September 24, 2008

What is ‘vacation’?   For me it is emptying my mind of all the everyday demands and experiencing life afresh.

I stayed for a week at a house on a natural reserve not far away. I had my own very simple room and could choose whether to withdraw there in solitude or join other guests in the lounge or kitchen.

Besides the quiet, the beautiful surroundings, and perfect weather, it was this choice to socialize that I enjoyed most. After a day spent in almost hypnotic silence cycling or walking through and paths and trees, pastures and along canals, through sleepy villages and occasional towns, I treasured human company when I returned. The communal kitchen was the heart of the house; you could always find someone there to chat with and perhaps share a meal with. 

It was wonderful to cycle for the pleasure of it, to walk for the rhythm and healing of it, to do things for themselves and not because they could be used to attain something else.  The purity of that life reminded me of how things were very early in my career when work and reward for it came naturally and flowed out of who and where I was.

Keep taking small steps

September 6, 2008

I think one of the things we need to find a solution for is how peoples’ talents are getting wasted.  The society is structured in such a way that only certain channels are honored and rewarded. If you are outside that standard route, it is nearly impossible to connect your abilities to making a living. I see this, most tragically, among creatives. 

I have a  good artist friend who does art with children in such a way that while they are enjoying playing and experimenting, they are receiving deep therapeutic benefits.  She is over 50 and has found her calling, but she is technically unemployed and required by the Dutch government to regularly apply for jobs that she has no affinity for.  In one of her interviews, the young airhead in charge of her reintegration into the work force had heard that M had a degree in textile artforms. She had found a job ‘related to textiles’. Working in a dry cleaners! 

The people responsible for M’s brief keep trying to fit her into a standard job. When M declines or it doesn’t work out, M is made to feel unmotivated and incompetent. But what M needs most is support to start her own practice in helping kids with learning and behaviour problems through the visual arts.

I’ve met so many passionate and talented people who don’t fit into the old ways, who are pioneering in their fields, and for whom there is as yet no place in society  for their gifts.

This goes out to you, the builders of the new;  please don’t lose hope. There are more of us than you can imagine, all working quietly to create healing arts, fair jobs, honest businesses, authentic working lives, responsible energy sources, new ways of educating, innovative ways of building, friendly cities, amazing cross disciplinary collaborations, and more. 

Maybe a period of isolation is needed to strengthen your convictions, then when ready you will start to meet other like-minded people. Keep on your path, step by small step. Don’t try to take on the old systems head on, just go around or dig under those walls. Like Randy Pausch says, those brick walls are there to keep all the other people out!

I’ve been doing this for about 20 years now, and small results show,  more every year. You just keep nibbling away, and finally you’ve opened a way for not only yourself, but for others as well.