Anyone who knows me, my family, friends, and, the kids I work with (even the ones I have recently met), can tell you I hate playing games. It doesn’t matter what genre – board, card, console, computer, puzzles, or even those silly little phone games. Don't get me wrong – I fully appreciate that many folks like them or even love them. Along with the psychological community, who have researched them extensively (in all their forms), I will vigorously defend them, as the perfect tools for some people to learn an endless list of skills. They are just not my thing.
Over the years, I have attempted to decipher why I have this antipathy, and the only solid reason I can determine is the fact that my brain is not capable of holding onto sequential rules or strategizing. Rules and instructions, quite simply, confound me (and honestly bore me) – they are steps that I have to, not only, memorize, but then follow. Pure torture! When Grandma showed me the trick for winning tick-tack-toe, when I was four or five years old, I quickly became frustrated that I could never remember it. I think I accomplished it once or twice in my lifetime, and that was, utterly, random. Any three-year-old can beat me. And, chess, just “Oh my GOD!”
The other piece is that I get, very easily, visually overwhelmed. For that reason, I don’t like graphic novels or comic books, either. I have a hard time interpreting the drawings, and, then, connecting them to the few words the author has chosen to use, to understand the story. Video or computer games provide a similar challenge – there is too much going on at the same time. And, then on top of that, I have to figure out the rules.
Besides all of that, I also stink at spatial recognition. When I was in seventh or eighth grade, we took some kind of aptitude test to determine what field we should prepare for. The only clear memory I have of that exam is sitting and struggling with the part where you had to determine from the five choices (a – e) what an unfolded shape would look like if it was folded up, and, conversely, what a folded shape would look like if it was flat. Double ugh! I got so annoyed and bored that I started filling in random bubbles on the answer sheet. Consequently, when my Guidance Counselor sat down with me to go over the results, his one recommendation was that I avoid engineering. As a thirteen-year-old, I remember thinking, “well, duh, I also detest math, so there isn’t a chance in Hell I am going to pursue that field. Could you please, just, tell me what the test said I am good at?”
It is funny the things you look back on and realize how damaging they actually were. If only I knew then what I know now – that discussion would have gone in a completely different direction. And, as for that guidance counselor – well never-mind. Hindsight is always 20:20, right? What matters here is that as a direct outcome of that test and resulting conversation, I have actively avoided anything that will put me in the place where I have to use spatial reasoning, and, consequently, look dumb. That is, until, two days ago.
I have, for obvious reasons, never had any game apps on my phone. Late Friday afternoon, I was waiting for someone to meet me at the Center to purchase some of the items from our garage sale. I was tired and didn’t feel like I had the brainpower to start the next project on my summer "to-do" list. That is when an ad for a game app randomly floated by my eyes as I scrolled my Facebook news-feed and I clicked on it. What? Really? I NEVER click on ads. But there it was, a seemingly basic game with no rules. The goal is to “dig out” the sand under little green balls to guide them into their designated “hole.” My thought process went something like – “hey, I bet I can figure that out, easily enough.” Of course, there are multiple levels, and as soon as you succeed at one it sends you to the next, as well as the over-the-top ads for other games.
Guess what? Yup, I discovered that I am damn good at this game. It fulfilled my innate desire to solve problems. If I failed the first attempt, I was able to redo it as many times as I needed to deduce what happened and change the way I tackled the puzzle. And, once I figured out one level, I wanted to challenge myself to move onto the next. Let’s just say, in between messaging with a colleague in NH, I spent the entire evening completely caught up in "winning" this game – time disappeared.
I now fully understand how gaming can be so addicting. The lure is two-fold. It hooks you with the challenge – your stubbornness kicks in and you refuse to give up. Then when you succeed at a particular task, you get direct feedback that you are good at that discrete skill, you then feel good about yourself, and as a result, seek out that opportunity again. Case in point, there were a couple of levels that were ridiculously hard; however, I was not going to give up until I figured out the strategy because I thoroughly enjoyed that hit of triumph, every time I got close and then ultimately solved it.
