October 25, 2016

The Monster in You

I like to think of myself as a peaceful person. I try to avoid conflict. I act in mellow non-confrontational ways. I dare say that I am a pacifist. I have been opposing war as a concept since I was a child. I do not eat animals in order to reduce the amount of violence and the death on the planet. I understand and respect non-violent philosophies from Zen to Ghandi to MLK, so why is that last night as I watching the season premiere of The Walking Dead, I found myself salivating with some primal level need for death and destruction? Where does this masochist need for blood in fiction come from? 

I don’t have too many answers in this post, so I was hope to lay out some ideas and here what you all have to say in the comment section. 

I have felt this appreciate and thirst for violence before. Namely anytime Ramsey Bolton is on the screen in Game of Thrones. I watch characters like Bolton and Neegan with my jaw to the floor, entrance by their depravity. Not only do I wish to do them harm, thus awakening my need for violence, but I cannot look way from their brutal actions. What will they do next? How much more unacceptable can it be? 

The writers for The Walking Dead found a nerve last night and messed with it for nearly an hour. Creating one of the most blood curling, antagonistic, tension filled hours of television of all time. Mairin and I couldn’t look away. Well, Mairin looked away while screaming oh my god. Oh my god, but I was all in. How do you explain a pacifist drooling over The Walking Dead? 

I know I am not alone. Many of you out there watch the show as well. Looking at you Brighde, Carol, Mary and other seemingly sane, calm, peaceful people who love them some F'd-up shows. What are your thoughts? How do you make sense of the violence you so thoroughly enjoy in shows like these? 

Of course I know that this is fiction and any intelligent person can and should be able to differentiate between reality and fantasy, but can any true self-aware Bodhisattva be entertained, and even thrilled by, the anarchy of violence during the zombie apocalypse? I am curious to hear your thoughts.

October 24, 2016

Burn Like A Fire

Today was a full on day back at work:

Taught some classes. Had lunch with friends. Met with my principal about goals. Checked in on teachers. Met with colleagues. Watered my plants. Marked the assessments I didn’t mark over the break. Covered a mentor class. Marked the assessments I didn’t mark over the break. Got reacquainted with my work flow. Marked the assessments I didn’t mark over the break.

It was a full on day after two weeks of slovenly relaxation. At one point, I was looking out over a group of sixth graders and said, “Wow. Good to be back y’all. I miss you guys and your energy.” And that was the truth. One forgets how much kids give back to us everyday.

I also went for a run. Super slow, but eeked out almost 8km. Felt pretty good, hoofin’ it out there. Was thinking a lot about John’s talk at Learning 2 about routine and ritual.

I was thinking about how routine my day was today. Just getting systems back in place. But is this what we want for our classless? Our schools?

Functional routines?

Where is the excitement? The wonder? The OMG? What can I do to make most days super exciting and engaging for my kids? Sure, I can mark a bunch of assessments and give them timely feedback and write their scores on my iPad, but what am I doing this week that will thrill these kids? Make them think about how glad they are to be in my room with me? What can I do that will make them yearn to come back everyday? Not to plod through another well-planned unit, but to burn like a fire?

It was a good day back, but since I am questioning everything in my life these days, why not my practice, my classroom, my school? The kids we teach deserve more than sedate routines.

I still have more to mark tomorrow, but it is manageable, so I feel fine signing off for the night and watching The Walking Dead.

Oh and by the way, The Oakland Raiders are 5-2 and have one of the best records in the league.

October 23, 2016

So Many Boxes

What else is there besides this? What more do you want? What fantasies do you still concoct as you lay awake in the darkness or when you let your mind drift at the traffic light? What random memory do you crawl to, to try and leverage a future you feel you are owed? Why can’t this always be enough?

The light kiss and the long hug from your wife in the living room on a Sunday afternoon. The fist pump from your daughter as she sinks a basket at basketball practice. The tangy salsa in your breakfast burrito. The casual conversation with a friend about the trials and tribulations of parenting. The work you begrudgingly had to do to get back in the swing of things. It could be worse- you could be doing a job you hate. Something that is not your calling.

What else is there besides this? Sure, the minutes can trickle by at a pace that feels frozen. A routine induced boredom that you try and remedy with…what? Why can’t you enjoy the trips and the journey? The small moments in front of the mirror, admiring how you have finally grown into yourself. The look matching the mood matching the inner voice- the one that won’t shut up. The one that is never satisfied. The one that argues with itself and demands more, while begging to be grateful.

The lives of the characters in the novel you’re reading seem so desperate, but their familiarity puts you in a panic. What are your rituals? Where is your romance and bliss? Is the literature a mirror of your routines? A cliched mid-life episode? Is this all there is? Will I cherish this at the end? Am I doing enough? Living enough? Loving enough? Am I to blame for the ho hum, hum drum of these days as they pass? Am I the only one who sees them? Feels their weight?

Why don’t we talk more about our dreams?
At this point what the hell is your dream?

So many boxes already expertly checked: job. wife. kids. expat. travel. hobbies. friends.

What else is there to want? And if you can’t even name it, why do you want it so desperately?

As a kid from an inadequate family, why can’t you just focus on the one goal? Have you forgotten the promises of selflessness you made to your infant daughter, on those quiet dark nights in the glow of her bedroom, with the tender music, and her in your arms, perfect and precious, an empty vessel for everything they didn’t do for you, an empty bag waiting to be filled with everything you salvaged from yourself worth passing on. You vowed to erase yourself piece by piece on those nights, promised to ignore your selfish needs for the sake of your daughter and your wife and this family. And now what ten years later you are wondering about your needs again?

Where did they go?
What are they?
Why do they feel so trivial and obscene?

Your priorities are in front of you. No more lethargic days passing away in a slow drip. Tell her you love her more often. Thank her. Help her. Live your politics instead of tweeting them. Go to Ikea with a smile. Care about the curtains. Get excited about the parties and the holidays and the future and the present. Be more present. Play with the kids. Talk to them. Look deeply into their eyes so they can tie themselves to your ballast.

Slow Sundays in your head can be exhausting. This election is pulling on you like dead weight, forcing you to carry around its bile with every step. The videos. The words. The Tweets. The half-baked opinions of every idiot in a comment box. Why do you let them burrow into your heart. Your space?

What else is there besides this? You are a middle aged man: a father, a husband, a friend and a son who is doing his best. Although, this seldom feels like it is enough, you have to trust that it is.