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When to paddle a canoe backwards, and other useful knowledge

I knew as I plopped the Sara J., our 14-foot kevlar canoe, on the sand of Town Beach that I might be getting in a little deep. The wind was not harsh, but fickle, as it gets on Bantam Lake, first blowing this way, then that, then dropping to nothing as opposing gradients of air momentarily intersect. Though the winds weren’t overbearing, the Sara J. is not the most perfect of lake canoes, particularly with…

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Speaking to the Sages

At times of great turmoil, when my emotions are running high and my passions difficult to constrain, I will seek the wisdom of the great sages who have come before me. Through them, I can see a difficult passage in life in a different way, understand it in the flow of time. There truly is nothing new under the sun, and if string theory and the paradigm of the holographic universe are correct, all that…

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Forgotten Fathers

For the most part today, I’m going to spare people yet another panegyric about my father. Let’s just say that he was a loving, guiding, wise and kind presence in my life, and that as a man and as a father, I have always striven to be what he was. But on this Father’s Day, I want to honor two groups of men. First, the single fathers who are raising their children with little or…

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The Day I Met My Daughter

Well, it wasn’t the first day that I had met her. That happened about 25 years ago, in a hospital, after my wife’s emergency C-section. It was all a bit scary, really, careening in the ambulance from the obstetrician’s office to the hospital, with no fetal heartbeat to be found. And then the gurney wheeling down to the operating room, my wife already passed out from the anesthesia, as I sat sadly on a bench,…

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A Passing Remark

It is no mystery to anyone who has been to my office that my office manager Giselle and I could not be more different. I’m an aging white guy with a middle-class, midwestern background; she’s a young Hispanic woman from the scrappy streets of Brooklyn. She’s a great mother, too. Just a few weeks ago during a snow day, her son spent the day in our office. He was extraordinarily well-behaved and polite, given that…

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The Vocabulary of Conflict

There was a time, during my youth and early adulthood, that I had only a one-word response to any conflict, a loud and forceful “NO.” In a lot of situations, there’s nothing wrong with a strong “NO!” as a means of stopping aggression. It’s a word whose delivery everyone should practice. But while that word had been useful in my formative years, as a boy and young man facing larger bullies, as a response to…

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The Violent Road to Peaceful Self-Knowledge

After class today, Sensei noted in passing that, unlike aikido, most forms of exercise and self-development are solitary pursuits. That got me thinking. Even if riding or running in a group, you are still riding your own ride; others are there for the companionship. Similarly, meditation, yoga, journaling and other means of internal growth are singular pursuits, even when performed in groups. Aikido is an exception to this. Training in aikido leads to an interesting…

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What the hell went wrong with my generation?

Sometimes I look at my generation and wonder what the hell went wrong. The young ‘uns castigate us, and rightly so, for hoisting a gibbering, slobbering, lust-crazed baboon into the white house, and for stuffing our never-sated stomachs with all of the worlds riches we can grab. And they’re right. We deserve that approbation. Yet, in our day, we fought and were jailed and died for opposing unjust war, fought and were jailed and died…

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Nidan

It was a bit unexpected, the conversation that Sensei and I had. It was a few months ago; she pulled me aside as I was getting ready to leave the dojo after class. “Avery, I wanted to let you know that I’m recommending you for nidan at the seminar in December,” she said. Nidan is the the name for the second-degree black belt level. For the past decade, I have been a lowly shodan, a…

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The red van, the strawberry blonde, my brother, and me.

It was the weather that reminded me. Or the time of year, or the feeling that I’ve been having lately that my future is hidden in my past. At any rate, as I lay on the couch last night, there it was, in the front of my consciousness, clear as if it happened yesterday instead of 30 years ago. My brother and I are standing in front of a gas station in nowhere Utah, next…

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