Learning Continuously

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Good Sunday Morning,

Yesterday was hectic and yet manageable, and I am feeling also successful. If you have been reading my blog this past month, you are aware that I have struggled both personally and professionally. The great majority of those struggles have been self-induced, not necessarily because of the actual events or changes, but because of my response and reaction to them. I have created more stress for myself than was certainly needed. While I do not really desire stress as part of my life (I do not like drama because I was married to that at one point.), I am learning my fragility has a way of inducing it. By taking things more personally than I should, I create dilemmas that are unnecessary and ultimately hurtful. That is some of what I have begun to understand more precisely in the last weeks, and particularly this last week. While I was stressing about this conference, the other was pulling all-nighters because of all the things on her plate. I was too concerned with my own stuff to think more carefully about the bigger picture. For that I owe Melissa an apology and, so Melissa, I ask for your forgiveness. Seems I have needed to offer more apologies than usual lately (and for the most part to the same person). Humility is an important thing and it seems I have been humbled quite a bit as of late.

Last night in the preparation and taping for the OSCLG Conference, I had a wonderful opportunity to consider what has happened to me this year. I reflected last night after we had finished and I was not quite asleep on a text from March that noted it was going to be a good year. I cannot agree more when I consider all of the things that have happened. I have learned more about myself, both positive and not so much, than perhaps any time period in my life. The taping of the presentation was really enjoyable and it was revealing for me. I learned so much more about these messages and Melissa’s insight into how to manage both the content in that event as well as her insights into the texts left me in awe. She is really quite brilliant. I have always assumed that, but it has been an assumption because I have not really ever worked with her. We have worked around each other, but never actually with each other in an intentional way. She is focused (not surprising); she is effective and efficient (again, not surprising), but she is also much more of a scholar than I believe she gives herself credit for being. She is an outstanding student as is shown by what she has accomplished, but grades and application are something quite different. I am really excited to finish up the presentation and present it at the conference this week. I am thinking that in someways what we recorded might be more effective than if we would have been there together as originally planned. Ironic that the conference is titled “Engendering Technology” and we used some pretty sophisticated camera equipment for the filming last night. I am indebted to her father and Jorge for their willingness to come on a Saturday and spend most of their late afternoon and all of their evening to do this. It was also nice that Maria was there also. She always brightens my day.

I should note it is now Sunday afternoon and before I get to work on some other things, I am sitting in Jim Thorpe working in a coffee shop. I needed to stop by my nutritionist’s shop and pick up some things and chat with her about how things are going. Now I am sitting in an amazing place called “Strange Brew” (and no the Mackenzie Brothers are not to be found. Bummer!) and drinking apple cider and working. I love coming to Jim Thorpe. I think it is a place I can relax also. It is not quite as far to travel as Placerville. That is a good thing. Even though I have been coming to Jim Thorpe the entire time I have been back in Pennsylvania, I am still stunned at the transformation this town went through from when I left here in 1992 and when I came back in 2009. There is very little that could connect you with the town it was in the late 80s and 90s. It is now quaint (yes, I will admit “touristy”), Victorian, and quite appealing. It is a wonderful place to come in the Fall during their Foliage Festival or during the Christmas Holidays. Now I can enjoy being here by myself or bringing someone to experience the ambiance of the town for the first time as is happening today.

I have really been reflecting on what I have learned in my life in a really specific way and thinking about from where some of those lessons have come. As I have been listening to music today, those of you who know me well are aware that I have a somewhat encyclopedic memory for songs, lyrics, bands, when a song was released, and other minutia about whatever song I know. I am not sure where or how that happened, but I think at least part of it is being blessed (although not always a blessing) with a pretty phenomenal memory. So as we are sitting in the coffee shop, I am listening to the music, singing along, and this is happening with almost every song. I am getting some rather puzzled looks, a look like “you know this one too?” It just happens. Music has been such a central part of my life. I have been singing my entire life. I guess one of the good things about music now being “clouded” is I cannot lose it. When I was divorced from Susan, I lost probably 1,000 albums; CDs were justing coming in, but I lost a significant number of those too. When I left Terri, I lost a boatload of CDs and a pretty kick-ass stereo including my Bose Acousti-mass speakers. Now I have a boatload of music on iTunes and I use both iTunes Radio and Pandora. I have to give Jordan and Melissa credit for bringing me into the current decade. I think the entire DJ movement is such an interesting development when one considers issues of composing, intellectual property. These are the things I think about; these are the things I want to understand and learn more about. Technology as created such amazing opportunity, but how does it change the artistic process and what it means to compose? How does it change the interaction between vocals and instrumentation? These are some of the things I have my students investigating right now as they are working on their papers. For me it is about learning more. I cannot merely walk through life oblivious to what is happening around me. It is essential to me to be always asking why. The why is not mean to question validity nor even to agree or disagree, it is to understand; it is to be able to carry on a meaningful and thoughtful conversation with others.

