Category Archives: self-full filling proficieso

Introducing Blossom

blossom

blossom

We have a new dog! Her name is Blossom. She is as beautiful as a flower, but looks can deceive. It didn’t take long for us to deduce that Blossom is a Hound in Lab’s clothing, perhaps even a Plott–the so called ninja fighter of the dog world. I got my first inkling, when I noticed that the growth of her head was not keeping pace with the fluid folds draping around her neck. Each day, new evidence pointed to the same conclusion. How does that song go: You ain’t nothing but a hound dog, crying all the time.

Not that hounds aren’t wonderful dogs. Like Labs, they are extremely smart, and make loving pets. They are known for their high energy, playfulness, and affectionate natures. Understandably, they are recommended for active, young adults, especially those who live in rural areas. The problem–or should I say challenge–is that they are strong willed and thus difficult to socialize, taking up to two years in some cases. And we have only just begun!.

They are strong willed and difficult to socialize. And we have only just begun!

Born in a shelter, Blossom was rescued and “hand” raised by my daughter-in-law Haley, who brought her to live with us when Blossom was eight weeks old. To prepare for the event, we purchased a number of puppy books, especially those by dog wisperer, Cesar Milan. His approach reminds me of Blumer‘s symbolic interactionism. According to Cesar, dog training is all about appropriate two-way communications. Owners need to understand the dog’s frame of reference, and communicate their expectations based on the dog’s interpretation of its world. At the same time, dogs need to correctly assess their owner’s needs based on the cues they observe. Alas, in the case of Blossom, I think the cards are stacked against me; for she understands me, and can manipulate me, far better than I understand and manipulate her. Thus, for example, when bored, and craving attention, all she needs to do is to scout out my prize possessions and with a self-satisfied swagger parade them directly in front of me. Even as she provokes, she is adorable.

Blossom: The Easy Life

Blossom: The Easy Life

Picking up the stray pieces of my surroundings, I reassure myself, saying that, determined as Blossom is to have her own way, time is on my side. With each interaction, we are constructing and expanding our mutual understanding and, with it, a space where we can share a rich and rewarding future together. I remind myself, two years isn’t so long. Already, its three steps forward, and only one back. Tomorrow it will be four.

The World Turned Upside Down

my mother (left) preparing-the-beans

my mother (left) preparing-the-beans

My mother was a fine artist, always painting, sculpting, or making woodcuts. Although she maintained a studio-like setup in our basement, she and her work always seemed to make their way upstairs, giving rise to a world of clutter.

Worse still, as a youngster, I wasn’t sure my mother was presentable: knock on our door and you would fine a handsome women, wearing her red plaid flannel work shirt atop a pair of well-worn jeans, a pencil behind her ear, and the remains of paint and printers ink lodged under her nails. If that wasn’t enough! Just consider what was, perhaps, my most embarrassing moment, when I brought a school friend home for lunch, only to find my mother “cooking” her etchings on the kitchen stove.

I wasn’t sure my mother was presentable. 

Given my mother’s interest in art, one can understand why, as children, we spent a lot of time in museums, as well as browsing through the numerous art books that my mother collected. Whereas most parents spend a lot of time reading to their children, my mother spent much of our quality time sharing her thoughts about paintings and art.


The World Turned Upside Down (Jan Steen ca 1660)

The World Turned Upside Down (Jan Steen ca 1660)

One of these paintings is still vivid in my mind–The World Turned Upside Down, painted by the Dutch Master Jan Steen sometime around 1669. Relating it to my own family life, and envisioning my world falling apart, I was horrified by it, so much so that the painting is still engraved in my memory. Of course, I now know that I needn’t have worried. As with most of Steen’s works, this painting not only characterized daily life in Holland; as importantly, it employed humor and allusions to proverbs, symbols, and myths so as to depict a moral parable. In fact, this particular painting became a trope in Dutch life, as burgers came to describe a lively, untidy home–such as the one I had been raised in–as a “Jan Steen Household.”  Still very young at the time, I was too innocent to appreciate the duality in Steen’s painting: I saw the chaos, but I failed to see the spirited activities that gave rise to it.

The World Turned Upside Down

The World Turned Upside Down

Revived during times of trial, this schematic of the world teetering on the edge of chaos has endured for centuries. Not surprisingly, it accompanied the revolutionary era, appearing first in England and then in the United States. (See Chris Hill, The World Turned Upside Down; radial ideas during the english revolution, Penguin Books 1991.) In 1643, for example, a broadside first published the English ballad The World Turned Upside Down, whereafter it was sung as a protest against Parliamentary policies, which sought to outlaw traditional Christmas Celebrations. Rumor has it, moreover, that American troops also played this tune during the American Revolution, when General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown in 1781.
The World Turned Upside Down

The World Turned Upside Down

Most recently, the author/journalist Melanie Phillips has borrowed on this theme, attributing todays absurdities–such as climate change, the war in Iraq, fraud, bank failures, etc.–to a world run amok. According to her, science has been overturned by ideology.
Network Economy Dinner (courtesy of Isaac Pacheco

Network Economy Dinner (courtesy of Isaac Pacheco

Having become far more cosmopolitan over the years, I can now see the world in complex terms. What to earlier generations was considered a world upside down, now looks to me like a phase transition. Fortunately, for me, growing up in a bohemian household has helped me to deal with ambiguity, such as is depicted in the paintings and tropes I have mentioned. Better still–although there is no paint or printers ink under my nails–the way of life I learned from my mother has prepared me to follow in her footsteps, and enjoy complexity to the fullest.