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Letting Go

A friend of mine pointed out this Buddhist story, apropos of my comment last week about letting go of grudges:
Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk accross because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to a her lifted her in his alms and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.

In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, "Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman ?"

The elder monk answered "yes, brother".

Then the younger monk asks again, " but then Sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside ?"

The elder monk smiled at him and told him " I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her "

Politics, Dan Grobstein File


Dan Grobstein File

Differential Experience and Grudges

I have noted here, from time to time, the fact that two people experiencing one event experience it in very different ways. I suspect MF, the arts editor of The Tech in the fall of 1970 did not realize he was crushing my dreams and driving me to work at the objectivist newspaper Ergo when he nonchalantly and dismissively turned down my review of the Firesign Theater's album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers. It took me until April to work my way onto the staff of MIT's "real" student newspaper. Of course, it turns out if MF had accepted the review,  I might have ended up on the Arts staff instead of news (the section I worked in down the hall at Ergo) and wouldn't that have changed my life forever. He and I worked together for a year at The Tech (when I accidentally described the university president as having flung his arm over the leg of a chair, it was M who drew the pose on a copy of the paper). From time to time, I meet people who met me at The Tech. On more than one occasion, they have told me I was so kind and generous and I changed their life forever. I don't remember meeting them.  I call this the "differential experience" effect.

I am put in mind of this effect because recently I whiled away a pleasant afternoon with the person who shared with me the second-worst day of my life (the worst day was when my mother died). It was the only day of my life when I drank myself silly in an effort to numb myself. It was also the longest day of my life. I held a grudge about that day for a long time, and tortured myself for years with questions like "why," punctuated with  morbid curiosity about the details of the other person's behavior. But as time goes by, the details slip away, and what you actually remember is how much you enjoyed the person's company before the event. And you let it go. Because holding in that kind of poison is... well... poisonous. I bring this up here because I am certain this was not the worst day in the other person's life; it may not be in their top 10. In fact, I doubt they remember any of the details. Because it was more important to me than to them. Most experiences we share are more important to one participant than the other. The
"differential experience" effect.

There are a couple of  other grudges on my list. One man killed himself before I could resolve my grudge with him. As I think of them, I do believe I will try to let them fall away, as others have let theirs against me fall away. Heck, I've mostly forgiven Dave Jack and James M. Ragsdale for firing me, if not FP (the last man to have the honor, and the only one still living).

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding

4 stars out of 5
I would have paid the filmmakers for the chance to do art direction on this set. Jane Fonda is the hippie grandmother living in Woodstock, where her daughter, Catherine Keener, flees with her two children after her husband leaves her alone in Manhattan. It is a combination hippie wisdom and coming of age film. There were so many opportunities for this film to go wrong, and it missed all of them. It is warm, funny, cute, and heartwarming, if a little predictable. I enjoyed all 100 minutes of its running time--even though, as regulars know, I'd have liked it better at 90 minutes. Say what you like, we did know things in the 60's that are still valuable and important today. Sometimes there is comfort in a film that hits all the predictable marks.You call it a rut; I call it a comfortable routine.

Politics, The World Without The Internet, Dan Grobstein File

In serious political news,  Jamie Dimon Is Taking Your Phone Calls on Foreclosure Paperwork Problems. In amusing news, In Bipartisan Spirit, Obama Makes Deal To Get Kicked In Balls, and In Emergency Session, U.N. Declares Florida a Rogue State.

This one came in over the transom, but is interesting: The World Without The Internet.

Dan Grobstein File

School's Out for Summer

Friday was the last day of my ninth year of teaching, so I feel it is advisable to lay down a few words to sum up my latest 180-day experience on the front line of American Education. It bears repeating that I teach in educational Disneyland (as my first principal so aptly described it). My school is suburban, and our worst-behaving student is better than the best-behaving student I observed in  middle schools just seven miles away. While the physical distance is small, the socio-economic distance is gigantic. The median home price in my town is $650,000. We have never run out of basic supplies (well, OK, one year we ran out of facial tissue). Among my 90 students, there were, perhaps, a half-dozen divorced parents. Many of my students never missed a day of school; most of them only missed a few.(I saw daily 30-50 percent absenteeism in schools I observed). Everyone has a textbook at home, and a classroom set to use at school. I have never seen or heard of a weapon at our school that was in any danger of being used (foolish students have been know to brandish a knife now and then).

As always, there are students I will miss and students whom I will miss only in the sense that I was too far away when I wanted to throw something at them. (Note: I never have and never would throw anything at a student. Doesn't mean I can't imagine it, or use the idea for a clever line). But many of the students are either great actors or else they honestly enjoyed my class, and one student wrote me a 250-word note that I will cherish for the rest of my life, about how I made her want to vote and be a good U.S. Citizen (and how the class was sometimes boring but usually not).

 It has been the case, as I was told it would be when I started, that I am gradually getting better with each passing year. I am not perfect; I will never be perfect. But my classroom management improves (I used the zen bells more than the gym whistle this year), my pedagogy improves, my anger management improves, and the classroom experience for my students improves. They learn more and I present a better role model. I would offer a refund to the students I taught in 2003-2004 if they had paid me specifically for educating them--although we'd both be better off if they just took the class again.

There are many things wrong with American education. The parents, students, teachers and administrators in my district are not among them.

Moonrise Kingdom

5 stars out of 5
There are lots of things you can say about most Wes Anderson films. They tend to feature Bill Murray and/or Jason Schwartzman. They are incredibly fussy  and art-directed to within an inch of their life. They feature eccentric people on the fringes of life. They are, as a rule, hugely entertaining, although not always. This time out, Schwartzman has a cameo and Murray has what amounts to an extended cameo. Minor characters are played by Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Harvey Keitel. What kind of film could squander this kind of world-class talent on tiny roles? A film that features first-timers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman being absolutely brilliant as the 12-year-olds at the center of the story. They think they are in love; in fact, they are quite sure of it. Is any love as pure and certain as first love? Anderson clearly thinks not, and allows us to observe them as the run away, are found, and run away again on a fictional island. There is not a single mis-step in this film, not a single bad performance, not a single stupid moment in the script, and a great deal of laughter that comes from character of visual fun, rather than fart jokes. A film by grownups, for grownups, featuring kids. It is brilliant, will stand up to multiple viewings, says something about the human condition and, if there is any justice in this world, will be up for an Oscar. And that, my friends, is what (usually) defines a five-star movie for me.