Monday, May 22, 2006

The Trellis

A trellis is a framework on which vines can grow. If you want to help a vine establish itself, a trellis -- which is often just a grid of thin wooden slats -- may be necessary.

It's hard to grow without a framework on which to rest, a model of what you're aiming at, or a defined direction.

The framework is beneficial because it creates order, which in turn creates focus and calm. It excludes other possibilities, and conquers chaos, to use the title of a great SF novel by John Brunner.

Recently, I went to the dentist, full of worry because I thought that I had serious problems with my teeth. I had gotten the impression, over the last year or so, that I had a number of cavities, in addition to some cosmetic work that needed doing -- and perhaps one weak tooth, which would need a bridge.

I got to his office, and he did a thorough examination, which brought good news: my teeth are strong (even the one I thought was weak), and the dental work needed is not nearly as much as I had feared. So the dentist's examination provided a new framework for my understanding of my dental health: rather than worry needlessly, I can now focus on simple oral hygiene, get the work I need, and not have to spend extra energy on being concerned that, all of a sudden, I'll have a dental emergency on my hands.

So, to get back to our metaphor, the trellis -- the framework upon which the vine of my understanding about my dental health can grow -- is the dentist's examination and his informed opinion. Without that, I am in chaos about my dental situation and my choices.

So it is with life in general. Having a framework of meaning, whether it's furnished by religion, your company, an authority figure, a parent, etc. is essential to creating the order which allows you to go forward with confidence. In the above example, I received a framework of meaning about my teeth from a recognized authority, the dentist. A soldier may receive a framework of meaning from his commanding officer, allowing him to go forward in confidence with the battle. Or a politician may receive that framework from a party leader, etc.

My point here is that a structure of meaning is necessary for life.

What is your structure of meaning? Who do you depend on to explain the world and give it purpose?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

On My Mind

I had a reaction today to the death of New York Times writer and editor A. M. Rosenthal -- I was jealous of his career. For 60 years, he had written for the world's most influential newspaper. Millions had seen his byline, and tens of thousands had actually read his articles -- many of them among the world's most influential people.

But he's dead, Jim. And it makes little sense to be jealous of someone who's dead.

And then again... I'm proud of many of the articles I've written, even if the most read of them had a readership much lower than of Rosenthal's least read. (Well, you get what I'm trying to say -- Eloquent Adam)

For instance, there was that article about a New York City ambulance crew who wrestled with a mortally wounded AIDS patient in the mid 80's, a man who had committed suicide by impaling himself on the jagged glass of a broken window. The crew carried him down four flights in a rundown apartment building in the Bronx, while he wrestled against them, thrashing as he bled profusely from a slashed subclavian artery. That was a pretty good one.

Then there was the piece I wrote about the Plenty Ambulance Corps, in the Bronx, in 1979 -- a group of Tennessee hippies who decided to come out to the burned out South Bronx and provide a free community ambulance service. You can see a couple of their kids on my website, the shot labeled, "two bronx babies."

And that was a nice story I wrote about Douglas Edwards of CBS News and his trusty and loyal producer, Richard Kallsen, doing The World Tonight. That appeared in "The West-Sider," or perhaps it was "The Chelsea-Clinton News," anyway, nowhere near the readership of the Times.

So, after reflection, I'm proud of my stories, but jealous of A. M. Rosenthal's reach. Was it the recognition he received, the fact that he was admired and respected around the world -- and, probably, resented by some as well. Was it the encomiums, the armor of influence?

Is the world big enough for both of us? (He's dead, Jim.)

It must be, and to all the other A. M. Rosenthals, I say, bring it on, do your best, your fellow writer salutes you!

Leo Gerard to Speak in New York City

Media Advisory

Event: 1st Annual Sumner Rosen Memorial Lecture Set for May 18; Leo Gerard, Steelworkers’ President, To Deliver Keynote Talk on Publicly-Supported, National Health Care

Date/Time: Thursday, May 18: Reception 6:00 pm; Lecture 6:45 pm – 8 pm

Place: SEIU 32BJ Auditorium, 101 6th Avenue, Manhattan (at Grand Street)

Contact: Alan Saly – LCG Communications: 718.853.5568;

Leo Gerard, one of the nation’s most prominent labor leaders, and an outspoken proponent of national health care for all, will be the keynote speaker at the First Annual Sumner Rosen Lecture on Thursday, May 18th @ SEIU 32BJ headquarters. The event, which will be chaired by Ed Ott, Political Director of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, is presented by The Five Borough Institute and Rekindling Reform, and is co-sponsored by more than 25 labor, health care, religious, community and other organizations.

Mr. Gerard’s address, entitled, “The Labor Movement and United Action for Health Care for All,” will officially launch the Sumner Rosen Lecture and Advocacy Fund. Sumner Rosen was a prominent academic and labor activist who passed away in August of 2005, leaving a legacy of advocating universal access to health care and occupational and environmental protection for all. He was a founder of the Five Borough Institute and Professor Emeritus of Social Work and Social Policy at Columbia University.

Leo Gerard, the son of a miner, is the President of North America’s largest industrial union, the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, (commonly referred to as the Steelworkers’ Union) representing over 850,000 active members. His address comes at a time when the labor movement is re-thinking its approach to national health care legislation. Mr. Gerard is expected to address issues of universal coverage, cost control, and prescription drug coverage.

Your coverage is welcome.


About Rekindling Reform: Rekindling Reform is a joint project of more than 65 organizations in New York State aimed at moving our nation toward affordable quality health care for all by stimulating informed public discussion and helping to build a social movement to accomplish this goal -

About the Five Borough Institute: The Institute is a non-partisan research and educational organization whose mission is to encourage the development and implementation of sound and progressive public policies. Its focus is on urban economic and political issues, especially those that affect New York City and it surrounding region, including global economic forces that threaten the jobs and livelihood of working people -

Co-Sponsoring Organizations: AFSCME DC 37Committee of Interns & Residents SEIUCommunications Workers of America Local 1180 Community Service Society of New YorkCongregation B’nai Jeshurun Congress of Senior CitizensCornell Labor ProgramsCouncil Municipal Retiree OrganizationsGreater New York Labor-Religion CoalitionHealthcare NOWJews For Economic and Racial JusticeJoseph Murphy Institute for Labor & Public Affairs Long Island Coalition of National Health PlansMailman School of Public Health, Columbia UniversityMake the Road by WalkingMetro NY Health Care for All CampaignNational Association of Social Workers NYC ChapterNational Jobs for All CoalitionNew Immigrant Community EmpowermentNYC Labor Council for Latin American AdvancementNew York Committee for Occupational Safety & HealthNew York Immigration Coalition New York Jobs With Justice New York State Nurses Association● Physicians for a National Health Program●Professional Staff Congress CUNY, AFT, AFL-CIOPublic Health Association of NYCTransport Workers Union Local 100United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1500●United University Professors●Workers Defense League

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Answers can be found within, but the blogosphere helps!