April–for something to do during the virus quarantines. That was his motivation. He ended up being able to move in with a friend in Flagstaff—after quarantining himself for two weeks–and they started running together. Just for fun–and he said it freaked him out how much he enjoyed it and then how much he started to feel great–and then get stronger every day–he’d never experienced this kind of joy around running.
The latter athlete Evan Jager–the granddaddy of American distance runners next to Galen Rupp—describes a similar discovery after being off nearly two years–and getting back into the mix of it now–how his attitude is totally different–how he realizes that it wasn’t fun for him before–there was too much emphasis on performance and doing the workouts to get at that world class level. It became a job–job being synonymous with an activity that no longer has joy–is only measured by productivity and output. Now, he’s training how he feels–and is not needing to be on the world stage. If it works out, great—if not, then so be it. Same mindset for the former runner–he’s training for the 1500 eventually–and wants to make amends with his native country Ireland for the debacle of being injured and dropping out the last time he was on the world stage. In other words, both athletes have a vision of doing it that isn’t about self-aggrandizement.
Seeing my son engage in this way—I’ve noticed how it impacts me as well–that I don’t get so tied up in ‘how the training is going’—as in a way it doesn’t really matter–as there is no goal–it’s just something he does–or that one does, like brushing your teeth–so how was that brushing last night–did you feel good about it? Do you think you’re getting more adept with it—and will be wanting to compete soon? I don’t also need to freak out about the boy’s diet and if he’s doing enough of this and that on the side. For him, the training is like medicine–it gives a structure and fills an inner need for balance and physical exertion. He does workouts on the bike, and runs how he feels that day. He spends nearly an hour warming up and cooling down with the exercises given to him by the physical therapist he was seeing during the early winter.
I guess what I want to say about this is how the whole approach really resonates with what I’ve learned, read, and discovered about these deeper spiritual truths–that the best journey is the journey without a goal–that the journey is the destination, the work is its own reward–that as soon as you expectations around it–then you’ve robbed yourself of that element of joy and creativity and tapping in that can be associated with it. Your evaluation of it is too much connected to results–rather than the experience and its psychological and physiological processes it engenders.
My two major shifts in life came via this route–the first when I was living in Berkeley post-college–seeking something I could not define–when I came across that bit of graffiti painted boldly on the wall of an abandoned building on Shattuck Avenue–I Just Want To Be Happy’ it proclaimed–and instantly a switch flipped in my brain about the human condition and my own condition–that I was trying too hard to be happy–that that was what made me unhappy–that I wasn’t going to do that anymore–I just wanted to be—if happiness came, then so be it–if not, then whatever. I felt so light and freed in that moment–hell yes, now I can really start to live–can flow with life without having it need to be a certain way. A burden lifted on my shoulders. I smiled for the first time in months.
Later, in another moment I have described before–this was about me being a teacher and always feeling like I did not and could not measure up to my colleagues–especially the one whose work was put in my face each and everyday–his room next door to mine–with a student work space connecting our two rooms. Oh man–was tired of feeling like shit in his company and in the company of my colleagues for all these years of our subject-alike meetings–they’d go on and on talking about ‘the great work they were doing’—and all ‘the systems they had for utilizing the standards and creating rubrics,’ and that wasn’t my thing–just could not get myself to do those kinds of things to my students–did not believe it worked–but the dominant paradigm praised their work and criticized mine.
Many sleepless nights–day after day, month after month–year after bloody year. Until the one fateful day–when it occurred me in that crazy way–after yet one more meeting and enduring yet one more boast–and one more awareness of one more thing that I could not do as a teacher—that I asked myself what I could do—what can I do that no one else can do—heck yes–I can give it all I got for each moment of every class period, every single day–without fail I can do this—and like the other realization from 25 years previous to this–I small smile started to form–yes, I can and do do this–and I can get better and better with it—at getting tapped into the moment–at being all-in, totally focused and engaged with my classes–all day long–every single second–really upping the ante, lighting the fire–and focusing on that freed me up so much–of not having to be like anyone else–and suddenly this job was no longer feeling like a job–not even a little bit. Now it was a spiritual path–and then it became an infinite landscape–and now I just want to take this thing to the highest levels–and I believe I can do that–I believe in my ability and my motivation–and now I realize I have more of each than I ever thought possible, which is the kind of thing I see going on with my son right now–straight out of this place where the ambition is not external–but rather it’s all internal.
