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RADICAL GENEROSITY

RADICAL GENEROSITY

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that generosity is not a down-payment on love.  [Generosity is spill-over when you’re feeling full.]

I am reading a book, LOVE LET GO:  Radical Generosity for the Real World, by Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell.  It is a story about an amazing church congregation in Chicago, the LaSalle Street Church, who received a totally unexpected windfall:  a check for $1,530,116.78.

windfall
“Windfalls” by Rhia via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
The check represented the church’s share of proceeds from the sale of an urban property that they had bought in the 1970s with three other churches.  The land had been used for a desperately needed low-income housing project in the neighborhood, Atrium Village, which had served the purpose for more than 25 years.

The church’s heartful investment had been returned…in spades.

This 2017 YouTube video of a “100 Huntley Street” interview with pastor Laura Sumner Truax, one of the authors of the book, is a kind of a teaser for the book.

As Truax says, the church leaders made a wild, counter-intuitive move that changed the game on a clear day in September, 2014.  The leaders used ten percent of the windfall money to tithe back to the church members.  Each church member received a $500 check with the injunction to go out and do good in God’s world.

The leadership of the church also encouraged the members to participating in the effort to study and pray on how they were going to allocate the rest of the windfall funds, the “Big Money.”  More than half of the congregation spent nine months on the project.

The book tells the story of what happened and what the people involved in this exploration learned as a result.  It was and remains an ever-evolving, extraordinary process and journey, one that makes my heart smile.

a-give
“a:give” by John and Aga Brewster via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE GIVING CHURCH

LaSalle Street Church was built in 1886 in the near north side of Chicago by Swedish immigrants who never once worshipped in it.  The congregation had been left bankrupt by the effort of its construction.

Its history of hard luck and scarcity continued throughout the church’s long history of involvement with a community that is diverse and sometimes volatile.  One of the primary principles the church has always held to is this:  Giving is better than receiving.

They really did walk their talk even though most of the time the church was, like their neighbors, “just getting by.”

Giving didn’t change the church’s financial circumstances but it did change “the way LaSalle wore its scarcity,” as authors Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell lyrically puts it.  They did it with style and their acts of generosity were truly appreciated.

During the 1960s, when Chicago exploded in the violence and vitriol of the race riots, local youth protected the LaSalle Street Church from burning.  The angry young ones who were pressing for change remembered.  They protected the people who helped them through their hard times.

The church has always been a major light in the community.  Senior citizens who needed company and a meal, the kids looking for sanctuary and a safe place to go after school and residents who were caught up in a legal system they could not navigate all found what they needed at the church.

This video, which was put together by Faustino Productions in 2015, was published on YouTube by tinogon1942.  It shows the aftermath of the Chicago riots on the west side of Chicago after Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 as the Supreme’s “Stop In the Name of Love” plays.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Chicago officials embraced the concept of urban renewal and started creating high-density, high-rise dwellings like Cabrini-Green and relocated people from the poorer parts of town to these new developments.  The joke going ’round then among the city residents was that the program would have been more aptly named “urban removal.”

In reaction to this government program, LaSalle Street Church’s senior pastor at the time, Bill Leslie, preached a commitment to turf.  La Salle stood at the edge of communities in transition.  On one side, some of the city’s neediest residents lived.  On the other side was some of the most expensive real estate in Chicago.

Leslie thought that the church could be a meeting place where everyone was welcomed.  He and his congregation of fifty-some members believed that at the bottom of it all the church was all about all of us people being in this old mess of a world all together.

The members who were better-off materially saw themselves in their poorer neighbors’ situation.  They understood the struggles and they also believed that they needed their neighbors as much as their neighbors needed them.   They looked for a way to help.

In this they were aided by local congressman Robert L. Thompson, an African-American who was also a long-time resident of the city.  Thompson worried over the impact of urban renewal on the thousands of his constituents who were facing displacement.

When Thompson was offered a bribe of ten thousand dollars to influence the award of the rights to the land occupied by the LaSalle’s row house neighbors, he refused.  Then he called Leslie.

Somehow the congregation found what they thought could be a solution to their neighbor’s problems.  There was a plot of land for sale that sat to the west of the church, juxtaposed against the homes of high society to the east.  It was big enough and near enough for a housing development to which their neighbors could relocate and still be neighbors.

Over the next two months Leslie rallied LaSalle and several other churches to invest one thousand dollars each in a campaign to secure the land rights.  (When you consider that Leslie’s own salary hovered around three thousand dollars at the time, it was a goodly sum of money back then.)

The housing project that grew there, Atrium Village, was the first housing development in the country to be financed and constructed by state, private and church funding.  It took years for all the players to finally agree to the vision of a truly diverse project:  50 percent black and 50 percent white; 50 percent market-rate and 50 percent under-market rate rents.

The first apartment tower was dominated by a nine-story open atrium.  That atrium gave the “village” its name and it lessened a significant fear factor.  The central atrium left no dark hallways in the building.  Light flooded in.

Also, there were glass elevators that allowed light and visibility and the courtyard area around the buildings provided safe places for children to play.

Atrium Village opened to a flood of three thousand applicants.  It became a solid anchor in the community and was a testing ground for finding the best practices for community-based housing.  It was also the first of three building projects the church undertook in the neighborhood, all of which focused on building community engagement among people who were different from one another.

The other two were a building for senior housing and another for a legal-aid clinic.

Here’s a short YouTube video, a for-rent ad for Atrium Village apartments, published in 2012 by apartmenthomelivingA.

THE SALE

In the early 2000s, almost 25 years after Atrium opened its doors, La Salle got word that the primary investor in the development wanted to sell its interest.  The restrictive covenants on Atrium would soon expire without possibility of renewal.  The city was in the process of demolishing Cabrini-Green, the public-housing complex of 30-story buildings that had been a long-time neighborhood fixture.

The new model for government thinking on the public-housing problem was dubbed “scattered site” housing.  Instead of monolithic structures, the vision now was lower-density, low-rise units that served a diverse population – exactly the vision that the people who made Atrium Village happen advocated.

The times they were a-changing…again.

Even though the churches who initiated the Atrium Village project represented only a 15 percent interest in the property, as a voting bloc, they could stop the sale of the property.  Two of the partner churches faced almost certain closure by their denominations because their memberships had dwindled down to mere handfuls.

The church memberships had watched the Cabrini-Green towers come down, knowing that the retail developers were also watching it happen.  Condominiums that cost upwards of half a million dollars were being planned.

The churches, all of whom were like LaSalle and framed their ministry on being bridge churches, understood that their neighborhoods were changing.  They finally reached an agreement to sell their interest while negotiating hard for more units set aside for the working poor.

They were supported in this intention by the Chicago city tax assessor, their local alderman, and various community groups.  Any redevelopment plan would be required to have 20 percent of its units available at below-market rate.

THE REST OF THE STORY….

And so it happened:  the sale, and then the check, and then the tithe from church to its people.

You’ll have to read the book to get the rest of the story.

An interesting history of the church building and the neighborhood provides a glimpse at the background for this story.  Here’s the YouTube video, “130 Years – History of the LaSalle Street Church Sanctuary Building,” which was put together and published by the church in 2016.

