Monday, January 19, 2009

Unfettered Joy

"I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds, understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning, convinced that with a bit of translation on my part the two worlds would eventually cohere." (Barack Obama; Dreams From My Father; 1995)
I find this particular aspect of Barack Obama's character especially compelling. Like many of my friends and professional colleagues...although not all, I see truth as socially constructed--perspectival and pragmatic--and find myself considerably impatient with people who believe that their own view of the truth is intrinsically superior to another equally-functional truth. The awareness of the reality that truth reflects experience as much as it reflects exterior "reality"--a major deconstruction of positivism that is also known as the hermeneutic circle--is, to my mind, the primary achievement of education. Educated people--like Barack Obama--understand that truth-seeking requires an openness to the way that reality is seen by others--and a reluctance to dismiss the statements of others as wrong or false based solely on the fact that those statements are different from one's own. Such an awareness takes time to develop--it is metaphysically counterintuitive and undercuts the traditions and habits of individuals and particular social groups. It requires a rejection of the tribal instinct that leads humans to distrust strangers, an further evolution of consciousness that has taken the species many millenia to achieve and which is clearly still beyond the grasp of many in our country and abroad. It seems especially difficult for people who achieve or inherit financial wealth to accept, for it requires an acceptance that such success may reflect the luck of the situational draw as much as it reflects one's ability or merit.

If it were easy for humans to adopt the perspective of others--if empathy with all humans regardless of situation were instinctual rather than aquired--if following the golden rule were easy rather than an enormous challenge--we wouldn't be constantly at war with one another, whether in the streets of Chicago or in the middle east.
(Chicago Tribune, 1-19-09) WASHINGTON — A celebration of democracy quickly became an Obama family sing-along as the future first family danced, sang and channeled their inner Otis Day on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday.

The two-hour "We Are One" concert offered the family several moments of unfettered joy, whether it was Michelle Obama's delight at hearing Stevie Wonder sing or President-elect Barack Obama's attempt to teach his young daughters the "American Pie" chorus. The typically reserved Malia Obama even laughingly complied as her father tried to do the bump with her at one point....

As the entire National Mall danced to Garth Brooks' rendition of "Shout!" Barack and Michelle Obama showed their daughters how to do the dance made famous in "Animal House." Even the president-elect's mother-in-law, the stoic Marian Robinson, threw her hands in the air and laughed.

When Wonder appeared on stage a few moments later and played the opening chords of "Higher Ground," Michelle Obama jumped to her feet and motioned for her family to do the same. Soon the entire Obama clan was jamming to the 1970s funk song.

It brings me great happiness to see Barack and his family enjoying themselves as he takes on one of the most difficult jobs in the world. While I do not envy them the responsibilities or loss of privacy that comes as they ascend precipitously to the heights of celebrity, I do empathize with the tremendous enthusiasm of so many here in Chicago and around the world at the possibilities this represents. The celebrations in Washington--while certainly scripted to some extent and caught in the nets of spinmeisters and image consultants--are, for many, truly celebratory: an occasion on which to focus on possibilities rather than pessimistic realities.
(Chicago Tribune 1-19-09)"...Bono, the Irishman and lead singer of U2, injected the only seemingly unrehearsed political note to the day. Just after Obama's wife, Michelle, blew him a kiss, he said the election of Obama represented "not just an American dream — also an Irish dream, a European dream, African dream, Israeli dream and also a Palestinian dream."
Many Americans--especially those who preferred John McCain's (or even George W. Bush's) fixation on national defense--can't understand the exuberance of Europeans for Obama--and dismiss African-Americans' pride as merely another instance of jingoism or even racism. But these cynical Americans are missing something vital and sacred: the real power of shared hope and the belief in the possibility of transformed human affairs in a global community. They are missing the importance of these events--the many references to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., for example--as potent symbols of this possibility. Their "realism" has become a barrier to the idealism that could flow from their deepest desires, if they could only give themselves permission to dream.