To be completely clear, I still don’t like (most) games. It definitely comes down to the rule thing. And, you won’t find me compulsively glued to my phone, playing “dig it.” I soon discovered that I don’t like the feeling of having time erased from my memory unless it is when I am completely caught up in a project - working on something tangible. You know – like writing, or designing graphics, or talking to kids about what excites them and makes them utterly happy.
The Simple Concepts ...
… kindness, warmth, generosity, neighborliness, and empathy seem to be in fairly short supply these days. Or - are they? No really, stay with me, here, for a minute – what if the spewing of hatefulness, xenophobia, and general toxicity is actually being magnified by a power of 10 by those who benefit from creating and nurturing divisiveness and mayhem?
Think about the people in our community – the folks you meet as you go about your business every single day. Now do a quick review and calculate how many of those encounters are filled with antagonistic, animosity. In my own world, I would probably say 5% at tops. And, those incidences are, generally not face to face, but while driving (people honking aggressively, flipping the bird, etc.). Now, survey the number of negative and divisive posts or news stories and the resulting hostile and belligerent comments you read while scrolling your feeds on social media or news websites. That number for me increases to about 50 – 60%.
And, now, ponder the feelings those stories and remarks engender – anger, frustration, disbelief, indignation, annoyance, and on and on …
I will argue that most of us strive to be, authentically, pleasant human beings – who sincerely want to be kind, helpful, considerate, and respectful - all those simple things. Unfortunately, it is the behavior of the @$$holes and jerks that are magnified and kept in front of us 24/7 that informs our overall depiction of the human race.
And there you have it. Propaganda! Pure and simple! Now, can you understand how every single news story or original post has been intentionally designed to bring forward all the feelings, to make you want to react and to choose a side? Do you see how we are all being played?
And, no, we can’t just blame the media (social or otherwise) on this regrettable truth. It is on all of us – every time we bring the focus to the jerks of the world, by sharing or re-telling a negative story, by expressing a critical comment --- every time damn time we respond, in any way, we are feeding the propaganda monster. And, let's expand that truth to understand that arguing with trolls, whether in person or online does not change minds, it only increases the desire to tenaciously hold onto those opinions.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely appreciate the unyielding desire to express horror and to resist all the crap that is counter to everything we believe in as a compassionate society. However, I firmly believe that by ignoring (refusing to participate) - literally starving them from the attention they seek – we can reduce the negative in the world. Without the “adulation,” the @$$shats won’t have an audience and thereby a platform to share their hostility.
Instead, I would like to think that we could drown all that hate with a tsunami of simple acts of kindness, by building up rather than tearing down, by sharing all of the uplifting stories of love in action - the tales of those talented, generous, and benevolent souls contributing positively to society, and in the process, together, we will all create a world that everyone can be proud of.
DRC as has the license to screen the important new film, Self-Taught. We are seeking a place and time (possibly an event) to share it with our community. Please let us know if you have thoughts on where and when it can be shown. In the meantime, here is a link to their Facebook page where you can find the trailer.
One month to go … don’t miss out! Register here.
My Job ...
My official title is Executive Director and Founder of Deep Root Center – the formal job description that accompanies that particular position is compiled within a three-page bulleted list. Nevertheless, that extensive document doesn’t even come close to describing what I actually do.
My life work, in essence, can be condensed into this straightforward statement: I help young people realize that they are, indeed, utterly and brilliantly, awesome, and that there are no limits to what they can do.
The first step is to listen, carefully. In piecing together someone’s full story, I have come to realize that to thoroughly comprehend and empathize - I need to ask tons of questions, and then focus on their answers with my entire body, as well as my intuition – without judgement. To be clear, I don’t often gain insight after one conversation - no, it frequently takes weeks, months, or even years.
