Truth & The Examined Life by Cornell West

The way to truth, sustaining the journey to truth – deducing from evidence, drawing reliable conclusions, surrendering one’s arrogance and pride – “ways of acknowledging our finitude and fallibility,” with Dr. Cornell West, Class of 1943 Professor at Princeton University, “a blues man in the life of the mind, I’m a jazz man in the world of ideas.” Dr. West blends philosophy with the “funk of life,” music, poetry, examination. Why do we read, write, view, struggle? To understand ourselves and the world! I love what he has to say about reading and intensity – “to throw [books] against the wall,” which happens, the overwhelming by truth and reality. Anyway – here is one of Earth’s smartest men talking honestly. Check it out – it’s seven minutes well spent.


Language & Learning; or On Poop Words

Usually, we change and grow silently, invisibly. Sometimes, changes in our brains become obvious and pop out in crystalline detail. Only once, poop and pee has crystallized a real change in my life.

Yesterday, my wife, Kal, looked at our daughter of 2 1/2 years, Dot, and asked “Do you feel peeps muzza-muzza?” This sentence has meaning, unbelievably.

Kal’s links with this sentence begin in the deep past, her own toddlerhood. For some reason, pee, or its hyphenated variant pee-pee, wasn’t enough for her mother, wasn’t cute enough, sweet enough, or unique enough. So pee became peeps, which are offensively sweet marshmallow birds in my experience, capitalized. Peeps.

So, peeps is the language in our house for pee-pee. It works – it’s fun to say and the peeps meme is embedded deeply within Dot’s language understanding. Poop is also plural, in effect. Poops muzza-muzza is also a phrase, with true and useful meaning. So, how did the entire phrase gain meaning? Dot was showing mixed interest in potty training, sometimes willing to try the potty when prompted, but often having accidents that seemed to be increasing, rather than decreasing over time. We tried candy, stickers, high fives. Still, motivation was flagging amongst us all.

As we sought to motivate Dot’s potty training, Kal searched about for cool things to hook her attention and focus her on the process. Of course, as one would expect, Japanimation came to the rescue:


Shimajiro is a very popular cartoon character in a wide ranging series of cartoons for teaching kids skills and¬†etiquette. When Shimajiro is ready to hit the head, he proclaims a feeling of “muzza-muzza,” or possibly wuzza-wuzza, which is what I hear. Of course, it doesn’t really matter. Shimajiro, via Youtube, gave Dot a vocabulary for bladder and large intestinal pressure. Overnight, she was into the potty. Dot was taking responsibility for heading to her potty and taking care of business.

For Dot, the language is real; she has no reason to question the meaning behind these words. But, even more interesting to me is how seamlessly Kal and I have integrated this new language into our daily experience. Kal didn’t think before she asked if Dot felt peeps muzza-muzza, because she didn’t have to. The language was integrated already and part of a communication circuit with Dot. Via Japanimation on Youtube.