February 25, 2011
Shore Slocum: Step Through Me & Your Life Will Transform
Shore Slocum was the final speaker at TEDxBerkeley last weekend. Most known for training, coaching and speaking on personal and professional development, he has worked with some of the world's top thought leaders, such as Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and others. His real gift, however, is his ability to put storytelling, heart and soul into everything he does in a way that not only inspires but transforms people on his path.
Imagine a social network the size of Facebook, but one that is focused on the soul?
That is what Shore and his partners are building with a site called SoulNeeds, that will not only be the most relevant content from the world's top wisdom providers, but an online community and conscious social networking platform that will help people connect, share and grow in their spiritual and personal development.
It was from this place combined with his 20+ years of experience that he spoke of meaning, consciousness and purpose. Shore walked the audience through four stages of spiritual awakening and consciousness:
To Me: This is the first stage and often the 'victim stage,' where you feel that life is happening to you and you cast blame for your current situation on others....and often yourself too. In other words, the world and everything and everyone wrong with it is happening to me.
By Me is the next stage which is where the majority of the personal development world lives. Here, people learn that they change something specific or think about an aspect of their lives differently and get a brand new result, something which brings their life experiences to a more positive place. This is empowering for most but often not sustainable which is one of the reasons why so many people who are in this stage remain here. The 'fixing of problems and issues repeats itself, yielding short term results and rewards.
This is also the phase where 'learning happens and where you can easily get addicted to results by making a change. When you're living your life 'by me,' there's still a lot of effort happening since it centers around achievement and as most of us Type A results-oriented people know, its easy to get burned out in this place.
Through Me is an transformative phase. It's almost as if you become the conduit and you're plugged into another realm. When you find yourself plugged in, you somehow seem to get the message you're supposed to get and all the things in your life suddenly show up.
When you're not planning or willing it to happen, the people you need show up, the things you need show up, the money you need shows up, the talent you need shows up. In this phase, you merely need to trust the 'signal' you receive and step through it and once you do, your life is transformed and not quite ever the same again.
When you get to a point where you think: "this is too good to be true and you stop trusting it," you cut off the flow. Many of us have experienced this at various stages in our lives - there's a voice and a nudge that says Step Through Me is scary which is a scary 'message' because you often don't know what is on the other side.
If you follow that path.....the 'through me' path, you will not end up where you set your goals, or where you envisioned your life to be, but you will end up far better than you ever imagined because you're being led in the direction of your higher purpose, your most awake state. So, when that door opens, step through.
As Me is a magical place to live your life. Living your life 'through me,' still has some ego. When you move into as me, you feel no separation, and suddenly there is no difference between your brother, your sister and everything around you. Everything and everyone is one. We are all connected.
Moving Through the Stages to Get to Higher Levels of Consciousness:
In order to move from To Me to By Me, you clearly need to give up blame.
In order to move from By Me to Through Me, you clearly need to give up control.
So, if you have to give up blame and control to move through the first couple of phases, what do you need to give up to move from Through Me to As Me? Says Shore, "any sense of separation from anyone or anything." In other words, a belief and acceptance that we are all one.
Can you imagine what we can accomplish as a society if we all left our ego states at home behind a closed locked door? Can you imagine what we can do for the world if we all lived into an As Me place, where there was no separation and we were all one. Imagine in a quiet reflective room where thought and doubt have no way to get in?
Shore ended with his favorite line, one from Gandhi:
Become the Change You Wish to See in the World.
I'll end this post with my favorite line of all time:
The World Surrenders to a Silent Mind.
February 20, 2011
Marti Spiegelman on Consciousness, Awareness & Perception
She has inspiring and humble views about the growth of global consciousness and why its so important to bring together complimentary opposites in order to accelerate that consciousness.
We're at a time when we need to create things to create more consciousness than we've ever even imagined in our lifetime.
I loved how she prepared the audience for her 18 minutes of wisdom. Marti asked the audience to FEEL what we are going to talk about and learn rather than THINK about it. FEEL IT she repeated.
On the path to human consciousness and awakening, she referred to the wisdom she has learned from indigenous elders around the world, starting with Mexico and their view of perception. Their philosophy is that the core of our being is perception and the magic of our being is awareness.
Perception is to be aware of everything around us.
