Why Won’t White Parents Integrate Public Schools?

“We need white parents to want integration for the sake of integration, to really value it as an end in itself.” (citylab-dot-com, 29 January 2018). My answer to Rodney Pierce:

Americans accept a class system for schools, so quality correlates to location in higher property tax neighborhoods and school districts (unlike in France or Finland where schools are nationally funded and staffed so all neighborhood schools are of equal quality). And Americans are competitive and all want their particular children to attend the “best” schools* — (so they can then graduate to become Ivy League trained bankers and real estate moguls like Donald Trump – really rich successes, yea!)… *the best schools parents can get their kids into, which is why a child’s “address” can sometimes be that of a grandparent or other relative even if the child doesn’t actually live there.

The question being asked in this post is: why don’t people who are better off (richer, with more opportunities and higher level networks) make a personal sacrifice regarding their children’s potential future by having them attend “lesser” public schools so as to raise the quality of the student body in those needy schools? I think the answer is obvious.

What we learned from first hand experience (with a non-black child who went to a largely black student-body urban school) is that the single best hope for student success regardless of economic class or ethnicity or race – but most importantly if poor, of the lower economic classes, and often from the black community – is that giving a child a reliable, kind and parents-living-together long-term stable home-life is the key to student success.

While it is true many schools are flakey, bureaucratically dysfunctional, with semi-literate and even incompetent teachers, and idiotic curricula, and a mediocre (and worse) student body (and worst of the worst: demanding, stupid and spoiled brat parents) – it is clear that everyone prefers to blame the schools out of shame to admit the actual problem: an epidemic of dysfunctional family life caused by low-moral-character selfishness by many (millions?) of individuals who abandon their responsibility to care for the children they produce, which can only be done by living thoughtful and upstanding lives in the long term. There is no such thing as a “vacation” from good parenting.

Out of embarrassment about this unspeakable national truth, we all quietly agree to blame the schools for not “post-processing” our children “correctly.” After all, how could it be me/us? If you wait for “society” to finally become compassionate and “accept” your “need” and share your burdens (as Jesus told the rich man to sell his goods and give to the poor), then you will wait till the universe ends, before the schools in America will universally improve. If you can’t wait that long for your children to have a decent chance of getting and succeeding through some reasonably good schooling (or any schooling), then the quickest and surest remedy is to give them a safe, stable and loving home-life. It all depends on how much you really care for the children you’ve brought into this world.

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Rodney Pierce: Point taken. However, I don’t think you completely take the blame off of schools. Yes, home stability and parental involvement are the single best determinants of success, but to dismiss the factor of schools, I don’t think that’s good. It’s like we’re letting them off the hook. I say this as a public school teacher in a largely, rural poor county in northeastern North Carolina. I see the effect of dysfunctional homes on a daily basis, but that doesn’t excuse our role in trying to provide an education of substance for our students. If anything, I think it puts more of a burden on us, as we become in loco parentis according to the law or de facto parents while they’re with us.

Manuel García Jr.: I don’t take the blame entirely off schools, I assign them second place. All the ills about schools, which I mentioned, we experienced first hand. The combination of stupid national and state mandates and required idiotic curricula, and beyond-stupid pacing, all fall squarely on the national, state and local schooling managers (and funding bodies of lawmakers). The idiocies and inadequacies inside the schools fall on the administrators and teachers – this criticism being partially mitigated by the poor funding of schools, and so the low pay does not universally attract the best teaching and administrative talent: Americans prefer to pay football payers millions than to pay real wages – at a Masters and PhD level – for the teachers in public (no tuition) schools. In many countries with rational education policies, schools are treated and administered as a NATIONAL system – this makes all the schools “equal” and their personnel “equally good.”

Finally, despite the disinterest Americans and their corporate rulers have about good primary and secondary education – nationally – there are still an amazing number of teachers who fight these disincentives and who go above and beyond the call of duty to help their students overcome all their life challenges (many of which are unfair challenges for children).

But, it doesn’t have to be this way: first and foremost the parents have to get their shit together and provide a stable home for growing kids into adults (most wildlife – like birds with their nests – do a better job of this than most American parents!). Why don’t they (parents) do this?: because they have never grown up themselves and insist on acting like spoiled brat crybabies, for decades beyond when that should be tolerated.