Here’s a poem:


A GREAT BLESSING

A great blessing

When good people

Try to help

Correct another mistake

In a long

Line of mistakes.

 

A good feeling

When the world

Rallies ’round one

Who is hurting

One who is

Not as strong

As other ones.

 

Thank you, nakua….

Thank you, world….

Blessings and thanks.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Crater Sunrise,” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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FARM IN THE CITY

FARM IN THE CITY

Japanese farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoda once said, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation of human beings.

THE SEED IS PLANTED

went-to-sleep
“Went to Sleep With 2 Red Pumps, Woke Up With 1” by Ted McGrath via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
In the poorest postal code in Canada, in the city of Vancouver, the old farmer’s vision has come to ground and taken root in a network of four urban farms located on five acres of reclaimed land.  They call it “SOLE Food Street Farms.”

The name is an acronym.  It arose out of a project, “Saving Our Living Environment” (SOLE), by United We Can, a Vancouver non-profit that operates a recycling program and employs street people and people from the neighborhood to clean up streets and alleys.  Until the farms were able to operate independently, they sheltered under the United We Can umbrella.

The project was spearheaded by visionary farmer and food-growing advocate, Michael Ableman (of Foxglove Farm fame), and his collaborator Seann Dory who worked for United We Can.  They put together a project that provides stable jobs and training and development for 25 people, most of whom live in the neighborhood where they work.  Together they have built an oasis of green in the middle of gray and black city hardscape.

DOWN ON THE FARM

This 2013 video, “The Story of Sole Food,” which was produced by Point Blank Creative with the support of Vancity and is available on YouTube, tells the tale:

The farms have succeeded beyond the two founders’ wildest hopes when they began reclaiming their first piece of ground in the parking lot of the Astoria hotel in Strathcona, the oldest neighborhood in Vancouver (right next door to Downtown Eastside, the poorest postal code in all of Canada.)

  • Every year the farms produce over 25 tons of fresh produce that includes tree fruit from a large urban orchard that grows in an abandoned railway yard.
  • The farms supply more than 30 area restaurants and sell at five Vancouver farmer’s markets. They operate a community-supported agriculture program as well.
  • They donate up to $20,000 work of produce every year to community kitchens.
  • Most importantly, they help their urban neighbors reconnect and re-ground themselves in the age-old cycles of life and growing that every farm honors and celebrates.

After the farm project had been going for several years, the MBA program at Queen’s University conducted research into the uber-local farming enterprise.

The guys in the lab coats figured out that for every dollar SOLE Foods spent on employing people who are “hard to employ,” there was a $1.70 combined savings to the person and the legal system, the health care system, the social assistance networks, and the environment through carbon sequestration and energy and transportation benefits.  A good return-on-investment, that.

empowering-people
“Empowering People With Urban Farming” by Province of British Columbia via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

A TRADITION RE-ITERATED

In his book, STREET FARM:  Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier, Ableman details how the dream came together.

The book is a triumphant mash-up of Ableman’s philosophy about farming as a business and a traditional craft with pictures on every page spread (many of them taken by Ableman) documenting the continuing trials and tribulations of trying to build a real farm in the middle of the big city.   The best parts of the book are the stories about the relationships that have developed between the organizers, the farm workers, their clients, and the Downtown Eastside neighborhoods where they work and live.

If you’d like more information about SOLE Food Street Farms, CLICK HERE.

At the time it began, the scale of the farms was, perhaps, unique.  It was urban agriculture, growing food on a for-real farm that was run as a business with a heavy dose of social consciousness added in.  Many of the earlier efforts by assorted city planners and developers in various cities around the world focused on garden-scale projects – urban horticulture rather than agriculture.

It isn’t a new concept, this growing food in the middle of a city.  As cities grew, the food needed to feed the people was grown all around them.  Sumerians, back in 5000 BCE, were famous for the sophisticated irrigated agriculture in and around some of the world’ earliest cities in what is now southern Iraq.

But, these ancient farmers and all of their descendants in the long history of agriculture did not have farms built on top of pavement covering over the contaminated soil between buildings in the remains of demolished factories and other urban ruins. This is what makes these street farms so remarkable.  What makes them even more remarkable are the number of lives they have touched and the ones they have helped to nurture, heal and rebuild.

Michael Abelman says that SOLE Food Street Farms is “based on the belief that the simple act of planting a seed can bring new life to the world.”

[Amen to that one, braddah.]

“Sunrise at Mt. Haleakala” by D. A. Lewis via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a tendency to build bridges between your world and other people’s worlds.  [Foot-traffic on all the bridges you build brings many treasures into your world.]

Here’s a poem:


YOUNG TREE

Young tree in the ground

Started as a seed

Buried in the dark, rich,

Warm earth.

 

Slowly it split apart,

Shoot seeking the light,

Pushing against the cradling earth,

Slowly, slowly.

 

It reaches up into the light,

Day by day by day….

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “The Hidden Radish” by Steph L via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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OWN IT

OWN IT

Among the treasure trove of ideas in Seth Godin’s book, POKE THE BOX, is this one:  No one has influence, control, or confidence in their work (or any other area of their life) until they understand how to initiate change and predict how a thing will respond.

The “box” Godin is talking about in his title is any complex bit of your life that you want to understand better with the goal of making your interaction with it more effective.

The “box” might be that brand-new computer program, just sitting there waiting for you to poke at the buttons on your machine and make the new do-dad do things, make it dance.

The “box” might be a market you want to tackle and make sit up and take notice of you.  Maybe that “market” is just one special somebody whose attention you crave.  It might be a customer or it might be your boss or maybe a somebody you’d like to be significant in your life.

Whatever the “box” is, the thing is a puzzle that can be solved in only one way – by poking.

POKING IS A WAY OF BUILDING A PRACTICE

My brother Michael was an intrepid bug explorer in his youth.  He was forever hunkered down, watching lines of ants or other critters, chasing down caterpillars and watching them turn into butterflies, studying spiders in their webs, and grabbing up crickets and grasshoppers.

caterpillar-on-finger
“Caterpillar On Finger” by Tom Phillips via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
He spent hours watching what the little guys did, poking at them with fingers and sticks, seeing how they moved and what made them do things differently.

When you do THIS, what happens?  When you do THAT, what happens?  Hey, it ALWAYS does this when I do that!  Wow!  Now, why did it do that? 

Michael sure did learn a lot about bugs.  They were his “box.”  After a while he got really good at knowing what assorted bugs did and how and why.  He turned an initial wonderment into a passion and that passion became a sort of practice for him.

ANOTHER KIND OF OWNERSHIP

In a similar way, if you poke at your own puzzles, your “box” reveals itself.  As you get better at questioning and poking, you not only get smarter but you also gain what Godin calls “ownership.”

You step into the box and make it your own.

boy-in-a-box
“Boy In a Box” by David Dodge via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Godin’s kind of ownership does not have to be equity or even control.  Ownership comes from understanding and from having the power to make things happen.   “Ownership” is another name for mastery and influence.