Often times, I learn about all the traumas, fears, regrets, sadness, and why they are feeling disenfranchised and apathetic, before anything else. I hear the powerful truths they have created about themselves to explain and excuse why they are closed to the possibilities and can’t move forward. We all have them – “I am shy, stupid, boring, clumsy, unimaginative, have no interests, evil (yes, I have actually heard that one), etc.” Or, “I have ADHD, ODD, dyslexia, …”
Secondly, I offer positive reinforcement and encouragement – and then, I focus on suggesting various ideas for moving forward, with the full understanding that the person in front of me (whether they are 5 or 75) is completely autonomous and has the right to say “no” to any of my proposals.
As I write this, I realize that it all sounds fairly calculated; in reality, my approach is completely natural and organic. During these formal mentoring sessions and spontaneous conversations, I find myself sharing examples and ideas through humor and story-telling. I am not a counselor following a script. Deep Root Center is not a therapeutic facility. Each and every conversation is authentic, unrehearsed, and focused on encouraging the other person to explore all the possibilities life has to offer, while communicating the reassurance that it is OK to be uncomfortable, to make mistakes, to start something without finishing it, and to make discoveries about themselves that may startle them.
This work fills me up! (Although it is completely exhausting, and I need to take a five-week break, at the end of every year.) Especially, when someone’s behaviors suddenly de-escalate, when they relate that they have discovered an interest - something they really like to do, that, at the very heart of it all, makes them happy. Or, when I hear, “Can I _______?”, and in responding, “yes, absolutely, of course,” in an externally calm and composed manner, find myself doing my internal happy dance. while silently sobbing with joy and relief.
We are incredibly grateful to have received so many donations to our Garage Sale Fundraiser in June. Alas, many items were not sold. We are looking for ideas on how to empty out our now very full garage and make some revenue from it. We have thought of having someone run the garage sale for us for a percentage of profits – selling the items to a place that has an ongoing sale – or trying to sell individual items on FB garage sale sites. If you have a suggestion, or know of someone who could take on any of the above, please get in touch.
The last two weeks of August will be here before you know it! For all those parents who will be headed back to work, we have you covered. Register for our summer programs today.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion. We all have different ideas about how things should be done: however, I firmly believe those opinions need to be grounded in reality.
I will admit, it is hard to determine what is authentic, and worthy of our attention as fake news, “alternative facts,” innuendos, myths, rumors, lies, and straight-up deception proliferate, and bombard our senses, through our personal news feeds.
Beware! Propaganda is the largest and most dangerous form of manipulation. The masses are not always (read: rarely) right. They are all sheep, ebbing and flowing with the tide of public sentiment.
Be skeptical! I will argue that within any big story the facts have been distorted with just enough bias to control an ardent reaction to the issues. Yes, even the reputable news agencies rig the narrative, through sophisticated and calculated language choice and evocative images, to create that all-important emotional response and disguise their true intent.
Dig deeper! Study history! (No, not the fairy-tale version that was written by the victors and celebrated every year.) Probe the side stories! Be willing to research the rest of the tale – the part that was left out because it did not serve their intended purpose. And, as Woodward and Bernstein famously reminded us, while they investigated Watergate – always, always, always follow the money!
To be absolutely clear in my assertions: ignorance (herd mentality), greed, and laziness, combined with a bombastic attitude, used to flaunt bigoted hostility towards various groups (ethnic, political, LGBTQ, religious, etc.) within the human race, is not only ugly, but it is also downright dangerous.
As an autonomous individual, yes, absolutely, your opinion is important and should be heard. Nevertheless, if you have not taken the time to unravel the details, and, as a result, spout misinformation, as well as your contempt and prejudice, do not be surprised when you ultimately end up being on the unsound, and, straight-up, wrong side of an issue, and, in time, history.
Yes, I have finally returned from my multi-pronged, month-long summer adventures. The last leg being at my brother's farm in Vermont to help plant his inaugural hemp crop.
Expand your vision of what education can be ...
DRC is accepting new applications for membership for the coming year. If your child is interested in exploring a different way forward that allows them to be themselves while digging deeply into their interests, within a safe, inspiring environment, please get in touch to make an appointment.
Register your child for the DRC Summer Program, here.
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