What's in originality's DNA?
My guess is its nucleotide is courage.
What's in originality's DNA?
My guess is its nucleotide is courage.
Joan Osborne once wondered in song and verse, "What if God was one of us?"
I can't help but follow up in wonder: if he was, would he ever second guess himself (or herself) about this whole free will thing? God, being omniscient, sees the good happening in the nooks and crannies of the world, the news that never makes it across the electrically tuned airwaves, and my guess is there's plenty of it. And maybe that's the key: to see beyond what's in front of our noses and our eyes and ears and listen to our hearts, believing that humanity will continue onward, forward, through the collisions of opinions informed and uniformed and through the messiness of free will both disciplined with compassion and littered with possessiveness.
It's sloppy out there, but this sloppiness too shall pass.
I participated in a guided meditation over the weekend, one unlike any I've ever experienced. What started out as a little quirky and earth-huggy proposal turned into something quirky, meaningful, and insightful.
Here's the transcript of the message I "brought back" after our group of about 35 people walked backwards in time to spend a few moments with our ancestors:
I have been a follower. I never took time to give room -- time and space -- to my own conscience. My ideas were dangerous: to myself, to my family, to our safety. So I followed orders and I worked to not stand out. I did the will of others -- causing harm, pain, suffering to others -- but their orders never overpowered, never muted the whisperings of my own conscience; my heart may have hardened but the beams of sunlight, of starry blackness, of expressionless expressions on those I oppressed, sang on.
Do not turn away in fear from fear. Do not stand frozen becoming calloused and sinking slowly into the quicksand of everything but what you are, and who you are destined to become. Fall not into the trap that is set for every human. You have the (treasure) map written on your hearts.
Balance my errs before God. Relieve my transgressions. Heed these words. And take action to step onto the right side of history.
It's a regular piece of advice shared time and again: do your best, that's all you can do. You hear it during post-game interviews with pro athletes, in blog posts on LinkedIn, and from pulpits. It must be true if so many people believe it.
What's also true is that doing your best does not always get you admitted to the in vogue nightclub. Do your best and you may fail. Do your darndest and you might lose, to the point of everything. Is this mindset a way of couching the pain of stepping into the unknown and going all in? Is it a preemptive strike against the blow of defeat, just in case defeat happens?
I wonder, the way the universe is built, if, and only if, by going all in do you overcome the tinge of any result, to the point where the result becomes almost unimportant in the light of what you just did because the strength and courage to go all-in is so difficult to summon and, perhaps, just as difficult to employ?
Henry David Thoreau once remarked that "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." If most people do, is it because we never quite go all in, realizing that life isn't something to hold on to but rather something to let go of completely?
At my wife's prompting, I went to see a therapist. This nudge was about 18 months ago so I've been hanging out with my doc and his family dog for a while now. I sit, he sits, the canine naps, we talk. Pretty much just as you'd imagine. It certainly helps to discuss the stumbling blocks in my life -- and it's a good lesson for me to be open to help from another human being -- but, in the same way that my physical health is my responsibility so, too, is my mental and emotional health. In other words, one hour of therapy every couple of weeks is a place to refocus not Shangri-La.
The topic of chasing windmills has been a regular theme lately and, the other day, I shared three quotes that backed up a recent decision of mine to walk away from a perfectly good job, with very sweet peeps, to head off for God knows what lies ahead. (More on that next time.)
The three quotes are:
To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself. - Søren Kierkegaard
Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability. - John Wooden
Take the risk. - Unknown
What I was too embarrassed to mention to the doc was that all three pieces of sage advice came from the other side of a bottle cap.
One hundred bucks an hour is an investment in my well-being and insight into my behavior does take place within the conversations that my psychotherapist and I have. But the reality is, answers to my questions about life and my path in it can, and should, be able to find me around any corner. It's my responsibility to listen and watch for them, in whatever form they greet me.
I wonder if, right now, somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean, a ship's captain is tacking to and fro across the International Date Line dancing back and forth between years.
Since humanity and time met up people have marked its forward march, if in no other way than by the lines on the face of a neighbor. Relatively speaking, someone who's 20 and another approaching 80 may reflect on the ball dropping in polar-opposite ways; it's more than human to want to see an infinite number of balls drop.
