What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

Today’s guest post comes from Steve Grooms.

When I was a kid I felt a breezy, uninformed optimism about the process of growing up. I assumed it would flow naturally, evenly, always moving toward a higher state of consciousness. I assumed that I would experience some tricky teen years and maybe endure challenges in my 20s. But I took it for granted that I’d be all grown up by 30 or (worst case scenario) 35. Then I’d have four or five decades to enjoy being a grownup before the little candle of my soul was snuffed out.

That optimism began to wear thin when I hit my 30s and still felt like a work in progress. I feared there was something wrong with me in my 40s because I still pursued maturity like a greyhound chasing a tin bunny, never catching it . . . hell, never getting near it!

Which one is the most mature?

Becoming a parent while I was still flagrantly immature was interesting. When you have a kid, you sometimes have to act like a grownup. I often felt like a fraud at such moments. I wanted to sneak out to the apron of the stage and confess to the audience, “I’m not really an adult, but I gotta play one from time to time.”

Somewhere along the line I sensed I wasn’t the only one still trying to grow up at 40, 50 or 60. One of my best friends is about twenty years older than I, and she routinely experiences breakthroughs in personal growth as she pushes 90. I now understand that most people continue to grow and mature as long as they breathe air. Some of that feels good and some of it stinks, but it seems to be one of the unavoidable realities of life.

I might be more aware of this than most folks, for my life blew up in my face when I was 57, and I suddenly didn’t have any idea of who I was or what I would do when I grew up. I “got” to experience my teen years all over when I was actually in my AARP years, with all the terrors and bizarre rewards of dating. I was plunged into a crash course in self-discovery. It has been fascinating and often harrowing.

Because of this blog piece, I’ve been contemplating changes that I’ve made lately. Without going into tedious detail, I believe I’m much more humble. I’ve always had strong opinions and no shortage of them. Most of my life I was “humble” in the sense of not arrogantly spouting off with my excellent opinions. I now understand that my opinions are often based on crummy data, lazy analysis and wishful thinking. Where I used to act humble, I now am humble because I know many of my pet convictions are just crap. I am doing a better job of keeping quiet when I see people doing dumb things. If they want my wisdom, they can always ask for it. I listen better now.

I continue to be curious about what I will be like when I grow up . . . if I ever do, which seems mighty unlikely after all these years!

What does it mean to be ‘grown up’, and how can you tell when you get there?

9-11 Redux

Today is the 11th anniversary of the attacks in 2001 that killed more than three thousand people in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania. Though we are now past the pivotal 10th anniversary, the annual observance remains painful.

People cope in their own way. Many attend memorial services. Some go to concerts featuring patriotic music and proud statements honoring brave first responders. Others perform acts of community service. Some try not to think about it too much.

I think of all these responses as human and legitimate.

My eye was caught the other day by MSNBC’s special “9-11 As it Happened,” where the cable network re-runs NBC’s coverage of the attacks minute-by-minute just as events unfolded. I saw only a portion, but was surprised at its power. Shocked and disheartened all over again, I wondered why anyone would sit there and intentionally re-live the experience. Especially since we all know the terrible ending.

Adding to the eeriness of the scene was the fact that I saw this play out while walking on a treadmill at an athletic club. MSNBC was displayed on just one of a series of screens. Right next to 9-11, the Green Bay Packers were struggling in the early going against the San Francisco 49’ers. I shifted my gaze back and forth from massive deadly violence against unsuspecting civilians to violence-for-fun-and-profit between rich men in costumes. Which channel to watch? It wasn’t a hard decision to make, but it was a tough choice to keep.

Had I been at home I would have changed the channel or turned off the TV. Committed to the treadmill for another 20 minutes, I told my eyes to behave. I had decided to live in the present moment, but the 9-11 replay was impossible to ignore. My gaze kept shifting back to it even though the I was trying to care that the Packers couldn’t mount a running game. Football never seemed more trivial.

We like to say we will never forget, and I’m sure for many that is absolutely true. But feeling what it was like to REALLY remember that day by seeing it play out in front of me again, I realized how much of it I have, out of necessity, pushed aside and watered down. In a society where so many of our games and entertainments depend on our blithe acceptance of scripted or controlled mayhem, it’s instructive to be reminded of how it drains the heart and wounds the soul to truly witness a genuine tragedy.

What do you do with 9-11? Observe it or avoid it?

Bounce House

Today’s post comes from Minnesota’s 9th District Congressman, representing all the water surface area in the state, the Honorable Loomis Beechly.

Beechly Uses The Smooth Lake Surface as a Teleprompter

Greetings Constituents, non-Constituents, All Pontoons in my District and all Ships At Sea,

I hope you all had a chance to watch the two political conventions over the past couple of weeks. I loved them both and after each one I wanted to vote for the party that had entertained me! That’s the way I am – I can’t help it. I think I share that tendency with most Americans.