Second reason why it doesn’t have to be this way (i.e., having “bad” schools): because Americans tolerate a capitalism that finds it profitable to debase American educational systems, and finds it an unnecessary “overhead expense” to invest what is needed to bring up succeeding generations – ALL the kids – to a robust intellectual maturity.

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Marisa Garcia Aoki: While these factors all exist, the biggest problem in the way of solving them is that we (society in the US in general) don’t value any of these things (we say we do, but our actions don’t support the words). I think it’s safe to say most people agree that both a good home-life and good schooling have big impacts on a student’s opportunities for future success, but no one is willing to fund that. In the US, there is plenty of research and parental pressure to “be a good parent” but is there ANYthing in our system that teaches or funds this? We just expect people who live in poverty to magically become good parents when they probably grew up with a difficult home-life as an example. How the heck is a 15 year old kid with Dad in prison and Mom working 3 jobs going to be an ideal parent? And we know that some of the WORST offenses against children come from the foster care system, which is supposed to be a social net to support the kids with difficult home-life situations. It is the same in schools. Research comes out showing something is good. So it becomes a mandate, which by the way has no additional funding, includes no training for school personnel, and has no clear guidelines for creating a path to successful implementation (just a maniacal end goal that we must all reach or fear for our livelihoods).

Basically, the method the United States uses is similar to someone who is overweight and unhealthy, knows they are overweight and unhealthy, wishes it were different, tells himself it needs to change, even mentally blames himself and beats himself up, but doesn’t change any of the circumstances in his life; then is shunned by others for being a failure.

You want to see a change in behavior? Motivation is part of it, but without:

1) a clear plan outlining a step-by-step pathway toward what success looks like

2) a social network of support (see Japan’s way of using lesson study for teachers to collaborate and learn from each other). This also includes the room to fail without fearing for your livelihood – instead there should be a system of supporting that person to do better in the future (embedded into the social support mechanism). Think about it – a gym would never survive if it found out a member went on a binge and ate 2 pizzas by themselves, and then kicked them out…

3) funding and time to make this happen. As a teacher, I do care about doing my best. I actively work towards learning new things to make myself better at my job. But I have to pay for all of that myself, and NONE of it is getting counted on my pay scale. I would LOVE to get a masters degree. But I can’t afford it – not the money or the time – because I work ALL. THE. TIME. And I still get paid less than starting wages of the jobs I could get if I instead went into the field I am teaching!

So the problem isn’t discovering the problem. The problem is that we aren’t willing, as an entire group of concerned citizens of this country, to put into place the systems that make the necessary changes a possibility. Instead, we want individuality and capitalism to rule. So we keep blaming and complaining and the few rich jerks who believe that they deserve their billions of dollars because they are better/smarter than everyone else get to call the shots. (Because let’s be honest, what we call democracy is just a puppet show run by a machine of money). And why would they want anything to be different?

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Message #1 to a Young Artist

I want to commend you (give you praise) for your resolve to study deeply, even if that means taking “hard classes” with “lots of work.” Any creative person who produces worthwhile work is a person who has studied deeply, whether formally at a school or independently and intuitively by conscientious practice (or both). Good and great work comes out of a prior build-up of deep study. On a simple and practical level it is best to get as much “learning” as you can out of a school you are paying to attend. But beyond that, it is artistically and intellectually most beneficial to gain as much information, insight and understanding as possible about your chosen craft, and about the history of the culture you come from and the society you are living in, so your knowledge has depth, which will be the well from which you will draw the elements of your future creative works. When you remain committed to this “career” of study, and focussed on your personal artistic (and intellectual) vision, you will be able to move through your schooling (and life) with greater ease even as friends and acquaintances drop in and drop out of your social circle: you will be able to navigate beyond others’ dramas with less distraction and damage to yourself, and you will find that there will always be new and delightful people who can come into your life without being clingy drags. Over time, the experiences (both good and bad) you gain from your self-motivated course of study and practice build up as a growing fund of wisdom, which improves your ability to continue navigating your voyage through life, and improves your ability to create finer art. I am writing you this because I do not want you to get discouraged by the loss of friends, and the fleeting nature of many seemingly close friendships. There is no blame, just the unknowable chaos of the flow of life. Be happy in being immersed in your learning and in doing well in your creating. Love.

