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Between two stories

Today’s Reflection is about integrating a duality of a life. Definitely mine. Perhaps yours too.

I don’t have children of my own, which is a life choice of a long time ago. However, some of my friends do. This begs an interesting question, along the lines of “What kind of a world am I leaving for my friends’ kids, whom I love dearly?” A question that each person needs to ask themselves these days, given the state of our world.
 

If I am not for myself, who is for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?

– Hillel

The angle I am thinking about right now is the loss of the sense of the sacredness of our universe. It shows when economists tell us that a violent plundering of the Earth would better our existence. It shows when philosophical realists telling us that any appreciation of the mystical and mysterious dimensions of Nature is a sentimental romanticism. And it shows when politicians tell us that the way to control power in the world is by conquering our own territory and then exploit the territories of others.

The results of these stories leads us to where we find ourselves today, with rapidly declining forests, disappearing salmon (earlier today, a Sto:lo First Nation guide in Mission told us that the salmon levels in the Fraser river is about 3-5% of what it used to be perhaps 10 years ago!), pollution, toxins everywhere in and around us, loss of precious tribal ancient knowledge (tribal cultures and many languages are disappearing faster than any species on the planet), and many other disasters, challenges, and problems we are facing these days. The list is, unfortunately, endless.

And then there is the other side, the growing awareness and recognition that we humans are but a subsystem of the Earth system and that our first obligation in any phase of our human lives is to preserve the integral functioning of the world we depend on. This new story allows many to understand how every element of the universe is integral with every other member of the universe community. Many people and organization are working endlessly and patiently, to bring this new story into existence.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…
  – Charles Dickens



 

And I find myself fluctuating between these two types of stories. On some days, excitement within me is palpable and I am engaged and committed, drawing my inspiration both from within, and from seeing and hearing of others who do incredible work. On these days, I feel like I can move mountains, like there are no obstacles, like we are “almost there,” and the sun – inner and outer – is bright and warm.

And then there are other days. The days of the other stories. The days I am present to lack of hope, to injustice, corruption, corporate or political greed (yet again and again), and a nagging thought of the “what’s the point?” flavour. In these days, my heart is heavy, the tears salty, the mountains block the sun, and the future is foggy; perhaps even non-existent at all.

Perhaps this is the work of our lifetime. Learning to reconcile these two types of stories, this duality, while still doing what’s needed to be done so that the children of today will have a tomorrow. And the day after.

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.

Published in despair duality hope story

4 Comments

  1. Linda

    Linda

    Ahhh Simon,

    Curious that you post on this very question I asked you when we pulled up after a walk with our dogs (your child :)) and my children in the woods. It always strikes me, as I walk in the woods (particularly near the coast in Vancouver) of treading on the same soil as the First Nations who lived here in harmony for so many generations, so many more than it has taken the Western people and culture to deplete the Salmon (only one example) of which you speak.

    This conjures up that aboriginal wisdom of 7 generations (as simple, yet pure and perfect consideration).

    It also conjures up an idea I had recently within my profession of "user experience" designer. On my bike ride down to meet with a colleague, I had an idea I shared with him. In our work, we use something called "personas" which are characterizations of the kinds of people who use and have an interest in the "thing" we are creating. In my case it is usually a product that gets used on a computer on or off the "web". Other product developers use this concept as well. There's always a backstory, an image and a description about what is important to that compilation of a person, and how they might move through their life and might interact with the product(s). These personas are then mounted somewhere near the project team and all actions are supposed informed and guided by these ultimate "customers" to produce a great "user-centred" product.

    My thought was that perhaps we could create a culture, amongst us product (and service) designers, to create and have a default persona, that of the Earth. What would happen if people in all walks of life and areas of commerce and recreation included the Earth and her "stakeholder" needs/wants/preferences in their designs. What if considering that persona at an equal level to the others was considered to be a "best practice" in the industry. I think things like this would be different:
    *the product itself (and its usefulness and necessity)
    *packaging
    *shipping
    *materials used
    *materials re-used
    *factory pollution

    And, what if another persona was created that represented humanity on the planet. A persona like that would remind us to consider the plight of workers and not just workers in third world countries, but also workers right here, who are working longer hours than medieval times, stressed out and lacking in time to spend on themselves and their families…"netscape time" as it is called in the industry. People working insane hours to meet manufactured deadlines, simply created to be "ahead" of the competition.

    I could rant on, but I'm supposed to be on vacation myself. There's some irony there I am sure.

    I saw a funny quote yesterday, and I think you might be an antidote to this, with the work you are doing, "Give a man a fish and he will be fed for a day, teach him how to fish and he will over fish."

    A sunny day to you to Simon, inside and out. Thank you for doing your part ~ Linda F

  2. Linda

    Linda

    Ahhh Simon,

    Curious that you post on this very question I asked you when we pulled up after a walk with our dogs (your child :)) and my children in the woods. It always strikes me, as I walk in the woods (particularly near the coast in Vancouver) of treading on the same soil as the First Nations who lived here in harmony for so many generations, so many more than it has taken the Western people and culture to deplete the Salmon (only one example) of which you speak.

    This conjures up that aboriginal wisdom of 7 generations (as simple, yet pure and perfect consideration).

