Friday, July 17, 2015

No Excuse, Just Explanation

By Karen Nelson, M.A.

In this day and age of instant communications either online through social networking, on television or through texting, people are tending towards knee-jerk reactions and statements which seemingly reveal a desperate need to be heard or noticed without thinking about what it is they want to say or of the ramifications of mis-speaking or over-sharing or telling “little white lies.”

For example, today (7/17/15), on The View, Raven-Symone revealed a common misunderstanding of the definitions of jealousy and envy. She said that she often expresses “jealousy in a good way” about other people and added that it is a good way because it makes her a better person. She expressed her feelings that jealousy and envy are different, envy being worse. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines these two words in this way:

Jealous: feeling or showing an envious resentment of someone or their achievements, possessions or perceived advantages.

Envy: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities or luck.

This dictionary defines,

Resentment: bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.

How can one have bitter indignation “in a good way?” How does resentment about being treated unfairly make one a better person?

These “bitter” feelings are toxic and can lead one to act out against the object of those feelings, hence the idea of “jealous rage” which stems from the resentment and discontentment. I gently refer Ms. Symone to a stanza from the Desiderata (Max Ehrmann, 1927), “If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

From Ms. Symone’s conversation, I suspect she meant to say that she admires some people for their achievements, qualities or possessions and desires to improve herself as a result. “Admire” sounds milder because it is…no where in that definition will one find the words, “bitter,” “resentment,” “indignation” or “discontented.”

Now, this example, of course, is not that big of a deal. There are other examples where the ramifications can be devastating to all concerned such as “mean tweets” leading to a loss of friendship, loss of a job or, even, death by suicide (a loss of self). Then, there is terrorist activity inspired by and fueled by this need to be heard or noticed. This need to be heard might just be the root cause of many negative actions. Not being heard or otherwise noticed can lead to envy and/or jealousy in the true sense of those words. Obviously, there are other emotional and psychological factors that come into play which make the need to express one’s dissatisfaction more or less pathological.

We all have a need to be heard or noticed in our lives. This is why the worst punishment George Orwell could posit in his book 1984, was the elimination of a person’s personhood, the erasing of the person’s name, birth, life and death from all records.

Many years ago, I heard a TV psychologist talking about neglected children say that such children learn from this neglect (whether or not it is malignant or benign) that “Bad breath is better than no breath at all.” (John Bradshaw) These children learn to act out in order to be heard or noticed. I maintain that people who were raised in this way and who have not corrected the negative effects, never quite grow up. They tend to be intolerant of people who receive a lot of attention (warranted or not), or who don’t share their world view or who are people in positions of authority who neglect others (intended or not).

If you know me, then you know that I write this thesis NOT to excuse such negative behaviors but to explain them so that it can be understood and, hopefully, prevented in the future. Socrates wrote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” If I met you and asked you, “Who are you?” what would be your response: your name? Your title? Your work history? Your salary or net worth? Your religious affiliation? All of these are pieces of the puzzle that describe a human doing, not a human being.

I am: a work in progress; a journey; process; I look backwards to see where I’ve been and I look forward to see where I’m going. My history is WHO I am; I am here, now. Who will I be tomorrow? I don’t know. I can only guess. Have I been heard or noticed? To the extent that you have read this blog post, yes. However, I have no control over how you experience it. That depends on who YOU are, on how you view your history, your world. That does not mean that I am not responsible for posting it, for thinking the thoughts I have chosen to express.

Who are you and have you been heard and noticed? Think about it. Feel about it, Choose how to express it.

Friday, June 5, 2015


Karen Nelson
June 5, 2015

Assured of your place in

And whatever that may be

You decide
As you move away from

Your peace

Is as much a
Dissemble as it is



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Buried Fear

The Buried Fear

Karen Nelson

June 1, 2015

The human brain is hard-wired

To see the different against the known,

The known patterns of our lives

And to distrust that different regardless

Of where in the world it’s grown.

This is a primal, animal response

More suited to our distant forebears

Who lived in jungles or savage savannahs

Where seeing, hearing, feeling a threat

Was pre-saged in a foreshadowed affair.

