Howard Hall and Helen Durando walk for suicide prevention this weekend.
You can read more about the walk at analog impulse: “Shine where it matters”.
TEDXToronto: “Neil Pasricha: The 3 A’s of awesome”:
TEDXHouston: “Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability”:
Presentation Zen: “We don’t seek your perfection, only your authenticity”
Rafe Colburn on rc3.org writes about the ever more ugly political environment: “Things never get better by getting worse”
Jeffrey Rosen in the NYTimes reports on the effects social networking will have on our efforts to redefine ourselves:
It’s often said that we live in a permissive era, one with infinite second chances. But the truth is that for a great many people, the permanent memory bank of the Web increasingly means there are no second chances — no opportunities to escape a scarlet letter in your digital past. Now the worst thing you’ve done is often the first thing everyone knows about you.
Tom Meltzer in the Guardian reports on the strange paradox of loneliness among the most connected generation seemingly ever:
This is not just a teenage problem. In May, the Mental Health Foundation released a report called The Lonely Society? Its survey found that 53% of 18-34-year-olds had felt depressed because of loneliness, compared with just 32% of people over 55. The question of why was, in part, answered by another of the report’s findings: nearly a third of young people said they spent too much time communicating online and not enough in person.
In a YouGov poll published by Samaritans last December, 21% of young people aged 18-24 identified loneliness as one of their major concerns. Young people worried more than any other age group about feeling alone, being single, about the quality of their relationships with friends and family. Such figures have led newspapers to dub us the “Eleanor Rigby generation”; better connected than any in history, yet strangely alone.
Last week Rose and the salon she works at, “Salon 360”, put on an event to collect hair donations for “Locks of Love”. This morning I got the chance to watch a documentary on the organization on HBO titled “Locks of Love: The Kindest Cut”. The documentary outlined the personalized process “Locks of Love” takes to make wigs for children who are suffering from hair loss from a medical diagnosis. The people behind this and the hard work they put into it are helping those who need it in a profound way.
Fancast: Locks of Love: The Kindest Cut Preview:
You can read more about “Locks of Love” from Michael DiVittorio in a piece for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “HBO Family documentary puts Locks of Love in public’s eyes”
The following John Perry Barlow piece is deep on a few levels. It works as both a criticism of our culture, and as a call to inspiration. It builds to a lesson I need to learn, and I know plenty of others who need to as well.
…I have found four qualities that I believe naturally enrich the ecology of joy. When I’m capable of sustaining them, they sustain me and continue to do so even in these strange days. They are: a sense of mission, the casual service of others, the solace of little delights, and finally, love for its own sake.
Having a sense of mission has served me extremely well, even better than I thought it would when I wrote Adult Principle Number 15 and bound myself to purpose rather than its by-product. Often I would have been hard-pressed to define mine and it has certainly taken on many different manifestations in the course of my careers, but I have taken a lot of happiness from a sense – often grandiose and sometimes illusory – that I am, by my various actions, helping create a future that will be more free, more tolerant, more open, and more just.
My primary ambition is to be a good ancestor, and though, by definition, I will never know if I’ve succeeded, I am pleased to believe that I’m giving it my best shot.
Connected to the happiness of mission is another joy that can no more be pursued than grace itself: the gift of creation. I’ve been blessed by the opportunity to let art pass through me on occasion. Whether songs, or essays, or interestingly designed haystacks, these manifestations of beauty, for which I take no more credit than the faucet should take for the water, have been wonderful gifts.
The sense that one has become the instrument of invention is so satisfying that I find it truly stupefying that anyone one would claim that artists are motivated to create primarily by the money they might get from such miracles. Not to say they shouldn’t be paid. Paying them provides them with more time and liberty to channel art. But it’s a rare artist who’s in it for the money. A real artist creates because he has no choice. He is pressed into the involuntary service of art, and thereby, humanity.