"There's an intelligence that moves those forces, that intelligence is what human beings have only known as consciousness," says Marti. She asserts that if we're intelligent and half awake, it will speak us into BEING.
Her informal and witty style brings you into her dialogue, whether its as an audience partipant watching her from afar or sitting across from her over a cup of tea. Marti is also funny. She says, "I used to think I was like a bug on a hot stove by jumping all around, but now I see that consciousness was forming me so that we could be here today."
She shared with us some of the seeds of what she learned from indigenous elders she studied with as well as from others on her journey. More humor comes out as she pointed to science as a way to make sense of the world. "In science we have an experience, then we try to prove that we had it," she reflects.
Consciousness taught her that we could learn about the speed of light, about all the possibilities in life without one piece of data.
In graphic design or art or in my case, photography, we learn how to make information technology and objects visible. In the world of technology, we can make something beautiful through coding or altering the original object. What's cool in my own personal experience of this is that you code or edit or use a graphics tool and create your own world of beauty, and then someone else can take it, modify it, and add to it.
Then, that piece of beauty you created changes, morphs and becomes a different kind of beauty. In other words, the beauty grows. That's exactly what happens with nature.
Says Marti, "we are just the portal - consciousness speaks through all of us." For those of us who have been a recipient or the portal, you KNOW this to be true. I've been a portal and in that unique beautiful moment when it happens, nothing is more important than being present with where you are and open. Then, whatever is supposed to happen, whatever is supposed to be 'said' just gets said through you without you controlling it. It's almost as if you don't have a choice, because a bigger force outside of yourself takes over.
When you are the recipient, which I have also been, it's an incredibly life-changing experience. If you've gone through this, you know exactly what I'm talking about. There's no force and no control -- you know you're there for 'it' whatever that 'it' is (message, moment, miracle, exchange of love) and you just go with it and absorb. There's an acute awareness when this happens.......the attention is OFF yourself and the other person and ON/IN the creation of beauty, love, peace, harmony and sometimes, the hardest ones: self love and forgiveness.
This my friends is what this magical thing called Global Consciousness is about.
She also addressed consciousness and business, a world she came from and it appeared 80% of the audience (minus the Berkeley students) spend their time in today -- "performing". I chose the word performing because its precisely what life is fixated on when measurement of success is based on performance rather than on 'gifting to the world' through business.
Says Marti, "business is nothing more than the center of exchange of value. The only thing that is valuable is that what supports thriving." The indigeneous elders once said to her, "all that stuff you've been learning is a technology. There is a technology to consciousness."
Here's the other thing about global consciousness. It's limitless and once you've experienced it, you know that it can keep going or rather flowing....only of course, if we don't put a plug in that flow. (i.e., fear does that).
What happens to many of us, (it has certainly happened to me) is that we experience the gift of human consciousness because we evolve into it through an unspoken door of trust and then when things feel too joyful (in other words, do I really deserve ALL of this? ahhh, that muddled complicated word deserve which requires its own blog post), we somehow sabotage the door that leads us to more miracles. Yes, miracles...miracles that come from being consciously aware, miracles that come from walking through the door of consciousness and never turning back.
The bottom line is that we all want to be thriving and deep down when we're living from a place of love, not fear, we all want everything and everyone else to be thriving too. Once fear takes over, survival instict takes over, you know, that lizard brain that Seth Godin talks about in Linchpins, and we remain in the ego state, the one that doesn't serve anyone including ourselves.
Another principle she talked about was repriocity, which is one expression of human consciousness.....a deeper expression. She uses the example of two magnets to demonstrate how we seek sameness and push away difference.
Welcome to the western world is all I could think when she said the world sameness. I'm not suggesting that sameness doesn't show up in the East or other parts of the world, but in living in 11 countries, I'm always shocked by how much sameness we support and embrace in the U.S. compared to other societies in the world.
I would go so far as saying that I think we're killing inspiration, art and creation in humanity because of the growth of sameness, most noticeable in the western world. My mind wandered and spiraled as she said that word because of how many visuals I had of the joy I have experienced over the years whenever diversity showed up, which it did in so many marvelous ways.
I have thought and said this often - how on earth can we create a life full of magic and joy with so much sameness around us? People so often embrace sameness more than they do diversity.
