El lado melancolía de la esperanza 

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Buenas Domingo Dias,

es un día al grado, pero ha sido una mañana y pensar que lo que me parece que gastar una gran cantidad de tiempo haciendo aquí últimamente. Recuerdo que uno de mis ex estudiantes señaló que tengo un lado melancólico a mi personalidad y de acuerdo con ella. Aquellos de ustedes que están siguiendo mi blog con alguna regularidad probablemente notará, al menos, que siempre me pregunto al tipo de ¿qué pasa si? tipo de pregunta. Todavía me pregunto cómo tengo esta sensación de tristeza, a pesar del hecho de que todavía estoy aparentemente contenido y agradable para la mayoría de la gente que conozco. De hecho, cuando Lydia me preguntaba cada mañana cómo estaba, me generalmente responder, ‘No tengo problemas. ‘ Ella respondía con su ceño fruncido típica y luego decirme que yo era demasiado amable o demasiado feliz. Sin embargo, no estoy seguro de si estoy del todo feliz. Me gusta la gente y me gusta ver y aprender de la gente, pero me parece que llegar nunca al lugar donde estoy relajada y totalmente satisfechos con dónde están las cosas. Casi siempre me siento que hay algo aún por hacer, o más exactamente, algo que debería estar haciendo. Creo que es esa sensación de no estar terminado o todavía necesitan hacer algo de manera más eficaz, más eficiente, más bien, que es mi más potente némesis. Me hubiera gustado que me podría encontrar ese lugar donde yo puedo decir, ‘Está bien. ‘ De nuevo, si has leído los blogs escritos anteriormente, usted sabrá de dónde viene esta enfermedad.

Creo que la consecuencia más importante de esta sensación de ‘debe hacer mejor’ es que yo no soy capaz de dejar ir o relajarse. Además, yo no celebro los éxitos de mi vida; No me tomo el tiempo para ser tan agradecidos por todo con la que he sido bendecido. Eso es triste, y yo lo saben (o yo no estaría escribiendo sobre ello), pero parecen incapaces de superarlo. Hay muy poco que realmente me abruma, ya sea positiva o negativamente. Eso también podría ser una consecuencia de esta necesidad de seguir luchando por la mejora, por algo mejor. Parece que hay un poco de diferencia de ‘verano de mi corazón descontento ‘en los últimos tiempos. Creo que es, en parte, el paso a una nueva década. He encontrado a mí mismo preguntándome qué si yo hubiera trabajado más temprano? ¿Qué pasa si yo tenía mi proverbial ‘mierda juntos’ antes? ¿Tendría todo resultó diferente? Esto no quiere decir, en manera o forma que no soy afortunado o agradecido. Más bien, se preguntaba si yo podría haber sido capaz de ayudar o hacer más. Una vez más, me doy cuenta de que eso significa que estoy haciendo la pregunta de ‘¿es siempre suficiente?’ La semana pasada fue una semana donde me sentí como si estuviera colgando de mis dedos y las uñas se inclinaban más de lo habitual. Incluso le dije a mi jefe de departamento que me sentí abrumado y es muy raro que tengo que admitir ese tipo de cosas, incluso si ocurren con más frecuencia que quisiera admitir.

Ayer hablé con un par por quien tengo el mayor aprecio. Han pasado por mucho para trabajar juntos (incluso conseguir juntos) como pareja. He aprendido más de la lucha que están teniendo con uno de los hijos. Me encontré a mí mismo diciendo cosas mucho más difícil en la medida como una respuesta a este joven de lo que hubiera creído. Yo estaba dispuesto a decir que tiene que salir de la casa si él no está dispuesto a hacer cualquier cosa para mejorarse a sí mismo. Creo que hay mucho que ha hecho de la historia antes difícil, pero no puedo cambiar el pasado. Sólo pueden hacer frente a la actual.Aprendí de nuevo cómo es posible que alguien que ha llegado al país de manera legal y trabaja duro para convertirse en parte de este tejido cultural que llamamos América es tratada como menos porque no son blancos. Es desalentador para mí. Es una de esas cosas en las que quiero levantar mi voz aún más de lo que tengo y decir ‘prestar atención! Todas las vidas son importantes. Sé que hay conversaciones sobre aspectos específicos y puedo apreciar los hashtags, pero en última instancia, cada vida tiene valor. Tenemos que entender eso. Necesitamos creer eso, y entonces tenemos que practicar eso.