I think the specific moment (or short period) that I finally understood that learning was absorbing versus memorizing was when I was traveling in Europe in January 1980 with Dr. Nielsen and the interim class where we had read books by Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Mann. As I walked through Western Europe I felt like I was walking through a history and it was my task to soak up every possible molecule of knowledge I could. What I learned was I loved to learn, not merely for some sort of recitation, but rather for trying to understand the world in which I live and how it has become that world, and to understand this, or even or scratch the surface, one must return to our roots. I have those study guides and all those materials from my humanities class in my office right now. It was during those semesters that I had the opportunity to travel to Europe. Now it is 35 years later, and I am still trying to understand it all. I want to know everything I can. I know that might sound a bit ridiculous to some, but to me it merely learning. It is absorbing and reflecting. It is trying to see where I fit in this complex and jumbled world. It is hoping (and last night helped me to understand that I do :)) that I make a difference. Yet, it is not about what I do, but rather what I might leave behind. That is what matters. It is hoping that what I do makes other peoples’ lives better. It is realizing that when I learn, I teach more effectively. It is realizing that learning rejuvenates me. It is believing that somehow helping others to understand both the world and themselves makes their part of the world a better place. I know that I have a limited time, but I am okay with that.

Es la parte de lo que realicé en las 24 horas pasadas cuando trabajamos juntos pensativamente e intencionadamente. Es lo que realicé y aprendí cuando le miré estudiar detenidamente nuestro proceso y reunir un juego profundo y revelador de preguntas que creo proporcionará una presentación asombrosa para aquellos que asisten a nuestra sesión en San Francisco. Mientras usted no está allí en la persona, usted está allí de un modo mucho más profundo. Su brillantez mostrará por sin el resplandor físico usted ha proporcionado mi vida. Gracias tanto.

Thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin

A Hard Teacher

social media

Hello from the bus,

We are on the way back to Bloomsburg after a day in the city. It was a busy day, and while we did things to expedite the time between events, it seemed the day was more harried and missing any free moments than ever before. I did have a good day and enjoyed my time with the students. I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know a couple better than I did. It is always interesting to here about the backgrounds and hear about how they got to Bloomsburg. Understanding the foundation a student brings to class or seeing how they conduct themselves in a non-classroom environment. Is always telling. Listening carefully to what one says is also another way to begin to have some insight into who he or she really is. Experiences with another are always the true test and the ultimate reveal-er of one’s true character.

As an English professor, and particularly one who considers how technology affects the writing process or one who considers carefully how language and document design work rhetorically, how one sends an email, for instance says a lot to me. This past week I received two emails from a student, neither of which contained a salutation not a signing of the student’s name. The lack of either element could demonstrate a couple of things. It could demonstrate that this student did not know better; it could reveal that the student was lazy and merely did not take the appropriate time not consider the audience. It could illustrate a lack of professionalism on the student’s part. Those would be the possibilities if I knew nothing about the student. Because I have some previous experience with the writer in this case, it is easier to come to a more accurate conclusion. Little do students seem to realize how both what is written as well as how it is designed reveals so much. Again, a history with this student makes coming to a conclusion much simpler.

I was listening to part of the soundtrack from the movie, The Last Samurai and one song in that soundtrack is the title for this blog entry. This time seven years ago I was recovering from a serious motorcycle accident and this particular coming weekend that same fall, I went back out to California to see Marco and I also visited the person who had so turned my summer upside down. What I do remember was preparing dinner and staying the night to listen and offer support, but I also remember needing to be a gentleman. That issue has been a title in an earlier blog and something that I have spent significant and intentional time managing. That is both a personal commitment as well as trying to obey my grandmother. It has been disconcerting to me that this very thing has been questioned a couple of times. It also reminds me that no matter how much one does, it is easy in some ways to have those values questioned. I think my intentional conversations about “being a professor is more than what I do, it is who I am.” has certainly helped. I actually made a specific phone call at one point about things raised that I believe impugned my character (this incident caught me completely off guard, I must admit). I was grateful for the words of someone I have known for the entire time I have been at BU (and this is not about either recent or upcoming journeys, I might add). I think about a promise made this past summer to a life-long person I love deeply and following through on that promise was significant to me. Sometimes, or more likely many times, doing the right thing is certainly not the easy thing, but I am sure it has saved me from other difficulties. Those difficult things are sometimes the hard lessons which test us. They are the very lessons we will learn the best and remember the longest.

