Posts Tagged ‘the sun magazine’

Quote of the day: INITIATION

July 24, 2015


The biggest single reason our culture views death as unimportant is that we don’t practice any childhood-ending rituals. When there’s no initiation into adulthood, death cannot assume its rightful place in a culture…An initiation is a person-making event, which means the cultures that practice initiation don’t see children as people. Children are hugely important. They are a privilege and a joy and bestow richness by their presence. But in these cultures they aren’t understood to be full-fledged human beings, because a human being is a participant in the back and forth of life. Children are no capable of that. A child’s job is to be self-absorbed. And for them to become adults, that self-absorption has to be killed off, because nobody gives up childhood willingly, certainly not here. Hence you encounter fifty-five-year-old adolescents everywhere you go.

Childhood gets killed off in initiation ceremonies. Overtly that is achieved through isolation and fasting and darkness, but covertly it is by the purposeful and skillful introduction of the child to her or his personal, meaning-burdened death in a ritual guided by older people whose lives have prepared them for such moments. Through the ceremony, the awareness of death, its meaning and justice, is granted to kids. It’s not what they were seeking, but it’s granted to them. It’s like a nuclear bomb goes off, and childhood does not survive the radiation. It cannot, because childhood is predicated on everything lasting as long as we want it to, and nobody who loves us ever leaving, and so forth.

If the initiation is successful, you come out of it able to see the centrality of death in life, which is the beginning of your capacity to participate deeply in the indebtedness that is the basis of all real culture. This is not macabre. It’s not fatalistic. It doesn’t legitimize people committing suicide. I sometimes get those responses from people who’ve had no initiation. Their objections arise from the idea that life is not supposed to be burdened by the awareness of death, but everybody who’s been through an initiation knows that death doesn’t burden your life. It animates your life. The centrality of death gives you the chance to live, because it says, “Here’s the bad news: it’s not going to last. And here’s the good news: it’s not going to last.” You can choose how to take that. You have the opportunity to sink both heels into the soil and say, “Here I stand, and while I do, there are things I can do.” The news of your imminent demise is enabling, when all is said and done.

— Stephen Jenkinson, interviewed in The Sun


Quote of the day: KIDS

March 6, 2014


There’s something I have said so often to my children that now they chant it back to me: “You can do hard things.” I sent my kids to a Montessori preschool, and thank heavens I did, because most of what I learned about parenting came from those wonderful Montessori teachers. They straightened me out about self-esteem. There’s this myth that self-esteem comes from making everything easy for your children and making sure they never fail. If they never encounter hardship or conflict, the logic goes, they’ll never feel bad about themselves. Well, that’s ridiculous. That’s not even a human life.

Kids learn self-esteem from mastering difficult tasks. It’s as simple as that. The Montessori teachers told me to put my two-year-old on a stool and give her the bread, give her the peanut butter, give her the knife – a blunt knife – and let her make that sandwich and get peanut butter all over the place, because when she’s done, she’ll feel like a million bucks. I thought that was brilliant. Raising children became mostly a matter of enabling them and then standing back and watching. When a task was difficult, that’s when I would tell them, “You can do hard things.” Both of them have told me they still say to themselves, “I can do hard things. It helps them feel good about who they are, not just after they’ve finished, but while they’re engaged in the process.

— Barbara Kingsolver, interviewed by Jeanne Supin in The Sun

barbara kingsolver

Quote of the day: PARENTING

December 1, 2013


You’ve said that couples focus too much on children in the United States, elevating their position in the family.

I’d say it’s an issue in the West in general, not just in the U.S. Never have children been so central to a marriage or so sentimentalized as they are today. Children used to provide us with their labor; now they give us meaning. They used to be an economic asset; now they’re an economic drain. Parents feel a need to participate in the child’s every activity, so there’s no space for the adults. Why can’t the children go to their sports practice alone? Does every parent have to stand on the sidelines and applaud each time the little Smurf touches the ball?

