Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Three Indie Rock Love Songs

Just a quick appreciation post for contemporary indie rock love songs. What are some of your favorite love songs in various genres? Here are three of my favorite indie rock love songs. 

The song "Lilacs" by Waxahatchee received a lot of play on Sirius XMU a few years ago. I love hearing it whenever it shows up in their rotation. It was on the station yesterday when I caught it. I then listened to it a few more times on YouTube. I'm a sucker for a good lyric, and this line knocks me out: "I won't end up anywhere good without you."

Another song I hear often on XMU is "True Love" by Hovvdy. The simplicity of the lyrics work for me..."You comfort me, Rosy"... and the imagery works for me too...

"Show off your new dress

Spin around for me

Like a blue sky I get up so high

You sure shine in the color

In that shade of pink"

To end with a perfect song... "Geometry" by Rubblebucket

"When you talk to me

I start to believe

I can believe in myself

When you're far out to sea in your personal hill

Draw a line to me

And I'll draw a line to you

Let's make geometry"

I just love the everyday life stuff in this song:

"I woke up thinking the same thing

What you want to do today?

I guess I'd go for a walk again

But Alex said it might be raining"

It's all so good: 

"I like you

You like me too

That's why I'm callin' on you"

These songs will be in my head all day 😍

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The True Declaration of Love

"The practice of mindfulness will help you to love properly, in such a way that harmony, freedom, and joy are possible. The true declaration of love is, "Dear one, I am here for you," because the most precious gift you can give to your loved one is your true presence, with body and mind united in solidity and freedom...

In order to love, we must be here, and then our presence will embrace the presence of the other person. Only then will they have the feeling of being loved. So you must recognize the presence of the other person with the energy of mindfulness, with the genuine presence of your body in mind in oneness." 

Excerpts from You Are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh, p. 91 and p. 93 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Deep Listening

"The practice of deep listening consists of keeping compassion alive in your heart the whole time that you are listening. You do not listen in order to judge, criticize, or evaluate. You listen for one reason alone: to offer the other person a chance to express him- or herself. That person is going to say things that irritate you. He or she might express disapproval of you, heap blame on you, say things that are false. You have to be ready to listen to anything. You have to say to yourself, "I'm listening to this person not to criticize or judge him. I'm listening to give him a chance to express himself, to provide him with some relief--that's all."

Excerpt from You Are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh, p. 62

Friday, July 14, 2023

See The Blue Sky

"Albert Camus wrote a novel, The Stranger, in which his character, Meursault, is condemned to death. Three days before his execution, he is able for the first time in his life to touch the blue sky. He is in his cell, he is looking at the ceiling. He discovers a square of blue sky appearing through the skylight. Strangely enough, a man forty years of age is able to see the blue sky for the first time. Of course, he had looked at the stars and the blue sky more than once before, but this time it was for real. We might not know how to touch the blue sky in such a profound way. The moment of awareness Camus describes is mindfulness: Suddenly you are able to touch life." 

Excerpt from True Love, Thich Nhat Hanh, pp. 16-17

I took this picture at Knox Farm (East Aurora, NY) yesterday during a long walk. 

Developing a Listening Exercise

Listening is a sociological skill. We can all improve our listening ability. If given the opportunity to concentrate and listen carefully to others, maybe we can be better listeners. This semester I plan to try a listening exercise. One way to do this would be to pair up students and have them chat about prompts like these:

  1. Describe a pet and what your pet means to you (if you've never had a pet, would you want one some day?) 
  2. Details about a job you’ve had
  3. What's something in your life that is stressful?
  4. A hobby or activity in your life
  5. What’s a value you have, or a family value, that’s important to you?
  6. Is there an area in your life you’re trying to improve?
Whatever the questions are, we would pair back up a few weeks later to revisit these questions and to see what people remember from their conversation. The spirit of the exercise is to practice deep listening. Maybe we'll recognize we too often "half listen" in daily conversation or come in and out of conversations. We can't be perfect listeners all the time, but surely we can improve. 

Thoughts? Ideas? 

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Home Improvement, Forever

I don't know when I started watching HGTV. I'm not sure I ever want to watch HGTV, as in "I really need to watch a home improvement show, or a show about flipping, or a show about house hunting." I watch it because it's on. It's convenient. I watch it for filler, similar to my viewing of Food Network. These channels are on all day, with reliable content. I have to be careful not to consume too much Food Network. The shows make me hungry. If I'm bored, and there's nothing on (which is most of the time), I tend to flip back and forth between these channels. In the past few years, I've cut back on my Food Network viewing, and probably have watched more HGTV than say 4-5 years ago. But I don't stay on HGTV too long. After all these years, I can still fantasize about living in a newly remodeled home with an amazing yard. It's easy escapism. Sure, I'd like to have a killer pool and perfect landscaping. Or two full bathrooms. Or a home office. But the structural limitations of our home makes these things unlikely. Plus financial limitations, lol. Whatever our budget affords us (or doesn't), the song remains the same: HGTV suggests there is always something to do to your place, that there is always something to change, that updating your living quarters is valuable. You can also look good doing it! You might even make money doing it! It certainly suggests that the condition of your apartment, or home, is not good enough. Even if you love it and don't leave it, something must be improved. You can't possibly be happy with what is. Hmmmm. 

