What's Tony Thinking

At the WeekEnd, March 2 – 3


Made it to San Miguel de Allende. We were a little surprised on our first day here at how quiet the town seemed. That didn’t last long. March 1 began with “bombas” exploding well before 6:00 a.m. to signal the Fiesta of the Lord of the Conquest. Before long we found our way to central square where drums pounded and hundreds of dancers, of all ages, whirled in the morning sun. (photo by Linda)

This festival remembers the death of two Franciscans journeying to San Miguel over four centuries ago. Just short of their goal they were killed, but the statue of Jesus which they bore, lodges in the central church in San Miguel and is venerated at this festival.

Like all the many festivals here this one is full of color, costumes, ceremonial dancing, wafting smoky incense, wildly beating drums as well as percussive devices worn by the dancers. The meaning of it is a little ambiguous (to this gringo). The dancers are the descendants of the indigenous people who resisted the Spaniard’s conquest (hence the death of the two Franciscans). Their dances and costumes harken back to the pre-conquest cultures, while the festival also venerates Jesus. Christianity without Christendom? It seems true that many of the festivals here have a variety of meanings, some of which are in tension.

Linda found some info about this one which included a line worth pondering: “The contrasts and contradictions highlight the complexity of having ancestors who were both the conquerors and the conquered.” Ponder that! Could apply to Americans and probably many other peoples.

Safety-ism, risk and play for kids. In a piece at the “After Babel,” site Margaret Brussoni writes about the value of risk, excitement  and even fear in play for kids. No surprise that kids need unsupervised, unprogrammed play that may not always be safe. Times when they make it up, their imaginations run free and they police themselves. Here’s Bussoni:

Parents today receive constant messaging that in order to be “good parents”, they must always keep their children safe. And it is widely believed that the world is no longer a safe place for children to play in. Yet statistics show that it has never been a safer time to be a child. Injury-related deaths are at an all-time low in most Western nations. In the US, deaths from unintentional injuries fell by 73% for boys and 85% for girls between 1973 and 2010. This misperception of risk creates the parental paradox.

What kids are dying from today are mainly car crashes and suicides, not playing outside unsupervised with friends. Parents are worrying about the wrong causes of injuries and harm. In fact, the very strategies that parents use to try to keep their children safe – driving them around, maximizing supervision, and minimizing freedom – are unintentionally increasing the likelihood of injuries and even death.

We’ve prioritized safety over freedom, achievement over play, and screen time over outdoor time. The results are predictable: compromised mental and physical health, cognitive development, and emotional competence.

The solutions are both simple and hard. We know what children need to thrive. The three key ingredients necessary for thriving play environments are Time, Space, and Freedom.

Safety-ism at the other end of the life span too. Our book group has been reading books on the theme of “Aging and Mortality,” the most recent being Atul Gawande’s 2014 book, Being Mortal, which remains wonderful and relevant.

Gawande points out how “safety” trumps other important questions that need to be asked of the aging person and their care, such as, “What, to you, makes life worth living?” You can work so hard at making things safe for the aged  (and children) that they end up deprived of the things that makes life worthwhile.

One story Gawande tells is of a bleak, depressing nursing home where a new ED suggests introducing plants in every room, dogs on every floor, cats and birds all over the place. Predictably the response is, “This won’t be safe. That will be dangerous.” But he pushed ahead with the result that some people who had essentially given up on living revived to take care of plants, to walk a dog or to delight in a bird’s antics and song. The whole place was transformed by risking life.

Our current reading in the book group is Wallace Stegner’s 1974 novel, Crossing to Safety. He’s such a good writer. And yet the world he depicts, academic and artistic culture in the U.S. from late thirties to early 70’s, seems a wholly other world, all but lost, today. If you have read the book I have a question for you. What do you think Stegner intended by the title?

For those of you interested the topic, other books in our series include With the End in Mind by Kathleen Mannix and The Gift of Aging by Marcy Houle and Elizabeth Eckstrom. Still to come are The Lost Art of Dying by L.S. Dugdale, Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (another novel) and These Precious Days by Anne Patchett. One of the things that is different about our book group is that we a series of books on a theme. Has worked well for us.

Hope you have a lovely weekend wherever you find yourself and enjoy some of what makes life worth living.





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