Like Me. Share Me. Try me. Buy Me. Cultivating Humility in a Culture of Celebrity

Like Me. Share Me. Try me. Buy Me. Cultivating Humility in a Culture of Celebrity

Like most people with internet access, I spend an inordinate amount of time online for work and for play. While I generally love web-mediated convenience and connection, I notice that the internet feels crowded to me lately. It often feels like being in a virtual airport shopping mall in which everyone is aggressively selling cheap imitations of genuine experience while waiting for their flights.

These days, the internet is littered with social networking wanna-be stars plying their shares in hopes of generating enough publicity to join the contagion of instant celebrities who are curiously celebrated and rewarded for the least notable of talents—merely being famous. There are those who publish every event (however mundane) and every opinion, (however inane) under the impression (however deluded) that everything they share will undoubtedly interest their audiences (however limited)... 

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It's Presumptuous, Not Persuasive

It's Presumptuous, Not Persuasive

During this election season, I've participated in many conversations about politics. While I am fortunate to have friends affiliated with very different political persuasions who are willing to discuss our differing viewpoints with good humor and good grace, it seems that this capacity is often lacking. 

Recently, I commented on a friend's post:

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Glad Tidings for Holiday Blues

Glad Tidings for Holiday Blues

'Tis the season for gifts and giving, comfort and joy, peace on earth, and goodwill to all. 

Yet, despite the glad tidings of the season, there are many among us who feel less than merry or downright blue during the holidays. Emotional responses to personal challenges are often intensified during this time of increased cultural pressures to be of good cheer. The inability to be with loved onesbe they deceased, afar, or estrangedcan infuse the holidays with discomforting sadness and grief. Holiday consumption, impulsive spending, dietary overindulgence, un(der)employment woes, and financial hardships can create anxiety, worry, and dread.

Moreover, many of us may endure stressful travel conditions to arrive at childhood homes beset with family dynamics and expectations (unchecked assumptions, unresolved conflicts, unsolicited opinions) that may not fully embrace our current selves. Past surroundings prime behavioral patterns from earlier times. Furnishings, heirlooms, and scents often trigger residual responses and ways of being.

Sometimes, falling into familiar patterns in familiar places surrounded by familiar faces can be comforting. But...

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Dreaded Question #2: What do you do?

Dreaded Question #2: What do you do?

While out and about the other day, I was asked Dreaded Question #2 (which is almost as difficult to answer as Dreaded Question #3, but much easier to answer than Dreaded Question #1).

Why, you may ask, is this altogether polite question greeted with dread?  

Well, dread is a bit of an exaggeration, but I do find the question, however well-intended, to be somewhat irksome (and totally unimaginative), mostly because what I do doesn't fit nicely into one, neat little google-searchable category, which is often what people asking seem to prefer...

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Reflections on Bodhisattva Activism

Reflections on Bodhisattva Activism

In a recent article, The New Bodhisattva, David Loy offers a beautiful reflection on Bodhisattva activism as an approach for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike:

Bodhisattva activism has some distinctive characteristics. Buddhism emphasizes interdependence ("we're all in this together") and delusion (rather than evil). This implies not only nonviolence (violence is usually self-defeating anyway), but a politics based on love (more nondual) rather than reactive anger (which separates them from us).

The basic problem in our society is not rich and powerful bad people, but institutionalized structures of collective greed, aggression and delusion. The bodhisattva's pragmatism and non-dogmatism can help to cut through the ideological quarrels that have weakened so many progressive groups. And Buddhism's emphasis on skillful means cultivates the creative imagination, a necessary attribute if we are to construct a healthier way of living together on this earth, and work out a way to get there....

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Incivility and Its Discontents: How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

Incivility and Its Discontents: How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

A friend of mine recently referred some work to me in my consulting capacity, a contract position helping a local social sector organization with their fund development strategy, work I’ve done with some success in my industrious, if not thoroughly illustrious, career. I was fully qualified and knew some board members who also encouraged me to apply, so I did. I sent a thoughtful letter expressing my interest and capabilities along with my resume to the appropriate person, and went about my business. 

At some point, the friend who referred the work to me inquired about the outcome, and I realized that three weeks had passed without any word, not even a note acknowledging the receipt of my application. My friend was surprised to learn this, but unconcerned, assuming that those involved in the search were probably overwhelmed and simply behind in getting back to people. Hmmmm...

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The End of the World As We Know It

The End of the World As We Know It

Terrorism. War. Weapons of mass destruction. Climate change. Forest degradation. Soil erosion. Aquifer depletion. Bee colony collapse. Affluenza. Consumer debt. Globalization. Market volatility. Economic crisis. If one believes the news these days, it seems that we live in an increasingly morally and financially bankrupt society in which our discourse encourages incivility, our politics endorses dishonesty, our religions shelter immorality, our spirituality fosters grandiosity, our media sponsors gratuity, our education teaches mediocrity, our industry rewards irresponsibility, our healthcare enables apathy, our entertainment promotes idolatry, our food feeds obesity, and our economy supports insolvency. 

