Tag Archive for free

Of Marshmallows and Masks

Marshmallow Test

Most everyone in my family, most of our friends, and a lot of our neighbors have received at least one COVID vaccination shot! It is starting to feel like this year-long nightmare is winding down. And we are lucky to live in the right country and in the right state and in the right city where things are likely to get back to normal sooner rather than later. No one can deny that this had been a very difficult year. But part of the difficulty had been our own behavior. It is quite possible that if we heeded the science and recommendations from the doctors (not the politicians), we would have been here sooner with fewer lives lost and less devastation to our economy. So why didn’t we do all we could to arrest the progress of this devastating disease? Why did we take stupid risks? Why did some people refuse to wear masks and self-isolate? Well, consider the Marshmallow Test. In brief, a Marshmallow Test is an experiment that tries to measure the delayed gratification quotient. A child is given a marshmallow (or any other small but highly desired reward) and asked to wait alone in the room with…

Thoughts on Love

dog adopts kittens ABC 15 Arizona

What’s the main difference between humans and other animal mothers? It’s a strange question, I know. But give it some thought. We all watch videos of cute baby animals and their mothers online. We have all seen cross-species “adoptions” — ducks and that raise kittens; dogs that nurture bunnies; even lions that take in baby antelopes to rear. Humans obviously do that too — we love kittens and puppies and other baby animals and routinely raise them and talk about our pets as if they are our children. But there is a difference. And no, it’s not that other animals don’t tend to take on pets — the luxury of sharing food and shelter in the wild is just that — a luxury. There is something else. We have two grown sons, both in graduate schools. Clearly adults, right? But my emotions towards them are the same as when they were but babies. I don’t see adult men, I see the entire history of their lives before me. I hear the cries they made when they fell and got hurt or when they were sick and not feeling well. I remember their outrageous fibs and reasons why they can’t eat…

Schrodinger Moments

schrodinger moments

Schrodinger Moments: During these very difficult (emotionally) times, I just wanted to point out that we all live in-between potentialities, surfing along waves of possibilities and probabilities. And as humans, we really really suck at this.

When do we get our lives back?

Prehistoric Cave Art in France

It is less than 600 hours until the 2020 elections. The last four years (longer, really, due to all of the campaigning for the 2016 elections) have been exhausting. If ever the world needed a lesson about the curse of “may you live in interesting times,” we got it these past years. The pandemic, the economy, the ugly politics all combined to make it so difficult to actually do the things we love to do. The outside world takes so much emotional, intellectual, and physical energy, that there is very little left for creative life, not to mention family and friends (whom we don’t get to see in person until next summer if we are lucky). But it’s important to stay productive. It is important to follow one’s passions, whatever they are. For humans, mere survival has never been enough. We’ve been crawling into the deepest caves to leave imprints of our imagination for posterity for many many thousands of years. Humans are born to create wonders. Here’s an example from almost 30,000 years ago and a mile deep into a French mountain: Clearly, people told stories to each other for millennia and found imaginative ways of saving them for…

Where Can We Go When It’s Savage Outside?

2020-09-09 View from the window into the fire

COVID had us all isolated from one another, the West Coast fire hellscape has us locked-in — can’t even open a window. Instead of fog, the foghorns sing for the smoke swirling around the Bay Area and around the Golden Gate Bridge. Between the politics, pandemic, and fires, it’s easy to get stuck in negative emotions and thoughts. The other night, I was in full panic mode when I realized that there was nowhere I could turn to get a breath of fresh air…not for hundreds of miles! Below is the view from our window last Wednesday, when the skies turned red-brown and ash fell from the sky like rain. I imagine that lots of people find it difficult to cope. But history teaches us that we are not the first (or the last) to enjoy a little sojourn into hell. History is full of unspeakable horrors, and what we need to remember is that we live in the times when horror is more of an exception than a rule (at least in America, at least for the majority). That’s why we are so freaked by horror, it feels like a novelty. The ancient curse of “may you live in…

We are all immigrants in the land of COVID

A masked American family in 1918

I think human souls are tied to the land that bore them, shaped by it, created to fit the terrain, the weather, the language, the culture of the motherland. When transplanted into a new land, forced or otherwise, souls need to conform. They get broken somehow, edges filed away, bones cracked, empty spaces are hidden or forgotten. That’s why it is easier for kids to abandon their old homelands and immigrate to a new homeland — their souls are still flexible. Adults never truly adapt, they are forever broken, torn away from their motherland. And people who leave their birthplaces when they are somewhere in the middle — not quite adults not really children — become strange misfits. On the outside, they look like they belong, but scratch below the surface and there are surprising gaps and unexpected breaks in their psyche. America is the land of broken souls. “First-generation” or “foreign-born” comprise as much as 13% of all Americans (per 2013 census), more than one in ten! In many ways, immigrants are the most vulnerable population — these are the people who will never quite fit into the fabric of their new homes, they will forever remain tied to…

Vaguely Familiar

2020 Corona Heart

The oddness of invisible threat is very unsettling but oddly familiar. If we think back on our lives, we all had periods of time when we were forced into isolation. I can personally think of several. I will list them chronologically. I was five years old when I noticed a bunch of kids playing together in our neighborhood “dvor” — a Russian word of a shared public space created by an apartment building complex that surrounded a little square of green space including a playground. I wasn’t a particularly social kid, but I liked playing jumping rope games and wanted IN. I begged my parents to let me go to a local Kindergarten. Such institutions were set up after WWII all over Russia. The idea was to help single women work and have kids — there were very few men left after the war, “the state was the father.” In my family, we had grandparents living with us, and so it wasn’t necessary to send me away. But I wanted it, got to go…for about two weeks. It was horrible! I had to drink castor oil by a tablespoon and other atrocities. I promptly accused my parents of not loving…