Archive for March, 2009

Life is an amazing process of growth. There are things you can do to heighten different aspects of any particular path you happen to find yourself upon. For one, you can take a cooking course to learn how to prepare delectable meals that are dramatically different than the standard fare that begins to become habitual after a while. Or, you can go to tantric seminars to learn how to enhance your sexual experience. (As a pertinent aside, people are now starting to realize that tending to their sexuality in the same way one attends to a program of general physical fitness directly affects the immune system, aging process (i.e. slow it down) and overall well-being in a way no amount of jogging can. Talk about saving health care costs in an effective way… this is bound to become the next big “tipping point”…) Or, you can do any type of self-betterment class, seminar, method, trip, and so on and so forth. Opportunity abounds. 

You may discover – indeed I have discovered – that heightening your sensual sensitivities brings some challenges with it. This is especially true if you were sensitive to begin with. Take these few example that I have been observing:

There is a cloth towel hand-drying dispenser in the bathroom at a sports club. Do you, after drying your hands and mussing up the cloth, pull down the cloth you soiled so the next person has a fresh piece? Or do you pull down their soiled piece to be able to wipe your hands on a clean stretch? Wouldn’t you be totally disgusted if the same were true (oh, sorry, it often is!) of the toilet  itself?

I wait patiently in line at a coffee shop, order, pay, and – as is the usual procedure nowadays – wait for my order to “come up.” There is a bit of eye contact communication going on with the person preparing my beverage, and she makes note of me because I’m the unusual one that has ordered soy milk. She places my cup on the little tray table counter space and makes certain I am aware this is mine. This irritates an impeccably dressed elderly woman (who was in line well after me), who believes that this particular order simply must be hers. Alas, it is not. My hand on my take-out, we make eye contact, hers fuming and hissing, mine trying to exude patience, compassion and understanding with her outright aggression toward me. Because of a cup of hot drink!

The next example is a bit more closer to home, but I feel it serves a purpose. Relationship is, in my opinion, one of the major reasons for - should we be able to, hypothetically, determine whether or not we want to do this - “manifesting” into a human body. We come down in order to rub noses with others who have done the same. That does NOT necessarily mean that it’s all twinkle-eyes and starry nights. There is stuff to be learned in conflict, to be sure. Like: how do you react when someone has a fight with you about something? We may be evolving slowly, slowly, into cultures that prefer to fight verbally as opposed to physically when engaged in 1:1 “combat” about who is responsible for taking out the garbage. Or for initiating sex. Or getting dinner together. Or responsible for what client. This list goes on, obviously. 

How do you react? Can you avoid words darting out of your mouth with intent to spear someone through and through? 

How do you deflect their sword attacks?

How do you process what the exchange means?

This is an essential skill, both in private and professional worlds. The great designer, the compassionate citizen, the “spiritual warrior,”  the true lover should be a few steps ahead if he has learned to hone his sensibilities, if they have practiced their art. If they want to step into the responsiblity of building a sensitive, compassionate planet. 

One exchange at a time.

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3 Quotes: 3 perceptions: 3 intentions: one day: march 25th.

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” Carl Reiner 

“It is what it is.” Erich Fried

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

flower_in_snow_hiking_wildstrubel_ch

 

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Dave Kelly - a genius at work - in a really interesting challenge to redesign the shopping cart.

This would have been a three-part video segment, had there not been more inexplicable international/national copyright issues.
Internet searches for both IDEO and David Kelley, should bring up enough results to satisfy. We highly recommend giving it a try, at any rate.

And more of Dave Kelly on human-entered design:

Dave Kelly @ TED

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A few weeks ago, I would have blamed it on PMS hormones (that actually never irritate me as much as they apparently affect my surroundings), or the dreary weather (it has since become sunny, though it’s far from t-shirt and nothing else temperatures), maybe it’s the state of the nation, the world, my apartment (how do kitchen floors do that, become really grungy in no time at all, even when you’re really careful?)… Today I could rightfully blame it, perhaps, on lack of sleep and chemical imbalances after a long night out: a peculiar type of gloom-and-doom mood. There are several ties that loop around, hovering time and again to bring the mood down upon me like a unbelievably thin blanket that I find very difficult to shake.

