1 August 2017

Worrying: It Never Robs Tomorrow Of Sorrow, It Only Drains Today Of Joy

Robing life of joy

Social media promotes argument, for sure, but anyone who has been online for a while knows that it also spreads unwanted advice and worry, like one of those anti-biotic resistant diseases that regularly sweeps the earth.

I have known much fear in my life, but worry has always been alien to me, perhaps because I grew up in a traumatized Jewish matriarchy where the worst fears of mothers had often come true. For some, worrying is a neuroses, for others simple common sense.

Sometimes it seems to me that there is no such thing as good news in our world, every event on the earth is a new opportunity to worry. And of course in the media we love to watch, no good news is news at all.

I have been appreciating my muse this week. She has been inspiring and guiding me to write well. I've been getting up at 4 a.m all week to work on my next book, about Gus and the lessons of the farm. I am loving it, I have to say, and so, for once, is my editor.

I've written three strong chapters,and she says they need little or no work. She even used the term "great" a few times. My muse also inspires me not to worry, to be grateful for what I have and to live in the present. She has been around, and gotten me far, and she is a spirit, an angel perhaps, that I listen to closely.

The spiritually enlightened seem almost unanimous about worrying. "There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever," said the Dalai Lama.

Deepak Chopra says the first indication that one is transforming to a higher consciousness is when he or she stops worrying. Small things don't bother us anymore.

I thought of this yesterday when I introduced comments to my blog, and then wrote about the Army Of Good's campaign to buy air conditioners for the residents of the Mansion who do not have air conditioning and need some. I was quite pleased with myself, I've finally identified the residents who need some relief – the sprawling facility is not air-conditioned – and I just ordered the third portable air conditioner from Amazon, two more to go.

I hardly posted this good news before a flood of messages came in via e-mail and comments on my blog and Facebook. It was all well and good to get some air conditioners, but what about the Mansion's electric bill? People were worried about it, very worried. Should they send money? Should I speak to them?

"I think it's wonderful these folks get air conditioning," posted one reader, " my concern is the Mansions electric bill."

Really, what was wrong with me? I wasn't worried about the Mansion's electric bill at all.

We didn't get to feel good about that for very long, or even for a minute. I completely understand that these are good people trying to do good, but I am repeatedly struck by what a worrying nation we have become.

Good news doesn't get to breath for a second before we start thinking about all the bad things that could happen, we seem desperate for things to worry about.

So what are  we worried about? That the Mansion can't afford five air conditioners in a three-story facility possessing the newest wiring and plentiful power, as required by law for Assisted Care facilities? That I wouldn't know to check on that?

Someone else messaged me because she was worried about leaky windows in the Mansion in the winter. I suggested we deal with the summer first.

I didn't pay much attention until I got the 15th or 20th message and realized how strange a person I am. Is that what it means to have a higher consciousness? To be a freak?

I have discussed every room with every staff member of the Mansion, of course, and their maintenance staff, and they delighted and grateful that the Army Of Good is on the march to make the residents feel comfortable.

When all is said and done, I will have purchased five portable air conditioners, and everyone there who needs one will have one.

So I think often about boundaries, and how this new technology erodes them. Good news and deeds, like new ideas, don't get a chance to breathe before they are smothered to death by argument or worry. Something good is merely another vehicle to worry or sound an alarm.

I understand that this is my problem, not necessarily anyone else's, but I do think about the idea that worry accomplishes nothing, and it drains the joy out of life. People are terrified to put photos online of their dogs riding in cars because there will be avalanche of worry about them boiling to death in cars. People dread writing about their puppies because legions of worriers tell them how likely they are to wither and die.

There is much to worry about in our world, and much to rejoice over and the time and energy we spend on one or another is a profound and critical choice in life. I wish to be light-hearted when appropriate and full of joy. Buying air conditioners for these good and sometimes sweltering people makes me happy and grateful to be alive. I will not worry about it.

I choose to be proud that these vulnerable people will be comfortable soon because many of you cared enough to help them out. The Mansion can worry about its own electric bill, if they have any trouble, they will let me know.

Posted in General

Update: The Little Free Library

The Little Free Library

We've had our Little Free Library up for four or five days now, and through my study window, I can see cars slowing and several stopping to study it and figure out what it is. Lots of people in my town are seeing it, many have asked me if I want their old books or their mother and father's.

I can feel the town figuring it out. The bright colors make sure it's notice, and we live on a busy road. So word will get around. A lot of people are also wondering about the Tin Man in the front yard.

We don't really need anybody else's books, we have piles and piles, and the Little Free Library is not about getting rid of old books, it's about sharing the books we have read, and getting some in return.

It's not about getting rid of old stuff, it's about community sharing with books. People take one, and if they can, return another. They don't have to give back the book they took, they can pass it along to somebody else, and give us something new or different.

Earlier this week, I went to Battenkill Books and bought two or three children's books, aimed roughly at 3rd and 4th graders. They were all gone the next day. I didn't see anybody stop, but one of the big ideas behind this movement is to spur reading among children and also adults who have fallen out of the habit.

I am eager to see what they bring back in return.

The people in the Little Free Library community – there are 40,000 in the country –  say it takes weeks or months before people figure out how to use these small and idiosyncratic libraries, especially in towns where they are new.

We are off to a  very good start and everywhere I go in town, people ask me about it. This is a project that really feels good, and I can't think of a better way to grace a front law.