Indeed, intelligent people are left to wonder how on earth human beings could so knowingly, willingly, and skillfully participate in our own self-destruction. 

Yet, in many ways, this is old news...

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Chronic Ecstasy: Are You Addicted to Meditation?

Chronic Ecstasy: Are You Addicted to Meditation?

Recently, a friend published this quote on FB: "Chronic ecstasy is a learnable skill."

Chronic.  Ecstasy.  A strange juxtaposition. Chronic, often associated with a less healthy form of constancy—as in chronic pain. And ecstasy, often associated with a less healthy form of drug-induced high—as in rave culture drug of choice. 

My initial response was one of both affirmation and caution. Yes, chronic ecstasy is indeed a learnable, even valuable, skill, and yet, chronic ecstasy without discerning engagement is simply self-indulgent escapism...

 

  

 

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Talk to Strangers

Talk to Strangers

A powerful reminder from the ever-inspiring and thought-provoking Saul Williams...

...Talk to strangers when family fails
And friends lead you astray
When Buddha laughs and Jesus weeps
And it turns out God is gay
'Cause angels and messiahs
Love can come in many forms
In the hallways of your projects
Or the fat girl in your dorm
And when you finally take the time
To see what they're about
And perhaps you find them lonely
Or their wisdom trips you out...

 

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Generation X: the Invisible Minority

Generation X: the Invisible Minority

As the only Generation X person at a recent meeting, I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find myself listening to yet another older person sharing an uncomplimentary perspective about Gen X, lamenting our generation’s apparent unwillingness to contribute money to good works like his generation did. Somehow, it never seems to occur to people who make such comments that the economic conditions in which my generation came of age have resulted in a generation with less wealth than the one that preceded it. 

We have higher costs of living combined with sky-rocketing education and healthcare costs, and incomes that barely keep pace with inflation. We had to buy our houses later with less wealth, higher leverage, and less income security. All of this means that we have far less discretionary spending money, and yet, in my experience, my generation gives much of our time and money to good works...

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A Prescription for Happiness: Seven Steps...

A Prescription for Happiness: Seven Steps...

If you could change your life for the better in seven weeks by following seven steps, wouldn’t you want to do so?  Here, for those of you who haven’t already discovered these, are seven things that you can do to experience more happiness in your life.  Do these for seven weeks, and see how your life changes for the better.  Better yet, let me know how your life changes—I would love to hear your stories...

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Are You Qualified to Vote?

Are You Qualified to Vote?

 

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that as much as we examine the qualifications of our political candidates, we must also focus our attention on our qualifications as voters. I'm not referring to the qualifications that permit one to have a vote in this country, but the qualifications that make one worthy of having a vote. Is it just me or are others questioning the judgment of voters in this country? 

It seems that many Americans, regardless of their political affiliations, are failing miserably in fulfilling their civic duties as voters in this country. Not only do many citizens neglect to cast their votes, but many cast their votes without any real knowledge of the issues, the candidates, the parties, or how our government is run...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who Are We the People?

Who Are We the People?

Most USAmericans are familiar with these oft-quoted words expressed in the beginning of The Declaration of Independence:

...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

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Participant-Centered Design: How to Design Events Worth Attending

Participant-Centered Design: How to Design Events Worth Attending

Whenever I get asked to do a presentation, I always have mixed thoughts.  I’m grateful that someone values my perspective enough to invite me to share it, but I’m also concerned that people will expect me to do all the talking.  Most people who know me well will tell you that I consider myself to be less of a public speaker and more of a conversation-starter.  I enjoy presentations if they catalyze meaningful conversation and action, but I prefer more participant-centered events...

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Conspicuous Contentment

Conspicuous Contentment

I like stuff as much as the next person, maybe more than some, definitely less than many, but lately I've been wondering what it would be like to live in a culture of conspicuous contentment rather than conspicuous consumption.

At the heart of the average American discontent is often an unquenchable desire for more—to have more, do more, be more. We want more money, more time, more meaning, more connection. We want more of what matters to us—and of course, what matters is often in flux. But the wanting—well, that seems to be constant...   

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How Naked Are You Prepared to Be?

How Naked Are You Prepared to Be?

Remember Come As You Are parties where people were invited to come in whatever clothing they happened to be wearing at the time of the event?  A cultural novelty of bygone times, people were welcome to arrive in anything from business suits to birthday suits.  Although the events were often used as opportunities to dress in the wackiest clothes imaginable, the parties were an invitation for people to get together without having to worry about appearances, often stretching the bounds of social convention and proscribed self-conceptions.  The underlying concept was that people could come together with fewer pretenses, free to express themselves without the judgment present in everyday experience.

 

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Pyramid Principles for Life

Pyramid Principles for Life

...At times the journey feels awkward or perilous: you're asking questions that everyone wishes would go away; you don't know how to put into words what you're searching for; you're wondering just how big an idiot you really are for leaving what felt sure and safe and comfortable...

Paul H. Ray, PH.D. and Sherry Ruth Anderson, PH.D., The Cultural Creatives

...It is safe to say that men [and women] have been seeking an answer to the riddle of the Great Pyramid for over 4000 years...