Well done Marti and thanks for throwing that awkward word out there for us to reflect on, perhaps so much so that we can perhaps discard the coward claws of 'sameness', the ones that keep us inside a world of reaction rather than creation. When we live our lives from a place of creation and diversity, we can learn, grow and yes, thrive from that which is not the same as ourselves and our understanding of the world.
Indigeneous people are able to move things because they embrace the differences. Imagine that you could sit in awareness and acknowledge in consciousness that this is just this and nothing else and that is just that and nothing else, rather than try to figure out what this and that is supposed to mean. Forget the meaning for a moment and when you do, you'll find yourself moving into that beautiful state of being.
I remember being on a walk on an island in Fiji many years ago and a quiet man with a very peaceful face emerged from the woods. He asked me before I said a word, "why are you trying to fight with God my child?" By God, I learned that he didn't mean the God we think of in the west, he meant the greater force in the universe (perhaps embraced by purpose)....the one outside ourselves that we can't control nor can we always understand.
It was at a time when I was on a seminar not long after my grandfather died and I was trying to make sense of the whys, the pains and the emotional hardships my own family faced for so many years. Still, without me saying a word, he said, "stop trying to figure it out, stop trying to come up with a solution or analyze it. Stop. Just be with whatever is gripping you and strangling your soul. Just be. Don't control it, just embrace it and be with it."
Then he was gone. I saw him again two more times before I left and twice more, he left me with words of wisdom as if he saw through me, could read me, perhaps for a moment or two, was me. He was the portal and I was the recipient: human consciousness, love and awareness in action.
Imagine if we could experience that every day? Where would the pain go? Wouldn't it be cool if we could stop trying to figure out where it would go or what life would be like if that what was familiar even if painful just disippated into air?
Marti ended with an important reminder: "All of the other principles will fall into place if we focus on the first principle: "Be here now, outside the constraints of time." Thank you for your free flowing "I'm just here and now" presentation, your ongoing seeds of wisdom and commitment to sharing it with the world.
February 10, 2011
Mother Earth is No Longer Accurate or Helpful
Below is a reflection and summary from Stewart Brand of the last Long Now talk by Bateson, who in reflecting on parenthood, proposed that the metaphor of "Mother Earth" is no longer accurate or helpful. Human impact on nature is now so complete and irreversible that we're better off thinking of the planet as if it were our first child. It will be here after us. Its future is unknown and uncontrollable. We are forced to plan ahead for it. Our first obligation is to keep it from harm. We are learning from it how to be decent parents.
More than with any other animal, human childhood dependency is enormously prolonged. That's a burden on parents and the species, but that long childhood is what makes us so adaptive, so capable of hope and love, so able to think ahead. It makes us the time-binding species.
Lately there's been a new development in the human lifecycle---extended adulthood. In the twentieth century human lifespan got thirty years longer. "Increased longevity," Bateson proposed, "may make a difference for the human species as momentous as our long dependent childhood." A whole new stage of life has emerged---what Bateson calls Adulthood II.
In the old days a child would be lucky to have one living grandparent. These days kids have seven or eight grandparents of various sorts, and their laps are not available because the oldsters have gone back to school, or eloped with somebody, or started new careers, or are off cruising the world.
So our elders will be active, but will they be wise? It's not a given. "Experience is the best teacher only if you do your homework, which is reflection," Bateson said. Adulthood II offers most people the time to reflect for the first time in their lives. That reflection, and the actions that are taken based on it, is the payoff for humanity of extended adulthood.
December 31, 2010
2010: The Year of Multiple Digital Personas
This past year was one of my busiest years, largely because of 4 factors: I re-launched two sites, started shooting more (note: Canon 7D purchase), I seemed to be on the road non-stop and clients expected more than ever and yet they want to pay less for results.
Let's start by looking at some of the technology trends and mindshifts in 2010 which led to such a chaotic schedule.
Social media tools exploded. Living in Silicon Valley, you get hit with more beta trials than anywhere else in the world and testing new shit out is what I do among other things, so it's no surprise that I was hit with more than one person could possibly digest. Yet, some of those tools started to go mainstream, so suddenly things that were on my back burner couldn't go unnoticed anymore. For one, location-based services started to get a lot of attention.
