Tuesday, January 1, 2019

John Steinbeck and a 2019 aspiration

From John Steinbeck—worth pondering

“There are events in our personal lives and our collective history that seem categorically irredeemable, moments in which the grounds for gratefulness and hope have sunk so far below the sea level of sorrow that we have ceased to believe they exist. But we have within us the consecrating capacity to rise above those moments and behold the bigger picture in all of its complexity, complementarity, and temporal sweep, and to find in what we see not illusory consolation but the truest comfort there is: that of perspective.”

A 2019 aspiration amongst many….

Monday, December 10, 2018

In the midst of the Holiday Season, the pace of life speeds up and the ubiquitous To Do List seems to expand by the second. The moments you take to pause, might just be part of the special moments you are all trying so hard to create for friends and family. My antidote to a speeded up world is to pause, with a poem.

Kindness is often on my mind and particularly during the Holiday Season. I think of the words George Saunders spoke about kindness at his commences speech delivered to the graduates at Syracuse University, 2013 and it bears repeating.

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
Those who were kindest to you, I bet.
It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Pause and be kind to yourself and soak up the serenity and wisdom of 
8 Matter of the Heart, Ed Young.

Take time for repose
it is the germ of creation

Take time to read
it is the foundation of wisdom

Take time to think
it is the source of strength

Take time to work
it is the path to patience and success

Take time to play
it is the secret of youth and constancy

Take time to be cheerful
it is the appreciation of life that brings happiness
And I would add,
Take time to be kind
It is what makes the world a better place

Monday, October 22, 2018

Reading is one of the essential building blocks of cultivating a self.

Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development and is not something that belongs in childhood, only to be left behind as we grow up.  As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories — in literature, film, visual art, music — that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world. The stories we read offer us the opportunity to think what the stories mean to our own lives; the best of literature speaks to what a human being was and could be. To read is to build a self.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received— You have to live with your mind your whole life, therefore, understand the value of building it, make it worthy.”

Saturday, August 18, 2018

"Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well."

Human beings were never born to read. Reading is a human invention that reflects how the brain rearranges itself to learn something new. Reading changed the brain and changed the way we think and feel. And now we are seeing how technology is transforming the brain and a question we are beginning to get some answers to is cause for concern. What is happening to the reading brain as it unavoidably changes to adapt to digital mediums.

There is a part of the brain that is responsible for deep reading, which is the active process of thoughtful and deliberate reading  in the interest to enhance one’s comprehension, which is the opposite of skimming or superficial reading. If you think of the brain as a muscle, the parts that are not exercised do not develop, they atrophy.   A brain that is more and more dependent on screens affect a person’s critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination and empathy that comprise deep reading.

A few sobering facts
• The Core Curriculum at Columbia University is a required class with an average of 200-300 pages of reading each week and professors are finding that many students can’t get through their assignments due to decreased in attention span.

• In the 1990’s 3-5% of American school age children were thought to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, By 2013 that number was 11%

• Sherry Turkle, an M.I.T. sociologist and psychologist in her book “ Reclaiming Conversation”  tells how children, rather than competing with siblings for their parent’s attention, are up against phones, iPad, Siri, and Alexa, apple watches and computer screens.

• in Shakespeare’s time, the word conversation meant two things—verbal discourse and sex. That’s how intimate the most well-known poet and playwright in the English language viewed the act of talking with another person.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Conversations are how we connect with others

We know from extensive research that without continued reading in the summer, students fall back in their reading achievement. The good news is that the latest research shows students who read at least 4 books over the summer maintain or even increase their skills. Reading is a skill that improves each time we read to understand a book. The more you read, the better reader you become. But we live in a world dominated by technology which fights with the idea of down time to just be. Research shows the reading we do on a device is a different experience from a book that we read and hold in our hands. 

For good reason, parents worry about how much time children spend with technology. Obsessive screen time is harmful for children and parents but parents suffer from something called ‘continuous partial attention’, a condition named 20 years ago by technology expert Linda Stone. Partial attention brings about conversations that lack the emotional cueing system whose hallmark is responsive communication, the basis of most human learning. Vocabulary, which is learned in conversation, is the linchpin to literacy.

Here are some simple suggestions to combat the burden of obsessive technology
* Eliminate excessive phone checking
* You and your phone are not tied to the hip—leave the phone behind if you want to have a quality interaction with your child, a friend, a mate, a colleague.
* A phone on silent is an instant vacation from the tyranny of being available 24/7.

Conversations are important ways we make the vital connection all human beings need. These all important conversations, where children learn vocabulary as they learn how to think and communicate, happen quite naturally by reading and talking about a story. We could all benefit by having some time sitting on a front porch swing and really being present. 

Some tips about summer time reading
• Ramp up the “pleasure principle” in reading and love of story.
• Increase the time you read aloud and talk with children about what they read. Children who talk about a story have better comprehension skills, which build their confidence as readers. Children need confidence to enjoy reading.
• SLOW DOWN: get off the literary stair master. I would rather your children read fewer books, know and love them well, than read many books they don’t really like or even remember.
• Audio books are terrific—and they build vocabulary and instill a love of story.
• Set an example and follow your good advice: Read more this summer and enjoy what you read.