THE WONDER OF IT ALL

It all begins with that sense of wonder, and it begins by asking questions and looking for some answers:

  •  How does this work?
  • Why does it do that?
  • How can I make it do something else?
  • Can I do this with it?  What about that?
  • What are its limits?
  • Can I expand those limits?
  • What happens when I do?

As you unravel your puzzles and wander around in your mysteries you’ll find your own answers.  As you test your conclusions in the real world, seeing whether the things you’ve thunk actually work outside the confines of your own head, you will develop own your way of walking.

peace-of-mind
“Peace of mind…” by Lalit Shahane via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

GUIDED BY THE ANSWERS

Consistently asking your questions and faithfully following where the answers lead you eventually gets you to a place where nobody else can answer the questions you still have.  By then you’ll have built yourself a practice and a method and means for exploring this world you’ve discovered.

The answers you start finding and following are going to be different than the run-of-the-mill, regular ones.  You’ve already gone past those everybody-knows-that answers.

breakthrough-green-road-sign
“Breakthrough Green Road Sign” by Wonder woman0731″ via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
If you do it right and don’t fall down some pothole or other and the creek don’t rise, maybe you’ll spark up more questions that other people can use to construct their own paths.

THE QUESTION-BOX HEADS OUT

It all starts with being aware.  It all starts with noticing.  It all starts with a determination to go where the answers to your questions lead you.

Godin says, “Winners turn initiative into a passion and a practice.”  With his book, he shows you a way of doing just that.

The following YouTube video, “Make Your Life Spectacular,” was published by Goalcast and is a tribute to one of my favorite funny guys, the late Robin Williams.  What a heartful man!

Here’s a poem, constructed for one who followed his questions:


HYMN FOR A LINED FACE

Of all the wonders World displays

Not one can match your face.

What is the meaning of this line,

Or that one that I trace?

 

This deep one here, from eye to chin,

What sorrow etched it there?

The others feathering everywhere

Show pains and joys quite clear.

 

I would not want some lover with

A face smooth as an egg,

That shows a quiet life unlived,

No cup drunk to the dregs.

 

You are a wonderment to me,

A glory and a joy,

Behind the marks of a life lived large,

I see a luminous boy.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “mystery box” by spinster cardigan via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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THE TWIN POETS

THE TWIN POETS

The Twin Poets are identical twin brothers, Nnamdi Chukwuocha (born Elbert Mills)  and Albert Mills, with a unique style of poetry that evolved out of their habit of finishing each other’s sentences and the rap and hip-hop of their youth. They are internationally known for their live performances of socially conscious work, including “Dreams Are Illegal In the Ghetto” and “Homework for Breakfast.

Their book, OUR WORK, OUR WORDS…:  Taking the Guns From Our Sons’ Hands are filled with poems that tell the stories of the people they’ve encountered in their work as social workers and teachers for more than 17 years in the poorest sections of Wilmington, Delaware.  These poems are definitely “Life-Built Poems” — of the most heartbreaking kind.

The brothers appeared on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” series in the mid-2000s and, as a result have since performed on stages across America, Europe and Africa.  Through it all they continued to work with the people in their communities.

Besides being poets, the twins spent more than 17 years working at the Kingswood Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware and continued to expand and develop their idea that art could counter the dream-killing effects of poverty and hardship.  Mills is a family therapist  and community-based social worker and Chukwuocha is a social worker who has served on the Wilmington City Council for a number of years.

In 2014, Newsweek called Wilmington, “Murder Town USA” and said it ranked third on the FBI’s annual list of “most violent cities” among cities of comparable size.  It also ranked fifth when compared to all cities with populations greater than 50,000.

Most of the city is safe, Wilmington residents who were offended by the Newsweek article protested.

A 2015 Delaware Today article, “Wilmington Crime: A City That Bleeds,” pointed out that the numbers in the statistics used by the Newsweek report of murder and mayhem are disproportionately centered in areas like the Hilltop neighborhood mentioned as well as other, similar neighborhoods and are the result of a number of chronic problems – not enough jobs, not enough support of education and training, housing issues, and several generations of social ills that have no easy solutions.  It continues to be an ongoing problem.

Over the years the brothers have received a number of awards recognizing them for their community service, including the Village Award (2006) from the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families and a Local Heroes  Award from Bank of America (2006).

The Twin Poets were the State of Delaware Mentors of the Year in 2001, and, in December, 2015, they were named the 17th Poet Laureate (a shared title) of the state of Delaware by former Governor Jack Markell.

Another article in Delaware Today, “Wilmington’s Twin Poets Provide Healing Through Art,” chronicles the extraordinary efforts they’ve made and continue to make to help save the children in the poorest of the communities they service from the hopelessness and helplessness that the disenfranchised experience in their world.

The brothers founded Art for Life–Delaware, a community-based, social worker-led mentoring program that uses art to change the lives of delinquent youth and their families.

They also developed G.O.A.L.S. (Getting Organized Always Leads To Success), a tutoring and mentoring program that teaches children about the importance of self-expression and writing.

This Hearts and Mind Film published in 2013 features the Twin Poets poem, “Why I Write”:

Why I Write” is also the name of a website about the brothers and their work that was initially designed by the interactive design students at the University of Delaware.

As Chukwuocha says in the Delaware Today article about their life, the brothers have refused many invitations to become rap and hip-hop sensations over the years.  They wanted to “make a difference,” he said.  They continue trying.

Header picture credit: “Peace Keeper Marching” by TC Davis via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]  The description says, “The Wilmington Peace Keepers are volunteers who visit neighborhoods where there has been a recent shooting, to comfort and pray with families and friends and empower the neighborhood for change.”

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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PUT IN PLACE

PUT IN PLACE

It’s the first thing they teach you in chef school:  a system called mise-en-place, or literally, “put in place.”   It’s a French phrase that means to gather and arrange the ingredients and tools needed for cooking.

The mise evolved out of the rigid “brigade system” of culinary hierarchy codified in the 19th century by Chef Georges-Auguste Escoffier.  This system emphasizes focus and self-discipline and a high level of organization and order.

Escoffier would probably have agreed with Ben Franklin who once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

In the high-stress world of the professional chefs, planning and preparation are paramount.  How else could they prepare so many meals of exceptional quality, one after the other in a three-hour period, night after night after night?

Preparation is the essence of mise-en-place.

BASIC MISE

At its most basic, mise-en-place means to set out all of your ingredients before you start to cook. Measure out what you will need, chop the vegetables that will need to be chopped, and have everything ready on the counter or in small bowls on a tray.

In the following YouTube video, “How to Mise-en-Place, published by Cooking Light, Chef Keith Schroeder, author of MAD DELICIOUS: The Science of Making Healthy Food Taste Amazing!, demonstrates how home cooks can start to “mise” their recipes.

TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

If you talk to professional chefs, that part of the mise-en-place is just the tip of a very large iceberg.  Some of them get downright Zen or Jedi about it.  Everything has to be in place, including your stance and your mindset.

