Two Dogs

There are two dogs. I like one; I wouldn't say that I don't like the other one, but he's irritating. Why is he irritating? He demands more of my attention. What's the upshot? I end up paying more attention to him rather than the one that I like. Hm....

Working on various projects today after going on an artists' retreat yesterday. What did I do on my retreat? Napped, mostly.



Today's sermon was about the parable of the unforgiving servant; but I've more or less stopped writing my sermons out, so I don't have much to post. Is that a good or a bad thing?
Here's a cartoon.



I moved last week, but I'm a long way from being settled - in fact, that might take several months yet. We'll see. I've had a surprisingly social week, which has been a good thing I think, even if it means that I haven't spent all day going through boxes - although one of the things I really need to find is my camera, since my pictures only seem to get worse. Although practically speaking, that means more cartoons and less artwork, and you might be happy about that.

On other fronts: I've been thinking about unfinished conversations (with a number of people, you may or may not be one of them) - but at the moment the question isn't so much, 'is my blog an appropriate place to write out what I've been thinking, in hopes that the other person may read this?' so much as it is, 'is this a conversation that I need to continue?' Of course the answer is always yes, but maybe not right now.


You got to move...

I've been busy moving, and now I'm done (with the moving, all of my stuff is still in boxes...)
But that's all I'm going to say today. This cartoon has been floating around in my head since late February: enjoy!


Tuesday afternoon

I haven't had a blog post with this title in over six years, so I feel entitled; in any case, it was one of the Moody Blues songs that I actually liked (no offense, Steve!).


Going to Cuba

I thought I had posted a previous version of this painting before, but I can't find it on this blog. In any case, I recently looked at the river and thought - "that's not right!" - and repainted it to look more realistic (I realize the tree still has a kind of inner glow, but that's intentional).

Thinking more about my previous post: I'm not terribly expressive when it comes to positive emotions. But you know what? It seems that my friends - people who are actually paying attention - recognize the difference between me humoring them and expressing (quiet) enthusiasm. Getting excited about chickens - "CHICKENS!!!" - would have been way out of character, even when I'm not depressed. There are times when I need to make sure that I've correctly conveyed my response, because I hate to be left out just because it didn't seem like I wanted to... whatever. But there are other times when I wish other people would just trust me, at least the people who know me, and know that my yes means yes and my no means no. Probably I need to be more expressive: but it's not all my fault.

...and then I delete a long couple of paragraph on the 7 in the enneagram, because I ought to be working on a sermon.



One of the people I've read - I don't remember if it was Alasdair MacIntyre or Bernard Williams or maybe Harry Frankfurt or Martha Nussbaum (and this isn't an academic essay so I'm not going to worry too much about the references, but someone who talks about what it means to be fully human) - one of these people writes about an element of friendship (after Aristotle), that part of friendship is taking an interest in our friend's interest, not because we find them intrinsically interesting but because we value our friend.

I know that's dense, so let me give you an example: I have a friend named Paul who likes to lift weights. I haven't spent much time in a gym, and when I exercise I tend to do yoga, or hike or ride my bicycle - not lift weights. Lifting weights is not even something that's ever really occurred to me to do. But when Paul and I started spending more time together, I started going to the gym with him - and this is the important part - not merely to placate him, but taking an interest in the things he finds interesting. He and I are currently living in different cities, and I don't make it to the weight room these days (and there's more to that story, but I've already got too much for today) - but I miss going to the gym with Paul, and when I think about lifting weights, I think about it in reference to Paul.

Let me switch briefly here to another topic (I tend to think dialectically, so I promise I'll eventually relate this to what I've just said above): enthusiasm. When I look back on things that I wrote when I was in high school or junior high, or on videotapes or audiotapes of my younger self, I'm struck by this naive, goofy energy that's embarrassing - how could I have liked the notebook with Confederate flag on the front? Why did I think this triviality about the date (I can't remember which one) had some sort of mathematical significance? I'm embarrassed by the things I wrote, things I said, things I had - and the connecting feature for me here is the energy I put behind them. That is, it's not necessarily even the things themselves - of course I liked Star Trek! - but did I have to be so bouncy about it? Those of you who know me as an adult might even be surprised by that: have you ever seen me goofily enthusiastic about anything? Have I exhibited an unrestrained positive emotion about anything? And "positive" is an important qualifier, because I've cried in public about my (now ex) fiancee breaking up with me; and really angry about politics, and other relationships I've had (see the cartoon - not about my ex-fiancee!). I can be loud and sad, I can be loud and angry, and of course I can be happy, but my "happy" is usually pretty quiet. Did I like Robert Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? Yes - but I'm never going to go online (here or elsewhere) and say "BEST MOVIE EVAR!!!!1!!!!" - about that, or anything really.