I try to leave the last quarter of 2008 behind me, thinking it was just one of those years, the type of year anyone prefers far, far away – but it comes up often lately. Two women, one a member of my family, the other not a member of my family, both well over 80, both full of complex physical maladies, both loved dearly for different reasons, passed away. I can rightly say I’m no stranger to death, this year marking two large anniversaries: my father’s death (30 years) and my mother’s death (10 years). But the latter of the two women was the first person ever that had given me the privilege of holding her hand, being there with her, as she took her last breath. A very basic, and often neglected, “sensual” experience.

Fast-forward to an event taking place next year, my 30th high school class reunion. There are regular and jovial updates (that serve to get me more and more excited about the whole thing) via email. It seems like it should be a snap to get the entire class together, as wired as the world is, but … there are many, many holes. Some never to be filled, as now and then news will appear that this classmate or that has passed away. I leaf through the yearbook and let the faces connect with the names… thinking about how many classmates attended the 20th year reunion (myself included), noticing with sadness that the list of potential participants has dwindled down way below that.

One of our most colorful and lively classmates passed away during high school, his funeral was unforgettable – as were the rumors surrounding his death (ominous, “it happened at home” sort of news that certainly had a deep and lasting affect on quite a few of us young adults). The news of classmates passing away now, when everyone should be in the prime of life, doing the final tweaks on their children’s upbringing or perhaps already bouncing a few grandchildren (but very young ones) on their knees… has a completely different impact. An “it could be me…” impact.

I feel obligated to report that I do possess an element of indifference as the blanket falls softly around my shoulders, while I feel the delicate material move closer to my nostrils when I breathe in and move away again when I breathe out. Not because living isn’t nice, isn’t a joy, a challenge and a generally fascinating preoccupation. I think it has to do with the “mid-life precipice” that I heard people talk about when I was little. Leave it to my generation to reach their precipice precisely at the moment the world falls apart at the seams in ways it has never before. (And how could it? It has never seen such an amazingly large, aging populus. This is a fact I gleaned from Frank Schirrmacher’s book „Das Methusalem-Komplott“  (Caution: published in German – not sure if it ever made it to an English edition, but I rather doubt it). So there is a segment of society called boomers, mid-agers or best agers running around … (and they have successfully pushed that deadline to 50 as opposed to 40) … make that, there are millions and millions of them. And they are (or used to be?) a very sought after segment for marketing departments the world over. 

As one of those millions, you stand there looking down, looking up, looking sideways. Reorienting, as it were. If you’re out there looking for a job at this advanced stage of your life - as millions are - you will need nerves of steel, they say. It will feel like you have just been released from Shawshank Prison and if you don’t have a basket of connections and barrels of luck, you can hope your nerves of steel don’t meet with live wires much. Some companies (and some 150 passengers of a plane that landed on the Hudson River recently) know the value of this tremendous reservoir of 40-and-up skill and experience. But don’t hold your breath. In fact, that’s a good way to fall off your precipice sooner. You could stand there, terrified, or you could use all of the experience you have gathered, every last scrap of professional lifeblood and scar tissue … to re-build. But why believe me? Why not scan the interesting bits of news that pop up digitally more and more often such as this: The Science of Visualization: Maximizing Your Brain’s Potential During The Recession. If it helps?

Looking around in my circle of friends and family, the reports vary widely. Being on my own little precipice myself, I know that – for me – it really doesn’t matter where up or down is. If I march forward or pull back. It seems almost as if I am programmed to be and do what I must do in this life I’ve been given, for better or worse. I re-read an entry from a very special friend made in my high-school yearbook: “You must learn to be like a cell with a selectively permiable membrane - only let in what you want to… /… the key to success is confidence in yourself…” He had also predicted we would be part of each other’s lives for a long time. Does thirty years qualify as long? Then he was right. But what he had written then, in 1980, could just as easily have come from him in an email yesterday. In fact, it sort of did. So my membrane remained permeable, too permeable to protect me from the blanket.

