I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again!… Part 7

Notes from In-house exile: Taking Notes on the Plagues Teachable Moments.

April 3, 2020

The Plague as a metaphor for political oppression…

Yesterday I read (after swearing not to) another of those post-mortem analysis of the Bernie Sanders campaign; this time (I thought it would be different) written by a former Bernie “black campaign worker”. I must remind myself that time spent in coronavirus prison is extremely valuable. I promise (again) to not read another: “What went wrong with Bernie’s campaign” article. The problem with all of them is their subtle and sometimes overt disrespect for Black voters. When did Black folks become the “Democratic Party Establishment”? Even Obama was careful to ‘tip-toe’ around any specific Black related issue.

What’s causing our nation to suffer beyond the necessary under this pandemic; and what hurts America in many areas of human life (the part that Bernie and crew don’t get), was not produced by Black voters. Our present national suffering under the rule of a pathological narcissist, and a Republican Party that is slightly better at hiding its malicious-malevolence; was created by large segments of (non-billionaires) white voters, voting to reconfirm that the US should preserve a white-power apartheid structure. In that way they are like those self-destructive citizens who continue to gather in large groups in the midst of a highly-communicable disease.

What the plague has taken away from us—collectively experiencing the live performing arts…

Lynn Nottage: “I love that theaters are getting creative about streaming live performances, but somehow the experience always feels a little like eating food without being able to fully taste it. I miss the visceral experience of sharing emotions with an audience.

So true, (and I would add all live artistic performances), there is nothing like the experience of live theater! The plague in all of its evilness is teaching us a great deal, by what it takes away from us.

We are born to be hunters of the secrets of our hearts;
and the performing arts gathers those sacred secrets for us;
and then presents them to us in the most creatively beautiful way…

But we shall all return, artist and audience…

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again!… Part 6

Notes from In-house exile: Taking Notes on the Plagues Teachable Moments.

April 2, 2020

The confessions of an outgoing introvert…

It’s the not-so-nearness of you that works…

People inclined toward introversion really like people…just not a lot of people, and not too often. When first hearing the term: ‘Social-Distancing’ I thought: how bad could that be? It’s what I always do! But separation caused by a disease is different; for it’s a sad forced necessity for the sake of survival.

“It isn’t your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation, oh no
It’s just the nearness of you…”

Covid-19 has helped me to fully acknowledged my seniorhood, being told again and again that I meet all of the criteria of the ‘high-at-risk’ group. Many seniors were already suffering from a kind of social-distancing in the pre-plague era, and so this mandated social-distancing must be doubly painful. We are also unable to distance ourselves from our collection of memories. Everyday I am thinking and using up my ‘prayer-credits’ because so many of my former students, friends and family members are ‘first-responders’, essential civil-servants and/or directly on the front line in hospitals fighting for all of us…
Could it be that those who resist social-closeness the most, are the ones who feel that closeness the deepest and therefore don’t want to risk losing it?

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again!… Part 5

Notes from In-house exile: Taking Notes on the Plagues Teachable Moments.

April 1, 2020

The plague is forcing us to listen to each other more…

“Who is wise? He who learns from every person.” —Rebbe M.M. Schneerson

A plague offers us the opportunity to learn better and more.
In the pre-plague era I was growing a serious dislike for communicating on the social media site Facebook. I tend to perceive the entire world as one big learning classroom. Meaning, I didn’t like the many anti-learning behaviors I saw on Facebook’s conversational platform. Often when people “responded” to a post, it seems that they didn’t even read the post or the article it was referencing, before they shifted fully into attack mode. I often ask after reading a ‘response-comment’: “Did this ‘responder’ and I read the same post; that’s not what the original posting person said!” Or, perhaps there is that irresistible ugly urge to negatively ‘troll’ or put down another human being, by writing something you would not dare say to their face; at least not without expecting a physical fight as their response!
The question is: “Why can’t we read, study and/or think about another person’s idea; even if we think we disagree with that idea?” But lately it seems that Covid-19, has taken the hostility edge off of a lot of keyboards. Are more Facebookers now listening and learning more? I sure hope so…

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again!… Part 4

Notes from In-house exile: Taking Notes on the Plagues Teachable Moments.

March 31, 2020

Collecting a work of personal art in progress…

“Solitude is the place of purification”—Martin Buber.

Now, I would make a film, but I am not like two of my favorite film directors: Akira Kurosawa or Ousmane Sembène, and so I don’t know how to star in and direct a quarantine-isolation movie. And so instead I am working on collecting a lot of pictures of me engaging in social closeness. Carefully putting these silent pictures together in tender concentrated togetherness allowed them to speak loudly to me without the use of words. These images are very much close and closer memories of the power and sacred purpose of touching. Some of them are people who the plague brought me back in touch with, although I can no longer touch them; seeing them again still touches me deeply.