Good morning, it is now Friday morning, and fortunately, I did get some sleep. As I was out in California seven years ago at this time, it was evident to me that the consequences of living in a situation that devalued one or treated them with disrespect caused a person to lose their own personage, if you will. I think of my own past, in an attempt to create a better marriage, (and this was my counselor’s assessment) I allowed myself to not only to be an abused person, but to remain there. One reading this certainly has the right to question the sanity of such an action, but when one has grows up a particular way, it is not surprising for him or her to gravitate toward similar situations, often without his or her realization that it is even happening. To change that pattern becomes a life-long struggle. Even after making progress in changing such a pattern, I am not convinced that anyone ever totally eradicates (and I use that word intentionally) the propensity for that sort of behavior. I have noted my own struggles with my own mother and that abuse in the past (see my July 11th blog), but what I have realized that my desire to give, which I have been told began before I was even two, was probably the result in my being abandoned as a small child. I should note this was from my biological parents. Well, while I am sure I did not realize it, but the fact that my grandparents with whom I then went to live both worked all day probably contributed to that sense of unease and loneliness. I learned that being helpful or useful made me valued; not that I had a clear sense of cause/effect at the age of two or even by the time I moved to my adoptive parents’ house when I was almost five. What I do know about myself is that I try to make other peoples’ lives better if I am given the gift of being a part of their life. It is something I do because I feel better about myself. That can, in and of itself, be seen as selfish. While that might not be my intention, it can become the consequence. That is really what I was trying to get at in an earlier blog. Anytime selfishness, perceived or real, is possible or actual, the result is probably going to be negative. I think that is the hard lesson I am learning at the moment. What makes that such a hard lesson is that giving is such a part of my fabric, my existence. It is one of the fundamental characteristics that most would probably note.

As I have been looking at the data, the theory, and the interpretation of all the information for the upcoming OSCLG Conference, it is impossible for me to not see how this fundamental part of me was part of the creation of a relationship that used words that are familial, relational, personal. It is a lesson in understanding culture, gender, and generation. It is an amazing transcript of real care and helps me see how I was instrumental in developing something of beauty, complexity, and substance. It is something for which I am grateful. It has been a learning experience and I am sure will continue to be so. It provided me a sense of something that has , or had, never occurred in my life and for that I am certainly blessed. I am sure there will be more lessons, and I have no doubt that some of them will be hard ones. However, anything worth having is worth working for, it is worth admitting when there are mistakes for which I am accountable. It is a gift because when such an amazing family allows you to be part of them, you are blessed. A good lesson to have learned. Interestingly, as I tell my students, social networking is something they must do. They must have a footprint. The paper being researched and presented is certainly quite the footprint, but one that was mutually decided.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin

Claiming Life

Good late evening from the acre,

I am actually just getting home from school and I have to leave for NYC in my morning at 6:00 a.m., which means I will be getting up around 5:00. It is 10:58, so it is going to be a quick night. Tonight my Foundations classes and I watched the movie, Finding Forrester as a way for them to consider the idea of “claiming your education”. I am continually amazed by the number of people I meet who seem to go through their lives just rolling “tumbleweed-like” controlled by the external forces that affect them. What is more unfortunate is most have little to realization that it is happening to them. I know that I have been guilty of this at times in my life. I also know there have been times where I aware of the outside forces, but felt that I have no control over those outside sources nor the ability to stand up the way I would like to do. I also know that some will argue that we always have a choice. The answer to that is technically the answer is “yes, we do.” However, when the consequence (that word again) is more extreme or malevolent than what we desire, we have less power over that choice than we want. More accurately, we do not have as much free will over the entire situation than we might believe.