Which brings me to another solace cheaply available to all. Consider the joys of service. As a few leaders, ranging from Jimmy Carter to the Dalai Lama, demonstrate with their lives, we can become happy through the exercise of compassion. But following the training we receive in schools and workplaces, we have come to regard service as self-suppressing obligation rather than a self-fulfilling responsibility. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I think a related problem is that we tend to approach service the same way we approach exercise programs, in lunges and spasms of temporary idealism. We raise the initial bar too high. We fail to see that they also serve who, while not quite heading off to Calcutta to comfort dying lepers, merely treat the strangers miscellaneously at hand with a little humor and kindness. You don’t have to be Gandhi to be a good guy. There are few things that make me happier than successfully resisting the impulse to snarl at some idle transgressor and elevating myself into an actively benign stance. Such opportunities arise almost hourly. (Not that I always rise to them.) The habit of small kindnesses is immensely rewarding.
Which brings me to another under-appreciated fountain of happiness: the common little joys the universe leaves lying around for the truly casual observer. I think of something Kafka – that noted happiness-hound – wrote:
“It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.”
He is not talking about the pursuit of happiness. He’s not even talking, as one might easily and incorrectly conclude, about lying in wait for happiness. He’s talking about making oneself genuinely available to it. He is talking about opening one’s senses to the little delights – the sunsets, the lilac-scented breezes, the hilarious bartender jokes, the quick flash of anonymous smiles, the inside straights, the large purring cats, the click of stiletto heels, the popping of bubble-wrap, the liquid song of the meadowlark, the shrug of a New York cop – the granular texture of unsolicited joy.
There have been many hard times in my life – including the present – when I took refuge in reduced focus, comforting myself with the glorious filigree of immediate existence. Even a man facing a firing squad can appreciate the dawn that also arrays itself before him.
Finally, and always, there is love. By this, I don’t mean that economic bargain that often passes for love these days. I don’t mean that I will love you if you get good grades, or that I will love you if you’ll sleep with me, or that I will love you ifŠanything. I mean what I mean when I say, “I love you.” Period. Without expectation, condition, term limit, codicil, or obligation. To say that – and to mean it in that way – makes me happy.
What makes me happiest of all is when someone says “I love you” to me – meaning it as unconditionally as I intend to mean it – and I simply accept it. Learning to accept unconditional love has been the most demanding part of my education. It requires me to love myself as much as I am loved, which is not easy, since I like to pretend that my loathsome short-comings are invisible to all but me.
Still, when I love without goal and accept love without doubt, I am happy. In this, I am not pursuing happiness. I am becoming it.
Read the whole thing.
Bloomberg Businessweek: “Your Office Chair Is Killing You”
Seth Finkelstein has posted his answers to a Pew survey on the future of the Internet, and Google making us stupid (or not) in a thought provoking yet grounded (which is rare on the Web – admit it!) post.
Seth – if you’re reading – I miss your blogging.
Douglas R. Hofstadter: Analogy as the Core of Cognition:
My point is simple: we are prepared to see, and we see easily, things for which our language and culture hand us ready-made labels. When those labels are lacking, even though the phenomena may be all around us, we may quite easily fail to see them at all. The perceptual attractors that we each possess (some coming from without, some coming from within, some on the scale of mere words, some on a much grander scale) are the filters through which we scan and sort reality, and thereby they determine what we perceive on high and low levels.
Charlie Lord’s work, which exposed the horrors of Byberry State Hospital here in Philadelphia in the 1940s, was recently profiled by NPR:
At Byberry, Lord sneaked a small Agfa camera in his jacket pocket. It was the camera he’d borrowed to take on his honeymoon. But he’d dropped it in a lake and then felt he had to buy the damaged camera from his friend. Now he could use it to take pictures to show conditions in the A and B buildings.
When no one was watching, he’d quickly shoot a picture without even looking through the viewfinder. “I’d try to fill the frame,” he says. “You know, not just have little people far away. I’d get up as close as I could. I was aware of composition. But the main thing was to show the truth.”
Over a few months, Lord filled three rolls of film, with 36 exposures each. His pictures showed the truth, in black and white. In the past, reformers and journalists like Dorothea Dix and Nellie Bly sneaked into institutions and wrote exposes about the horrific conditions there.
But Lord was one of the first to ever expose institutions by using the power of photography. “I just thought this would show people what it was like. It’s not, not somebody writing to describe something,” he says. “They can use flowery words or you know, do whatever they want. But if the photograph is there, you can’t deny it.”