Writer Dan Charnas, of hip-hop journalism  fame, wrote a book last year, WORK CLEAN:  The Life-Changing Power of Mise-en-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind.  It grew out of his interviews of dozens of culinary professionals and executives and focused on his understanding of mise-en-place as a personal code of ethics that emphasized excellence.

As Charnas says in an article he wrote for National Public Radio, “….most colleges and grad schools don’t teach basic organization.  Culinary schools and professional kitchens do.”

This YouTube video, “The Ingredients of Work Clean,” published by Rodale Press shortly before the book came out, contains a brief explanation of what it is: a simple system that helps you focus your actions and accomplish your aims

  • Planning is prime. Be ruthlessly honest about time and timing.  It’s the only way you can set it up right.
  • Arrange spaces so you can perfect moves. Place things so you can make your moves with just the flick of your fingers.  Know how you move and place your dishes of prepared ingredients and your tools right where you will be able to reach them when it’s time to use them.
  • Clean as you go. Keep your tools and your station as organized as when you first started.  This knife goes in this space.  The chopped chives go right there. Everything that is no longer needed does not belong at your station.  You’ll need it later so if you’ve got a breathing space, wash up the thing you’ve used and put it aside for when you’ll next need it.
  • Know what to start first. Start the longest process first.  It will be done by the time you get to the shortest process and by the time you’re done, you’ll be at the end.
  • Do not wait to finish. It isn’t finished until it’s delivered.  As soon as it’s ready, let it go.
  • Slow down to speed up. Don’t panic when things get hectic.  Calm your body, calm your mind.  Hurry opens the door to mistakes.  Get it right, and fast will happen.
  • Open your eyes and ears. Balance your internal and external awareness.  Remain focused and open.   Be receptive.  React as needed to the world around you but stay focused on what you are doing.
  • Call and call back. Streamline and confirm essential communications.  Follow up, update your team and turn information into intel you all can use to work together well.
  • Inspect and correct. Excellence requires vigilance.  Check your work.
  • Aim for total utilization. Avoid wasting time, space, motion, resources or persons.  Figure out how to tap into the flow of using them all and making them move in the direction you want them to go.  Look to create a synergy that you can step into.

The real is that mise-en-place is about being able to “work clean.”  It’s not about “creating order,” as in, “Gee, wow, I’ve organized my desk and doesn’t it look clean and cool?”

What mise-en-place says is, “I’m committed to move through all of these many steps I need to do and get them done right.  When I’ve finished with all the steps of this project  I am on now, I’ll wrap it up and deliver it.  Then I’ll resume my stance at my station, put myself in a position where everything is in place for me to work on the next project, and I’ll deliver that one.”

With mise-en-place you can repeat as needed for as long as necessary and it all gets done right every time.  You think about the process of making something from start to finish, and then you set up a system so you can get it done.

The system you create and maintain will allow you to stay focused on the most important thing at each moment.  What you need to do to accomplish something gets done faster and more proficiently because everything you need to do it is right there in front of you.

It’s cooking, planned and executed like a military campaign, and the moves are eminently transferable to other life-things as well.

A companion YouTube video, also published by Rodale Press, The Daily Meeze is a short introduction to the 30-minute daily planning session that Charnas recommends as a way to take mise-en-place out of the kitchen and apply it to regular life.

You may be able to figure out your own way to make your “meeze” your own.  Think about it.

Here’s a poem:


I SHOW UP

I suppose one thing there is

That can be said about me:

I show up.

It isn’t much, that.

Not earth-shaking….

I raise no mountains.

 

It’s not like I’m riding

On the waves at Jaws,

Throwing myself down

The face of some

Massive wall of water,

The epitome of Cool.

 

I show up.

What needs to be done

Gets done because of that.

The gears get oiled,

The wheels keep turning

And nothing comes

To a screeching halt.

 

I show up.

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Dongjiadu Mise-en-place” by Gary Stevens via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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TRY SOMETHING ELSE

TRY SOMETHING ELSE

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an inclination to try and see whether you can pull something off.  [Trying it for yourself can lead to some amazing discoveries.]

I am watching a young friend who’s stuck in a major cycle of suck.  He won’t try anything new.  I don’t understand why it’s so hard for him, but there it is.  He sits around moaning about how his life is not working, but he won’t try doing anything different.

I don’t know.  Maybe he took the Icarus story too much to heart.  Icarus and his dad, a mythological inventor extraordinaire named Daedulus, were incarcerated in a famously inescapable prison by some king or other.

Daedulus, it says here, invented a way for humans to fly.  (This was long before hot air balloons and heavier-than-air planes or anything.)

The inventor and his son, the story goes, strapped on wings made of wax and feathers that Daedulus designed.  The wings worked and father and son escaped the fortress strong, but Icarus got so tripped out by the experience that he flew too close to the sun.  The wax melted, the wings fell apart, and he crashed.

At this point, the Greek chorus cuts in and dolefully groans out the orthodox lesson:  “The gods get angry at those who would dare to fly.”  Uh-huh.

(It is worth noting that Daedulus also flew and he got away clean.)

icarus
“Icarus” (at the entrance of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio) by The Mighty Tim Inconnu via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick had an interesting take on the Icarus myth.  He said, “I’ve never been certain whether the moral of the Icarus story should only be as is generally accepted, ‘don’t try to fly too high,’ or whether it might also be thought of as ‘forget the wax and feathers and do a better job on the wing.'”

Kubrick is famous for directing ground-breaking, innovative films (in their time) like Dr. Strangelove, Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket.  He was really good at the art of trying something else.

HERD-THINK

We are, all of us, trained to fit in.  The herd is stronger if everybody is all together, doing the same things, following the tried and true is the reasoning.  Everybody agrees.

Don’t stand up.  Don’t stand out.  In Australia, they call it the “tall poppy” problem:  Stand out and you’ll be cut down.  In Japan they talk about the nail that sticks up.  (It inevitably gets pounded down.)  Sheesh!  Taking a turn off the beaten path engenders dire predictions of eminent doom.

the-tall-nail
“What’s That Saying About the Tall Nail?” by Alan Levine via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

The easiest way to “fit in,” it seems, is not to start anything, not to try anything that is not-like-the-other-guys.  It’s also a really good way to get stuck in suck…as my young friend is, unfortunately, finding out.  The problem is you can get mired in a miserable bog of your own making that is a lot like being stuck in high school forever.

fit
“Fit” by Daniel Horacio Agostini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

SEED THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS

The antidote to all the heavy, herd-induced, foot-dragging, haul-that-barge-tote-that-bale mentality is to get into the habit of trying something else.  It doesn’t seem to matter what you try, it seems.  (Probably, though, experimentation with the latest pharmaceuticals might not be a grand idea.)

Software engineer Matt Cutts is featured in this You-Tube TEDTalk that was published in 2011.  In it he advises, “Try something new for 30 days.”

If that sounds like too big a step for you, there’s an even smaller, tiny-step method, all ready-made and on-line.

In this YouTube video by CreativeLIVE, “28 to Make: Create Something New Every Day This Month,” you can join Makers Kate Bingaman-Burt, Ryan Putnam, Erik Marinovich and Lara McCormick in their romp through a series of daily creative project ideas that show up in your mailbox when you sign up for them.  It’s a “way to get back into the habit of making cool stuff”, they say.

