What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

Portion of the US Declaration of Independence - they got a lot done without the help of keyboards and inkjet printers.

Portion of the US Declaration of Independence – they got a lot done without the help of keyboards and inkjet printers.

My-wife-the-shrink has always maintained that journaling and other handwritten work sticks with us longer, and accesses more memories and deeper thoughts than working on a keyboard.  My own efforts at journaling, which I’ve done for more than fifty years, bear that out.  When I’ve tried to keep electronic journals I’ve been more prolific, but they tend to be more superficial and I tire of keeping them.  The satisfaction of handwriting in a book, however, continues to charm and inform me. 

Now studies of children utilizing brain imaging technology bear out that theory.  In addition, it turns out that keyboarding, cursive writing, and printing each activate different portions of the brain, with cursive having the most effect.  Given the learning and other cognitive disabilities associated with addiction, particularly in those who begin to use at an early age, this could be applicable to rehabilitation.

This is a fascinating article, and a good argument for keeping cursive in the curriculum despite the supposed advantages of teaching printing only.

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas.

Continue reading…


One of my favorite Buddhist teachings was given by the late Charlotte Joko Beck in her wonderful book “Everyday Zen”. It goes something like this.

Imagine that you live by a lake, and you have a rowboat. You’ve just repaired and repainted it, and you’re really pleased with the job. There’s a fog on the lake the morning after a stormy night, and you decide to row out and enjoy the quiet, surrounded by nothing but the mist and the water.

rowboat fogSo you’re rowing along, and then scraaaape, you run into something, and you realize it is another boat. You know your paint job that you’re so proud of is messed up! You’re ready to give the other boater a piece of your mind when you realize that the other boat is empty. Looking closer, you see that there is a rope dragging from the bow, and you realize that the boat must have broken loose from its mooring during last night’s storm. Continue reading

The Iron Masque

[mask, mahsk]: a form of aristocratic entertainment
in the16th and 17th Centuries…elaborate productions
delivered by amateur and professional actors.

Addicts are actors. We hesitate to reveal who we really are because we are ashamed, and we develop an act that we perform for the rest of the world.  Friends and family think they know who we are, and initially it may be that a bit of the “real” us peeks through, but addiction changes that.  Every addict is an actor, and we each star in our own masque. The difference is that actors are most proficient at the ends of their careers; we aren’t.

the-iron-mask_2292919As our addictions progress and we become more enmeshed with the substance or behavior,  the circumstances force our masks to harden.  We become secretive to protect our addictions, and often try to hide it with “sincerity” or grandiose gestures.  We make up legends to explain who we are, and why we behave a certain way.  As we do so, we draw farther and farther away from everyone else’s reality, and into a world of our own.  Rarely does the sun shine in, and neither do we shine out.

Continue reading


Reinventing the wheel

Reinventing the wheel.

Rituals are an important part of human society.  They are comforting, and give us a sense of stability: the way we do it is the same way they do it everywhere else; we’re part of the Big Picture; we belong; we’re at home.  They often have social significance on a wider scale: baptisms, marriages, handfastings, graduations, inductions and many other things that we take for granted are imbued with their own specific rituals that have, in many cases, evolved over centuries.  Funerals are probably the most obvious examples: the wake or other pre-interment ceremonies and gatherings, the procession, the prayers, the means of interment or other disposition of the body, all are part of a larger ritual that bonds those members of that society or subgroup with the bereaved and each other, and makes them feel part of something bigger than themselves.

Our Twelve Step groups are no exception.   Continue reading

A 180° Turn Still Keeps Me In The Rut

I’m always amused by the way atheists seem to feel compelled to straighten out all the believers. Seldom does one run across a person self-labeled an “Atheist” that they don’t seem eventually to drag out some ax to grind with regard to religion. It seems to me that if you don’t believe you’d just sort of ignore the issue, but I guess that’s not the case.

I suggest that a 180° turn leaves me in the same old rut, and that if I want to free myself from some perceived bondage I need to strike out for new ground. Otherwise, I’m just letting it — whatever it may be — continue to direct my life, regardless of what I choose to call myself.

It’s the same way with recovery. If I’m continually thinking about booze or drugs, then I need to question my progress. There comes a time when recovery is no longer about drinking and drugging, but rather about learning to live an already drug-free life more skillfully.

When it comes to a higher power, I try really hard to believe.  Sometimes I do better than others.  But I don’t argue about it.  I just say “I don’t know, and neither do you,” and let it go at that. Same with recovery. I just say, “No thanks, I finished my share.”



My wife just called me and told me that she damaged the car by hitting a curb.  It may cost us some repairs, and perhaps a new tire and aluminum wheel.  She was distracted for a moment, irritated about having to return to her office and turn off the A/C (which hadn’t been working well anyway), and she just got careless for that instant.

I’ve never been one to hold unnecessary blame for things — at least not most things.  I can spin out a good resentment as readily as the next guy, but over the years I’ve found I tend to do that less and less.  That could be due to the perspective of nearly seven decades of making my own mistakes, but I suspect it’s also due to my program of recovery, because I note that a lot of folks my age tend to be a bit more rigid.  Whatever the case, I’m happy for it.  Being unnecessarily pissed off is so tiring.

And I mean…really, now.  Exactly.  What’s the reality here?  Michele is unhurt, albeit pretty upset.  She’s able to drive the car on surface streets, so she’ll likely get home without a tow.  The dealership is only a couple of miles away.  The car has no permanent functional damage, so it’ll cost a couple of hundred bucks and some inconvenience to set things right — perhaps some lost hours at work for her that can be made up later (although I hate to see that happen, because she works too much as it is).

I’m not happy about the money; we’re not that flush.  Not flush at all, in fact.  Nor am I happy about the damage to the car, the stress on my honey, or the inconvenience.  But the reality is that Shel loves that little car at least as much as I do.  She’s responsible for hurting it, so she’s the one suffering the anguish, not me.  She’s okay, and the situation is fixable.  It’s not as if she’d been injured, or one of us had relapsed, or one of the kids got stepped on by an elephant or something.  It’s a tire, probably a wheel, an alignment, maybe a bit of minor bodywork, and that’s all!  On a scale of one to ten, it’s a two at worst.  Maybe less.

What, then is the point of getting upset?  Does it help?  Nah.  Does it hurt?  Sure.  Hurts me, my honey who can read me like a book, and it’s not good for my overall frame of mind.  A dinged Hyundai isn’t even in the ballpark when it comes to tragedy.   A sad wife is a lot more important.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Empty Rowboat

Suppose we are out on a lake and it’s a bit foggy–not too foggy, but a bit foggy–and we’re rowing along in our little boat having a good time.rowboat fog 400x225 And then, all of a sudden, coming out of the fog, there’s this other rowboat and it’s heading right at us. And…crash! Well, for a second we’re really angry–what is that fool doing? I just painted my boat! And here he comes–crash!–right into it. And then suddenly we notice that the rowboat is empty. What happens to our anger? Well, the anger collapses…I’ll just have to paint my boat again, that’s all. But if that rowboat that hit ours had another person in it, how would we react? You know what would happen! Now our encounters with life, with other people, with events, are like being bumped by an empty rowboat. But we don’t experience it that way. We experience it as though there are people in that other rowboat and we’re really getting clobbered by them. …

from Everyday Zen: love and work, by Charlotte Joko Beck (March 27, 1917 – June 15, 2011)

Right? Or Happy?

On how many interesting relationships have I missed out by labeling others as — well — others?  How much common ground have I missed because of my unskillful ability to hear what others were really saying?

When I think of people with prejudices, how much of the judging is mine?

How many have I pushed away because of what were really superficial differences in points of view?

How interested am I — really — in learning more about the world and the people in it?  Enough to keep my mouth shut and listen, and then find something I can agree with, rather than automatically disagreeing with those…others?

Sometimes I seem to be improving in those areas, slowly but surely, although I have a long way to go.  How are you doing?