Sunday, December 25, 2011

On the possibilities of generating our realities

I've been reading some books lately about how managing people is mostly about designing processes. Design and processes. Edgar Schein, one of the organizational consultants I admire the most, speaks of this, and of how the structures we create have a profound impact on how we in turn behave.

Lately I've been wondering if in fact these structures don't inherently dictate the way we behave.

I have been feeling this acutely in regards to the frameworks I live in and their fusion with consumerism. I recently travelled to Europe and was struck by how airports are nothing more than large international shopping malls. And as someone who goes home for (and celebrates) Christmas, I have felt the intense crush of consumer madness all around me since stepping outside my door last week.

Travelling often accentuates, in stark tones and shades, what we struggle with during the rest of the year (see the post below on belonging for instance) - it is a steroid-esque picture of how our culture operates. It shows me what my culture values, what I hold dear, and how I express this to others (strangers and loved ones).

And this is where the structural elements come into play. How can I not be shaped by consumerism when I live in a small town built around strip malls and big box stores? When the entertainment offered comes from huge movie cinemas jam-packed with people watching the "pre-show" which consists of 30 minutes of commercials? When a holiday of togetherness is marked by that sense of panic trying to find the "perfect" gift that expresses the value I place on my relationships?

Every space seems to be turning into advertising for products - sites like the Fancy are virtual display cases for friends to share and exhibit the items that they want to buy, own, or just appreciate. It is overwhelming (to me, anyhow...) And I admit that I am a highly sensitive person with a difficulty ingesting so much....stuff. But I wonder how many other people feel similarly?

In saying this, I am not suggesting that championing well-made, interesting and local (or international) products is wrong. It is not a black and white issue - and I am not outside of the structures that reinforce how we think. But in this way of being, we miss out on much - how might we become generators as opposed to consumers of our realities, if we got into the habit?

There are some really great articles about teacher education and how teachers come to the class expecting to "get" taught, not create their own learnings together. Same with service-based populations - I come into situations thinking, "I am paying you x to offer me y" - We are accustomed to transactions as opposed to interactions. And not that every moment should be an interaction - at times, transactions make good sense, keep us from being overwhelmed and help us when we have little energy to give.

But what might it look like if we embraced structures that encouraged more interactions? An airport with a room where people from all over the world could go and exchange stories about what it's like to live where they do...and hear stories direct from someone with lived experience (think a mobile, living Wikipedia). Movie theatres that ran pre-shows of local videos and animations, governmental regulations on the % of space that can be commercial...

We have the capacity to create (and indeed constantly do create) these spaces in more ad-hoc, improvisational ways. I have had the blessing of experiencing shimmering moments full of connectivity and beauty without a designated anything or anyone. Yet without structural support, they take much more energy. These counter-cultural moments and spaces typically scrape by on little resources while facing the challenge of a system that attempts to co-opt or destroy their purposes and energy. This places a huge amount of stress on what I call interactional community experiences. I am grateful for, adore and profoundly admire each and every movement and person that risks being more-than, that risks being outside-of. Yet I want to live in a world where the structures that influence so much offer nourishment and become these very movements themselves.

I know, I know. I sound like an extremist (maybe) and definitely a ridiculous idealist - but it boggles my mind that dreaming up how we want to live together, being more mindful of the choices we make and the ways which we can create and play with one another - might be considered extremist. Well, if so, then I am an extremist, and happily so. The moments in my life that have felt the most precious have never come from the transactional side of things anyhow.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Maybe home can be found in that warm sense of disconnect.

Over the past four and a half days, I have slowly made my way south to the land of deep strip mall and gothic eyeliner, to box stores and massive cineplex, to Starbucks at every corner and mini marts named "Hi-Ya"...

I am officially home for the holidays.

I wish I could say I was at a point in my adult life where I felt a connection or a capacity to relate to the people surrounding me here. But I don't. I sit at a local market in London and look around, feeling somewhat - disgusted (honestly) - by the small town, urban hillbilly mentality. Or what I assume is so. I am frightened by my own close-mindedness, in disguise as open-minded metropolitan disdain for their apparent small-mindedness - but I know better. What's going on here is really my own need to feel included. And the fact that I never did - always the artsy, overly-aesthetic creature, without an Opera house or art gallery to call my own. I grew up a fish on a cement sidewalk- and that's one of the reasons why I still like it that way - I have been living in Qu├ębec now for 10 years and counting, complaining and equally loving the fact that I remain, and always will, an outsider, a stranger in a (most certainly) strange land.

Myy lived experience, of never having felt connected to my home or the people here growing up, of having always felt different and at odds with my first environments, has led to now assuming that everyone still living here has nothing of interest to say or to contribute to the social fabric. Seriously. It's intense. I am being honest because it's important for me to understand my own biases and judgements - that although I can travel to the middle of nowhere somewhere else and find a heap of gorgeousness in the people there (and I know there is gorgeousness in people everywhere) there is something about this sense of HOME, of THIS IS ME here that is unsettling. Perhaps what is most unsettling of all is my own humanness in it all.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Otherness of Love

Has been on my mind so often lately - this past year, truly, a ripping or moulding or breaking open into this vast otherness.

I just now did a search online to see what "the otherness of love" would produce, and surprisingly, got very few relevant hits.

Does this mean that I am supposed to write about it? Perhaps. It seems to keep coming up.

For now it's just good to know that it is a focus, a marker, not on the journey but THE journey.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Of all the hours

There's this one, then, one to go.
Before arrivals.
And attempted departures of excess weight.

Could a passing truck
Three-storeys below
Carry it away
If it was thrown carefully enough

With consideration for timing, mostly?
All the bags
and tick-tock
of the internal clock

Which beats out but does not beat out
What goes on underneath

Feeling the Weight.

And so much goodness, hats on Bach and the like.

Orange glow of fish lamp.

Time to retire. Re: tired.

Eyes and feet, but mostly heart.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Primate Behaviour


Kortlandt, who studied chimpanzees in the wild, concealed
within his blind, would sometimes see them find
his eyes, and stare in thought and wander off.
Contemplation and doubt were what he saw
or thought he saw, behind their searching eyes
these times and others, as if they tried
to make sense of an always, or often, puzzling world.

It seems a sad as well as a wondrous thing.

He doesn't say, but he leaves the thought to occur
that our primate nature could be, not as we think
it is: to know, but only to be disturbed,
as these simpler beasts are disturbed, in their simpler world,
that all the unknown should strike us, even though
it stops at that. No more. We stare in thought.

-William Bronk, (from The Empty Hands)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's been so long...


I am not sure why words here have been so slow in coming. It might have to do with this Master's I am doing currently (which indeed takes up much time). It might have to do with the vast transformations I have been experiencing this past year. Their magnitude and depth leave little-ole' me feeling quiet like in awe. Perhaps the intimacy created in the face of genuine awesome has left my voice hushed or flat-out silent. At least in this form.

For now I am going to simply blame winter. Not that anything needs blaming, really. The hibernation of creature and sound and thought and body is so necessary. Yet I avoid it. We all do. Well, most of us. A cultural disdain for hidin' out and restin' up, I think. A fear of stayin' put...

It sure does run through these veins, that anxiety of being-not-doing. But what happens when the being part starts to take over anyhow out of necessity?