One of my favorite books that I dip into again and again for new things and new “heads” to try on is Mark Nepo’s THE BOOK OF AWAKENING:  Having the Life You Want By Being Present to the Life You Have.  Nepo took 14 years to write the book after coming out the other side of cancer.  They are his beautiful musings about life and loving and being heartful.

The book was published in 2000 and has since gone all over the world, being translated into 20 languages and over two dozen printings.  It is a wondrous place to put your head if you are wondering what else you could try.

Go on…give these things a shot!  Who knows what you might make?

Here’s a poem:


NOT A STORYTELLER

Blocked.

Again.

It just keeps going like that:

Erect a new idea and float it –

One more flying castle in the sky –

Then run-run-run to lasso the thing

And anchor it to the ground.

 

Work your buns off making it come real,

Then watch it crumple one more time

And dodge those stupid falling rocks

Coming down all around you.

 

The wise ones call it a treadmill, ya know.

I think I’m starting to get it.

That hamster in his cage has nothin’ on me except

The squeaky wheel’s starting to irritate the heck out of me,

And he just keeps on truckin’.

 

Okay…

Tell me again, babe:
You are doing this…WHY?

Hmmm….

Where’d I park my Millenium Falcon?

There has GOT to be a better way to do this.

 

Ya know…

I think I figured out why I don’t write novels.

I’m not a storyteller, it seems.

My timelines fall apart and nothing makes any sense.

It does not come together.

 

I guess I wasn’t born to write stories.

Nope.

I’m just doomed to live them.

(Sigh!)

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  West Maui Mountain Sunrise by Mike via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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LISTEN UP

LISTEN UP

Journalist and radio producer Dave Isay firmly believes that every person has a story to tell, one that the world needs to hear, and he’s been working on figuring out how to gather these stories together so everyone can share in them.  It all comes down to taking the time to listen.

THE LOST STORIES

It started, the guy says, when he was a young lad.  He was a loner and a nerdy sort who preferred talking  to older people.

One time he “interviewed” his grandparents and other family elders gathered for Thanksgiving using an old tape recorder he had found packed away in a box at his grandparent’s house.  The old ones were happy to entertain the boy with their stories.  He was enthralled and a good time was had by all.

The elders died after a time, he says, and the old tape he had made of their voices telling stories for their young relative was lost.  Isay has always regretted that loss.

This animated YouTube video tells that story (in the inimitable StoryCorps style) as an introduction to the ongoing work of the massive oral history project that he initiated.

HEARING THE CALL

Years later, Isay was a 21-year-old, freshly graduated from NYU.  He was waffling about whether he really wanted to follow the family tradition of slogging through medical school to become a doctor and took a year off to figure out what he wanted to do.  While he was wrestling with that problem the confused young man decided to try his hand at being a journalist.

Isay’s very first attempt at putting together a documentary was for a story about the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of violent, spontaneous protests by the LGBT community against an early-morning police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay dance bar, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

The raid was part of the constant harassment and bullying the gay community faced during those times.  It was a raid just like any other raid, but this time, someone got mad.  Someone said, “Enough.  Other people joined him.  The angry protests spread and the Gay Liberation Movement was born.

In this YouTube video,  “Remembering the Stonewall Riots” published in 2013 by Open Road Media, Martin Duberman, author of STONEWALL, talks about the significance of the riots.

Isay was really pleased with his work on that first documentary.  It seemed to him that he had found his calling.  He withdrew from medical school and started making documentaries.   His favorites were about the ones about ordinary people.

The man’s life-work has been built on listening to stories.  The company he built, Sound Portraits Productions, is an independent production company dedicated to telling stories about America’s ghettos, prisons and other neglected and hidden American communities  in print, on the radio and on the internet. The company mission statement is emblazoned on the bottom of their emails:   “Sound Portraits Productions…Documenting a Hidden America.

IT’S BEEN DONE BEFORE

It’s not a new idea, nor one for which Isay takes credit.  Instead he lists the ones he calls his heroes, other documentarians of the disenfranchised and the unheard:

  • Joseph Mitchel, the New York journalist of salon-keepers and street preachers
  • Dorethea Lange and Walker Evans, the great WPA photographers
  • Studs Terkel, oral historian extraordinaire
  • Alan Lomax, folk-life archivist
  • Alex Kotlowitz, documentarian of ghetto life.

Sound Portraits Productions went on to create award-winning radio documentaries that were featured on PBS.

Isay has said, “When we feel we’ve succeeded it’s because we’ve managed to expose – truthfully, respectfully – the hidden, forgotten, or under-heard voices of America. And where and when we fail it’s because we’re short of this mark.”

But the little boy who listened wanted to do more.  So many people had stories they wanted to tell and the world needed to hear, but there was no way for them to tell the stories.  Nobody even knew they were there.

STORYCORPS IS BORN AND GROWS AND GROWS

In October, 2003, the first StoryCorps soundproofed “Story Booth” opened in the Grand Central Terminal in New York City with an open invitation for people to interview one another.  Friends, loved ones, even relative strangers were given the chance to conduct 40-minute interviews with help from the StoryCorps facilitators.

Anyone could make an appointment to record a session and it was a free service.  One person was the interviewer, the other was the storyteller, relating some aspect of the life they’ve lived.  The facilitator helped the participants record the interview.

 

Tens of thousands of people went for it.  The storytellers and their listeners got a safe place where they could hold uninterrupted, meaningful conversations and ask and answer the important questions that very often get lost in the everyday daily grind of life.  They also got a copy of the recording as a memento.

Another copy of the recording session was retained by the Story Corps and the stories became a weekly feature of the Morning Edition of NPR (National Public Radio) since 2005.  (They’ve also been used to create animated shorts which can be viewed on the NPR website.)

The original Grand Central Station StoryBooth was closed down and a new one erected at Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square in July, 2005.

storycorps
“Summer Streets 2011: Story Corps” by NYC Dept. of Transportation via Flickr [CC By-NC-ND 2.0]
Meanwhile, that same year, StoryCorps converted two Airstream trailers into mobile recording studios and launched them from the Library of Congress parking lot.  They’ve been touring the country ever since.

Here’s a YouTube video published by StoryCorps, “On the Road Since 2015,” that illuminates that story.

A second semi-permanent StoryBooth opened in San Francisco in 2008.  Over time, additional booths opened in Atlanta, Chicago, Milwaukee and Nashville as well.

The StoryBooths, both permanent and mobile, were the major collection points for the stories at first, but not everybody could make it to them.  The organization developed a couple of community programs to collect these other stories as well.

There’s the “Door-to-Door” service that sends teams of StoryCorps facilitators to temporary recording locations in the United States for several days at a time.

There’s also the “StoryKit” service that was started when the New York booth closed down in 2011 for a time due to a lack of funding.  Professional-quality, portable recording devices were shipped to participants around the country for this one.

