Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Reasonable Accommodations?

Every day, I read articles, see newscasts or have conversations with people that lead to a pivot point where I/we/society should make space to accommodate someone or something that requires a change of mind, practice or expectations.
In Canada, we are preparing for the introduction of the legal, recreational use of marijuana. For the past 150 years, usage was illegal and mostly secreted. Now we are trying to figure out how we can live together when public consumption has broad consequences and impact.

accommodate

Very narrowly, we are discussing how marijuana smoking in our 154 unit, four-story condo building will impact non-users. How do we accommodate the new state without the intrusion of smoke (odor and effect) into our homes? The reflex seems to be regulatory; create a bylaw prohibiting or restricting the when, where and how. I understand this reaction, but a heavy hand might inflame and incite without using the moment to understand what it means to live in community together. What if we had a dialogue with all parties? What could we come up with? Could an as yet unimagined accommodation be possible?

In a previous life, I helped university students, living in residence,  create, monitor and adjudicate community standards. There were still conflicts and disputes, but when everyone understood that their actions and inactions impacted others, there were significantly fewer incidents.

Maybe that is part of our path forward.

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Flowers Grow in the Dark

 

flowers

Daffodils, pansies, asters and even roses may not be appreciated on dull gray days or at night, but they continue to be there, and they continue to offer their inspiration and beauty.

The title of this post comes from a line in Rebecca Solnit’s “Hope in the Dark.” As I was commuting this morning, I was listening to Chapter 21 and was shaken by the reference to flowers. It was a bright morning, and the majesty of the wildflowers along the pathway was easy to spot but having returned home late at night along the same route, I started wondering if they were blooming with such glory after the sun went down.

After a bit of research, or what we consider research today, I discovered that while not entirely correct flowers do continue their growth process regardless of the light conditions.

How well do I stand up to that test? When things are going well, my motivation is high, and I can border on mania. I am productive, creative, cordial, strong, smart, and likable.  When a dark spell sets in, either externally created or internally generated, I don’t do as well. But this is when shining is the most necessary. How can I be the best version regardless of the conditions? How can I become agnostic about my surroundings and internal pathology?

For regular readers, you know what I am going to posit. I must choose to plow through, climb over, go around the obstacles (weather, resources, people, me) and intentionally keep moving forward towards today’s goal that leads towards the higher level goals in my life. I will still falter and fail. I will continue to mope under certain conditions, but if I lay my intention – ‘to continue forward” on the table in front of me, I know that I will continue my growth process.

Take a look at the flowers today, breathe them in so they are captured on or tongue, in your nose and as a part of your memories so you can find them again when darkness sets in. Then be courageous and keep moving towards your goals.

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Is That a Knock at Your Door

Today the rap might just be a tap-tap. It might sound like someone banging to get in. Are you ignoring the visitor? Her name is Opportunity and she brings you possibility and challenge. When you open the door and let her in she takes the permission and will be knocking at your door almost every day. She challenges you to do what you should and encourages you to do what you could and leads you to do what you must.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~ Thomas Edison
There have been many times that I heard her rapping and instead of welcoming her challenge, I bolted the door and pretended I wasn’t there. I remained still and quiet and actionless and supposedly safe. I have dealt with regret of missed opportunities by pushing myself to peek through the peephole and opening a crack to see what she brought. I haven’t accepted all or even most of the challenges but my courage grew to the point that I have taken up some of them. I learned something from all of them, even those where I didn’t succeed. There have been some enriching experiences that flowed from opening the door and I have become more comfortable with answering. The knock doesn’t cause apprehension anymore because I recognize Opportunity from our many encounters.

I think the adage that “opportunity only knocks once” is a crock.  If we ignore her, she knocks softly but is still there and when we greet her cautiously or enthusiastically she returns to bring us the abundance (hear experiences, relationships, impacts) that we feared.

Open the door this afternoon and listen to what she has for you.
B

fun · Self Improvement

Magic

I love magic. I love being surprised, and I like not knowing how the illusion is done. I like magicians and their flare and the sense of impossible. I love magic, but I don’t believe in it.