Apex predators are all alike, they say,

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

Sharks and Orcas and Crocodiles

But one could argue the most successful

Are the ones who look most like us, no lie!

Today, in sub and urban towns,

A hallmark difference could just be

Something as harmless as garb, skincolor or curly hair

Accented voices or accented food choices

Or, oddly, how one chooses to leave.

But I maintain the most insidious and

Non-conscious response is to what cannot be seen

How the visually impaired and blind must feel

Not having or losing that powerful sense

A survival perception, held in highest esteem.

Sighted people are not aware of how dependent they are

On those two orbs and the occipital lobe,

Using twenty-five percent of the brain’s wattage

To place one in space, to keep one’s balance,

To assess the color tinting of one’s robe.

Hard to imagine a bigger threat than not seeing

The predator, the bike, the car or the priggish walker

Staring at his eye phone instead of where he goes

Walking fast in your direction, in your path,

Neither of you aware of the watching stalker.

Of course, there are the blind or visually impaired

Who expect the clouds, the seas and the crowd

To part before them as if entitled to unconfronted space.

Ain’t it a shame, ain’t it a shame. I wonder who’s to blame.

“Oh, poor me,” with self-bigotry cry they outloud.

Most, however, don’t want your pity,

Just want you to understand

How it is that YOU relate to your buried fears

Around this different ability to see ahead,

To make the twists and turns on uneven land.

It’s just survival as they say, humans will always find a way

Thick glasses, or white cane, a dog who knows

His eyes, ears and nose are better than yours

Who leads without taking the lead from you

Allowing your brain to adapt and grow.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

People come and People go

People come and People go

Their shadows close behind.

While we walk along our paths

We are alone and totally blind.

Never seeing, as we trek,

Other souls eternally, only on their own.

“Can you help me,” people cry

As they try…

To understand the meaning and

The purpose of their lives, of their loves.

Nihilists claim there is but one: none.

This, the darkest shadow of all, wears gloves

Wrapped around the necks of doves.

People come and people go.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

What Is the World Coming to?

What Is the World Coming to?
By Karen Nelson, M.A.

Here is my big prediction for the future of our planet: sometime in the next 30 to 40 years (give or take a decade or two), there will be a tremendous change socially, world-wide. People will learn to live in peace and harmony with each other. Wars and other violence will slowly dissolve away as people forgive their own tendencies to see danger in differences. Humans will accept that they do not have dominion over the world or nature. It will not be a utopia, without issues or problems, but we will take notice that the solution to every problem lies in the question and how we ask the question. In fact, humans will come to realize that we ARE a part of nature and when we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves. Humans will also recognize that dealing only with symptoms does not necessarily resolve the cause of those symptoms (such as throwing money at homelessness). Symptoms are messages that something is amiss, something or someone needs our attention.
If you are interested, here is why I believe this monumental evolution will occur sooner rather than later. I see evidence everywhere that this change is coming not the least of which is the struggle people are having with change. People all over the world seem to be reacting to what’s in the air (and I don’t mean pollution). People seem to be trying to hold onto their past ways of living while other parts of the world move forward with or without them. Its how I imagine it was for neanderthalers when homo sapiens arose out of the jungles. It didn’t take wars or a nuclear holocaust to extinguish a weaker-minded species. All it took was environmental press to which the neanderthalers could not adapt. In this day and age, it will take much more than environmental press because all peoples are the same species. It will also take social press. Humans are built for social interaction. They tend not to thrive or survive for long in social isolation. A group of humans in the pain of social isolation tend to lash out, trying to get attention in all the wrong ways. Look at what happened in Jonestown. Look at what’s happening right now with ISIL or North Korea, or Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
All, it seems, wanting to hold onto the past, to their usurped power, and all trying to get the attention of the world. I see all mayhem and destruction as a reaction to the enormous change that’s in the wind.
And, here are the winds of change. There are some very wise, wonderful young people all over the world who seem to have tapped into a larger purpose and meaning for life: The young girl, a teenager, in Pakistan who dared to get an education and to speak out against the misogyny that keeps girls from schooling. She took a bullet to the head from Al Queda terrorists and survived it and continues to speak out. “I am Malala Yousafsa” is the affirmation now heard around the world. Angelina Jordan, the 8 year old from Norway who seems to have tapped into the soulfulness of Billie Holiday singing her heart into existence. Ethan Bortnick, the young composer, pianist/singer who expresses his joy for all to hear and see. There are many, many others, some known to the world, some others quietly expressing their different perspectives on life and living. I have had the privilege of meeting some of these “youngsters.” I’ll bet you have, too. Look for them. Talk to them. Hear their voices especially when all the news talks about is the mayhem and destruction. Don’t build that bunker. Prepare for something new and exciting in the world. Its coming.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Lessons of the Desiderata

