to Out on a Limb,
a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine
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Bay Area Readers: Mark Your Calendars!
POETRY & PIZZA,
Friday, April 2, 2010 at 7:30pm
Escape from New York Pizza, 333 Bush at Montgomery, San Francisco
For a mere
$10 donation, you'll get all-you-can-eat pizza and a poetry
reading that features Lian Gouw and Martha Clark Scala.
Lian will read from her poetry manuscript, The
Last Dance, which chronicles her journey as a caregiver
of her ex-husband during his battle with cancer. Lian is the
author of an excellent historical novel, Only a Girl,
which is set in Indonesia. For more information about Lian,
or to schedule a book group appearance (she's fabulous!), click
I'll be reading recently revised poems that address themes
of spirituality and the creative life.
Why is S E L F I S H a dirty word?
1970’s (and into the 80’s) were dubbed “The
Me Decade” by novelist Tom Wolfe, he lamented the narcissistic,
self-indulgent tendencies of a population lacking in adequate
social concern. His observations may have been accurate. However,
if you hear his complaint through an either/or filter, selfish
becomes a dirty word; selflessness becomes a medal of honor.
Does this polarity serve us?
you reconcile this Me Decade judgment with the instruction
you are given as a plane prepares for take-off? You are
told that if the oxygen mask drops down due to a dip in
air pressure, you must put your own mask on first, prior to
helping others. It’s a little counter-intuitive, isn’t
it? You would probably want to help a child or an elderly
person first, and yet, how helpful can you be if you don’t
have adequate oxygen? It is not only appropriate but necessary
to get your oxygen first. How would you assist others if you
haven’t got enough oxygen to thrive?
I attended a workshop on Community Organizing that was led
Miller. One of the most memorable discussions was on
the topic of self-interest. Mike suggested that self-interest
falls in the middle of a spectrum between selfishness – concern
for oneself at the expense of others, and altruism – concern
for others to the exclusion of self. Placing the oxygen mask
on your face qualifies as an act of self-interest, doesn’t
it? If you are motivated by self-interest, you are self-possessed
(rather than self-absorbed) enough to advocate for your wants
and needs. Isn’t this a prerequisite for benevolent
action in service of others or the community-at-large? If
we pursue our well-being (rather than self-sacrifice), are
we not more able to serve others? Are we less prone to burnout,
and more likely to experience joy? And isn’t that in
our self-interest? Too bad our association with the word selfish
can’t incorporate the life-affirming element of self-interest,
because then it wouldn’t be such a doggone dirty word.
Miller is the Executive Director of Organize Training Center.
For ordering information about his book, A Community Organizer’s Tale: People and Power in San Francisco,
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can hear
Mike talk about his book at Bird and Beckett Bookstore,
653 Chenery St., San Francisco, on Sunday, March 7th, at
for March 2010
yourself to something which you would typically forego: a
bouquet of flowers, an extra hour of sleep, turn the computer
off … you get the idea. Notice if providing this treat
for yourself expands your ability to care for or be magnanimous