Monday, May 3, 2010

Mary Pipher

Mary Pipher spoke at the Jewish Community Center last night. The event, sponsored by The National Council of Jewish Women, was the first in a series dealing with family issues. Pipher recently turned sixty and sported a shock of natural, wavy, gray hair that seemed to echo many of the points she made about solving the problems of the modern family: a return to focusing on what we truly value in life; spending time with our family; taking the focus away from the pop-culture values of consumerism and superficial beauty; slowing down the rush of time.

She spoke of how, in these fast paced times of Blackberries, laptops, iPods and iPhones, we face an incessant barrage of media messages. We are constantly miseducating ourselves, and our children, about the value of family and community, the glue that had, until now, provided us with a safe foundation. Echoing the proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," Pipher said that raising children is a tribal issue, and that, unfortunately, the tribal wisdom has gone from our culture.

Here were some of her suggestions on how to begin to address these issues: Clarifying and redefining our values (what do the constructs of "family" and "wealth" really mean to us?); declaring "media blackout days" in our homes; designating a corner, or even an entire room, in our homes as a "calmness center."

Pipher's book, "The Shelter of Each Other," speaks to these issues in more depth, but her newer book, "Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World" is the one that has caught my eye. In a recent interview about "Seeking Peace," which is a memoir, she tells of her personal crisis and depression that came after the success of her first, and perhaps most famous book, "Reviving Ophelia." In this interview, which is linked below, she says something about specifically about herself, that she thinks applies to all of us, that I've always thought was true, and I'll paraphrase here to suit my own point: that, as we go through our day to day lives, it is uncomfortable to look inward. We wear the smiley face mask of every day life, walking among people in crisis, unaware of their suffering, and perhaps even our own.

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