Random Bits & Pieces

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Posts tagged "Life"

Dick Gregory on the 3 things we need for healthy living.

"I learned that words are in my veins and that I bleed my existence every time I put pen to paper."

Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.

Andrew Boy (via silentsigh57)

My life

(via queennubian)

This is exactly how I always feel…

(via theresonatingchamber)

It wasn’t Father’s Day when I originally wrote this, but dads were on my mind…

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dear Deadbeat Dads: I Believe You Can Change

You’ll have to excuse all of the children posts but I’m ovulating, so the good, bad and ugly of children are heavily on my mind. I’m also currently in the middle of doing research for a study on families. A couple days ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about other people’s kids. Yesterday, I read a beautiful post in support of single mothers. And I just read a post on Single Sisters Speak Out written by a guest blogger about what I like to refer to as “deadbeatdadism”.  So, yes, children and families are heavily on my mind. And since I write my feelings until they’re gone, I must exorcise them here.

This “deadbeat dad” condition worries me a great deal because I believe that family is the foundation of any society. We can surmise a great deal about the health of a society by examining family statistics such as marriage rates, divorce rates, average # of children per household, # of single parents v. married parents, # of extended familes, blahblah. We can debate all day about whether children are better off in homes with single parents v. married parents v. stepparents v. heterosexual parents v. homosexual parents v. surrogate parents, but the bottom line is that the general condition of families in America is critical. And African-American families are in even worse condition. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, African-Americans are the least partnered racial group. Yes, children can be raised well in a single parent home but that’s not an optimal situation by any means - for many reasons (which is enough to fill up a different and even lengthier post).

What drew me to reading “Inside the Mind of a Deadbeat Dad” is a search for answers about why men ditch the responsibilities of co-raising their children.  The post didn’t really answer my question. And it couldn’t really - because it’s an isolated story about an isolated case that has become a national epidemic. But if I could interview every deadbeat dad, I would.

Here’s a list of just some of the questions I would ask (I welcome any deadbeat dads to answer them):

1. Why did you leave?
2. Do you feel any responsibility to the children you helped create?
3. Why do you leave your children that you helped create but then take care of the next woman’s children (who may or not be your biological children)?
4. How is your relationship with your father? Do you think that relationship has influenced your actions as a father?
5. How do you define manhood?
6. How did you develop your definition of manhood? 
7. By your own definition, do you consider yourself a man?
8. Do you ever plan on rectifying the situation with your children?

And I should start by interviewing my own father.

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In “A Question About Race And Religion" the author poses the following thought-provoking (and, possibly, paradigm-shifting) question:

By currently practicing Christianity, are we as a people contributing to the idea that Europeans were correct in assuming the beliefs of our ancestors were barbaric, savage and without merit prior to European involvement?

Followed by this conclusion:

The intent here is not to devalue anyone’s beliefs or to chastise in any way, only to pose a necessary question.  I am neither criticizing anyone else’s beliefs nor am I offering insight into my own, per se.  What I do believe in is having reason for anything that I do or believe in.  I believe that blind cohesion and religion as a hand-me-down are dangerous and a disservice to the religion itself, let alone the people who choose to follow blindly.  Thinking about and seeking knowledge about one’s religion can ultimately strengthen the spirit, not to mention the mind, though some would imply that not following blindly is a direct spite to God.  However, if you are a spiritual person, you know that God created humans with the capacity for logic and reason.  Thus, I pose the questions above to hopefully spark some independent thought in those who may not have thought about the why behind their acceptance of Christianity in the face of a glaring, ugly history behind why Blacks in America and abroad commonly practice it.

(If you have an urge to respond to this, then I suggest reading his entire post to see the premise for this conclusion before doing so.)

I wish that blacks weren’t so touchy about this Christianity subject because it prevents us from even posing this question without having to also include a lot of woo-woo disclaimers in order to avoid having a tense discussion with someone who is emotionally attached to their faith.