Good Sunday Monring,

It is a day to grade, but it has been a morning to drive and think, which what I seem to be spending a great deal of time doing here lately. I am reminded that one of my former students noted that I have a melancholy side to my personality and I agreed with her. Those of you who are following my blog with any regularity will probably note, at the very least, that I am always wondering the sort of what if? sort of question. I still wonder how I have this sense of sadness, in spite of the fact that I am still seemingly content and pleasant to most people I meet. In fact, when Lydia would ask me every morning how I was, I would generally answer, “I have not problems.” I think it is that sense of never being finished or still needing to do something more effectively, more efficiently, more perfectly that is my most potent nemesis. I do wish that I could find that place where I can say, “It is okay.” Again, if you have read previously written blogs, you will know from where this malady comes.

I think the most significant consequence of this feeling of “must do better” is that I am not able to let go or relax. In addition, I do not celebrate the successes of my life; I do not take the time to be as thankful for all with which I have been blessed. That is sad, and I know this (or I would not be writing about it), but I seem incapable of overcoming it. There is very little that actually overwhelms me, either positively or negatively. That also might be a consequence of this need to keep striving for improvement, for something better. There seems to be a bit of difference to “summer of my hearts discontent” as of late. I think it is, in part, the move to a new decade. I have found myself wondering what if I had worked harder earlier? What if I had my proverbial “shit together” earlier? Would it have all turned out differently? This is not to say in way shape or form that I am not fortunate or grateful. Rather, it is wondering if I might have been able to help or do more. Again, I realize that means that I am asking the question of “is it ever enough?” This past week was a week where I felt like I was hanging on by my fingertips and the fingernails were bending more than usual. I even told my department chair that I felt overwhelmed and it is very seldom that I will admit such things, even if they happen more often that I care to admit.

Yesterday I spoke with a couple for whom I have the greatest appreciation. They have gone through so much to work together (to even get together) as a couple. I learned more of the struggle they are having with one of the sons. I found myself saying things much harder as far as a response to this young man than I would have believed. I was willing to say he needs to get out of the house if he is not willing to do anything to better himself. I think there is so much that has made the earlier story difficult, but one cannot change the past. They can only deal with the present. I learned again how it is that someone who has come to the country legally and works hard to become part of this cultural fabric we call America is treated as less than because they are not white. It is discouraging to me. It is one of those things where I want to raise my voice even more than I have and say “pay attention!” All lives matter. I know there are conversations about specifics and I can appreciate those hashtags, but ultimately, every life has value. We need to understand that. We need to believe that, and then we need to practice that.

Okay . . .  I am going to finish this post in English. I have worked hard on my writing and understanding of Spanish, but I need to do a lot work on my speaking and listening yet. I wish I was fluent. It takes practice and time, it is the time and the place I need to be where I am forced to work on it with no options but to learn. Again, I have come a long ways, but I want more. I want to be better. I am not satisfied. What does it take to be satisfied or content. I have noted this once before in a blog, but I find myself here again. I think that is probably why I am told regularly I might have the tightest shoulders and neck that anyone has ever seen. When I was in the Dominican Republic a little over a year (see a blog in August 2014 titled “Michael Jackson and Chocolate,” I think), the masseuse that worked on me said I should go to a massage therapist once a month or so. If I did that I might help myself, but the purpose of this blog is actually to consider the reason for the stress to begin with. I think the issue is simply that I cannot find a sense of contentment. I do believe contentment leads to comfort and relaxation, which can lead a person to being genuinely happy. I think it is the issue of being genuinely happy. There are many who pretend to be happy, but it is a facade. I would not say that what I do is a facade, and in fact, I try my best to be genuine. I think it is that I think too much. Yet, I am not sure that one can do that. Perhaps it is that I think too much about what I can do little, but wish I could do more. Might it be, by so doing, that I set myself up for disappointment, disillusionment, or worse? Sometimes this is what it seems, or definitely feels to be happening. I am realizing two things as I sit here and type. It was on this date in 1973 that I graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp. It was also on this date, four years later that my hero, my Grandmother Louise, passed away. The graduation from boot camp was quite a thing for me because boot camp was difficult for me. There was certainly more than one time that I was not sure I would survive those 80+ days of training. I was not an amazing boot camp participant. I will say that I was pushed to my limit, but to be honest I survived, but there were times that “barely” would be the appropriate adjective. The day I received the call that my grandmother had passed away, I was devastated. She, as, once again, previously noted, taught me more about manners, about being a gentlemen, about love than any person I know, or have ever since met. Lydia would be the other person to be considered in the same sentence or thought process. These two women have done more for me and done more to shape me (there is also my adopted father, Harry Martin) than any other person. There are times I have cried in my life, and I would even admit that those times might only be rivaled by John Boehner, but I sobbed at my grandmother’s funeral. It might be the hardest I have ever cried in my life. To this day, it is hard to verbalize how much I loved her. She is one of the persons I hope might be proud of what I have accomplished.

