Good or Bad? – Thinking Makes It So!

“there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” –Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’

I’m not a Pollyanna person who can look at another person suffering, and then just smile at how wonderful life is.  I just acknowledge the truth of what is, and if it’s something I don’t like, I try to maintain enough awareness to think creatively about what I can do to help alleviate that person’s suffering. What’s good about the situation? I feel good about the opportunity to help a fellow human. I try not to waste a lot of time making up stories about who’s to blame. Perhaps, later I might spend do some creative thinking to assess how such situations might be prevented. But, for the moment, my full awareness is best applied to solving the problem of this person in front of me.

I’m writing this while waiting for my car to be repaired. I had planned this to be a short visit to Home Depot. But while crossing the causeway about 2 miles from my home, lots of smoke started billowing from the hood of my 2003 Hyundai. I pulled over immediately, shut off the engine and assessed situation. After a short time, smoke cleared and I opened the hood, just long enough to realize something had bust and sprayed water over engine. Tried engine again, which started, so I drove slowly over bridge and continued to “Tires Plus” just before smoke started again. Waiting to hear mechanic’s diagnosis, I tried my best to practice mindfulness exercises. After being told the need for over $700 in repairs, I didn’t see many viable options.

So, it’s about 2 hours later and I’m waiting on a shady bench outside large shopping mall parking lot, after buying a writing pad at Publix. What’s good about situation??? It’s a beautiful day.  Nice breeze, and I’ve got time to express my thoughts on paper.

On the walk to the mall, I stopped along the way to look more closely at a beautiful yellow dandelion. But when I put on my reading glasses for a closer look, I noticed the flower had damaged spots on its petals — not quite as beautiful as when my flawed vision filled it the blind spots. And its surrounding area had lots of mite-sized insects.

Moved on by a computer repair shop I had never noticed before in this otherwise familiar area. Went inside, discovered lots of used computer stuff, services for which I might have a future need, and a great place to recycle years of the electronic clutter in my house. Also, had interesting conversation with clerk sharing our experiences with the growth of computers over the last 50 years. He had learned Fortran and Cobol in classes at FIT. I explained that I had been part of a group discussion on what “words” should be used in COBOL (Common Business Language for computer programmers) about 60 years ago.

But back to the “Good & Bad” of any situation. Due to age-related dementia, last month I got mixed up with dates for the Florida Pre-Burn, and ended up driving 2 hours to Lakeland a full week before it opened.  I quickly realized I was not going to spend a lot of time beating myself up with stories about why this shouldn’t have happened. Instead, I assessed the reality of the situation (I’m in Lakeland!), and what’s good about that.

Well, I remembered that Lakeland was the home of Florida Southern University, which has the largest ‘collection(?)’ of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world, and is reputed to have the most beautiful campus in the country.  I had briefly started studying architecture at collage in the 50’s, and Wright was (and still is) considered one of the best architects in the world. Some 30 years ago I had visited the chapel he designed there, but had often entertained the idea of revisiting — particularly since Aaron had told me he was considering studying architecture in college.  Also, my good friend, Roy Lykes, had a relative for whom Wright had built on the top of a hill outside Phoenix. I had seen often from afar when I lived there. Also, I had known Ethel Marden and Wright’s site architect, when Ethel and her husband Luis were having their Wright home built near Chain Bridge in Virginia overlooking the Potomac.  Got to visit it several times while being built, as well as when complete. But never got to meet Luis, who seemed to constantly be on long, long trips for the National Geographic. I still enjoy looking at pictures of these homes on the Internet. One can easily Google them for ‘Lykes home’ and ‘Marden home’. Gorgeous structures with beautiful views!

Anyway, the ‘mistake’ turned out to be a much appreciated detour in my life. And I would cast my vote for FL Southern’s campus being he most beautiful I have seen. Unfortunately, a private university and too pricey ($35K/yr) for Aaron. But would recommend his visiting, if only for a short time en-route to Tampa or St. Pete.

Walked back to “Tires Plus”, and paid almost $800 to get car back. Clouds seem to be moving in, but sun still out, and I’m still here!