I have seen what appears to be magic happen in my life and the lives of people around me. I have watched folks do the work and achieve the results, and to those who missed the effort, it seems like an overnight mystical success. I have watched friends recover from an illness because they followed the regimen of the medical profession and made a severe lifestyle change. Seven years ago, running a 10k race was an illusion, yet I will run two or three this year.

I have seen more amazing sunsets than I deserve and now understand enough of the science to realize there isn’t a master magician making artwork. My jaw has drooped in surprise when something fortuitous happens because I have a basic understanding of odds and the laws of large numbers.

I have mused about Maslow and the infamous pyramid. I theorized that Maslow and the pyramid are right even if how we use it was never the intention. I frequently intone that the pyramid is upside down and if we achieve self-actualization, the rest fills magically. Here I use it to mean as part of a logical and challenging process. When we realize the fulfillment of our talents and potentialities, we have all the tools necessary to achieve safety, security, health and wealth according to our needs and desires. It may seem magical to those observing from afar, but it is indeed part of intentionality.

Just like a magic trick, all these shifts seem impossible to the audience, but the magician has worked hard to make it happen. Unlike a trick, we can benefit from seeing behind the curtain when people seemingly work magic in their lives.

B

The Cultural Curiosity Daily will be a hodgepodge on some days and a treatise on others. If you are entertained, provoked, inspired, edified or angered by any of it you can respond with comments and as always you can ‘buy me a coffee.

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Substitution

Substitution has become a default mode form of protest.  When we see something that is amiss because an authority; a parent, a government, an employer refuses or is unable to accept responsibility, we step up and offer a substitute service. Our charitable model is based on substitution. Organizations feed kids, teach reading, house families, care for seniors, deliver programs and services that at a different time in a different place was the responsibility of someone else. Families, neighbors and community filled in when someone was ‘down on their luck’. Churches were once the respite from deprivation, Government took over the ‘taking care’ business and then washed their hands of it when it became difficult and costly. Charity stepped in and did the best they could considering the limitations of resources and ability.

Individually we undertake acts of substitution when we donate to a cause or volunteer with an organization.

The issue with substitution is that it absolves the authority of responsibility and unless persuasion and denunciation become part of the strategy, no solution is found. Substitution perpetuates the problem by making it invisible and by disempowering recipients with the heavy hand of service delivery.  The bigger the charity, the more removed it is from the issue and the impacted population. (Just the fact that we have created jargon like, impacted population, those furthest from the opportunity, those with lived experience speaks to the commodification of victims).
Substitution isn’t solution focused and uses palliative acts to mitigate rather than curative practices. Curative is extremely difficult when compared to palliative bandaids. Feeding kids a meal is simple when compared with solving an economic, training, capability or attitude issue in the family. Unfortunately, painkillers, analgesics, pain relievers, sedatives, or tranquilizers in the form and good intentions of programs and services does more to trap people than to lift them up. Maybe every act of substitution needs an exit plan before inception. – we will feed these kids until some date in the future while we assist the family in finding what they need to feed their own kids.

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Persuasion

As a form of advocacy and protest, persuasion can seem easier than railing and ranting. It is perceived as easier because it is less likely to offend. Persuasion can be done in writing, in person, on social media, through petition or boycott. It is most often a collective action. We band together with like-minded folks who are dissatisfied with the status quo and wants a different outcome which we can combine our signature or buying power. Persuasion is meant to nudge rather than push, encourage rather than blame, discuss rather than chastise.

The Red Cross movement is in 191 or more countries because they don’t climb on a soapbox. They are able to improve conditions and effect incremental change by quietly presenting a case.

When persuasion is the only tool, it is largely ineffective. When it is combined with the myth of neutrality, it is dangerous and complicit with the aggressor.  Persuasion is useful as part of a sales process or a coaching regime because the nudge is followed by another nudge and another and another.  In the face of oppression,  disaster, conflict, injustice, poverty, hunger or an array of social and environmental issues, it leaves the issue perpetually bringing angst, agony, and acrimony.

