Morning to all, from here in just some of the Michigan hinterlands. We have lots. And, since Sleepytown proved to be a bit of a misnomer, I am experimenting a bit.

I’ve been cranking away on a cookbook project for Peace Camp, a yearly celebration created by the Ann Arbor Zen Buddhist Center. I’ve also been responding to the weekly editorials in the local paper (see below).

And I realized this morning something I’ve written about before: I’m happiest when I’m writing. Not for any particular purpose, just as a witness. So I’m going to give the daily update another crack. In other words, more email from me. Guten appetit!

News on the March!

In the latest from the local paper, there was a great deal of whinge-ing over the lack of a 4th of July parade. How, lamented letter writers, could it be fair for young whippersnappers to protest, and yet to prohibit the glorious annual tradition of Brooklyn’s parade? Which is short, by the way. Main Street is only a few blocks long.

The paper ran an editorial—which I won’t reprint here, as I’ll have a whole other fish of that order to fry after Wednesday’s edition comes out, which will be featuring my latest missive—under the headline, “Why Is It Ok to Protest, but not Celebrate?” And really, that pretty much sums it up. Oh, this is a good line, though: “Perhaps some see the cancellation…as appropriate. Or more likely, they simply see it as politically correct.”

Talk about a dander raiser!

Well, I know one writer at the paper, a very nice man named Matt. This editorial was unsigned, so I sent Matt this letter.

“Politically Correct” Is About the Most Lazy, Vague Slur Ever

The above header, by the way, is just me saying that. I actually headed the email, “A Parade Is Not a Protest.”

“The nature of a protest is that one is aware of the risks going in—of arrest, of bodily harm, of negative reactions, and now of COVID-19—but one feels that the issue protested is worth the risk. These protestors clearly felt that way. They’re all wearing masks. They’re not standing 6 feet from each other, but in solidarity.  

“The July 4th parade, on the other hand, typically has many more than 30 spectators. One can’t require masks and social distancing will be difficult to enforce; it could easily serve as a super-spreader event. The writer of the editorial speculates that the move by the village council may be in the interests of being ‘politically correct.’ This is an easy label that gets thrown at decisions people don’t like, whether they’re in the interests of public safety or protecting a group that the complainer doesn’t belong to. 

“Perhaps as an alternative to the July 4th parade, Brooklyn can throw a parade when a COVID vaccine is found. And on July 4th, maybe a more appropriate response is a few moments of silence in honor of the 120,000+ Americans who have died from COVID, followed by a Brooklyn-wide shout-out for essential workers.”

And then….?

I didn’t expect the Exponent to publish me two weeks in a row, and of course they didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even hear back from Matt. No worries. Responding is proving to be good constructive argument practice.

And there were an absolute TON of letters last week anyway. From people protesting the use of the paper accompanying an article thanking local law enforcement—no problem—with an image of a Blue Line flag. Problem!! Two writers rightfully pointed out that the flag has been used by neo-Nazi groups, with well-written arguments that basically said, cut that shit out. (I can’t link to the paper as it’s subscription only, but here’s a good article on the Thin Blue Line issue.)

And then there were squawks and bellows about the parade, which tend to come from senior citizens wondering what the world is coming to.

I kept flashing to the scene in Fiddler on the Roof, where Tevye harps on and on about tradition, and Perchik, the Bolshevik suitor of his second daughter, says simply and respectfully, “Reb Tevye, the world is changing.”

Conservative, of course, implies that you want to conserve things as they are.

But, well, you can’t. And…why would anyone want to stand so closely to something that is broke, and does need to be fixed? In this case, our democracy. I mean, for some people, it’s never worked.

Anyway, I wrote to Matt, who had an interesting article in the paper about what he felt was “the most important thing that happened” during what he termed “noise being made” about BLM. Then Steve said, don’t address it to him, but to the editor at large. It was good advice, as I had to rewrite the letter from “you” to “Mr. S,” Matt’s name.

And….suspense! I’ll print it tomorrow when the paper comes out.

This is fun.

About that Change Thing

While I was in Peru, I felt like a witness to history. Once I got home to the US, I felt like, well, this is just life, even though it’s heavily altered. But why write about that on a daily basis? Peru was what made things interesting.

Well, it’s been a doozy of a year here in the US. Witnessing may be more important than ever. I’m seeing a lot of stuff. So, back to the witness box, as I like to call my laptop these days. Clever, right?

Sittin’ by the Dock of the Lake

I woke up early this morning, thinking, dammit, it’s probably about 3:30. Do I get up or try to sleep, knowing that that will entail lying here wondering why I’m not sleeping.

So I got up after about 20 minutes, looked at the clock—and it had just turned 5. Perfect. I’d thought about writing, but 5 is a great time to start my morning routine, which, between about 45 minutes reading/meditation, a 40-minute walk listening to podcasts, and about 45 minutes of yoga—well, it adds up. So any jump I can get on the day is pretty wonderful.

This is what I saw when I walked outside: the full moon, and Venus glowing as big and bright as I’ve ever seen it. (Venus didn’t photograph so well, but take my word for it. She looked like a second, smaller moon.)

morning

The air was pleasant, and the birds were going crazy. The low, muddy voices of frogs provided a pleasing, slightly dissonant bass line. As I sat, a mosquito periodically obsessed over my right ear, a tiny buzzsaw calibrated to a pitch of maximum annoyance. I had to smile. To paraphrase the sentiment at the end of A Christmas Story, when the Bumpus dogs are about to devour a turkey, right when life is rosy and perfect, calamity happens. Or something comes along guaranteed to annoy the shit out of you.

I swatted the mosquito away every time it came by. I mean, I’m not that Zen. I’ve only been at this for a year. But if I could get up at 5 every day of my own volition, that would equal a bit of awesome.

The Color of Gratitude

I’ve been doing a little gratitude meditation lately, just focusing on one person in my life for whom I’m thankful. I think because my brain is so associative and free-wheeling, I respond well to order in situations like this, so I naturally started with my dad, who’s been gone since December of 2012. Part of the meditation is to imagine a warm embrace with the person. So, over the course of the MA moments to come (below), I’ll try to describe the feeling that comes up in that imagined embrace.

What surprises me continually is that a distinct color emerges with each different person. So that will figure in the descriptions.

Away we go.

The Marcus Aurelius Moment* for 7-July, 2020

From my dad, Conn Bauer, that home is people more than a place. I lived with my parents when my daughter was a baby, up until she was two. One day, Dad and I got in a big fight and I threatened to leave; I told him I knew I wasn’t wanted and never had been. (Long story.) He sort of melted, and put his arms around me.

My dad was a big guy: 6’6″, broad, and comfortably fat in those years. He had huge hands, long arms. When Dad hugged you, you felt enveloped. He said, in his beautiful deep voice—I always thought if an oak tree could talk, it would sound like my dad—”this is your home. You are wanted. You’re safe.”

Home was the embrace, the security, the knowledge of being loved and safe. Not the building.

The color of my dad’s embrace is copper, warm, shining.

Thank you, Dad. I love you.

*In the first part of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman ruler details what various people in his life have taught him. To read the full intro to why I care about Marcus Aurelius, click here.