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New Jersey, United States

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Being Inclusive


Over the thirty years I've been involved with Beyond Diversity, every project has taught me at least one important lesson about my own assumptions. What methods do you use to help keep your mind open?

In my most recent project, I assisted by doing individual interviews with staff from an educational organization about to launch an extensive anti-racism initiative. The first step in the initiative asked staff members being interviewed to select a group affiliation with which they most strongly identify. I was assigned to interview those folks who most strongly identify as conservative.

Though I had confidence in my ability as an interviewer - and the simple prompts Beyond Diversity provided gave me an adequate framework for the forty-five minute interviews -  I did wonder if my own left-of-center views would interfere with my ability to remain fully present. I was pleased that concern ended up being a non-issue, but more pleased with my takeaway during the debrief I had with the founder of Beyond Diversity after one particular interview. The insights this interviewee had about her alienation from her colleagues were intelligent, nuanced, and convincing.

Feeling unheard and excluded is a common lament voiced by women, people of color, folks from the the LGBQT community, and the disabled. And for me, the systematic and historical silencing of those voices is an ongoing injustice in need of redress. But, in any non-political organization, voices are also in danger of being silenced when norms of that organization - particularly the views of its leadership - begin communicating a political stance, assuming agreement from its staff. Any organization wishing to declare itself inclusive needs to consistently monitor its communications to ensure all voices can be heard and respected. If not, the minority voices - conservative or otherwise - will either retreat into the closet or leave to find a more welcoming work place.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Those Drums

"You can offer no finer gift or higher honor to the world than to find out what your 'drum' is and then play it for all it is worth." - from Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess

Weeks ago, a reader included that quote in a comment made here. Ever since, I've reflected on all the rich 'drum' stories waiting to be told. Reflection gave way to fantasy as I imagined how energizing it would be to get thousands of responses to a few prompts:

* At what age did you discover your "drum"? Or, are you still searching for it?

* Describe one of your best moments when you played your 'drum'  "... for all it is worth."

* Recount a drum story about someone you know who offered their "... gift ... to the world."

* Of people you've known well, what percentage would you say play their drum for all it is worth? What prevents any of us from doing so?

Back on earth, i.e. fantasy aside, do me a favor, please. Whether you respond here or not, try using one or more of these prompts when the next good opportunity presents itself. I suspect the ensuing conversation will be gratifying. Then, tell me and others about those drums.     

Monday, February 10, 2020

Words That Can Haunt Me, Part 16: Attention

Is it possible to separate the need for attention from the need for approval? How many people have you known who crave one but not the other?

Although I never had any illusions about my need for attention, I was probably fifty years old before anyone challenged my elaborately constructed "I could care less what other people think" persona. Though it initially enraged me, that individual who first pointed out my need for approval did me a big favor. Once my ego healed, I found it easier to identify triggers that led me to seek attention. And the less attention I sought, the less approval I needed.

I've made progress and I've got a long way to go. Sound familiar?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Go For A Canon Hat Trick?

What acclaimed novel more than fifty years old most recently moved you in a big way?

Starting my book journals in 2010, I pledged to finish at least one classic novel each year. And though I've often exceeded that pledge, my level of involvement and enjoyment with these books has been mixed, at best. This has sometimes made me feel a bit dense.

If I'd started with The Good Soldier (1915 - Ford Madox Ford) and The End of The Affair (1951 - Graham Greene) - the first set of back-to-back novels more than fifty years old that have worked for me in a big way - would the others have gone down easier? Or, did my earlier struggles with novels that are not contemporary better prepare me for these? If I decide to go for a hat trick, what do you suggest as an "older" title?

Could it be my reading rhythms are simply more in sync with the late twentieth century? Anyway, one classic each year is a pledge worth retaining, right? 


Sunday, February 2, 2020

Is It Over Yet?

Considering how many people outside of Punxsutawney ever pay attention, does it strike anyone else as odd that of all the movies ever made about holidays few have come close to being as good as Groundhog Day?  What would be your nomination for a holiday film that is the equal of Harold Ramis's goofy 1993 masterpiece?

Although I'm not a big Bill Murray fan, Groundhog Day is on the short list of films I've watched more than once. Of the several priceless bits in the movie, my favorite is probably Sonny & Cher warbling I Got You Babe on the clock radio that awakens Murray's character as he endlessly repeats February 2nd - brilliant song choice. What alternative tune would you pick as a way to aurally depict a nightmare you can't escape? My top nominations would be either one of those treacly ballads Michael Bolton screamed during his brief but painful popularity or the musical torture inflicted on us by I-get-paid-by-the-sixteenth-note Kenny G.

Musical snarkiness aside, which bit from Groundhog Day plays over and over and over in your mind? And, if you were able to repeat a single day from your life which one would you choose?

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Land Of Ambition Overload

Being goal oriented has mostly served me well. What can complicate matters is my propensity for capturing those goals in writing. Case in point - the post directly below from seven years ago today. I'm sure you remember it.


See what I mean? Wait, you didn't click on the link and read it? OK, second chance; I'll wait.


Yeah, that 2013 project - even with a proposed end date of 2038 - was tossed into the "What the hell was I thinking when I committed to that?" bucket quite some time ago. But until re-reading my post, I'd conveniently forgotten my wild-eyed ambition. In fairness, I give myself credit for sincerely and dutifully starting the twenty-five year slog, but, all was lost when the reading partner who'd suggested our joint odyssey told me he hadn't even begun not long after I foolishly hit "publish" on my blog. Full disclosure: I was relieved but still let him feel guilty for his lassitude. Talk about taking the low road.

Care to join me in today's confession booth and own up to any long range projects or goals you've abandoned? Would be nice to have some company here in the land of ambition overload.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Year To Remember

In 2020, it appears I'll be away from home more than I have in forty-four years. Thankfully, my time away this year is by choice vs. 1976 when my work life as a musician had me on the road continually. What do you best remember about a year in your life when you were away from home a great deal? Was it work, pleasure, family obligations, or something else that took you away? What did you miss most about home?

The primary factor driving the uptick in travel this year is my wife's decision to let her longstanding business wind down and the added free time that gives us to indulge our wanderlust. For three weeks spread out over 2020, she'll be leading Road Scholar excursions in the Adirondacks - something she started last year - and I'll be tagging along on at least one of those with a bag of books and my guitar. 

But first, in early spring, will be our Southern States Swing, an extended road trip taking us to the last two States I've never visited - Alabama & Mississippi - as well as two more National Parks. In the fall we're re-uniting for the fifth time in Acadia National Park - one of our favorite places - with fourteen people we met in Alaska in 2015 on our first Road Scholar adventure.

Squeezed in between all that are some additional hiking and camping getaways but the capstone will be our trip to Peru late this year, our first time in South America. It's shaping up to be a year to remember.