If you are reticent about taking a provocative action, I encourage you to write a ‘sandwich’ letter to an official as an easy start to activism. Start the letter with congratulations and cordial greetings and end it with a collegial salutation. In between, fill it with a meaty, well-reasoned position and appeal for change.

What did you see in the last 24 hours that caused you concern? Who can you write an email or a letter to? Will you?

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Denunciation

protest

The FreeDictionary.com defines denounce as;
1. to condemn or censure openly or publicly.
2. to make a formal accusation against, as to the police or in a court.
3. to give formal notice of the termination or denial of (a treaty, pact, or the like).

Over the past fifty years, I have found myself vigorously and rigorously denouncing public policy, corporate action, charitable practices and individuals from my private and in my public life. I lean towards respectful and evidence-based criticism but have found myself speaking in hyperbole and passionate posturing. Respectful denunciation is a much better and more effective approach.

In a world where injustice, prejudice, environmental degradation, inequity, and violence raises their head in every corner, there is much to denounce. This can be down without standing on a soapbox railing at authorities; Condemnation can look like standing arm-in-arm with the oppressed (physically or metaphorically). It can manifest as a silent vigil in solidarity with a cause or an impacted population. It may be a letter to the editor or an open letter to your mayor, expressing your concern and consternation about a decision or nondecision.

Denunciation is one bookend in the continuum of protest and is valuable and necessary in almost every circumstance. Amnesty International and Greenpeace place a strong boundary on the edge of the situation, and even when it inflames resistance, it nudges the middle to take a well-reasoned position and action. Social, justice or environment wrongdoing needs the point of the needle poking and prodding so that less aggressive forms have space to rise up.

I do appreciate the camaraderie and passionate position of denouncers and could easily find myself standing on a dais with a bullhorn raised in a demonstration of my objections.

Whatever your tendency, consider how far you are willing to go to help and then consider if you will raise your voice, your hand, a sign, your influence to hold those in authority to account.

Power to the people,

B

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Give it a Try

What do you do in your leisure time? No leisure – sad and dangerous. The expression: add life to your days not just days to your life” is hard to manage but in the 21st century, we need to heed the essence of the message.

Do you have hobbies? Are you a musician, an artist, a writer, a knitter, a sailor, a cyclist, a cellist, a baker, a canner, a gardener? When was the last time you did something for the first time?

This weekend, next week, tomorrow, this afternoon find something to do that you have never tried. If you are reading this, you have access to the world and everything in it. Find a free online Tai Chi class, a Skillshare painting class, or an online book club. Search your community for events and activities. There is a big cleanup happening in our neighborhood.
Join a rowing class, walk a pathway and record how many robins you see. Stretch yourself and make a deposit on something more outrageous like music lessons, climbing lessons and dancing lessons.

Add some life to your days by adding something as yet unimaginable to your next 168 hours.

B

Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Its a Fact

uncertaintyCommuting by foot and train this morning, I encountered a pair of young women holding placards that said ” Know the Facts” and then a sentence describing what they held to be true. For the purposes of personal responsibility, their assertions are irrelevant. Maybe because of the bold red title and the style and font, I was suspicious enough that I read their thesis sentence and then considered it as I finished my trip. In this case, I rejected their truth in favor of my understanding, experience, and research. I discerned that there was a different and better statement to accept.

It seems that discernment and consideration are in short supply. Most of the time we accept the assertions of others; experts, media, politicians, authorities. I suggest that lazy thinking and poor training has created a dangerous and futile habit.

Readers will know that I believe truth is mostly relative and perspective driven. If I believe that all men are created equal, then I take the position that inequality arises from some barrier. If I believe that all men have equal opportunity, then inequality is a distribution problem. If I believe that all men should have equal opportunities, then inequality is framed as injustice. All or none of these statements can be portrayed as facts and will garner support from a predisposed constituency.

I am not trying to convince or unconvince you of anything other than that you don’t need to accept the truth that someone else holds up. You should be willing to explore the issue, arrive at your own conclusion and with discernment build your own values set. There is significant political pressure, from both the left and right, to accept their bill of goods but ideological promiscuity gives us a chance to discover an as yet unimagined approach.

