Archive | June, 2014

Today’s Handout: Your Task

your task

Your Task

My days now center around Facebook. Whether this is or is not healthy shall remain moot for the moment. I regard Facebook the same way others regard the clock, an indicator of passing relevance on a minute-by-minute scale.

First, an item from the San Fransisco Globe. An artist who had worked in forensics for the SFPD quit his job some time ago.

Recently, he’d obtained sponsorship to establish himself in a vacant office space, where he set up two adjacent areas. A curtain hung between them. In one area was his drawing table. In the other was an easy chair. One by one, women came in and sat in the easy chair. Each described herself to the artist. He would ask her the questions he knew well, eliciting details of her face.

When the portrait was done, someone else would come in and sit in the easy chair and describe the woman he had just drawn, and the artist would draw her again, this time following the “eyewitness” description. The drawings were exhibited then side-by-side.

We only saw a couple of them, but those consistently showed the self-described faces as being harder, angrier and/or more depressed than those drawn from the observer’s description. The subjects noticed this, too. “She saw a lot more joy in my face, didn’t she?” said one woman.”I wonder how to be not so hard on myself.”

Next, an item from my friend Trudy. Ram Dass, once a psychiatric researcher and colleague of Timothy Leary at Harvard, where they used LSD, first on their subjects and then on themselves; now, a philosopher. He is quoted from an interview he gave in January, 2012.

“Question: How can I judge myself less harshly and appreciate myself more? ”

“Ram Dass: …When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying, ‘You’re too this, or I’m too this.’ That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are. ”

I’ve quoted the whole thing, when I could have made my point with the question alone. I apologize.

Then, there’s Jack Morris. He pitched in the American League for 17 years, mostly for the Detroit Tigers. He was known as an angry guy, cranky, bad-tempered, who didn’t get along well with the press. I admired him. He was a real good pitcher.

Today, he is no longer cranky or angry. He looks like an ordinary, well-groomed prosperous gentleman. His face is very alive. Whatever he’s doing, he’s not retired.

“I thought, if you said that your work stunk you were admitting that you weren’t any good, and I certainly didn’t think that, I’d just had a bad day. I learned that all I had to do was say, “I had a bad day”, and it was alright. Sparky taught me that.”

He was talking about a manager of his, Sparky Anderson. “Before a game, I happened to be on the infield after a three-game losing streak, when Sparky came by.

“‘Cactus’, he said. I was Cactus; everybody named Jack was Cactus to Sparky. ‘Cactus, what’s that bright round thing up there in the sky?’

“I said, ‘I think it’s the Sun.’

“‘Ohh,’ said Sparky. ‘So it came up today.’

“‘Don’t be so hard on yourself.You expect to be perfect every time you go out there. Do you know anyone who’s perfect? That’s not the point. All you can do is your best. That’s all that’s required of you.'”

== # ==

The Tao Te Ching says, “Do your work, then step back.” You are not your work. Your work isn’t you.

Each of us has Things we must Do. The product of that Doing is our Work.

Those Things come to us in four ways.

– 99% of them come from other people: jobs, taxes, errands.

– 99% of the remainder come to us from ourselves: haircuts, new clothes.

– 99% of that remainder is completely arbitrary: watch a ballgame, eat a donut

– the remaining 0.001%, come to us from The Universe: God, dumb luck, it’s up to you. But whatever it is, it’s not optional. It’s what you Have to Do.

This is what came to me today. In this order.


Forensic Artist’s Portraits

Ram Dass on Self-Judgement