Last January, I found myself in a hotel room in Munich desperate to connect and "check in" before heading out for a stroll in the fresh fallen snow.
How F-Ked up is that? Foursquare doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that I'm in another country when I am, regardless of how decent "connectivity" is, yet I can't seem to give in to technology controlling my environment even when it doesn't work. What's wrong with acknowledging that I'm not an engineer, don't try to fix this.....just let things/it be?"
Later in the year, I went through something similar in Paris. Refer to my blog post: When in Paris, BE in Paris, Disconnect.
That brings me to Part B of this story. Technology DID in fact control my environment more than any year in my life.
I relaunched We Blog the World this year because of its organic growth and growing interest from bloggers around the globe who wanted to contribute.
Launching a site isn't what it used to be because of the fact that a site isn't just a site anymore - it's connected to multiple digital personas on the web.
With the site had to be a Facebook "fan" page or whatever they now call it, a Twitter update to match the look-and-feel of the revamped site, as well as photo and video online personas to go with the rest of it.
Then there's maps, mobile optimization, geo-location, custom RSS feeds, online newsletters and editing to ensure the world sees what you want them to see rather than poorly curated clutter on the web. (see Linda Stone/continuous partial attention -- not new to 2010 but still highly relevant).
Enter the growing focus on curation. We're long overdue for attention on intellectual and relevant curation of content that matters to us most.
Since tools can't curate content automatically in a way that is useful to us yet, human curation needs to be part of the process and for anyone who has spent time curating and tagging content on the web knows, it's bloody time consuming. Pearltrees, a curation tool, was a big part of my life this year and I spent time alerting content creators in various vertical markets about the aspect and value of human curation as an integral part of their workflow.
I switched to Chrome this year as my main browser, suddenly I ended up with three phones, one of which was a Google phone that simplified my local calls and texting when in Europe, and I was nearly tempted to buy an iPad so I could carry around yet another device with me to ensure I was connected 24/7 just in case the three phones and two laptops were not enough.
What's important to note is how the 'always on' part of my life which used to largely happen in my office and to and from meetings during my work day migrated into every aspect of my life.
Not only were my digital personas growing in numbers, but so was my attention to them. Suddenly I had a flash page (see about.me, currently still in beta), 3 new sites, 3 new Facebook pages, 4 new Twitter personas, Foursquare and a growing number of international connections to "manage."
By summer, I was seriously feeling the effect of The Shallows (see Nicholas Carr's book: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains). In synthesizing recent cognitive research, he shares his own experiences, something that I could personally relate to. Carr writes "I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something has been tinkering iwth my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going -- so far as I can tell -- but it's changing."
By late July, I found that I couldn't sit still when I was out without a device and moreso, my attention span had shortened dramatically. The same thing was happening to others around me. We couldn't concentrate for long without new digital stimuli, even if that be a simple text message. My reading moved from reading whole books to skimming them, the rest left for online editorial only.
Reading and re-reading books have always brought a sense of calm to my otherwise chaotic world and yet, I had stopped reading novels for awhile. Instead, my reading time was filled with learning how social media was changing our lives and the impact it was having and will continue to have on business and the world. I read about new tools, solutions and trends. Of course, none of it had heart and soul but it was great insight for what to adopt early on.
Carr asserts that "every technology is an expression of human will. Through our tools, we seek to expand our power and control over our circumstances -- over nature, over time and distance, over one another."
And so, with this growing tension between feeling and fearing that my brain was actually changing chemically and the need to be "always" be connected to some device at any given time, I decided to leave the country in August without a device.
Off to South America I went with a friend who brought a Blackberry with her and I, a netbook, largely to be used for checking email once every couple of days, but moreso to offload photos from camera to hard drive. So, while technology wasn't off limits for me, having a device in my hands so I could be reachable and in turn reach out whenever and wherever, was not an option.
When you have close to ten online digital personas you are 'managing' at any given time, not being connected for a few weeks is highly uncomfortable. As I was boarding a plane from Miami to Guyaquil, I noticed how many people fidgeted when the pilot told them to turn their electronic devices off.
Some people stared down at their devices as if they would give them something stimulating even though the screen was blank. A few picked up magazines but flipped through as if bored without the energy of their device, their "adult" pacifier.