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For Message #0 to a Young Artist, see:

Art versus Stomach
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2018/01/29/art-versus-stomach/

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Art versus Stomach


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Art versus Stomach

Whether an artist will have enough means to buy the next meal, and subsequent meals, depends on how much editing and limitation of his artistry he is willing to accept. If your aim is to produce the greatest and most refined art you are capable of, then you cannot expect to capture a sufficient audience to meet your ego’s hopes for approval and enriching rewards, nor your metabolism’s need for its necessary nourishment. This is the eternal conflict between art and commerce, between fulfillment and popularity. Committed genius is more likely to die of an empty stomach, than a reliable hack is to want for a full belly. A happy artistic life is one that strikes a balance between the extremes of: an isolating commitment to the compulsion for creating excellence, versus the popular mediocrity of a comfortable prosperity.

28 January 2018

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Spanish Guitar Music

This essay is at best only a fragment of the enormous topic of “Spanish Guitar Music.” I wrote it for the benefit of two music college students: “Mister Iceland,” a guitarist, and Ella García, a classically trained soprano who is also a student of song-writing and arranging. This is not a scholarly article, just my own thoughts about music I have heard and enjoyed. First, I will describe a few of what I consider to be the essential pieces and forms of the Spanish guitar repertoire, then I will describe a modern American composition that I see as having many features of classical Spanish guitar music. I refer to examples posted on YouTube as music videos. Enjoy.

Romance de Amor – Vicente Gómez
https://youtu.be/rf3MLp98J_c

“Romance de Amor” is anonymous, and the best known Spanish guitar piece. Vincente Gómez added a slower intermediate section (or, an introduction), making for a better piece. The sheet music for this piece is in his book of 14 guitar pieces, “Vincente Gómez Guitar Album,” published by Belwin Mills Publishing Company (Melville, NY), 1980. A number of the pieces in Gómez’s book have a flamenco sound, all are pure Spanish and very good. I highly recommend this book to any serious student of the guitar, especially any student of classical guitar music and playing technique.

Leyenda (“Asturias”) by Isaac Albéniz – Andrés Segovia
https://youtu.be/lCeebWgjrrU

Segovia is the founder of modern classical guitar. He made many transcriptions of Baroque and Classical pieces for the guitar. He used to say that J. S. Bach really “intended” his pieces for guitar; Segovia’s way of saying the guitar was a natural instrument for contrapuntal music. “Asturias,” by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) was originally written for the piano. Asturias is a province on the north coast of Spain (where my paternal grandfather came from), and this piece, “Leyenda” (Legend), was one of a number of pieces in Albéniz’s piano suite evoking the different regions/provinces of Spain.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra, played by Andrés Segovia
https://youtu.be/sdaPoUNk5R8

“Recuerdos de la Alhambra” (Memories of the Alhambra), by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), is my favorite Spanish guitar piece. Tárrega was 44 years old when he wrote Recuerdos de la Alhambra in 1896, 3 years after Andrés Segovia (1893-1987) was born. Tárrega was a master guitarist and composer who (like Segovia later) elevated guitar music and guitar playing to a sophisticated and refined “classical music” form of art. To many in the 19th century, guitar music was considered only peasant and street music. Francisco Tárrega, Fernando Sor (1778-1839), and perhaps a few others championed the guitar as an instrument of refined art, and Segovia carried on that effort after Tárrega.

Flamenco – Manitas de Plata (1955?)
https://youtu.be/TtRPIdfLlTA

Manitas de Plata (1921-2014) (Little Hands of Silver) was a Roma (“Gypsy”) flamenco guitarist born in Southern France. This video of his first TV appearance shows him before his subsequent international fame and pop-star status. This short video (which has too long a gap of silence at the start) shows several flamenco guitar techniques: four-sequential-finger strums, arpeggios, and drumming by tapping the guitar top. It is evident that Manitas de Plata had great facility and a fluid style of playing. This guitar music is improvisational within a variety of general forms, some “fast” and some “slow.” On one occasion in 1964, Pablo Picasso heard him play and afterwards took Manitas de Plata’s guitar and drew pictures of a picador on it (raising the value of that guitar considerably!). I noticed that there are no pictures on Manitas de Plata’s guitar in the video linked above, but there are on the video linked below.