The Lessons of the Desiderata

By Karen Nelson, M.A.

The Desiderata© was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann. Mr. Ehrmann was born in the 19th century to German immigrants to the United States. He earned a baccalaureate degree in English from De Pauw University and later studied philosophy and law at Harvard University. He was known as a poet, and the most famous prose poem he wrote was The Desiderata (Latin for things desired). The poem was very popular, as I recall, in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. I remember being very impressed with it at the time. Its popularity seemed to fade after a time, and I forgot all about it.

Then, a while ago, it was mentioned by Morgan Freeman on Oprah Winfrey’s Master Class. I remember feeling impressed with it years ago but couldn’t rightly explain why it was forgotten. So, I pulled it up online and copied it to my computer. I was impressed all over again. Each stanza has a kernel of wisdom for living. So, for the following two weeks, I began memorizing it one stanza at a time (or what I defined as a stanza). In my configuration, there were fourteen stanzas…some longer than others. I am determined to never again forget The Desiderata. And, I wanted to re-introduce it or introduce it to anyone who would listen. So, for two weeks, I tweeted each stanza. I did not call it The Desiderata in my tweets but did note the author each time. I believe others of my generation can re-connect with Mr. Ehrmann’s wisdom while members of younger generations may learn from it anew. I have learned that many people of my generation have a vague recollection of The Desiderata while a younger generation finds it beautiful just as we did.

I cannot speak for anyone else here, but perhaps my musings might inform yours. A friend asked me why I felt the need to memorize this small tome. I quipped, “Well, I know now that there is nothing wrong with my memory except that I can’t recall why I needed to memorize it!” When I re-read The Desiderata, I found that certain stanzas spoke personally to me while others seemed to speak to my impressions about certain people in my circle. I do not recall this individualization in my earlier experience of it. I am hoping that as this experience of the The Desiderata has opened a learning experience for me, then writings such as this may bring your lessons into sharper focus as well.

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

In this day and age, there tends to be a lot of silence that is not peaceful. Recently, I was in a restaurant and observeded a luncheon with four people. The only silence that seemed to happen was while everyone was checking their phones for messages and texts. Occasionally, one person would share something amusing that someone had sent. I sat there just observing, thinking. I realized that, if I'd been a part of that group, I would have taken a text or message as a way of distraction, and I do not need to be distracted from life or from myself. THAT is the peace one can find in silence. These days, even people who claim to know better, take the time to meditate. Don’t get me wrong…there is nothing bad about meditation. However, if you have to set aside time from your busy life to re-connect with yourself through meditation, then, don’t you think there might be an issue? Why, in God’s name, aren’t YOU the most important person in your life? I maintain if it’s a duty, then there is no peace within one’s self.

“As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”

Wow. “Without surrender”…this, I thought, was MY stanza. I was raised to be a fighter – I’m sure my sisters would agree since they were all older than I by five and a half and more years. The trick is to not surrender. This, I find, tends to be difficult for women especially. Women need to assert their needs and desires. The opposite end result of this stanza seems to be, you cannot be on good terms with someone who demands surrender. Women tend to want and need connection with others and sometimes give up their integrity in order to maintain connection. I credit my mother and my sisters for the inner strength I developed as a female child growing up in the U. S. They all challenged me in myriad ways and provided models for observation and learning. Early on in my life, it was more about the fight to avoid surrender than it was about finding common ground for good terms. Maturity and a lot of psychotherapy gradually brought me to looking for common ground whenever possible as a place where I could find connection and maintain integrity. I do not recall that this stanza resonated with me as strongly in the early 70’s as it does today. I have confronted more challenges in the last year or so than I had in all of my growing-up years. Nevertheless, it was those years and experiences that gave me a foundation for this new growth.

“Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.”

Growing up, there was a part of me (admittedly a small part) that worried about how much I did not know. I learned how to generate an opinion and to express it even when it was uninformed or, simply, made up out of the knowledge I did have. At around eight years old, my mother, who loved to read poetry out loud to my sisters and I, asked me for my “opinion” about an e.e. cummings poem. Just asking me for my opinion seemed monumental to me. Still, it was an eight-year-old’s opinion.

It took a lot of practice for me to learn how to say, “I don’t know.” Being ignorant is being without knowledge, and being without knowledge is being without power. This idea fueled my desire to be educated beyond secondary school. I learned to love learning. There will always be something else to learn.
My mother was very intolerant of the plaintiff cry, “I’m bored!” And I found boredom excruciatingly painful. At around age ten, I decided for myself that I was never, ever going to be bored again. This also fueled my drive for education. I’m still learning. Now, I mostly learn about myself and do so, I think, without hubris and ego. I do this because I was fortunate enough to find people throughout my life who listened to my story, who saw potential even when I couldn’t see it.

“Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.”
This has been a difficult one for me because some of the most vibrant, attractive and smart people in the world come across as loud and aggressive in public. I love most music and connect mostly with rock and roll. Rock music has a tendency to sound loud and aggressive. For me, it wasn’t this aspect that attracted me to it. I connected with groups or soloists whose songs resonated with me: the sound along with the lyrics. So, I have spent a lot of time watching and listening to rock stars away from their concert venues. Many seem contemplative and reserved. I also drew the line at heavy metal and punk rock. To me, those two were loud and aggressive for nothing else but the sake of being loud and aggressive. It was similar to early live-performances of some comedians swearing up a blue storm just to get a rise out of people. It felt manipulative.
I’ve decided that this stanza must be taken as written: avoid loud AND aggressive persons; not just loud and not just aggressive people. People tend to get loud when they feel unheard. People tend to act aggressively when they’re frightened. Persons who are loud and aggressive seem frustrated with life and demanding surrender and all of the attention for themselves alone.

“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
This quote suggests that comparing yourself to others is not about identifying one’s self as an individual and separate from “the other.” Often it is about keeping score in some kind of race for success or notoriety. Keeping up with the Joneses (or the Kardashians, whichever is your neighbor) is truly unhelpful. Not only will there always be “greater and lesser persons than yourself,” but each person has a different set of experiences as well as congenital propensities. You and I can never really know what it is like living in another person’s shoes, seeing, experiencing life from that perspective. All one can do is seek to understand another person’s experience. Even that is fraught with problems since your own filters will always be there coloring the lessons of life.
So, it seems that one's intent behind any comparison is likely to determine if one becomes vain and bitter or not. Notice, Mr. Ehrmann does not prescribe never comparing any more than he states it will always lead to vanity and bitterness.

"Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time."
It may not be healthy to live entirely in the past or in the future. Take the time to be present to yourself, to what you do and what you've done. Then, take pleasure in your vision for the future even if you're not sure how you will get there. Your career represents the path you've taken to get to where you are. It is something no one can ever take away from you. Mr. Ehrmann wrote The Desiderata just two years before the big stock market crash of 1929. I do not know what effect the crash and the subsequent depression had on him, but if Mr. Ehrmann took his own advice, he survived it well. He lived until September, 1945. He was in his seventies when he died. Either way, the next stanza fits very well.

"Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is. Many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism."
Be realistic and be realistic. Nothing we encounter in life is either black or white. As the book indicates, there are at least fifty shades of grey! And which shade is entirely up to you! In fact, consider: as one looks at shades from white to black, there is NO clear deliniation between one shade and the next. It is only when one sees the opposites together that deliniation appears.
If you find yourself in the midst of someone's trickery, be open to that so you may extricate yourself.
When you start out trusting people 100%, then watch for their intentions to surface. They always will. Sometimes their intentions will be good for you and sometimes not. And, sometimes, their intentions will have nothing to do with you! Draw a line in the sand (if you need to) where your expectations of other's behavior still maintains your integrity and care for yourself. Beyond that point, there will not be enough trust to believe in the other. Keep in mind the psychological truism that we tend to find what we expect to find. If you tend to see someone as evil, then that is what you're likely to see. Conversely, if you only look for the good, then you are vulnerable to trickery. Keep your balance by noting the different shades. Allow yourself to re-evaluate that line in the sand.

"Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass."
It can be a tall order to be yourself and not pretend that you like a person. Some parents have been known to encourage their children (especially young children) to give an adult a hug or a kiss even when the child feels shy or scared. I suspect that the parent who does this isn't aware of the message this gives the child: your feelings are not as important as the feelings of this adult. This is one of the ways in which we learn to hide ourselves from others and, frequently, from the self. How do you figure out who you are?
One way we do this is by how others treat us. How others treat us might be related to how they perceive us and our behavior. There is a so-called reality show on television wherein one character is always shown as either stupid or sociopathic (without ethics). He is treated as such by the other characters on the show. Now, this person is not a child. Nevertheless, there may be subconscious messages being taken in by him every time he is treated disrespectfully. The producers/director seem to believe this makes for good entertainment. It is hard to tell what effect this has on the person's self esteem. It must be pointed out that, for whatever reason, he accepts this role and plays the role. All parties have some responsibility in this: those who demand it, those who accept it and those who support it by watching.
Another way we figure out who we are is by our own internal dialogue. Knowing what are our values and then acting consistenly with those values provides a feedback loop to our brain and our personality. Cognitive dissonance results when our values do not match our behavior. Sociopaths are really good at ignoring the pain of this dissonance. Some mentally ill persons learn to reject earlier values to match their current experience thus reducing the dissonance. This may be one explanation for recent school massacres (Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook). If this is so, it speaks volumes to rejecting bullying behavior.
When one allows others to choose one's values (whether it is accepting values or rejecting values), it becomes easy to be critical about love altogether. If you have a poorly defined sense of self, how could you accept being loveable? Even if you desparately want it, you'd likely never trust it. On the other hand, if you train yourself to ignore dissonace, then it is likely that you will also ignore love and its consequent vulnerability. Nevertheless, loving and being loved are the bases of the human social contract. As John Donne wrote, "No man is an island entire of itself." We are all part of the whole and are diminshed by the loss of any person.

"Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth."
This one has taken me longer to contemplate. Of course we all age, and, with age, we find there are things we either can no longer do or "shouldn't" do. I guess I'm not sure that the "counsel of the years" is only about giving up youthful activities. It seems to me to be about giving up old attitudes and mal-adjusted behaviors.
I am old, but I'm NOT old! I still ride a bicycle from time to time. I have play dates with friends. My favorite performer is P!nk. And, I'm still learning new things about myself and about the world. That all feels young. I want to believe that these kinds of things will keep me feeling young.
When I look back to my childhood and remember what "old" looked like to me (my grandparents), I saw one who was stubbornly stuck in her ways, intolerant of new thinking and new attitudes. When she died, my grandmother was only eleven years older than I am now. The other grandparent was bent over with horrible arthritis for the last ten years of his life. There was much he physically could no longer do. However, he sought to understand others and tolerated much younger beliefs and attitudes. He was eighty when he died living three and a half years after his wife's death.
I find myself really resisting this one. I do not want to be like my grandmother or feel the constant pain my grandfather experienced. The future scares me. Holding onto some of "the things of youth" seems one way to challenge my perception of "old." So, while I have some pain in my shoulder and creaks and crackling in most of my joints, I refuse to give up on myself and my body. I "walkercise" several times per week for at least an hour and a half each time.
My question is this: what shall I give up from my youth? Well, in the last year I've given up what feels like a lot. I've given up driving. I've given up work/career. I've given up manufactured sugar and sugar substitutes. I've given up smoking. I changed my eating habits. I've given up fighting out. I've given up my self-definition: I will no longer express a need to be heroic. Recently I received an email that spoke to an issue with my former employer and the sender's irritation around that issue. In the past, I would have found a way to feed the irritation by finding agreement. I didn't have enough information to do this and asked for more information. Nevertheless, my response was reasoned and reasonable rather than irritated or irritating. I am done with that part of my life. It truly no longer serves me.
Now, I strive to be balanced with all things. Its a work in prorgess. Some persons avoid the things that "triggered" them in the past. I choose to overcome. Maya Angelou once wrote, "You can tell a lot about a person by how he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights." She never advocated avoiding the things that might lead to anger or frustration. She did advocate keeping perspective and balance.

"Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune, but do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself."
Note that Mr. Ehrmann does not prescribe how to nurture strength of spirit. I suggest that some practice that feeds your sense of well being in the world based in your values and beliefs will do. To the extent that your values and beliefs are solidly in place for you (no matter what others think or believe and no matter what happens), you will find it easier to rebound. When one does this, then catastrophizing is unnecessary. I used to believe that my own brand of "pessimistic optimism" was the best way to protect myself: if I could imagine the worst, then I would already have lived it and feel comfortable when the worst happened. If the worst did not happen, then that was icing on the cake. It took a long time to understand that this was a very bitter cake that held no nutritional value for me or the world. I still occasionally revert back to this strategy. I am able more quickly now to be gentle with myself and let it go.

"You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here."
There is nothing one needs to do but be! What a concept in this post-puritanical culture. Do the trees and stars struggle with self esteem? Do they strive to be useful? No. They just are. If a tree provides shade or fruit or nuts that nurture other beings, it does so without seeking approval. If the stars provide light and navigational guidance in the dark, they do so without fanfare. They remind us that our concerns are miniscule compared to the vastness of the universe. It is entirely up to the other to find advantage in their existence or not. The trees and the stars do not fret about it either way. Your right to be here is solely ensconced in the fact that you are here. Do what you love and it will find you (to paraphrase a TV commercial). You can be a cloud or you can be a rainbow. Both can be beneficial to you.

"And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."
This is a statement of optimism and faith. It is optimistic in that one can accept events for what they are, for what we make of them. It is important to take responsibility for your own understanding of events. Nothing you see, hear or feel is independent of you and your experience. Your filters color everything you perceive. In other words, the universe is unfolding in the way you believe it is unfolding. It is what you make it.
I find it is a statement of faith in human nature and our ability to control our responses to any event. Once you discover that you have this control, it is more likely than not that you will use it over and over again.

"Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your dreams and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul."
I thought it extraordinary that, in the 1920's, Max Ehrmann had the courage to publish this statement of "God, whatever you conceive Him to be." There are today areas of the world where this statement would cause consternation. How much more so in the 1920's! Still, as someone pointed out to me, there was a movement of spiritualism and a movement of intelligencia in the 20's that might have informed the statement. It would have been even more controversial if Mr. Ehrmann had not used any gender specific pronoun. In one spiritual tradition that I have studied, the Creator is defined as "all things and no thing." "It" would be a more inclusive pronoun and one that speaks to the ineffable nature of such a creator. So, how can anyone be at peace with the ineffable, the unknowable? I suggest that one can do this by being humble enough to admit to the limitations of human nature and the human brain. There are some things, perhaps many things, we just will never know. Be at peace with that.
It is likely that humility will also lay the way to keeping peace with your soul (whatever you conceive that to be!). I think Mr. Ehrmann may have suggested in this passage that your dreams and aspirations come from the soul. I don't know this for certain. I can only say that. for me, there is a part of me that feels soarful when I utilize my talents in a pleasing way. That which soars, I believe, is my soul. I have a talent for dreaming while asleep as well as while awake. These days, I aspire to plant seeds and take pleasure in tilling the soil, watering the planted seeds and then moving on. Like Johnny Appleseed, if an apple tree grows, it grows. If it doesn't, then it doesn't. Painting in oils or watercolor satisfies this aspiration. This blog post satisfies it as well. Will someone buy my paintings? I don't know. Will someone read this post? I don't know. If someone reads it, will he/she get anything from it? I don't know. That is up to the reader.

