Category: Summer Camp

Curious Before Furious

When going through your life, whose perspective do you rely upon the most? (Your own, of course.) It’s the most natural thing in your life: seeing all that is going on around you from your own point of view.

Henry Thoreau, the writer of a few very famous books, said that he’d spend hours looking at a scene from one perspective. The next day, he’d sit in almost exactly the same spot – just a little different – and observe the same scene. He did this over and over. (The guy was either really patient, driven or bored to tears. I prefer to think it’s one of the first two.)

Thoreau did this so that he could observe the same things from different perspectives. Claude Monet, a ground-breaking painter, did a similar thing with haystacks and other subjects.

“Ok, Cole, why all the art talk and perspective?”

I’m glad you asked: because everything can be seen from different perspectives. And in doing so, you get a fuller understanding of what is actually in front of you.

Curious Before Furious

You and your friends read the same book for a class report. But each of you take the same information in differently, stressing some points and ignoring others. You think you and your friends have been arguing but you’ve made up and now everything is ‘ok.’ You may want to check that from the other’s perspective… or a third. (“Hey, Jenna – you were there when Samir and I were arguing. I think we made up and all is good. What do you think?”)

It’s a great tool in life to be able to see a situation, moment or thought from another (and another’s) perspective. It’s very easy to get emotional right away when something is said and you hear about it out of context. As I heard recently, it’s better to be curious before furious. What was really said? What was the context? What was the intent?

I like that phrase. It’s one that can be put into action right away. Sure, you can be mad after you’ve gotten all the facts and perspectives. But at least do the work. It can actually save you a lot of grief in the long run.
Be curious this week ahead!

A Useful Change

We’ve so enjoyed running summer camps over the past twenty summers. Seeing the kids learn and grow has been a blessing. And, after years of thinking about it, Kate and I have decided to show some courage and follow our true passion.

We are turning Camp Weequahic into a standardized test preparation mecca!

Rather than waterskiing or bouncing on the lake toys, we’ll be focused on the finer details of trigonometry. Instead of cooking in Top Chef or creating in Ceramics, we’ll dive deeply into the Latin roots of vocabulary. In lieu of Weequahic Basketball, Soccer or Football League, our campers (‘students’ may be a better word?) will spend time developing strategies for the ‘if a equals b’ questions and preparing for the writing prompts.

We are so excited about this change as it helps our campers reach the peak of what middle and early high school life should revolve around: preparing for a test!

A Few More Updates

Campfire will still be a great thing and will happy every Friday night. Instead of focusing on building community and exploring our (old) values of gratitude, attitude and courage, we’ll host an academic quiz bowl led by guest proctors from around the world. We’ll make s’mores as long as there is time. (Oh, and our new values: study, study, study!)

Speaking of which, bedtime will have to be a bit earlier – 8:30pm for everyone. Studies show that rising by 6am and getting right to academic work is best for our 15-year-olds so we are going to make everyone enjoy the same routine. And you’ll need your rest. Twelve-hour days of test preparation will take a lot out of you.

Oh… and we’ll (finally!) have some changes to Canteen. Gone will be those flavorless skittles, Swedish fish and slush puppies. We all know they aren’t good for you. They’ll be replaced with brainwave increasing raw carrots, freeze-dried kelp and cabbage smoothies. Finally! Food that is both tasty and good for you.

The Ultimate Goal

So, in short, everything we are going to do at camp this summer and for all summers going forward will revolve around what matters most: your ACT or SAT score.

Sure, being a well-rounded person who acts gratefully, who has the power to choose your attitude and who builds courage in small ways daily is… nice (I guess). But that’s not what life is all about. People like that don’t make the world a better place.

We all know the marker of a great human, one who builds community and trust and is most successful in life is their standardized test score. So, we are going to do our part.

Ah… six glorious weeks of test prep… CAN’T WAIT!!

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

PS – Happy April 1st!

Enough

A group of dads and 8th grade boys and I were talking a bit last week. We were focusing on how to protect against the challenges that culture throws at us… and the challenges we throw at ourselves. 

One young guy asked a question about the seven ‘deadly’ sins. It was a phrase I’d not heard in a while so we looked them up: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.

These were first discussed in the 6th century. The idea was to name the ‘foundational’ challenges (or sins) that lead us humans to other challenges. If we knew what the bad things were, the thought went, we could defend against them.

All are pretty self-explanatory. Thinking of yourself too much (pride), being jealous of others (envy), getting really, really angry (wrath), having that 4th… or 7th cookie (gluttony),etc. But, being the overbearing camp director that I am, we started going through each one. 

About three quarters of the way through, another young man looked up and said, “It seems like most of these could be categorized as ‘wanting.’ I want too much food, too much entertainment, too much money.”

It was a great insight by an 8th grade guy. But what came next was even better. 

The Antidote

One of the other dads in the group looked around, smiled and asked, ‘If most of these problems start with wanting too much, what’s the antidote? How do you stop it from getting going?”’ 

Without batting an eye, the young man responded, “Probably being grateful for what you have.” 

Bingo.

This principle applies as much to an 8th grader as it does to a business tycoon as it does to a writer. In fact, I recently heard a story that brought this idea home. 

Kurt Vonegurt wrote about an experience he and fellow writer Joseph Heller had together. While at some big party in a fancy house, Vonegurt looked at Heller and said, “Joe, how does it feel knowing that our host made more money yesterday than your book, Catch 22, made in its history?” 

To quote the rest: 

And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”

And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”

And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”

Enough

That’s a hard thing to do in this day and age. It’s soooo easy to find examples of what you don’t have – more things, more recognition, more free time. Culture is set up around us to egg that ‘wanting’ onward. 

And, frankly, some of that wanting is a good thing. You want to better yourself and the circumstances of those around you. You want justice for those not receiving it. You want and work towards understanding. 

For many of us, there comes a moment when you simply forget to be grateful for that and those which are in your life because you are so focused on wanting ‘more’… whatever that ‘more’ is. That marks the point of diminishing returns, the downward slide. 

At some point, there has to be enough. Because striving towards things that don’t fill you up in a way that makes you and your loved ones better will start to do damage to you and your loved ones eventually. Mr. Heller knew this. The young man around the table knows it as well.

What is Enough?

Now, ‘enough’ will seem to be different for you at different times. What is enough in middle school is different than in college or when you are a parent. The funny thing is that it is really not that different at all. In a letter to his wife, Abigail, President John Adams said it best:

The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know…Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. This is enough.

Works for me and probably will for you, too. Have a great weekend. 

(Full disclosure: I was battling ‘pride’ myself around that table. The young man who had the insight and answer above is a Weequahic guy through and through.)