Archive for June, 2010

fooling, foolishness and current affairs

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Listening to the news these last months, trying to attend to content and dismiss the hyperbole, brought the words in the title to mind.

I found a few interesting comments and quotations on the general concept of fools and foolishness, one of my favorites is:

“The point of being an optimist, is to be foolish enough to believe the best is yet to come.” Peter Ustinov is credited with that one. True he’s not a renowned philosopher, but it does say something about our ability as a people to overlook things, facts of the present and immediate past, and hope for a better future.

Ustinov puts this under the term “foolish” to let us know that in reality, from his perspective, things are what they are, they will be what they will be, and our beliefs, or dreams, or wishes can’t change them. Its some kind of fatalistic approach to life.

That little voice inside me tells me he might be right, but it doesn’t stop me from working to make the future somehow better, better for me, better for people I don’t know, better for my friends and people I love.

Herman Hertzberger told me once that as an architect, he cannot save the world, that he sees himself more like a dentist, just relieving a little discomfort here and there.

Maybe that’s all that’s needed.

Think about what the impact of 309 million people doing little things to make the future better. Individually, it would be easy to say that picking up the water bottle in the parking lot doesn’t make a difference and that only a fool would believe it to be otherwise.

But think about it.

390 MILLION people. If every day we did just one thing, in a year there would be almost one billion things done each year. Think about 390 million people going to the gulf, dipping out their one bucket of oil, staying one night in a local motel, eating three meals. The impact of that would make the 20 billion dollar escrow fee tiny.

I believe the future is in a decentralized approach to problem solving. It seems like just a few generations ago, all of America was “off-grid” and “off-pipe.” Every major building in a city made its own electricity, heat, and propulsion for its elevators. Every family farm harvested water and stored it for the dry spells, made electricity, grew food. The rural countryside is filled with remnants of a sustainable society…it worked for a few hundred years…until we centralized the economy.

I’m off track yet again. I’ll close with this quote by Epictetus. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”

Kind of takes one back to Forrest Gump.

Be safe, be good to each other, and when they get that thing capped in the gulf, take a trip, scoop your bucket, and lets go full speed into a foolish future.

…and pick up that water bottle!

on rescue…

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

When you think about a waking day, a lot of words pass through ones mind. Some words are destined to be spoken, some not. Some of the words are part of a more complex inner thought. Thoughts that really only happen when it gets quiet enough that the world outside isn’t grabbing our attention for one reason or another.

Along this line of words some stick out.

Over the last few days I’ve become aware of the word “rescue” maybe because I was thinking of the people who fly for the Coast Guard, maybe because I was thinking about applying sensor networks for finding people trapped in big debris fields like the one from this week’s tornadoes in Ohio and Michigan. There’s probably other reasons, but I’m thinking about that one word “rescue.”

The Oxford English Dictionary (where else can one start?) defines rescue as “save” and then “from a dangerous or distressing situation.”

Pretty simple. Actually there may not be enough here to write about, but lets see if its possible to drone on for a bit, something might pop up.

Another context where rescue popped up this last week was in the music that my “genius” app on the ipod put together for me. It put two songs together back to back that I wouldn’t have, but maybe Steve Jobs has somehow canned a real genius and put them in an app? The first song was “Love Story” performed by Taylor Swift, followed by the classic Motown hit “Rescue Me” performed by Fontella Bass. Both are less about dangerous and more about distressing situations which seems to be the tricky thing about rescue.

Its not hard to imagine being saved from one distressing situation only to find oneself in another. Kind of “out of the frying pan into the fire.” Both songs focus on the moment of rescue…and from what? Being alone.

Following the logic, being alone must be the distressing situation, and I can see there’s something to that. Maybe not completely a good idea, to see someone else as more interesting to be around than ourselves. But, it could be parts of us want someone else to tell us, we’re interesting and good people, parts of us want to find a way to be more than we’re able to be on our own, and can’t figure out what that means. Having another person around lets us see the world from another perspective. That’s pretty reasonable sounding, especially if the two people share that outlook.