I do wonder what those forbearers, those ancestors of mine might thing. Recently, I joined Ancestor.com, but I am not sure why or what I think I have learned. I need to spend more time, but then again, there is that word . . .  I need more time in everyday, but  I am quite sure I would not get more sleep. I have been sleeping more, and one of my more understanding or insightful friends have merely noted that it is something I need. However, I hate admitting that. . . .  I think I have either wandered or regressed. What is melancholy? I tell me students to not merely use the dictionary and put it into their paper and therefore I will not use that . . .  but the synonyms of pensive or lugubrious come to mind. For me, there is a reason, in spite of the fact that for many others it is not obvious. A year ago I was struggling to understand the concept of privilege and how that privilege created a chasm between me and someone for whom I had unparalleled appreciation. I have learned that sometimes you need to let people go and in the distance both learn. I think what I do is hang on to those I have lost and I mourn that loss more than most might realize. I realize that the normal changes in our lives create the reality of both loss and opportunity. Yet, I desire to hope. I think listening to Pope Francis this past week I have learned a great deal about the idea of hope, hope that is based on understanding, believing in the power of human dignity, and an unfathomable deep and abiding faith. I wish I might have been in a position to see him in person, even if it were from a distance. I think he is a Pope that I do want to see. It is a combination of his Jesuit background as well as his native Spanish that also intrigues me. It was fun this week to listen to some of his words and being able to understand some of the Spanish I was hearing.

Hope is something we all need as humans. We need to believe that there is a possibility of something better, but I think too often we are shattered by crush of our daily lives to see the future. It is interesting to me that we have more access to information and the ability to understand our world than ever before, but the consequence is we become overloaded, overwhelmed, and ultimately over stressed. Yet, hope is fundamental to our life. The couple of whom I was speaking earlier in the post and I had a conversation about this very thing yesterday. When people have no sense of hope their actions in the present are very different. They do not think or worry about the future because they see no sense or purpose in so doing. Therefore they fixate on the present and that becomes a selfish wanting in the here and now. I see this in many, but fortunately, I see something different in many of my students. Their hard work, their inquisitiveness, and their belief that what they are doing matters gives me hope. Perhaps there is hope for a future. Students today are much more open to diversity, to inclusiveness, and to accepting the other than my generation. Those things give this melancholy spirit something to hold on to, to believe in, to pin myself to something more than a pipe dream . . . thank goodness.

As always, thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

Thinking Carefully; Wondering Broadly

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Good Morning from the diner,

As I write this I have reminisced and realized that on this date, my Great-aunt Helen, probably one of the more elegant women I have ever known, would be celebrating a birthday today. I need to do some searching on a year, but I am imagining she would be around 108 or so. In addition, four years ago today the reality of a flood in Bloomsburg was terrifically apparent. That flood crested at 32.75 feet and the consequence of the flood is actually still felt here in town. The third significant thing that occurred in my life was a pretty serious motorcycle accident. I ended up with two skull fractures, serious facial surgery, and even more significant hand surgery. My little finger on my left hand is a veritable hardware store. I was fortunate and have been fortunate in so many ways. This past week I feel like I am still trying to get my feet firmly underneath me and some sense or semblance of order to the semester.

That semblance is still struggling because it is now the weekend and I had begun this on Tuesday. Part of that might be that I have been technologically challenged again this week. First I misplaced my phone and then it seems it needed to be reset again. It is just now, Sunday that it is working reasonably well again. This is the third time I have had to completed restore it. That little process takes about 3 or 4 hours. I need to get a hold of a number of people as I just got their texts and or other attempts to get a hold of me. I need to put in perhaps one of the most labor intensive weeks that I have had in a long time this coming week. Along with other things that have occurred, I was elected the chairperson of the Evaluation Committee this week. That will also be a labor intensive thing, but I will manage it also.  It is hard for me to believe that 14 years have passed since the fateful September day in 2001. What is harder for me to imagine is what the world was like before that time. It is almost like we were in a world of naiveté . . .  and looking back with 14 years of hindsight, we certainly were. There are two substantive differences that I have noticed personally. Because I have flown as much as I have, the reality of flying today and the fact that there is nothing really enjoyable about it is a difference to me. I used to look forward to the idea of being on a plane. Those days are long past, and it is not merely the cramped or overcrowding . . .  it is the way that we are treated in general. We have become numb to the cattle-like herding that seems indicative of most airline travel. We have learned to manage lines, inspections, questions, and a general sense of mistrust like that is normal. It is normal, but the very fact that it has become the norm is undeniably sad. The second thing that has changed for me (personably as an observer) is the way that we have learned to mistrust others as a general course of action. As groups like ISIL (ISIS) or Al Qaeda or other Islamic terrorist groups continue to skew the image of Islam in the world, the unfortunate consequence for all Islamic people is they are viewed suspiciously. I have amazing students who are Turkish, Egyptian, Sudanese, or other predominately Muslim countries and I cannot imagine what they must put up with daily because they choose to wear a hijab or because they look either Middle Eastern or North African. These changes in the world, while I understand them, cause me more sadness than anger or suspicion.

