Guest Posting – New Book

As my friends read their Christmas presents, a few have sent me their synopsis of the books they’ve read. Here is the first guest blog of what I hope will be many more contributions to this year’s theme – Which ideas Change us and Why?

Entry from Professor Tom:

For Christmas I received Shadow Catcher, by Charles Fergus (1993).  Had never heard of it or him.  The book is a novel closely based on an obscure (nowadays) event in relations between white America and the original inhabitants of this land.  In 1913 a department store magnate bankrolled an “expedition” that encouraged reservation indians to seek US citizenship.  That was in the context of the magnate’s plan to build a huge statue of the “vanishing indian” in NY harbor; intentionally smaller than the statue of liberty (to symbolize the presumptive smallness of indians as a “race”).  Ground was actually broken on this project but it fell apart when WWI broke out – a rare positive effect of that conflagration.

Anyway, the book is about people on the expedition, which traveled the rails all over the west trying to get indians to kiss the US flag.  As if that weren’t enough, the book is also about photography and the nature of photography – what photographs mean, what they tell us about people, and so on.  This because a large part of the expedition was to photograph the “vanishing” indians.  A book of photographs was published, still highly regarded (for the photographs, not for the politics), called “the vanishing race”.

Not for everyone, but quite interesting if you’re into US history, or photography, or larger questions about representation and interpretation.  Quite a good book for thoughtful young adults.

Tom

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New Year’s: To Make or Not Make a Resolution? That is the Question!

I vote make one! It’s a new decade – think about it. Some day our grandchildren will be studying about the 2010’s, just like we studied about the “Roaring Twenties” or ” the Age of Enlightenment.,” and they’ll ask “What were you doing?” I for one hope to have something remarkable to say.

Ok, maybe that’s too much pressure. It’s much easier to take decades as they are made – one year at time. So this year, I asked  some of my friends how they go about doing resolutions. Here are some of the most interesting ideas I heard.

  • We sit down as a family and each person state the age s/he’ll be turning that year and makes the statement: “This is the kind of 15 year old (fill in your own age) I would like to be in 2010, …”
  • We all take a bath – not together, but dip into the same bath water on the first of each year with the notion that we are washing away the previous year.
  • We take a long walk as a family and each person thinks about how s/he could be a better person in 2010. After the walk we all write down our ideas in our journals.
  • We  take this as individual task. Each person gets some notecards and writes down very specific goals for the year and puts them inside pocket of his coat to periodically look at throughout the year.

How about you? Any cool ideas to share as we usher in this decade?

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What’s in a Chat?

Before we talk about the soul, I want to share this story about communication:
A colleague told me about this friend of hers, a man about 42, who had just figured out something really important about his wife. He said when they got married, he was really excited. She was perfect. Everything was exceeding his wildest expectations. Then she began wanting to have these conversations about their relationship. At first he was really concerned and listened closely. After all, maybe he had missed something. But pretty soon he realized that these conversations weren’t actually about a particular problem. It was highly annoying, but he tried to indulge her and be polite.

Over the years, these “conversations” persisted. He thought for while that if he could just endure a really big one, they would only have to talk about their relationship once a year or so. No such luck. His wife consistent need to chatter on about the state of their relationship persisted.

Then one day, he figured it out. All those talks about the relationship were the relationship.

Moral of the story: To have a relationship you need to talk. Talking, really discussing, takes two; listening, really hearing, takes two. It doesn’t have to be too often, but it’s important to check in verbally when things are good – because when they stop going well, you have more of a base to draw on. That foundation is the key to co-creating life rather than living comfortably on two separate tracks, toggling back an forth instead of journeying together.

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Friends and Change

...Old habits and routines push at the door and we think we lack strength to keep them blocked from entering this new space we’ve created. When this happens, friends are the key – lean where you feel strength pushing you up, toss the ones that will ruin what you’ve created.

Of course it’s easy to say “toss the friends who ruin us,” but anyone who has been around the block knows friends change us. Every close friend I have ever had has influenced me – helped create who I am today.

As a mother this has a lot to do with how I observe who my children pick as friends, as well as who pick them. Along with the thrill of having close friends comes the heartache of outgrowing them. Sometimes friendships are just not destined to be. I remember my aunt telling me that my cousin was developing an unhealthy friendship. Instead of forbidding it, my aunt simply made her unavailable for playdates until the fascination ran its course and both individuals stopped trying to become friends.

The question is: what is a friend?  Are there any universal truths to consider as we move into the next year? I think so.

  • A friend wants the best for us, nudging and encouraging us without attempting to change or fix us.
  • A friend is present, not to agree or disagree, condone or condemn, but to simply be there in laughter or silence.
  • A friend has patience. They allow us to be stupid and reckless up to a point; immature or silly; smart and innovative.

So with friends like these, can we move into the new year with slightly higher aspirations for ourselves? I think so! Next blog must be thoughts on the soul.

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Which Ideas Change Us – What about a New Year’s Resolution??

As New Year’s approaches and the dawn of a new decade hovers, benign, it is interesting to think about which ideas will change us…and which ideas we will change? So many people look at the changeover of time, from December 31st to January 1st, as an eve of possibilities and dawn of new beginnings. As if it is a freshly painted dwelling in which to make a new home for our soul.

