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

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 · Uncertainty

Intentional

In the spiritual realm (however you define that) everything is intentional. In the material world (however you define that) everything should be intentional. But, I find myself walking amongst many people who expect that somehow, the change they desire will happen organically. If they wish upon a star and take no other action or make no other plan, they believe that some mystical force will move mountains to make their craving (petty or otherwise) come to fruition. My thesis is that there is a magical force; the individual and collective efforts of our world in consort with the rhythms and rules of the planet.  If I want my heart’s desire to transpire, I need to perspire.
 
I have my superstitions and my supersense catches glimpses of many things I don’t understand. I see cause in correlation and correlation in coincidence and coincidence in confirmation. Often, I comfortably comply with a practice that is based on a ‘gut’ feeling because I have never seen tragedy when following this approach. For all my thought and all my reading and writing, I am still comforted by the convenience of a convention. I am convenienced by the comfort that conformity brings. But when I reflect on instances like this I am troubled by my willingness to concede to heuristics, mumbo jumbo and magic rather than make the effort to persist in discovering and uncovering what might be.
 
In “Behave” by Robert M. Sapolsky says ” displacement aggression (prejudice, anger, fear, love .. emphasis mine) can decrease the aggressor’s stress hormones”.” this world of sensory stimuli, much-sensed unconsciously, is subject to what occurred in the prior hours, to change sensitivity?” What evolutionary pressures have played over the millennia or what stressor in the last day is calling for conditioning?
 
As I ramble through this idea, I arrive at an oasis. If everything is intentional (or should be) and my superstitions are in some way influenced by evolution and bias, why do I/we resist nonconformity? Is fear of change or the unknown a DNA flaw in today’s reality? I am not evading sabre tooth tigers or scavenging for non-poisonous mushrooms any longer so why hasn’t this function receded or disappeared? Is there an impending reversal of fortunes that we collectively foresee? Will I need to stalk, hunt, and slay my meals in the future? Maybe, but it seems counterproductive to not adapt to those circumstances as required.
 
Further rambles – Is there any way to believe that events happen organically without having some belief structure that points towards mythical, magical, supernatural cause and effect? In my world, I can’t allow that two people can meet and without effort or intention fall in love and that cupid or some other intervener has cast a spell to have them live happily ever after. A strong marriage or long-term relationship requires hard work every day and when mistakes are made, and they will be, atonement is necessary. The idea that ‘love means never having to say you are sorry’ is a dangerous myth. Diligent and sincere consideration for the other in the relationship and a willingness to recognize and acknowledge when you have been insensitive or inconsiderate is a healthy, enduring, reciprocal relationship.
 
Further rambles part 2 – If Sapolsky is correct and our behaviour is at least partly controlled by genetic and evolutionary building blocks and hormonal secretion as a result of stimulation and stress, how do I manage my own emotions?  How do I reconcile the chaos that I see in others? When Joe snaps at the slightest provocation this morning but shrugs off a slander tomorrow, what am I to make of it? Can I accurately predict how I may react to praise on a day that I have been frightened by a near-miss car accident? How will I react if my beloved, Heaven forbid, has a serious illness? Yes, I see the superstition in the above sentence. Are all behaviour expectations really just averages and generic or is there a way to know how an individual will respond to a situation or a message? Maybe it doesn’t matter unless I am marketing or selling a product or service. If I am in a relationship, some mystery and an unexpected observation or unimagined acknowledgement are healthy for the alliance. After all ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. If I feel I can forecast my partners every move, I am on a short cut to taking her for granted. The balance between sharing enough tendencies and beliefs to feel at ease in someone’s company and being able to ‘know’ what they will say next is a delicate balance. It can only be achieved by testing the scales regularly and making adjustments to keep things interesting.