I remember the day following 911 and a student in my second semester composition course at Michigan Tech noted in my class unapologetically, “You deserved what happened yesterday.” This student from the UAE was unbowed in his opinion and the uproar that occurred in the class and my attempt to focus on what he said as well as wonder a bit more broadly was one of the more delicate rhetorical moves I have ever had to make in a class. I remember the project we did in that class that semester and the amazing work those students did to manage a response that focused on the community of caring and giving that was created out of that tragic day. There was a sense of caring globally that was outstanding and unparalleled. I wish we had more of that yet now or that we might have held on to it. There are a number of places where it seems not only have we lost it, but we are in a much more dangerous position that perhaps anytime in history. The first place I would not for that disharmony is in our nation’s capitol. I understand this is only my opinion, but I think the founders of this country would appalled, or quite sad, that their grand experiment has seemed to be reduced to such rancor that it seems that even the most mundane piece of legislation has become a marathon to complete. I cannot imagine they would be impressed that Donald Trump finds it appropriate to speak about Carly Fiorina’s face as if that were a politically reasonable way to manage a campaign. While I am all for spirited debate and appropriate arguments, and even being passionate about what one argues, the reality of the present campaign pains me more than words can express. Donald Trump is nothing more than a rich kid, sandbox bully. I might even be willing to allow that he has some intelligence, but use that first rather than after the fact. That is my soapbox rant for this blog.

In the days that I worked in graduate school after 911, I worked on a project for one of my mentors. That was a project that looked at the images of 911 as well as some of what we might call remix songs. One of them that still moves me is what I am posting here.

I cannot watch this even fourteen years later and not have chills up and down my body. I have not gotten over to see the 911 Memorial in NYC yet, but I need to do that. I am reminded that so many people’s lives were irreparably changed that day, but so was a national fabric, in fact, the world fabric. What creates such hate among people? I am forced to think carefully and wonder yet more broadly to try to find such an answer to such a difficult question.  I cannot imagine what that day must have been like for all of those in Manhattan and the boroughs of New York City. I know how shocked we were in the rural and seemingly protected Upper Peninsula. I have found another video that as I watched it brought tears to my eyes.

If you might take a moment to think about your own attitudes and your own change in perception since that day, it might be a good thing. Who are we as people? What is our purpose as people? From where does the hatred for one another because of difference in skin color, religion, socio-economic class, or orientation come? What makes one person better or more entitled than another? These are the questions that permeate my thoughts as I consider the post 911 world? What allows a person’s religious beliefs to trump their political or civic responsibility? What happens when people proof-text and use the Bible to uphold their bigotry or self-righteousness? What happens when we believe we have the right answers and, therefore, the answers or views of another are considered wrong, or unchristian, or something of less value than ours? We end up with a world of mistrust and hatred. We end up with a world that marginalized the other.

During the coming week I will turn 60 years old. I am not exactly sure how I have ended up where I have. When I graduated from high school as an small, naïve, and wide-eyed Midwestern boy going into Marine Corps boot camp, I had no idea that I would be were I am today. When I met the first girl I really liked as an adult barely out of the service, I ever realized how much another person could influence my life. As I traveled on a Lutheran Youth Encounter team member, I had no idea that the persons I met that year would be part of the remainder of my days. As I arrived at that small liberal arts college in Nebraska, I had no idea that so many of the people I met and the things I learned would create such an amazing educational foundation (and that is about life as well as academics). Since that time, I have been involved in education pretty much non-stop, I have learned that everything I do has a teaching element to it. It is who I am. I love to help others learn and improve their lives. I have become a pondering person, one to generally thinks more carefully and wonder more broadly. What are the consequences of our actions and how does what we do affect others long after we are no longer there? I did not think that turning 60 would be that monumental. The only other birthday that I have found significant in my life was 25. Somehow, it seems this one might outpace that one in terms of personal impact. I am not entirely sure, but I am realizing that I am thinking about the remainder of my life more carefully and, yes, perhaps, more broadly than ever before. What I know for sure is there is nothing promised and there are no guarantees. That is also a consequence of 911 for me. We have no idea where the end is. I am realizing that my grandmother, my hero, only lived to be four years older than this coming birthday. My mother only eight years  longer. I am not sure I have ever thought of entering a decade that might be my last, but I am realizing that is a more likely possibility than the previous decades. I am not trying to sound fatalistic, but rather, I am being more cognizant of the fact that each day is a gift and there is a lot more to consider. I also realize I have a lot I would still like to do. So . . . . with that in mind, it is time to get to it.

Thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin