May 18, 2005

Blogger's Passtime

Blogger's Passtime: If you see someone playing the game (see 'Interview Game'), you can ask them to post five questions for you to answer on your own blog. Here are my answer's to Kate's questions, Kate of Kate Sandwiched.

1. Why does Johnny Cash remind you of your father?

Like Johnny Cash, my father outsold the Beatles in North America in the late 1960s. They both did military service as young men, my father in the Pacific in WWII and Cash in Germany in the 1950s. They both had humble beginnings. JCs medium was music and my father's the pulpit, but the message of both was advocating the dispossessed-- my father working with troubled youth and alcoholics, Johnny giving a voice to those who needed it, for example American Indians and prisoners.

Now I certainly don't know Johnny Cash anywhere near as well as I know my Dad and so anything I say about Johnny is me seeing his undoubtedly carefully managed public persona and projecting my own thoughts onto that. Here goes! The music goes straight to the reptile brain, there is a fundamental biological tie that is similar to the tie I have to my father. Johnny's music is deceptive-- so simple so my intellectual brain is tempted to trivialize it or make fun of it, and this is the beauty of any great thought, deceptively simple, revolutionary-- I Walk The Line, Boy Named Sue, Ring of Fire. Similarly, my father has a way of talking that can seem trivial but at the same time is revolutionary with its focus on empowering the individual. He may ask you about the weather or your health, or them Twins and when he does it it means nothing and everything. It is existential-- you are a spiritual being in the moment, you are being invited to walk the line. Although unlike Cash my father has been inducted into neither the Rock and Roll nor the Country Music Halls of Fame, he can hold a room and he has a dangerous twinkle in his eye. Style: Cash never adopted the glittery dress normally associated with country/western acts and instead became the man in black, accorcing to his obituary it was 'symbolic of his intolerance of injustice.' (Note that my father is still very much alive!!) My Dad told me once that when he first moved to the church in Owatonna some of the members told him he should get some nicer shoes, that he needed to look sharp to represent the image of the church (including the country club set). That wasn't my father. I remember how he polished the same pair of plain black shoes week after week to prepare for the Sunday services-- an action of respect, utility, economy, comfort. Rather than the church representing the business owners my father told me the center of mass was with the members who showed up more than once or twice a year-- many of them farmers, just regular folk. And last but not least, like Johnny's wife June, my mother comes from a musical family.

2. What does "get beyond myself" mean?

I have a fair assortment of formative experiences. They are good, they are the foundation I stand on. They are bad, they might cause me to have blind spots. For example I am trying to explore the blind spot I have as a youngest child. It means it is quite normal for me to let others be in charge. When I have a student who looks to me to be a leader, my natural instinct is to duck that role and instead I should make a conscious effort to use it as an opportunity. I expect the students to find their own way, as I did-- mostly I've learned because I have been driven and have pushed myself and when I do something I try to do it right. I need to recognize that for some people it is necessary for a leader to place demands on them in order to perform, to show the way, to set the tone. That's what I'm thinking of.

3.What does "better father" mean?

Partly it means getting beyond myself. I am a bad father sometimes when I am tired and have a hard time paying attention to my kids, I can get snappy. I should take the initiative more often to make just this day or this bedtime story a good one. I had a dream two nights ago where I took Anders (1.5 years) shark fishing. I checked back on him and he had one hooked and I was so proud. It didn't matter to me that he was completely underwater because he was still hanging onto the rod and reeling in the shark. That's my boy! After a few minutes I checked in on him again and he had completely disappeared. In a dream last night I was shouting at Fredrik over some little thing. These dreams are warnings.

4. What does "better teacher" mean?

See answer to # 2. Sometimes it all comes down to engagement and a willingness to listen and a willingness to help. I know I teach until I am tired in my mind and body, I give it all the resources I have at hand. Is it enough? Is it ever enough?

5. You say that "the message of Christ" lives in Johnny and in your dad. Does it live in you too?

I try to do my best. I'm probably a pretty shallow Christian but I try to use what know and I feel like it is a fundamental part of my being. I seek and try to learn. My reflex is not always to help.


At May 18, 2005 5:23 PM , Blogger Kate said...

Did Johnny Cash write "Bird on a Wire"? that is a fine piece of work.

you should send what you wrote about him to your dad.

At May 19, 2005 8:54 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

I love that song!

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.

Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, "You must not ask for so much."
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?"

Oh like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
~Leonard Cohen

At May 19, 2005 8:56 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Dad usually reads Long Burn, but like most of my family, he doesn't leave comments.

At May 20, 2005 4:25 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

great post. It inspired me to post a Johnny Cash cover of the Nine Inch Nails song "hurt"

Here is the link. It is worth a listen - 5MB

At May 20, 2005 4:33 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

sorry, I screwed the link up.

Here it is really.


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