Browsed by
Category: Trends

movements, viral ideas, works with impact and meaning, creative results and change from businesses and science

JOIN THE LONGEVITY REVOLUTION

JOIN THE LONGEVITY REVOLUTION

In America, dating since the original Social Security Act of 1935, retirement and making it intact to the “Golden Years,” (when you are supposedly free to stop working and “enjoy” lazing around in the little bit of life span you have left once you stop working) has been a gold-standard goal.

gold-watch
“Gold Watch” by Tim Ellis via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The paradigm among the “human resource” contingent of the time, was that you’d be a tired, shopworn bit of humanity and could be sidelined like a piece of obsolete old equipment that was still in working order but kind of irrelevant.

It made a horrible sort of sense, that — especially after the rise of the Industrial Revolution when people were often seen as interchangeable parts in an ever-more-efficient system of production and productivity.

Young people were encouraged (and even brow-beaten) into going for and hanging on to “secure” and possibly meaningless-to-them jobs and to diligently squirrel away the nickels and pennies that were left over from paying for the lives they were living in order to build up a retirement fund for the winter of their life.

THE WHOPPING BIG ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

There is only one problem.

Since the retirement thing was first conceived in the early 1880’s by Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck of Germany – the first-of-its-kind social insurance program — all the smarty pants in labs and such have been pushing our physical envelopes.

We are now living longer and longer lives thanks to all of the advances in medicine and technology.  People are living decades after the official start of the “Golden Years.”

It has been one of the major societal goals of every culture, after all.  Who doesn’t want to live long and prosper?

god-of-longevity
“Shouxing – Chinese god of longevity” by Anne Petersen via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When the then-new concept of “retirement” was first proposed, our human lifespans were not much more than three-score and ten.  It was expected that your body’s expiration date was about 70 or so years after you checked into this world.

Therefore, it was assumed that if you retired at 65 it was quite likely that you’d fall over dead very shortly thereafter.  The social program that helped you live your life as an old person was sustainable, it was thought.

It sort of worked for a while, but that’s no longer happening.

Now there’s a whole generation of older folks wondering whether whatever stack of money they’ve hoarded (if they ever got around to it during their “active” years) will last long enough and, for sure, the government subsidy thing keeps on shrinking as the cost of living heads on up.

The bills don’t stop during the “Golden Years.”  You still have to eat and you still need a roof over your head and your body…well, it’s been lived-in.

It breaks down.  Maintenance costs.

And, even more depressing, we’ve all figured out that people can really get bored spending twenty-some years slouching around doing nothing much.

Frankly, the so-called freedom of not-working sucks.

A new freedom is beginning to replace it as the Ultimate Goal:  the freedom to find and keep working at something that holds meaning for you.

ON TO ANOTHER PLAN

For the past twenty years and more author and social entrepreneur Marc Freedman has been working on fostering the idea of the “encore career,” a second vocation in the latter half of one’s life.

The idea dates from 1997 or 1998, when Freedman’s San Francisco-based nonprofit called Civic Ventures (since renamed Encore.org) introduced the notion.

Freedman’s non-profit developed into an innovation hub bent on “tapping the talent of people over 50+ as a force for good.”

By the time he gave the following talk at TEDxDrexelU in 2013, Freedman had co-founded “Experience Corps,” mobilizing thousands of Americans over 55 to improve the education of low-income elementary children.

He was spearheading the presentation of the Purpose Prize, an annual $100,000 award for social innovators in the second half of life.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) now runs both of these programs.

Freedman was also the author of four books about encore careers and the longevity revolution and a tireless proselytizer about the value of utilizing skills developed over a long career to help society.

In his talk, which was published in 2013 by TEDxTalks, Freedman pointed out that people are living longer and the old Golden Years plan is no longer working so well.

Since that talk, Encore.org has developed the Encore Fellowships program, a one-year fellowship helping individuals translate their midlife skills into “second acts” focused on social impact as well as the Encore Network, a coalition of leaders and organizations that help people turn those longer lives into an asset.

Freedman and his colleagues have written other books and continued to develop programs.

The concept has taken off.  Millions of older adults, aged 50 years and older, are working on delving into and developing a “second act” as the end of their primary careers draws closer.

A 2009 video published by Encore.org, “Timothy Will, 2009 Purpose Prize Winner” is a moving presentation by one of the winners of the organization’s Purpose Prize who leveraged his experience and skills into a way to help his Appalachian neighbors get back to the land.

The video was one of many.

The encore career has become a way to combine personal passion, social purpose and a paycheck, as Freedman is wont to say.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RESOURCES GATHERED TOGETHER AND DEVELOPED BY ENCORE.ORG:

click-here

The upshot of all of this is that Freedman has been marvelously successful at instigating the Longevity Revolution.  Many others have taken up the banner as well.

Opting for an encore career has become a trend, even a movement.

Many baby-boomers and others who’ve reached (or are approaching) retirement age choose to do some other thing that fulfills their need to grow and to continue to engage with the world as well as to help pay the bills that just keep on coming.

A CONFESSION:  I GOT SIDE-TRACKED

Instead of getting more deeply into the nuts and bolts of this very interesting topic, I was side-tracked — sucked into a book written by master storyteller Jim May, TRAIL GUIDE FOR A CROOKED HEART:  Stories and Reflections for Life’s Journey.

This quintessentially human book is soul-satisfying, meandering through stories from May’s personal life (with lots of old wisdom-tales thrown in) that present us humans in all our glory and flat-footed stubborn.

More than anything else, it illuminates the value and the uplifting power of Story in our human journeys.

After working in construction, then becoming a teacher and a counselor, May gave in to his passion for telling a good story, following a family tradition that produced many a fine raconteur.

For more than 25 years, as a professional storyteller, May presented stories at story-telling festivals and events that drew tale-spinners from around the country together in the United States, Canada and Europe.

He’s appeared at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee four times and has participated in England’s oldest and most respected folk festivals at Towersey and Sidmouth.

One of his favorite things was appearing on the Studs Terkel radio show in Chicago.

In 2000 May was named by his peers to the Circle of Excellence, the highest of honors for the storytellers in the National Storytelling Network.  Before that, he won a Chicago Emmy for a WTTW-Channel 11 production of his original short story, “A Bell for Shorty.”

The man is good.

The following YouTube video, published by JustStoriesVideo in 2012, features Jim May remembering the day that Holocaust survivor and president of the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Foundation Lisa Derman died of a massive heart attack onstage at the Illinois Storytelling Festival while she was telling her story of survival.

It is a moving tribute as well as a testimonial for the power of Story.

ON-TRACK ONCE AGAIN (SORT OF)

It occurred to me after I had digested all of this, that May is also a fine example of a person who developed a personally satisfying encore career that worked well for him.

The thing he exemplifies is what happens when you look for (and find) another Why to live, and then do it well.

In the video honoring Lisa Derman, May mentions in passing his belief in the value of the wisdom of elders – wisdom that is part and parcel of the stories they tell.

Throughout history, in every culture, the stories the old people tell link the young ones to the procession of ancestors.  They present ages-old human dilemmas as well as solutions and guidelines about strategies and actions that have worked in the past.

an-elder-speaks
“An Elder Speaks (Whaea Kātarina Daniels, Te Ū Hui-ā-motu),” by New Zealand Tertiary Education Union via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
These wisdom stories can be an enormous help to someone who is looking for clarity or a new direction.

One of the chapters in May’s book starts with a quote from James Hillman in his book, THE FORCE OF CHARACTER: And the Lasting Life, a stunning reflection about life’s second half:

“The final years have a very important purpose:  The fulfillment and confirmation of one’s character.  When we open our imaginations of the idea of the ancestor, aging can free us from convention and transform us into a force of nature, releasing our deepest beliefs for the benefit of society.”

That chapter in May’s book is titled, “Signal Trees.”  In it he tells stories about the mentors and elders that he is grateful to for their stories, their wisdom and their support.

THE THING ABOUT SIGNAL TREES

Signal trees are said to be a Native American way of shaping tree saplings to mark significant locations.

