piano playing

Well, you just never know.

I have already mentioned that I won some awards at school. It was a sudden and surprising avalanche of awards, and I didn’t even do anything special. I was working hard and someone all of a sudden noticed. I think there must be a lot of students who work hard; I am not really sure why I was noticed.

I remember back when I was about 13. I decided that I MUST learn to play the piano. I was obsessed with playing the piano. I did not have a piano in my home. I did not have money for piano lessons.

But I couldn’t leave it alone. Anytime I got near a piano, in church or in an empty classroom, anywhere, I had to sit down and play whatever I could. Mary had a little lamb; this is the Day, anything. I learned to find melodies with one finger. Almost any melody.

But that wasn’t playing the piano. I needed MORE.

I asked the church piano player how to play the piano.

He said, “You have to learn Chords”

All right. I bought a chord chart and painstakingly placed my fingers in every chord configuration for every single key. I memorized them and I practiced until I could move quickly between them.

But that was still not playing the piano.

Finally, I heard about a nice woman from a neighboring church who was teaching a whole group, an entire class of students how to play the piano. I got to join them. I was so anxious to learn, I practiced from the book, and made sure I could do it.

Then, because of sickness and being snowed in, I missed TWO WEEKS of classes. I didn’t know how far the class was in the book, so I went as far ahead as I could. I guess I was about halfway through the book.

When I joined the class again, the teacher asked me where I was in the book, and I played all I could for her. She sort of looked at me, and said, “I think you are ready for private lessons.” And she offered to teach me. For free!

As she said later, “It is fun to teach you, because you really want to learn”

In one month, maybe less, she had taught me how to put the pieces together, and I could play. I will never forget her.

Back to the awards at SJSU…

Ever since I got these awards, all my teachers, even ones I haven’t seen in years, have all been congratulating me and coming out of the woodwork to ask me how I’m doing and what my plans are and asking me to stay in touch.

I’m shocked. I hardly know what to think. I feel like the prom queen or something.

I’ve always felt like these teachers must forget all about me after I leave their class. I mean, I only have 5 or 6 teachers a semester, but they have hundreds of students. I hate to presume that any of them would remember me.

But apparently they do. And now that I’ve won some awards, they are all well wishing and giving me advice. Good advice too. Telling me about different opportunities and programs that I didn’t know about.

Weird. I don’t feel any different. But I am treated different.

If these are the results of winning awards, I am going to try to win as many awards as I can. The fancy paper with my name on it is not such a big deal, but all this advice and concern is quite valuable.

Who knew?
I was just trying to fit the pieces together, so that I could understand this stuff I’m wondering about.

Today I was introduced to

Today I was introduced to Odd Todd.


Then I realized, It’s funny because it’s true. The job market is tough out there. Holy Crap.

I will soon be belched forth out of my blissful state of panicking about finals into the reality of panicking about finding a job.

I try to panic about one thing at a time. It’s good to have goal.

I also found my first gray hair today.

Which makes me pause and gasp and feel a sort of sinking feeling, like my life is passing me by.

But when I realize how stupid and ordinary it is to worry about being unemployed getting old and ugly is, I decide to throw in the towel.

I mean, Goddamn. If I am going to worry, I’m going to worry about something important. Worrying about large abstract concepts lends me the air of being large and abstract. I’ve always admired abstract people.

Besides, it will take my mind off being unemployed.

Yesterday continued This also has

Yesterday continued

This also has to do with the way we are brought up. We are separated from having authority to know things, to contribute to the body of knowledge, from the very beginning.

Throughout all of the education process, we are not encouraged to act on knowledge. We are taught to constantly check with a person, the teacher, the expert, before assuming that we are right. It takes a very very long time to reach the point of being the one who knows.

As I understand it, it’s very common for people who are the ones who are supposed to know to feel like they are imposters. Many times, they will go through amazing ego-gyrations to keep their insecurity hidden, being rude, domineering or arrogant because they have been granted the authority that they don’t think they deserve.

Well, they don’t deserve it. Not to say that every single person who is perceived as an authority on a subject is ignorant—I am sure that there are many astute and intelligent experts out there. But that they are part of an overly elite and exclusive group is false. The knowledge, the expertise, is not, in its natural state, as exclusive as it has been made to be.

If the artificial barriers to information were taken down, many many more people could have the level of knowledge that the experts have.

It takes work to get it, true. You must take the time to absorb it, and grapple with it, to grok it.

But it is not as hard as many people have made it out to be.

I remember, back in the day when the web was more exciting than anyone could even STAND. Knowing HTML seemed the equivalent of possessing a magic wand.