Quarantining alone under the siege of a plague separates you from other people; and yet it also brings you much knowingly closer to yourself. You are drawn to pay extreme attention to so many of the small taken-for-granted parts of yourself and the world where that self resides.
It’s the separating out of those things that are really important from those that or not-so-important; the constant counting and counting down of life-items that came so easy to acquire in the pre-plague period; “will I run out of…?”
But we are always in a state of running out of something—-time. Ultimately we all die alone, that is with ourselves only, even if two people die at the same moment, or from the same disease, we still only die to ourselves alone.

At the end the still living are in charge of our no-longer lives. This idea leads to the last right operational thought of: “What do I do if I die alone in this place?” And me of course focused on and thinking: “How can I best managed that (the dying thing that is), without being a troubling inconvenience for too many people!” Since life seems to be so hard and complicated, then why not also death?

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again!… Part 3.

Notes from In-house exile: Taking Notes on the Plagues Teachable Moments.

March 30, 2020

“You can come close, but not too close”

“Nothing is too much trouble for love”–Archbishop Desmond Tutu

My entire adult life (except for a small group of folks) I have basically defined ‘closeness’ and ‘socialization’ as service-work: “OK, tell me what you need, or what you need me to do?” As a principal and superintendent my staffs managed the art of getting to the point quickly and without the usual standard/required introductory social pleasantries. There are some bio-historical reasons for my pre-covid-19/life-long social-distancing techniques, but I’ll spare you readers all of the psychotherapist couch chatter.

I think that this is why NYC Chancellor Harold Levy and I got along so well; as he was a “get to the point without the preliminaries”—“Just the facts I need to know” type of guy. At times in my superintendency, by necessity, we had to speak by phone almost every day; but thankfully these were the most “striped-down” efficient and productive conversations I ever had in my life (Michelle Rhee was second and J. Jerome Harris was third; and that’s because I was close to JJH’s wife, and so I always ask how she was doing.) I know Harris and Rhee’s discourse methods drove some people crazy; and even I realize when I employ that dialogical approach it does not always work well in every situation; but personally I love the “no frills”, ‘keep them at a distance’ conversational style…

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again! Part 2.

Notes from In-house exile: Taking Notes on the Plagues Teachable Moments.
(10) March 29, 2020


When choosing is a non-choice…

“The greatest happiness in life is in knowing that others love us, for ourselves, or rather, they love us in spite of ourselves.” –Victor Hugo

Strange how the mind manages the power of choice based on the level of an existential threat. (pre-plague) Every day I wanted the right to be alone, to discourage any forms of random ‘drive-by’ visitations. The “I just happen to be in the neighborhood, and so…..”— Well, just keep on going Mr. or Mrs. Rogers, and don’t stop here! Oh the joy of dwelling in the quiet peace of reading, writing or just thinking , day dreaming, imagining; all without being distracted by a human voice.

I spent the bulk of my adult life in constant communicative service: “ Mr. Johnson I need… Can you…Will you please?” I honor and cherish a life without never-ending verbal request (principals will understand this).
My doorbell was not working for 5 years, which led my (‘can’t by nature and vocation stand broken things’) exasperated fix-it guy to frustratingly say: “Yo Mr. Johnson, let me fix that doorbell for you; I’ll even buy the parts and won’t charge you for labor!”—-Me: “Nope” . No uninvited visitors, everyone must call first!
But these Coronavirus isolation days have changed everything, meaning that I now leap to the door when the UPS guy arrives to bring my Amazon packages and boxes. And even though we both carefully practice safe social/commercial distancing; I am just happy to experience a human face and voice…

I’ll never take hugging, closeness or compassionate touching for granted again!

Notes from In-house exile: Taking Notes on the Plagues Teachable Moments.

(9) March 25, 2020


A work of art and memory in progress…

This pictorial collection of social closeness I am putting together will have to do for now. The Covid-19 virus, like all rabid segregationist is cold and heartless. And so I must navigate this pandemic in mandated aloneliness, and creatively alone. Like my Yoga teacher has been trying to teach me, I can (while doing my daily Yoga practice) now listen intently and intentionally to my breathing, because it is really the only consistent human sound I now hear in my house. Most of the time I just talk and hold both sides of a conversation inside of my head, instead of out loud. Unless of course I end up, as I often do, in a room clueless as to why I am even there. I will then ask the ‘no one’ who is listening: “Now, what did I come in here to do or get?
I like to spend a lot of time alone; but I want my aloneness decision to be my choice, and not something that is imposed on me by either a macro or microorganism. Before the plague there was an option to touch or not touch, and I want that option back so that I can return to a self-determining touching existence…

With Marilyn Nance pre-quarantine days, a real Photography/Artist; I just play one on my blog.

Next: “When choosing is a non-choice…”

Fake praise won’t cure the ‘Mad King’, and it won’t save us; we need science.

