Sunday, April 7, 2013

Adrienne Rich

Diving into the wreck is a strange and beautiful poem by Adrienne Rich I also love Margaret Atwood's thoughts about the poem: "The wreck she is diving into, in the very strong title poem, is the wreck of obsolete myths, particularly myths about men and women. She is journeying to something that is already in the past, in order to discover for herself the reality behind the myth, "the wreck and not the story of the wreck / the thing itself and not the myth." What she finds is part treasure and part corpse, and she also finds that she herself is part of it, a "half-destroyed instrument." As explorer she is detached; she carries a knife to cut her way in, cut structures apart; a camera to record; and the book of myths itself, a book which has hitherto had no place for explorers like herself. This quest--the quest for something beyond myths, for the truths about men and women, about the "I" and the "You," the He and the She, or more generally (in the references to wars and persecutions of various kinds) about the powerless and the powerful--is presented throughout the book through a sharp, clear style and through metaphors which become their own myths. At their most successful the poems move like dreams, simultaneously revealing and alluding, disguising and concealing. The truth, it seems, is not just what you find when you open a door: it is itself a door, which the poet is always on the verge of going through."

The crooked timber of self-interest

Anthony Lane reviews the book 'Portrait of a Lady' and talks about why it is such a great American novel. Henry James wrote about "the crooked timber of self-interest in the most altruistic of intentions..." and Lane asks, "Are we all so mercenary, cutting and trimming people, whether unwittingly or by design, to fit the pattern of our own desires? Such are the politics of personhood." I loved the language of the review and the fact that it mirrored the struggle between self-sufficiency and its limits. Here's another sentence that I liked.."and so the book traffics back and forth, with sublime indecision, between the need to stand firm, in Emersonian majesty, and the yearning to break one's pose and join the more crowded landscape of mankind."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Great article on the blame game

From Psychology Today

"In 1967, Watzlavik, Beavin, and Jackson published The Pragmatics of Human Communication, which identified several axioms (i.e., commonly accepted principles) of interpersonal communication and how it works. One axiom, "The Punctuation of the Sequence of Events" (p. 54), provides insight into why the blame game is so common in interpersonal communication.

In reality, relational communication events are continuous; they are ongoing, with no clear-cut beginning or ending. In other words, in the context of close relationships, communication events are continuous transactions, as they are tied to the past, present, and future of the relationship. As participants (or observers), however, there is a tendency to divide communication transactions into sequences of stimuli and response, or cause and effect - to impose our own punctuation on the communication transaction."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

From the Granta 'Money' issue

"In fact the trouble I was having with ethics was that I'd never thought about them before -- in any sense. I had opinions on almost every subject, could argue any position and believed in almost nothing. I grew up, not necessarily with the belief, but with the feeling powerfully impressed on me, that life was a question of surviving, of making it through, not getting caught." - Richard Rayner (Rich, Rich, Rich)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The 'Marginal Cost' Mistake

Prof Clayton Christensen in HBR

"Weʼre taught in finance and economics that in evaluating alternative investments, we should ignore sunk and fixed costs, and instead base decisions on the marginal costs and marginal revenues that each alternative entails. We learn in our course that
this doctrine biases companies to leverage what they have put in place to succeed in the past, instead of guiding them to create the capabilities theyʼll need in the future. If we knew the future would be exactly the same as the past, that approach
would be fine. But if the futureʼs different—and it almost always is—then itʼs the wrong thing to do.
This theory addresses the third question I discuss with my students—how to live a life of integrity (stay out of jail).
Unconsciously, we often employ the marginal cost doctrine in our personal lives when we choose between right and wrong. Av oice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldnʼt do this. But in this particular extenuating
circumstance, just this once, itʼs OK.” The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low.
It suckers you in, and you donʼt ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails.
Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Catalogue of rejected thoughts

"It seems to me that the writers we love most are those who manage to capture something we ourselves have thought and rejected, for being forbidden, dangerous, elusive, something that if we made room for it would undo something else we want to keep, so we force it away—literature as a catalogue of rejected thoughts. For the way they can hold onto what the rest of us would put away as dangerous, they become heroes, the ones who emerge with the one thing we hoped to keep secret, but know we need. When I say to you James Salter is one of my heroes, that is what I mean."

--From an essay by Alexander Chee

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From "In Treatment"- my favourite show at the moment

Just watched episode 16 of Season 3 where Adele beguiles Paul with her analysis of his situation. The scriptwriting in this series is so complex and nuanced that it takes my breath away.

Adele: "The first day I met you, you insisted that you and Gina had it all figured out, that your need to save people started with your mother's illness.."

Paul: "..and does that seem far fetched to you?"

Adele: "It doesn't. But I think caring for your mother was also a way of saving yourself. It was miserable, yes.. but it was also safe and familiar and it kept you from having to find any real connections elsewhere, from risking yourself in the outside world..
And it also had the convenience of allowing you to blame it all on your father.
And it's really not so different to what you do to this day, is it? You cloister yourself in your apartment or your burrow-like office, you convince yourself you're sick, you'll accept a growing paralysis rather than taking a risk and finding where or towards whom your real passion lies.
And is it any wonder you haven't found what drives you yet?
You're 57 years old. And at some point you're going to have to move past the stories you've assigned to your life. These steadfast explanations you've settled on years ago. You have to look at yourself again. For real answers, you have to take that risk."

This is so true for all of us at any age...maybe particularly our mid-thirties and forties. We need to move beyond the stories we have assigned to ourselves and our lives and take at least a few risks all over again.