Posted in General

Dancing At The Mansion: Madeline And Door Lisa.

Blue Moon

I was delighted to see Madeline, a 93 year old resident of the Mansion, and Door Lisa, a staffer there, dancing to "Blue Moon" in the activity room, laughing and hugging each other. Madeline grew up in the Bronx, she was moved to an orphanage there when her brother stabbed her father to death to prevent him from harming their mother. Her mother died soon afterwards and Madeline spent much of her young life in institutions.

She is cheerful, alert and loves to sing. Every time I see her, she tells me Red's collar is too tight.  Door Lisa loves to dance, and loves her work there.

Posted in General

The Mansion Air Conditioning Project: Madeline.

The Mansion Air Conditioning Project

I've asked Madeline a dozen times if she wanted an air conditioner for her room, and she has always said the same thing: "no, I don't need one, get one for somebody else." A staffer told me this week that Madeline's room was one of the warmest in the Mansion, it catches the sun all day long, it is on one of the corners.

"She'll never ask for anything," said the staffer, "she's always thinking of somebody else."

I knocked on Madeline's door and asked her again today if she needed a portable air condition. "No," she said, "I was raised in an orphanage, I can take care of myself."

Then I tried a different tack, I was sweating the minute I walked in there, and I saw that she was sweating also.

"Madeline," I said. "Listen, I'm buying you a portable window air conditioner. It's coming in two days. I just wanted you to know.  It's all paid for. And we are taking care of the other people who need one, also, one by one."

I smiled. Madeline smiled. "Thank you," she said, and came over to give me a hug. Then I was told Bill's room on the other side was also very hot, and I knocked and went in and asked him if he needed an air conditioner, I assured him it would be paid for.

He was lying in bed, taking a nap. "I would really appreciate one," he said, quietly, almost disbelieving that it would be that simple.

So two more air conditioners coming, I just found out about these two today, I see I have to work to do, it's not as simple as taking a survey. The people at the Mansion have great pride, they have worked all of their lives and value their independence, they are simply not use to getting things for free. And sometimes, they worry that they will have to pay for the things they get.

It has been more difficult than I thought.  But I am getting there. I am willful.

The Mansion air conditioning project is moving forward, one room at a time. I see I will have to go to each room and ask each resident, it's the only way I can be certain I will get one to everyone who needs one. My sense of it is that there are only two or three more rooms that need one. So I'm ordering two more portable LG 8,000 BTU units.

I learned of one other resident, a woman, who is struggling with the heat. She also told me she didn't need one, but others might.

I have enough money  to pay for these two, if you wish to donate money to support the Mansion residents, you can send a check to Jon Katz at Post Office Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y. Please earmark it for the Mansion Air Conditioners, you can also send a donation via Paypal, my ID is [email protected]

You can write Madeline c/o Madeline,  The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

Note: You can comment on this post by clicking on the heading, or headline, of each post. Thanks, that will take you to a comment field.

Posted in General

Community And The Blog. Today, A New Era. You Can Post Comments Here

Community And Comments

Note: To post comments on my blog, click on the heading (headline) of each post and it will take  you to the message prompt. Soon, a comment button will be added at the bottom of each post. Thanks.

I am always thinking about the blog, and how to make it better and more relevant. Today, a big step: moderated comments.

Today, for the first time since I started the blog in 2007, I am permitted comments on the blog, hopefully starting with this post. The comments will be moderated, I intend to create a safe space, a community of thoughtful people who wish to talk with me and one another without fear of being attacked.

There will continue to be comments on Facebook, as usual, but this is a big step for me, I avoided comments because I didn't want my head filled with argument and other people's thoughts. I have come far enough not to worry about that, and I also see that the blog has become a kind of community all of its own.

Moderated comments mean all comments have to be approved by me, and while that is more work for me, I can do it quickly and efficiently. Hostile comments will simply not be posted, unless there is something relevant and informative about them. People are welcome to disagree with me or challenge me, just not in a hostile way.

In a sense blogs were created to offer refuge to people on the Internet, moderated comments meant contents. A blog is a discussion or informational website published on the Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries, they are moderated, the most recent post appears first.

There are more than 30 million blogs on the Internet, blogs have given rebirth to Jefferson's idea of a flowering of individual voices to protect democracy and freedom of speech. Some of the best writing on the world is now on blogs. The ability to comment has become important to people, it is the essence of interactivity, which I strongly believe in.

My idea about the Internet is that it is my home online, and I don't permit people to be ruder there than if they were sitting in my living room. In a sense, they are.

Social media comments are important, but I find that many people don't read the posts, just the headlines, and it is just too easy for people to be obnoxious or hostile. I can handle that, but it troubles many people. I've gotten messages for years from faithful blog readers who just aren't comfortable on social media.

Thoughtless people have damaged freedom of speech on the Internet, hopefully we can create a safe and meaningful space. It takes some time to do that, I am committed to it. These days, more than ever, we need to be civil to one another. Thanks for following the blog and helping it to grow.

And for joining me on this remarkable journey.

For me, this is yet another step in community building, the Army of Good has convinced me that this is a community I wish to nourish and support, as you all have nourished and supported me, and now, so many others. I won't know for sure that the comment system is working until I post this blog, but feel free to post, I imagine it will take awhile before people figure it out, or have something to say.

There is only one rule for this new community space: no hostility of any kind.

Note: To post a comment, click on the heading of each post. A comment button will be added shortly.

Posted in General