Another workaround that was developed was the “Do-It-Yourself” service that allowed individuals to download free step-by-step interview instructions, equipment recommendations and a “Great Question” list.  This one was for people who wanted to conduct interviews using their own recording equipment.

A DAY FOR LISTENING

In 2008 StoryCorps launched an initiative called “the National Day of Listening” to encourage Americans to record stories with family members, friends and loved ones on Black Friday, the pre-Christmas shopping bonanza that occurs the day after Thanksgiving.

buy-nothing-black-friday
“Buy Nothing Black Friday” by Mike Licht via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Then in 2015, the day was rebranded as “The Great Thanksgiving Listen” when StoryCorps launched their StoryCorps App.  Teams worked with teachers and high school students across the country.  The kids interviewed their elders and recorded their stories over the holiday weekend on an app on their smartphones.

The free app was developed by StoryCorps with the support of a 2015 TED Prize and 2014 Knight Prototype Fund award.  It allows users to record the interviews on a smartphone.  Users can upload their interviews to the StoryCorps.me website.

Over the years, there have been collaborations and initiatives with groups, organizations and institutions from all over the country that target various segments of the American population as well.  Stories have been collected from the military, from people suffering memory loss, from Latinos and from African-Americans, from LGBTQ community, from people in prisons and the criminal justice system, and from those personally affected by the events of September 11, 2001.

Also, there’s the StoryCorps Legacy community program which partners with medical and disease specific organizations to provide opportunities for people with serious illness and their relatives to record and share their life story as well.

A LIVING RECORD

With the participants’ permission, the stories collected by all of these efforts (including the ones recorded on smartphones) are archived in the Library of Congress’ American Folklore Center.  It constitutes the largest single collection of “born-digital” recorded voices in history.  It is a massive living record of American lives by the people who lived it and it is magic.

The stories are slices of life that have been used in a wide range of projects.  The collection has been useful as a resource for various researchers in language, speech-recognition, and history among other things..

Over the years StoryCorp founder Dave Isay has published five books full of stories from the collection as well.

  1. LISTENING IS AN ACT OF LOVE:  A Celebration of American Life From the StoryCorps Project (2007)
  2. MOM:  A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps.  (2010)
  3.  ALL THERE IS:  Love Stories from StoryCorps (2012)
  4. TIES THAT BIND:  Stories of Love and Gratitude From the First Ten Years of StoryCorps (2013)
  5. CALLINGS:  The Purpose and Passion of Work (A StoryCorps Book) (2016)

One of the participants who conducted an oral-history interview with her grandmother in the Grand Central Station StoryBooth was featured in a Library of Congress blog post about the archive and how it was made.

Sharon DeLevie-Orey explained, “Last year my sister and I came to StoryCorps with my then-91-year-old grandmother. We had this fantastic interview, in which my grandma was candid and funny and loving.

“Yesterday she died. I just took out my StoryCorps CD and noticed the date, a year to the day. Tomorrow will be her funeral.  I could only listen to about 20 seconds before bursting into tears,” she says, “but I am so grateful that I have this.  Sure, I could have taped her anytime in the last 41 years. But I didn’t. Now the reward is so huge.”

Her conclusion:  “Everyone should do StoryCorps—because we don’t live forever.”

Sharon’s story is echoed by many others who have participated in the StoryCorps process as well.  For many it was the “best 40 minutes of my life”  that added meaning and mana to their ordinary life.

microphone
“Microphone” by yat fai ooi via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


TO AN OLD STORY TELLER

The thing about telling a story

In the first person

With you at the center of it all,

Looking out from your inner sanctum,

Looking back down

Old roads and paths once traveled,

Is that you know and I know: 

You survived.

You lived to tell the tale.

 

No matter how many thrills

And chills and spills you call up,

The fact is that you’re still standing here

Under this old sun,

Remembering days gone by –

Times of high adventure and

Moments that touched infinity –

Remembering old friends and old foes,

Remembering the mountains and the valleys

Hiding in the mists of your memory.

 

The quiet times make a matrix

Where light plays in the dark

As you hum an old song

And conjure up the dreams

Of the days when you were young and stupid

And the world was new to you.

You are an old survivor.

And me, I am one too.

It’s a marvelous thing to sit,

Leaning against this pillow,

Listening to the dream of you.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Wall” by Apionid via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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ASK THE STUPID QUESTION

ASK THE STUPID QUESTION

I had a friend who won my admiration because his constant go-to request was always this:  “Can I ask a stupid question?” Then he’d ask a question that was A-B-C simple about something I thought I knew.

I’d answer the question (out of my own great wisdom, of course).  It made me feel so good to be able to be…uh-hem…The Expert.

My friend Les listened carefully.  He’d think on what I said.  Then he’d ask more “stupid” questions, helping me explore where my thoughts might lead. One thought would lead to the next and then the next.  He’d interject his own insights, showing me that he was listening and appreciating what I had to say.  In the discussion that would inevitably follow, with me expounding and him asking more and more questions, a light would start to dawn.  Often, I’d reach the limits of my understanding fairly quickly, and still he had more questions.

That’s when the real fun began.  Because he brought a little-kid wonder to the exchange and he’d jump in with his own thoughts on the thing, new ideas would start popping up.  Often they were things I’d never considered.  Les would start grinning wide and bring up another question.  He’d get all sparkly and go with the flow of the conversation, interjecting “yes-and” thoughts, building on the mind-construct I would make.

Les had a lot of fun running with ideas.  (I guess nobody ever told him that ideas are like scissors and it can be dangerous to run with them.   Nobody told him that the ideas can cut you if you’re not careful.)

Our discussions got quite lively.  They really were a lot of fun. At the end of all our talk-story, we’d hug each other, hugely satisfied by our game, and go along on our merry ways.  And my take-away, always, was another way of seeing the world and more ideas for explorations and moves to try.

I don’t know what he got out of these talks we had, but it sure was a lot of fun.

A MASTER IS ALWAYS AN AMATEUR IN DISGUISE

We are always being told that being a “master” is the pinnacle of our journeys toward Achievement and $ucce$$.  It’s the end-all, be-all of the whole thing, they say.  Be a Master, Rule the World.  R-i-i-ight.

In this YouTube video, “Sarah Lewis:  Be a Deliberate Amateur,” which was published by the National Association of Independent Schools in 2015, art historian Sarah Lewis tells us that part of the process of developing Mastery is knowing how to fall back into an I-Don’t-Know state of mind and ask “stupid questions.”

Who knew?

Lewis is an Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture and African and African American Studies at Harvard University.  She is also the author of the LA Times bestseller book, THE RISE:  Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery.

Her book explores the question of how new ideas happen and is a lively and interesting read that has won widespread praise.  It mashes history, biography and psychological research together and explores the value of what the wise guys call “Beginner-Mind”.  In it, Lewis points out the value of retaining that natural sense of wonder you carried around as a child.

 BEGINNER-MIND ON THE RISE

The following YouTube video is a part of a series published by Mindfulnessgruppen, a Stockholm-based company offering courses and trainings based on mindfulness.  It features mindfulness researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn exploring the benefits of Beginner Mind, one of what he calls “the nine attitudes of mindfulness.”