We like the people we see on TV because they’re on TV and we’re not and we know that’s a Big Deal, even today when TV is not nearly as important as it used to be. A week’s worth of televised political speechifying that goes in one particular political direction does tend to have an effect on the viewing public, much in the same way a bunch of ads for Budweiser run over a short period of time will get people to buy more beer. It doesn’t much matter whether the product is any good – if it’s being talked up on TV people will respond. A large part of our economy has been built on this predictable effect.

So it is with the political candidates. Each one got a “bounce” in the opinion polls immediately following the convention.

Romney and the Republicans received a mild lift in terms of the electorate’s response in the few days following their shindig in Tampa, and Obama’s Democrats got an 8 point surge after the conclusion of festivities in Charlotte.

Like a small wake from a passing canoe, it appears Romney’s bounce passed quickly and faded to almost nothing by the time it reached shore. The Obama swell is bigger, and could be longer lasting. But will it take him all the way to election day? That remains to be seen.

But it makes me wonder – if having your gathering and its parade of loyal faces on TV assures even a small rise in the polls for each party, how long will it be before one of them decides to roll the dice and hold their convention, not two months ahead of election day, but during the week right before polls open?

Well why not?

We’re already messing with the voter laws, talking about putting an ID requirement in the Minnesota Constitution. The campaign season is too long – everybody knows that. And the big, big money comes out with a barrage of TV ads in the last few days before voting anyway! Why not move everything there?

In each case we already knew who the nominee would be – no surprise there if we wait. In fact there are no surprises at all at the political conventions anymore. There’s nothing to keep them from being held during the last week in October. And if they had done it like that this year, the Wednesday night speeches would have happened on Halloween!

Think of it.

The American people love Halloween. It is our own version of Mardi Gras, and we would embrace any political party that included a Halloween extravaganza as part of their convention. Wild costumes and elaborate make-up create great television images, and the spirit of the observance makes it logical for a candidate to literally demonize his opponent. Halloween night would be, for example, a great night to bring out Clint Eastwood talking to an invisible presence in an empty chair. Suddenly it all makes sense!

We the People have already shown that we have short memories. Why not truly take advantage of that and put on a show just before we have to decide? It works for American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. I believe this is where we are headed!

I wrote this all down as a blog post to share with you all so that you can remind me of it in four years. Otherwise, how will I remember?

Your Congressman,
Loomis Beechly

I think Rep. Beechly has a terrible idea here that is so bad, it will probably come true. By 2020, look for the conventions to start migrating into October as Halloween and Election Day slowly merge. Boo!

What are your ideas for improving the electoral process?

Making A Connection

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

I used to work at the big flagship B. Dalton Bookseller in Southdale, so I’ve had the luck to meet many authors. And many were a big surprise. Brooke Shields was quite nervous about meeting people and Rosalind Carter was a very outspoken and determined woman. Garrison Keillor was much nicer than I was expecting from the rumors and Gary Larson was this quiet, non-assuming little guy. I if he hadn’t drawn some cartoons in people’s books, I might have thought they sent somebody else in his place.

But hands-down, the two most impressive authors that I met were Leo Buscaglia and Robert Schuller, and both for the same reason. When you are with them, they each make you feel as if you are the only other person in the universe for them at that moment. It’s a heady feeling and they could each keep it up indefinitely. Leo Buscaglia hugged over 120 people that day he was in the store. Robert Schuller was in the store for 4 hours and made the last person in line feel as special as the first person in line.

Santa, Helping Everyone Feel Special and Loved

It was magical watching them interact with so many different kinds of people. Over the years, however, I thought that being with either of them for any length of time might be difficult; it must be a lot of pressure being the only other person in someone’s universe.

But I’d be willing to give it a try!

What’s the secret to making a strong connection on the first (and possibly only) meeting?

The Day The Music Arrived

Today is Buddy Holly‘s birthday. He landed on the planet as Charles Hardin Holly in Lubbock, Texas on this date in 1936. He had a strange, short life that has been much chronicled since. I’m amazed at how listenable his music is even today. You have to admire anyone who could create such a lasting body of work in a few short years.

The video in today’s post presents a weird scene, very early in Holly’s brief live TV career. He had made his first appearance on American Bandstand just four months before, and now just a few days before the start of the new year 1958 he shows up in enemy territory on the Arthur Murray Dance Party.

The show was an infomercial for the Arthur Murray Dance Studios. Americans were learning to waltz and do Latin steps in the 1950’s, but rock and roll was an intruder. I suppose as a business strategy it was important for the show to include new music that younger audiences preferred, though it’s hard to imagine dancing to Buddy Holly’s music in the outfits the Murray cast is wearing as they provide a mostly stationary backdrop to his performance of “Peggy Sue.”

