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August2015DogwoodTreeThe dogwood leaves have begun to change here at Vanaprastha. Dogwoods are among the first trees to show fall color, their leaves turning from green to scarlet then wine-crimson. Echoing nature’s life-death cycle, they reflect both beauty and loss.

Recently, I read The Atlantic Monthly’s September cover story “The Coddling of the American Mind.” One of the article’s sidebars noted Common Cognitive Distortions. The number one distortion was failure. “I’m a loser; I won’t get the job. It would be terrible if I failed; I seem to fail at a lot of things. Those successes were easy so they don’t matter; I get rejected by everyone,” and so forth.

People today, college students in particular, demand protection from triggers, words and ideas in print or spoken that might offend, upset or produce cognitive distortion. Emotional reasoning like this muffles free speech. Some colleges have curbed their offerings, and professors have been censured and censored due to students’ trigger accusations. Comedians Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld have said that they no longer perform on the college circuit because students insist on political correctness.

By nature, political correctness and trigger warnings limit critical thinking. “Rather than trying to protect students from words and ideas that they will inevitably encounter, colleges should do all they can to equip students to thrive in a world full of words and idea that they cannot control,” the authors wrote.

According to The United States National Arboretum, longer nights in late summer and early autumn trigger leaves to change. Temperature, sunlight and soil moisture influence the quality of the display. We’ve had an extraordinarily wet spring and summer, a good setup for colorful foliage. With dry, warm sunny days and cool nights, fall leaves should put on a brilliant show.

August2015DogwoodCloseWe have no control over any of those triggers. But as the trees lose their leaves, we can say to ourselves, “I’m a winner because I’m alive to experience this, and living is succeeding.”

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