May 05 2014
First dawn. Even the
birds in the tallest pines are
surprised by the sun.
~ Ivan M. Granger
I woke up this morning, and thought, Why not do something different to start the week off? Some miscellaneous things for you today…
14 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me
Here are several things about me that may not be very important, but some of you might find interesting —
1. I was born with a caul over my face and torticollis (neck atrophy). My parents were advised by doctors to surgically sever the muscles of my neck. They refused, thankfully. Thanks to my parents’ instincts, I have full mobility in my neck today.
2. I was named after Ivan Karamazov, from Dostoyevski’s Brothers Karmazov. I finally read the book when I was 18. I asked my mother why she named me after that particular brother. She said she always imagined him to be an interesting, deep-thinking intellectual. I said, yes, but you know he goes crazy, right? I mean, I could have been named after the good-hearted, naive mystic, instead.
3. I was once under suspicion for murder. (Why are you looking at me that way? No, I didn’t do it.) The crime took place in a state I’ve never visited. But the suspect did look a lot like me. I spent a very long 30 minutes being grilled by detectives before they released me.
4. When I was in high school, I wrote a short horror story and sent it to Stephen King. He sent back a typed index card saying that he liked the story and made a few friendly suggestions. I also wrote a science fiction novel when I was in my 20s. Never got it published. It’s sitting in the back of one of my closets, somewhere.
5. I got very skinny in my 30s, under 130 lbs (for a someone who stands 5′ 11″ tall). Several years ago I decided to radically alter my energies and I intentionally put on weight in order to be more physically present in the world. I had to train myself to eat more. I even lifted weights. In the space of 8 months, I added nearly 50 lbs to my body.
6. I am the son of hippie parents, yet I have never smoked pot… or drunk alcohol. Not once. (OK, I have had a sip of red wine and I think champagne, and maybe two other drinks — I wanted to know what they tasted like.) It’s not a weird religious thing, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things in moderation. For some reason that I don’t understand myself, I made a personal vow not to drink at age 13, and I’ve always stuck with it. On my 21st birthday, I did go to a bar, but mainly because I wanted to finally hear some good live music. A friend met me there and surprised me with a pitcher of beer. I spent all night pretending to drink the beer, but that glass of beer oddly never went down in level. The music was great, though.
7. I went to three universities in three years and graduated from none of them. In my freshman year, I was wait-listed for USC’s school of film. I thought of becoming a movie director, the next Kubrick.
8. I wanted to be Spider-Man as a child.
9. My father lived in Tehran, Iran in the 70s. He was a university professor there, and he left just before the Islamic Revolution kicked into full gear.
10. The only country outside the US I have visited (so far) is Canada. I have not yet been to Europe or India or South America. In all my teenage years in LA, I never crossed the border into Mexico. I have, however, lived in Oregon, California, Hawaii, Washington, and now Colorado. I’ve primarily been an internal traveler. We’ll see if I someday have the opportunity for international travel.
11. I attended a Montessori school as a young child.
12. My wife, Michele, and I lived a few houses away from each other as children in Eugene, Oregon — though we didn’t meet until I was in my 20s. Her family moved out a few months before mine moved in. When we met and started dating as adults, we discovered we have shared childhood memories of all the same places.
13. I can name most of the obscure border crossings throughout Europe. I worked for Rail Europe (in the US) for several years. I eventually moved to the Russian desk; since I could read and write a bit of Russian, part of my job was to fax ticket requests to Moscow.
14. The Greek side of my family can be traced to the island of Chios, near the coast of Turkey. Apparently, I still have distant cousins living on the island.
Some further thoughts on education…
My comments on knowledge and education accompanying Friday’s poem made a few people uncomfortable. To some it sounded as if I was negating the value of education and academic learning, which I really wasn’t trying to do.
I used strong language to make a point about our cultural assumptions. But I should be clear that I am by no means anti-intellectual or blind to the huge value of a good education. In my day job I work as a computer programmer and database designer. I definitely acknowledge the power of a well-exercised intellect that has the ability to think logically and can utilize information effectively. None of that would be possible without a solid education, a few special teachers along the way, and access to good information resources.
When I have a few extra dollars, I tend to buy books. I have shelves filled with books of poetry, history, novels, natural health, and, of course, religion and spirituality.
But– that is still not knowledge in the deep sense.
My real point is that education, books, and the skills of critical thinking can open a life up in profound ways: intellectually, yes, spiritually, professionally, socially, in so many ways. I think it’s hugely important and sometimes undervalued in general American culture and in government priorities. At the same time, we idolize this form of cognition and forget that, for all of its potential, it has significant limitations which causes blind spots within both the individual and in society. Real knowledge, full knowledge, comes from a deeper place within the awareness.
Having a good education with a keen intellect is like having the most powerful computer in the office. You can do amazing things with it. Creative things. Productive things. Or pointless things. Or even destructive things. It all depends on the operator. There are lots of reasons to acquire a capable computer, but we tend to forget that much more important is real knowledge of how — and why — to use it at all.
I strongly support education, intellect, and critical thinking, just not becoming lost within them. I value the intellect but, personally, I tend to value wisdom more and the knowing heart most of all. The question is not which to choose and which to reject, but how to develop them all in proportion and balance.
Once more, thank you so much for the many generous donations sent in support of the Poetry Chaikhana. I’ll have a few more names to thank in upcoming emails.
To everyone who has sent a donation so far, your help makes a huge difference!
Image by gregster09
The warbler knows
only dawn’s shaft
on her breast.
Forgetting false future
suns, she sings
in no voice
but her own.
~ Ivan M. Granger