I had friends that worked with HTML, and they eventually got jobs and were paid for their skills.

Many of them were chagrined by this. “I can’t believe they are paying me this much for knowing HTML. It’s not that hard!”

Well. The fact was, they had learned it. They managed to have a skill that was highly in demand (Oh, for the good old days!) at that time. Timing is important.

But it seems to me that a whole lot of things are a lot easier than we are led to believe. There are false fronts, blowing up the importance of the experts.

Understanding vs. Action

I was feeling sick last night, and I ended up falling asleep on the couch.

That’s my excuse for not posting. Sick Day.

I feel a little better after a good night’s sleep, and I imagine I’ll miss the nasty bug that’s going around. I sure hope so, anyway.


To continue the thread I started. I’ve been using personal journals from 3 years ago to talk about the ideas of Understanding Vs. Action.

But journals are necessarily personal, and the ideas I expressed were from a very individual or psychological standpoint. About decisions that were under my control.

But when it comes to broader action, I have to think in terms of groups of people, sociological. That takes organization, and a structure. At least, it does if you want to sustain the action.

As I write, I’m thinking that mob action does not require organization. Actually, that’s a really interesting thought. I may have to return to that later, after I’ve found out more about it.

Anyway, for sustained action, we need organization and a structure. Political action requires organization. Of course, when I think of politics, I think of people. Of the charismatic leaders who work everyone up into a froth about some issue. Sometimes the leader will even get a group of people to buy into a more fully developed platform.

People seem to want a leader. Many people really want someone to tell them what’s going on, and what they should do. People see a problem, but we are not certain what to do. We don’t understand it. If a person comes along, who convinces us that he or she understands the problem and has a solution, we’re happy! Good! Take care of that problem. Fabulous.

We know that we don’t everything. Larger problems, of societal significance, are usually complicated and take more effort to understand than most people are willing to give. So it is like scratching an itch to buy into the party solution of a charismatic leader. It feels good to feel that we are doing something about a situation.

Now, here is my moment of glory, where is get to tie two threads together!

How do we decide that the leader/platform/party is right? What criteria do we use?

“He’s an older white man in a pin-striped suit. He must be knowledgeable”
“She holds herself confidently, and pauses thoughtfully before answering questions”
”They use the word eco-friendly”

Are these good criteria? Does this really tell us what we need to know about the quality or effectiveness of the action proposed?

What gives these folks the right to be right?

I really think that many times, we give leaders the right to be right, the right to convince us, because we want to be convinced by someone They are just the first someone that comes along talking about it.


Still busy. Here’s another old journal entry on this subject:


So I need to understand the heroic imperative for repose.

I need to have a better understanding of the difference between wisdom and understanding.

Understanding is knowing things. Wisdom is knowing what to do with the things you know.

I can know something. Like, I can know that my best friend’s husband is cheating on her. But I need wisdom to know what to do with that knowledge.

[Editor’s note: this is a theoretical situation!]

So in life, we first have to get the understanding. We have to know what is going on, what the pieces are. We have to know how it works. Then we can take that knowledge, that understanding, and find the wisdom to use it.

The problem is, we can never have full understanding. And life goes on. We can wait for understanding, try harder to look for it, and know more and more. But the moment of wisdom passes us by. There are times when we have to act on the understanding we have. We have to go forward, make a decision, take action. DO what we need to do. But we are acting on incomplete information!
It takes wisdom to know when to make a move.

Then there are times, when action is not yet required. When the right and proper thing to do is wait for the wisdom to come. Or the wise thing to do is nothing.

In the first case, doing nothing is a form of cowardice, not facing that fact that something needs to be done. It’s a smoke screen, saying, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand.” Really, you need to act, to move forward on what you do understand.

But the second case takes courage too. It’s very scary to wait, when you want to take action. To pause. To see what others will do. To let God work out a situation. I have found that I want to rush in, and fix and solve, and do whatever it takes to make it happen. But there are things that are out of my control. I can’t make them happen. When I try, I beat myself senseless against a brick wall. I am frustrated, worried, upset. I work myself into a frenzy over something that I cannot control.

How absurd!

This is not the way God intended things to be.

But how do I know when I am supposed to wait, and when I am supposed to move?
It seems to me that I can’t always know. I am destined to make mistakes.
I don’t want to makes mistakes. I want to do it correctly all the time.

But the setup is such that I’m not perfect. Even if I wanted to be (and I do!), I can’t be. Not yet anyway. It takes a process to become more perfect. I don’t think I can attain it in my lifetime, but I think that every right choice I make leads to a better life for me. So I keep trying.