There's Crying in Baseball

One year ago, we were in Myrtle Beach for a baseball tournament. We played some very talented teams from Florida and South Carolina. Maybe the best team we played was from Massachusetts--they had a kid who could throw a curveball that our team couldn't hit. It was hot, very hot, around 90 degrees each day. It was also the end of the season. My kid, a small for his age 11-year-old, was already tired with it being the end of the season. He still loved playing games, but you could tell he was tired and that his body needed rest. The heat and the pressure of playing better teams was a lot to endure. First game, he struggled at the plate, and couldn't get a hit. At the end of the game, he was exhausted, and he cried. A lot. He'd cry over the years at age 8, 9, 10, and 11 when playing baseball. So would other kids. You'd see kids cry after striking out or making an error or getting thrown out. What the secret is to handling your kid crying, I'm not sure. I nor any other parent that I've noticed seem to have the secret sauce. Your kid is upset, they perceive themselves as failing, they might cry. We'd try to explain to kids that it's hard to succeed in baseball. We can say things like "If you get a hit 2 or 3 times out of 10 in baseball, that's success" or "MLB players strike out and make errors!" but it doesn't make kids feel better. They want to succeed and it's hugely frustrating for them to strike out or to "fail" in other ways. 

I think that was the last time my kid cried at baseball. I've observed a big difference between 11 and 12 years old. I haven't observed much crying from kids this year. Sure, you still see it once in a while for the same reasons--striking out, getting thrown out, booting a ball, getting hit by a pitch--but it's much less common and doesn't last as long. Kids are more able to move on more quickly. I notice I can reason with my 12-year-old in a way that I couldn't in previous years. It makes sense to him now that he can't hold onto a "bad" at bat and that he has to have a short memory when something doesn't go his way. You can't carry over a "bad" at bat to the field, and you can't get stuck on what went "wrong" in the last at bat. You try to learn from an unsuccessful at bat, but you don't obsess about it. I try to teach him to stay in the moment and be confident in the here and now. 

It's never easy to see your kid upset and parents seem flustered when their kid is crying. I can't claim to have always known what to do in such moments. We can aim to be compassionate, understanding,  supportive, and patient. 

Loving Friendliness

"The meditation center where I most often teach is in the hills of the West Virginia countryside. When we first opened our center, there was a man down the road who was very unfriendly. I take a long walk every day, and, whenever I saw this man, I would wave to him. He would just frown at me and look away. Even so, I would always wave and think kindly of him, sending him metta. I was not phased by his attitude; I never gave up on him. Whenever I saw him, I waved. After about a year, his behavior changed. He stopped frowning. I felt wonderful. The practice of loving friendliness was beginning to bear fruit. 

After another year, when I passed him on my walk, something miraculous happened. He drove past me and lifted one finger off the steering wheel. Again, I thought, "Oh, this is wonderful! Loving friendliness is working." And yet another year passed as, day after day, I would wave to him and wish him well. The third year, he lifted two fingers in my direction. Then the next year, he lifted all four fingers off the wheel. More time passed. I was walking down the road as he turned into his driveway. He took his hand completely off the steering wheel, stuck it out the window, and waved back at me.

One day, not long after that, I saw this man parked on the side of one of the forest roads. He was sitting in the driver's seat smoking a cigarette. I went over to him and we started talking. First we chatted just about the weather and then, little by little, his story unfolded: It turns out that, several years ago, he had been in a terrible accident--a tree had fallen on his truck. Almost every bone in his body had been broken, and he was left in a coma for some time. When I first started seeing him on the road, he was only beginning to recover. It was not because he was a mean person that he did not wave back to me; he did not wave back because he could not move all his fingers! Had I given up on him, I would never have known how good this man is. One day, when I had been away on a trip, he actually came by our center looking for me. He was worried because he hadn't seen me walking in a while. Now we are friends."

Excerpt from Mindfulness in Plain English, Bhante Gunaratana, pp, 179-180

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Touching Life Deeply

"When you contemplate the full moon, if you are thinking then the full moon is not there and you are not there either. This is because thinking prevents us from living deeply in the present moment in our everyday life. When you are drinking water, drink water, drink only water. That is meditation. You must not drink other things, such as your worries, your plans--wandering around in the realm of your thoughts. Thinking prevents us from touching life deeply. I think, therefore I am really not there."