For example, the intro to the above post:

I was once told that the wisest man is he who asks the most questions.  That being said, let me provide a quick disclaimer to those who are extremely sensitive about religion and Christianity in particular: stop reading.  The following is intended to spark constructive discussion and stimulate the free-thinking mind, not to offend or cast judgment in any way.

My comment:

Good question, and it’s one that I have posed many times in various ways. Unfortunately, the ones who need to ask it the most are the ones who refuse to loosen their hold on the Bible long enough to ask and discuss. When I have posed this question to black Christians, their response is usually to proselytize, defend their belief system or go on the offense so I just file it under “Never Mind”.

Honestly? After having many similar conversations with black Christians, I now know/assume some things:

  • they have been successfully indoctrinated into accepting certain Western/European principles as basic truths
  • assimilation is a part of their family culture (and this isn’t relegated to just African-Americans, either)
  • they are disconnected from our racial and cultural roots at a fundamental level
  • we are probably not going to be spiritually… “equally yoked”.

In the comments section, this question was posed:

what were “africans” believing in before being “forced” to be christians?

For obvious reasons, many African-Americans would rather not delve into our pre-American history because, in order to get there, we have to travel through slavery, an understandably painful subject and source of cultural shame. Many also have fond memories, rituals and relationships attached to the practice of Christianity that they feel will be challenged by questioning their practice.

And many of us have bought into the myth of black inferiority. (e.g. the belief that Christianity civilized us.)

But if we’d risk traveling backwards, we’d find that there is much about our pre-colonized and pre-enslaved history to take pride in.

Below is the answer to at least one of these questions…

Attention Wordsmiths, Cultural Anthropologists, Social Commentators:

  • Dismissed by Arabs and Europeans as illiterate, an ancient writing system that holds the literature, history and even medicinal cures of many African cultures is discovered.
  • Ajami predates the Bible and the Q’uran.
  • Employed in the twelfth century to spread the word of God, Ajami was used in the twentieth century to preach resistance to occupying European powers.

Instead, the people use a centuries-old writing system that applies modified Arabic script to a phonetic rendering of their language, be it Hausa, Wolof, Pular, Swahili, Amharic, Tigrigna, or Berber. The language is called Ajami, and it is used in written communication in many countries across a swath of Islam-influenced sub-Saharan Africa.

Virtually unknown to most Westerners, Ajami has a rich history: it was created centuries ago by Islamic teachers to disseminate the religion to the African masses, and it became, in the twentieth century, the chosen language of anticolonial nationalist resistance. Today, says Senegal native Fallou Ngom, who came to Boston University last fall as a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of anthropology and director of the African Language Program, it’s a key that can unlock the African perspective on centuries of history, as well as literature, religion, and even medicine.

“This is a form of writing whose documents are as varied as all knowl­edge,” says Ngom. “There are poems that deal with religion and try to teach us how to be a good person. And there are poems that are more secular, like thoughts about a beautiful woman. You have historical documents that describe things that happened a long time ago, and you have tales and stories and even texts on pharmacopoeia — what to do if you are bitten by a snake or how to heal children with a speech disorder, stomachache, or rheuma­tism. The amazing thing is, we don’t even know what’s in most of these texts, because they have never been translated.”

Fallou Ngom, director of the African Language Program, hopes to build an Ajami center at BU to teach the complex writing system to anthropologists, historians, and other researchers.

Translating Ajami texts, and more important, equipping the next generation of scholars with the skills to translate the texts, are two goals Ngom has set for the African Language Program at BU, which is the first language program in the country to incorporate Ajami in a language curriculum. - Lost Language

  • There’s a mutual understanding to check for blindspots of a POV/issue to make sure that all points are covered/considered
  • We know that this does NOT mean that we’re trying to persuade others to think like us
  • The purpose is to constantly re-evaluate a position until it withstands all examinations
  • We accept that those positions that do withstand the poking and the prodding is Closer to The Ultimate Truth or The Bottom Line (versus getting sensitive because an opinion didn’t hold up under closer examination)
  • It ends without fanfare or histrionics (usually because the issue has been overanalyzed to death and, thus, becomes boring, we realize the other person is not up to playing mental chess or life intervenes - whichever comes first).