According to the lore surrounding the signal trees, they are a part of a navigational system through the forests and waterways of northeastern and southeastern tribes throughout North America.

The manipulated trees, we are told, mark sacred gathering places, trails that were important, a fresh water source off a main route, indications of deposits of flint, copper, lead and other minerals important for medicinal and ceremonial purposes as well as portage points and linkages to other major trails

The three-tonged bur oak tree in the header picture is considered to be an Indian Signal Tree.  It’s even labeled by a bronze plaque, even though there is still some mystery surrounding its purpose.

The button below takes you to a Summit Metro Parks article that explains more about the tree and about signal trees in general.

click-here

As May points out in his book, if you’ve lived your life well, age gives you gifts – patience, tolerance, resilience, a long-term perspective, varied life-experiences and well-developed skills — that are worth sharing with those who come after you.

And that is the point of this new Longevity Revolution:  You, too, can become a signal tree.

An encore career has been described as “a new chapter of work,” something you move on into after you have spent many years at one kind of work, often quite successfully.

The encore career can be a deepening and broadening of the career you’ve already built, using the stockpile of skills you’ve mastered and the lessons your experiences have taught you that will allow you to reach a different level in your field as a self-employed freelancer and entrepreneur, a consultant, a coach, or a mentor.

It might be about you finally starting out doing your own passion your own way and finding ways and opportunities to keep on playing in this new field that enriches your life and fills it with meaning.

An encore career could be a position as a volunteer supporting some solution to the social ills around us or toward fostering some good thing you want to see grow.

It can also be a way to stay active and to feel useful.

And, of course, an encore career very often is a way to help fund your “Golden Years.”

For whatever reason, the encore career has become a significant and growing economic trend and movement that the baby-boomers are spearheading these days, it seems.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The following YouTube video, “Encore Careers:  From Social Trend to Social Movement,” was published in 2012 by NextAgenda as a promotional piece.

What’s even more interesting is the more recent development featured in this next video, “Encore Careers: How to Find Your Perfect Job At Any Age,” published by The List Show TV in 2018.  It features Jared Cotter of The List, the national Emmy award-winning show that looks at pop culture and currently trending ideas.

The Longevity Revolution continues to grow and spread.  It’s even crossed generational lines.

Here’s a poem I made honoring a friend who wandered through a series of foster homes in her youth.  She made her baby dreams come real and her life is now one of great joy for her and for the ones she embraces.


ORPHAN CHILD

Orphan child stands apart,

Always the stranger,

Unfettered, untied.

The wanderer has

No place to lay her weary head,

No place that enfolds her, no warm, no light.

No one tucks her away from the cold, the dark.

 

She tells herself she’ll make her own place,

A place where all the dispossessed,

The abandoned ones,

Can come and find

Someone who sees them as they are,

Someone who is not afraid to hold them in the dark,

Someone who loves them even though they are not like

All the other ones – the orderly ones who march

All in a line, step by step,

Trying really hard to all be the same.

 

In her place, there will be no fear

Of hard eyes and cold mouths,

Tearing your heart to bits,

Unerringly finding the sore places

With tongues of ice and fire.

All of those demons will be exorcised away.

She’ll send them to some other place

Where they can play their games

With others of their own kind.

(She won’t leave them to wander

Like refugees in the night.)

 

Cruelty will be banished

In the laughter and the joy

Of seeing ones who reach out

To hold you warm and safe.

That’s what she says, anyway.

And we will play, she says,

Oh, how we will play:

Games of beauty, games of grace,

Gales of laughter and soft, loving tears

From hearts that overflow.

 

It could happen. 

Yes, it could.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Akron Signal Tree” by Greg Habermann via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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

Get Social....
A “MOVEMENT” = CONNECTION

A “MOVEMENT” = CONNECTION

For the past few months, the Light of My Life and I have been showing up at the early Saturday-morning Upcountry Farmer’s Market fairly frequently.

It has been some years since either of us visited the market.

For us, the market is a delightful surprise and has become a treasured part of our weekend routine.

Every time we go there are old friends who we haven’t seen for a long time.  We touch base with other friends.  We make new ones as well.

The market has also been a personally poignant reminder that a “movement” is really just people building community and connection and developing ways to share the resources that surround us.

WE SERVE COMMUNITY TO BUILD COMMUNITY

That’s the motto of this home-grown market that is one of the longest running gathering places for farmers, hunter-gatherers, food artisans and creative business folks on Maui — an island where dedicated foodies spend a lot of their time seeking out more variety, better quality, and lovely new taste sensations.

The concept that the people living in the islands need to grow more of our own food, out of which the market and others like it has grown, is a recurring theme for those of us who live here.

“Food security” – the assurance that a person will be able to get food to sustain the people he or she cares about from the place where they live — is a very real concern when the various estimates by all kinds of experts say that 85 to 90 percent of all of the food we consume here is shipped or flown in from other places.

offshore-rainbow-with-barge-and-sailboat
“offshore rainbow with barge and sailboat” by Derek via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The whole system that is now in place is a wonder to behold.

Consider this:  The islands of Hawaii are physically located way-the-hell-and-gone in a very big ocean.

The closest landmass to the Hawaii is a point on the southernmost tip of an unnamed peninsula in Alaska overlooking Ikatan Bay…a whopping 2,259.28 miles from Tunnels Beach on Kauai.

(The second-closest is near Flumeville, California, also more than two thousand miles away from Hakalau on the Big Island.)

And, yet, if you wander through any food store on any island – even the smallest ones – you will find a truly incredible array of food from every part of the planet.

mana
“Mana” by George Arriola via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
The whole thing is also a precariously balanced system.

It is not hard to imagine worst-case scenarios where a series of disastrous natural events might stop the flow of ships and aircraft hauling in all that food.

People do like to point out that folks got along quite well in the old days without all that fancy stuff.

The native peoples grew and harvested enough food to get by and live their lives well before the coming of all those tall ships and the new thoughts that flowed in.

Of course, the native systems of land management and ownership were very different than our current ones.

The foods that were available might have been plentiful, but they were limited to a few staple crops and rounded out by some animals that were imported to the islands by early Polynesian settlers as well as the abundance of fish and bird-life back then.

Our ancestors developed an impressive array of survival skills that most modern-day folks replaced with other skills that are better adapted to all of the modern-day systems of “conveniences” we now enjoy.

IT TAKES A TRIBE TO GROW A CHILD AND KEEP ON FEEDING IT

It occurred to me that the survivalist tactics of the self-reliance extremists with apocalyptic visions who live on continents may not be particularly pertinent to people who are stuck on an island.

Yes, you can learn many of the skills you need to optimize the resources available to you, but one person or even one family or smallish group has a limited amount of knowledge and energy to make a life of abundance all by themselves.

Then, of course, there’s the problem of having to deal with the hungry neighbors.  Yipes!

One of the most important considerations the ones who are all “me-for-myself-and-mine” is the fact that without planes or ships when you pack up and leave, you won’t get very far on a relatively small island.

(Maybe that’s why Oceanic ancestors did a lot of sailing around.)

hokulea
“Hokule’a” by Burt Lum via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Whatever.

Setting up a survivalist camp that’s off the grid in the bushes is not a real option for many of the people on an island.

(For one thing, it does cost a lot of money and requires all kinds of technological knowledge and skills to set up something that is actually sustainable in the long run.)

Bumbling along and working as a community of people of good will to help each other survive on a day-to-day basis seems a more viable option to more moderate sorts.

With this in mind, many people on all of the islands have banded together to work on trying to produce more of our own food and on developing networks that will be able to sustain us if things go very bad.

This video, “Farmer’s Perspective” was published in 2016 by GoFarm Hawaii, a University of Hawaii program.  It contains a number of different viewpoints from several farmers who’ve been involved with the program and is an interesting look at the agricultural efforts and mindsets of small, diversified farmers in the islands.

It’s been happening for a long time now.

LOCAVORES “BUY LOCAL”

The “Buy Local,It Matters” campaign, a joint project of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, encourages residents of Hawaii to purchase local produce.