Manitas de Plata (on TV), 1967
https://youtu.be/JgXAffJs_fU

Manitas de Plata (born Ricardo Baliardo) was a phenomenon on the Riviera, and he gained worldwide fame with the release of his 1963 recordings in Arles, France, produced by the Phillips label and distributed in America in 1967 by the Connoisseur Society (of New York). These recordings preserve the sound of authentic flamenco musical performances (“unplugged”) as had been heard for centuries, before the advent of elaborate studio electronics and recording professionalism. The Connoisseur Society double album of Manitas de Plata’s live open-air recordings included selections with vocals, the canto hondo (deep song) of flamenco music. Here is one example of these Manitas de Plata sessions.

Manitas de Plata, 1963: Malagueñas Flamencas – Recorded at Arles, France, October 1963
https://youtu.be/QKrmbrnvgXM

La Verbena de la Paloma – En Chiclana me crié
https://youtu.be/U7JaUH8uxDg

This video (just above) has no guitar, but the piano music heard at the beginning could easily have been performed by a guitarist in real life. This scene is from a 1960s Spanish movie of one of the most famous and popular Zarzuelas (Spanish operettas), La Verbena de la Paloma (a feast day for the Virgin Mary, which is also an occasion for festivals). This scene evokes the type of gathering, with music (usually guitar), dancing, singing, and food and wine, that was “of the people,” that is to say popular, not theatrical (in real life). This scene is set in the 19th century, and shows how most people of the time – who were workers and peasants, not wealthy, nor city sophisticates – actually made and enjoyed music.

The woman lead performer singer and dancer (Concha Velasco) is playing an unmarried and very popular young woman who is pursued by a handsome, young and poor man, and also by an old druggist (apothecary) with “plata” (silver = money); and she sort of plays one against the other (a conflict of: love in poverty versus amicable loveless security).

Her song “En Chiclana me críe” (I Was Raised in Chiclana) is about her pride of being from her native village and region (near the ancient city of Cádiz). This song has the intensity of flamenco song but without the roughness of pure street flamenco; it is more polished here as a musical theater/operetta song. Much of flamenco and Spanish-style guitar music originates from this type of popular entertainment. The rough equivalent today would be acoustic guitar music with a beat that could simultaneously be sung to and danced with. The young ladies (and the hapless man-hero) in the video have operatic voices, while the old folks are invariably vocal music comics, who are always included in Zarzuelas, which were from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Fernando Sor (1778-1839) – Seguidillas
https://youtu.be/QGrtstwp8Qk

This video shows the performance of three seguidillas by Fernando Sor (1778-1839), who was 22 years younger than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The performance duo are one guitarist and one soprano who, in this case, were students at the San Francisco Conservatory in 2017. This is genteel music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, yet it still “moves” as you can easily hear in the guitar accompaniment. Segovia played and championed the music of Sor as part of his promotion of “classical” guitar. The major progression of such well-known classical guitar players/champions being (from the 18th to 20th centuries) Sor, Tárrega, and Segovia.

Infinitesimal – Perfect Aquarium
https://youtu.be/pruWXs6ckak

To my mind, the 2015 American song composition, “Infinitesimal,” is a modern version of seguidillas. Liam Hardison (the Spanish-style guitar player) uses numerous features of Spanish guitar music, and techniques of Spanish guitar playing: flamenco strums, classical style arpeggios, and the counterpoint of a thumb-played bass-line accompanying the four-finger plucking of a treble line with arpeggios and tremolo.

The vocals on Infinitesimal are in a classical (Bel Canto/operatic) style, but with also a small hint of canto hondo, the flamenco “deep song” vocalization style that originally came from the Moorish-Arabic influence on Spain during the 8th to 15th centuries, of long unbroken lines of melismatic chants, which in flamenco are sung extremely emotionally, roughly and horsely, something like melodic primal scream.

