Family Dinner Update


Maybe the family dinner isn’t overrated after all.

The new word is that the family dinner has been freighted with too much significance. Research was recently published in the Journal of Marriage and Family that challenges the benefit to children of sharing this meal. The new findings will allow busy and anxious parents to relax a little.

Earlier research had seemed to prove that regular dinners played an important role in reducing the likelihood of three things among young people: depressive symptoms, drug and alcohol use, and delinquency. The work of sociologists Ann Meier of the University of Minnesota and Kelly Musick of Cornell University suggests that only teen depression seems to be significantly forestalled by family dinners. They conclude that parents can find other ways to compensate for the rarity of this shared time.

Of course I grew up in a time when eating together except during the school year was what everybody did most of the time. It’s odd to think of it having become so unusual. And in reading this article, I was reminded of a benefit that the researchers didn’t address. It may have been unique to my family, but maybe it’s worth general consideration. Read Full Post »

The Nature of Sanctuary


Millions of pilgrims, now about 300,000 a year, have visited the Sanctuary since its founding.

We keep hearing that the pace of change is accelerating, and the reference point is innovation in technology. A few days ago, however, I had a disorienting experience relative to an historic landmark—the Sanctuary of Chimayó.

As I descended into a new parking lot at the site about 25 miles north of Santa Fe, I realized that something really big had happened since my last visit. The old entrance had provided a frontal view of the rustic little church. Now the approach was from the side and behind via landscaping and construction designed to promote tourism. My friend and I were immediately unsettled by the new look.

The Sanctuary was founded in about 1816. Located in a green valley blessed by beautiful trees and water, it reportedly stands over what was a hot spring that dried up leaving healing earth. Today a sample of that earth, which can be rubbed on the body as well as ingested, is available in a little “posito” in the floor in a room to the left of the nave.

The Sanctuary has a mysterious connection with a church in Esquipulas, Guatemala. In fact, it was officially named The Santuario de Nuestro Señor de Esquipulas. The earth in Esquipulas was also said to be healing, and its church cross is is “alive” with sprouting leaves to symbolize the healing ministry of Christ. The figure on the crucifix is famously black, possibly because it was carved in ebony or stained by the soot of countless candles.

The story goes that a gentleman named Bernardo Abeyta found an Esquipulas-like crucifix on his land and recognized it. According to local legend, he took it home but the crucifix repeatedly returned to the place where he had found it. At that point, Abeyta petitioned to build a chapel on the chosen site, and construction became a community project. Read Full Post »

The Python Is Blessed


A bunch of tuned-up and toned-up baby boomers could be a force to contend with.

The baby boomers—everyone born between 1946 and 1964—has been likened to a pig moving through a python. The marketplace has long been profitably riveted by their evolving wants and needs. However, when the leading edge of this cohort turned 65 last year, panic began to set in. Retired people want less and need more. Uh oh. Time for the ice floe.

I refer to the myth that the Eskimos abandoned their elderly on chunks of ice. The cost of Medicare and Social Security will burgeon over the coming 18 years as the 76 million or so baby boomers inexorably move into retirement, but there is no escape for the python. It will just have to digest.

On the bright side, the boomers have in general been better educated, healthier, and better off economically (before the recession) than previous generations; and they have become accustomed to dominance.  It was assumed that they would transform old age to their liking, and they may yet do so in very positive ways. This demographic is moving into the time of life when the “wisdom” centers of the brain begin fully to develop, and we are at a juncture in history when that could be extremely valuable. Perhaps the nation will be blessed by the aging baby boomers. Read Full Post »

A Fall into Grace


It was like being rescued by a pair of Amazons.

Sometimes a seeming disaster can turn into a blessing. I’m thinking of the fall I took on New Year’s Day that fractured my ankle.

Just a few hours before the accident, I had bid my holiday guests goodbye. After fluffing up the house, I changed into Santa Fe party casual and headed out for an open house. I had never before visited the home of one of the hostesses, and within a few feet of the front door, I lost my balance on a shallow step, raking my hand on the rough wall as I sprawled on the floor.