Dear Matt’s Uncle Jack,
I’m currently on p. 29 of Mr. 60%, the book you so brilliantly take part in, and so far it seems that you have a terrible life–that you can’t control your bowel movements–and that you are getting whacky in the head–you went around the mobile home park, banging a stick on people’s doors, claiming they stole your car–the one your nephew had to sell two months ago to help pay for the morphine you need, because you are in so much pain from the cancer that is literally eating you alive. You have lost so much weight–as Matt noted how frail and callow your shoulders were when he had to come and get you on the day you were raising such a ruckus thinking that someone had stolen your car–and how also you thought you could just leave ‘this place’ and take a road trip, which would make you think it would all be better. Did you know that your nephew is doing illegal things in order to support your need for the morphine—do you not have medical insurance–like so much of those of poverty in our country? It’s so sad, because your nephew is also kind of throwing his life away–doing just enough to get by in school–making no friends as he covertly continues his drug dealing on the side–that everyone knows he’s doing, but no one can catch him due to his elaborate means he’s figured out for hiding the ‘goods’ throughout the school–as he has to get his backpack and locker inspected on a daily basis. The vice-principal is desperately trying to find a way to get him kicked out due to him having such a negative influence on others–being a drug dealer and all. Are you even remotely aware of what your nephew is doing–I mean it’s great you’ve taken him in—and at this point in the story, we don’t know what happened to his parents–and how he was raised. I am guessing they also had a rough life–as there is no mention of reading, books, education in your mobile home. It all seems so sad.
Related to that, I do think it’s rather impressive/interesting how you just keep pressing on. What motivates you to get up each morning and face the day? What do you think about when you think about the nature of your life? Do you wonder how it got to be so lacking in human connection–and how it seems you never had a family or a career? Does that make you mad, upset, or feel the spark of regret? I am wondering why you don’t think to talk to your nephew about your situation–and that even though you’re mostly in pain, can you not find it within yourself to give him some advice or at least share with him the mistakes you have made. Do you really not care whether or not he has the same kind of life that you have had?
This makes me want to research the topic of poverty–and what it’s like to live in a poverty culture–what it’s characteristics are–and I found that it’s also a very sad subject–as the characteristics are not just economic but psychological. Children get socialized into these self-defeating behaviors and attitudes. They are said to have strong feelings of helplessness, marginalization, a feeling of not belonging–as if they were aliens in their own country or community. They have very little sense of history–they only know their own troubles, neighborhood, way of life. They also seem to lack the vision and ideology to see their situation in a larger context–in comparison to others around the world, for example. The condition has been so stigmatized and politicized that it has conferred a fatalistic view of it—suppressing the wages of hourly workers, justifying policy decisions that minimize and marginalize their contributions–and their ability to handle any sort of affluence. You can definitely see how this is playing out with the coronavirus—as a disproportionate percentage of the poor are getting sick and dying from it–as well as it not being as easy for the poor to shelter in place. Guess who has to show up for work–and instead of getting protection or an increase in wages, they are being iconically referred to as ‘heroes.’ Layoffs, unemployment are most affecting those already living from check to check–and the fact that so many are those of color adds a racial element to it.
It makes me ponder what we as a society are doing to deal with this–as also rarely a day goes by that my wife doesn’t bring up the topic of homelessness—and what can be done about it. We talk about mental illness, housing, meaningful work–institutions–generational dysfunction–the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism. How do you get people to care, to feel connected–to want to be responsible to others, to their community, their sense of place. My wife wonders what happened to their families–like with you Uncle Jack–what happened to your parents–and do you have other siblings? Why does Matt not have parents–or grandparents? How do we creat a caring society–with increasing population strains–amid an economy that kind of wreak havoc on our environment? I feel we really need some clearer thinking on this topic–not necessarily utopian per se, for, well, it reminds me of this novel by T.C. Boyle ‘Drop City, which shines a light on an idealistic vision gone awry because a lot of people don’t want to do the work required to actually put food on the table–basic tasks. We’re a culture of takers–and we want things to be easy–or at least too many of us do. So the question of how you get people to care and want to do the work is the key–which I think would be made more difficult in a society that worships the weekend–and the hedonistic activities associated with it. ’
Personally, all this kind of freaks me out–scares me. As a kid I had nightmares about being homeless–and still as an adult I still get those scenarios playing out during my fits of pre-dawn paranoia. But I did not grow up in a poverty culture–more like a scarcity consciousness–the fear of not having enough–and that fear motivating me–if that’s the right word–getting me to save my bacon just before it was about to get terminally cooked. I do feel like I have had a lot fo close calls–and like I was trying to say, reading about your situation is truly humbling–and it hurts–and it gets me focused on appreciating all the little things and all the big things that are in my life–so much, it’s crazy—food, shelter, books, family–all at such a high level–job and purpose, health, motivation–a path of learning and creativity. I feel bad—and I hope you’re able to get some peace of mind before you pass on.
Sincerely yours, JR Gill