I particularly enjoy Kathryn Murray’s painfully polite introduction. She may as well have started with “I will explain why we are about to horrify you” and could have added “please don’t turn the channel” after every sentence.

A motherly “and it’s good for you” would have been an appropriate finish.

What do you say when you know you are just about to disappoint someone?

A Look Behind the Curtain

My father has always been the kind of guy who wants to know how things work. When I was growing up I recognized the basement as a place where weird tools were kept and mysterious electronic boxes hummed in the dark. The corners were packed with various gadgets and implements that my mother called “junk”. Whatever purpose had caused them to be brought into the house, it was long forgotten. The best policy for a kid was not to touch things unless directed to do so. But if you wanted to kill a few hours, all you had to do was ask “what’s that”? Explanations were free and complete.

Through that question-and-suffer process I discovered I don’t have the necessary patience to know very much about anything. That’s why I went into the uninformed commentary business – we bloggers and pundits only have to figure out a plausible angle to get our work done.

And really, it doesn’t have to be all that plausible.

Thank goodness there are scientific researchers who are willing to pay closer attention to stuff, especially the debris collecting in the margins. Just yesterday a series of papers were published that upended what we’ve thought for years about how human traits are controlled.

To quote the New York Times story:

“The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as ‘junk’ but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave.”

And by “behave,” we mean “badly”. Complex diseases appear to be influenced by the throwing of hundreds of these gene switches. All that remains is to figure out which levers cause which things to happen. Not a simple task by any measure, but this work by hundreds of researchers in dozens of labs around the globe will have amazing and long lasting scientific and medical effects.

All because they had the patience to investigate the junk in the corner.

When has a closer look paid dividends?

Fact Chucker

Dear Dr. Babooner,

My 7 year old son Jimmy has a problematic relationship with the truth.

He simply cannot leave a fact un-tortured, particularly if it implicates him in some kind of wrongdoing. Whenever we say he has done something, Jimmy denies the charges.

But that’s not the worst of it.

He also takes facts that dispute his claims of innocence and he re-imagines them as evidence in his own defense. When we challenge this mis-interpretation of reality, Jimmy goes on the attack and then retreats to a place of victimhood, saying we don’t listen to his arguments because we’re against him.

For example, last week we docked his allowance $5 to help pay for the repair a lampshade he had damaged while playing Frisbee in the house – an activity that is strictly forbidden. Jimmy immediately went into defensive mode, claiming that we had dramatically increased his taxes.

We pointed out that we were simply asking him to pay his fair share of the cost of rectifying a bad situation that diminishes us all (the bare bulb makes the living room appear very much like a gulag), and he called us socialists who are bent on stealing his wealth so we can throw it away on overpriced furnishings.

I offered that Jimmy would have no “wealth” without us, and he became very, very upset and called us “wards of the state.” My husband almost had a stroke and said if anyone in our house was a “ward of the state,” that would be our son, since we pay for the infrastructure that supports his very survival.

Jimmy then argued that he was, in fact, a “job creator,” because by knocking over the lamp and smashing the shade, he made work for the lampshade mender, whereas we did nothing for the economy but simply “handed money out and made demands,” like a branch of government.

I have never seen my husband’s face that particular shade of crimson.

Jimmy then pointed out that the Frisbee is something he purchased with his “earnings”. If we were going insist on penalizing him for utilizing this capital expenditure, the long term effect on the economy would be dire. He would have less incentive to by more Frisbees, since we seem bent on enforcing these unenforceable rules and regulations. The only logical choice for him would be to stop all his expenditures until the uncertainty subsides.

Sigh. We caved and took on the whole cost of fixing the lampshade but I’m concerned that he’s now learned to argue his way out of a bad spot and to never, ever accept responsibility for anything.

I’m not sure if he gets these embarrassing tactics from Republicans or Democrats, but I have noticed whenever we simply assert our authority because he’s only seven and we are, in fact, “the boss of him”, he asks to see a photo ID to be sure we are not just some creative and mischievous strangers determined to cause havoc.

Dr. Babooner, I’m concerned for Jimmy’s future when I see him willfully misinterpret the truth to press his own advantage. But perhaps I’m overdoing it. He’s only 7 and there’s plenty of time for him to outgrow this contentious behavior. Isn’t there?

Flummoxed in Fridley

I told Flummoxed that Jimmy could very well outgrow this fact-twisting phase, but she should hope he doesn’t! Political operatives in both parties are paid very well, and his ability to toss a fact so far away from it’s starting point that it appears to be a reverse of itself is a talent rivaling that of the greatest Olympians. Jimmy will do well in the Brave New World if he manages to keep his hubris.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

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