Good morning from one of seats of a chartered bus with 47 #COBLLC students on our way to a full day in NYC, a day including time at the UN, time at The Met, a bit of time in Battery Park, Times Square, and finally on/off Broadway where we will see a play starring James Earl Jones. By the time we get home it will be midnight. I am hoping to sneak away to do some work while students are doing whatever they are today. I am trying to feverishly work on a presentation and do qualitative research on data for that presentation. I wanted to have more done on the analysis than I do. I should have probably tried to learn the program I did not even know existed. I know, sounds impossible, but what it means is I could have been more effective and thought ahead a bit more carefully. Of course, there is the issue that I did/do have other things on my plate than my fall research. That being said, this might be some of the best scholarly work I have done since my dissertation and that is exciting. I am reminded of my ex-wife’s shock and consternation that I got paid to go to school at one point because of some of the things we worked on. Hard to believe that a group of text messages might be the basis for my research agenda for the foreseeable future. I can see the communication theory issues which are the current focus. I can see a linguistic/cultural possibility because of the integration of Spanish and English and as a rhetorical scholar, to consider issues of rhetorical practice is always a possibility. In each case, it allows me the chance to learn about and reflect upon what has happened.

On one of the buildings on campus there is a concrete mantel that proclaims (and rightly so, I believe) “wisdom is the fruit of reflection.” I remember seeing it one of my very first days on campus as I walked from my apartment up to campus for new faculty orientation. Even now, each time I see it, I am compelled to think about the implications for myself. How do I go about reflecting critically about what I have become and how that person has made some difference in other’s lives. It is what Luther referred as understanding vocation. It is rather sad that the term “vocation” now means some sort of schooling for those not capable or interested in college. Vocation in Luther’s sense meant that you understood whatever “Deinem Arbeit”, “Su trabajo” is, you understand your daily “tasks” actually benefit those around you. Too many of us see our present or future work as something that is merely a means to an end, and that end Is our bank accounts or our retirement IRAs or 401ks. If I am going to be honest in my reflection, I sometimes wonder if the reason I see myself more vocationally, as doing something fundamentally efficacious, is because of the nature of the things I have done. It is an integral part of that position. I would like to claim that is it in part who I am also. However, when the basic nature of that position required/requires one to care for others, it seems I have the deck stacked in my favor. The other night I took a quiz on another social networking site and the two-word descriptor used was “selflessly caring”. That was a bit flattering because I do not do it as selflessly has I wish I did. That has been part of my own reflection as of late. Again, intentions and realities.

The semester is half over. I am stunned by how quickly things are moving. I am stunned thy we are almost through another calendar year. It has been a year of learning and of changes. While I believe Lydia will make it through another calendar year, I cannot imagine her making it to 91. Of course, she has already surprised me more times than I have fingers. I have always believed that I was placed in Lydia’s life to serve as a counter-balance to her pessimism. Every morning, I would come and fix breakfast for her. She would ask me, (imagine the strongest Österreich accent possible) “Michael, wie geht’s?” I would respond with “Ich tue fein, Lydia; ich habe keine Beschwerden.” She would either scowl, dismiss me with a hand motion and scowl, or perhaps merely respond “blah,blah, blah.” She could not fathom such optimism; I could not imagine such pessimism when I saw what she had accomplished. I will be headed back there soon. While I rue the drive, I will make it again. Actually, I am going to try to get back to California in both November and January. The November trip will be quick, but I am hoping January excursion will be a bit longer than my August trip. I called Marco and Belinda last night to set up the next trip. I also want to get up to Houghton to help one of my senior students get into graduate school there. I also need to get to Salt Lake City in December/January. More frequent flier miles. Meetings earlier this week provided opportunities for more work with the program. I think I will be busy, but that work will help the program and students and that is what matters.

Well, we are almost to the Lincoln Tunnel. It will be a busy day, but I know that students will both experience and learn today. I was able to get the three ACE students able to come with us today. They are all exceptional students. I need to find out if they got into the briefing at the UN. I have been reflecting on the previous excursions. Each one has taught me something. Each one has provided a different memory. The first trip we were in Rockefeller Center and I saw Bill O’Reilly, not that I am any sort of fan, but I was sitting a few feet from him. Seeing my first Broadway production was quite amazing (it was Wicked, which a good first choice). The second trip, I actually spent some time alone and that was enjoyable merely exploring Times Square on my own. The auctioning of a poster at the production of Memphis was certainly an experience. Last year’s trip was memory was former students were now mentors (the same is the case now). I am missing Mariah and her boundless capacity to take charge and keep that beautiful smile on her face. It is also sad for me that Dr. Usry has missed another trip because he has been so instrumental in envisioning this experience for students. We are in Manhattan crawling our way to the UN. It should be again another chance to create a new page and claim the opportunity to live my life. As I am writing the traffic in Manhattan might make us late for our scheduled time at the UN. Time for revision perhaps.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Mi Terquedad

