Shower Questions

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” So says Ralphy E. But I say publishing consistency is the bugbear of creators, adored by advertisers and algorithms and subscribers. Also, how did the semi-helpful trickster sprite become a tribal warrior opponent of first-level wilderness adventurers? Seems like a strange journey, and one made even stranger by how few bother to ask the question.

The One Thing I Know

Four and a half years ago, I was thinking about someone I loved very deeply, who was suffering terrible pain that I felt I couldn’t do anything to ease. And I was thinking about my own pain, past and present. I was thinking of losses I had experienced, and some of my darkest moments of doubt and despair. And I was thinking about many others I knew or had known, who struggled. And some who lost the struggle. Not knowing what else to do with my thoughts and my feelings, I wrote a letter to everyone in the world.

I keep meeting new people who need this message. I keep discovering I need to hear it again myself. So here it is, in the hopes that it reaches one more person who needs it.

I’m doing fine, by the way. But life is pretty rough sometimes, isn’t it?

Look. I know you are stressed. I know you are anxious.

You think things are spinning out of control. Or maybe you think things are permanently stuck and will never change. Or maybe even both.

You are staying above water for now, but you see swells on the horizon that you know will eventually break over your head, and you don’t know how you’ll survive it this time. You don’t recall how you survived it last time.

Maybe you’ve lost your purpose. Or never had one. Or have a very clear mission in life that you understand is impossible.

Everything you thought was certain has turned to sand. Everything you thought would get better has gotten worse. People you expected would always be there are now gone, or soon will be.

You wonder about your worth, your value, your contribution, your impact. Or you regret the impact of your past actions or words. You’ve done things that can never be undone no matter how much you wish otherwise, or you just lack the courage to do the things you know you really should.

Your opportunity will never come. It’s slipping away. It’s long, long gone.

Your happiest moments only touch a part of you, while another hidden you experiences them as if through thick glass.

You just don’t know what to do or who to be or where to turn.

I get that.

You are loved.

I won’t say that none of the rest of it matters, but a part of me believes that, in the face of this one truth, the rest matters less.

You are loved.

I believe you are loved by your Creator. I know you are loved by other people who know you. If I know you even a little, I either love you already or am working on learning to love you. (Please be patient.) Many others are, too.

And even if you no longer know what matters, or know that nothing matters any more, or darkly suspect that nothing has ever mattered, this does matter.

You are loved. Even if you can only find one person who loves you, that is huge. It is immense, and powerful, and real. Even if you don’t know who it is that loves you, I guarantee that there is someone.

Your connection to someone else matters to them. Let it matter to you.

Together, you and they can get through this. Together, we can get through this. I mean it.

You are loved.

I have been there, and Love has pulled me through. You can do this. We can do this. Because you are loved.

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If Work Had Mandatory Homework, I’d Quit

The school I work with and that my youngest son attends is resuming in-classroom teaching today for the first time in over a year. (Well, only in some grades to start with.) For the past year, students have been doing online schooling, which to be honest is not that great. I have huge admiration for what the teachers I know have accomplished with very difficult circumstances, but it seems to me (and this is about all schooling, not this particular school) that online school is missing out on the best of both worlds of traditional and home schooling. Home schooling allows for a great deal of flexibility. Traditional schooling has very clear boundaries.

Oh wait. Maybe not. Now that I’m thinking about it in these terms, I find a renewed dislike of “homework”. When one of my children complained about the arbitrariness, the difficulty, or the tediousness of their education, I would remind them that its purpose was to prepare them for adulthood. Yes, there are parts you don’t like; but if you don’t develop habits that allow you to tackle tasks you don’t like, you will be miserable as an adult. I would also say that everyone needs some useful purpose in their life. Adults have (among other things) careers. Children are not equipped, yet, to pursue careers, so going to school to prepare to be useful is their use in life, at least temporarily.

But thinking about how school normally works, it occurs to me that we are now asking kids to put in something quite close to a full day’s work at school, and then come home and do more work. Every day. In my adult world, sometimes I bring work home. But it’s a choice. And in a lot of jobs, that never happens at all. When you’re off the clock you’re off the clock.

Why can’t schools just get their work done in the time already allotted to them? I hear it when teachers argue that homework helps concretize lessons, that it is important for students to have time on their own to process and work through learning. Great. So let’s carve an hour out of the instruction that’s already happening and instead designate that “work alone time”. And put it somewhere in the middle of the day, when their brains are still working optimally.

Maybe homework made sense when students were only spending mornings in the classroom. But these days the average student is spending close to seven hours a day at their school, and then coming home to do three or more hours of homework that same day. This is dramatically up from twenty years ago. Not many adults would put up with work conditions like this. I know I wouldn’t.

Now, I’m happy to say that my child’s school is actually fairly good about their attitude towards homework. But even here I sometimes wonder if we are asking too much of the kids.

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A Useless Cinquain

Boredom
Planless, alone
Dreams and games and art and worry
The inspiration for it all
Stop scrolling

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A Blitz, of Sorts

“Mind without Meat”

Blank page
Blank mind
Mind your manners
Mined for answers
Answers forthcoming
Answers without questions
Questions are annoying
Questions your integrity
Integrity is wholesome
Integrity is rare
Rare is the bird
Rare but not undercooked
Undercooked meat
Undercooked ideas
Ideas are like butterflies
Ideas are cheap
Cheap eats aren’t always good eats
Cheap drinks can be costly
Costly phrases for the ages
Costly plays make a great game
Game of thrones
Game of loans
Loans are not investments
Loans and savings
Savings are not leavings
Savings and groans
Groans at the thought of leaving
Groans at the thought of staying
Staying true to yourself
Staying the hand that strikes you
You wish you knew what it was all about
You never really know until you do
Do you know the song of love
Due to an unfortunate miscalculation
Miscalculation is the art of finesse
Miss Calculation would make a good name for a math teacher
Teacher said I was smart
Teach her well so she will succeed
Succeed where others were sure you’d fail
Succeed at what no other would try
Try to bend the rules now and then
Try to not want
Want what you can never try
Want some bitters to go with your gravy
Gravy is as gravy does
Gravy is the icing on the cake of the meat
Meat and cheese and vegetables and bread
Meet the cheesiest one of all
All
Bread

Okay, that was pretty weird. It’s my half-hearted attempt at a poetic form I just learned about, called a “blitz” poem. I didn’t quite follow the rules correctly, and I certainly didn’t make any effort to plan it out so it would be any good. So it’s basically nonsense. But it was kinda fun to put together.

If I wasn’t so cold and tired and busy, I might actually enjoy sitting down and crafting one properly so as to actually express something beyond the weirdness of how my mind associates phrases when left unguided. But even just the exercise of barfing out a technical example was somewhat enjoyable.

I like structure for its own sake, sometimes. Creativity thrives when facing limitations, and fades when there are no boundaries to lean and pull against.

Creativity, in other words, is a tomato plant.


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