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the Great Pyramid. A testament to human ingenuity, the Great Pyramid is the only remaining structure of the Seven Wonders of the World. Believed to have been built in 2600 BC, it was originally encased in highly polished limestone that reflected sunlight, making the pyramid visible from vast distances. According to some calculations, the casing stones of the original pyramid would have reflected light like giant mirrors, so powerful that it would be visible from the moon.

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Questions Worth Asking

Questions Worth Asking

My dear, is it true that your mind
Is sometimes like a battering
Ram
Running all through the city
Shouting so madly inside and out
About the ten thousand things
That do not matter?

Hafiz, Out of the Mouths of a Thousand Birds

Deep in American life lies a dormant soul, almost obliterated by politicians and media that consider it too lowly and weak for serious attention.
Thomas Moore

In my personal and professional development work, I spend a lot of time with questions. My questions. Client questions. Unasked and unanswered questions. Spiritual "meaning of life" questions. Transactional "get the job done" questions. Relational "getting to know you" questions. Easy questions. Hard questions. Rhetorical questions. In the course of all this questioning, I have noticed that the most powerful questions people ask are those that invoke reflection about what they value. I call these questions valuable questions.

Valuable questions are worth asking. They are questions of value that enable us to deepen who and how we are in the world--to grow, to change, to transform ourselves and others. They help us determine what really matters to us and what to do about it. How can I be a better person? What do I want to do with my life? How can I make money and make a difference in the world? How can I have meaningful relationships with people important to me? Valuable questions invoke reflection on how we value ourselves, our relationships, life conditions, and life pursuits.

They are also overwhelming and hard to answer because they take time. Even worse, valuable questions take personal time, and we are busy. We are a nation of people in a hurry, a culture addicted to well-marketed speed. This is not a novel observation. We all know it. Full-speed, speed to market. Fast food, fast cars, fast pace. Quick fixes. Rush hour, rush job, feel the rush. Instant coffee, instant gratification. We don't even read anymore; we scan, skim and surf our way through life.

Ours is a culture of pay per view relationships and substitute experiences, a culture that promotes spending more time with television "Friends" than with friends who really care. Most of us experience fifty to one hundred advertisements by nine in the morning. The entire world is at our fingertips--broadcast into our living rooms, our cars, our offices. Television, radio, billboards, snail mail, email, chat rooms, discussion boards, telemarketing. Even the spiritual has become commercial as corporations compete to sell us souls.

Reaction is better than inaction--and reflection, particularly self-reflection, is reserved for the self-absorbed or people with nothing better to do. Time out is a behavior modification technique for children and time off is regarded with suspicion. Vacations are prescriptions for preventing nervous breakdowns. We barely have time to sleep, let alone time to dream.

We simply don't have time for questions, valuable or otherwise. We want answers--and we want them fast. What am I going to wear today? Are we on schedule? Why am I doing this job anyway? Where did I put the car keys? Am I a good parent? How much is it going to cost? How am I going to make this payment? Why am I so worried? When will it be finished? Is it my turn to drive the kids? When am I going to get to the grocery store? What am I having for dinner? What's on TV tonight? Where's the remote control? When was the last time we had sex? How much sleep do I really need anyway? Is this what I really want? On any given day, there are so many questions competing for our attention, is it any wonder that we tend to neglect the most valuable for the least time-consuming?

Our personal time is in short supply and high demand. Most of us, of necessity, use our personal time to go to the dentist, pick up the dry-cleaning, and buy the groceries. We use personal time to socialize with friends, connect with partners and read to the kids. If we're lucky, we may have time leftover to get to the gym. In our culture, personal time is any time we spend outside of work, however impersonal, taking care of the rest of our lives, taking care of the people in our lives and--oh yes, taking care of ourselves. That too--and more often than not--that last. After all, personal time for truly personal use should be reserved for crises.

Basically, if we have any personal time at all, we should be shopping, cooking, cleaning, and socializing. We should be doing something--certainly not sitting around by ourselves inquiring about the meaning of life. We have Oprah for that--just turn on the television. Watch a meaningful life.

However, if we want to live meaningful lives, we have to occasionally turn off the television, the cell-phone and the computer. Leave the laundry for another day. Decline the invitation and order in. Whatever it takes, we have to take the time to ask ourselves the questions worth asking--value ourselves enough to ask the valuable questions. We have to get personal with our personal time and inquire into our own experience about what really matters.

We must breathe, reflect, be. Greet the moment with a deep sigh and a full heart. Now, that would be doing something.

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An Amazing Place to Be...

An Amazing Place to Be...

On the way home from the airport the other day, my cabdriver, a charming man from Ethiopia, asked me where I'm from--a seemingly simple question for which a suitably simple answer still eludes me. Where am I from? My birthplace? My heritage? My nation? My current place of residence? Born in Rhode Island, the child of an American mother and European father, living abroad most of my childhood, moving frequently as an adult, and currently anchored on Bainbridge Island, I often feel as if I'm from nowhere and everywhere...

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