I have dredged up an old journal entry on the subject, from about 3 years ago…It’s a little disjointed, but can start the process of exploring the idea.


So there is a combination of time and understanding that leads to wisdom.

I want so much to do the right thing. I want to look at any given situation and see through all the details and confusion to the perfect action. I love to take action. I love to take up my sword and shield and attack the dragon, kill it, and impress the whole village. It feels so GOOD to conquer evil and fight entropy. Sometimes I fight things that don’t even need killing. And sometimes I fight things that can’t be killed.

But I am finding that taking action is best done after I take a look at the situation. I have discovered that I need to gather some data before I run off half-cocked. I need to stop and take stock of the situation. I need to know that I understand the problem.

I also find that while I can sometimes define the problem, I can’t necessarily figure out the solution to the problem.

So I suppose the first step in understanding is understanding what it is that I’m even trying to understand. I have to stop and define the problem.. I have to pin down what it is that is really going on. I see all sorts of symptoms of a problem, but that doesn”t mean that I am aware of the cause of this problem. Often, it takes a lot of digging and contemplation and discussion with friends and writing and despair to find the root.

Sometimes, I think I have found the symptoms, the root and the solution all at once. Then I go to sleep, wake up and discover that I was completely off base. And I have to start again. I’ve begun to tell myself, “Hey, that’s what you ar thinking NOW, but tomorrow you will think something completely different. And next month will be totally changed again.”

So, finding the cause is really hard. And then, it isn’t even always useful, to pursue finding the cause. There are certain things, problems whose symptoms are the problem, and it doesn’t matter in the least what the root of the problem is.

Like when I was 8. I sucked my thumb. I was far too old to suck my thumb. Now, my parents could have had me psycho-analysed to discover the root cause of my thumb-sucking habit. But what happened was, one day, at eight years old, I decided to stop. Just like that. I never sucked my thumb again.

In that case, the cause was more or less unimportant. I just needed to stop.

Sometimes, though, digging deep to find and understand the cause is really important. Sometimes, you aren’t able to ‘just stop.’ Sometimes, the symptoms are complicated and spring out in odd angles that you can’t predict, and you need to have a firm grasp on the source of these outbreaks, so that you can head them off. It is then that serious head work is required, to find and isolate the root.

Defining it is hard sometimes. It takes courage to look at some things we have hidden from ourselves as too painful. Because we hide these painful things because we truly believe that we will be irreparably harmed by letting them out. And just because they’ve been aging like wine doesn’t mean that they will feel LESS scary and painful and life-threatening now than they did when we first repressed them.

We are stronger than we think we are, though. And those things need to be brought out to light, so they don’t crop up at odd angles and screw up our lives.

So then, sometimes, after some time has passed, we get to the root, and find a way of explaining it to ourselves, to put handles on it, so we can grasp it. Then comes the part where we have to do something about it. Just because you know what a problem is doen’st mean you can solve it.

There are some situations and some individuals who “Just say no” works great for. And there are some that aren’t so easy. Then you also have to think and talk and discuss and pray and read and hope and beat your head against walls to find a way to surmount the problem. That’s another level of understanding.

And then comes the part of wisdom. After all that information gathering, you have amassed a certain amount of understanding. You have some measure more of understanding than you had in the beginning.

Wisdom is the part where you take all the understanding you can get, and look at the timing of the thing, and decide what to do.

Sometimes, wisdom is not taking any action at all. That’s very hard. But there are times when you look at the situation, and you realize there is nothing you can do to change it. That the wisest thing to do is conserve your energy.

My meaningful life poem

It is late. I am fried

I am usually a littel better about keeping on top of things, so that at the end of the semester, I am NOT fried.

But I won all these contest and had DUTIES to perform. Like, going to the award ceremony. Between that and the shock of disbelief that I went through after I found out about these awards, I have not been able to concentrate on my homework.

THEREFORE, since I have 200 pages of Moby Dick to finish reading by tomorrow at 4PM, I must give you one of my assignments to read,

I don’t think I will inflict my 20 page term paper on early american feminism, or my 7 page paper on the modern disillusionment towards Millenial redemption. If these actually piqued your interest, email me and I’ll send them to you.

BUT! I have another class, called “Create a Meaningful Life” for which I had to do a group project. This project was supposed to involve our little group in creating a presentation that would show how WE make our lives meaningful. We had to read Tuesdays With Morrie so that we would know what a meaningful life was.

I could have suggested other novels, but they didn’t ask me.