(Click on the campaign name for more information about it.  It is the latest in a long line of government efforts to address the problem.)

The button below takes you to an open data portal put up by the State of Hawaii Ag guys that presents some solid measurements and facts about food production in Hawaii and more information about the effort to keep on expanding our capacity to grow our own food.

click-here

The goal of all of this measuring effort that started in 1997 is to double local food production.

It continues.

As consumers, our choice to “buy local” even when the imported stuff in the very next bin or shelf at a supermarket is quite a bit less expensive (in terms of money) is definitely a way to help our neighbors and our own selves work towards a more sustainable life, it seems to me.

BACK TO THE MARKET

Mat and I remember when the Upcountry Farmers Market was held at Makawao’s St. Joseph’s Church.  (Has it really been more than 40 years ago?)

Some young “back-to-the-land” advocates and tree-huggers (many of them friends of ours) started the thing.

It grew as backyard gardeners, small local farmers, hunter-gatherers and fishing folks as well as crafters and artisans joined in, sharing the food they grew and the products they created from island offerings with their neighbors in trade for other things they needed or for some extra side-money.

fruits
“Fruits” by Blake Handley via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
onions
Onions” by Sue Salisbury via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
unwrapping-a-box
“Unwrapping a box…” by Jen Russo via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The Upcountry Farmers Market migrated to the Eddie Tam Community Center in Makawao after it got too big for the church space.

The market vendors and their aficionados continued to meet there for 31 years, braving weather and fickle or clueless customers and the confusing convolutions of red-tape and other bureaucratic busy-ness to keep on doing what they did.

By the time the rules and regs for the use of the popular and much-used public facility became too cumbersome and restrictive for the market vendors, a new place opened up down the road in Pukalani.

The market moved once again in 2010 to an out-of-the-way part of the parking lot at the still-under-construction Kula Malu town center.

It has grown from a core group of a dozen or so die-hard folks who fervently believe in producing and providing food and other locally made products that are, as they say, “thousands of miles fresher” to an ever-evolving and growing group of more than fifty-plus regular vendors.

They set up their tables and tents at the market every weekend to sell their fresh produce, plants and flowers, their “grinds,” and other wares to hundreds of devoted fans and other folks.

Smiles and hugs are standard greetings there.  Talking story is a favored pastime as well.

“Talking Story” shared by Megan Powers

THE MARKET AS A SLICE OF HISTORY

Checking out what the market offers has been an eye-opener for me.

It got me thinking that, for real, a heck of a lot of the foods we consider “native” or “Hawaiian” or “local” fare were imported to the islands at some point in history.

Almost all of our foodstuffs are pretty much “foreign” species.  Many of them might even be considered “invasive.”

Think about it.

When Polynesians first touched ground on the islands, the only indigenous edible plants were some ferns, ‘ohelo berries, and a panoply of seaweed.

hoio
“Ho’i’o” by Rosa Say via Flickr [CC-NC-ND 2.0]
Maybe some palm seeds and nuts floated in on the tides and took root, but the chances were pretty slim.

The animal life on the island back then included assorted birds (now mostly extinct) and bugs, the fish and sea life in the ocean surrounding the islands, and some small critters in the streams.

Remember that these islands are located thousands of miles away from anyplace else.

That’s a long way to go when you’re clinging to a piece of driftwood.  Few plants and probably no land animals from the continents made it here on their own.

Polynesian voyagers brought kalo (taro), niu (coconut), ʻulu (breadfruit), ʻuala (sweet potato), maiʻa (banana) and ko (sugarcane) on their canoes, as well as chickens, pigs and dogs for meat.

harvesting-taro
“Harvesting taro” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
coconut
“fresh, fresh, fresh” by Karen via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
breadfruit
“Breadfruit” by Neil DeMaster via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Starting in the 18th century, European explorers dropped off cattle and goats.

Later American missionaries and other plant dudes and entrepreneurs imported macadamia nuts, coffee, and a wide variety of tropical fruits including the pineapple that has come to symbolize the idea of “Hawaii.”

pineapples-and-bananas
“Pineapples and Bananas” by Shihmei Barger via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
real-coffee
“Real Coffee” by olle svensson via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
macadamia-nuts
“Macadamia Nuts” by Richard Ashurst via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
mango
“i love you like a mango” by Janine via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Sheep showed up.  So did assorted game birds and beasts suitable for fans of the hunt.

When the sugar and pineapple industries arose in the late 19th century, they precipitated waves of immigrants from China, Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Korea, and the Philippines, as well as various other parts of the Americas, Europe and Asia and the rest of Oceania to work in the fields and to participate in the diverse and constantly evolving island lifestyle.

Every one of them brought foods from home.

rambutan
“rambutaaaaan!” by Karen via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
moringa
“Moringa (The Miracle Tree in Brisbane)” by Tatters via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
star-fruit
“Star Fruit” by jennconspiracy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
squash
“Squash” by Mark Goebel via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
They shared their food with their neighbors who learned to like all kinds of ways of cooking and learned to grow a lot of different kinds of plants and animals.

Some things thrived.  Others – like apples and other foods that grow well in temperate places — did not.

A lot of that food shows up in many of the farmers’ markets around the state.

The sense of abundance gets mind-boggling as you walk around.

broccoli
“Romanesco broccoli” by troy mckaskle via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
pink-oyster-mushroom
“pink oyster mushroom” by jennconspiracy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
avocado
“Look at the size of the avocados they have here” by Mitzi Young via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
greens
“greens” by Kanu Hawaii via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

FURTHER DISCOVERIES

What I’m noticing about being a frequent shopper at the farmers market is that it adds a whole other dimension to the way we cook and the way we think about food.

  • I’m noticing that the foodstuffs and value-added products we’ve discovered during our forays into the market can determine what we are going to be cooking and eating for our next few meals.
  • Rather than just automatically grabbing this or that vegetable, fruit or meat and preparing the same old stuff we always make, we are reaching for new-to-us things to try.
  • We are beginning to combine our finds in different ways than usual.  We are learning to substitute new-to-us cousins of foods we already know in old familiar recipes to make a whole other taste sensation.
  • Since we’re never sure what is available at the market on any given day, it’s likely that we will become even more ready to remain receptive to the possibilities the market’s offerings present and allow ourselves to be guided by what we choose to get.
  • The produce and products we like at the market are all grown or made by the people who are selling them, so we have a chance to ask the sellers about where and how the plants are grown and how a thing is made.
  • It’s a chance to find out where the food we are eating comes from and what it takes to produce and process the ingredients we’re planning to use.
  • I notice that I am likely to get tips about how to turn the fruits and vegetables that are new to me into meals I can enjoy.  (Very often, passersby weigh in with advice as well.)

The whole thing has been a fun-filled, enlivening learning experience.

I expect that as we become more aware of the foods that are commonly available at a certain time of the year, we’ll be able to start planning meals.

Recipes I’ve never tried may become new favorites.

Different styles of cooking that I’ve been meaning to explore may become more do-able and I may even learn some new skills.

Because the mix of vendors changes from week to week, there will always be that element of surprise.

A good thing….

Here’s a poem:


KILLING WINDS GO LEFT

The killing winds turned left.

 

After a handful of days

Of semi-hysterical predictions

Of impending calamity,

Of urgings to beware, prepare, take care,

 

After hours and days of making up

Contingency plans that are fading

As the sun comes out from

Behind the clouds,

 

After watching the wake of

The massive storm devour

The hapless ones who ran out of luck

Stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time,

 

After watching the valiant ones and the dutiful

Trying so hard to help mitigate

The woes of the disasters

Trailing after the now-gone Chaos-Beast,

 

The only feeling left in this aftermath

Is a gratitude that seems impossibly inadequate.

 

We go on, all of us, as we sink back into

The gentleness of everyday

Where breezes and mists are not

Harbingers of awful destruction and death

 

And petty annoyances are the norm.

 by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Community of Petals” by Rosa Say via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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

Get Social....
UNLOCK BEGINNER’S MIND

UNLOCK BEGINNER’S MIND

Back in the ‘70’s I ran across a small book of distilled teachings taken from talks given by Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki, ZEN MIND, BEGINNER’S MIND.