    It also conjures up an idea I had recently within my profession of "user experience" designer. On my bike ride down to meet with a colleague, I had an idea I shared with him. In our work, we use something called "personas" which are characterizations of the kinds of people who use and have an interest in the "thing" we are creating. In my case it is usually a product that gets used on a computer on or off the "web". Other product developers use this concept as well. There's always a backstory, an image and a description about what is important to that compilation of a person, and how they might move through their life and might interact with the product(s). These personas are then mounted somewhere near the project team and all actions are supposed informed and guided by these ultimate "customers" to produce a great "user-centred" product.

    My thought was that perhaps we could create a culture, amongst us product (and service) designers, to create and have a default persona, that of the Earth. What would happen if people in all walks of life and areas of commerce and recreation included the Earth and her "stakeholder" needs/wants/preferences in their designs. What if considering that persona at an equal level to the others was considered to be a "best practice" in the industry. I think things like this would be different:
    *the product itself (and its usefulness and necessity)
    *packaging
    *shipping
    *materials used
    *materials re-used
    *factory pollution

    And, what if another persona was created that represented humanity on the planet. A persona like that would remind us to consider the plight of workers and not just workers in third world countries, but also workers right here, who are working longer hours than medieval times, stressed out and lacking in time to spend on themselves and their families…"netscape time" as it is called in the industry. People working insane hours to meet manufactured deadlines, simply created to be "ahead" of the competition.

    I could rant on, but I'm supposed to be on vacation myself. There's some irony there I am sure.

    I saw a funny quote yesterday, and I think you might be an antidote to this, with the work you are doing, "Give a man a fish and he will be fed for a day, teach him how to fish and he will over fish."

    A sunny day to you to Simon, inside and out. Thank you for doing your part ~ Linda F

  3. Linda

    Linda

    Ahhhh Simon,
    Interesting that this should come up in a post from you just weeks after I posed that question to you as we pulled up to the house with our children (mine human, yours canine) after a walk in the woods. While in the woods I always think about how I am walking on the same soil as First Nations people who treaded there so environmentally softly for so many more generations than it took for western people to deplete the Salmon stocks (among so many other things). The Seven generations concept is so simple and pure, and applicable here. It makes me think about how First Nations had a concept in their culture that I think we could introduce to ours, well, “mine” I guess is what I really mean.
    As a “user experience” designer, we use “personas” to establish who our “users” are, and then use these characterizations to guide us through product design and development. These personas have a backstory, a name and photo and describe goals, what is important to that person and how that person might move through life and possibly want to interact with the proposed product. Once created, they are usually enlarged, printed and placed in a prominent spot for the whole team to refer to and be reminded of, while developing the product.
    What would happen if, amongst the design community (and I think this applies for computer , web and mobile products too), we established a culture where a persona for the Earth and another for Humanity were default personas on any project? I think we would see differences like:
    • Reduced, removed, or “self”-packaging
    • Reduced factory pollution
    • Creative shipping
    • Improved working conditions
    • Different materials used and re-used
    • Products that were considered for usefulness
    The costs to humanity include worker conditions not only in developing countries but right here where we are driven by “netscape time” as we call it. An insane expectation to work crazy hours to meet manufactured deadlines established only to be ahead of the competition, no other reason. What impact does all this extra work have on people and the environment (what if all those computers were unplugged for those extra 3 hours a day?). A persona representing humanity could capture and remind us of these considerations.
    Finally, Simon, I think you may be the antidote to a quote I saw the other day, “Give a man a fish and he will be fed for a day, teach him how to fish and he will over fish.” Thank you for the work you do, I believe that your scales tip on the side of making a difference.
    A sunny day to you inside and out my friend – Linda F.

  4. Linda

    Linda

    Ahhhh Simon,
    Interesting that this should come up in a post from you just weeks after I posed that question to you as we pulled up to the house with our children (mine human, yours canine) after a walk in the woods. While in the woods I always think about how I am walking on the same soil as First Nations people who treaded there so environmentally softly for so many more generations than it took for western people to deplete the Salmon stocks (among so many other things). The Seven generations concept is so simple and pure, and applicable here. It makes me think about how First Nations had a concept in their culture that I think we could introduce to ours, well, “mine” I guess is what I really mean.
    As a “user experience” designer, we use “personas” to establish who our “users” are, and then use these characterizations to guide us through product design and development. These personas have a backstory, a name and photo and describe goals, what is important to that person and how that person might move through life and possibly want to interact with the proposed product. Once created, they are usually enlarged, printed and placed in a prominent spot for the whole team to refer to and be reminded of, while developing the product.
    What would happen if, amongst the design community (and I think this applies for computer , web and mobile products too), we established a culture where a persona for the Earth and another for Humanity were default personas on any project? I think we would see differences like:
    • Reduced, removed, or “self”-packaging
    • Reduced factory pollution
    • Creative shipping
    • Improved working conditions
    • Different materials used and re-used
    • Products that were considered for usefulness
    The costs to humanity include worker conditions not only in developing countries but right here where we are driven by “netscape time” as we call it. An insane expectation to work crazy hours to meet manufactured deadlines established only to be ahead of the competition, no other reason. What impact does all this extra work have on people and the environment (what if all those computers were unplugged for those extra 3 hours a day?). A persona representing humanity could capture and remind us of these considerations.
    Finally, Simon, I think you may be the antidote to a quote I saw the other day, “Give a man a fish and he will be fed for a day, teach him how to fish and he will over fish.” Thank you for the work you do, I believe that your scales tip on the side of making a difference.
    A sunny day to you inside and out my friend – Linda F.

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