Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tripping on Coffee

When I was in college--Stevens Institute of Technology--there was a Cuban guy named Angelo with a food truck parked between two of the classroom buildings.  We assume he got his beans from some connection at the Maxwell House roasting warehouse which was at the North end of Hoboken. We don't know if he added anything to it, but to this day, his coffee was the most powerful and flavorful coffee anyone has ever tasted. It was as irresistible as it was powerful. To add to the picture, he sold chili dogs that were simply outrageous, one of kind culinary experiences, never to be found anywhere else, ever again. One of the school's organizations did eventually formally acknowledge and express appreciation to Angelo and his food truck, for the elevated quality of life it brought to an otherwise dreary campus of academic grind. And at this point I feel a little guilty--like I should have never mentioned this--to understand the experience of Angelos coffee and chili dogs, you had to have imbibed and eaten. You just don't know.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Why I am Interested in the Revolutionary War Period of History

I grew up just outside the village of Suffern, in the Town of Ramapo, in Rockland County, N.Y.
In John Suffern's tavern, George Washington had his headquarters more than once, with  generals Lafayette and Clinton also present.  Aaron Burr had been the commander of the garrison of troops in present day Hillburn, N.Y., guarding the Ramapo Pass, which was a 14-mile land route through the Hudson Highlands.  Rochambeau's army, plus other continental army and militia soldiers marched down the current Route 202/Haverstraw Road--about 50 yards from the house I grew up in.  In addition, Stony Point, in northern Rockland County, is the site of a winning battle that was led by Anthony Wayne.

In light of the politics of today, it is very informative and a stark contrast to read about the values and virtues of our founding fathers and why they fought--first and foremost among them is George Washington, the very personification of what it meant to be an American, with Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, and so on, right behind him.  As well, in light of racism in America today, I find it enlightening to learn about the attitudes of the various founding fathers regarding slavery.   It is much more varied and interesting than you think.

As well, so many people like to mouth-off about what they insist the U.S. Constitution says/means, and I end up thinking that many of them lack a sufficient understanding of the history that led to the Constitution.  The Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights did not suddenly appear from the abstract thought of philosophers sitting in an ivory tower somewhere.  Rather, to understand the founding documents, one must understand the history of the life experiences, thinking, and vested interests of the developers of those documents. That history is an important aid in thinking critically about all of the political issues of today.

In addition, I find the stories about our Founding Fathers as military, political, diplomat, family, and civic leaders to be outstanding case studies for learning about what it means to be a leader.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Binge Listening to Mr. Robot Demons Again

I have yet to see an episode Mr. Robot (USA Channel, Re-runs on Amazon Prime) /

A music video of  Mr. Robot Demons

I stand accused and convicted, of over-analyzing stuff.

Yes, the Christian (and human!) themes in this video.  I love it.  One when I was in my mid-forties, as a project I decided to pray all 150 psalms in a row, one per night.  After 150 days, I came away with a sense of complete dependence on God for all things.  (Think of David in the Psalms, running and hiding in in the rocks and caves in the mountains, desperately trying to escape the assassins.  And his gratitude for his life.) 

"When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars that you set in place--
What are humans that you are mindful of them,
Mere mortals that you care for them?
(Psalms 8:4-5)

Not to be high and mighty, or self-righteous--condemned by the Psalms--but since then, after much thinking--I think to a flaw--and observing people and life--I'm ultra weak in that department--I have come to the conclusion that all spiritually mature people have an experiential knowledge and understanding of being completely dependent on God.   If you don't believe in the monotheistic God, you can substitute words like the Infinite, the Universe, or equivalent. 

Of the above and other Mr. Robot videos, through the visuals and the setting, I relate to the guy, though I am not, was never, aggressive or even assertive like he is.  Elliot lives in NYC where I did live for 7 years.   I get the anonymity, the loneliness, etc. but also the personal freedom, autonomy.  I've known a few Elliots. 

Empathy and sympathy are not the same, and I am not sure which one I have towards him, perhaps both.  But compassion.

In the video, the song is an expression of Elliot's inner life. Note it is sung by a female voice,  one very feminine in intonation and self-consoling emotion. Observe that Elliot is a male and not an effeminate one, but his inner life is expressed as feminine. The ancient Greeks believed that a person's soul contained male and female elements, which they called the Animus and Anima (and which explains a lot of things about people).  Without analyzing too much, the video feels like an expression of vulnerability.  The insight is to make the connection between vulnerability and dependency on the Infinite.  Elliot--hiding desperately in the caverns of Silicon Alley-- is terrified of emotional intimacy; yet, he does not succumb to despair.

Where do your demons hide?
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
(Mt 5:3)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Dream of Macbeth

I attended the opening night of a performance of Macbeth.  I only went because @carly j Bauer was an assistant producer.  But part of the production was that at the end of the play, select members of the audience were told that had been assigned to roles in the play, and they will be performing the roles one week from now, on the same stage.   I was assigned the role of King Macbeth.  I had one week to learn my lines, with no rehearsals before the performance  Well, I thought about it and stressed out.  I thought of how I could possibly memorize all of my lines in a week. It would take all of my free time.  And since a week isn't really enough time, I thought I should write all of the lines down on index cards and have them with me when I perform them. And of course, I would have no idea when to enter the stage, where to stand, move, the timing, or who to address my lines to.  It felt like it was too much, and I didn't want to do it.  I did not see it as a positive or fun challenge.  Emotionally, I crumpled--I didn't think I could do it, and I decided to back out.  Dream Interpretation: Of challenges at work; failing or quitting before even trying a challenge; lack of confidence; not up to a challenge; not considering the rewards, learning, or growth that might result.

The night before the dream, Due to having resolved a number of things at work, I was suddenly feeling a sense of confidence, a "can do" attitude, an attitude of putting in extra effort to understand and resolve things.  So I suspect the dream actually signals that I am about to overcome the thing that it expresses.