Today, in this present moment, we're on an elevated cushy seat straddling the past and the future. Can we make even a bit more peace with one side and unmoor hope into the other?
"Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith."
Anxiety is sneaky. It taps you on the shoulder when you're tired, when you're off-center, when you try to do too much with too little time. Create space. Go to sleep 15-minutes earlier. Rekindle a dream, a biggish one. Go outside. Anxiety can't find you in wide open spaces and when you have both feet firmly on actual ground.
We are made of stardust, or atoms that adorned distant skies as stardust. This is us the science says, so it's worth considering what a bunch of atoms working together can do. Dust from distant days have produced 7th Symphonies, and Sistine Chapels, and War and Peace. Atoms and elements are represented as equations but their outcomes -- intimacy, ecstasy, hope, depression, fear, failure, worry, sorrow, anger, suffering, dusting off, getting up -- equal more than what meets the eye on paper.
The heavens are made of atoms and radiance and, if you look at your life, it starts to make sense that you are, too.
We served 6,000 free meals this fall, at an event 18-months in the making. What began with a sign-up sheet taped to an unassuming table at a food-justice event sprouted into a coalition -- from Great Britain to Colorado to Laramie County, Wyoming -- of nonprofits, for-profits, government agencies and passionate citizens circling the wagons round a completely solvable issue: food waste.
The day's delicious and free vegetable curry was made using food that otherwise would've gone to compost or to landfill. Pallets were donated while some food was gleaned.
One of the volunteers at the event shared the words of one of the many people who came to enjoy a free bite to eat:
A lovely woman named Anita shared some life philosophy that pierced my heart at Feeding the 5000. As we stood together conversing at the Future Pointe booth, she looked out into the crowd and inquired, 'You know why this event is important?" She leaned one arm on the table, closed one eye like a pirate focusing, coughed, and then raised her other hand above the crowd of people eating together in front of us. "Because never, in my ten years on the streets in Denver, have I seen poor people, rich people, gay people, black and white people, all people eating and conversing together at the same table."
Tristram Stuart, the founder of Feedback, put it this way: "I often contemplate the meaning of the word companion. It literally means some one you eat bread with (com=with, pan=bread). Sharing food together is one of the most powerful ways humans have of becoming companions."
The Civil War. World War II. 9/11. 11.08.16.
On election night, journalist Mark Halperin said: “Outside of the Civil War, World War II and including 9/11, this (the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States) may be the most cataclysmic event the country’s ever seen.”
More than half of the people who cast their votes on 11.08 would agree, while nearly half would not.
The populous anger that propelled Mr. Trump to the new title of president-elect Trump ricocheted across the philosophical chasm in America -- made breathtakingly transparent as Tuesday night became Wednesday morning -- to bewildered masses, perpetually stinging them with waves of uncertainty and disbelief and fear--fear of an American presidency by the majority living in America.
Your first hop. It's up slightly and to a woody-ledge substrate that looks and smells like home, yet also feels uncomfortably not like it. You pause, adjusting your grip and pretend to look purposely at the hue-filled horizon but even its august nature is no balm for your swirling anxiety swirling inside. Above you creating circles of peace is a Red-tailed Hawk, adrift on an invisible net of currents. Below you is a pine tree-filled valley, falling away beyond the outcropping of ancient rock steadfastly wearing time as time wills. Your next step is a brief down, onto a craggy yet sturdy horizontal wooden bar of oak. Your mind tells you this is unsafe: turnaround, stay. But your instincts are your master and they march you into the unknown. A fountain of mid-summer air invites itself into the next moment, moving trees, branches, and leaves and your feathers. Your talons clutch the oak branch more tightly as all of nature looks on and wonders if courage made your heart or doubt made your mind. As the air turbulence reverberates throughout your fortress structure, you extend your wings above your head to stay on the balance beam until calm takes its turn by your side. You turn your head and glance at the only home you've ever known. You pause. And return your focus to the unknown ahead. If you spread your wings, you will what? If you do not spread your wings, you will what? If you do not move?
Words. Just words
Legal, emotional, boring
Rushed, nurtured, measured.