I found myself going through the same awkwardness, yet because the device was "home" and not an option when we landed, I was forced to find both my energy and my calm from a static page of a book or an old fashioned notebook which I brought to record thoughts using an actual physical pen.
Since I was with someone who had not made the same choice, I was somewhat forced into the digital world by watching her fiddle with her Blackberry, nose down into its addictive energy while we were driving past the Amazon jungle. It was astonishing that she could get a connection up there and because she 'could,' she did.
There was a moment where I felt like asking her for "it" to check into the Amazon on Foursquare for the world to see, as somewhat of a novelty. There was a moment where I felt like asking her for "it" to tweet out to the world that the Amazon was in trouble and attach a photo of chain saws on the side of the road with piles of timber lined up in rows a couple hundred miles away from the nearest big town.
I had to refocus my energy away from the device and her fingers upon it and onto the lush green wildness out my right window and as soon as I did, slowly but surely, my center found calm. It found presence. It found wonder. It found marvel. It found gratitude. It found wow. It found real physical life that was breathing its beauty into me as I decided to participate IN IT rather than watch or engage with it on a screen.
I didn't blog about my experience that week since we were camping in the middle of the jungle, but I also decided not to blog about it as soon as we were connected in another town. I waited until I returned to the states, and for multiple reasons, it was the right thing to do. Reflections followed - here, here and here. I also wrote about my detaching experience called Hey Digital Maven, How Okay Are You With Silence?
Being present and recalling that presence later on because I had time to reflect on gratitude was key. Being constantly connected doesn't give us the time or more importantly, the 'space' to reflect and go deeper. Our ability to go deeper is limited because of what this constant digital stimuli is doing to our brains, and in turn, our behavior.
As Carr reflects from the discovery he made through his research, "while we know that our brain is an exquisitely sensitive monitor of experience, we want to believe that it lies beyond the influence of experience.
We want to believe that the impressions our brain records as sensations and stores as memories leave no physical imprint on its own structure. To believe otherwise would, we feel, call into question the integrity of the self."
Having a break from managing digital personas for a few weeks reminded me of the essential need for balance -- not just life/play and work balance but digital balance.
While I found that others were going through the same thing, the addictive quality of the lifestyle shift is gradual, and people often find it hard to talk about or perhaps explain.
When I first picked up the iPad and browsed through my blog using Flipboard, a wave of excitement flew through me as the pictures I created in the real world came to life on the screen. A beautiful screen.
The display was magical and an actual device was re-sorting or curating if you like, the content....my content. It was telling my story in its own way and the stories of other bloggers I knew and respected. I thought about how "cool" it would be to have this experience with me at all times, so wherever I was, I could have that dynamic engaging experience rather than a much blander web page.
Yet, when all I sometimes need is the information on the web, having that extra visual pleasure brings me into the web experience more than it does my physical surroundings. When I choose "it" more often than the people around me in the physical world, I'm losing something valuable as well am I not?
Digital addicts will argue not of course since for them, the additional dimension of what these devices bring to their online life (where they spend 90% of their time) is so much greater that they would argue making another choice is 'halting a change' that is not only inevitable but critical.
Inevitable as it is, it doesn't mean we can't be more aware on the impact it is having on our daily lives and decide with our human brains during this explosive evolution and revolution, that human interaction without a digital pacifier at our side, does still hold tremendous value.
Being present without anything in our hands or a list of "online to dos" on our mind makes us so much more aware of a friend's breath across the table as they listen to our words and the intensity in their eyes as they dance with a story they're sharing.
As more and more moves online and away from physical paper and objects, we're reminded of privacy concerns and location-based services knowing our every move and offering products to us as soon as we walk into a store or cafe.
We're reminded that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was a runner-up for Time’s most important Person of the Year regardless of whether you see him as a hero or a villain.
We're reminded that the world has changed as we know it and there's no moving back in time.
While I'm certainly not proposing that we fight the inevitable, or stop technological progress and advancement, I'd like to offer some suggestions as a way to have more physical experiences in our lives amidst the growth of all things digital:
1. Pick a Day a Week to Disconnect from the Digital World: Remember we're talking about only one day a week. Use that day to engage with the physical world - trust me, it still exists. Choose something you're passionate about that is physical and doesn't have a digital extension to it, i.e., skiing down a mountain, cycling through a forest without your cell in your pocket, playing with a child on the beach, or discussing philosophy over dinner at the table with a friend without your iPad or iPhone in a bag by your feet.