I’m on a quest to find balance between my introverted and extroverted sides…

From "Caring For Your Introvert" (emphasis is mine)

What is introversion?

In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say “Hell is other people at breakfast.” RATHER, INTROVERTS ARE PEOPLE WHO FIND OTHER PEOPLE TIRING.

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. IN CONTRAST, AFTER AN HOUR OR TWO OF BEING SOCIALLY “ON”, WE INTROVERTS NEED TO TURN OFF AND RECHARGE. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. FOR INTROVERTS, TO BE ALONE WITH OUR THOUGHTS IS AS RESTORATIVE AS SLEEPING, AS NOURISHING AS EATING. OUR MOTTO: “I’M OKAY, YOU’RE OKAY - IN SMALL DOSES.”

Yesterday, I attended a political forum. As one of the organizers, I felt more than a bit obligated to “work the room”, especially after I was called up to the front (oh how I hate being in the front of the room) and introduced as one of the co-organizers. During the intermission between our guest speaker and the strategy session, I slipped on my extrovert uniform and put my game face on because people kept stopping me on my way to hide out in the bathroom.  While imagining lying down on the fluffy couches and flipping through interesting magazines, I thanked them for attending, smiled, asked and answered questions, cracked jokes, remembered names and faces, gave hugs, exchanged business cards…and introduced extroverts to each other so I could make a run for it.

I’m not sure if it’s just me that attracts extremely extroverted people or if these types of people just attach themselves to every body (yes, like an energy parasite) but…that’s what happens whenever I’m in public. The chatterboxes always find me. If the person’s pleasant, then I enjoy the conversation for awhile, but then I just want them to leave me alone.

However, in this case, many happily engaged attendees means that our promotions worked, the guest speaker was engaging, the food was tasty, we were welcoming and people want to join our cause. Dealing with many people is our preference because a large crowd at our events and reaching many people are measurements of success. These types of events are an exception to the “I’d rather this be a smaller crowd” rule that is genetically programmed into my brain.

After sitting through hours of listening to and interacting with others, I sat through another (unexpected!) hour and a half of us discussing what happened during the forum with some higher-ups. Towards the end, I could feel myself cracking from the 6 straight hours of being around many other people and…when it was my turn to give a suggestion about what I’d like to change…the undiluted truth came out. Then after we finished our debriefing, the women wanted to hang out and chat some more in the parking lot. I couldn’t take it anymore; I said my goodbyes and walked away. I was supposed to hang out with my (extroverted) friends afterwards but I didn’t even have any energy left after the event. I spent the rest of the night de-stressing with an extreme introvert (whose presence soothes me) - who probably wanted to be left alone after a couple hours in my company. #irony

Are introverts oppressed? I would have to say so. For one thing, extroverts are overrepresented in politics, a profession in which only the garrulous are really comfortable. Look at George W. Bush. Look at Bill Clinton. They seem to come fully to life only around other people. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics—Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon—is merely to drive home the point. With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I’ve read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered “naturals” in politics.

Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. As Coolidge is supposed to have said, “Don’t you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?” (He is also supposed to have said, “If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it.” The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.)

I disagree that introverts are oppressed. To claim that introverts are “oppressed” and use politics (a PUBLIC profession) as an example does a disservice to real oppression. It’s a fact of life (not human oppression) that every one isn’t favored for every thing. Politics is one of those cases. Why should politics favor people who would rather not deal with the public for extended periods of time? I guess us introverts will imagine some awesome solutions to people’s problems while locked away in our offices recovering from being exposed to them. That would make for an awesome foreign policy, don’tcha think?

