Here is a thought for the day from a reader, Pam Ingram. At the suggestion of one of Slow Love Life's most generous readers (I think of him as a co-blogger), David Terry, I'm going to start culling from the comments section recommendations for books, pearls of wisdom, and other sundry matter. I'll post them widely so that readers who subscribe (and don't see comments) get some of the incredible benefits of readers' responses. (And at a quieter moment I'll go back through the last year for the recommendations.) One of the things I love best about my new blogging life is that I often feel I am eavesdropping on a great dinner party--having planted a conversational seed and walked away, to mix food and garden metaphors. I'm listening to witty, provocative, serious, intelligent, lively and generous people commenting on anything and everything. But I get to stay in my pajamas. We all do!

This quote particularly fascinated me because of the idea of calling someone's "entire way of life into question". It hits at the heart of what many of us puzzle over: where is that line between a way of life that many of us have grown accustomed to, if we are fortunate, a life of comfortable consumerism, versus a life that is profligate, wasteful, careless....Where do we cross the line? Who judges? How? Is it possible to make progress on cleaning up the environmental mess without asking people--ourselves--to make radical change? How did our idea of what it takes to be comfortable change so substantially, from the fifties to now, from what the standards were in our parents' generation?

From Pam: "I read something many years ago by Theodore Roszak that I saved and offer as another element of what draws or repels people about environmental discusssions: 'environmentalism is grounded in a vision of human nature. What do people need, what do they fear, what do they love? What makes them do what they do: reason or passion, altruism or selfishness? Questions like these set the tone and shape the tactics of political action. Start from the assumption that people are greedy brutes, and the tone of all you say will be one of contempt. Assume that people are self-destructively stupid, and your tactics are apt to become overbearing at best, dictatorial at worst. As for those on the receiving end of the assumption, shame has always been among the most unpredictable motivations in politics; it too easily laps over into resentment. Call someone's entire way of life into question-- as environmental activists are prone to do--and what you are apt to produce is defensive rigidity..'"


Anonymous said...

Thanks for quoting Pam, who I thank for quoting Roszak, who I thank for inviting us to realize that the very notion that we are NOT one with each other and with our so-called "environment" is the very birth of dualism.

Whether our current blight of conscious dualism (light/dark; good/evil) was born in an archetypal garden, in a primordial sea or in an evolutionary appearance of a hippocampus or prefrontal cortex, here we are now.

If what attachment researchers have learned in the lab: that accurate understanding (even more than "warmth") facilitates security in children, perhaps we can apply this non-judgmental understanding to ourselves and to each other.

If an optimally functioning brain is typified by discrete and differentiated parts (i.e. thinking, feeling, sensing, intuition) that are subsequently all linked together in a balanced manner (i.e. "executive functioning"), might this not be the model for a a less rigid, frightened and aggressive community?

In order to make our way from the isolation of fear and aggression (which is our most ancient, reptilian brain) to the social harmony of being part of a group one trusts, we need to pass through "love" which just might boil down to accurate understanding (as opposed to judgment, fear and control—which cuts empathic connection and foments anti-social behavior or isolated despair).

Not being understood, even by ourselves, would seem to be well-reflected in the myth of Narcissus, growing roots by the banks of water that he doesn't realize reflects none other than himself—an apt anti hero for clueless times.

To see the entire "environment" (including all the world's diverse perspectives) as a mirror of our true Self might be just the looking glass to get us off our angry, frightened, lonely judging ass and have a lovely loving dejuner together on the grass.

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

All I have to say is that I read your posting and immediately thought "Oh...how embarrassing...I've talked too much at someone else's party AGAIN".

1. In my defense, all I have to say is that I work at home, haven't held a 9-5 "job" since sometime in the first Clinton administration (hence, I don't spend 2 hours, at least, dressing up and driving to&from work, which I gather most folks are compelled to do every day). I also don't have children, my very-interesting&fun parents are in perfect health, all of my dogs are well-trained,and I live in a region which never seems to have natural disasters. ...All of which is to say that I do, indeed, have a lot of time on my hands...(although I sort of chronically&intensely hate the sort of otherwise-mediocrity who coughs up with that snarky line,which is very 6th grade lunchroom-talk).

I also type like the wind (thank you, Miss. Peoples and Mrs. Tomita, my typing and piano teachers during the years when I was pubescing in East Tennessee).

2. It did just occur to me that (as is NOT the case on Salon.com) the names of responders on your blog are cited ABOVE the message. Thus, one can say "Oh...THAT guy again...", and simply scroll down.

3. It is very true, Ms., Browning, that your blog has attracted a great number of astonishingly widely-read and quite sincere folks. As I wrote previously, I keep running across quotations I've never previously heard-of....I mark them down, trace them down on my handy-google, and am grateful for the good advice. It's really a great pleasure....and your blog (like Salon.com) is one of those sites where the comments/letters are just as interesting and invigorating as the actual articles.

4. For what it's worth?....I was at a gallery opening last night and found myself pinned by some couple who knew somewhat of my educational background (I haven't formally taught in at least nine years). And, yes, I got that all-too-usual statement...."All that Education, and you don't DO anything with it!?!?!?!?!?!!!"

As I've done for a long while, I simply said:

"Oh....it's fine....I've always read REALLY quickly and with little to no retention...it keeps my education from becoming a burden"

That remark (paraphrased from one of Flannery O'Connors letters during the early 60's) has served me well for a very long time, and it's probably one of the most un-"slow-love-life" comments you could possibly imagine.

Am I right?

Bemusedly as ever,

David Terry

Flo said...

Anon 2:46, I bow.

Thank you.

pamingram said...


"To see the entire 'environment' (including all the world's diverse perspectives) as a mirror of our true Self might be just the looking glass to get us off our angry, frightened, lonely judging ass and have a lovely loving dejuner together on the grass."

-kind of wonderful to imagine such an affirming and all-embracing picnic. thank you dominique and anon. for challenging us to think beyond the limits of our egos. - psi


Violet Cadburry said...

Awww, Terry, you love it:)

mytwocentsworth said...

The Theodore Roszak statement is right on target. I am trying my best not to leave too much trash in my wake, but whenever an activist gets up on their bandbox and starts raving about what I have to and must do, I can turn them off in a New York second, much less a New York minute. Let's bring folks on board in this movement with less finger pointing and some hard and true facts in a congenial discussion and things might move along a lot faster. You catch more flies with honey.

P.S. Mr. Terry--You just keep on keeping on--you're doing fine in my book. We're both from the same part of the country so I always know where you're coming from.

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