The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Watched Pot

It seems sometimes that Jason has, say, 100 points of discipline, and as we expect more from him, he has to take some from one area to apply it to another. He still wets his pants a little sometimes, and has problems pushing kids at school. When one gets better, the other will sometimes get worse. So I've trying to spend time with him every morning practicing yoga, teaching him to breathe more deeply and slowly, which is incompatible with flash anger. For the potty, I'm giving him a scale from 1 to 10. 1 is "you just went potty. Your body is empty." And 10 is "you're peeing yourself." The rule is that when you get to "4" it's time to go potty. It seems to me that he doesn't have a sense of urgency about urinating until it's too late. So he gets interested in doing what he's doing at the moment, waits until he's at a "9" and then heads to the bathroom...too late.

So far, it's working pretty well. Not perfectly, but what is in this world? Pretty darned good is encouraging.


I do wish that I knew more about economics, to have more of a sense of what is going on. Honestly, I just don't. However, I do know I thought it grotesque when Right-wing pundits were talking about "The Obama Recession" the day after the election. What asses.


On the other hand, watching the chaos in Liberal talk radio, it is clear that something is wrong, but for the life of me, I can't figure it out. Needless to say, each side tries to interpret the failure of, say, NovaM and the implosion of Air America in a way that makes them look good. Here are some of the things said about it on the Right:

1) It's market driven. No one wants to hear Liberal ideas

2) It's boring--all data, no fun.

3) It's emotion, without logic.

4) Sheer business incompetance

And on the Left

1) The stations are owned by mega-corporations that skew Right.

2) Even when they win their time slots, pressure groups sabotage their shows, get them removed.

3) Right-wingers are such failures in other mediums that they are defending their radio turf like cornered rats

4) The Right entrenched itself for decades in radio, and now have roots so deep it is hard to compete.


Now, clearly you have self-congratulatory or blame game explanations going on. But SOMETHING is happening. If I take out the blame, howls of mirth, and self-justifications I might be left with some ideas about how one political tendency denotes a brain that sorts for the visual as opposed to the auditory. I really don't know, but would be interested in seeing some serious, non-politicized speculations. Of course, it could all just be a very temporary statistical blip. But somehow, I don't think so.


It's pretty clear that I've reached the end of one whole way of being. I really don't seem to be able to make progress in any arena without running into serious, deep-seated emotional obstacles. How interesting. So...I have to assume that the right way to deal with this is to simply be ultra-clean and ultra-responsible in any arena in which there is work that CAN be done. The rest of it is a matter of continuing to center myself and do the very best I can, and assume that the next family of change will be totally out of my conscious control.

I remember fifteen years ago, living up in Washington, being at the end of my rope. I was broke, alone, and my marriage had just self-destructed. I had no idea what to do, or where to go. And I remember praying for guidance, for any kind of clarity. And I finally said something very much like: "all right, God. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to do everything I can to move forward and stay centered at the same time. I will blame no one for my problems, and take full responsibility for my life. I'm jumping off the cliff, into the cloud. Catch me, God...or, if you won't, let me hit the rocks without knowing they're coming."

Yeah, I said something very very close to that. Giving up all hope while still working as hard as possible. And out of that, I've built the life of my dreams.

Things are great now, but I have run into walls as firm as those old ones. They do not confine me in a negative space...sort of a gilded prison, in some ways. But a prison, nonetheless. I have to accept the limitations of conscious action, and grasp that the changes I seek will happen in their own time, in their own ways, and I have to be slightly emotionally disconnected from the process. Hard for me. I want so much to DO IT! doesn't seem to be that kind of party. So: work, meditate, love my family, work out...and turn my back on the bubbling pot from time to time. The soul is shy.


Anonymous said...

"The Right entrenched itself for decades in radio, and now have roots so deep it is hard to compete."

Weirdly, that's the argument that the Right uses about non-radio media, and about university professorships too.

It's all whining on both political sides, if you ask me. If the Left thought that it actually had something to say that uncoerced human beings freely wanted to hear on their car radios while commuting to work, they wouldn't yearn for the Fairness Doctrine. If the Right wasn't so generally lazy intellectually, they wouldn't moan about how the Left "controls academia" or the New York Times.

--Erich Schwarz

Shady_Grady said...

I think until very recently the "Left" had lost the ability to connect with people using humor, which is something the Right was VERY good at in the talk radio arena. It was largely ugly humor from my POV but humor nonetheless...

ClearChannel buying everything up also had a lot to do with it. There is no free market of ideas when only a few companies dominate media.

AlanL said...

Interesting on the potty thing. My (five year old) son's friend has a similar issue with his nose - seems incapable of realising he needs a tissue until after he just sneezed a pair of foot-long streamers.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I'm not convinced anyone knows enough about economics, which is quite a frightening thought.

My tentative theory about the crisis is that we're dependent on a huge web of promises that the vast majority of us didn't know existed, and rebuilding trust and trustworthiness is a huge, non-obvious job.


Right-wing talk radio isn't the whole right, it's a particularly nasty sub-group. The "my party has betrayed me" right isn't getting any more air time than the left, so far as I know.

As for brain type, I don't know. It used to be a mystery why the left could write good political songs, and the right couldn't. At this point, the left isn't generating notable songs, either.

One possibility is that it's random. Either you get a few extraordinarily talented people on your side or you don't.

Marty S said...

Steve is always talking about attaining balance in your life and finding your center. That is what the country needs to do. Neither the extreme right or the extreme left running this country is good for it. The country needs to find its center and we all need to pull together to save it.

BC Monkey said...

Recommended book on Economics: Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell.

I took Economics in University, and this is the book I wish they'd taught instead of attempting to apply calculus to human behaviour. Vastly better than any of the economics texts I'd been assigned.

His Website:

Marty S said...

Thomas Sowell is brilliant. I really liked this commentary by him.

Anonymous said...

I once heard a comment that the right thought that everything was OK, so dont change anything. and the Left thought everything was wrong and we needed to change everything. I thought that that was a pretty accurate discription of both sides. Things need to change, just as the left says. But not everything needs to change all at once, and the right can keep it to a more manageable pace.

I guess what I am saying is that we want both the left and the right, and it is good for the nation to have both sides. The left saying "change, change, change" the right saying "stay the same", and meeting in the middle somewhere.

Scott Masterton said...

Steve -

I think you're right on with leaving the next stage of your evolution alone. You have a great personal practice and you probably feel like you're on a plateau right now. George Leonard in his book Mastery reminds us to learn to love the plateau, everything else will take care of itself.


Steven Barnes said...


yeah, I really have to have patience. There is simply no way that I could really break through to my next level without substantial internal re-integration. And a watched pot never boils...

Steven Barnes said...

Maybe the whole thing with Left and Right is just anomolous crap, and it will even out. And at least people aren't dueling and clubbing each other in the Senate as they did in the 19th century. Sigh.

Robin James Burchett said...

Steve, it's not just Jason, it's all of us. Google Ego Depletion.
Essentially, will power functions much like a muscle - use it for one thing and it may fail you when you need it next. The good thing is that it can be replenished and strengthened. Just don't expect to simultaneously quit smoking and straighten out your finances and lose weight...

Jonna Hayden said...

That watched pot...sometimes you just have to live in the moment, on the razor's edge....and wait. There's a current, and it's flowing, and at times you have to just have the patience to let it flow, and not paddle in a direction you THINK you need to go, just because you feel like forward motion MUST HAPPEN NOW! (A lesson I'm learning right now..dammit). And regarding Thomas Sowell, I second and third that suggestion wholeheartedly. Brilliant man.