Building Pyramids

A couple of weeks ago, my eight-year-old and I visited family in Portland, Oregon. One of my few specific hopes for the weekend was that we’d make it to Powell’s bookstore. This we did–and then some!

In addition to visiting the main “city of books,” I was able to make a side trip. Early on, Rache (the sister I was visiting) and I separated from my brother, my brother-in-law, and the kiddos to put ourselves in queue for Slappy Cakes.* We were told to expect a table in 75 to 90 minutes. To me, that seemed an absurdly long time to wait, but (1) it was Rache’s birthday and (2) she needed her some Slappy Cakes!

Thank goodness for her insistence, and the length of our wait!

We ended up passing time by strolling through an Oregon drizzle. Our stroll took us by Powell’s on Hawthorne, which looked small from the outside but seemed to stretch a mile back. Continue reading “Building Pyramids”



A few weeks ago, a friend and I sat on my couch and had a long, meandering chat about nothing and everything.

Somehow, our conversation turned to a point where I explained how loneliness is at the core of much suffering in the United States. Ours is a society that has elevated consumption over connection, competition over collaboration. We buy what we can buy and beat whom we can beat, only to discover there’s an ache inside that neither trophies nor toys can touch.

After I’d finished trying to explain this, my friend said I might enjoy Russell Brand’s Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions. She said that he and I shared similar perspectives, and that she found solace in his words. Continue reading “Recovery”

As flawed as who writes it

Yesterday, I wrote “The beauty of King’s divine dissatisfaction about reading more of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words. This morning, as I continued reading The Radical King, I encountered a man I’d not yet met in any of my prior readings: Norman Thomas.

This June 1965 King article excerpt on white socialist Thomas began thusly:

Truly, the life of Norman Thomas has been one of deep commitment to the betterment of all humanity. In 1928, the year before I was born, he waged the first of six campaigns as the Socialist Party’s candidate for President of the United States. A decade earlier, as a preacher, he fought gallantly, if unsuccessfully, against American involvement in World War 1. Both then and now he has raised aloft the banner of civil liberties, civil rights, labor’s right to organize, and has played a significant role in so many diverse areas of activity that newspapers all over the land have termed him “America’s conscience.”

(In 1963, King’s father described Thomas as “for us before any other white folks were.”)

As I read through the essay, it seemed more and more remarkable Thomas wasn’t included in any history I remember reading. I closed the book and reflected on that for a moment, and upon “history.” Continue reading “As flawed as who writes it”


The beauty of King’s divine dissatisfaction

img_20140119_194133.jpg In early 2014, I wrote about discussing Martin Luther King, Jr. with my then four-year-old son, Li’l D. D had just learned about King in his preschool class.

I asked D if he wanted to learn a little more. Most of what he’d learned, after all, fit onto one coloring worksheet.

He did want to know more, so I began by explaining in simple terms the social constructs of “white” and “black” “races.”* Since he is the son of a black man and a white woman, I felt (and his dad agreed that) it was critical to begin these conversations early.

I answered Li’l D’s questions, first explaining racism before answering questions about how King fought racism. I concluded my post on our conversation:

Someday we’ll talk about how Martin Luther King, Jr. was a human being with flaws and weaknesses just like any other, but that those weaknesses didn’t prevent him from being a powerful, peaceful force for change. Continue reading “The beauty of King’s divine dissatisfaction”


White Person Astounded

Last weekend, I got a hankering to read some James Baldwin. While I’d read some one- and two-sentence Baldwin quotes scattered through other readings, I’d never read anything more substantively Baldwin than that.

The bookstore I visited only had two Baldwin books: Notes of a Native Son and I Am Not Your Negro. The latter was actually a smattering of slightly longer Baldwin excerpts, but those gave me a better sense of the man and author than did my prior encounters.

The excerpts also left me wishing I’d read Baldwin much sooner, the better to have my earlier confusions more quickly eradicated: Continue reading “White Person Astounded”


Perfectly Postman

Last year, between working, commuting, and raising two young boys, I read 132 books. These books were mostly political, with a little fiction and some miscellaneous non-fiction thrown in.

Nine of the books I read last year were written by Neil Postman; the first, his Amusing Ourselves to Death. My husband had read that for multiple classes in college and correctly guessed I’d love it. Indeed, Postman inspired my interest in history as well as my appreciation for epistemology. Without Postman, my newfound passion for learning wouldn’t likely … exist, honestly.

The bad news about reading all those Postman books last year is how little “new” Postman I have left to read this year. I’d decided to reread some Postman when my eyes landed on Postman’s Teaching as a Conserving Activity, the partial refutation (or so it seems?) of his earlier Teaching as a Subversive Activity. I don’t normally read books on education, but anything by Postman is good for my head and my heart.

And, of course, within the first few pages, I found myself uplifted by the kind of sentiment all too rare these days:

I have tried to make my argument clear, and I should be very interested to know what are its refutations, for that is how conversation begins. Perhaps we do not require a new “movement” after all. Only a good conversation.*

How perfectly Postman! How perfectly what this world needs now!

* Before I began reading this book, I’d made my eponymous blog private. I’d (1) seen that electronically mediated exchanges perpetrate their own kind of virtual reality, inserting grimy windows between people instead of offering clearer views, and (2) discovered that I most crave direct conversation face to face with real people, not with their (and my!) electronic representations. It’s so sweet to be reminded that a kind of conversation can take place after someone’s died, when that someone has uncommon clarity of heart, mind, and word. Unless/until I have that to offer, I find myself happiest to read, reflect, and remain so very glad my husband pointed me toward Postman.


Taxes & the terrorism of Christian extremists

On my main blog, I recently debated using the term “Christian extremists” to describe a swath of rabid American politicians. Ultimately, I did opt to use the term:

Right now, with yet another U.S. corporate/shareholder welfare bill described as a tax bill to benefit the middle class being pushed through (primarily) by Christian extremists, it’s important to really understand whether each and every so-called representative of the middle class deserves that title.

At the beginning of the year, I already knew that today’s elected Republicans are not like elected Republicans of yesteryear. I knew that they were doing terrible things and getting away with it by invoking “culture wars” against hated tax-raising liberals, but I didn’t genuinely grasp the intensity of the threat they represent to humankind, present and future.

I began to grasp the extreme nature of the threat when listening to a book I didn’t think was related. Continue reading “Taxes & the terrorism of Christian extremists”