There was this quote in it:

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

It spoke to me, that quote, and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to unpack the thing.

I’ll probably do other posts about Beginner Mind, so all I’ll say about it right now is that Beginner Mind is an ancient wisdom teaching that helps you develop what educator Barbara Oakley dubbed a “growth mindset.”

This way of thinking keeps you from locking into fixating on the same-old “shoulds” and “musts” and “that’s-the-way-it-is” that all of us humans tend to create as we experience life.

Beginner Mind is expansive.  It’s not cluttered up by a lot of specious assumptions, expectations and preconceptions.

miksang-level-2-space
“miksang level 2 – space” by V via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
A gear-head analogy for Beginner Mind would be something like attaching a satellite dish to some receptor or other and having access to a whole bunch of channels.

Martial artists wax poetic about standing receptive to whatever comes at them when they talk about Beginner Mind.

Whatever.  Beginner Mind is a very cool tool to have in your Life Toolbox.

That’s been my take on Beginner Mind for a while now.

It may be why the YouTube video, “Nurturing a Beginner’s Mind,” that I’ll be sharing with you towards the end of this post caught my attention.

The video is a production of INKtalk, an off-shoot of the TEDtalk phenomenon.  INKtalk is organized by Lakshmi Pratury, who put together the first TEDIndia talks in Myosore in 2009.

(The reason the video’s at the end of this post is mostly because it introduced me to some other fascinating side-trails that I think are also worth exploring.  Come take a look!)

TALKING ABOUT INK

The video I’m going to share with you (after a bit of dancing around) is an INKtalk published on YouTube in 2013.

It is one of a series of talks that have happened during the annual conferences, mini-conferences and salons coordinated and produced by INK, self-described as “India’s foremost platform for the exchange of cutting-edge ideas and inspiring stories.”

Click here for more information about INK and the talks:

click-here

Pratury wants the world to see INK as “a curator of contemporary oral history.”

The organization, she says, searches the world looking for people with stories and missions that center around innovative solutions for the broad scale problems that plague young economies, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

The stories they have gathered together are about innovative, world-changing ideas that address problems in recurring societal issues like education, governance, energy, health, poverty, and infrastructure.

The stories make for very interesting reading.  Check them out.

ANOTHER WAY OF SCHOOLING

In the upcoming INKtalk video, Saba Ghole, a former architectural urban designer who became an education and technology entrepreneur, talks about the work she and the members of her team do at the NuVu Studio at Cambridge University.

Ghole is one of the co-founders of the NuVu Studio, which was a brainchild of fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus Saeed Arida.

As part of his Ph.D. dissertation while at MIT, Arida explored the concept of a learning place modeled on the apprenticeship and project-based learning and hands-on problem-solving that is characteristic of an architectural studio.

Before he graduated, Arida implemented an on-campus pilot program at the Beaver Day Country School in Brookline.  This pilot was so successful that it led to an even larger project.

Arida collaborated with Ghole and another fellow MIT student David Wang, an engineer  and technology enthusiast, to launch NuVu Studio in 2010.

Wang collects degrees, it seems.  He’s got them in aeronautics, astronautics, electrical engineering and computer science.

beginning
Photo credit: “Beginning” by Aftab Uzzaman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The three friends have a penchant for collaboration and they continue to gather people together so they can help other Makers build cool stuff.

NuVu Studio has become an amazing “innovation studio” that is an alternative full-time, trimester-length schooling experience for middle and high school students — baby Makers who want to learn how to grow their spirit of innovation and to experience hands-on, real-world problem-solving of the finest kind.

More than 3,000 students – mostly from the local schools in the Boston area — have gone through the program since it began.

It is a far cry from your regular school experience, as this short video, “What is NuVu,” published by HarvardX in 2017 illustrates:

Capitalizing on the immense resources of MIT and Harvard University, the Studio facilitates the participation of the students in multi-disciplinary collaborations with Studio-trained “coaches” who are themselves architects, engineers, or experts in science, leading-edge technology, music, art, photography, fashion, and more.

Many of the coaches are MIT or Harvard students who are excited about doing hands-on work in their fields as well.

They work in large open-space studios and workshops using state-of-the-art tools that include things like laser cutters, 3D printers, as well as more mundane tools and assorted building materials.

Here, students don’t get grades – they have portfolios showcasing their work and progress. Problems are tackled in weeks-long blocks rather than hour-long classes.

The students are challenged to learn in new ways.

Analytical thinkers are inspired to explore their creative selves while creative students expand their capacity to think and learn analytically.

Whole-brain thinking is nurtured and encouraged.

The goal for these students is to make products that solve real-life problems that the students have defined with the help of their coaches using “themes” selected by the organizers.

In 2017, NuVu Studio received a Core77 “Notable Design Education Initiative Award.” 

AND NOW FOR THE VIDEO (AND SOME THOUGHTS)….

In the video, Ghole presents a collection of wonderfully clear insights about the components that make up the Beginner’s Mind stance.

(By the time she did the talk Ghole had already been working on helping to grow creativity and innovation for a number of years.)

The three big ideas are as follows:

THE POWER OF MIXING

Mixing together people (experts and neophytes), combining assorted themes that relate back to the real world, and tinkering – also known as breaking and re-making (which includes repurposing and reusing, collaboration with other minds and making use of open sourcing platforms to find ideas) – are the foundations that the Studio uses to encourage and support the students in their efforts to produce novel and effective solutions to problems they have chosen to pursue.

WHAT MAKES THE HEART OF A BEGINNER?

Ghole says the Beginner’s heart is an intriguing mix of Trickster, Craftsman and Poet.

Each of these are archetypes that come with sets of behaviors that are often focused on seeing the world in ways that are different from group-mind and consensus.

NOT 2, NOT 1 (BOTH 2 AND 1)

This is the best iteration I’ve ever seen of the concept of wu, a really esoteric and dizzy-making ancient teaching that proposes that when two ideas (or people) come together, the dynamic interaction, relationship and flow between them produces a third idea or concept or way of moving that combines aspects of both.

She explains the three pairings that the Studio uses to try to ignite new thinking among their students:  Process + Product, Mindful + Mindfulness, and Fiction + Reality

I found the whole thing mind-blowing.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Here’s a poem:


WHERE IS THAT KNIFE?

If I rehash the old stuff,

They come alive again,

And I make the threads

Into strings,

Into cords,

Into cables,

Just by adding

Strands of thought –

Little, tiny thoughts –

Like fibers crowded together,

Twisting themselves

Tighter and thicker,

Turning into one heavy-duty rope,

Turning into one huge knot.

 

Hmmm….

 

So…

Where’s that knife?

I had it a minute ago.

I need it to cut through this stupid knot!

 

Back to beginner mind….

Again.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Photography In The Garden” by Olds College via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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

Get Social....
FLIGHT OF THE MOTH (Another IPS)

FLIGHT OF THE MOTH (Another IPS)

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that the world is a communion of subjects and not a collection of objects.  [Everyone and everything in the world has a story.  You can connect to the story if you lead with curiosity rather than judgment.]

It has occurred to me (many times) that everybody walks through worlds made of stories.  The stories are, after all, how we make sense of ourselves.

Our own stories – our struggles, our mistakes, the choices we make and the results of those choices, the lessons we’ve learned and the ones we keep ignoring – are windows through which we display who and what we are.  Each of us has a unique, custom-made story that we rework every day.

And since there are only so many ways any human can move through the world, each of us is very likely to find similarities and insights in every other person’s story.  These findings can often be applied to our own selves.

Probably that’s why we like looking through other people’s windows.  Probably that’s why other people’s stories fascinate us.

condo-in-los-angeles
“Condo in Los Angeles” by Ron T via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Some smarty-pants scientists who research such things tell us that our brains fire up more strongly as we listen to a story rather than to a list of factoids and dry-as-dust measures and measurements.

Our minds go sailing off into other worlds on the wings of a story well-told.  The best storytellers transport us.

We actually can “see” where they have been and their words take us along with them on their journey-memories.  Our brains rev up and go into overtime.  We remember stories.