So, if I knew that this day were the last day of my life, would I want to change something? STOP! NOT GOING THERE! “When I argue with reality, I lose! But only ‘always’!” – Byron Katie


Biased Reaction to “Danish Girl”?

I’ve realized for years that all humans, including myself, have biases —  some of which we don’t realize we have. For myself, I even tend to deny possessing the well-acknowledged bias toward explanations supporting what I already believe. I claim to regard “truth” with the reverence of a deeply-ingrained religion, and learning that I am wrong enables me to rid myself of another barrier to finding ultimate truths. Today, I felt like I had achieved an additional insight into one of my biases regarding “gender change”.

I like to think of myself as being very “open minded” regarding other people’s behaviors. I sort of assume that others, like me, are doing the best they can — considering the many factors that go into making decisions — even questioning just how much control any of us have over such decisions. The more I learn about the functioning of our brains, the less control I realize we actually have.  Though I’ve decided that if we are to have any kind of civilization, it’s necessary to assume individuals do possess some degree of control over their behavior.

In general, I believe that everyone should have the right to live their life however they choose, as long as they do not endanger others and grant others the same freedom. My personal belief, however, is that it is a mistake to argue with reality, which includes accepting the body I’m born with. As in most card games we play, we don’t get to choose the hand we’re dealt. However, since science has discovered new rules, people do have some options to change their bodies in different ways. And I think they are entitled to do so, though I have considered it distasteful myself. At least, that’s how I felt until I got more direct information from a trans-gender person. That info came in a Shepherd Center course for seniors I took last year. The course was on “The Human Brain”, using DVD recordings from “The Great Courses”. It included discussions with Charlie Rose, several neuro-psychologists and a trans-gender person who had undergone the transformation. I remember that one class definitely made a significant change in my understanding and empathy for that changed person. Oddly enough, and I found it hard to believe myself, but I could not yesterday remember this person’s gender, before or after. I’ve become used to my age-related (84yo) moments of dementia, and the important point was that it was a “gender change”, regardless of whether it was man-to-woman or woman-to-man. But last night I watched “The Danish Girl”, and realized I did not feel as empathetic toward the central character, who is a woman biologically born a man. I wondered why I felt differently than I had felt following the course. If both changes were man to woman, then my reactions must be due to my feelings about the person. But if person I learned about in the class was originally a woman, then my reactions might be due to my bias. Justified or not, I find it easier to empathize with a woman wanting to be a man, than a man wanting to be woman. I grew up with 3 older sisters, and quickly learned that men were given privileges over women. Although, I had a few brief thoughts about female privilege. One was more flexibility in taste — at least in my small mid-western town. I loved music much more than most guys, did not like fighting, or most sports. But the latter was due more to a lack of body-coordination and being too cerebral and self-conscious in learning. Last to be picked by team. I was trying too hard to be what I was supposed to be, so I did identify with that aspect. But I was not disappointed with the result. I went out for football in high school, and made the team,  playing tackle (much heavier then, and didn’t need much athletic talent), and got to go steady with beautiful cheer-leader. Lots of fun most of my life!

I did check on the Internet today about the trans-gender person in the course. His name is now Dr. Ben Barres (born Barbara Barres, in 1955), a Stanford neuroscientist. On the one hand, that does seem to support my male bias, but it may just be that he’s much easier to like, and more believable than the “Danish Girl”. The wife and friend in the movie were very likable, but I couldn’t understand what attraction they found in “Lily”.  Great acting job, but if I were creating the person in fiction, I would have given him/her some special unique attractive special trait. I guess I’m relating to some special gay friends I’ve had, who all had some very likeable unique traits that had nothing to do with their sexuality. Consequently, their sexuality is simply as unimportant to me as it is with any of my friends. I’m not saying sexuality isn’t important, any more than relieving one’s body waste isn’t important. But it has nothing to do with my relationships with them. Similarly, I like the freedom I feel being nude, but it’s not important enough for me to join a nudist colony. I don’t want to choose my friends based on what they are wearing or not wearing. In fact, I used to make it a point to do something different every year, and one year it was to join a nudist colony. Quickly learned not to automatically associate nudity with sex. But that experience probably deserves another blog page. Scatter-brain!