Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

A Dog’s Life

I woke up this morning to icy streets and pathways and a light covering of fresh snow. After a week of mild weather, I had hoped to ride my bike again because I have a number of meetings at different locations. I was disappointed but trudged out the door, dressed for the cool temperatures, heading for a bus stop. My route was a bit slippery. I took a familiar path where I often have a moment with an old dog who comes down off his stoop to greet me and get his head scratched. His age has reduced his mobility but not his enthusiasm for connection.
This morning, he was on the sidewalk plowing snow with his nose and sensed me from 200 meters away. He bounded down the sidewalk, leaping into fresh snow and celebrating the opportunity. It has been ten years since I saw him with so much energy. I was captured in his zeal and lifted in appreciation for the nip in the air and the snow under my feet.
I don’t know what his owners call him but I always greet him with ” Buuudddyy” and this elicits a wagging tail. This morning he responded to my voice with a jump to his hind legs and a big shake of his head. He was (anthropomorphically) living in the joy of the moment – not worried about lunch, not concerned about transit schedules, not racing to the next thing, not thinking lofty thoughts or imagining what he should do tomorrow.
There is much that I can learn about being present. My tendency is to live through time rather than in it. When I catch myself getting too far ahead of myself, I take three breaths and lean into the moment without concern for the imagined consequences of being ‘late.’
My stroll to the bus stop was filled with unexpected ease, and my disappointment about not riding my bike was gone. Buddy’s presence was a gift that I get to share with others, as early as today and as often as I can.

B

Self Improvement · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Human-scaled Dreams

Where I live, we just came through months of debate, discussion, dialogue, vitriol, sloganeering and dreaming about hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics. This Big Idea was supposed to create imagination, energy, economic output, and reenergize our City. After a referendum, the debate is over. 56% of voters chose not to support the bid. The morning after – there was lots of ringing of hands (understandable) and accusations. ” Now what big idea will save us?”

It got me wondering about human-scaled dreams and human-scaled actions. Would 10,000 dreams taking flight lift our city to new heights? Could we learn about each other and what we are capable of if 10,000 people recruited 10 people to come alongside them and undertake a project to bring beauty, equity, economy, creativity, imagination to life?
Would the as-yet-unimagined be the impetus for us to make our great city even greater? I think so.
I am interested in what you think? 10,000 Dreams for YYC. Would you be a part of the journey? What popped into your mind as a project? or Am I tilting windmills, again?

Let me know,

B

Original Thought · Uncertainty

Deliberately

When faced with a choice, is it always black and white? Is it ever that polar or are there other decisions that widen the options in each moment. In Calgary, we are voting in a couple of weeks on whether we should submit a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. The nonbinding referendum asks what seems like a simple question on which until last week, I was sure I would vote “No.”
I had a meeting with a Yes supporter on an unrelated issue. I asked, “ are people in your circle were talking about the Olympic bid?” He said; “ yes, and he was enjoying the discussions.”
I said the same thing I have been saying for a couple of months; “if the vote were today, I would vote No.” Before he asked why I chimed in; “ it isn’t an economic consideration, it is about social issues. I worry that this will draw focus and attention away from the important community, environmental, and social issues we are facing.”
He asked; “what if we can be deliberate in putting those issues front and center in the bid and the way that we do the games?” “ What if in 7 years, we could say that Calgary is the most accessible city in North America?” “ What if we made every decision and took every action with the intent of being deliberately nonintrusive in any development?” “ Could we work towards solving homelessness because we invited the world into our city?”
I haven’t been convinced, and he isn’t finished. He reached out today and offered to connect me and my cohort with resources and that he would be available to answer wicked questions. I am not convinced, but I am being deliberately curious and reflective.

How many other times have I seen my choice as binary when it could have been composite? Am I making biased choices without consideration for how I might leverage a different option to achieve a bigger goal? Is my brain capable of wrestling with a bigger landscape? Am I willing?

Take a deliberation break today and see how big you can expand your options.

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

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