Bless the Children with Boredom

Bless the Children with Boredom

A child walking down the street nearly bumped into me as he did something with his smartphone. In the laundromat, a brother and sister sat side-by-side; each staring at a different video. On the subway train, a boy of not more than six played a video game. None of these children was bored.

Much of my childhood was filled with long stretches of boredom. I grew up in a primitive age when television stations still signed off late at night and did not start back up again for hours. Sometimes, with only a handful of channels to watch, there as nothing that could keep my attention. I could go and knock on the neighbor boy’s front door; but he might not be there . . . or his parents might not let him come out and play. I could not send surreptitious text messages. No one could send me links to videos on the Internet. I could go and read a book. Truth be known, though – books were most often neglected companions. And my parents, as patient as they were with their son who tended to hover around adults more than most children, sometimes told me to go outside and play. Continue reading

Autumn Creativity

Autumn Creativity

As the nighttime expands with the season, it opens up more time for dreams when I am awake. In earlier times, our ancestors likely used the longer hours by the light of the fire to imagine what they saw hinted at in the flames or in the shadows they cast. It was a time for storytelling and adventures of the imagination. It is similar, I suppose, for me even in a time of electric lights and computers.

I’ve noticed for years that Autumn is the richest time for my creativity Continue reading

A New Moment

A New Moment

Our lives together are made up of many moments. These are the stretches of time that are unified – or at least loosely held together – by our awareness focused or framed by particular thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. The moments in time may be short or long. They can last for seconds or for years. They overlap with one another; mutually flavouring one another.

Fifteen years ago today, a long moment began. The events on that day afflicted the city in which I now live – and the country and world I call home – with mayhem, death, and trauma. Fear rose up across the land like a great dust storm. It is a storm that has raged, now, for a decade and a half. Continue reading

Curiosity

Curiosity

I credit my parents with putting an important frame of curiosity around things for me. They taught me that learning is fun. This was long before I met people who told me that it should be a serious undertaking. Right from the beginning, my mom & dad let me know that whole worlds resided in books – and that I could go there with as little effort as turning a page and reading. We went to museums and historic sites on vacations and weekends. We pulled along the side of the road to read historical markers. We took the time to imagine together the things we were learning on our own or with each other. Life itself, I was taught by them, is an adventure.

I was not immune to the pain of alternative portrayals of learning that I encountered later, however. Learning was to correct a deficit of not knowing. It was a deadly serious effort to avoid poverty, inadequacy, and ignorance. Learning was something that needed to be done to complete you as a productive member of society. Learning was process and knowing was product.  Continue reading

Discernment

Discernment

I experience life as a conversation between the Divine and myself. I am not merely acted upon. Nor do I live in isolation. Life is made up of a sharing of hopes, dreams, and ideas. It is a mutual act of creation.

This means that I need to regularly pause to listen, to reflect, to dream, and to wonder. I need to discern the course ahead.

One of the most important things in this process of living is to remember that I need to pause – to stop for a while. It is too easy to forget this. It is too easy to think that life is one-sided; made up of actions for which I am solely responsible.  Continue reading

Tree of Knowledge–Spirit of Wisdom

Tree of Knowledge–Spirit of Wisdom

I have always been curious. I love going to museums, libraries, and historical sites. Hours spent in conversation, sharing ideas, testing concepts, and delighting in growing just a bit more in the company of a friend – these are treasures in my life.
As I move through the years, I find that my interests in one topic lead me to others. It is like watching a tree grow. The roots and branches spread out as the initial seed of curiosity grows deeper and higher.

When I was younger, I used to fear that I was unfocused; that my curiosity drove me forward to grow my base of knowledge with cancerous design. Was my curiosity disordered and a waste of time and energy? Was I merely following after phantoms that would prove to have no substance? Did my mind lack discipline – chasing after leaves like a child at play? When was I too old to run hither and thither?  Continue reading

The Satisfactions of Virtue

The Satisfactions of Virtue

Why do we do the things we do? Why should we do one thing or another? Why should we not do one thing or another?

Our actions in life are shaped by our choices (active or passive). Whether we do something or do nothing both are expressions of choice on our part. There is no such thing as ‘sitting this one out;’ because abstention has consequences like any action one might have taken. As long as we live in this world, we will be touched by it and it will be touched by us as well. And even our departure from this world will set in motion a series of effects. It is something with which we all need to come to grips: every aspect of life has moral and practical significance.

So how are we to make our choices? What is to be the guide for our decisions great and small?  Continue reading

Comparing Memories

Comparing Memories

Some memories get recalled again and again. We tell them as narrative refrains that are mixed in with accounts of new experiences — ‘It was just like back when . . . ‘ Sometimes memories are drawn out to be retold (or silently remembered) at certain times of year — like the memory of a good bye on the anniversary of the last time a loved one was seen.

Memories are not simply what happened to us then. Memories are how we build our now out of the stuff of what we’ve carried inside of us from before.

Teaching history, I am intrigued by memory. It is the source for our understanding of the past and of the present. But it is a flowing resource and a work in progress. To understand the power of memory — and its potentials for shaping our nows and our futures — it is important to observe that memory is not solidly fixed and it should not be assumed to be static.  Continue reading

The Love of Stories Read Aloud

The Love of Stories Read Aloud

She began almost every class after lunch by reading to us.

We were sixth-graders. She was our teacher during the class period right before lunch and the class period right after. The subjects she taught were English and Social Studies.

How could one possibly teach anything to adolescents before and after lunch? It was crazy . . . something that could only make sense to a middle school administrator.

Fifteen minutes. Sometimes twenty or more. She read to us as we digested our meals and cooled down from time on the playground. I can still hear Mrs Y’s voice. I can even remember many of the stories she read from books about twelve and thirteen year-olds like ourselves.  Continue reading

Our French Revolution

Our French Revolution

The syllabus prescribed that my graduate students and I would spend the three-hour class discussing the French Revolution. I’d assembled my lecture notes. I’d reminded everyone what they needed to read before class. I was reasonably certain most of us would be prepared.

Stepping in front of the classroom, I sketched out the noteworthy milestones we needed to cover in our one-class survey of a very big topic. Students busily typed on their laptops or wrote in their notebooks. I sat down on the table that served as my desk and swung my legs forward and back; waiting for everyone to give me their attention. I had an idea. It came to me as I sat there. And then, I began . . .  Continue reading