So: bringing the pieces together. My ex-fiancee wanted to have chickens: she read about chickens on-line, checked out books on chickens, bought some books on chickens and small-scale farming. I can't say that I did much in the way of reading: we were both living in (and continue to live in) apartments, and chickens aren't part of that equation. But she was surprised when I told her (post break-up) that I had been looking forward to having chickens with her: I never conveyed the enthusiasm that I felt. And that last part is another important qualification: I really did feel enthusiasm for the future-chickens. I don't have any intrinsic interest in chickens - the farm I grew up on didn't have any animals except dogs and cats - and I'm unlikely to start raising chickens on my own. The enthusiasm I had was based on her interest: I was interested because she was interested, because I valued (and, honestly, continue to value) her interests (but that's no longer a shared project). She didn't know that, though, and I wish I had been better at conveying that.

I sit here this morning and wonder how much of the problems in our relationship had that basic structure: she wanted to do X, I didn't have an intrinsic interest in X but felt excited by the prospect, because she was excited - but then nothing ever happened because she didn't think I wanted to (go cross-country skiing, go to Waynesville to look at the shops, etc). And what's worse, I failed to convey any enthusiasm about some of the things that I do have an intrinsic interest it - singing duets at the open mic, singing with her in general, hiking around the area. She didn't think I wanted to do those things, and so we didn't. Now I wonder what's wrong with me. I wonder if there was any way of fixing that relationship. And I wonder if I'll continue that pattern in the next relationship. I hope not.


Mind and Body

I was thinking about something that happened a long time ago: I was walking out of the Bryan Center on a hot summer day with the woman I was dating at the time, and I had just gotten a Snickers Ice Cream Bar  (which was brand-new at the time), and after taking the first bite I literally stopped in my tracks, overwhelmed with pleasure. Some of it was probably the novelty, and of course they are really good - and it was summer in North Carolina, so anything cold would have been good. But the woman I was with was surprised at the extent to which I was really enjoying that ice cream bar, and although I don't remember her exact words I know she was amused and really didn't know what to make of it.

I was thinking of this because - ha, thinking! - I spend a lot of time in my own head. When I'm by myself I'm usually having conversations with people who aren't there (rehearsing what I want to say, sorting through what I feel I need to say, just telling them about things that are important to me at the moment) - or just arguing with myself (and it's really disappointing when I feel I lose those arguments). [Part of me wants to go into the details of the latest argument I've been having with myself, but not now - it has to do with inconsistent propositions, and I don't feel like going into the logic or the specific propositions.] Or I'm thinking about a quote or an idea, or a song playing in my head (which reminds me of another story about a woman in Quaker meeting thinking I was so spiritual, moving according to the Holy Spirit - davening - when really I was thinking about how to playing different pieces of a song in different times signatures). But what I'm not usually doing is paying attention to the world outside my head.

This is not to say I'm not gaining information about the world: when I was a freshman at the above unnamed university, I was a resource for the other guys on my hall - "Hey, what's going on around campus tonight?" They knew I rarely went out in the evenings, but for some reasons all the signs hanging around advertising different events would work their way into my head, and I could tell them about the different speakers and concerts and frat parties. (They seemed mostly interested in the frat parties, and I don't think I ever went to any except for the frat I eventually joined.)

*Anyhow, I live in my head: that should be no surprise. But occasionally things will grab my attention, and then I really, really enjoy them. I don't typically think of myself as a sensualist, but maybe I am - an epicure, even. Not that things need to be too fancy: I was floored by Quiznos Veggie Guacamole sub a few years ago, when I  me and my ex-fiancee was were moving my  our stuff from Indiana to New York (and pushing myself to my physical limits - everything tasted soooooo good that week for both of us).  I think that's also why I like to turn up the Rolling Stones really loud. Hm, I fear this is turning into one of those obscurely self-referential posts: I'll stop now. [*I hate it when people write me out of their stories, and I wrote my ex-financee out of this post and shouldn't have. She was there, and had similar experiences.]

This my "green doodle," part of a series with the "blue doodle" I posted earlier. I probably should come up with a better title, especially since I foresee doing at least a few more of these, and doing them more seriously (rather than just fiddling on copy paper). Inspired in part by the work of Josef Albers, but his titles (I'm thinking primarily of Proto-Form B - since he did more with lines than with curves) aren't much better.