Seeing the Obama family relishing these moments provides--for me--an opportunity to project my own dreams onto them. Certainly these dreams will not be easily realized, and these people upon whom I project those dreams are just people--mere mortals thrust into the center of the world's attention by the exigencies of time and place as much as by their own strivings--but I don't really care right now. Most of all, I am allowing myself a few days of shared joy--with the Obamas and with the entire world--and allowing myself to believe in our shared dreams--in the hope that if enough of us do believe, reality itself may be transformed.
(Chicago Tribune, 1-19-09)"In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now," Obama said. "But despite all of this—despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead—I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure, that the dream of our founders will live on in our time... For in these monuments are chiseled those unlikely stories that affirm our unyielding faith — a faith that anything is possible in America."

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

It's funny how the Web works

On January 20, 2008, I wrote a blog post entitled "Do fruit flies like coffee? Or, Technology in daily life: a short story."

The post detailed how I had used the Web to find a solution to the fruit fly infestation that we faced in our kitchen.

I eventually found a solution at Yahoo!Answers:
About to give up my search, I just happened to notice that below the "best answer - chosen by voters" was a section labeled "Other Answers." So I scrolled down, and the second answer, posted by Fair_Fun, was a piece of user-contributed text that is worth its weight in gold. (I love you, Fair_Fun!!!)
I don't know why they would be around the coffee pot or how to keep them from coming back BUT,
it started, much to my chagrin (I STILL don't know why the fruit flies were hanging out near the coffee grinder), then continued:
to get red of fruit flies , take a small glass (I use a shot glass) and fill half way with apple cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dishwashing liquid and mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever.
I tried Fair_Fun's "solution," and....
The next day, I didn't think about fruit flies, for the first time in months, although I did continue to notice the strong smell of vinegar near the kitchen sink. The next day, I didn't even notice that. Finally, the day after that, I realized I wasn't thinking about fruit flies any more...the obsession gone, along with the pesky creatures themselves.
Well, it's true that I didn't think about fruit flies 8 months. Come September, though, the damn things returned to our kitchen. (Yes, we'd fallen back in the habit of letting bananas rot.) As long as the screens are open, there's not much you can do about it. However, once we closed the windows for good, around the end of October, my daughter came to me and asked "how did you kill those fruit flies last year; they are bugging me!" (Get it, "bugging" me.....well, okay....)

So I told her how, and she followed the directions, although instead of half-filling a shot glass, she used a full-size Ball jar, with a little vinegar and soap solution in the bottom of the jar. This didn't work quite as well as the shot glass (note to self and daughter), but it did, eventually, kill off the rest of the flies, and, again, we've been fly-free since mid-November. And I haven't thought about fruit flies at all since then....


This morning, I got the following email.
Sent: Wed 1/7/2009 6:47 A.M.
To: Craig Cunningham
Subject: fruit flys post

Hello this is Fair_fun... The writer of the answer on "answers" about the fruit flys. lol.. I have used vinger and dish soap for fruit flys for many years. I am glad it helped you to. I hate the little buggers. I got a Email this morning from a friend on answers that told me about you post using my answer. GOOD READING!! I loved the part that said "I love you Fair_fun" I still can't believe I didn't get best answer...

You're Welcome...

You have a great day..

Your new friend, Fair_fun

Wow, how about that to brighten a man's early morning?!? (Well, okay....I didn't read this until almost the afternoon.) I wrote Fair_Fun back:
Subject: RE: fruit flys post
Date: Wednesday, January 7, 2009, 11:50 AM

LOL! Isn’t it funny how the web works?

We used that method again this year….flawless!!!

Thank you again!!!


P.S. Can I put this on the blog (without your real name, of course)?
And got this response:
Sent: Wed 1/7/2009 12:06 PM

Hi again Craig, Sure you can use it on the Blog. Send me a copy I love seeing my name in lights lol... Just a simple country girl here.. But I don't have fruit flys.
And neither do I!!!

Plus, I didn't have to rely on "solutions" like these:

Only on the user-generated content of the read/write Web.