But at the root of the rescue question lies the question. Did we get ourselves in a dangerous or distressing situation and now want someone else to extract us so we don’t have to do it ourselves? Sometimes danger comes at us from outside, and sometimes the the most reasonable person can’t see far enough ahead to not get caught in the flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake…. I can see that. But when the danger or distress comes from the inside, its a different story.

At that moment, when the little voice inside starts saying “rescue me,” its time to cowboy up, look in the mirror and realize nobody but the reflection can save you (vampires and various forms of undead excepted.)

It wouldn’t be as good a song for Fontella Bass to sing “grow with me” or “build with me” but might be the right sentiment. Then again, who doesn’t like the moment when the two are visible in the fog, one on a knee, holding the other’s hand, the thin loop of gold flashing in the morning sun. I haven’t found that in the Oxford English Dictionary yet, but there’s a lot of time in the quiet of Brook Hollow, so I’ll go turn a few more pages and see what jumps out at me.

Be good, enjoy some time alone if there’s time, take care of each other, don’t forget the one in the mirror.

life goes one

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

It looks like a typo doesn’t it?

But from time to time, we get presented with certain truths. One of them being that while we become part of something larger than ourselves from time to time, that larger thing, it isn’t always aware of us. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not.

I tend to identify closely with what I do, and the people in my life are usually those who are part of the same organization. I’m proud of my friends, amazed at their commitment to the larger organization, (which is kind of a nested set of organizations and relationships) and its always a difficult day when you can’t do what they ask you to do. You feel like you’ve let them down, and, I guess I did.

Its not like they ask often, or for trivial things, they have good judgment, great judgment really. They can read a persons integrity in a few short sentences and know things about us we have a hard time learning ourselves. So its hard to let them down. The larger thing we are part of brought us together, and is kind of close (ok, not super close) to being a really good thing. It just needs the right mix of people at all of the right levels, who have a clear sense of purpose, and really, of integrity.

It seems hard to hold on to both of those things, purpose and integrity as one moves upwards in the nested layers of the organization, and today, one of those people who had managed to hold on at a pretty high level decided not to keep at it. We could tell something was in the wind, the person was relieved having made the decision and why not? Those jobs leading the nest are not really super rewarding in our bigger organization, and especially in our time when whittling, reallocating, and from time to time weaseling (such strong language!) resources from one nested layer to another is a way of life. Where is “one” to find satisfaction in such a time and place? Its not easy to answer.

I’m happy this person has been able to hold on to what they value through the trials and tribulations of daily life in a big nest. I’m happy they kind of know what to do next, which voice inside to hear clearly. But, that said, there will be a hole in the nest, in each of our nested layers as this “one” slowly moves out. I feel it already, maybe the quiet evenings allows for too much reflection. We shared similar values, similar commitment, but I always thought they were stronger, could work through the conflicting situations that we are presented with each day. It turns out everyone is human, and in many ways, thank goodness for that!

But back to my first point.

I think to act in one’s own best interest is unavoidably an act of separation. And its hard to act in one’s own interest for many of us. Some of us spent our lives trying to keep family, colleagues, everyone around us happy, and lose ourselves along the way. So I felt poorly when I didn’t jump up to volunteer to take a spot in the bigger nest today, and hope it won’t separate me too far from my friends.

We all make choices about our future. We have to, and its inevitable that we’ll disappoint some people in the process. But our friends while being disappointed will still accept us even after the we choose for ourselves…we all hope for that.

I’m getting a little or a lot lost here, but thanks to the head of our nest for years of looking after us at their own expense, thanks to those that take us in and accept us, and please know that no matter which voice inside you follow, there’s always a spot in the friends nest for you.

The whole nest metaphor needs some more elaboration one day. It just occurred to me that one can get pushed out of a nest, just as easily as one can leave the nest on their own…

I’m a bit more obscure than usual since recent events aren’t fully public yet, I’m hoping readers will recognize who to thank and who to forgive and let back in the nest.

Take Care of each other.