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The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness, and shut-downness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with gentleness.  Instead, there’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, then we would be happy.  That is the innocent, naive misunderstanding that we all share, which keeps us unhappy.

— Pema Chodron, The Wisdom of No Escape.

That makes sense to me on so many levels.  I just don’t know what to say.

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Reason #284 why xkcd is great:

I’ve been bored with my reading choices lately, so I scoured the internet and found a list of 100 great books from the 20th century.  I think I’m going to work on some of these.

  • The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
  • All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  • The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
  • At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
  • A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
  • The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  • A Death in the Family by James Agee
  • The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Deliverance by James Dickey
  • Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
  • Falconer by John Cheever
  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  • The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
  • Herzog by Saul Bellow
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  • A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Light in August by William Faulkner
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Loving by Henry Green
  • Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  • The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Money by Martin Amis
  • The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
  • Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
  • A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  • Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
  • Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  • Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
  • The Recognitions by William Gaddis
  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
  • The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  • The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carre
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick
  • Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
  • Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

That should keep me busy for awhile!

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is an interesting condition. It’s best described as a pathological response to trauma, the brain’s faulty way of dealing with something it wasn’t meant to deal with. When someone develops PTSD they frequently re-experience the traumatic event through flashbacks and nightmares. They generalize their trauma to the rest of life with the result that normal situations feel unsafe.

I didn’t know what to call it then but I felt scared by all black people. I sincerely believed that black people as a whole had something against me and sought to do harm to me. It seemed logical to my young mind. When I’d walk down a hallway at school and a group of three or four black guys would approach I’d begin to tense inwardly. As they grew closer I’d want to shrink into the walls, make myself invisible. When they’d pass me by I’d feel a sense of reprieve. I’d escaped this time. This time. But there would be a next time. And another time after that. It was only a matter of time before I was assaulted by black people again.

I spent most of my Junior High avoiding black people. My initial hate had faded and what was left was fear. I didn’t want to go through another experience like that again.

If I had grown up around white supremacists I think the hate could have easily returned. But it didn’t. And I guess I moved on in some ways. After awhile my fears weakened but never quite went away. I still am subject to the occasional nightmare, to the fear of going down a dark alley and meeting one or more assailants. And in my mind they are always black. Always. I know intellectually that whites commit crime but in my mind – in the back of my mind where the fears lie – I struggle with the thought that criminals are black.

I go out of my way to make sure that my irrational, traumatic fears don’t get passed on to my children. They’ve had black friends and I’ve been okay with that. I’m nothing but friendly to my coworkers who are black. I’ve even embarked on a journey to find hip-hop that I like. I’m not completely colorblind but I’ve certainly made some progress. Part of growing up in a household filled with prejudice is that when my teenage rebellion began, it moved me away from my parents’ racist views. I’m still moving.

I only saw Tony, the one who spoke to me while he took my watch, once more after the meeting in the pricipal’s office. I knew he’d been suspended and I assumed also expelled. But about a year later I was at a football game and I saw him on the sidelines with some friends. They were all obviously older and I suppose had been held back in school. They were smoking and laughing and I looked closely at Tony and could make out that his t-shirt had a picture of a cat trapped inside a bottle. The caption on his shirt said “Happiness is a tight pussy.” For some reason I was fascinated by him while also feeling terrified of him. I’m sure he saw me walking by looking at him but I also don’t think he really saw me. I don’t think he had any recollection of me at all.

I still think about him. I wonder where he is, what he’s doing. Now that I’m older and wiser I feel sorry for him. Perhaps he came from a painful family background. Maybe he came from a loving family and maybe he just fell in with the wrong crowd and made bad choices. Perhaps he’s living happily somewhere raising a family and working hard at his job. Perhaps he’s in jail. He might even be dead. I hope not. I really hope he has the chance to experience the love of Jesus in this life and the next. I don’t bear him any ill will. I even think I might be able to forgive him if I ever saw him again.

The old subtitle for this blog was “Clarity for the Confused. Confusion for the Clarified.” I never liked that as it always sounded rather pompous. And it was Unnecessarily Capitalized. Truth be told I am subject to both confusion and clarity at various times and I have little to offer except for my occasional random thoughts.

So it’s gone. If you’ve come here Confused and seek Clarity I’m sorry. If you’ve come here Clarified well I may still be able to offer you some Confusion. We’ll see.

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