What’s so fascinating is how Dr. Stuart Brown first come to study play — by studying mass murderer Charles Whitman:
"In 1966 when I was just beginning to take over and office as an assistant professor of psychiatry, a young man by the name of Charles Whitman went up to the Texas Tower in Austin, Texas, after killing his wife and mother. He perpetrated what was then the largest mass murder in the history of the United States, killing 17 additional people and wounding 41. And because I had done some studies of violence in the course of my residency in neurology and psychiatry, and because in August in Texas most people who are important are elsewhere, I was put in charge of the behavioral aspect of trying to figure out why Charles Whitman did this horrendous crime. And we brought in the world’s experts to try to figure out the motivation of Charles Whitman, even though he had been killed by vigilante crossfire at the top of the tower.
And so for a very intense period of time, in addition to doing very detailed toxicologic and — studies of his body, we retrieved as much information as possible from his prenatal area all the way up to the last hours before he died. And without going through that entire story, one of the major conclusions, which struck me and has certainly stuck with me since, was that a remarkably systematic suppression of any free play — which was largely the result of his father’s overbearing and intense personality — prevented Charles Whitman from engaging in normal play at virtually any era of his life, including his early infancy.
We thought at the end of the Whitman study that this was such a bizarre aberration in human behavior that it probably was not something one could generalize from. So as a result of the funding available and the availability of research subjects in the prison system in Texas, a team of us then studied all the young murderers whose crime was essentially homicide without their being career criminals, and we did an in-depth study of them, their families, and compared them to as well-matched a control and comparison population as we could. And, lo and behold, we discovered that the majority of them — in fact 90% level — had really bizarre, absent, deficient, seriously deviant play histories.”
“If I can’t tell people why we are doing this, how can I expect others to share their stories?”— Nathan Manske
Nathan Manske is the founder of I’m From Driftwood, which collects the stories of members of the LGBTQ community. This is his story of how collecting these stories changed him, from our Your Audio Selfie series.
“The Native American triad of corn, beans, and squash together, produce more than they ever could alone. The beauty of this truth can be applied to human communities as well. As I’ve been learning in my Permaculture Design Course, we can create people guilds too. We all have different strengths to contribute, and by carefully building our communities so every individual is able to both give and receive what they need to thrive, we create more than we ever could alone.”—Heather Christensen, from this prompting essay on permaculture and polarization.
“In one way or another, every wisdom tradition I know says that what we need is here. It’s just a matter of opening our eyes and appreciating what I call ‘secrets hidden in plain sight.’ But we can’t do that when we’re obsessing about the past or the future, or about what we don’t have, or allowing a thousand distractions to prevent us from noticing the gift of ‘here and now.’”—Parker Palmer, from "What We Need Is Here"
If one were to get a replay of Michael Jordan in one of the final games of NBA championship and see him zoning down the floor doing some moves he’s never done before and tossing the ball up for a basket, I doubt if, at that time, he is really conscious that the buzzer’s about to go or that — I think he’s outside of time. And I can certainly give you from my own life recollections of that sensation. Just, say last week, I was I in a nice musical concert that was being held in Monterey and, you know, I got lost in the music and had the feeling of, you know, sort of an oceanic feeling of not being there. And it wasn’t something I expected to happen. But it was pleasurable. Watching a grandson of mine on the floor with his stuffed animal talking to it, timeless. And it’s different for, for lots of us.
“I sat beside her bed and saw a stranger and realized I had fallen asleep. While I was asleep, something had happened. The woman I knew who cooked three meals a day, who sewed all my clothes as a young girl and then taught me to sew, who polished hardwood floors on her hands and knees, who served as sacristan at our church — ironing fair linen and polishing chalices — who still put clothes out to dry on a clothesline and ironed sheets, who preserved vegetables from the garden — that woman was gone. In her place was another who had vacant eyes and hands that fell uselessly by her side and were empty of all occupation and all strength and all purpose. The woman I knew as my mother was gone.”—Gloria Jean Bubba, from this meditation on the grief and the loss that comes slowly from losing her mother to Alzheimer’s disease.
“We cannot write well or truly but what we write with gusto. The body, the senses must conspire with the spirit — Expression is the act of the whole man. That our speech may be vascular — intellect is powerless to express thought without the aid of the heart and liver and of every member — Often I feel that my head stands out too dry — when it should be immersed. A writer, a man writing is the scribe of all nature — he is the corn and the grass and the atmosphere of writing.”—Henry David Thoreau, in a journal entry dated September 2, 1851.
The first line, “I’m the sparrow on the roof,” is from the Psalms. And in the last few months of my dad’s life, I read Psalms — the Psalms to him. And I don’t think I ever realized how poetic the Psalms were. And then this line about being a sparrow on the roof just killed me. So after my dad died, I wanted to start the song that way.