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Category: Mind and Spirit

Spirituality, moods, feelings, and thinking free to live free.

Comfort with complexity, II: Labels

This is the second in a series on freedom and the ability to deal comfortably with complexity. Part one is here. In a couple of recent comment threads (here and here) Kevin Wilmeth lamented dependence on labels and the human craving to identify with groups. At the risk of misinterpreting him, I’ll paraphrase: Labels are limiting because they can never express all the variations that fall within their scope; and our need to identify as part of a group often means we give ourselves permission to stop thinking as soon as we’ve concluded, “I’m an X” or “So and so…


Comfort with complexity

Being comfortable with complexity. It’s something that’s been on my mind for years. But I was reminded of it again after reading an otherwise-sneering Mother Jones profile of the New York Times’s “conservative” columnist, Ross Douthat. Now, Douthat isn’t “conservative” by any standard most folks would recognize around here (federal wage subsidies, anyone?). But what got Mother to ooohing and aaahing is that Douthat is apparently a thinker who is comfortable with nuance and complexity. The writer, Mark Oppenheimer, just could not wrap his head around the idea of a “conservative” who didn’t toe some O’Reillyesque party line. Of course,…


Indy-Pindy: The Liberty Mouse

“In a warm little burrow, deep in the ground, a family of mice had a baby. His name was Indy-Pindy.” By the end of the first page of Kent McManigal’s new children’s book, young Indy-Pindy, The Liberty Mouse, has left his comfy burrow and set off, in the grand style of old-fashioned adventures, to make his way in the world. The first creature he meets is a snake who soothingly assures Indy that he doesn’t need that thorn he picked up as a weapon. “I’m here to help you,” smiles sneaky-snaky Gub. And that gives you a pretty good introduction…


Even kaleidoscope artists are freeing themselves

I’m on a couple of listservs for kaleidoscope builders and collectors. Yes, every tiny interest group has a list these days. In fact, the kaleidoscope world even has its own membership society, which holds regular conventions. As you might guess, it’s been hard times for kaleidoscopes the last few years, as it has for arts and luxuries in general, so the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society has cut its conventions from annual to bi-annual. One of those rare conventions is coming up and people on the lists are talking about whether they’ll be there or not. “Or not” seems to be a…


A question for you: Movies about inspirational people

Somebody asked me yesterday whether I still write movie reviews for the print version of Backwoods Home. Officially, I do (Dave willing). But as a practical matter, I ran out of family-friendly, English-language films of interest to a rural audience a long time ago. P.T., the person who asked the question, hoped I would review biopix of inspiring people — particularly women. Thought that was a great idea. With two reservations. First, most recent biopix (aside from often being about dissolute folk who wouldn’t be welcome on many backwoods homesteads) are just giant mess-blobs. Take movies like “Ray” and “La…


“As a Man Thinketh”

This tiny booklet, “As a Man Thinketh,” (free to read online in various formats from various sites) is more than 100 years old. But I’d never heard of it until a nice guy, A.G., pointed me toward it. There are also print versions, including one transcribed especially for women, which A.G. was kind enough to send me. It’s not very big on how-to. But there’s much food for thought there for anybody who wants to change his — or her! — life, starting from the mind outward. (And doesn’t every author dream of having works in print for more than…


“The perfect is the enemy of the good”

Voltaire, a favorite philosopher, said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” So did Gustave Flaubert. And apparently also Joseph Addison. Plagiarism or just “great minds”? No matter. It’s a fine thought, and I try to remind myself of it when I’m otherwise inclined to say, “Oh, to heck with even trying.” Perfection and procrastination are evil twins. Unfreedom is their kissing cousin. Because we can’t have perfect results, to heck with it; we just won’t bother. This losing game is as true in self-liberation as it is in learning to draw, building a house, running a marathon, or…


Thought for the day: Using our freedom

“To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom.” — Andre Gide Wouldn’t exactly say freeing ourselves is “nothing.” But I suspect Gide meant simply that it’s easier to break free than it is to know how to make the best use of the freedom we win. Seems to me that if we envision first how we want to use our freedom, we’ll be more inspired to figure out how to begin.