Passionate Moderation

My husband and I met the Queen of England in 2008. That alone is a wonderful thing, but the story of how it happened is actually my favorite part of the whole experience. We were at the Lambeth Conference on a summer day, one that was quite hot, even for Americans.  We had been invited to afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace, along with a few thousand other people.  The Queen has a lovely back yard, really more of a park, but the sultry weather had caused everyone to gather on the sidelines under the shade of trees and tea tents, lined up on the right and left of an enormous, sunny expanse of lawn. We decided to take a stroll, and went straight up the middle of this open area, far from any others.  A man in a morning suit appeared, really it seemed out of nowhere, and asked if we wanted to meet the Queen. That was an easy question to answer, and we had our brief brush with royalty.

The point of my story is that we were walking in the middle, alone in that expanse of lawn, with the thousands of other guests far away on either side. I think that made us an easy target for the man in the morning suit on his mission of rounding up a few commoners for the Queen’s reception line. In this case, the middle ground served us well!

I really value the via media, that middle way that builds consensus and sees both sides, even if it can seem like a namby-pamby approach to life. We’re often told to follow our passions – to feel strongly about those things we believe to be true – or false. Yet, in this world of winners and losers, black and white, right and wrong, good and bad…all that clear division of thought cries out for a via media else we forget how to talk to each other at all.

And so, I am choosing to cultivate a passion for moderation. Now, if everyone did that things would get boring pretty fast, but there’s probably no danger of a huge growth in passionate moderation anytime soon. I do believe that we really need people who bring their zeal to both conservative and liberal thinking, though that doesn’t include extremists who distort the truth and abandon motivations of love. Unfortunately, the extremes on either side are sort of like those people standing on either side of the Queen’s lawn – they just might be missing something to be found in the middle.

With all of the attention lately paid to the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, I found it particularly interesting that a May 26th Washington Post article ended an article about Bishop Curry with this line:  I think the story these days is not the rise of the religious left, but the religious middle. If Bishop Curry is any guide, it’s possible for that middle ground to be full of passion’s energy.

Peace,
Sonya

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This blog represents my attempt to put thoughts together on various things that seem to connect – in my mind anyway. More often than not new ideas first involve reaching back to what was and I can only hope that the prehistoric San cave painting at the top of this page inspires all kinds of connections between old and new.

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Assertiveness

Assertiveness…it’s complicated. It’s a way of behaving that implies a comfortable level of self-confidence, but perhaps with overtones of aggressiveness?  It means standing up for yourself, demanding consideration for your right to be heard and for your opinion to matter, but might possibly cause you to cross the line into boorishness?

What sheds a positive light, for me, on the idea of being assertive is the fact that the opposite of assertiveness – to be timid, or meek, or uncertain – isn’t all that attractive . Assertiveness settles nicely into the middle ground between passivity and aggressiveness.  I read descriptions somewhere of those three personality characteristics as 1) a fear of being on the stage, 2) being on a stage and inviting others to join you, and 3) being on the stage and trying to push everyone else off. Via media wins again.

Being assertive compels us to be clear about what we need or want, communicating those things in ways that leave room for disagreement and disappointment. Asserting our right to be heard is only effective when we equally open the way for others to express their thoughts and feelings. What we’re actually claiming, when we stand up for who we are and what we believe, is that we’re equal to others. Not better. Not less.

Assertiveness acknowledges that we’re in this (whatever “this” happens to be) together, accepting responsibility and delegating, speaking and listening, conveying ideas and admitting mistakes, having enough confidence to demonstrate gratitude for the work of others, showing a respect for ourselves that inspires others to realize that we also respect them.

Goldberg Variations – 10 (Assertive)

Peace,
Sonya


I’ve lived with Bach’s Goldberg Variations for a long time now. More than half my lifetime in fact. I would pull them out periodically, feeling that I was revisiting an old friend, but a friend who always has something new to share. I began thinking about Bach and mindfulness last year in a way that meant something to me. Each variation became linked in my mind with a word and that word became something like the “intention” that yoga students are sometimes asked to set for their practice. A word to mediate on and to help draw more from within. For the next 32 weeks I will post one of the variations and write about the word I associated with the music. Sometimes a connection will seem obvious, but more often it will be unexplainable. It became apparent as I worked on this project that I thought about things which I wanted to cultivate in myself, ways of being in the world that were positive. All of the recordings are to be made in my living room, playing the 9 foot Steinway that was gifted to me on January 5, 2016.

 

 

 

Extraverted (or is it Extroverted?)

(the answer is both)

A few weeks ago I wrote about introversion, making the perhaps obvious observation that most of us have personalities which are a combination of introverted and extroverted traits. Not equally balanced between the two surely, but with any luck a balance that works for us in all of the different situations we encounter in our lives. If extraversion is simply defined as having a desire to engage with the world outside of ourselves, then that is a worthy goal for every introvert. Taking on the assertiveness and enthusiasm of an extravert has a place in any introvert’s toolbox for dealing with the world. And if extraverts are sometimes people who talk too much, or those who always need to be the center of attention, or who don’t read social cues well enough to know when enough is enough….well, cultivating some of the quieter, reflective qualities of an introvert might be in order.

It’s always about balance. Having good physical balance, balancing competing interests and demands on our time, being balanced in our emotions. The golden mean. The via media.  Possibly part of The Goldberg Variations’ continuing appeal is found in the equilibrium that Bach created within the music.  He built each variation with two sections, each repeated, creating unchanging structural symmetry. Additionally, the “theme” upon which these variations are based is actually a 32-note bass line and that parallels the 32 measures of music in each variation. Which, in turn, corresponds to the number of variations, counting the opening and closing Arias which surround the 30 variations, giving stability to the whole. And that’s just the beginning of the beauty to be found in the mathematics of this music.

Goldberg Variation 5 (Extraverted)

Variation 5 is lively and sociable.  Bach suggested that it be played on two manuals – i.e. a harpsichord with two keyboards. The piano, of course, has just one keyboard and the player’s crossing hands spend a fair amount of time playing right on top of each other. Not unlike an animated dinner conversation, where perhaps the extravert has more chance of being heard!

Peace,
Sonya


I’ve lived with Bach’s Goldberg Variations for a long time now. More than half my lifetime in fact. I would pull them out periodically, feeling that I was revisiting an old friend, but a friend who always has something new to share. I began thinking about Bach and mindfulness last year in a way that meant something to me. Each variation became linked in my mind with a word and that word became something like the “intention” that yoga students are sometimes asked to set for their practice. A word to mediate on and to help draw more from within. For the next 32 weeks I will post one of the variations and write about the word I associated with the music. Sometimes a connection will seem obvious, but more often it will be unexplainable. It became apparent as I worked on this project that I thought about things which I wanted to cultivate in myself, ways of being in the world that were positive. All of the recordings are to be made in my living room, playing the 9 foot Steinway that was gifted to me on January 5, 2016.