Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mr. Rogers "Week," Day #5: Mentionable and Manageable

Honestly, I could write posts about Mr. Rogers for a year. What I can't seem to do, I'm afraid, is write a new post every day. Ah, well.

 Today, I want to focus on something Fred Rogers said during his testimony to congress in 1969 about the importance of funding public broadcasting. If you haven't seen this video, you really should:

This is where Mr. Rogers talks about the essential reasons for what he does. At about 3:57, he sums it up thusly:

"I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mr. Rogers Week Day #4: Looking For The Helpers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

- Fred Rogers

The above quote is one that I discovered earlier in this week of researching and writing about Mr. Rogers. It struck me as pleasant and sweet when I read it. In applying it to my life, however, I have discovered that it's much more than this: it's powerful.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mr. Rogers Week Day #3: Art's Highest Purpose

Are you an artist?

If you say "yes," to that question, you might mean that you're a professional artist, or are trying to be, working to be able to make your living at your craft. You might say, "yes," but be perfectly comfortable with the idea that that "yes," means, "I am an amateur. I feel that I'm good enough at this to perform, but not good enough to expect to make money at it."

Are you one of the people who'll say, "No, I'm not creative or talented at all"?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mr. Rogers Week Day #2: Re-Humanizing Children

A couple of months ago, I did something that we all have to do from time to time, something that's never an enviable task: I called out some friends of mine for how they were talking about other people and told them it wasn't acceptable to me. Now, many of us in the left-leaning arena of politics may talk about the importance of stamping out words and speech that's racist, sexist, heterosexist, ablist and a variety of other nasty "ists" that keep us from recognizing each other's humanity. It's important work, much as it may make people feel put-upon from time to time.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Mr. Rogers Day!

As many of you have already learned from the social networking and memeosphere, today is the birthday of Mr. Fred Rogers. He'd be 85 today, and the world lost him 10 years ago. Too soon.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Our Culture Of Conditional Love (And Why It's Really Stupid)

Photo by Aallen, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

As some of you close to me may know,  I've had someone come into my life in the last few years who is burdened with what is known as an attachment disorder. For those not in the know, this is a pathological state that occurs as a result of neglect and/or disrupted care during early childhood. People with this condition feel that lack of early love and security well into adulthood and this creates some pretty major emotional insecurities, insecurities that make normal human relationships pretty damn difficult.

As I always do when dealing with a close friend or family member with some illness or disorder, I've been doing some research. Reading about the manifestations of the disorder is useful, of course, but learning about the standard modes of therapy, understanding what the "way back" can look like, is even more so. I can't go around appointing myself as amateur therapist to everyone I love, obviously, but I think there's always plenty to be gained from understanding healthy processes of growth. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Everyday Catastrophic Empathy Failure

Every day, when I walk from my day job to the bus stop, there's a weirdly-shaped T-intersection that I have to cross. That is to say, I have to cross the "stem" of the "T" with the road forming the top of the "T" at my right.

Oftentimes, when I'm waiting to cross, some helpful driver coming up on my left will wait for me at the intersection and signal to me that it's okay for me to go. However, these drivers don't generally bother to look around and consider whether or not it's safe for me to cross based on the traffic coming from the rest of the intersection - in many cases, it is not. So they signal me again, looking increasingly confused and impatient over the fact that I'm just standing there and waiting...until I point to the semi truck that they're encouraging me to walk smack into.

I refer to this sort of incident as everyday catastrophic empathy failure. "Everyday," because it's very common, and "catastrophic" because it makes me think: if we humans are having that much trouble empathizing in a situation THAT obvious, how disastrous is our lack of empathy when the differences between us are more complicated? Harmonious communication and interaction requires that we be able to put ourselves in one another's shoes, but far too often, we stay resolutely stuck in our own, expecting that others meet us there, confused by behavior that we've only bothered to consider from our own point of view.  ..and we don't realize it!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Blowing Off The "Most Powerful Man In The World"

Came across this little news story courtesy of Rachel Maddow's website blog:

Reaching Out, Finding Nothing

The TL:DR version is this: President Obama, in an effort to encourage more bipartisan communication and cooperation, invited several prominent congressional Republicans to a movie night at the white house. Not a single one accepted the invitation.

Understandably, the writers at the Maddow Blog use this story to highlight the utter lack of partisan cooperation coming from the Republican side of the fence. That's all well and good and very true, but what I find most remarkable in this story is this: when you set aside the partisan aspect, what you have here is a situation where the President of the United States gave some political underlings a chance to come and schmooze, and they didn't feel they needed to take it.

In the world of political power, this sort of thing should be unheard of. You don't turn down a chance to be seen by, be heard by, and influence the most powerful man in the land. Unless, of course, he's really not all that powerful after all...and you know it.

Who REALLY wields the power in our world right now?

Monday, March 11, 2013

When The World Sucks, I Remember This

Photo by Justin Ormont, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

When the world seems to suck and it seems like nothing will ever get better, I remember this bit of wisdom:

"The responses are never adequate, until they build and build and something changes. People very often think that there must be some magical tactic, beyond the traditional ones–protests, demonstrations, vigils, civil disobedience–but there is no magical panacea, only persistence in continuing and escalating the usual tactics of protest and resistance. The end of the Vietnam War did not come because the Left suddenly did something new and dramatic, but because all of the actions built up over time."

- Howard Zinn 

...and I remember that it is true, absolutely true. I also remember all the things that are better now, all the things that have gotten better because human beings decided they needed to be changed and did it. I remember that there are now fewer people dying in wars than ever before. I remember that good stories, once thought to only be sources of escapism and entertainment, are uniting people worldwide in social justice movements.  Because the world is shrinking, because we're all talking to each other, because we're telling the same stories together.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Re-Evaluating "Self-Esteem." Again.

In our culture today, we use a lot of different terminology to talk about the concept of having a positive view of - and feeling towards - one's self. "Self-esteem" is the juggernaut of the 80s and 90s, but many of us veer away from it today in favor of terms like, "self-respect," "self-confidence," or "positive self-image." One may talk about being "kind to myself" or "loving myself," in a moment of sensitivity, or we may use the phrase, "accept myself for who I truly am."

I would posit, though, that for all these semantic variations, we're not having a particularly good conversation about the topic. In fact, I think we're really very confused when it comes to even defining the state of mind they're trying to describe, let alone taking healthy action in the right direction. Certainly, we all want to feel good and that requires feeling comfortable with our sense of who we are in the world, but how do we go about actually getting that?

How, in short, do we go about feeling "good enough"?