2. Practice Using Your Brain Not Just Your Digital Pacifier: When you're tempted to rely on something digital to get you through an experience, choose a time when you don't need to rely on it and use your brain instead. A great example is your car navigation system.
The time to do this is obviously when you're not in a hurry to get from A to B. It's an interesting exercise for those who have relied on a nav system for awhile now. Male friends have commented that they have lost their acute directional sense since they put that part of their brain to rest for awhile. It's not unlike what happened with the introduction of calculators and over time, discovering how hard it was to do math on the fly.
3. Automate some of your Digital Life: While it's important to have a presence on the web if you run a company or work for one, and as part of it, engage, engage, engage, some of it can be automated. Focus on the voices and conversations that matter to you most and automate the rest.
The more scattered your presence, the less you can truly engage and prioritize on the people and passions you most identify with. It's not just about numbers. Quality matters and quality takes time, concerted time and effort.
4. Become the Artist you're Designed to be and Backburner the Rest: Create don't react. Remember that you don't have to respond to everything and everyone all the time. When we're constantly responding to things on our screen, the "lizard brain" is taking over, not the genius inside us. When we're reacting to online chatter, there's less time to "create our true art," which is our gift to the planet while we're alive to share it. In other words, our purpose.
As Seth Godin writes in Linchpins, one of my favorite books this year, "the Lizard Brain often sabotages the progress we have made and stops us from creating our best work." Refer to a great post Seth wrote on 'quieting the lizard brain.'
In my opinion, albeit one of the most useful things to hit this decade, social media has given us so many distractions, that it's difficult to take a step back and realize that we don't have to choose and use it all.
Make the time to create the art you're designed to create and the life you want to have.
Once we realize that we have a choice to pick and choose what's most useful for us and leave the rest, we'll create an opening to create our best art. Let's remember that our digital personas are not the whole picture of our lives, just a piece of it.
As a wise Nepalese elderly man once said to me on my way up a long Annapurna trail many years ago, Patience on your journey grasshopper, patience.
December 31, 2010 in America The Free, Books, Entertainment/Media, Europe, On Blogging, On Branding, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On People & Life, On RSS, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
2010 in Review: Time to Reflect & Pay Respect to Another YearSeasons Greetings and a hooray for an incredible year, one which will be over within hours. It's time to reflect on everything we've learned and experienced over the past year as well as give gratitude to the amazing people we've encountered along our annual journey. It's now time to move into a new decade, but before we do, below are a few highlights from 2010 as seen through my eyes across a few continents. Enjoy! And, Happy New Year! to you and yours. See you on the other side.
December 25, 2010
Christmas is the Feast of Man Himself
Christmas is the feast, of not only man’s redemption, but of man himself. It is the feasting of humankind, because it releases – if only for a few days every year – emotions that a savage self-interest causes mankind, in the ordinary way, to repress.
At Christmas-tide, tyrants grow benevolent – even merciful, misers spend, not only freely, but willingly, the fierce flames of religious and political prejudice die for a short while to a cold cinder; selfish memories are stirred by the recollection – tardy, but intense – of the neglected and the outcast.
For a few days, once a year, the atrophied souls of adults are filled again with that spirit which inspires the wisdom of fools and children.
November 27, 2010
Dalai Lama Posts This on Facebook Today
And, it's worth a share:
November 15, 2010
Saying Goodbye to Your Most Primal Connection
In this chapter lived a little girl who was told half her heritage was French although it wasn't clear that "it" really counted because part of the family had come over from France and well.....part of the family was French Canadian not far from the New York state border.
It was a bit like the other side of her family which didn't really count either - a probable Jewish grandfather whose father likely changed their name when they hit America's shores, a long...long time ago. And, like a chameleon, he pretended to be Irish, Welsh, German, Polish or Russian depending on who he was selling to or telling jokes to at the time.
He looked like he could be all five and very well may have been; he also looked like he could be an Eastern European Jew who was more focused on making sure his family succeeded financially and socially in America than trying to adhere to a religion. The only thing that may have given it away to anyone who was paying close enough attention was the food in the fridge and in the cupboards and what sauces and beer he drank when no one was looking.