I understand (and actually have some sympathy for) the “Jedi Mind Trick Thing” the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General is trying to use on Donald Trump: Praise the ‘Mad King’ so as to limit the amount of damage he can inflict. Dr. Fauci and Gov. Cuomo continue trying to use this same technique daily; and for the most part they are unsuccessful; e.g. Trump keeps holding daily press conferences where he undermines them by providing dangerously bad, wrong and counter-scientific advice to the public.

But the problem with the ‘mad king’ praising and fawning approach, is that basically it does not work; (just ask Jeff Sessions) because (1) No amount of contrived complimenting will cure the king of his mental depravity affliction; that ‘cure’ will require the use of psychotherapy and the removal from a position where he can inflict his psychopathological urges on other people. (2) Faux effusive flattering for deeds not done or done badly, also won’t cure his loyal rabid followers and supporters, (and there are many of them in America; if we are to believe recent polls), of their fervent belief that he has, and is continuing to do a good leadership job in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

If Fox news and other right-wing talking/public communication sources can cite the WHO’s chief , Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (who by the way is a brilliant scholar), as proof that Trump is “doing a good job”; then the majority of those 60% approving citizens who elected him primarily to fight to save white privilege and not a virus, are going to run with every anti-scientific idea he spews at his press conferences, thus making all of us less safe (e.g. like the ‘Easter opening date’ that he has ‘forced’ the Coronavirus to end its deadly work).

History (and the reason we study it in K-12 schools) is a great teacher here. And as many in the past have painfully learned; that living under a crazed and unethical leader like a Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot, means that the ‘worshiping’ method, offered sincerely or insincerely, of a narcissistic lunatic, only buys you time, not a cure. The problem with the Covid-19 virus is that time is an important variable in its ability to do great harm and damage; or, hopefully in time through good scientific thinking and practices, be stopped from doing that damage.

Civil leadership in a great health crises requires both an ethical and wise human being to be ‘in-charge’. Someone who will manage both time, and the finding, by deferring to the expertise of others, the cure for the crisis. This must be done by taking (and sticking to) a path of morality, compassion, civility, comity, science and reason.

A ‘mad king personality’ does not have the emotional and intellectual capacity to engage in those essential good leadership thinking and applicative tooling skills. And so, no amount of strategically cute, undeserved and disingenuous exalting homage heaped on a mad king’s head, will ultimately stop him from doing great harm to large numbers of people; including his most ardent and delusional followers.

“Trump Wants U.S. ‘Opened Up’ by Easter, Despite Health Officials’ Warnings.” But what he meant to say…

Notes from In-house exile: Taking Notes on the Plagues Teachable Moments.
(8) March 25, 2020

“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” ― Horace Mann

“Trump Wants U.S. ‘Opened Up’ by Easter, Despite Health Officials’ Warnings.” But what he meant to say was something else… Despite his support from the faux-christian right wing bigots; he does not seem to be a Bible reader; and his ugly behavior definitely does not reflect an understanding of the foundational tenets of Christianity. Perhaps he is confusing the “Resurrection” with the “Crucifixion”.

Being Black in the ‘stop-the-spread of Covid-19 virus’ isolation mode, feels a little like being Black in America isolation; only the pathogen in the later is racism. Just like U.S. racism will daily/hourly make you exhaustively aware of your traumatized ‘otherness’ and second-class citizenship; Covid-19 is making me daily and hourly aware of its ability to inflict pain, trauma and death on all of us. The Covid-19 virus is a racial sensitivity learning opportunity for our white brothers and sisters…

“I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired”: Being able to choose the very manageable slight discomfort of isolation, over catching and/or spreading the Covid-19 Virus. “I Won’t Complain”: Because there are so many wonderful and brave food service, maintenance, health care, pharmacy, TV, radio, website managers, journalist, educators, postal workers, sanitation, utility workers, fire & police, transportation, etc. people; who are risking their health and lives for all of us every day. The least those of us who can stay home can do to support them is to keep our behinds in the house! Blessing and protective mercies on all who are working in the midst of the plague!

Separate/Unequal and Economic Inequality, even during a plague. It seems that some folks get a sniffle and that same day they get a Covid-19 detection test; meanwhile…This White House has completely given leadership malpractice a work-in-practice example of how not to respond to a viral epidemic.

Genesis 2:18 “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” Got it, but right now I am going to go with the gospel according to the medical science professionals; stay home (alone if you must) if you can, this disease is not playing with you’ll!

Stupidity as an affirmative defense. A core Trump-MAGA club value is the craving and worshiping of ignorance: There is this powerful narrative march away from science, enlightenment, modernity and progress; powered by hatred, anger and a retreat into rabid nativism…

Something to cheer about in this Trumpian Plague season… (“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.” ― William Shakespeare, The Tempest) In November ‘white independents’ (is that like being neutral on the topic of drunk driving), will be forced to show their true hands. Let’s see if white America has learned its lesson, or will the frogs and locust be sent next?