the institute for non-action

October 12, 2011

You’ll probably think I’m kidding, but I’m not.  Well, also I am, but it’s the dialectic of opposites that proves essential if we hope to unearth and share in the abundant treasure that hovers all around us, waiting patiently for us to savor it in the vivid and immediate realm of life we are living.

I like to tell stories, and I like to explain things—I guess I like to have a little attention now and then and I also like to feel like I’m earning my place at the communal table; but what I really want is to belong, to love, to give, to participate, to feel soft and safe and to have a lot of fun.

In this way, you see, at the quintessential level, we’re really rather the same, you my lovely reader, and me.

And while I don’t particularly wish to start anything new, or lead any particular charge for change, I have been a little bit preoccupied with an idea that feels like some whispering echo from the 1920’s surrealists—or maybe from the pre-historic cave painters.

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Relinquishing Resentment

October 5, 2011

While we’ve been attending to fear and how it inhibits parenting and lives well lived, it’s worth keeping in mind the relationship between fear and anger—and anger’s brooding distant cousin:  resentment.

When we feel scared we may run away, freeze up or go into fight mode.  This marks the workings of our primitive brain.  Thus fear and threat are generally the root causes of anger.

When we are scared of things that do not truly pose a dire threat to us (but make us feel, and react, as if our very lives are threatened), or when we are scared that things may happen which in truth have already happened (like being, or feeling like we were, abandoned as children and thus chronically fearing abandonment) we move into the more neurotic realms of functioning, or perhaps dysfunctioning.

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Zombies on the Couch

September 28, 2011

I’ve been writing a fair amount this year about fear, primarily because our unresolved anxieties can be a significant obstacle to both optimal parenting as well as a buzz-kill to a life richly and fully lived.

While it’s often relatively easy to see other people’s “issues” in stark relief, it’s our own Shadows that lurk behind us as we face the sun.  Hence a tour of one of my worst, albeit absurd (at least for a “grown-up” who is also a clinical psychologist), fears…

It was a Saturday night and my parents were out (but then, at least in my mind, they were always out.  They would say otherwise, but the fact that they made me feel that way speaks, at the very least, an emotional truth—and I digress here because parenting is not a legal proceeding, but an emotional reckoning and we want our kids to feel like we enjoy them and to feel like we’re actually there, which happens to be the opposite characteristics of zombies, but now I’m getting ahead of myself).

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Peeling the Gibson (or, Why Brave Men Run in my Family)

September 21, 2011

“Gibson.”  Def.: A martini garnished with a cocktail onion.

I heard that Mel Gibson is planning a movie about Judah Maccabee, the Che Guevara of Hanukah (click for an amusing interview with Mel by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic).  I heard many Jews are outraged.  I hesitate to write about this because you don’t want to encourage bad behavior by paying attention to it.  But just as Mel can’t control himself when he gets loaded, sometimes I just can’t control my fingers at the laptop.

*

EXT.  PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY/MALIBU—PERFECT SUNSET

MEL GIBSON HOLLERS at a WOMAN COP.  We only hear fragments:

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A Supernova in my Backyard

September 14, 2011

My neighbor’s tree fell down some months back.  It was as if it had just gotten tired of standing there between our houses and leaned over onto our roof, filling the kitchen window with wet pine boughs.  After the gardener cut the spent leaner into logs the view was bleak stucco.

And so we got a new tree and planted it on our side of the fence.  A Charlie Brown tree that, in honor of being not terribly expensive, is also pretty unobtrusive.  The view is of a wisp of young leaves hardly distracting the eye from a field of sad stucco.

And so I took my latest batch of compost and fed the little tree.  So far the little tree has not grown an inch, but a late summer volunteer tomato has sprung up.

Sometimes we get lost and find things we weren’t seeking.

*

There is a supernova in the pinwheel galaxy right now.  The last one to occur in our celestial hood was in the 1970s.

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Shadow Work

September 7, 2011

I was in a rather good mood on the way to work after chatting with Nate about On The Road, deeply appreciating his take on “rootless soul-searching” and the “selfishness of Beats who couldn’t deal with intimate relationships.”  I opened the top of my car to see the sky.

I had dreamed of the bear the previous night—a recurring dream symbol that first leapt out of the blackness when I was four, and has shape-shifted in myriad forms and meanings over the years.  In the latest dream a mother bear challenged me, in a vacation home, where I was protecting my family—suddenly she was all teeth and claws and we were embraced in wild conflict as I awoke.  In waking I intuited that the problem was mine and not hers.  The Shadow brings us our power, and the illumination of our own dark places… unless we resist.

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Courage

August 31, 2011

Greetings.  Now that we’re in that back to school time of year, I thought we might take a moment to consider the concept of courage, especially as it relates to parenting.

In a sense, courage is the antidote to fear, or at least the opposite of succumbing to fear, and thus it is a “virtue” we want to cultivate in the service of better parenting (and lives more richly lived).

Courage is defined as, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”

I might expand this definition to suggest that “the quality of mind and spirit” that does the trick is love; thus courage is love in the face of fear.

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Dreamy Dog Days of August

August 24, 2011

Come September we’ll get back, perhaps, to the nuts and bolts of parenting.  But August is a hot and dreamy time, a strange and lazy time; no time for specificity, industry, clarity or ambition—rather a time of melting ice-cream cones and pool, lake, river and sea water drying on shoulders.

A recent movie review of “Mysteries of Lisbon,” (reviewed by Manohla Dargis in The New York Times) sounded both intriguing and long—Andy suggested Netflix—but in the meantime (since it’s not even showing in LA yet) I was left pondering a quote, about Remembrance of Things Past, filtered through the psyche of Nabokov, who saw that book as:  “a treasure hunt, one in which time is the treasure and the past its hiding place.”

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Petals falling from peonies

August 17, 2011

Scribbling notes on my “great works”

In the quiet of the morning

Petals drop

At the perfect moment

No intention whatsoever

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Lizards: waving, drowning, smiling, frowning

August 10, 2011

A few weeks ago two lizards appeared in our yard.  They seemed to be fast friends, even though one looked like Rango and the other like the typical lizards one finds in the gardens of LA.  The standard lizard did his customary push-ups while the escaped day of the iguana or rogue karmic chameleon with upward curled tail demonstrated her distinctive walk:  a funky rolling gait in which she seemed to ride an invisible wave.  Regular lizard, in contrast, snaked side-to-side as he cut dusty trails or climbed the walls.

Sadly, a couple of weeks ago, I found the fish-out-of-water lizard dead in the pool, imitating William Holden at the beginning of Sunset Boulevard.  Unlike Gloria Swanson, however, I didn’t call the mortuary, but rather buried it, with spirit but without much ceremony in the sacred ground where also rest three guinea pigs, a goldfish and assorted birds and mammals who met their demise within the confines of the land I tend, but do not pretend to “own” (no matter how banks, mortgages, property taxes and departments of water, power and trash might weigh, cash or trash-in on the matter).

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