Buenas Días,

Es 3:30 y la lavadora y secadora son una vez más en uso. Es probable que lo qui quiero y lo que quiere mi cuerpo están en desacuerdo. Llamé un doctor antes de ayer y era capaz de conseguir una cita el lunes. Parece que otra serie de pruebas sanguíneas están en orden. También continúo perder peso. La semana pasada estaba perdido alrededor de cuatro libras. Una especie de había mantenido por casi 2 meses, fluctuando sobre 2-3 hacia arriba o hacia abajo, pero lo hemos codazo nuevos orificios en las correas.

Okay, writing that paragraph has taken me about a half hour. Unfortunately, I have not been able to work on my Spanish as much as I would like. One of the classes I am teaching this semester is a Bible as Literature class. It is actually one of the favorite classes I have the opportunity to teach. Some of that is because it ałlows me to use significant pieces from my humanities classes that I took as a freshman and sophomore at Dana College. I still have all those study guides and my notes from that three semesters. I remember taking the Oxford Entrance Exam at the end of that series of courses and scoring well enough that Dr. Nielsen said I would be “offered a chair”. Those were the words he used. I was stunned to actually hear that a person who had only had a 2.8 GPA out of high school could be considered for such an opportunity. Back to the class, perhaps some of the affinity for this class is because of the phenomenal experience I had my first semester here at Bloomsburg. That group of about 10 students were not the smartest (a couple of them were), but they created such an amazing learning atmosphere together. It was a three hour class and the time flew by. Yesterday in class I had one of the same things occur in the group as happened many evenings that first year.

I teach the class with higher expectations than a 200 level course and the department has encouraged me to do so. That being said, the course has been observed (with the exception of my FYW classes, which is half my load) more than any other class. One comment that I have most appreciated was that I am able to take complex material and present it in a way that students are able to grasp it readily (evaluation 2011). Yes, I know I cited, but I tell my students they must do it, so I must set an example. We were considering the inter-testamental period in scripture (the deuterocanonical books) and I was providing the corresponding secular history. It is the time from about 750BCE up until 100AD or so. This is the time in which Rome was found and becomes the empire and the period called Pax Romana existed. Pax Romana is actually longer, but I did not cover all of that. However, as I explained this period I got peppered with questions about a variety of things and as I provided answers without looking at notes, one student said, ” how do you know all of this and you can just remember it?” Before I could answer another student, one who has been in a previous course with me, chimed in, “You have no idea how much stuff he has in that gray head.” The class burst into laughter and I turned about 15 different shades of red. There are about 17 students left in the class. I began with about 23 (5 or 6 dropped when they saw the syllabus). Those left are an interesting combination of personalities and backgrounds. There are 5 or 6 who are members of CRU and they actually watch the movie on their own because they have CRU on Thursdays. The remaining 8 who were watching the second movie last night got to come to my house and watch it (The movie was Godspell and the earlier one was the Ten Commandments.). As we talked about the movie from the 70s, their comments were interesting, engaging and even amusing. The movie is 20 years before they were born and when I first saw it I was about their age.

It is now Sunday morning and I am trying to get a great deal accomplished this next week. On Friday evening, I had an almost three hour conversation with Melissa and her father. That conversation was difficult, but significant. It was also another experience I can add to the list of reasons that I am blessed to be considered part of their family. The last thing I said to Sr. Galán before I left that night, while standing outside, was I am both blessed and petrified by their love for me. Let me provide this overview of the conversation (the conversation was Friday and I spent the Saturday, in NYC , with Sr. Galán. I had also written part of this before on my iPad, but over-rode it with my iPhone, so I am re-composing). In the 6 weeks since school has begun, both Melissa and I have been confronted with the demands of the semester. I will only write about my side of this at this point. While there were hopes, and from my perspective a commitment to try to check in with one another that did not occur as I had hoped or believed we (and I use the first person plural here intentionally) intended. Then, as I have a penchant for doing, took that more personally than I should. The typical consequence for me then is to be hurt. I am much more fragile than most realize. If I look at the bigger picture that hurt caused me to react in a way I felt I could hoping to get out what I needed and keep my head on somewhat straight. As you who read know. That was to write. However, words written in hurt, words written while feeling hurt, can be problematic for two reasons. First, the hurt might cloud what you actually heard and as a consequence, what you write is not as accurate as you might believe it to be. Second, as a larger and more significant consequence, it could cause, and I have created, a larger difficulty.