That’s a heck of a lot different than the sleepy-time induced by power-point presentations and soporific lectures that pile a lot of facts on our heads and bury us in a confusing avalanche of teeny-tiny details that don’t actually help us put together any kind of coherent picture.

Self-dubbed “writer-actor-storyteller,” David Crabb performs and emcees for The Moth storytelling gatherings in New York.  He also has written a number of books, including an engaging autobiography, BAD KID:  A Memoir On Growing Up Goth and Gay in Texas.

Crabb believes that it is the connection that forms between people that is important in the act of storytelling and story-listening.

He says, “I think some people think it’s all about talking about you, you, you.  But what it really is is reaching out into the void and connecting with people and letting them know they are not alone.”

The Moth, an acclaimed nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling, has been flying high for more than 20 years now.  It’s the brainchild of writer George Dawes Green.

Here’s a YouTube video, “The Courage to Create,” that was published by Cole Hahn US in 2016.  It features Green talking about the transformation that happens onstage when storytellers tell a tale and their audiences connect with it.

The Moth attracts all kinds of storytellers – bad and good boys and girls, and the famous, the infamous and the anonymous.  And, many times, the magic happens – over and over again.

HOW THE MOTH WAS BORN AND GREW

George Dawes Green loved the storytelling sessions at his friend Wanda’s home on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia where he grew up.  The moths that gathered around the porch lightbulb and the magic of friends gathered together, drinking bourbon and “talking story” were a part of the parcel.

After he became a published author and was living in New York, Green began missing the story sessions on Wanda’s porch.  He wanted to recreate the experience, where ordinary people could deliver well-crafted, well-told personal stories, for his friends.

Green started hosting gatherings of storytellers in his New York loft, and the magic he remembered kept happening.

By 1997, Green’s idea had grown into a nonprofit organization named after the moths he remembered.  Twenty years later The Moth had presented over 20,000 stories, told live and without notes to standing-room-only crowds worldwide.

Thousands of people have participated in Moth storytelling workshops, performance opportunities, and StorySlam competitions.

There’s a Moth Podcast that’s downloaded more than 44 million times a year as well as a Peabody-award winning radio show, The Moth Radio Hour, which airs on 450-plus public radio stations around the globe.

There’s even a Moth Corporate Program that provides industry-specific storytelling solutions.

And then there are the books.  In 2013, The Moth published its first story collection. The list kept growing.

The latest of them, THE MOTH PRESENTS ALL THESE WONDERS: True Stories About Facing the Unknown, is one compiled by Catherine Burns, The Moth’s long-time artistic director.

It is amazing.

This YouTube Video, “THE MOTH:  The Best Storytellers In The World,” was published in 2013 by THNKR.

It showcases a behind-the-scenes look at the astonishing effort and enthusiasm that goes into getting the storytellers ready for performing in one of the most prestigious live shows in the line-up that the group produces and it touches on what the participating storytellers get out of doing it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It is a revelation that there are all of these people who have the guts to volunteer and come forward to tell their own story in front of a large crowd of strangers.

What’s so mindboggling, however, is that all of the other people who attend the events have made the effort and taken the time to come and listen to strangers, regardless of the topic.

As one commentator pointed out, “In a world of negativity, this…allows people to escape from the concept that everything must be internalized and that we are alone.”

I agree that “it may very well be one of the biggest acts of love this world has to offer.”

Here’s a poem:


CHICKEN SKIN KINE

In the streetlight halo at the corner,

Cocky young ones gather

To whisper warnings to each other

In spooky-story guise.

 

Don’t stop for that white-clad woman

Hitching a ride in the dark night.

Turn to challenge her strange silence,

Find her changed…or just not there.

 

Don’t carry pork over certain mountains.

There are spirits lurking in the passes there.

The pork will draw them to you and they’ll surround you.

Give them what you carry; maybe they’ll release you.

 

Another road, a moonless, starless night.

Quiet paws padding, the snick of sharp claws pacing behind you.

Don’t turn your head; there’s nothing there.

Show no fear; you might make it to the light.

 

Honor now the ancient kapu laid upon this place.

Those there are who pass in proud procession,

Ghostly torches lighting their endless path through time.

Hide.  If they see you, they may take you with them.

 

The darkness presses inward, heavier with each new warning.

Tendrils of gossamer terror quietly spin out, a web

That catches at the day-bright glow of innocence and joy

And leaches into the wanderer’s golden longing for home.

 

Bold laughter chokes

In throats turned tight with dread

Of the easy road home,

Shrouded now by the magical night.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Sunrise, sunrise” by Chris Chabot via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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

Get Social....
THOUGHTS ARE YOU

THOUGHTS ARE YOU

I know, I know.  You’ve heard it before and will almost certainly hear it again:  You are the creator of the world you inhabit.  You become what you think.

Every motivational video and podcast producer focused on self-improvement is probably going to whack you upside the head with that one.

Here’s an especially good one published in 2017 by Tom Bilyeu as part of his “Impact Quotes” series.

Bilyeu is an American entrepreneur, the co-founder of Quest Nutrition, maker of a best-selling protein bar.  He is also a powerful motivational speaker and life-trainer.

CLICHES ARE TRUTHS REPEATED SO OFTEN THEY TURN INTO BABBLE….

Every advocate for positive thinking and optimism and every feel-good therapist of every flavor, backed up by all the guys in lab coats who are into probing the secrets of our brains and other aspects of our lives, will haul out this old chestnut at some point.

Even the wise guys who aren’t telling us we’re a bunch of delusional creatures will tell you this.

They’ve built all kinds of thought-constructs that prove that it’s true.  You’ve gotta believe them.  They know, right?

My own favorite is American entrepreneur T. Harv Ecker’s take on the matter.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

Ecker has said,

“Thoughts lead to feelings.

Feelings lead to actions. 

Actions lead to results.”

Therefore, once you’re aware of the thought-to-feeling-to-action-to-results progression, you are in a position to change your thoughts.

This will lead you to new feelings and perspectives that will affect the actions you take and the moves you make.

Using this progression, you can get to the results you want…it says here.

Okay.  Fine.  Right.

BUT THEN THERE’S THE PRIMAL QUESTION

I have to confess that I always get a bit squirmy and fidgety when I get yet another hit of this particular bit of nebulous wisdom that pushes me forward onto center stage as the “World-Creator.”

That sort of implies that the burden is on me to get my own world right.

The thing is, it seems to me that it would be a heck of a lot easier to get a handle on being a big-shot World-Creator if I could just figure out the answer to the Primal Question:

SO, WHO AM I AND WHAT DO I REALLY WANT TO DO IN THIS LIFE?

question-mark-block
“Question Mark Block” by Jared Cherup via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
There are, of course, many opinions, positions and theories about how you can find the answer to that question.

There are all kinds of tools you can use to figure out “The Big HUH?”.  Every self-development book probably contains a dozen or so.

Many people have explored this question and returned from their journeys to explain and expound on the answers they found for themselves.  Some may even ring true for you.

ONE OTHER DIRECTION TO EXPLORE

At the start of the 20th century, University of Michigan professor and sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864 – 1929) went against the trend of thought held by his fellow sociologists of the time.  They were firmly committed to considering the development of individuals and societies as separate processes.

charles-cooley
“Charles Horton Cooley” by unknown photographer (1902 Michigansenian, page 8) via Wikimedia [Public Domain]
The classic utilitarian (and selfish) individualism of economics, which was promoted by the theories about the dynamics of social interaction held by other sociologists of his time, did not make sense to Cooley.

Cooley argued that society and the individuals in them were not phenomena that can be separated.   He said they were “different aspects of the same thing, for a separate individual is an abstraction unknown to experience, and so likewise is society when regarded as something separate from individuals.”

To Cooley, studying how people develop and behave separately from how a society operates was a lot like dissecting a frog in biology lab class.

frog
“Frog” by Becca C via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
He said, “Our life is all one human whole, and if we are to have any real knowledge of it we must see it as such.  If we cut it up it dies in the process.”