"With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy."
Beyond hide nothing from yourself, there is nothing more I need say about this stanza. It stands alone and speaks clearly and concisely to all our knowledge, experiences and hopes.
Karen Nelson, M.A.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sad Expressions...

Sad Expressions:
Wasting Pronouns, Talking in Questions & The Word, “Like”

By Karen Nelson, M.A.

I admit that I was trained by my mother to be a stickler around grammar and communications. And, as a result of that training, my sisters and I were very fond of driving our mother crazy by purposely mis-pronouncing names and words, by occasionally placing the em-pha-sis on the wrong syl-lab-le or on the wrong word: reading a street sign, we would yell out to mother as she was driving, “STOP! A Head!” Or “What’s that in the road. Mother?” Typically, mother would shudder and then laugh at our antics. I believe she was secretly proud of our understanding of grammar and the English language. Now, all these years later, I find myself acutely aware of two things: English is the craziest language in the world, and language can be a living, breathing mess of change. I suppose this is my karma…

All right people. There are three patterns of speech that are growing in popularity: one is the often unnecessary use of a pronoun within one sentence when the subject has already been identified or the indiscriminate use of pronouns between sentences. The second pattern is speaking in questions. And finally, the last one is like using “like” at the beginning of, like, every phrase.

Hasn’t anyone learned anything from Twitter??? One hundred and forty keystrokes (not characters as is frequently claimed since a blank space is NOT a character) means that people waste time and space by using a pronoun (he, she, they, it, etc) once one has already identified the subject in that sentence. For example, in talking about the arrest of an elected official, the reporter says the person’s name followed by “he did such and such” Or on the subject of increased cases of measles, the anchor says, “Officials in Orange County, they say there is an increase in reported cases of measles.” Of course, “they” said it. You already identified the subject as Orange County officials! Didn’t any of these people, reporters, take “bonehead” English in school? Doing this, this is ridiculous and unnecessary. I guess what irritates me most is the suspicion that such individuals, they do not trust that I am capable of following the thread of a their communication.

In contrast, communication is made more difficult when people use pronouns indiscriminately. You know what you’re talking about, but I’m not in your head. So, “John” talks about his son. He is so special. WHO is special, “John” or his son? Now, I might be able to tell who it is you’re talking about by waiting for further context. So, I don’t interrupt. It is only when my understanding seems hopelessly mired in indiscriminate pronouns that I will interrupt you. “John was talking about his son. He is so special. They couldn’t decide if he was a genius or just plain disturbed. I mean, they just can’t get around their pedagogical ideas! How rigid can you be?” Now I interrupt, and you have to re-explain your point. Who is special? Who is pedagogical? Who is a genius? Who is rigid? I might be rigid, but I haven’t really given any indication of this!

An especially insidious practice in speech is using a lilting tone at the end of a sentence. I have no problem with people asking questions. I do have a problem with people who talk in questions? A question begins with a who, what, where, when, how or why and ends with a question mark which is spoken with a lift in tone of the voice? I suspect people who do this often are very insecure people or very insecure about their opinions. It seems to have replaced the nearly ubiquitous “Ya know,” ya know?
Stand up, people! If you are wrong or mistaken in your opinion, accept responsibility and “stand corrected!”

Finally, the mis-use of the word “like” it is also a signal of insecurity? According to The Oxford Dictionary of English, the word like as used informally in speech is a “meaningless filler” or is used to “signify the speaker’s uncertainty about an expression.” The dictionary gives an example: “So she comes into the room and she’s like, ‘Where is everybody?’ ” It’s like you can’t be sure, like, what you’re talking about or, like, what the other is, like, understanding?

There used to be a saying when I was in high school, “Put your brain in gear before you open your mouth!” Let's face it, English is crazy enough when spoken without Fad-Talk! "Re" in front of a noun usually means a repeat, except in repeat! "I" before "E" except after "C" and in neighbor and weigh. The "gh" in neighbor and weigh are silent. "Gh" in tough and rough are pronounced like an F. The "f" in "if" is pronounced like an "f," but in "of" it sounds like a "v!" What the "F?" LOL?