The bemused guests continued to sip wine as I rubbed my ankle and contended with shock and embarrassment. I felt awkward and old and alone. The end had begun. Read Full Post »

Susan’s Stump


Perhaps the consciousness manifest in the fruiting tree is worthy of a name.

The great mythologist Joseph Campbell often spoke of the consciousness of plants, and a friend recently shared wonderful evidence of such.

The way growing things respond to the sun was Campbell’s favorite example of plant consciousness. We’re very familiar with the sight of the seeking sprout, and I saw a time-lapse video once of the way an entire field of sunflowers tracked the sun’s passage.  My friend’s example, however, is a much more complex display. Read Full Post »

Uncle Walter Speaks


 Economic growth through consumerism does not necessarily lead to happiness—in fact, possibly the opposite.

Interesting how a memoir by a friend’s late uncle, a book by an Australian environmentalist, and an article on psychiatry can converge to make a powerful point: If even more difficult times are coming, they could be very good for us.

I think I’ll start with the points made by the Australian environmentalist Paul Gilding in The Great Disruption. He comes right out and says that we need to get over the idea that our world economy is capable of infinite growth. For one thing, we would need 1.4 planets to sustain the current drain on resources.  (This is according to a research organization called the Global Footprint Network.) Read Full Post »

Sandusky’s Wife


The Sisterhood needs to figure out some way to discipline our own.

I haven’t been closely following the trial of Jerry Sandusky, retired assistant coach of Pennsylvania State University, who has been indicted for sex crimes against young boys. However, like probably every woman in the country, I’m wondering: Where has his wife been all this time? Read Full Post »

A Call for Genius


“Turn it off.  Turn it all off.”

In my last post I quoted Abigail Adams, who wrote to John Quincy in 1780 that “These are times in which a genius would wish to live.” I am hoping that our own times will evoke genius.

But what is it anyway? Several years ago, I was assisting with a gardening class for elementary school students when I heard a memorable explanation. We were on the beautiful grounds of an historic home in Santa Fe, and the teacher was encouraging the students to pay close attention to the way we were preparing the beds to plant garlic and onions. To reinforce the importance of paying attention, she said that Albert Einstein himself had equated genius with nothing more than acute powers of observation. Read Full Post »

Mediacracy Reigns


“These are times in which a genius would wish to live.”

I kind of hate television. Unless something changes soon, I think the day will come when an historian will identify it as a major factor in the decline of the United States.

In fact, I saw this coming more than 30 years ago when I wrote a speech for the CEO of an international manufacturing conglomerate. It was titled “Mediacracy: The Modern Reign of Television. I/the CEO hastened to clarify that no connection with the word “mediocrity” was intended. The opposite is true today.

Even though I still have great memories of watching “Gunsmoke” with my family when television first came in, I’ve never had much interest in it or time for it. I’ve lived very happily without one for the last five years, and Santa Fe is a town where many other people I know have made the same choice. This is a community distinguished by a lot of thinking outside the box, and that seems to coincide with getting away from the box. Read Full Post »

The Eleventh Commandment


“Perhaps Moses did some editing as he descended from Mount Sinai.”

A friend commented recently that she has been amazed at how prolific I am with this blog. Actually, I have more ideas than I have time to handle. Since I have committed to do this, the stimuli are everywhere, something along the lines of “Build the field and the players will come.” This morning a prompt appeared in The New York Times.

In commentary titled “A Troubled Silence,” psychologist and psychoanalyst Richard B. Gartner addressed the reluctance of male victims of sexual abuse to come forward. He points out that “boyhood abuse was not part of the public conversation  until recently.”

At some level, everyone knows that it has existed throughout time, but the scandals within the Catholic Church have given it unprecedented exposure. There may be a collective relief afoot, particularly among women who are very aware of the violations girl children have suffered. Our silent response goes like this: “Good. Now maybe something will happen to end this.” Read Full Post »