Out of this way of thinking, Cooley developed the concept of the “looking glass self,” which has become known and accepted by most modern psychologists and sociologists.

Cooley’s theory expanded William James’s idea of the self having the capacity to reflect on its own behavior.

According to Cooley, we see ourselves as other people see us, as if reflected in a mirror.  People gain their identity and form their habits by looking at themselves through the perception of society and other people with whom they interact as well as by directly considering their own personal qualities, he says.

ask-answer-choice
“Ask Answer Choice” by Rita M. via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Whether our beliefs about how other people see us are true or not, it is those beliefs that truly shape our ideas of ourselves.

The following YouTube video, “Charles Cooley Looking Glass Self | Individuals and Society” was published in 2015 by khanacademymedicine.  It gives a good, easy-to-understand explanation of Cooley’s theory.

 

HOLDING UP THE LOOKING GLASS

Tom Bilyeu, who was featured in the first video, is also the host (as well as co-founder and CEO) of Impact Theory, an interview video series exploring the mindsets of the world’s highest achievers.

This next video, “I Am Not What I Think I Am,” was published in 2018 by Fearless Soul  and features life coach Jay Shetty in an interview with Bilyeu.  It presents one way to use Cooley’s “Looking Glass Self” theory to find the life-direction and path that holds the most meaning and mana for you.

Jay Shetty has been called “one of the most viewed people on the Internet internationally.”  Among other things he hosts his own daily show, “HuffPostLive#Follow the Reader.”

In the video, he points out that all of us “live in echo chambers.  We’re just surrounded by the same thinking.  We meet  people who are just like us most of the time.”

Shetty outlines three steps you can make to counter that condition:

  • Expose yourself to new experiences or role models.
  • Find the experiences or role models with the most meaning for you, that you can be passionate about, and take seriously.
  • Ask, “Yes or no? Does that work for me?  Do I want to, for-real, live the life my hero/heroine is living?

This will at least keep you from unquestioningly following what you think the people around you are saying about who and what you are and what you “should” be doing with your life.

It can help you judge for yourself whether a particular lifestyle, with all of its inherent pros and cons, is really how you want to spend your days.

It might put you on the road to finding the life that has meaning and mana for you.

Here’s a poem….


THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

I have come to the conclusion

That the world is my mirror.

In its many-storied face I can find

Bits that resonate in me,

The hapless spectator with the flat feet.

 

I am like a harp wire, tightly wound,

That awakens as the air is stirred by

The sound of just one other string

Plucked by some insistent hand

That thrums and vibrates through me.

 

The stories are all around me,

Playing themselves out,

No more mindful of me

Than a stream is mindful of

A fallen leaf floating in it.

 

But, here’s the deal:

The stories I NOTICE are the ones

That tell me a thing or two

About what I am and who I am

And why I do my walk.

 

It is the fact that the story snagged my attention,

Raised up banners high,

Started horns tooting,

And fire-bombs flaring…

THAT’S the thing that needs attending.

 

Like the overly-sensitive, alarmingly bleeping parked car

In the middle of a quiet night in the ‘burbs,

It is mine to sort out.

I am the one that has to go deal with the durned thing,

Because it’s my car, my alarm, my concerns, my fears.

 

The world is my mirror.

What is it showing me?

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Through the Looking-Glass” by August Brill via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Thanks for the visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d share your thoughts and comments.

 

Get Social....
SPOKEN WORD AND BEING HEARD

SPOKEN WORD AND BEING HEARD

In a world of seven billion-plus souls, one of our deepest human needs often goes unfulfilled – the need to be heard.  That may be one reason why the Spoken Word movement, once a subculture on the fringes of the mainstream, is gaining widespread acceptance around the world.

THE RISE OF SPOKEN WORD

“Spoken word poetry” was born in Chicago in 1984, when a construction worker, Marc Smith, started reading poetry at a popular club and encouraged others to join him in sharing their work.  Smith was looking to “democratize” poetry and “bring it to the masses.”

He was following an old road with an ancient lineage that meanders through the underground and fringes of Society among the dispossessed and disenfranchised and the ones who choose to stand different.

The trailhead for this road began before there was writing and paper.  The college theses expounding about the “long-held traditions” of the ancient art of wordsmithing (and all the other hoo-hah that made playing with words seem like it is a probable cause for dyspepsia) were not even a glimmer on any horizon.

Smith was going back to that most ancient of traditions, Word-of-Mouth — just like the tribal storytellers and assorted con artists and bull-shitters sitting around campfires and hearth-fires of the world from ancient times, weaving a yarn for their friends and companions.  And he was inviting everybody else to join him.

campfire
“Campfire” by Markus Pachali via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Smith remembered:  Poetry was, first and foremost, an oral art.  It was an art with a performer and an audience.  The people around him liked that reminder.

Two years after he first got up to tell his poems out loud, Smith approached the owner of a jazz club.  Those readings happened every week and evolved into a competition.

The format gained popularity, but it was the Internet that blew it up big.  A lot of people liked being reminded that poetry is an oral art.

Poetry was originally produced by a human voice, propelled out of a human body with the breath.  It was one person talking to a bunch of other people.

Audiences liked the presentations by the most avid performers that showed that poetry, at its most effective, contains the rhythm and movements of a human heart.

They liked that the beginning and end of a poetic line is often a unit of phrasing and sense-making that is based on the human breath. You need to breathe when you’re speaking your poem.  It is your breath and your voice that animates it.

PAGE POETRY VS STAGE POETRY

Poetry Its-Own-Self has always been a means of often-powerful self-expression.  It grew out of song and prayer and storytelling traditions that continue to this day.  It has been with us forever and because of that it can be difficult to pin down and define.

One cute breakdown, “What Is Poetry? #Poetry Defined” was published in 2015 by Advocate of Wordz.  Here’s the YouTube video:

In my own experience, poetry has been a life-saver.  It continues to be a way for me to find my own clarity in the confusion of everyday life.  Rearranging words on a page helps me to rearrange the thoughts in my head.  It works very well for that.

But, let’s face it.  Over the centuries, page poetry has become stigmatized by many folks as indulgences of the rich-and-snooty.  Books of poetry tended to gather dust on bookshelves.

Page poetry (especially as was taught in schools when I was growing up) could be a yawn-inducing experience.  Poetry – at least the kind pedagogues seemed to favor — had the most gawd-awful and esoteric rules formulated by various poetry-makers in times past, all gathered together by the intelligentsia and assorted acolytes of High Culture.

If your teacher was into it, as mine often were, it was a grand thing; otherwise, not so much.  Teachers who got stuck on guiding their charges through parsing and analyzing some “Great Poem” or other, killed more poets a-borning than any other thing, probably.

Like calculus and philosophical debate, it was stuff for the Big-Brains (or folks who wanted to look like they had some.)

Page poetry was a good thing to inflict on children.  Like regular doses of cod-liver oil or whatever, it was supposed to keep them growing and make them strong.  By the time the children hit adulthood, it was often not a thing remembered fondly.

the-poet
“The Poet” by Russell Chopping via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
“Dull” was page poetry’s other name.

Committing poetry to a page (if you were not an academic sort), was a weird sort of hobby at best.  Solitary you could string the words from your heart across assorted pages and realize all kinds of gains.  Rigorous mental exercise, mastery of an art form, personal catharsis, and insights are possibilities that come to mind.

A common fate for these homemade page poems was to be stuck in a drawer where they moldered until the poet’s death, after which, they were probably tossed by the poet’s heirs.

If you were particularly proud of the page poems you constructed, you submitted them to magazines in exchange for magazine issues, sold them to greeting card makers for pennies, or spent money on producing self-published chapbooks to give to all of your family and friends.

If you got good at producing poems, you might even consider spending time creating them “on demand” as a busker.

poet
“The Poet” by Garry Knight via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
When the Internet revved up, you could also post them on websites or on social networks and then wonder whether they ever reached anybody.  (The page poem launch very often hits a wall of dead silence.)

The problem with even the best page poetry is that it is only one-half of a dialogue.  The maker makes, but doesn’t know whether anybody is out there listening, doesn’t feel like he or she is being heard.  It gets to feel like you’re talking to yourself.