There must be something to this or else we wouldn’t keep doing it…as humans. Perhaps it is the people whose will power and discipline inspire us? Perhaps not. Although I admire them from afar, I think it is the power of ideas and how we see ourselves in that new space that can get us to change. Once and while it works…we walk into this fresh space and hold our old self at bay. The patterns and behaviors that must accompany this newness are clear, at least for an instant, and we celebrate the clarity in a resolution.

Old habits and routines push at the door and we think we lack strength to keep them blocked from entering this new space we’ve created. When this happens, friends are the key – lean where you feel strength pushing you up, toss the ones that will ruin what you’ve created.

If you can’t tell difference, come back tomorrow…Let’s talk about friendship and the soul. 🙂

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Avatar….Which Ideas Make us Change and Why?

Yesterday I took my son and his friend to see James Cameron’s latest epic, Avatar. I’m not sure what I expected, but the movie far exceeded anything I had in mind. It was like Princess Mononoke in Totoro’s Tree meets GI Joe.  To hear more about what Cameron says about how he made the movie click here.

Far more interesting to me, though, is what happens to the main character in the movie.  Jake Sully is a military guy who is grieving the loss of his dead, twin brother and wants to walk in the worst way.  You get the distinct impression that the only reason he has agreed to take his brother’s place on the mission is because he has nothing better to do. He starts as an apathetic x-marine type who thinks of himself as “not the scientist.” At first I was going to say he sees himself as stupid, but I don’t think that’s actually true. He just sees himself as ordinary, with a brother who clearly outshined him academically. By the end of the movie this changes – He sees himself as a leader.

So – related to this year’s theme – why did Jake change – in mind, in spirit, and eventually in body?

I think this movie reinforces that humans change because of heartfelt experiences. We are moved by what we see and feel as well as come to know and understand through our mind and our senses. Part of Avatars subtle brilliance is the notion of energy and connectedness. Jake is able to experience his physical environment through a dendrite-like connection.  I think meditation and prayer are the closest we get in this world. No idea really.  What I do know is that Cameron convinces us that people can change and you walk out of the theatre more hopeful than when you walked in.

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Innovation in Thought

This is a great video about innovation. It fits perfectly into the theme. I’m still thinking about it myself, but just wanted to pass it along. Warning: it’s pretty long so make yourself comfortable before you start watching.

http://www.educationevolving.org/clayton-christensen-speech-2009.asp

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Still Reading? YES

Someone asked me yesterday if I was still reading. The answer , of course, is yes. But nothing is worse than having a blogger make up stuff when the mood hasn’t really struck her. As WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg said in his blogI used to think constantly about building an audience for my blog but now my attitude is that if I’m not blogging for myself it’s not worth it. I don’t force myself to post once a day, I just do it when it feels natural.” And such is the philosophy I have adopted.

Fortunately, I do have something worth posting today: comments from Chapter 6 in Ronald White’s A. Lincoln. In 1840, Stephan T. Logan and Abraham Lincoln became law partners. Logan, Lincoln’s senior, saw Lincoln as idealistic but raw. He instilled in Lincoln his own belief that success is byproduct of hard work, and that the work should not only be focused on understanding your own position, but also on understanding the logic and passion of your opponent. According to White, this is something that Lincoln took to heart and it helped to form the man he became, and the leader he would become.

So how does this apply to the theme….well, it seems to me that mentorship is key in change, particularly personal change. Lincoln was lucky enough to have a mentor who understood those ideas and habits that would most compliment and enhance Lincoln’s strengths. How about those of us who are mentors? Are we present, seeing how to enhance our mentees, or are we focused on a creating a mini-me?

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Princess Mononoke and Ideas About Change

If you have ever seen the movie Princess Mononoke, you’ve been among the lucky. It is compelling anime by Hiyao Mizaki. Last night I was watching it with my son. There is a scene when the young prince Ashitaka has lost his strength to the point that he can not feed himself. The wolf princess, Mononoke hime sama, rips off a piece of dried meat and chews it before passing the softer meat into Ashitaka’s mouth. Gingerly he swallows the nutrients and in doing so weeps silently. It’s a captivating, silent moment in an otherwise adventuresome tale.

After talking about this scene, my son and I concluded that it must have been the random act of kindness combined with the relief of being alive, perhaps of being deeply loved in its pure sense that pushed our young hero to weep.

How does this relate to our theme – ideas sparking action? Very simply there are times when our actions or the actions of others induce change, bypassing all thought.

…Hmm – that’s worthy of consideration as a parallel road on this thematic journey…

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7-21: Critical Years?

I’m two chapters into the A. Lincoln book. It’s interesting, but one of those slow starters. My hope is that every couple of chapters I glean something worthy of the theme. Today’s is the interesting claim by White that Lincoln’s ideas were greatly formed from the seven generations of roaming, successful ancestors that proceeded his ascension to the White house and also that his years in Indiana, from ages 7 to 21, defined the man he would become.

Of course, we don’t know if this is really true – it’s just what White believes. But if it is true for Lincoln, is it true for the rest of us? And if it is, what about our roles as parents towards our own children’s experiences between 7 and 21, or our responsibility to society for all children. This notion casts a brighter light on the competition among television, music, online social networking, advertising, and education.  How are their ideas being shaped in the 21st century between 7 and 21?

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