Kabat-Zinn’s life-work has been explorations of the mind-body connection and how mindfulness helps promote health and well-being.   He’s been credited with bringing the once-obscure concept of Mindfulness into mainstream thought, it says here.  After Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness was no longer just the province of wrinkled, half-naked, bearded old men sitting in caves all blissed-out.

The man has written numerous ground-breaking books in the field, and is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.   As a result of his studies, testing and developing assorted practical applications for his discoveries, Kabat-Zinn figured out a way for people to use mindfulness to help reduce stress.  He and his crew teach other people how to do his MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction).

The whole thing is a further iteration of old wisdom that’s been made new and relevant to our own world now.

 THE WONDER OF IT ALL

In order to explore ideas to their fullest extent (or at least as far as your own mind can take them), it’s clear that you need to get back to Beginner-Mind.  That is the start of it all, it seems.

The very best thing about the Beginner-Mind mindset is the sense of wonder that is a part of our birthright as humans.  We can wonder.  We can think.  We can dream.

This extraordinarily beautiful YouTube video, The Wonder of Life, was published by RedFrost Motivation in 2015.  In it, Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, some of the best of our scientific thinkers, give us things to ponder while the guys who put together the video blow up our minds big and bigger with out-of-this-world images and heart-expanding music.

My own thought on all of this is that it gets really hard to think small when you figure out that you’re made up of the same stuff as stars and rainbows and butterflies.

Here’s a poem:

 


CLARITY’S COMING

Oh…here I am again.

I LIKE this place:

Standing on the tippy top

Of a razorback ridge,

Rocking in the wind,

Waiting for…I don’t know what.

 

Clarity’s coming…

The mist is down there,

Looking like the softest bed,

And the other mountain tops

Are poking through the cloud-duvet,

The strong, silent types.

The sky’s that “come-and-fly” blue

That pierces your heart

And breaks it open.

 

Clarity’s coming,

And the world’s going to change again.

Wonder what’s going to happen next.

(It’s never what I think, you know…

The world pays no attention to

Ant pronouncements and jellyfish goals.

It just keeps on turning, the World.)

 

Clarity’s coming

And there’s something new

That’s been there all the time,

Just waiting in the wings for

Its turn to dance.

And there I will be –

The faithful audience –

My hair all messy from the head-scratching,

Another stupid grin plastered on my face.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  Wonder by technolibrary via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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CULTURES OF MEANING

CULTURES OF MEANING

It’s been a quiet sort of shift.  More and more people are moving away from the “work-and-spend” mentality that characterized the latter half of the last century.  They are looking for more meaning to add to their lives, they say.

Gregg Easterbrook, in his book, THE PROGRESS PARADOX:  How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse, has pointed out, “A transition from material want to meaning want is in progress on an historically unprecedented scale—involving hundreds of millions of people – and may be recognized as the principal cultural development of our time.”

WHY THE SHIFT?

Easterbrook suggests, after delineating assorted studies by the guys who study “happiness,” that the whole mindset centered around material want didn’t actually work so well.   The people who got all the stuff they ever wanted or could imagine were not appreciably happier than they were before the stuff showed up.

The problem is, the researchers say, we humans tend to get accustomed to a certain circumstance – good or bad — very quickly.  When all of our dreams come true, we start to take for granted all of our fulfilled wishes.

All the wise guys down through the ages tried to warn us:  The hunger of our built-in Want Bugs is bottomless.  Get the one absolutely gotta-have-it thing today and tomorrow a new gotta-have-it thing will take its place.  It’s like all those wants are on some kind of conveyor belt that just keeps turning and churning.

treadmill
“Treadmill” by John Reynolds via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The wise guys told us:  The only thing you can do when you’re stuck on a treadmill is to step off.  If a lot of people step off the collective treadmill, then it becomes the start of a movement, the start of another cultural iteration.

This curated YouTube video, “Thanks Internet,” published in 2014 by reKindle.org, shows one change that is happening.

The video is a composite of many videos shared on the Internet by the people trying to help make the world a better place for at least one other person.  The result is an amazing feel-good bit of work.  The non-profit organization posted a message at the end of the video asking that people go do good deeds, take a video and tag it with #reKindleKindness.

They want to do more of videos like this one.

WHAT’S A CULTURE OF MEANING?

All cultures are “meaningful.”  How not?  They are the products of the minds and the lifestyles of a group of people who all live together in it.  The ones that hold the most promise for an individual’s well-being and happiness are the ones that amplify positive values and goals.

Cultures that promote kindness, compassion and love rather than fear, hatred and anger and those that seek to lift up other people rather than inflict harm on them tend to be the ones that grow happy people.

Cultures that cultivate cooperation and participation in something bigger than any one person while tolerating and even honoring individual quirks and idiosyncrasies in its members are more likely to be good for you than those that don’t.  We didn’t really need guys in lab coats to tell us that.  It’s sort of built into our gut-knowledge.

MEANING IN THE INTERNET AGE

The coolest thing about this postmodern world of ours is our exposure to so many different cultures, sub-cultures, sub-sub-cultures, primal cultures, hybrid cultures, made-up and made-to-order cultures….and so on.  We are, in fact, drowning in all this information about all the doings of people around the world.

We can touch the lives of people from around the world.  We can build our own community or tribe of folks from around the globe.

We can even go retro and just touch the life of somebody who lives down the street.

Here’s a YouTube video, “Grow Some Good:  Maui School Gardens,”  that was published in 2013 by Ken Surrey.  The video was made by Emmy-winning photographer Jess Craven about how one group of neighbors have built a culture of meaning around the concept of connecting kids to the food they eat by building and supporting school gardens.

 

The garden featured in the video started with three raised beds and grew, becoming nearly quarter of an acre of food garden and learning lab.

The garden this video spotlights is part of an ongoing project of Grow Some Good, a nonprofit group that has helped to establish food gardens and living science labs in local schools all over the island.

The outdoor classroom lessons support school curriculum in science, math, health and agriculture.  The kids study traditional Hawaiian plants and learn the growing practices of native Hawaiians.  They also experiment with growing and preparing foods from other cultures as well.

The group builds ongoing community partnerships, recruiting volunteers and supporters that include gardeners and farmers, food educators and assorted businesses as well.  Local chefs support the gardens through fundraisers, recipe workshops and harvest parties.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am remembering the struggle I had as a kid memorizing  the words of John Donne’s  “No Man Is An Island.” My teacher liked torturing us with all kinds of high-sounding  ideas.  (I loved her dearly so I gamely tried to not mangle the thing too badly.)

john-donne
John Donne via Wikimedia.com {{PD-Art}}

I’ve since learned that Donne was a cleric in the Church of England during the 17th century, who was considered to be one of the leading “metaphysical poets” of the Renaissance era.  The poem my teacher made me recite was actually first written by him in 1624 as a prose “meditation”in his DEVOTIONS UPON EMERGENT OCCASIONS.

The Renaissance was another period of incredible change and reawakening, it seems to me.  People were searching for meaning and mana in their own ordinary lives back then too.