The small deaths we endure before the “big death” finally grabs us… the fears we endure, the injustices we witness, the disappointments we mourn, the loves we have lost or never fulfilled … each one loses a bit of magnitude as the years go by. The small deaths aren’t as potent as the impending big one, which is testament to the ingeniousness of nature, how it readies us whether we are aware of it or not, ready for it or not. We may wish grey hair never touches us, or that our bones never stiffen, but they always do at some point. And dust from all the roads travelled encrusts us.

How to contribute to society from the precipice? How to share the beauty and joy of the moments that were also experienced along the way? How to feel alive while dwindling down into the natural order and with that, ultimately, ceasing to be? Years ago, I was given a birthday gift: a small pot with a white orchid. It was in full bloom and, over five years later, still is. It never stopped. It wasn’t as if I was particularly careful with the care of her, I wasn’t. And I’m not the born green thumb, either, though I do okay with most plants. This lovely plant gave me hope and comfort in the worst of moments, constant if silent encouragement and simple, permeating beauty, again and again and again. At one point in her development recently, she was … I realized, crazy with growth. She was, essentially, “pregnant” and had shot off a few daughter roots. Cautiously, both mother and two daughters were re-potted and re-situated very near each other. They are all doing very well, and it’s truly beautiful to watch. While pondering this and writing this post, my own daughter came in with a chocolate cupcake (she’d been baking) and a cup of coffee for her mother. As she watched me carefully eat her creation (not too fast, not too slow) and enjoy the unexpected feast, she dreamt aloud of her future as a baker and having her own coffee shop à la Starbucks. It was, I think, the first time she has pondered career choices, and I was pleased at the way she let this one take shape in her mind. Naturally, I told her: “Great idea! And I can do your logo.” She smiled and nodded, enjoying the idea, too. And I can just see myself getting physically smaller but patiently, happily kneading dough in the back room of her shop while she serves clients and the grandkids come in loud and excited from school. Re-potted perhaps, but thriving. It appears to be a question of the right windowpane.

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I want to cry today. All day. Thank you out there to all those devil advocates for telling me how awfully perilous life is, pointing out all the rough spots with reckless abandon. But thanks too, to MsRedPen, my tweeting friend, for giving me this little sign of (animal) hope:

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Thomas Jefferson

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I get the feeling tonight that there is an intense buzz, important thoughts vibrating across the planet. You just stick your rod into it, and with the right hook, you can pull out any number of riveting tidbits. Like a few from Clay Shirky, for example:

“The unthinkable scenario unfolded something like this: The ability to share content wouldn’t shrink, it would grow. … People would resist being educated to act against their own desires. …Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception.  … the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. … When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. … “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke. … With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem. … Elizabeth Eisenstein … focused on, though, was how many historians ignored the transition from one era to the other. To describe the world before or after the spread of print was child’s play; those dates were safely distanced from upheaval. But what was happening in 1500? … What was the revolution itself like?” Chaotic, as it turns out. The Bible was translated into local languages; was this an educational boon or the work of the devil? Erotic novels appeared, prompting the same set of questions. … That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen. Agreements on all sides that core institutions must be protected are rendered meaningless by the very people doing the agreeing. … Ancient social bargains, once disrupted, can neither be mended nor quickly replaced, since any such bargain takes decades to solidify. … And so it is today. When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to. … There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie. … We’re collectively living through 1500, when it’s easier to see what’s broken than what will replace it. The internet turns 40 this fall. Access by the general public is less than half that age. Web use, as a normal part of life for a majority of the developed world, is less than half that age. We just got here. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen.”

… and so forth.

Or Seth Godin … who I won’t quote, just link to.

There are, of course, many more sources.