In the French Connection chapter of that old dusty book, the little girl's mother had disappeared in the sixties while pregnant with the little girl's brother, who was later born somewhere in a place only a local child protection unit would have a record of, if at all.
The little girl was told to erase the French Connection from her mind, including all fantasies of meeting her one day, based on some whimsical ideology that a mother/daughter relationship is so primal, that any mother if separated from her child, would eventually seek out her own.
The little girl was told that it was an old Chapter that had now passed, and what was passed was done and over and after all, why dig up old skeletons when she never really wanted a little girl anyway?
The little girl learned several years later that a couple of other little girls were also left with a haunting memory from that same French Connection and while they may never have been told to leave the past in the past, the alcohol breath of one of four husbands and mental anguish over the years was enough for the little girls to push such memories behind them without much help.
I wonder....does the memory of any little girl's mother - real or not - ever diminish forever even when she's been told that she isn't 'real?' Even when she's been told that it doesn't matter and that what is real, is in front of her, not in her mind's eye?
What of that bond that comes from a blood connection alone, even if a relationship was never consummated, even if there was no memory of a shared love?
One day, when the little girl was her early twenties, she finally met her French Connection, who she thought would look like Meryl Streep based on the only photo she had of her before that one intense meeting. With the photo in her memory and her heart beating wildly, the girl, together with her older sister, knocked on the door of their shared French Connection's house with no research, no warning, no notice, and no real thought as to what the consequences might be.
The ending was not one from a romantic American movie, the kind that always ends with a hug, nor was it an experience that resulted in strong bonds, emotional exchanges or a continued family relationship.
But what it was, was a stake in the ground that kept the French Connection alive, even if only alive not burning. The beautiful memory of what 'could have been' was shattered but the reality of what it was and what it is, remained. The French Connection was real, pretty or not.
Have you ever noticed that there's always at least one complex thing about one's heritage that changes an otherwise beautiful ending to an ugly one? You know, something in the DNA and history so deeply buried that nothing can get "it" to 'think' or 'behave' differently.
Sometimes that complexity means that an authentic conversation never happens between a man and his son before the man dies, or two estranged sisters.
Sometimes that complexity means that a man would choose to gamble his family savings away before he used the money to feed his children.
Sometimes that complexity means that a woman would choose to die rather than ask for help when she is faced with a terminal disease.
Sometimes that complexity results in a family becoming homeless when it wasn't necessary because of a tribal pride that could not easily be undone.
And, sometimes that complexity means that a woman may choose never to fix the unraveling chaos she created by leaving her children behind when she could have made a healthier choice.
We learn over time that we need to accept some of the things we've been dealt or experienced in our lives, in order to be at peace with the world.
We also learn over time that we can create our own destinies or change existing ones in a heartbeat, and it can be as instant as the moment we make a decision that it's time for change.
And, we also learn that we can paint our own canvases because we are the creators of our own lives. Our lives are not the stories we were told by our parents and grandparents about the way "things need to be or the way we should behave."
The should and need parts of any story, whether it's through a parent, husband, school teacher or priest, are only there to keep us connected and safe, a perceived connected and safe perhaps....but nevertheless, connected to the very 'tribe' that brought us into the world.
Once you deviate from that tribe, it no longer feels safe, nor does that tribe embrace you as one of them. It's very primal and such an integral part of human nature, that we're even seeing similar behavior in online communities today.
A long long time ago, the little girl was told to leave her French tribe behind and create a new one.
Then one day, she was told by an old boss to leave another tribe behind when it didn't subscribe to her professional goals.
And later, when she moved to Europe, she was told to leave her American tribe behind and after the girl divorced, she forced herself to leave yet another tribe behind. And then a corporate tribe. And then a country one. And then a regional one. And then a technology one. And then her family, at least the one she sort of kind of knew.
And, soon she learned, that you leave tribes behind all the time and that everything is temporary and nothing is permanent.
The girl learned to march on, forward on her life journey and look back for reflection only, not for a notch in a ladder that would add to her growth or sustain her in any meaningful way.
And, she became very good at marching.
Then one day, the girl, who had become a grown woman, received a phone call. Her French Connection had cancer with only a few days to live.