During the conversation,I am not sure Melissa and I accomplished as much as we might have hoped. At least that is my perception. I cannot and should not speak for her. Her father listened intentionally, thoughtfully and carefully. After what I felt was more of an argument than a conversation between Melissa and me, her father asked to interject. What he shared next on a variety of points was insightful, helpful, and striking. As has been the result on more than one occasion, it ended up with me in tears. I am well aware of his ability to see the heart of people. I am always stunned when he demonstrates that ability. He again noted my importance to their family. He also posited that he does not believe that Melissa’s positions or descriptions were meant to be hurtful or offend me. I must admit that her decisions about attending the conference were based on incomplete knowledge of a situation and I cannot hold her accountable for a choice that was made with the information she had at the time. She has never been accepted, nor slated to present at a national (actually international) conference. Nor, like 99% of undergraduates, her research is not subjected to things like IRB approval. She has a ton of stuff on her plate and her decisions were made primarily in response to that. Long story short: we are committed to the paper and co-presenting. Her willingness to follow through on that, realizing the consequence for me, is something for which I am grateful. I also understand the larger consequence of the past couple weeks and for the difficulties or harm I have caused a relationship I so value, I offer this public (at least in this venue) apology. As I told her father yesterday I would do, I have gone back and edited blogs and revised entries composed over these past weeks if it was shown that I mistakenly wrote something. At this point, we will work professionally to create a strong and scholarly presentation. I think the paper and the research will be revealing to us both. I can say as I have looked through the the first 350 pages of data, they demonstrate our both taking a chance and trusting what was there from the outset. It is ironic that in the course of a couple weeks I have so damaged that. For that, again I apologize. I should note that I believe the damage is because I let my emotions speak for me more than my brain. My pain allowed me to be stupid, to say things I shouldn’t of said. I would also note that such an occurrence seems to take place when I feel hurt or rejected. When I have invested so much of who I am in that situation. I think a regular reading of my blog will reveal that flaw in me also. The consequence for me is that I’m not as unconditional as so I would like to believe. I’m sorry for that failing. I understand it is my humanness, but I still can strive to do better. Mr. Galán said it is due to something much bigger. As often seems to be the case with both he and Melissa, they are correct.

While I have a meeting yet tonight for a second trip to NYC within a week, I am also headed to the Fog and Flame to continue to work on this research and do some grading. I am also meeting two students who I had in class as summer freshmen, and they are graduating this semester. We are going out to dinner. They are so enjoyable individually and together is merely exponentially better. As I noted in passing, I went to see the musical the Last Ship yesterday. It was stunning and there are not enough positive adjectives to describe it. At one point, I was crying as I watched. There was no weak performances by anyone in the company. Every element of the musical was simply phenomenal. My two friends are going next week. I am so excited for them to see it.

Well, as I noted, and was actually one of the earlier exchanges in the data being analyzed, and as noted in the title, I am stubborn. That can have consequences. My stubbornness and pride kept me from loving and caring the way I have been loved and cared for. I let both Melissa and her family down. I should note that is my assessment. They, in fact, demonstrated that their love is more profound than I am often able to comprehend. In spite of my feelings, my failings, they still love me. All I have created for myself is a difficulty. I need to be better. Ironically the things that I said were done to me, instead I did. Lately I have been more self-centered and selfish than I realized. I have read through our texts I realize the amazing relationship that has been created. I saw it as a gift from the beginning and so it is. It is precious and fragile, yet enduring. The Galán family has changed my life. They have helped me to grow, to trust, to love. I am truly blessed by their presence and I pray that I have not lost too much nor damaged something so precious that it is beyond repair. Time will tell.

Thank you for reading,

An imperfect Dr. Martin

A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

Good Wednesday evening,

It is only about 6:15, but I have been up since about 12:30 this morning. The unilateral decision of another has forced me into a couple of weeks of scrambling. However, that was not the only reason I am running on (and seriously fading from) only three hours of sleep. Today was the day all my tenure materials were actually submitted to the university committee. In 196 pages (almost exactly the same length as my dissertation) and three significant binders, along with my chair’s and department committee’s recommendations, I have asked this institution to grant me tenure. I must admit it is a relief to finally hand it in. It also reminds me clearly how different institutions can be. I knew at my previous institution my relationship, or lack thereof, with a dean had sunk me a year or more before I ever went up. I never did go up there. I resigned before they voted. I am pretty sure I would have lost the 2/3s vote by one vote. Here it is so different. The 5 years have been unbelievably busy and yes, even demanding, but that have also been wonderful. While I know there are things that could be stronger -always the case- I do believe in my heart that I have earned this distinction. I also feel valued here. That is an important difference.

