Thursday, April 29, 2010

This pretty planet

It's 40 years since the first Earth day--  40 years since Cleveland's polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire, waking us up to devastation we were wreaking on our planet.  Things have actually improved some since then.  The skyline is more visible in some cities, and not everything that comes into our houses ends up in our landfill.   But it isn't rosy.  We are in danger of reaching the earth's carrying capacity.  We continue to overload our atmosphere with carbon (and if you don't buy global warming, please, please check out the research).  


I went to a lecture last week by National Geographic executive editor for the environment's Dennis Dimick.  He showed horrifying pictures of the very real effects of human impact on our fragile home, and implored the audience to take action to stop the carnage.  It's easy to get so overwhelmed by the immensity of the issue that we are paralyzed.  Luckily, I saw Nobel laureate Jodi Williams give a talk a couple of days later at OSU's Peace Jam.  Entitled "When Ordinary People Achieve Extraordinary Things", it was medicine to many weary hearts.  Ms. Williams was a principle force  in the international campaign to ban landmines.  A down-to-earth, cowboy boot wearing gal, Jodi encouraged listeners to stop whining and DO SOMETHING.  She is a living example of how an everyday person can enact profound changes within a lifetime.  No time, you say?  She brooks no excuses.  Cut out an hour of, say,Seinfield reruns or Starbucks stops to churn up a little action about something that really worries you.  She's no partisan-- she doesn't care if it's landmines, education, poverty, civil rights.  She wants you, as Gandhi said, to BE the change you want to see in the world.   And she noted that if every citizen in Oregon devoted one hour a month to volunteer activism, well, that's 3 million hours a month!


What do you worry about?  What are you going to do about it?


Need a little inspiration?  If you're from these parts, visit this link of the Northwest Earth Institute and take a class that will shake up your life and maybe change your world.   
 Here's a few more useful links:
Earth Day home page :  Sign the Earth Day 2010 Climate Declaration.  Find ways to get involved.
Corvallis Environmental Center:  Take a hike.  Find out about local environmental initiatives.  Get to know your ecosystem and more.
Population information and impact here.
Science Daily's environmental new digest
Small things can make a difference:  Treehugger.com talks about some here
and there are 50 more here.
To keep your heart lightened, visit or subscribe to ODE magazine, for "intelligent optimists".
Today's quote:  "To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded."  — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Today's song:  Big Yellow Taxi, by Joni Mitchell

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sticking to-- or getting stuck in-- your story


Most of you have heard the story of the three blind men coming upon an elephant in the jungle.  Each reaches out to touch a different part.  One grabs a leg and says, "We must have arrived at the pillars of the great Such-and-Such Temple."  Another, hitting the side, says, "Oh no, it's the Wall of Nazar."  The third, grabbing the tail-- who knows what he thought.

Our story about what we experience isn't reality, but the beliefs or understanding of our experience about it.  As someone more succinct said:  Don't confuse the map with the road.   I used to give a talk about this concept, and for illustration would show three maps of Portland.  One, a  topographic map, showed contours illustrating changes in elevation and landscape.  Another showed physical features-- rivers, forests, etc.  The third was a street map.  All were "true" stories of Portland-- but which would serve you better if you were trying to get to Powells?

How attached are you to your current story?  And is it getting you where you want to go?

We all have  stories about ourselves and our experience.  Sometimes our stories serve us, other times they can constrain us. And the more we hear any story-- even when we are telling it to ourselves-- the more likely we are to believe it, to internalize it.

No child is born believing they are worthless, terrible, stupid.  But a child who hears it often enough will believe it.  And we all grow up in a consumer economy that survives by telling us we are not enough-- how else to sell us things we don't need?  We have to be convinced us we are lacking.

Milton Erickson, a gifted psychiatrist, often helped clients create positive stories about their worth via hypnosis.  He would even invent a kindly aunt or teacher for adults who as children had no safe role models. His unique inventions of new stories had real-life benefits:  the patients began seeing themselves through healing, affirming reflections.

There are lots of stories about each of us.  What are the stories about your strengths, and possibilities?  Can you give them as much airtime as those about your limitations?

Quote of the day:  The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in. —Harold Goddard
(This was the headliner quote on a great page:  See the rest here at Storyteller.net)