What is not included in this particular recording of Infinitesimal is the guitar-drumming that is typical of flamenco, and is also used in Cuban country-style guitar playing (used to great effect by Rafael Cueto of the Trio Matamoros – described elsewhere on my blog). Another excellent feature on this recording of Infinitesimal is the percussion, which adds an exotic flavor that I think of as a mix of Arabic-Moorish and African spicing to a Spanish musical broth.

I don’t know if the young people who composed and performed Infinitesimal knew of the Spanish forms and influences I have mentioned here, but there is no question in my mind that Liam was throwing in all the idioms of Spanish classical guitar music that he had learned in his musical education up to that point. This song is the only one of its kind on the album, “Perfect Aquarium,” which is otherwise a contemporary Art-Rock album. So, I think Infinitesimal is a modern accidental seguidillas, a composition formulated by osmosis from what the band members had heard and played during their prior schooling, and not as a product of their intentional musicological research.

Also, I think Infinitesimal is very good in every way.

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About Perfect Aquarium:

“Perfect Aquarium” album (9 songs) released on September 3, 2015
https://perfectaquarium.bandcamp.com/album/perfect-aquarium

Perfect Aquarium (the band):

Liam Bernard: Lead & Classical Guitar
Ben Saldich: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Isaac Roth: Bass, Vocals
Frank Klopotowski: Drums, Vocals

Vocals on “Infinitesimal” by Ella Garcia

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Maybe “Mister Iceland” and Ella will come up with their own seguidillas, as music for our time.

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ALSO:

27 January 2018 is the 262nd birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most sublime personifications of the voice of the Universe, and a gift from it to the Ages.

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Trump’s Swamp

Donald Trump is a bigot, liar, thief, coward and crybaby. The first three are standard for USA Republicans today (the political descendants of Ronald Reagan, the neocons of the Bush II Administration, the populist white supremacy idiots of the “Tea Party,” and also Trump’s fan-base of fearful failures hiding behind their threat displays as Neo-Nazis and closeted Ku Klux Klan wizards).

On his own, Trump is pathetic. The only reason he seems capable of advancing his menacing intent is because he manages to get many willing enablers from the technical, legal, financial and political professions, who see him as a convenient avenue, or public distraction, allowing them to advance their personal ambitions for swindling the public.

Few in this pack of jackals have any respect for Trump, they see him as an idiot, but a useful one. For them, he is at best a child who has stumbled into power, and they must thread a knife-edge path between pushing back against Trump’s chaotic tantrums, and meekly serving his whims with humiliating obsequiousness, in order to preserve the viability of their own intrigues.

Trump is a coward because he needs his pack of jackals to compensate for his fear and incompetence – he cannot do anything for himself, nor face challenges alone – and he is a crybaby because he needs his jackal nannies to maintain his infantilism as a geriatric spoiled child who wants endless indiscriminate loving approval.

While Trump, and his enablers, are certainly useless for the public good, the deeper societal tragedy is that so many Americans, high and low, are so eager to jump into the whirlpool of corruption whose public persona – at the moment – is Donald Trump. It is the willing ignorance and failures of moral character that so many Americans disrespect themselves by carrying on, which provides the hot air to inflate the pestilent bubble of the Trump Administration. Trump is not an anomaly, he is representative of a large and chronic abscess in the American national character.

The most important step to cleaning out that abscess and deflating the power of this pathetic persecutor is to stop thinking of yourself as a helpless victim, and/or to stop acting as a knuckle-headed bigot and simpleton enabler, by having the grit to expand your mind with critical thinking and to develop a robust moral character. Such self-development will lead you to possess the inestimable treasure of a true and enduring self-respect. It is the solidarity between people such as these that can expand into a real social revolution, and the eventual sloughing off of parasites like those crawling around in Trump’s swamp.

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Anti-War and Socialist Psychology Books and Movies

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Anti-War and Socialist Psychology Books and Movies

On 24 November 2017, Amanda Almanac McIllmurry posted a request for: “Any suggestions for ‘socialist’ psychology books that are easily digestible [for a young student interested in becoming a psychology major]? Also, any suggestions for books with a leftist analysis of the military, which a teenage boy that’s super into the idea of joining the Army could read” [and reconsider such a choice.]?