I am prompted to write this by my friend’s previous post. Add to that, a discussion over lunch yesterday (with females in the “new-agey-scene” that should know better) about Obama and conspiracy theorists, who are apparently convinced that he is the Antichrist, etc. etc. I agree with Stephan completely that it is indeed time to increase one’s sensory sensitivity. Where I differ, or choose to focus my attention, if you will, is that we simply must - for our survival as a species - give up doomsday thinking. I refuse to think that Obama is going to treat some essential issues the same way Bush did. The very fact that his brain apparently functions in an entirely different way is testament enough for me to trust. For I have learned that, hey, that’s about all you can do as a citizen of this world. Trust and vote. Certainly discussions are necessary, too, and involvement to some extent. But two things are on my mind:

1) The discussion I had this evening about the demise of newspapers. The worry here is that only these information providers had access to or the journalistic, research-based wherewithal to “discover the truth”…

2) The many avenues I am currently dealing with and discovering or re-discovering about intention, the power of positive thinking, etc. etc. Articles about the scientific proof of visualization helping stroke patients to heal, etc. etc. Old news, really. A German filmmaker here told his story in a book about his transition from being paralyzed to walking and leading a normal life. I went to see him talk at a German university and yes, needless to say, he walked in. And stood during his talk. And walked out. And founded an institute for self-healing.

Are these two somehow connected? Where you put your focus is where the “energy” goes. Seems logical, otherwise no one would get any work done and bus drivers would constantly be hitting trees or trucks or other drivers. Our focus, our attention, our hopes, our dreams, our will to do – perhaps belief, perhaps personal intention – may play a bigger role then we think. What if we not only believe but also INTEND Obama to do the “right” things, to pull the right strings for us as a society? What effect could that have? If one’s focus is on something vile, ineffective, violent and damaging (to oneself or society), it’s really as if you are drawn to that magnetically.

This lesson was brought home to me with an “over 40″ skiing lesson. Of course we wanted to learn how to ski. But of course this group of 40-something women were terrified. Of the speed, the slope of the mountain, other skiers, just everything. Our teacher, a not-quite-yet-40-something, told us something that made sense and stuck for me in many other situations. And worked, very clearly, empirically. She said, “If you stare at that pole, if you focus on that other skiier, you’ll head straight toward them. Chances are good you’ll crash right into it/them. Focus on the valley, where you want to go, where you want to be, as far away as that may seem. Look at the valley.”

And we did. And it worked. We sailed down in no time, with seemingly little effort and no injuries. A wonderful experience – and invaluable advice.

When I think of my focus today, or even the past few months, I find myself looking at the essentials, the things that really nourish me, pleasure me, make me happy, content and - ultimately - free.

Do you want to know what they were today?

Cleanliness.

Hot water.

Sweet potatoes and broccoli in a nice sauce.

Companionship and connection with people who I am personally intertwined with.

Laughter.

Being able to drive a motor vehicle where I wanted to go.

Using a telephone.

Being able to write this.

It’s so simple, really. I gave Obama my vote, now I need to give him more. WAY more. My faith, yes. Trust, also yes. But he needs my intention and concentration on how I want this world to be. Some things ultimately will not work because people just are the way they are, but the flip side is true as well: some things WILL work because people just are the way the are. So many things in our lives are changing so rapidly that there is no way to see through the chaos and people who claim to be able to do so are just … delusional. What is time tested is going with one barometer and one barometer alone: your own passion for what works for you. And go right on to the end with that. To your own personal end or whatever end that may turn out to be. That is, ultimately, what hones your focus, whether your realize it or not. Making it CONSCIOUS is part of what this shift is all about - in my humble, yet focused, opinion.

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Obama returning favors to the recording industry that helped him come to power?

A very interesting WIRED blog post  >> Read me now

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London (harder, better, faster, stronger) from David Hubert on Vimeo.

Thank you David. It’s a bit Koyaanisqatsi - esque, but I like it. Feels like my life right now.

(If you can somehow dig up his film. It’s fizzled from my blog, like so many others.)

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Sensualability
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