This morning, after working most of the night, I had my first meeting at 7:00. The weekly meetings with the LLC director and mentors is a meeting that I enjoy. The mentors are a group who honestly demonstrate a sense of caring for something bigger than themselves. Quite a difference from what seems to be the norm of others. They too lamented the lack of dependability of some of the LLC students, students who changed their minds on something, but did a “no-show-no-call” to an event this past weekend. Much like the theme of my last post, no sense of commitment or obligation to keeping one’s word. It was interesting to hear the words of the director, a person with a business background. He simply said, “In a professional setting, they would be fired. Pretty much the same thing I found in my research noted in my last blog posting.

I am still stunned that so many can show such blatant disregard or concern about their choices, even when they affect others. The response to a statement I made about obligations earlier this week was ” I am not obligated to anyone; I have no obligations.” While he or she might foolishly argue that, and even proceed in life with such a philosophical mindset, to believe this is possible, in my opinion is problematic because it goes against the basic fabric of society. As John Locke noted in his “Second Treatise on Civil Government”, paraphrased it says something like “when humans create a society, by extension, they give up certain individual rights. I was speaking with my favorite philosophy professor last night and told her of this statement. I do not give her a specific context and, in fact, was vague intentionally. Her response was to laugh rather heartily and she said, “yeah, right!! Good luck trying to succeed in the professional world.” She went on to say that such a person will never keep a job. I find myself saying the same.

The paper I am working on for this conference requires me to consider another culture, so I am researching. I am profoundly interested in what I am going to find. As I have spoken with colleagues about the change in plans and making sure that I can still present with a modified presence of the co-presenter and not need IRB approval (ironic that my keyboard wants to keep switching to Spanish as I compose this), at least three people have said this is a cultural characteristic (this parenthetical is offered after response to this posting. Two of the three persons who are referred to here are husband and wife and grew up in an area of the country which has s significant Latino community. So their comments are empirical.) That has both shocked and intrigued me. Is it truly possible that another culture of humans can act in a manner, and justify behavior, that seems to show such an ambivalence for, or towards, their fellow human beings? I should note that I also understand that question comes from my status as a non-Latino and I do not mean it to be unfair. I mean it in s profoundly “need to understand” moment. I am also compelled to ask this question: if one has no obligation or even sense of obligation to another, is said person as a consequence completely self-centered because he or she only does what serves their own needs (this parenthetical again is added following the conversation that is referred to in my next posting. While this part of my blog is certainly is, in part, a response to events in my life, that has always been the impetus for my writing. It is how I make sense of my life. It is how I manage things that are important, both personally or emotionally as well as societally or thoughtfully, philosophically. I will also confess that as a human my emotions and thoughts are intrinsically connected. Therefore what follows at this point it meant philosophically as that kind of a thought process and argument, nothing more.). By extension, does one when in the presence of such a person, simply understand that there is only one outcome, one option when in any relationship with him or her and that is you will be used? Perhaps that is not the intention, so I am not saying there is malevolent intent, but merely understand what is coming. It seems this might be the case. Again, I understand this assessment comes from my point of view and could be inaccurate (edited and added- I am told this is inaccurate and when taken as a personal conversation, I can agree with why that might be thought to be the case.) Oops, I have published and I am not finished . . . More to come