Astro Note: Americans’ choices for president over the years reveals that the country favors outgoing people in The Head Cheerleader position. The #1 zodiac sign that Presidents of the United States were born under is…*drum roll* Aquarius (the sign of groups and society)! 2nd place ties: Pisces, Taurus, Cancer, Libra and Leo (which is symbolically ruled by the Sun, the center of the universe!). Pisces, Taurus and Cancer are introverted signs, while Libra and Leo get off on being around other people. Since I’ve been alive, the POTUS trend has been to (s)elect “people-people”: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini, Leo, Cancer and Leo. There’s some truth to the fact that Americans favor projecting an image of warmth, generosity, leadership and "benevolent dictatorship" to the rest of the world through "our greatest export". In the last ~ 20 years, Leo is over-represented: Barack Obama, George W. Bush (with his fake-Leo ass) and Bill Clinton.

Ronald Reagan is mentioned in the article as an example of an introvert (and he probably was) but he was also an actor (a skill that compensates for any introversion in politics): remember, he was dubbed “The Great Communicator” because of his ability to deliver a well-timed joke and read a script well.

Every time someone calls me “outgoing”, “friendly” or a “people person”, I silently present myself with a Best Actress award. On my way back in from my hideout the bathroom, a teammate and I chatted with Sara Lamnin, who I first met last week. She’s running for city council. And she’s not the usual type of politician; she’s short, unassuming and friendly but not in a slick way. As we were talking, she mentioned Emerge, a program that teaches all of the basics to Democratic women who are interested in politics: socializing, fundraising, etc. She recommended the program to both of us: “I can see the fire in your eyes.” My teammate and I exchanged looks. We are very similar: friendly and passionate about politics but not wanting the weight of responsibility or spotlight that comes with full leadership positions. We step up if no one else does but we’d rather play support roles. In the organization that we’re a part of, they are constantly searching for people with leadership potential…and we’re constantly pulling back from the spotlight. I do, however, appreciate that a program exists to develop the leadership potential in a group that is generally underrepresented in politics: women and introverts.

I’ve met quite a few politicians/political figures and their inner circles over the course of my life and…the people who hold positions in Pres. Obama’s admin are from a different breed: they listen more than they speak; they ask questions; they give straight, thoughtful answers; they keep promises; they are not flashy; they are introverts.

And I felt sorry for our introverted guest speaker who was immediately surrounded by all of the attendees after his Q&A was over. He looked overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to have in-depth conversations with him. This is the same person who is very at ease in our one-to-one conversations and email exchanges. By contrast, watching Jesse Jackson (Libra) and Bill Clinton (Leo) “work a room” turned me all the way off, especially considering the parts of themselves that I know they were hiding.

What do you call a person who enjoys being around other people - but in silence or with many pauses for reflection in the conversation?

Related Posts:

Thoughts on Introversion

With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. “People person” is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like “guarded,” “loner,” “reserved,” “taciturn,” “self-contained,” “private”—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.

Caring for Your Introvert - Magazine - The Atlantic (via pcquotes)

This is especially true for the Americas, but not so much in many parts of Africa and Europe - and definitely not in Asian countries where the introverted woman is highly prized and the extroverted woman is frowned upon.

I’d consider myself an introvert wearing an extrovert’s uniform. I’ve heard many people advise women to “smile more” or “look happier” when their neutral facial expressions are sour or…just neutral. I’ve never heard this unsolicited advice given to men before. It’s almost as if people are uncomfortable with a woman who isn’t going out of her way to put them at ease with a receptive, friendly attitude. 

My paternal side of the family are extreme extroverts, while my maternal side are socially functional introverts. Because of this, I’m flexible and can adjust to whatever environment I’m in. Being around either extreme bothers me, though. Perpetually quiet? Say something! Always talking and taking up the entire space with your presence? Sit down and be quiet somewhere!

Being in the middle means that I overwhelm true introverts and underwhelm true extroverts. While the extreme introvert faces discrimination, people like me experience the consequences of confusing people. And we know how much people enjoy being confused or having their first impressions proven incorrect, right? I thought you were like this, but you’re really like this. You’re a personality chameleon, which means you deceived me!

Fortunately, there’s a career path and social circle for all personality types. The irony of this article? Thanks to judgmental introverts who love categorizing people, we can more easily stereotype (and, therefore, discriminate against) others, yay!!