            I’m convinced this overwhelming focus on the children hurts the parents’ relationship. Fifteen years ago I wasn’t hearing couples say that they hadn’t gone out on a date in three years. This nonstop child-rearing sucks energy from the union. Women have long known that parental responsibilities decrease the erotic charge. Some couples can re-create that space for themselves when the kids leave home, but some cannot. So at this point we have three marriages: one before kids, one with kids, and one after kids. It’s not possible to have a model in which parents are available to their children to the degree we demand they be today and be emotionally available to each other in a romantic way. There needs to be a balance.

Moms and dads fear they’ll be bad parents if they don’t do every last thing they can for their children.

Yes, and God forbid my kid would feel bad or frustrated. What I’m seeing already in the younger generation of couples is that they are losing their desire for each other earlier and earlier – because if you haven’t known frustration, it’s harder to know desire. You need to not have in order to know what it’s like tow ant. We are raising a generation that has been protected from feeling bad. We used to believe frustration was part of growing up, that it built character. Now no one is left out of anything. Everybody gets a trophy at the end of the game.

            I’d be the last one to say that the previous generation was glorious, but we can see that certain child-rearing practices have their consequences – for the children and for the parents. Many couples with children aren’t closing the bedroom door. They’re expecting the kids to walk in. They have monitors so they can hear the little ones in their cribs at all times. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to say no to their kids; they shouldn’t be afraid of tantrums. Kids should be allowed to feel bad. it’s how children learn to be healthy adults. And parents shouldn’t feel guilty, thinking that every time kids feel bad it compromises their self-esteem.

— Esther Perel, interviewed by Mark Leviton in The Sun


Quote of the day: ADVICE

June 9, 2012


“Never leave in a hurry,” my older brother told me. Whenever he left in a hurry, he explained, he’d always forget something: his gloves, his checkbook.

The notion probably came from family vacations when we were children. Each time we left town, our father would drive slowly around the block while we all thought about what we might have forgotten. As we came back by the house, someone would always run in t grab a swimsuit or let the cat out.

At our family cabin I was usually the first one in the car when it was time to go home on Sunday afternoon. Once, however, when I was ten, I stayed behind to help my mother pack while the others went ahead to the car. The record player was on, and I set the needle down on an Andy Williams album to play my favorite song, “A Fool Never Learns.” I proceeded to dance around the room. To my surprise Mom dropped what she was doing, and we hopped and spun together, just the two of us, laughing and singing, all because I hadn’t been in a hurry to get home.

That advice has proved useful to me as a photojournalist. I make it a practice to linger awhile after an interview and chat about the news of the day. Many times, by staying a few extra minutes, I get that golden quote or clock off a candid shot that ends up being the best.

— Terrell Williams, “Readers Write,” The Sun

Good stuff online

August 14, 2011

In my ongoing effort to catch up with back issues of The Sun, I’ve gotten to last month’s, July 2011, which has two extraordinary pieces to recommend.

One is a long interview by Tracy Frisch with psychologist Gail Hornstein, who challenges many accepted assumptions about psychiatric patients and encourages a more open-minded inquiry into what causes mental illness and how people get better. Hornstein wrote a beautiful biography of maverick psychiatrist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann called To Redeem One Person Is To Redeem the World, which had a big impact on me. She created the Hearing Voices Network, an international organization for people with various psychiatric diagnoses (mainly schizophrenia) in which empathy and nonhierarchical interactions supplant diagnostic labels and the traditional doctor-patient relationship. It’s a philosophy of treating that calls for tremendous patience, listening skills, and a level of mutual respect not often found in the medical profession, sad to say. You can read some of the interview online here.

Poe Ballantine, one of my favorite frequent contributors to The Sun,  contributes an autobiographical essay called “Guidelines for Mountain-Lion Safety,” in which the instructions that generate the essay’s title double as life-learning for his son (and any picked-on kid) for dealing with bullies:

If you encounter a mountain lion:
• Don’t approach it.
• Never turn and run.
• Face the lion and stand upright.
• Try to make yourself look as big as possible.
• Some ways of looking bigger is [sic] to open your jacket, hold up your pack or bicycle.
• Throw rocks or sticks at the lion. Yell and make lots of noise.
• But if you are ever attacked, your best chance is to stay on your feet and fight back. These tactics will usually convince the lion that you are not prey and make it run away.
• Leave the animal an avenue of escape.
• Report any mountain lion observations.

You can read a long excerpt from the story online here.

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