In praise of the power of love and human intention to solve problems

Modern civilization faces many intractable and seemingly unsolvable problems. We can be beguiled by simplistic, flashy, one-off moves like building walls or issuing Executive Orders to keep so-called “undesirables” out. But humans have proven again and again that clear thinking, creativity, and cooperation can work wonders. How else could we have landed a man on the moon? Or invented the iPhone? Or stopped spewing ozone-depleting chemicals into the air?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of intention. I’m not talking about films like “The Secret” and “What the Bleep Do We Know,” although I confess to being fascinated by the idea that this whole thing we call life is a game that we are literally making up moment by moment as we play. Today’s stories will not require a mystical acceptance of alternative realities. (You can find explorations of those in other posts here, here, and here.) Continue reading

Replacing every man for himself with everyone for each other

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I recently dreamed this thought: our country’s mantra is every man for himself. In that light, it makes perfect sense that one of our national obsessions is about the economy. Remember It’s the economy, stupid? Of course we care so much about making as much money as we can, making more than the other guy. We are on our own. Nobody is going to help us if we fall on hard times. It’s all about feeding, clothing, and sheltering our families, first and last. Every man for himself.

When I wrote this in my journal in the early pre-dawn, it looked a bit puny on the page. It was momentous when I opened my eyes, as if I’d been mucking around in the secret stuff of life, that realm where answers live. Trying to catch this dream message is like seeing a landscape all sharp and shimmery after a storm, as if for the first time. I’m so immersed, so indoctrinated in this story that I rarely even notice it. It seems so true that it’s boring. Obvious. Hardly worth stating. But our lives are not only about survival and meeting basic needs. Everyone should be able to do at least that in a just world. There’s plenty to go around, but the story of scarcity makes us forget. Continue reading

Ask Edith: feeding the wolf

Dear Edith,

I’m shocked that in this day and age you’re actually advising people to send their kids outside. Continue reading

Ask Edith: Nature Deficit Disorder

Dear Edith:

My 8-year-old son has recently been diagnosed with Nature Deficit Disorder. I should have seen it coming, as earlier in the year he sprained both thumbs playing video games. Continue reading

Ask Edith

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Tomorrow we will debut a new feature on the blog, called “Ask Edith.” I don’t think Edith would mind if I told you I was a bit skeptical when she first approached me. Sure, she’s credentialed* to give advice, but during each of our seven coffee meetings to kick around this idea, I detected an edge. Also, she had given me four references, but one never returned my calls, one was ambivalent, and two were unable—or unwilling— to speak to her qualifications (her kindergarten teacher and a distant cousin).

You would be justified in wondering why, then, I chose to give her this platform. The reason is simple. We live in uncertain, alienating, divisive, and confusing times. People have questions and Edith has answers. The emails with these questions have been piling up in my inbox. It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize that Edith was “sent” to me via some unknowable universal force of attraction. Who am I to stand in the way of that? Continue reading

The power of yellow to defy gender roles

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This is one of my mother’s rare collages, which I’m sharing today in honor of her birthday. It reminds me of how much she loved blues and greens. I have a theory about favorite colors, related to this post about the chakras. What if we wear and surround ourselves with certain colors, out of an unconscious need to balance our energies, or because of how dimly they resonate in our body? Maybe our favorite color points to a deficiency or some other fraught relationship with the energy of that chakra.

For me, it’s red, the vibration of the root chakra. I do struggle with being grounded. I have a history of questioning my right to exist, my worthiness. For much of my childhood, my presence felt tentative, provisional, like waking up in a strange place and you don’t know how you got there. We moved every year or two, uprooting and relocating, making it difficult to feel at home anywhere. Our wider circle of relations was far away. We saw them once or twice a year, feeling like outsiders to the close-knit extended Italian family of cousins and in-laws. Continue reading

Celebrating one year of creating on the threshold

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In the year since starting this blog, I’ve developed an appreciation for the value and joy of creating for its own sake. While I do enjoy interacting with readers, I also benefit from the practice of releasing control of outcomes. This has become a good place for me to keep learning this lesson:

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the strange pull of
what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.
~ Rumi

One of the strangest aspects of life on the threshold is discovering that it’s possible to make room for everything—the beauty and the ugliness, joy and despair, action and passivity, compassion and destruction. Maybe this is why I find myself thinking about urban street art, even while immersed in preparations for an upcoming Restorying retreat in the woods of West Virginia. Continue reading

Creating space for both despair and hope

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Where there is despair, hope;

In environmental circles, hope has gotten a bad name. It’s seen as passive naïveté in the face of harsh facts, the data and realities of a losing battle against the continued, even escalating, ruin of the planet. Seriously, the weary activists say, what hope is there in the face of upward trending climate change, rainforest loss, extinctions, superstorms, Keystone XL, Pacific trade agreements, WalMart, the gap between rich and poor, and on and on?

Worse, some might say, such wishful thinking prevents the clear-headed warriorship that is most needed to combat these evils. Yet, this is the very either/or thinking that got us into most of these messes in the first place. That “us-versus-them” mentality keeps us trapped in a story that says it’s irresponsible to hope in the face of despair. We have to save hope for after we beat the bad guys. Continue reading

We have a lot to learn from nature’s design intelligence, even if throwing a hammer in first doesn’t help

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Yesterday, I mentioned David Korten’s work on new economic systems, which he calls “living economies.” This strikes me as a beautiful interim step away from our unquestioned disconnection from nature and elevation of reason over intuition, towards a more humble, conscious, and connected relationship with the living earth. We’re talking here about “biomimicry,” which I first discovered from Janine Benyus, a science writer who published a book by the same name in 1997.

Biomimicry has three basic principles. 1) Nature as model. Study, learn, and imitate how nature works, rather than how objects in nature look. 2) Nature as measure. Use an ecological standard to judge the rightness of our innovations. Nature has a 3.8 billion year head start on us and has learned what works, what is appropriate and what lasts. 3) Nature as mentor. Approach nature not from a perspective of what we can extract, but of what we can learn. Continue reading

The source and craft of “always more”

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A friend recently began working with a new writing mentor, a well-known author who has been at it for over twenty years and has much to teach. It is humbling to be reminded that there is always more to learn, and yet I am aware that it works both ways. There is always more from the source of ideas, of images and words and revelation; I experience it daily in writing this blog. The creative source is boundless and endless, a reliable example of abundance. I have only to tune in, listen carefully and let myself be taken for a ride.

That there is always more I can do to hone my craft is at times inspiring, at times frustrating and depleting. It helps that I started in architecture, which is sometimes called an old man’s profession; it takes a good twenty or more years of practice before you begin to be any good at it. With writing, it’s said that you have to write 500 bad poems before you can write a good one. I’ve heard the same thing about drawing. Both refer to the requisite 10,000 hours of practice before mastery of anything that Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in “Blink.” Continue reading