Here, I have pasted together my various answers (from 27 November 2017 and 22 January 2018) to Amanda’s query (which I think is very important).

ANTI-WAR:

“Dispatches” (1977) by Michael Herr. This book was called the best “to have been written about the Vietnam War” by The New York Times Book Review; novelist John le Carré called it “the best book I have ever read on men and war in our time.” Michael Herr co-wrote the screenplay to the movie “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) by Stanley Kubrick. (See the wikipedia article on “Michael Herr”). I would also recommend the movie “Sir, No Sir!” (2005) about the anti-war movement (resistance!) within the armed forces during Vietnam War. You can find it on-line. The ultimate anti-war movie of my lifetime is “Hearts and Minds,” (1974), which is a masterpiece by Peter Davis (and won an Academy Award in 1975!). You could ramble through my huge web-page called “Haunted by the Vietnam War,” which is on my blog (manuelgarciajr.com), and which lists many links to books and videos (and probably gives links to the movies mentioned here).

“All Quiet On The Western Front,” a classic of 20th century world literature, and also made into a great movie, starring Lew Ayres (a pacifist). Another world-treasure movie to put you off war is Jean Renoir’s “Grand Illusion.” Both these movies are from the 1930s, when the bitter memories of WWI were still very fresh. Since both are masterpieces, they have been restored in recent times, and look and sound good (and on DVD). Modern movies that could put you off war are MASH (1970), but it has so much humor that some might miss the anti-war basis of the film (I sure didn’t in 1970!); and “Full Metal Jacket” by Stanley Kubrick (about the Vietnam War), but the violence in it might be a bit too much for the young. For Americans today, I think the all-time best anti-war film is the documentary “Hearts and Minds.” It is THE BEST film about the Vietnam War, and was released in 1974, while the war was still in progress. I just saw it again a few weeks ago; incredible. What is so compelling about it is that almost all of it is the telling of first hand experiences of soldiers who survived (not always intact). It just so happens I took a Vietnam Vet friend of mine to the V.A. hospital today, for a pre-op medical visit. There were numerous patched-up survivors of military “service” (use) in the hallways. For a combination of humanizing psychology and overt anti-war basis, see the movie “Captain Newman, M.D.,” (1962) which stars Gregory Peck, Angie Dickinson, Eddie Albert, Tony Curtis, and Bobby Darin (in an amazing performance). Capt. Newman tries to heal soldiers from PTSD, and he hears about what gave them PTSD. Once “cured,” they’re shipped back out into action. This is a great film, a total anti-Rambo.

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SOCIALIST-PSYCHOLOGY (E-Z):

This is harder for me to find. Reading numerous titles by Chomsky, Balzac, Alan Watts, Hannah Arendt and C. G. Jung would be a bit much for a teenager or young college student. I would suggest “Man’s Search For Meaning” (1946) by Viktor E. Frankl, one of the supremely inspiring books of the 20th century – easy to read, yet causes much thinking; written by a psychiatrist based on his personal experiences in survival. I wrote an essay on this idea of “socialist psychology” and survival, called “Epiphany On The Glacier,” which is also posted on my blog. I give references to a number of books (including Frankl’s) that helped me present the main concept. My essay is presented as an adventure story of survival in the snowy wild.

The psychology book I enjoyed most is more of a philosophy-autobiography book, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” by Carl Gustav Jung. It’s not hard to read, nor too long, nor preachy nor text-booky, and it has the virtue of being quite different than the usual orthodox psychology books. But I can’t say it’s overtly leftist, though it is intended to be very humanizing. I, personally, found it fascinating and have read it several times. With Jung, it helps a lot if you also have a very strong interest in Taoism and Buddhism (and Asian philosophies, generally).

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The photo is of John F. Kennedy’s grave in 1964. I took this photo while on a class (school) trip.

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Repression Envies Freedom

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Repression Envies Freedom

Happiness in life comes
when you stop seeking approval
and calmly accept being a transparent failure,
while continuing with your art.

For a poet,
art comes before love,
and love comes before food.
For a mother,
food comes before love,
and loves comes before art.

Repressed people resent
those who live freely.
Happy people are untouched
by those who resent freedom.

A happy life is a free one.

17 January 2018

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