Monday, June 18, 2012


One of my favorite bloggers posted about this radio interview with Sylvia Boorstein, a discussion called What We Nurture. There's a lot to think about in the interview: Boorstein's gentle ways, parenting, spirituality. During a section of the talk on anger, this part struck me:

Dr. Boorstein:  I think our children learn to speak in a tone that we speak in or to hold people kindly if we do. I had in my mind I wanted to tell this. I've never said it in a public audience, but I just thought about it recently. I decided that — I'll find out soon if this is a good analogy — but I was thinking about the GPS in my car. It never gets annoyed at me. If I make a mistake, it says, "Recalculating." And then it tells me to make the soonest left turn and go back. I thought to myself, you know, I should write a book and call it "Recalculating" because I think that that's what we're doing all the time.

That something happens, it challenges us and the challenge is, OK, so do you want to get mad now? You could get mad, you could go home, you could make some phone calls, you could tell a few people you can't believe what this person said or that person said. Indignation is tremendously seductive, you know, and to share with other people on the telephone and all that. So to not do it and to say, wait a minute, apropos of you said before, wise effort to say to yourself, wait a minute, this is not the right road. Literally, this is not the right road. There's a fork in the road here. I could become indignant, I could flame up this flame of negativity or I could say, "Recalculating." I'll just go back here.

Ms. Tippett: So this is an example of technology instilling us with spiritual discipline — we find so much to criticize.

Dr. Boorstein: And no matter how many times I don't make that turn, it will continue to say, "Recalculating." The tone of voice will stay the same.

Initially, I was thinking of it in terms of frustration with toddlers. But on re-reading the transcript passage (the audio, if you have time, is here), I think it applies to a variety of situations: poor restaurant service, family drama, toddlers who won't eat their breakfasts, acquaintances on a discussion list who speak unkindly. It's actually the way Techman looks at things; it's not always my approach.

I have learned through time that sometimes the best response in an emotional tug of war is to "drop the rope." Stop engaging. I don't always have the spiritual discipline Boorstein describes, of walking away without feeling the emotion. Or of walking away without explanation.

Is that a weakness? Is that "nurturing anger" rather than "working within community?" I haven't decided yet. I'll need some more time to think about it.

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