Did she ever really know her French Connection? Did she ever really know the woman who called herself her mother and once looked like Meryl Streep?
The woman who liked markets and gypsy jewelry as much as she did yet they never shopped together.
The woman who didn't like to burden people so did everything on her own, just like she did.
The woman who had this odd freckle on her wrist in the very same place she had one.
The woman who gave birth to her in another chapter, in another time and what now felt like another galaxy.
It would not be like losing the mother who raised her, this she knew. It wouldn't be like losing the man who raised her, who wasn't her real father.....this she knew too.
But, what was clear was this. She knew that the French Connection would finally die a permanent death, only to be remembered as a Chapter with its own name, the one in the forgotten book that had gathered dust and mildew.
In the chapter now over, one which was kept alive by a flickering dim light for nearly a lifetime, the story ends too, and with it, a generation as well as an era in time. It’s the kind of chapter that closes another family's photo album and history book just like it has since the beginning of time itself.
And for the girl...it was death to yet another tribe, the most primal one, but in a period of time where it was no longer necessary to tell her it was time to move on.
November 10, 2010
The Magic of Family Businesses & the Stories that Keep Them Alive
Occasionally you come across an old shop, creamery, pub, restaurant, chemist or cafe that......simply speaks to you and feels so damn authentic that you go back in time simply through its walls, floors and ceilings.
Having grown up in New England on Richard Russo's soil, I gravitate to places like that or they simply find me. It even shows in the banner of Down the Avenue, which is a modified version of the upstate New York main street small town where I grew up.
Jack Carvill & Sons along Dublin's Camden Street (renown for thrift stores) dates back to 1905. Online, someone referred to it the Rolls Royce of off-licenses.
Not everything in the place is still original, yet many of it remains in its antiquated authentic form, including the door behind the counter, the tills, the back hutch and the gorgeous albeit "dinged up" wooden counter.
Jack Carvill's apparently even got a mention in "Ulysses" although the real story is in its history, which I learned through the young man running it during my recent trip to Dublin. (Jim Bourke is the current owner btw).
In the early 1900s, it was called Delahunt and run by the Delahunt family through the mid-thirties when they sold it to the Cavey family, who ran the place for another thirty years until they sold it in the mid-sixties to Jack Carvill. It was Jack who renovated it (we think in 1968) and for nearly another thirty years, Carvill and his two sons ran it. Carvill died in 1993 but their sons still managed the store until their mother died in the late nineties (she apparently lived upstairs over the shop).
Take a look at this. He showed us the daily revenue book from the mid-thirties. Fascinating. While it may be hard to read, they took in 252 pounds (16 shillings and 4.5 pence) on Christmas Eve in 1936, which was higher than their typical take, which ranged from 80 to 185 pounds.
All I can say is thank God places like this still exist and thank God there are people on the planet who still care enough to restore history and remember the stories which keep the wonderful characters from distant times still alive.
October 25, 2010
Stephanie Coontz: What Is Love REALLY? What Makes a Marriage REALLY?
What is love really? What makes for a happy marriage? Marriage was invented for in-laws--connected in-laws--says Stephanie Coontz on the PopTech stage in Maine this past week.
Stephanie Coontz, director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families and the author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage, says the answer lies in understanding that marrying for love is a radical idea.
Coontz notes that little interactions between couples are important indicators of a successful marriage. It reveals how much interest and respect a couple has for each other.
What also counts in a marriage, say Coontz, is how well a couple can manage household duties together. Here, it should come as no surprise that men and women have different understandings of marital satisfaction.
The best predictors for marital satisfaction among men? The answer, perhaps not surprisingly, is how little criticism and how much sex he gets. According to Coontz, that has not changed since the 1960s. What has changed is how he gets it. A modern-day marriage, says Coontz, requires much more give and take—and much more help around the house. One of the predictors of a woman’s happiness in a marriage directly relates to how much a spouse contributes to household and childcare tasks.
Coontz concludes with a win-win situation scenario for each sex: The more that household and childcare duties are split between a couple, the less criticism and more sex that the man is likely to get, and the happier the woman is likely to be. Here's a link to her presentation. (it's the first time I haven't seen the embed video option on any site).
Republished from PopTech Site - Collen Kaman - Photo credit: Kris Krüg.