Excerpt from: Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love, pp. 86-87

On Being a Hero

It was a close game in a six inning tournament contest, and suddenly it was tie ballgame after six full innings. Extra innings, here we go. The two teams were perfectly evenly matched, but the momentum really seemed on our side. Our second baseman was eating up everything and was piling up putouts. Normally a singles hitter, he enjoyed a double and later laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt. In the bottom of the 8th inning, with the game still tied, the other team was near the bottom of the batting order. The hitter who came to the plate was hitless for the day, hitting a few routine groundballs to the aforementioned second basemen. In my head I figured he might do it one more time. Instead, the kid destroyed a ball for a no doubt home run. It was incredible. I had to tip my cap. Baseball gives, baseball takes away. I was proud of our team and happy for the home run hero. A walk off home run is an extraordinary feat. If you're a hero for a day as a 12-year-old, you'll remember it for the rest of your life. My kid was the second baseman who probably played the best day of his baseball life. To use a cliché, he left it all on the field. We shook hands with the other team after the game, per tradition. I get to go through the line as an assistant coach. I congratulated the home run hero. We told our team to keep their heads high, and praised them for a job well done. I like the way we coached and how the kids responded to the disappointment. 

Youth sports rightly gets a lot of criticism for erratic parent behavior, questionable coaching behavior, the increasing cost to play, and the overstructured nature of the whole enterprise. What gets overlooked in the criticism are the many positives: valuable lessons about winning and losing, opportunities for being a good sport, learning to play a game with integrity, being a good teammate, and, as this example is meant to simply show, the rare experience of being a hero in a sport context. Imagine what that home run did for that kid's self esteem and how proud he must still feel. Bravo.

Monday, July 3, 2023

Party Talking

The 4th of July has nearly arrived. You may find yourself at a party soon. Maybe you'll attend graduation parties, weddings, and other gatherings this summer. What style of talking do you notice? Here's a few of the ways of talking I've noted at recent parties...

1. Opinions and assertions. The person opines, or lectures, sometimes aggressively. Often political in nature.

2. Small talk / chit chat / stays at the superficial level. Safe topics.

3. Conversation. Includes back and forth, and questions. Goes beyond the superficial level without necessarily attempting to be profound or deep. Attentive listening and sincere interest in the other person(s) are key features.

I've listed these in order of most likely to least likely, according to recent experiences. Opinions and non-controversial chit chat are common, whereas conversations are relatively rare. 

How about you? What are your experiences and observations?

Update 7/16/2023: I was at a graduation party yesterday, and got to enjoy some banter between old friends. My neighbor was sitting with two of his buddies from way back in the day. My wife and I joined them. I was a bit hesitant because I could see they were catching up on old times. But they were super cool and didn't mind us sitting with them. They were very friendly. The style of talking on display was storytelling. Storytelling is an art, and it's a form of talking I truly appreciate. I don't consider myself a skilled storyteller. These guys traded hilarious stories from over the years. We were belly laughing. All three of these guys were good storytellers. So, I'm adding storytelling to my list of talking styles I've recently observed. I appreciated that they included us through eye contact, and by giving us a chance to jump in with a few stories of our own. 

Sunday, July 2, 2023

In Perspective

My baseball playing 12-year-old had a game in Brighton just outside the city of Rochester today. It was an uncomfortable day due to the humidity. There was a threat of rain, but it never came. It's always good to get in a ballgame. We played at a field with a rough infield and very short fences. The other team came out swinging, blasting two home runs in the first inning. Dingers are always deflating. Our bats were slow to begin the game, with our kids striking out a lot. The opposing team built a nice lead and though our kids did a nice job coming back to make it a close game, they ended up losing by one run. I wasn't laser focused on the game. My attention was distracted in a good way. A long time buddy who lives near Rochester came by the game. "Not to be corny," I said to my wife this morning during a walk, "but having a buddy of almost 30 years come to our kid's baseball game filled my cup." I'm old and sentimental, and genuinely appreciative of a friend who shows up to youth baseball game during a busy day of his own. We chatted during the game as I attended to my duties as official scorekeeper. Seeing him made me happy. We're in a group text with a few other buddies, and after the game he sent a nice message about how well my kid played. It nearly brought me to tears while I was sitting at lunch at Dinosaur BBQ in Rochester with a few families from the team. Did I mention I'm old and sentimental? Our server was friendly and did a terrific job. She told us she had only a few days left on the job. I briefly chatted with her on the way out, learning she's moving to Florida. I wished her well. I'm happy for people with new beginnings. Lunch was pleasant. I devoured my brisket sandwich and one of the coldest beers I've had in a long time, a can of Sip of Sunshine. 

On the way to lunch our 12-year-old was upset. He did in fact have a good game, making several good plays at second base, and getting two hits, one of which was a very hard hit double. But he made the last out of the game by grounding out. Few things feel worse in baseball than making the last out. He's hard on himself. I was relieved when he relaxed at the restaurant and enjoyed the company of his teammates. Today he showed no signs of being upset. A good night of sleep always helps. 

In youth baseball, best practice is to keep things in perspective. It's a game. You can't always win. You can't always succeed at the plate. It's a privilege to play the game of baseball. It's a joy when a friend you met in 1995 comes to say hi and see your kid play. You have good fortune if you can eat with your family in a restaurant and enjoy a good meal. In the youth baseball world, we often lose perspective. But we can aim to keep things in perspective.