Stage poetry (as spoken word has been called) is something else.  When it’s done well and the audience is lively, it flies.  Performers and audiences can get caught up in a group hug-fest.

  • Some poets are raucous; they rant and rave, yell and shout. Others are calm and relaxed.
  • There are poets who make you laugh and poets who make you cry. Many of them bare their deepest secrets and rock your heart.
  • Some weave intricate verbal patterns that enthrall you in a web of sound.
  • Others parse out a problem using simple words that drill down into the core of it, reframing and rearranging your mind.

Stage poetry can be inspiring.  A spoken word poem can be stimulating and entertaining when it’s good.

poet
“Poet” by Taz etc. via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
When several good poets get together it can turn into a jazz jam, a live performance never to be repeated in exactly the same way.  It can be a feast.

More importantly, even when the poetry or the performance is not so good, stage poetry is about connection.  The poet speaks.  The audience listens.  Good performers take their listeners flying; bad performers get a lot of points for trying.

the-elders
“The Elders” by Laura Thorne via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

A TASTE OF SPOKEN WORD

To give you a taste, here’s one of my favorite slam poems, “Legacy,” presented in this YouTube Video published by Button Poetry.  It features poet Tui Scanlon performing for Hawaii during the prelims at the 2014 National Poetry Slam.

Button Poetry was founded in 2011 by poets Sam Cook and Sierra DeMulder.  Since then it’s become the largest digital distributor of spoken word in the world.  The Button Poetry videos are shared on websites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and NPR.  Their YouTube channel has over 900,000 subscribers.  Click here to check them out:

click-here

SPOKEN WORD INTERNATIONAL

These days, commentators note that spoken word has “gone mainstream.”  Poetry meant to be performed – performance poetry – is winning accolades from audiences of regular people.  Some of those people get up on stage and do their own spoken word pieces before sometimes massive crowds.

All over the world, wherever people gather, there are open mic nights, where folks get up in front of a crowd and share their words – angry poetry, love poems, poems of protest and politics, stand-up poetry, punk poetry, jazz poetry, nonsense rhymes, and rap and hip-hop fusion poetry.

There are regular organized gatherings of amateur and casual poets.

There are poetry slams where the competition and audience participation can get intense.

german-language-poetry-slam-championships-2010
“German-language Poetry Slam Championships 2010” by Very Quiet via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
There are shows by professional poets.  At festivals, you’ll find performing poets sharing the stage with musicians, actors, dancers and other performing artists.

national-cowboy-gathering
“National Cowboy Poetry Gathering – 2017” by Travel Nevada via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] (Photo by Sydney Martinez)
On the Internet, the variety (and the sheer number) of posted poetry videos boggles the mind.

There are even spoken word workshops you can attend to become a better performing poet.

slam-workshop
“Slam Workshop” by Tom Astleitner via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
And, in the schools, performance poetry and spoken word has opened a door to the impact and the power of words for children of all ages.

louder-than-a-bomb-kc-team
“Louder Than a Bomb KC Team” by Laura Gilchrist via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Smith’s plan to bring poetry back to the masses worked.   Words were spoken…and more and more and more words keep being spoken, mostly because people are definitely listening.

The quality of the works vary, of course, and that seems to be a part of the whole scene.

THE BEST POEM

My benchmark “best poem” has no words.  It was an exchange between my friend Wide Garcia, who chairs the meeting of the Maui Live Poets that meets in the Makawao Library on the third Wednesday night of each month, and a young man with Aspergers Syndrome.

During one of our regular meetings, we were doing a round-robin, where all of the poets in attendance took a turn to present a poem to the crowd.  A young man came in midway through the first session and sat down in an empty chair.  He sat quietly and watched as the poets read or spoke their work, watched as the audience responded.

It’s Wide’s practice to ask everyone who comes to the gatherings if they would like to present a poem.  After the first round was done and the poets were mingling and talking story, he approached the young man, who was sitting there, seemingly detached from the hubbub around him, and asked whether the boy had work he would like to share.

The young man did not answer, so Wide asked again, looking deeply into the teenager’s eyes.

There was a pause.  Then the boy lifted his right hand with all of his fingertips held together like a spear-point and touched the middle of his chest, fingers pointed right at his heart.  He gestured, moving his arm outward towards Wide and opened his hand, palm-up, as if he were offering his heart.

Wide made the same gesture back to the boy and grinned at him.  The boy just looked back at him out of his own world.

And, for me, that became my benchmark “good poem” – the one I remember every time I start constructing another one.  A good poem offers up your heart to another person.  It’s even better when that other person offers up his or her heart back.

Here’s a poem….


ALWAYS THERE ARE POEMS

 Always there are poems.

Not all of them use words.

Sometimes your body builds them.

Sometimes hearts must be heard.

 

The hand that reaches out,

The smile that glows and shines,

The eyes that sparkle in delight,

The hug that says, “We’re fine.”

 

Always there are poems.

All you need to do is see

The wonders of the universe

And the worlds in you and me.

 by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Ballsaal um 20:50” (Poetry Slam) by Sebastian Courvoisier via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Get Social....
ON THE ROAD TO MEANING

ON THE ROAD TO MEANING

In 2001, a group of  friends graduated from college and set out on a cross-country road trip to interview people who lived “lives centered around what was meaningful for them.”

The boys acquired an RV, and wandered around countryside filming a documentary about their trip in which they brazenly approached all sorts of people who were doing what looked like interesting things and asked them a lot of personal questions about life-issues like, “How do you know that this thing you do is right for you?” and “What was your worst mistake?” and  “What advice do you have for a lost puppy like me?”

The documentary the friends made of their journey was expanded into a series on PBS. They wrote a book about the first road trip.

This first book was followed by other books, by other projects all designed to help other people get the kind of insights the young men acquired on their own original road trip.

Eventually they and the team they assembled along the way launched a nonprofit called “Roadtrip Nation.”  The goal of this nonprofit is to help other young people who need advice for shaping their own careers into something fulfilling, for living a life doing what matters most to them.

In the following YouTube video, “Road Trip Nation:  The RT Nation Story,” the three friends, Mike Marriner, Nathan Gebhard and Brian McAllister, tell the story of their continuing journey.

They point out that going around the country asking people they encountered questions about how they ended up living lives that had meaning and mana helped each of them find their own truths, their own self-definitions, and their own kind of good life.

Asking questions and listening to the answers from people who had taken their own paths was profoundly useful to them.  It helped them answer that age-old question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

What started as a madcap adventure-cum-vision quest has spawned a whole movement of young people who are looking for their own answers to this most important question.

Besides an assortment of books, Roadtrip Nation maintains an extensive on-line video library of the interviews they conducted on their PBS series.

If you click on the “watch” link you can browse the PBS series by season.  Within each season you can browse each episode by interview subject.  Among those interviewed are everything from CEOs of major corporations to everyday workers in all kinds of industries and working situations who love what they do.

 Besides all of this, the Nation has put together a guide-book of sorts called ROADMAP: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life.  It’s a starter-kit for seekers looking for the meaning and mana in their own lives.

Check it out.  (It’s filled with exercises and ideas that  work for serious questers  of any age.)

And here’s a poem:


WILL YOU HEAR ME?

Understand something, please:

I do not aspire to be that tree

That falls in the woods and no one hears.

I refuse to be one of a line of trees in the forest

Blown down by a big kona wind,

Spilling across the landscape like fallen matchsticks.

 

I want to be heard,

To know my voice will rise up and grab at ears,

That my words will shake and stoke hearts that burn.

I want my voice to join those other voices in the wind,

That roar like a raging river,

That gently sigh like a baby sleeping.

 

Will you hear me?


Header picture credit:  “Traffic Trails” by Barry Davis via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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

Get Social....
GO MAKE SOMETHING: The Maker Movement

GO MAKE SOMETHING: The Maker Movement

At a party recently, a bunch of old guys – artists, tinkerers and generally handy dudes of a certain age – were reminiscing about high school shop class.

