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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

How to silence political bores with your own deft analysis

Glenn Beck, Michael Moore, Scott Walker, Wisconsin Teachers, Charlie Sheen

I have to credit some poor headline writer for that title, which I stole. And I mean "poor" in the sense of not being very good. The article was about how to have conversations with people, not how to silence them. Funny when even your own staff, the guys on your side, can't read or listen properly to what you are saying.

There's a lot of that going around.

I don't know about you but I haven't had a lot of luck rendering people speechless by virtue of  my very own brilliance. Possibly this is because I'm not all that brilliant. But more probably, it's because people pretty much want to stick with whatever they've decided to think. The polite ones are just waiting for you to take a breath so they can say what they've been thinking all along. The impolite ones interrupt you to do it.

Most of those brilliant thoughts somebody else thought and planted as a sound bite anyway. Which brings me to the first of three rules, learned the hard way.

Three Rules to Achieve Total Conversation Domination and Become Thin and Rich, Or Maybe at Least Have a Real Conversation

1. If you've heard Glenn Beck or Michael Moore say it, don't repeat it.

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Lessons from Japan

Japan, Clint Eastwood, superheroes, superpowers

I can't stop thinking about the terrible confluence of natural disaster and vulnerable human infrastructure in Japan -- what it means for the Japanese, what it means for us.

First comes shock and sorrow. For many of us, perspective follows. "I think about what a hard year I've had," one friend says, "and I realize it is nothing, nothing compared with this." Others say the same.

Indeed. Likely 10,000 dead, nearly half a million living in evacuation shelters or tents.  Cold winter winds are still coming, along with aftershocks, more fires, and maybe worse.  As far as I know, no one has been brave enough to estimate the cost of property lost, the cost to rebuild communities and the lives lived in them.

Those of us who pray pray for the people of Japan and offer thanks that our own problems are so small. Those who don't pray have prayer-like thoughts of sadness and compassion. We try to imagine the best ways to help.

Financial reporters give the most shocking media interpretations of events. According to CNBC's Larry Kudlow, "The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that." It would appear to be a slip, except that the entire feature is designed to show what good news the crisis will be for American markets.

Japan's nuclear plant failures force other nations look at our own reactors. The Japanese plants were state of the art: in what state are ours? Not as bad as Chernobyl's. But not as good as Japan's. So what does that mean for us?

Thinking of the common good first, individual good second, gives the Japanese great strength in times of crisis. That's why Emperor Akihito asked them to act with "compassion to overcome these difficult times.”

Compassion: the Japanese not only value it but teach how to do it. You can't test for compassion on a standardized test, so it isn't in the curriculum of most American schools.

If you want to see why the Japanese are likely to handle this crisis better than most,  look at this clip from the documentary Children Full of Life.  "Mr. Kanamori, a teacher of a 4th grade class, teaches his students not only how to be students, but how to live. He gives them lessons on teamwork, community, the importance of openness, how to cope. . ."

Some problems are too great for even Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone, all the Marlboro Men in their primes, to manage ruggedly and alone. And there are, grown-ups know, no superheroes.

There is, however, the superpower of compassion in action.

Rules for living in strange times

Happiness, Rules, Politics

You know you are living in strange times when the thunder blizzard leaves snow at the end of March and you are glad you don’t live where there are tsunamis. Still, I predict that spring, such as it is here, will come eventually and stay for a bit.

And you know you are living in strange times when the state Supreme Court justice race hinges on how you use Facebook. It seems that one candidate uses it the way, well, young people do: free-for-all. Whereas the other, not comfortable with lacking control, uses heavy censorship. So I predict the outcome hinges on whether the weather is good and the more free-spirited of the young folks get out to vote.

You are probably wondering how I came to be so calm and philosophical about living in strange times. Or not; still, I’ll tell you.  It’s following the rules of life I’ve accumulated over the years. These are not the ones everyone knows, like “turn off the news” and “get over yourself.” They're rules you may have forgotten.

Secret Rules for a Good Life in Strange Times (Though Aren't They All)?

1.    Wear rubber boots: they take you through just about anything

Forget fashion, though they do make spiffy boots in mad colors and patterns now. It’s about your ability to navigate the real world in comfort. Rubber boots take you through snow, rain, and mud. With them, you can laugh at any unpleasantness on the ground even if you step in it.

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