Please realize that this is a FRESHMAN level, REQUIRED class. My little teenager group members are cute.

We decided to do a “recipe for a meaningful life” and then bribe the teacher with cookies. My contribution was to write a poem that tied all the ingredients (in the form of a presentation by each individual group member about their “ingredient”) together into some sort of meta-fiction.

I’m literary. I use the word meta-fiction.

Anyway, here is my extremely NON-literary, but potentially amusing poem.


I had been standing on top of the world, riding high
Life was moving and I was moving with it
Places to go, people to see, no time to stop and ask why
Like a horse in a race, I had taken the bit

But times change, chances get lost, things don’t go as planned
What I had wanted, what seemed in my grip
Completely erased out of the horizon I scanned
It seemed like my life had done a flip

Needless to say, this did not make me happy
I whined and pined to my friends on the phone
‘til they’d had enough, “Get a grip, Make it snappy!
Your bitching will leave you out on your own.

Oh man, this was bad, I needed answers now
I felt like I had lost my way
Someone, surely, must be able to show me how
This game of life should play.

Sitting on my steps, head in my hands, out of hope
I watched the neighbors as they were passing
Everyone else seemed like they knew how to cope
One elderly lady was softly laughing.

Maybe she had learned how to find life’s joy!
She had always seemed happy and nice.
I’d take my chances, no time to be coy.
“Miz Smith,” I said, “I’d like your advice”

I explained my problem in some crazy way
My life was a mess, my dreams crashing.
She smiles and said, “I think I know what you’re trying to say
I bet I can answer the question you’re asking.

I have an idea, why don’t you come home with me?
I’ve got all the ingredients for cookies
Using my time-honored, handed-down family recipe
Simple enough to be made by rookies.

I folled her down to her kitchen, found a bowl
Each part is more than itself, she said
These are pieces of a structure, making up a whole
You have to keep that in your head.

Bring me the sugar, it’s a good place to start
You’ll see the whole, wait til were done
This one thing is not the whole, it’s just one part
Perhaps you could think of the sugar as fun

(here follows Sergio’s presentations on how FUN makes his life meaningful)

Miz Smith smiled, as if I were a child that’s slow
“Don’t get excited, fun is not the only thing
Get the butter out of the fridge, that’s the next to go
Think now, what quality does butter bring?”

(Here follows Jill’s presentation on how love is essential for a meaningful life)

Mixing and stirring with her spoon in the goo,
Miz Smith was working it good.
”Those two are nice,” she said, “add in the eggs, too.
Please get them for me if you would.”

(Stretching the ingredient metaphor, Darryl gives his presentation on eggs as Creatvie arts)

It’s not cookies yet, this goop lacks power
The foundation is needed on which to build
What these cookies need is a whole bunch of flour
It’s these things by which our life is filled.

(Ashley then tells us how she builds her life on the foundation of her family)

After the flour, she added more things, baking soda and salt
I think you’re getting it, you’re not such a goon
One more thing, if I didn’t make you do I’d be at fault
I want you to stir with the spoon.

(I now have to do double duty and talk about getting down into life, as the spoon in the dough, and DOING creative things)

We’ve talked about cookies as a recipe to make life sweet
You’ll have to do the rest
But to thank you for your kind attention, we’ve brought you a treat
And we wish you all the best.

(Here is where we bribe the class and hand out real cookies)

This odd hybrid of Tuesdays with Morrie and Dr. Suess has it’s first and only showing tomorrow at 10:30. Wish me luck!



Using the Eastern calendar, the one my church uses, today is easter! I love easter, and I had to share the easter sermon with you all.

This was written by John Crysostom, an early early christian, and it’s so good that we kept it. Thanks goes to M C Steenburg, who put it on the web for me to grab.

I just want to say, celebrating Christ’s triumph over death, and his forgiveness and acceptance of every human that will have it is more amazing than I can say.

Let us all live fully the gift of life and love God has granted.


If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.




I am doing research on an Margaret Fuller, an early american Femininst. She is supposed to have knocked the socks of Emerson and Thoreau for being smart. Here’s how they describe her:

It was what in woman is generally called a masculine mind; that is, its action was determined by ideas rather than by sentiments. And yet, with this masculine trait, she combined a woman’s appreciation of the beautiful in sentiment and the beautiful in action.

That’s pretty clear description of the dichotomy. Granted, it’s from the 1880’s. But the idea didn’t go away, it was just rephrased.

MEN think with ideas and reason.

WOMEN think with feelings or sentiment.

There are underlying assumptions here that bear re-examination.