They found it amazing that forty and fifty years ago it was not considered unusual for a bunch of silly-assed, overly amped kids to be dealing with hands-on fooling around using massive, old, industrial-strength power tools.

In fact, they agreed, shop class was the go-to class for all the worker-dude guys who were not academically inclined.

All those assorted spinning wheels, sharp cutting edges, power cords, burning and smoking things, flying sparks, mounds of debris and such were a natural part of the shop class landscape.

jim-wood-turning
“Jim’s Wood Turning” by William Warby via Flickr [CC BY-21.0]
Every one of the guys remembered that their shop teacher was missing at least a couple of fingers.  Every one of them remembered the safety lectures.

Mostly, though, they remembered how shop class got them fascinated with the joy of Making Something.  Collectively they mourned the passing of this rite of passage.

IT’S A-L-I-V-E!!!

Those old dudes were sounding “Taps” too early, it seems.  The joy of Making has taken the world by storm again.  It’s even got its own Movement now.  Do-It-Yourself lives!

This “Maker Movement” is a convergence of traditional artisans, computer hackers, independent inventors, designers, tinkerers and other (often manic) crafty sorts who toil away in their cluttered workrooms and closet-offices making cool stuff that sometimes solve everyday problems, big and small, and sometimes is just for fun.

time-to-clean-up-the-work-bench
“Time to Clean Up the Workbench” by Kent Landerholm via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The first stirrings of the Movement in 2005 was spurred on by the vision and enthusiasm of the editors of Make: magazine, a publication that was born out of founder Dale Dougherty’s conviction that Making is a very good thing to do.

Before the magazine was a year old, it had become a nexus and a gathering place for a tech-influenced, grassroots, DIY community that spread and sprawled out like a kudzu vine.  The magazine dubbed  them “Makers.”

“I think the magic of [the magazine] was simply that we connected a lot of different groups that were making things but saw themselves as doing something separate,” Dougherty has said.

According to him, the artisans and artists saw themselves as different than the people who do robotics or electronics.  There was a sense of disconnection among all of these creative folks.  A knitter, a musician and a guy who builds a drone might not be able to feel like they belong to the same tribe, for example.

“To some degree calling them all makers kind of allowed for a flourishing of some different people coming together and seeing commonalities,” he said.

MAKE:  MAKER FAIRES

The Makers also spurred the magazine editors on to put together the first Maker Faire, a festival celebrating the innovation and self-reliance of the folks who do-it-yourself.

The first Maker Faire happened in San Mateo, about 20 miles from San Francisco.  It was billed as the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.”

The idea was to get all kinds of people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and show what they were making and share what they were learning with other people.  It was also all about experimenting, playing, and having fun connecting with other people.

The first Faire was a grand success, stirring the imaginations of jaded consumers numbed by the overabundance of generic, mass-produced goods.  It spawned what has since became a worldwide network of fancy flagship Faires in major cities that involve thousands of people as well as more down-home, independently produced mini-faires.

At these events, curious participants of all ages can experience the inventions of the Makers firsthand.  The spectators are invited to join in the parade and fun is had by all.

This 2012 YouTube video, “Inspiring a Maker Movement” was published by CNN and features Dale Dougherty talking about the very fundamental human need to make stuff.  You’ll also get a taste of what it’s like to be at a Maker Faire.

As Dougherty points out, it isn’t all high-tech, although 3D printers, digital manufacturing, drones and robots are all glittery highlights at the big international Faires.   New forms of arts, entertainment, crafts, food experiments, and every other kind of human creativity is fodder for exploration.

  • You can learn to build your own smartphone or make your own toys.
  • You might be able to print out a pair of shoes.
  • Maybe you’ll make your own jewelry or a handbag for mom or learn how to cook up something new.
  • You might learn how to crochet.
  • You might even learn how to home-automate your house with just a few simple measures.
  • You could learn how to pickle, can, and preserve fruits and vegetables and check out the latest advances in bee-keeping, composting and growing your own food.
  • You might learn how to write better instructions.

Checking out all that’s new in the world of making things could lead you to the start of a new interest, hobby or vocation.

At the Faires, open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology rule.  The strategy is to provide interested people with the right tools and the inspiration and opportunity to use them.  Creativity and a lot of imagination-sparking ensues.

to check out the Faire schedules and locations. It truly is mind-boggling!

MAKE:  BUSINESS

Makers make stuff.  They want to know how they can do this thing or that.  They want to know how other people have solved a problem they are facing.

Magazines (like Make: magazine) as well as books, podcasts and YouTube videos for do-it-yourselfers have grown exponentially as more and more people become interested in being a Maker of one sort or another.

Hobbyists, enthusiasts, and those who’ve gained a certain mastery in some form of Making might be encouraged to give demonstrations, classes or workshops that attract others who want to explore new ways of Making too.

mike-soroka-demonstrates-glassblowing
“Mike Soroka demonstrates glassworking ” (Artisan’s Asylum Open House, 2012) by Chris Devers via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Then there are the MakerSpaces that welcome a diverse group of builders, hackers, and hobbyists who share resources and knowledge.  Hundreds have cropped up in the past decade or so in the United States.

Some are housed in existing community centers such as libraries, museums or youth centers.  Others are sponsored by companies and organizations at conference centers.  All of them focus on the love of Making.

This YouTube video put together by TheMakerSpace earlier this year explains further:

MakerSpaces have taken off in all kinds of directions.  There are community-based spaces, spaces for kids, and spaces for explorers of all kinds.


maker-space-ship
“Maker[Space]Ship” by San Jose Public Library via Flickr [CC BY-SA-2.0]

makers-space
“makers space” by jenny cu via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

makers-space
“Makers + Spaces” by Sharon Vanderkaay via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Here’s another YouTube video, by Intel (yes, those guys) showing off their “Ultimate MakerSpace,” at the company’s Intel Developer Forum in 2014.


Both the dedicated and dabbler Makers have fueled the growth of companies that produce the materials and tools that people use to make (or fix) stuff.  Sales of arts and crafts supplies and parts for all kinds of machines and electronic equipment are booming as well.

People who get involved in Making often find something that they feel is worth exploring further, that gives them great pleasure.  Some of them turn their new-found passion into a life-long hobby.  Others become entrepreneurial and turn their creations into a business of their own.

Besides distributing their creations to traditional brick-and-mortar stores or participating in venues like street fairs and festivals, many Makers sell their creations online to people all over the world by making their own websites or by using Craigslist, eBay, or Etsy to sell their own cool stuff.

The connections just keep multiplying.

More than one observer of economic and business trends have commented on the Maker Movement.  It has gotten wide and deep.

The general consensus seems to be that it is a very good thing to encourage folks to ponder on problems and figure out how to make their own solutions rather than just going out and buying another doo-dad put together by someone else.

After all, it is the people who make things who have the potential to change the world.

SEED THOUGHT

Matthew Crawford, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the author of SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT:  An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, has this thought:  “I think [the Maker Movement] is tapping into a really basic fact about us as human beings.  From infancy we learn about the world by manipulating it, by sort of poking it and seeing how it pokes back.”

My own feeling is that each of us carries a little spark of the Creative within us.  It’s a good thing, I think, to go play with that.

Here’s a poem:


SPARK

What do I want?

Peace and freedom,

Friendship and love…

What all humanity says it wants.

 

Unoriginal?

Perhaps…

Or maybe it is encoded

In the cells of this body

That carries the primal spark

Which comes from the eternal flame

That burns at the heart

Of our ancestral home.

 

Work and play bring us together,

More than the sum of our parts,

The synergy fueled by the love

In the hearts of each of us.

 

I am small,

No more substantial

Than a wispy-haired seed,

But the stones are my brothers,

The stars, our cousins,

And the winds carry whispers

And echoes of the life that

Is, has-been and will-be,

And the waters of river and sea

Comfort and cradle and carry us all,

In circles and cycles and serpentine spirals,

Backwards and forwards,

To our beginnings

And our ends….

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo:  Hexapod robot (Maker Faire Somerville) by Chris Devers 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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....
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]

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....
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.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Get Social....

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)