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Well said

“The role of the social architect recognizes that acting on what matters for one person will happen in concert with those around that person. Individual effort will not be enough. If we do not encourage others to find their own meaning, their own voice, we will never be able to sustain our own.”

—Peter Block, from The Answer to
How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters

50/50 Fall 2008, Exercise #6: “We never ask for the things we need the most…”

Five False Starts

“We never ask for the things we need the most.” I don’t know if I agree with that statement, so what am I going to do with it? If we’re in touch with who we are, we do ask for the things we need the most. But I guess a lot of people go through life without asking. Who is this “we”?

“We never ask for the things we need the most,” she said to me.

“What do you mean by that?” I said.

“I mean, we say we want independence, but what we want is financial security. We say we want justice, but we’d …more

50/50 Fall 2008, Exercise #3: Like a Brother

The Fisherman’s Brother

One Christmas season I drew my
big brother’s name out of the pot.
He was a fisherman; he decorated
his half of the room we shared
in eclectic Field & Stream motif.
Naturally, I shopped a sporting goods
store in search of the perfect gift.

My knowledge of fish and my interest
in fishing began and ended with threading
half of a squirming earthworm onto
a rusty hook and dangling it in the water
weighed down by a soft clump of lead
under a red and white plastic bobber.
(I thought of myself as a purist.)

I knew in the abstract that one could
angle for largemouth bass or smallmouth
bass or brook trout or rainbow trout or
any desired species in creek or lake
or stream, but I had no patience for the art
and science of attracting and catching
anything without a taste for worms.

So I selected a jar of fluorescent
orange roe. I imagined the plump,
squishy balls looked delicious to fish.
I also picked a gorgeous lure, an oval
of convex stainless steel painted in faux
fishy stripes and spots of red enamel,
a beauty to win a fish’s heart.

Note: The prompt for today was to describe someone who was “as close as a blood relative,” though not related. I decided to go in another direction.

© 2008 Edward F. Gumnick

But Wait! There’s More….

In addition to the launch of the Fall 2008 50/50 workshop, today also marks the first day of a new project in which I’m participating, called “100 Words.” For the month of September, I’ll be writing an installment of exactly 100 words every day and submitting it to the 100 Words site. When I complete the month, the folks who run 100 Words will publish my contributions on the site. But I don’t want to make my readers wait that long, so I’m going to post them here as I write ’em.

Read the first installment.

See the 100 Words site for more details about how the idea works.

50/50 Fall 2008, Exercise #1: Storm Story

Water, Water Everywhere

My family was baptized into life in Houston on June 15, 1976—the only time in history that a game at the Astrodome was ever rained out. In the early afternoon, a storm dropped almost 13 inches of water on the city in about three hours. Flooding and traffic were so bad that the players couldn’t make it to the legendary domed stadium, much less the fans. We didn’t know that factoid until much later. The news the next day focused, of course, on the eight lives lost and on the damage to the Texas Medical Center and several of the city’s art museums.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. My story starts earlier in the day, on the last leg of a four-day trip from our previous home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. We’d spent a night each …more

Hey Kids! It’s Time for Another 50/50!

I’ve signed up again for “50/50,” Max Regan’s 50-day online workshop. “Students will receive a writing exercise via e-mail each day and will write at least one page of text a day,” says Max’s introduction to the course. Fifty days, fifty pages—hence the title. For more information about the course, visit Max’s 50/50 blog.

The class provides no mechanism for feedback; its purpose is merely to inspire and stimulate participants to cultivate or expand their every-day writing habit. I’m planning to post my 50/50 output here again, however, so that friends and fellow writers who’ve expressed interest or curiosity about my writing can take a look and give me some comments. [View the archive of my 50/50 pieces from the spring 2008 course.]

If you’ve found your way here, either because I invited you or just by accident, I’d love to know what you think. Please post your feedback as a comment on the posting to which it applies, or if you’d prefer not to make them public, . (Or call me on the phone if your critique is likely to make me cry.)

Whitewash and Boredom

Sheldon Avenue in Baltimore was where my maternal grandparents lived, the home where my mother grew up, the place my brother and sisters and I dreaded visiting. Or at least I dreaded visiting. It was an orderly street of row houses and sycamore trees, with long concrete staircases at the lower end, shorter staircases at the top end where the street intersected with Belair Road. Belair Road was the limit they’d placed on our wanderings; we were not to cross the six busy lanes of asphalt under any circumstances.

Their house was the fourth from the bottom of the row—fourth on the right as you climbed the street in the front, fourth from the left as you climbed …more

When Critical Thinking is its Own Reward

Before I’d even finished yesterday’s blog entry, I did some googling on “happiest man Buddhist monk.” I’ll admit it: I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going too far out on a limb. I wanted to temper my language in case it turned out that there was compelling scientific evidence that scientists had identified the most joyful person alive. In other words, I wanted to cover my skeptical ass.

I wasn’t surprised to find out that the idea of “the happiest man in the world” hadn’t originated with Patty Gras. As near as I’ve been able to determine so far, that phrase originated in an article by Anthony Barnes in the January 21, 2007, issue of The Independent. The article talks about Matthieu Ricard, a French academic who left his job …more

Boot Camp Day 10: Can I Get a Witness?

I received an e-mail today from Patty Gras at KUHT (Houston PBS). She’s a producer and the host of a “health and lifestyle” show called Living Smart. The show features topics related to health, alternative medicine, diet, self-improvement, and so forth. Here’s what she has to say about an upcoming show:

“Did you know the happiest man on the planet is a Buddhist monk? Scientists checked his brain waves and found him to be the most joyful person on earth, so we decided to talk to another monk, Master Jian Xiao Shih, so he could share some of the secrets to happiness!

“Master Shih of the Chung Tai Zen center of Houston will share the art …more

Boot Camp Day 9: An Apology and a Plea for Patience

I embarked on a new initiative today. Inspired by what I’ve accomplished in the Boot Camp, I’ve set an ambitious new goal: to write 3,000 words of first-draft text every day. It’s my hope that with this commitment, I’ll push my daily writing routine to a new level and generate some material I can get published.

Today’s 3,000+ words took the form of several fragments—the very raw beginnings of a few stories and essays mixed together with assorted rants and ramblings. I’m going to select a chunk of 1,000 of those words to send to Max as today’s submission for the Boot Camp class, but I’m not ready to post anything (else) new to the blog today.

But don’t worry! I’ll be posting more here soon.