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Showing posts from May, 2013

Luxury without fear, fun without suspicion

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Last night my 10-year old son and I fell into a philosophical conversation about happiness.  He has a tendency to ask me questions involving carefully formulated distinctions or elaborate ranking schemes: Would I rather win the World Series or write a best seller?  Would I prefer the super powers of incredible strength or flying?  And would I still choose flying if it didn't come with super speed?  As an aside to our discussion of happiness, I happened to quote (or misquote more likely) Shopenhauer's definition of it as just the smallest amount of misery.
My son snorted and asked, "Who's this Schopenhauer guy?  He sounds interesting."  So I told him what I knew, which isn't much.  I have tried to read Schopenhauer before, but I have always been defeated by German idealism, all that labyrinthine complexity.  What I take from him is this:  he somewhat disagrees with Kant that all we can know of the world are the unavoidably imposed categorizations of our own m…

The Sigmund S. Freud Middle School

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Took my son to the middle school orientation last night.  We sat in a 1960s-era gymnasium and were welcomed into the Mustang family, or the Bulldog, Red Raider, or some other such jive mascot family.  Can't recall which.  Anyway, while I was sitting there listening to the well-meaning teachers and principals drone on about what an exciting time this would be for my middle schooler, I couldn't help thinking of my own spin in junior high (as it was called in those days).  It was about as miserable a period of my life as I can recall.

Middle school is where Freud's reality principle kicks in with a special malevolence and you realize that--despite what you may have previously heard--you really can't become whatever you want to be.  If you have always sucked at sports or math, it's very likely you will continue to suck at sports or math.  If you are shy or geeky, these traits will only be exacerbated by age.  Consequently, that future affair with a honey-haired Farah …

A Zen-Free Fly Fishing Post

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Just returned from my annual end-of-the semester fly fishing trip: a week of sloshing about spring creeks, untangling wind knots and eating re-hydrated backpacker fare.  All in all, a good week: 17 Browns, nine Rainbows and two Brookies. 

Standing midstream last week, I even experienced the slight itch to write an essay connecting time on a trout stream to the Greek ideas of kairos and chronos.  You know, quantitative chronological time versus qualitative kairotic time, or that indeterminate moment in which something unique transpires that will not come about again.  The term kairos is actually related to the weather in ancient Greek, and--fittingly--my best day last week was assisted by the coming together of an overcast, drizzly morning, a box of pheasant-tail nymphs and a wide pool full of peckish Browns. 

But no.  No, no no.  I'm not going to do it.

A few years back I promised myself not to get too zen about fly fishing.  There's entirely too much of that kind of stuff …

Lesson Planning vs Less Planning

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Below are excerpts from letters to the Sunday Times Magazine.  The previous week had featured an article inveighing against the idea that great teaching can result from some scripted formula: I want my teacher/doctor to know professional “best practice” and to use it fluently and flexibly. Teaching is not merely art; it is science — just like medicine. We now possess a body of expert knowledge about how the mind works, how motivation works, how to design effective work and how to adjust learning in the face of results that I expect every teacher to know and use.... It is simply a false romantic notion to say we must choose between scripts and creativity in teaching. And this
He walks in five minutes late to first period, half-shaven, cup of coffee in hand. He walks over to the white board, his stage, puts his coffee down, and looks into the eyes of every student. He’s not given the best students, and so his standardized test scores are average. Instead, they leave with something more; t…