Words on paper
Have moved mountains
Words on paper
Have sealed fates
And reported hate
And hope in its wake.
Words on paper
Are hard to come by,
Yet other days
Words on paper
Describe a person’s life
In a paragraph or two
When their final breath is a period to their story here.
Words on paper
“Do you like me?”
Is a fuse ready to be lit.
How many words do you
Write or speak or share
That originate in your head?
How many originate in your heart?
Toeing the starting line is one moment in time. The next is sometimes filled with getting to the finish line, and that's where things get sideways. Success in any venture -- whether or not you get the results you hoped and worked for -- is incumbent upon leaving the starting line behind and putting your whole self into the very next step, and every subsequent step along way.
Easier said than done but not impossible, focusing on each moment and enjoying each step will bring you home to yourself.
A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.
- William G.T. Shedd
It may've taken me into my adult years, but I sailed out of my own metaphorical harbor and into the unknown chasing after a dream (or a windmill depending upon who you asked). I arrived in a distant land and was greeting by many new people, disliked by a few, and eventually caught up to the dream.
Time did it's thing.
Then, the other day, I did something I never expected: I burnt my metaphorical ship. I left a good job with responsibilities that were familiar, unlike the conversation with my boss in a local coffee shop. One by one, my discerned and logical-sounding words left my mouth and crossed the table to my supervisor's ears and the hull of all that was familiar began to smoulder, heat, and crackle. I watched and wondered and metaphorically rubbed my eyes unsure of why I just signed up to explore the unknown.
Using my savings, I went into a store to get supplies for the journey ahead. At the checkout counter, the team member used her fingernail in vain to scrape off the white sticker hiding the UPC code on one of the items I placed on the black rubber belt. Looking up at me, she paused then smiled then said, "Here you go."
Walking out into the dark of autumn while enjoying a free bottle of locally sourced chocolate milk, I remembered that normalcy is found in a lot of places you might expect and that simple kindness maps out a path to hope.
My name isn't Sisyphus so why do I persist in pushing metaphorical pieces of granite up a hillside again and again?
Album titles. The good ones are a message in a bottle of sorts. Just like a small piece of paper inside a hollow cookie that you won't eat or a few words on the back of a bottle cap that hit the spot.
Inspiration is everywhere and when you let your guard down you can see it then feel it and maybe even act upon it.
Home. It was once a structure where love, patience, and understanding lived under the same roof with me. As I grew into bigger shoes, home was a place on a map. In 2016, home has evolved into the here and now; life in this moment, by moment.
This land was made for you and me. But now it requires remaking for that to happen. One-in-seven adults in the United States cannot say for certain where their next meal will come from, yet we toss or dismiss 40 percent of all the edible food in the supply chain.
Just about a year ago, I wrote that a new coalition was about to launch to reduce the amount of food that's wasted in Colorado; it was a pilot program and it's beginning to set down a few roots.
Today it has a mission, a vision, and 85 members from all walks of life: nonprofit, for-profit, government (federal, state, local ... and one day, hopefully, tribal), plus teachers and students, farmers and private citizens.
One of it's Working Groups (organized by sector such as Education, Policy, Manufacturing) is measuring food waste in K-12 schools and another is organizing a food-waste-awareness event called Feeding the 5000 Front Range which will be held in downtown Denver on October 14, 2016.
Food waste is truly a solvable problem, one with a delicious solution, one that can, in the process of its elimination, put us back in touch with what we really need: staying in touch with our land and the roots that grow there, the roots where our sustenance originates.
Mountains are slow. And they've seen much. Much more than you and me. Two-hundred and forty-one years ago, they patiently and quietly watched the sun beam its rays on the soon-to-be American plains. For centuries, they bore witness to indigenous tribes hunting and gathering and migrating and offering worship. And for thousands of years they had no vested interest in the rise and fall of powerful nations and civilizations somewhere below.
Countries are fast. They build and tear down and build back up. They celebrate and they argue and they bully and sometimes proselytize. They collect stuff, dump stuff, hide stuff, store stuff, and buy more stuff. They are also fertile grounds for needed change and miracles sprouting in rows, if only they knew how to sit still more often.