Confusion and information overload was also a common theme back then.  Just as we are experiencing in our time of great change, the culture and mindset a person chose to embrace back then affected the way he or she walked through the world.

I am thinking it would be a good thing, as part of this exploration of meaning and mana, to feature other stories in this thing about the “cultures of meaning” that our neighbors and cousins and friends are getting into.  What do you think?

 

Here’s a poem:


THE HOW-IT-IS

The true, the beautiful, the good…

Entrance and beckon me.

Their light, like a candle glows,

Softly embracing the warm dark

Full of beloved shadows.

The true keeps me grounded

While the beautiful helps me play,

And the good is a quiet beacon

That shows me the best way.

 

The good, the beautiful, the true:

Without them you get lost.

You nourish others with the good,

The beautiful nourishes you,

And you can keep your feet on the ground,

If you’ll just remember the true.

The three enfold your smallness in one gigantic yes

And turns the whole of everything

In ways that only bless.

 

The beautiful, the true, the good:

You have to have all three.

It cannot only be you and them

They all require “we.”

And all of them together

Make a wonderment and delight

That fades away if you stare too hard,

Pontificate and posture,

Postulate or bite.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “October 21” by R. Crap Mariner via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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GRATITUDE IS A CHOICE

GRATITUDE IS A CHOICE

Gratitude is a choice, but why would you choose it?

In recent years there have been systematic scientific studies of gratitude and its positive effects.  These studies show that grateful people are happier, more open and sociable, less depressed and neurotic and express higher levels of satisfaction with their lives and relationships.

Grateful people also show higher levels of growth and self-acceptance and stronger coping skills for challenges and set-backs.

The ones who carry on with master motivation speaker Zig Ziglar’s “attitude of gratitude” mindset share a greater willingness to seek out help from others.  They spend more time planning how to address issues.  They demonstrate the ability to interpret challenging events in ways that help them grow.

gratitude-road
“Gratitude Road” by Bart Maguire via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Here’s the voice of the late Zig Ziglar at his best in a YouTube video published by Thinking Humanity.  His anecdote about an unhappy, vitriolic woman who hated her job and what happened to her when she chose gratitude is eye-opening.

“You can’t change other people,” Ziglar points out.  “You can only change yourself.

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?

Here’s another interesting take on gratitude.  This “Experiment In Gratitude” You-Tube video was put together by SoulPancake  for their “The Science of Happiness” project.  It was created by Mike Bernstein and Matt Pittman.

The biggest takeaway from this thing is the thought that the person who was least happy that day experienced the greatest rise in felt happiness.  That’s a powerful thing.

SoulPancake is a digital media and production company that “creates content that explores life’s big questions, celebrates humanity, and champions creativity with integrity heart and humor,” it says on their Facebook company overview.

Named one of FastCompany’s Top 10 Most Innovative Video Companies of 2015, they target the “Optimistic Millenial.”  Their work has something for all of us, I am thinking.  Among their series of more than thirty assorted video formats are sprightly-named things like “Kid President,” “What She Said,” “Highly Evolved Human,” and “Metaphysical Milkshake.”

They’ve even put out a book, SOULPANCAKE:  Chew on Life’s Big Questions, by Rainn Wilson, Devon Gundry, Golriz Lucina and Shabnam Mogharabi.

GRATITUDE GROWS HAPPY

Taking stock of the many people, experiences and things that are good, right and working well in our lives is uplifting.   Apparently, elevating your awareness of what’s right with the world rather than focusing on what’s wrong, you come to realize that happiness really is already right there, all around you.

An attitude of gratitude also has an uncanny way of attracting more good to you.  What we focus on grows, and focusing on simple pleasures – on the good we are experiencing here, now, today – can work wonders.

Dave Ramsey has been called “America’s trusted voice on money” and is a bestselling author and radio host.   Among his numerous bestselling books is THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER:  A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.

In this YouTube video, “Contentment and Gratitude,” Ramsey is doing one of his annual Thanksgiving radio broadcasts.  He lays out the arguments for carrying an attitude of gratitude around with you.  As he points out in the video, helping grateful people makes other people happy and they tend to go out of their way to help some more.

WHAT YOU FOCUS ON GROWS

What you focus on grows.  You can consciously focus on what you’re thankful for rather than on what frustrates you.  If you maintain positive thoughts and grow a positive mental attitude, if you consistently engage in positive action, then eventually it becomes easier and easier to be a positive person.

Life milestones are great.  Hammering your latest goal, receiving some coveted prize, getting rewarded for the hard work you’ve put in, getting that house or car or latest electronic wonder you’ve been drooling over…all of these things are worth celebrating.

However, celebrating these life milestones is not a substitute for a foundation of gratitude that leads us to more consistent happiness.

EXERCISES FOR YOU TO TRY

  1. MAKE A LIST. Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Yet another list.  Every day (either in the morning when you first get up or in the evening before going to bed), write down three things for which you are grateful.  Just three.  Every day.

I’ve done it both ways.  If you do it in the morning, your day starts out suddenly brighter and more shiny.  If you do it just before going to sleep, then sleep comes easier and when you wake up the list is right there waiting to remind you of the good things in your life.  A bonus, two-for-the-price-of-one move.

  1. PUMP OUT THE JUICE. Take the time to express something beyond a generic thank-you.  Personalize your authentic gratitude.  Share your appreciation for somebody’s unique qualities and their specific impact on your life.

Mix up your heart in it.  What comes from the heart will hit another heart.  Do that.  (It’s a good thing.)

  1. CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING 365. On his Thanksgiving radio shows, Dave Ramsey asks his callers to share one thing for which they are grateful before they can ask their questions or address their concerns.  This “tradition” might be a good thing to try your own self.

Before every evening meal, at the end of the day, whether you are alone or with someone, think on some things for which you’re grateful.  If you’re with other people, share your best good thing and get them to share theirs as well.  Ask, “What’s one good thing that happened today?  What are you grateful for?”

Make it a ritual.  It will go a long way to help diffuse the stresses of the day and to reconnect to each other as well as help prepare your bodies to enjoy the food before you.  (After all, as some guy in yet another lab coat will probably tell you, bodies that are relaxed digest food better.)

Here’s a poem:


BLESSINGS

Hanging ten on the edge of dissolution,

Staring into the maw of the Creative Dark, po panopano.

Sitting here almost brain-dead and drained,

I got to thinking how the other people in my life

Have shaped me, helped me shape my world.

 

It is a good thought,

Makes me want to throw my fist up in the air,

A warrior’s salute and celebration.

Makes me want to dance on the edge again.

Gives me heart.

 

I bless them all, those people….

 

I bless the loving people in my life

The ones who helped smooth my way,

The warm and generous ones,

The ones who were kind.

 

I bless the strong people in my life,

The ones who kept their promises,

The ones who let me lean on their strength,

The self-sufficient ones, the peaceable ones.

 

I bless the good people in my life,

Most wondrous of all the gifts

From this old Universe.

On the edge of the void,

They make me smile.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Thank You All” by Don McCullough via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0], a 2015 farewell picture and thank-you to all of his Flickr fans.

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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