You are responsible for what you believe. An unexamined set of beliefs is a lazy and mediocre way to live through your 168-hour weekly allotment.

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Adventure

Life can be lived as a straight line, but why would we. The straight path begins at birth and ends at death and society suggests a certain prescribed direction and milestones. Following the recipe leads to accolades and improvising is met with criticism. Staying the course delivers routine, predictable, mediocre while stepping off the trail and seeking out a life, less conventional, brings adventure and unexpected opportunities and challenges. If you have read this far and can’t imagine why anyone would stray from the safety of the formula you have been following, you might want to click through to Facebook or Daily News where comfort is waiting.

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Well, welcome to my adventurous friends. One of the definitions for adventure on Urban Dictionary is; For some, it’s a new pair of underwear, a different route to work or a new pizza topping. For other’s it’s a life-threatening outdoor experience that makes life worth living. The experience usually involves loss of digits, limbs, friends or all of the above. Just to be clear, I am not counseling the loss of anything important. If you lose your breath for a moment, your confidence for a second, your sanity for a while, or your insecurity for a week, I would be thrilled.

An adventure has a beginning and probably has an ending even when we aren’t sure of the destination. For me, the start is a reflection and assessment of me. Where am I right now, what skills do I have and what do I want to learn are more important than what others might think. I try not to worry about how others may define it; if it feels like an adventure to me, it qualifies. While I strive to be unique, I recognize that there is very little new under the sun. I find inspiration and instruction (but not prescriptions) in the lives of those I admire. Whether reading history, fantasy or mystery I am tweaked by the choices and actions of protagonists and antagonists alike.I don’ want to be them or live their lives but there are elements that I steal and synthesize for my current journey. I am encouraged by characters, real and imagined, that are curious, courageous and caring. I am amazed by the distance they will go and the effort they will expend to learn. live and love. At the onset of all adventures, I feel some fear and the inertia is strong. I ask myself lots of why questions to free myself from the gravity of familiar. ” Why do I want to do this?” ” Why am I stalling?” ” Why can’t I take the first step?” ” Why do I need to take this uncertain path?” Before I venture too far, I wonder if there is someone to share the experience with and/or someone who will help shoulder the load. If yes, then I extend a transparent clear invitation to them and provide them with a schedule including a deadline to respond. As I go through life, I am also open to receiving requests to join. My tendency is to lean towards saying “yes” so I sometimes overcompensate away from the default. The collaboration serves to temper my exuberance and hopefully, a second, third or fourth set of eyes will see any real danger that I might ignore.

I don’t let the backup support network make decisions for me but I do heed their counsel. I have enough latitude to ensure that I will play free and easy enough to make numerous mistakes and learn numerous lessons along the way. I get to choose to do the unexpected along the way even if it is obvious that there is a ‘better’ way or maybe because I am not looking for the obvious better way.

In the end, when I reach the destination or when I am sure that I am not going to get there, I try to celebrate. Adventure allows for gratitude in both circumstances and if I am willing and patient it offers information and data that can change the approach in subsequent attempts or act as fodder to create another opportunity.

Seeking out adventurous in our daily life can be difficult and daunting. Starting with smaller challenges might not be worthy of someone writing a book or movie, but they can act as momentum for something bigger. Read an online blog or journal written by someone you disagree with and then take an issue or position that you ‘truly’ believe in and write 250 words debating your firmly held position. Try cooking something new. Google Icelandic recipes or Bolivian food and try creating one of the dishes. Take a child to a trampoline centre or mini golf course. Sign up for a fitness class at the Spin or Rowing facility. Drive a completely new route to somewhere that you regularly go. Leave your phone at home for one day. Apply for a new job, even if you aren’t looking. Apologize for something that you have neglected. Start a side gig. Create a business that you are passionate about (small scale) and figure out how you can deliver something of value and add some new money to your wallet.

This early list isn’t exhaustive or comprehensive but don’t let the list or your indecision stop you. Do something manageably adventerous, today and get ready for something bigger.

 

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