Friday, October 12, 2018

Guess Who's Coming to Be Shot?

Trying to pick up his dry cleaning, the 16-year-old black teenager was stranded in a white Miami neighborhood when the buses stopped running.
He was hoping to hitchhike when an unmarked police car pulled up. “See that alley over there, boy?” one of the cops said. “Get your ass up in there. Now.”
He obeyed, and the unmarked police car followed him in.
Alone in an alley with no witnesses, the young man saw a revolver protruding through the car window, pointed at his head. He heard the two police officers talking inside the car.
“What should we do with this boy?”
“Find out what he’s doing here.”
“Should we shoot him here?”
Frightened and furious, the boy explained how he’d ended up where he was. The cop behind the wheel asked him if he could walk all the way back home — the 50 blocks to “colored town” — without looking behind him. The boy said he could.
“Think about it now,” the cop said. “Cause if you look back, just once, we gonna shoot you. Think you can do that?”
He said he could. So the long trek began, with the young man glancing at the reflections in store windows to see that the unmarked car was, in fact, slowly following him all the way. For 50 long blocks. When he reached the corner where he lived with relatives, the police car pulled out and sped away.
“Fifty blocks is a long time to think about what’s happening to you, to stew in the insane injustice of it all,” the boy said later. “But it’s also a good long time to internalize messages such as discipline, independence, the value of character and toughness of mind.”
The year was 1943. The boy’s name was Sidney Poitier, and 21 years later he would win the Academy Award for best actor.

The Cognitive Dissonance of Propaganda

Rule of thumb: Whenever anyone on a comment thread begins their statement with "I'm a lifelong Democrat," they are, in fact, a corporate right-wing digital sock puppet.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Does Meditation Make You Immune?

Are people highly advanced in meditation serenely immune to anxiety, cravings, depression, fear and irritation? No — but they gain an edge on existence.
In their 1995 report on yogis in the advanced stages of meditative practice, The Stages of Mindfulness Meditation: A Validation Study, Jack Engler and Daniel P. Brown found: “What changes is not so much the nature of conflict, but awareness of and reactivity to it … (With practice) there is greater awareness of and openness to conflict, but paradoxically less reaction at the same time in an impulsive, identificatory and therefore painful way … (The practitioner) may note the intense desire until it passes, like every other transient mental state, or he/she may act on it, but with full awareness … Mindfulness is said to automatically intervene between impulse or thought and action in such cases. This mechanism of reality, combined with clear and impartial observation, allows a new freedom from drive and a new freedom for well-considered and appropriate action.”

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

In the Faculty Dining Room

In the Faculty Dining Room: “Christ, it is sad, sad to see on quite a few of these faces — young ones particularly — a glum, defeated look. Why do they feel this way about their lives? Sure, they are underpaid. Sure, they have no great prospects, in the commercial sense. Sure, they can’t enjoy the bliss of mingling with corporate executives. But isn’t it any consolation to be with students who are still three-quarters alive? Isn’t it some satisfaction to be of use, instead of helping to turn out useless consumer goods? Isn’t it something to know that you belong to one of the few professions in this country which isn’t hopelessly corrupt?
“For these glum ones, apparently not. They should like out, if they dared try. But they have prepared themselves for this job, and now they have got to go through with it. They have wasted the time in which they should have been learning to cheat and grab and lie. They have cut themselves off from the majority — the middlemen, the hucksters, the promoters —by laboriously acquiring all this dry, discredited knowledge — discredited, that is to say, by the middleman, because he can get along without it. All the middleman wants are its products, its practical applications. These professors are suckers, he says. What’s the use of knowing something if you don’t make money out of it? And the glum ones more than half agree with him and feel privately ashamed of not being smart and crooked.”
— Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Looking Up to a Dog

Every day about dawn, a woman walks a large, black-and-white, boxer-type dog past our house into the park. It doesn’t seem to notice that it has no left hind leg.
The dog moves briskly, sniffing plants and hopping along ahead of its companion.
My ambition in life will always be to carry my burdens that lightly.