Back: I went to Cracker Barrel with the Deckers, the family I have had the most interaction with since I went to UW-Stout in 2003. Mark is now my assistant department chair and little brother of sorts. He is the one who gave me the phrase that is my title for this blog post. Both he and Gayle believe the choice to not attend the conference to be related, and actually to a large extent, to cultural issues (as noted earlier they have significant exposure to Latino communities growing up. I should also note they know this situation first hand.). I do want to write more here, but my brain feels like mush at the moment. I need to write carefully and appropriately. Please come back in the morning. Ok, it is morning, around 3:15, but I have slept for about six hours. However, I have woken with a fever, and a soaked bed again. This is the third time in a week. It had been a while since that has happened multiple times in a week. I will be up for a while as things are washing and drying. I am sitting in a high backed chair in my room as I continue to compose this. Actually as I think about this both as a possibility of culture and reflect on the words and actions observed in the bigger picture, there is some clarity. (Again what follows is based on my personal experience in the situation, but this argument is not a personal assessment of the argument at this point, it is a much larger philosophical argument that considers religion, culture and experience. As such I do use specific words and experiences to provide a context.) Both the theology espoused, which has been noted in earlier blogs (see 41 Years and an Oxymoron), and the philosophy about “possessions” (not really the best word here, but used rather collectively) seems consistent with the sense of “no obligation “. It is consistent with this theology that I called a “sense of relative or secular humanism”. There is the problem with believing you are deistic in your own right. I will posit If we are all Gods no wonder we can supposedly do what we want with no obligation. I am not sure we as faulty, less-than-perfect humans can handle either the power or responsibility of being “God”. The problem is there is no sense of consequence or regard for consequence outside ourselves. As long as we survive the situation relatively in tact, it is all good. There are two areas that are yet to be figured out in all of this – well, probably more, but two that come to Mina at 4:00 a.m.. It is not the system that supposedly requires responsibility to each other that is corrupt or has failed, it is the individual human and his or her greediness. But if I am correct that this “no obligation” results in a collective self-centered behavior, then such a practice contributes to that greediness, perhaps unintentionally, but nonetheless, it does. That brings us to the issue of ” intención”, una muy importante palabra o concepto. De hecho he oída estas palabras a menudo “el amor esta por encima de cualquier cosa”, pero si no tenemos ninguna obligación de la otra, al contrario de lo que se podría esperar, el amor dado o se expresa no es profunda ni profunda. Es en el mejor de temporal. Can it be trusted or believed? Will it really support you when needed? So if we don’t intend someone to be hurt, by our actions or decisions, then we have no responsibility that our actions might have created some of that hurt. Hence the mantra,”I did not say that.” or the siempre presente “that is your interpretation.” Then whatever is done is almost random in the most profound sense because nothing is really intended. I guess there is a profound freedom in such a process. (I should note this previous passage was a point of some debate. Again if taken philosophically, that need not be the case. However, if seen personally, as it was, it could be seen as a personal attack. I understand that and take responsibility for the consternation it has caused. I do think the larger conversation about how a philosophy and its practice has consequences is an important one. I should note that a philosophical argument does not take into account as clearly as it might the individuals and their own specific personalities. It is certainly  the case that one does not mean malicious intent or even hope or want such things from their actions or choices. What I am arguing is intent does not always match consequence. I do not believe free will trumps societal responsibility, either individually or corporately. That is my fundamental argument here).

This brings me to a second point, and then the consequence of these two considerations. BTW, progress is being made, clothes, sheets are in the dryer. Suppose for a moment that I have, in a miraculous moment of clarity, actually discovered how this all fits. If it is cultural, how is it that two cultures of the same species are so fundamentally, and maybe diametrically opposed? Or is it just my experience with just one element of it? That would be the easy way out, but the fact that others have noted it is likely cultural, and their statement appears experiential, seems to indicate there is a larger issue. I cannot change, nor should I want to change, someone’s culture. Perhaps cause them to examine just as I need to examine my own. What I need to attempt to do is understand from where that mindset or cultural practice comes. If I understand that, then, just maybe, I can get over the sort of “shock and dismay” when I am given another AFGE (I have used this acronym before, so you will have to look it up) in being around it. I will be researching this amazing Latino heritage both for my conference paper, but in an attempt to make sense of what seems non-sensical for a “simple white boy”. I also realize there are contextual factors in all of this. ( I have edited here and deleted three sentences that were too pointed and as such unfair in my part.) Perhaps the title is true about this culture to which I have introduced. However,I am yet to be convinced because others from the same culture have struggled and have questioned some of their experiences (This is in reference to the third person who also read this posting and took exception to my wondering if this is a Latino cultural characteristic. He or she, in fact, asked to meet with me, which we did, and we had a lengthy and helpful conversation. It is really already something I expected to hear in that conversation). I need to understand more, but if you have been reading this blog regularly, that should not surprise you. It is 5:15 and I am going to try to get a bit of sleep after remaking a bed. I will be in school shortly and then until after 8:00 again tonight.

Thanks for reading,

Michael (Martin) (DM)